Athens scrambles to find shelter for returned migrants

Athens scrambles to find shelter for returned migrants

Authorities were scrambling Thursday to accommodate thousands of migrants who have arrived in the capital over the past two days from the Aegean islands and from a camp near the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that police dismantled on Wednesday. Meanwhile fears have been growing that thousands of migrants will remain trapped in Greece as neighboring countries tighten their borders.

Many of the migrants relocated from the FYROM border to a series of temporary reception facilities in the broader Athens area did not stay at the centers for long.

In Patra and Igoumenitsa, both gateways to Western Europe via Italy, authorities fear a new influx of migrants following the crackdown at the FYROM border. Police are planning to increase road patrols in western Greece to monitor the situation.

In Athens meanwhile authorities are not adequately prepared for the new arrivals, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said Thursday. The former Olympic Tae Kwon Do Center in Palaio Faliro, one of three temporary facilities being used to accommodate migrants, is only available until December 17, when a sporting event is scheduled to begin.

“I don’t know where the migrants will go from here,” Mouzalas told reporters at the venue in Palaio Faliro, referring to some 1,200 people staying there. “You’ll find out when it happens.”

Local authorities in Palaio Faliro, Elliniko and other adjacent municipalities have complained to Mouzalas about the situation.

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis also expressed concern Thursday during a meeting with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. “I won’t allow a repeat of the events of 2012 and 2013 when people without the basic living means were wandering through Athens, creating problems with the city’s operation,” Kaminis said.

There is also continued pressure from abroad on Greece to improve its response to Europe’s migration crisis. The European Commission Thursday started legal action against Greece, Italy and Croatia for failing to correctly register migrants.

Tens of thousands of migrants have arrived in those countries over the last few months but less than half of them have been registered by authorities, an EC spokesperson said. Greece has only fingerprinted around 121,000 of the 492,000 people who arrived on its territory between July 20 and November 30, the spokesperson added. She said the Commission warned the three countries about the shortfalls two months ago but that the “concerns have not been effectively addressed.”

A total of 769,000 migrants have arrived in Greece since the beginning of this year, according to figures from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) that were made public Thursday. Another 4,000 migrants arrived at the port of Piraeus from the Aegean islands Thursday.

Meanwhile coast guard officials said Thursday that the death toll from the sinking of a vessel of Farmakonisi on Wednesday had increased to 16, including seven children.

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