As the European Union and Turkey strived on Monday in Brussels to find common ground on how to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, in Greece pressure was mounting on the government and local authorities to provide shelter for the increasing number of stranded refugees, whose numbers, according to recent estimates, have now surpassed 37,000 throughout the country and are still growing, while daily arrivals are in the hundreds.
On Sunday alone 2,293 migrants arrived in Greece, while only 337 were allowed to cross the Idomeni border into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
According to the Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration, 14 new temporary shelters will be created to host up to 14,000 people. Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas said the shelters will be set up near Athens and in central Greece and should be ready by the end of the week.
The sense of urgency was reflected in the call Monday by the head of the Hellenic Red Cross, Antonis Avgerinos, for more volunteers to join the effort.
The bottleneck at Idomeni camp – caused by the controversial border restrictions imposed by countries on the route leading to Western and Northern Europe – has stranded approximately 13,000 refugees on the Greek side of the border with FYROM – 4,000-5,000 are children, according to Doctors Without Borders, which is bemoaning the lack of hygiene and proper shelters.
The European asylum agency handed out leaflets in Arabic on Monday urging the refugees to leave the overcrowded Idomeni camp and seek shelter at other relocation centers recently set up by the government.