Greek authorities hope that the construction of a new migrant reception center in Thiva, central Greece, which is set to be completed in the coming days, will ease congestion in camps on the country’s eastern Aegean islands, while plans are also under way to open a refugee facility on Crete.
“The situation on the islands is only marginally under control,” a source inside the Public Order Ministry told Kathimerini on condition of anonymity on Monday.
Authorities are said to be drawing up plans to create so-called “closed-structure” detention camps on the islands to separate individuals who are scheduled to be repatriated – as well as troublemakers – from those who have passed a first screening in their claim for international protection.
Meanwhile, migrants with a criminal past will be transferred from the islands to pre-departure centers on mainland Greece. About 300 individuals have already been transferred and another 100 are to follow in the coming days.
Less straightforward are the government’s plans to construct migrant reception facilities on the island of Crete. Officials at the Ministry for Immigration Policy told Kathimerini that, by the end of September, local authorities are expected to propose sites where these facilities could be built. “Any plans are to take effect as of November, after the island’s tourism season has drawn to a close,” an unnamed official said.
In a joint statement Monday, Crete mayors said they wanted to see specific measures to address a wide range of migrant-related challenges including accommodation, food, healthcare and a possible hike in arrivals.
Representatives of the island’s tourism sector have warned the plans will hurt tourist arrivals.
Despite a deal between the EU and Ankara, the number of arrivals on Aegean islands continues to soar. A total of 1,138 migrants and refugees landed on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros over the past 10 days, bringing the total number to 11,343.
Concern over the viability of the EU-Turkey pact is deepening, mainly because of tension over the question of visa-free travel. On Sunday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Turks will be granted visa-free travel to EU states from October “only if all the conditions are met,” including reforming anti-terror laws.