Greece attempts to slow down refugee flow on its island

Greek shipping minister says necessary measures have been called for to stem refugee flow as thousands of people were trapped following Balkans border closure

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

A refugee child runs outside a food distribution tent at a makeshift camp near the village of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, January 29, 2016.

The Greek government on Friday said it requested ferry companies and travel agencies to reduce the number of refugees it brings from frontline islands to the mainland and said its own chartered ships would stay put for a few days.

Greece- the first point of landing for most of the refugees arriving by boat from Turkey, has handed the instructions to ferry companies and regional authorities to prevent a further build-up of people on its islands as the Balkan’s have recently imposed tighter border controls.

With existing shelters already filled to capacity, thousands of refugees are forced to sleep on rough surfaces such as parks and along the country’s highways.

Greece on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Austria in anger after the European Union, Austria and its southern neighbours along the Balkans met on Wednesday and agreed to impose tighter border controls without notifying Greece.

Athens threatened to block European Union decision-making unless the bloc comes up with concerted action to deal with the crisis.

"We have taken some actions because of border closings, including an increase of temporary shelter spaces and a relative slowdown of the transport of migrants from the islands to the port of Piraeus," Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas told Skai TV.

He said three ships chartered specifically to move refugees to the Greek mainland would be docked at the islands and accommodate refugees for "two or three days".

Macedonia, to the immediate north, is accepting only Iraqis and Syrians, witnesses say, with Afghans being turned back. Many of those who travelled the 550 km journey north only to be turned away sat in the stinking and overcrowded airport terminal on Friday, pondering their fate.

TRTWorld and agencies