Greece’s Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Tuesday confirmed reports that a top Belgian official had proposed the creation of a huge camp in Athens that would accommodate up to 400,000 refugees and migrants as part of a broader plan by the European Union to tackle a huge migration crisis.
In comments to Kathimerini, Mouzalas confirmed that Belgian Foreign Minister Jan Jambon floated the idea of a massive camp during an informal EU summit in Amsterdam on Monday. Jambon also called for people seeking to reach Greece from Turkey to be pushed back despite the fact that pushbacks are forbidden under EU legislation.
Mouzalas said Jambon’s ideas were not embraced by his EU peers, noting that an Italian official observed that it would require 150,000 police officers to guard such a large camp.
According to Mouzalas, the prospect of Greece being excluded from the Schengen passport-free zone was not broached at the summit. Officials representing the major EU countries criticized proposals put forward by Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary for a closure of their borders, Mouzalas added.
Greece is moving forward with the preparation of four screening centers, or “hot spots,” it has pledged to set up for migrants, Mouzalas said, noting that three of the four should be up and running by the end of February.
But monitoring the influx of migrants to Greece from Turkey remains a challenge. Ewa Moncure, a spokeswoman for the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex, rebuffed criticism of the agency’s performance in the Aegean, noting that a sea border is “almost impossible” to guard.
The influx of refugees and migrants from Turkey toward Greece has continued unabated in recent days despite the bad weather. According to Frontex, 108,000 migrants arrived in Greece in December alone. Greek Public Order Ministry officials said that 4,300 people arrived on the islands of the eastern Aegean on Monday.