'Hotspot' migrant centres to open in Greece

2016-02-15 19:01
A volunteer holds a Syrian child after arriving with a group of migrants from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. (Santi Palacios, AP)

A volunteer holds a Syrian child after arriving with a group of migrants from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. (Santi Palacios, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Athens - Greece will open four migrant registration centres in time for an EU summit this week, a government source told AFP on Monday, as Athens comes under intense pressure to control the massive influx to Europe.

Four of Greece's five "hotspot" centres will formally open by Wednesday on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Leros and Samos, which have been struggling to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees landing from Turkey in flimsy boats, the source said.

The centres were supposed to open late last year but have faced repeated delays.

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos is expected to visit the hotspots of Leros, Chios and Lesbos on Tuesday following a news conference in Athens.

Each facility will have enough prefab housing to accommodate 1 000 arrivals for three days, during which they will be registered, have their fingerprints taken and be sorted between those eligible for asylum in the European Union and those who face eventual deportation.

Security checks will attempt to prevent the entry of jihadists, a pressing concern after two of the men who carried out November's attacks in Paris sneaked into Europe via Greece, posing as refugees.

The fifth centre, on the island of Kos, will be set up slightly later, the source said. Opposition from local authorities and residents, complaining that the influx has damaged their vital tourism industry, has caused delays to the construction work.

Riot police Sunday fired tear gas at protesters on the resort island who are angry over plans to open the centre.

'Stop them at a border'

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who will attend the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, is facing mounting pressure from EU neighbours to do more to stem the relentless flow of migrants fleeing conflict and misery in the Middle East and elsewhere.

"We have to reduce refugee flows. This can only be done if we stop them at a border," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told a security conference in Munich over the weekend, Ta Nea daily reported on Monday.

"If not at the Greek-Turkish border, then it will have to be at the Greek-Macedonian border... Macedonia is willing to do that," he said according to the Greek daily.

Tsipras is expected to discuss the issue with visiting EU president Donald Tusk in Athens on Tuesday.

EU member states on Friday gave Greece a three-month ultimatum to remedy "deficiencies" in controlling the influx, or effectively face suspension from the Schengen passport-free zone.

"The refugees set off when they know they will quickly reach Europe. If this prospect is not available then fewer will embark on this path," Kurz said in Munich.

While Greece has acknowledged delays in the opening of the centres - calling in the army to help complete them - the government insists it is already registering migrants with the help of 400 staff from EU border agency Frontex.

Athens last week also agreed to a German proposal to deploy Nato warships between the Greek and Turkish coasts to combat the activity of people smugglers and reduce the migration flow to Europe.

Read more on:    eu  |  greece  |  migrants  |  paris under attack

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.