Aid pledged for migrant centers

The Interior Ministry yesterday vowed to boost funding and recruitment at several migrant reception centers on the country’s land and sea borders with Turkey, where overcrowding has created serious tensions prompting protests and hunger strikes by detainees. Officials from the local authorities on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos and from the northern prefecture of Evros were told that they would receive 4 million euros between them to cover outstanding operation costs and to hire additional staff. The pledge was made by the ministry’s general secretary, Patroklos Georgiadis, following a meeting between the local authority officials and other members of the Union of Prefectural Authorities of Greece (ENAE). Georgiadis noted that two of the country’s migrant reception centers – one at the Evros land border and the other on Samos – had been built to humanely accommodate large numbers of migrants. «But nevertheless, as the influx (of immigrants) continues, there are constant social and financial problems,» he said. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and several human rights groups have expressed shock at overcrowding in some Greek reception centers, with the UNHCR last week calling for the closure of a center on Lesvos that had held more than 900 people, including unaccompanied minors, in very cramped conditions. Local authorities on Lesvos said earlier this week that they had secured ferry tickets for hundreds of migrants to come to Piraeus. But it is unclear what the fate of the migrants will be when they arrive at the country’s main port, particularly in view of the ongoing police sweeps around Omonia, in central Athens, where most newly arrived migrants tend to end up. Meanwhile, the centers on the islands are reportedly refilling as quickly as they are being emptied, as fresh boatloads of migrants arriving from neighboring Turkey are admitted to the facilities.