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Olympic venues become refugee asylums

30 September 2015 / 13:09:12  GRReporter
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The Greek Ministry for Migration Policy is trying to tackle in close cooperation with Athens municipality the problem in the Greek capital, which is due to the increased refugee influx. For this purpose, it is planning to provide "emergency" locations to temporarily receive a certain number of refugees and to build a new reception centre similar to the one in Eleonas.

According to sources, the first options in these plans are the former Olympic venues that could be used for temporary asylum for a number of people so that the centre of Athens is vacated from the crowd and tents in the event of emergencies, such as the situation that happened in Victoria Square today.

In Victoria Square

Over 400 refugees have already been moved to the hockey hall in the Olympic village in Eliniko, and 1,000 people are expected to be moved today to the Olympic centre in Galatsi.

Reception centre

In addition to the "emergency" locations, the plan envisages the construction of a new reception centre for refugees on a plot within Athens municipality, similar to that in Eleonas. Yesterday, Deputy Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas met with Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis to discuss the issue.

"The municipality, even alone, will help again, trying to provide free space. This will however happen only on condition of discontinuing the intolerable practice of people pitching tents in the central squares and neighbourhoods of Athens," said George Kaminis after the meeting.

According to sources, the case regards an open space near Eleonas, which can be immediately used. The municipality is willing to provide it but various issues must be addressed, related to its operation. It is expected that the actual decision be discussed at the government level so that the matter be finalized in the coming days. The idea is to build a reception centre similar to that in Eleonas, without however excluding the option of pitching tents.

"The Ministry for Migration is following with particular concern the problems that the city is experiencing under pressure from the refugee influx. Victoria Square is a typical example. We believe that we will have largely relieved the situation in the coming days which will be possible due to the outstanding cooperation with Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis," said Yiannis Mouzalas after the meeting.

With regard to the emergency in Victoria Square, the mayor said in turn that it was "unacceptable from any point of view." At the same time, he criticized the rest of the municipalities for not showing "such concern" and the armed forces for not providing the free spaces available to them. "We cannot have free spaces around Athens and squares in the city centre filled with refugees," summed up the mayor.

Meanwhile, another tragedy happened off the island of Mytilene early today. A boat transporting about 40 illegal migrants and refugees from Turkey to the Greek coast was lost at sea. A coast guard operation involving Turkish vessels is currently underway to rescue dozens of passengers of the sunken boat. According to initial information, a mother and her child have not survived and 30 people have been rescued so far, 15 of them being women and children.

Tags: RefugeesIllegal immigrantsMinistryReception centreOlympic venues
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