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Greece continues to seek a solution for the accommodation of refugees

15 December 2015 / 20:12:27  GRReporter
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The Greek government is planning to turn the old premises of the Civil Aviation Service at the old Athens airport into a reception centre for refugees and migrants. Since morning, Minister for Migration Yiannis Mouzalas has held talks with the mayors of coastal municipalities as the area of ​​the former airport falls within their regions.

 According to the Greek media, the two sides are close to reaching a common solution but the details have not yet been specified. Sources indicate that the mayors of southern suburbs of Athens would consent only on condition that the planned reception centre in Eliniko would be only temporary and not permanent. Another condition that they have put is to accommodate in centres of closed type those migrants who are to be extradited.

It is worth noting that the plan is to privatise the former airport in the suburb of Eliniko in the coming months. Since the Greek crisis has started, it has been declared the most investor attractive site in the country and the previous government had even signed a contract for its utilization with a large private company. The deal was challenged by the Supreme Administrative Court and in the words of the Privatisation Fund director the investment plan and its terms are currently being reviewed. Many commentators point out that the decision of the government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks to turn part of the area into a reception centre for refugees and migrants is receding again the likelihood of creating an "Athenian Riviera".

At the same time and despite the deteriorated weather conditions, the number of boats carrying refugees and migrants to the Greek islands is not decreasing. Earlier today, another tragedy at sea took place near the island of Kastelorizo. Two people died because of a capsized boat and the coast guard service is still searching for three other immigrants.

According to the European border control agency Frontex, the number of new arrivals in November decreased by half compared with October. 108,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece in the last autumn month of the year, their total number since the beginning of the year being 715,000. Statistics show that their number is 16 times higher than in the same period last year.

And while refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have the opportunity to go to the countries of Central and Western Europe, tens of thousands of migrants from other countries are remaining in Greece. Athens is experiencing the most acute problem in terms of concentrations of people who have illegally crossed the Greek border but itinerant immigrants claiming to be refugees have been found on the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece too.

Early this morning, 47 people, 13 of them children, were found on Koutsoupia beach near Neos Marmaras. All said they were Iraqis during the registration procedure at the local unit of the border police in the village of Ormilia.

Now police authorities are investigating the likelihood of migrants having arrived in Halkidiki with the help of a smuggler, as this is the second case of migrants found on this coast.

40 Iraqis were found there in early December, 18 of them being minors, who crossed the sea by motor boat from the northern Turkish coast. In their testimony, they indicate that before they left they paid a Turkish national, whose data is not available to the authorities, identifying him as a trafficker. No migrant had personal documents with him.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is preparing to visit two Greek islands where refugee registration centres (hotspots) are currently being built. The purpose of his visit to Leros and Chios tomorrow is to become aware of the progress of the preparatory work but also to alert Greece’s European partners of the critical situation.

Immediately afterwards Alexis Tsipras will leave for Brussels, where he will attend a summit of the European Union, the refugee crisis being the first item on its agenda.

And while the Greek Prime Minister is seeking to exert pressure on the rest of the member states through his visit to Leros and Chios, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini has published a draft of the final declaration of the summit. According to it, the European leaders will severely criticise Greece for the control on the EU external borders, the hotspots, the displacement of refugees and expulsion of migrants.

Tags: PoliticsRefugee and migrantsReception centrsFormer Athens airport in ElinikoPrivatisationRefugee crisisAlexis TsiprasEU summit
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