Migrants start boarding Greek refugee ship at Kos

Hundreds of Syrian refugees on Greek island of Kos register on Greek refugee ship which will provide temporary shelter as they seek asylum

Hundreds of Syrian migrants in Kos started to board a Greek refugee ship on Sunday which will temporarily provide them with accommodation and registration.

The ship was chartered by the Greek government, which hopes to ease the chaotic conditions on the island by accommodating and processing up to 2500 migrants who arrived there in dinghies and small boats from nearby Turkey.

A group of Syrian refugees were the first to board to the vessel Eleftherios Venizelos early on Sunday morning after a delay of more than a day for the organisation of the ship.

However, there were some minor scuffles among different groups of people over the issue of who would go first. Later, they were lined up on the quayside and boarded in groups of 20.

The reason why Syrians were given priority boarding is that under international law they are treated as refugees due to having fled their country’s civil war and they have greater rights than others groups regarded as economic migrants who also cross the sea from the Turkish coast.

On Sunday, Greek coast officials reported they had discovered the body of a man already decaying on a remote beach on Kos and they would do an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Later, Greek state TV identified the body as that of a 16-year-old Syrian refugee.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, almost a quarter of a million migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has said that at least 124,000 people arrived at Greece's shores by sea in the first seven months of 2015 and thousands of migrants have arrived this year on Kos, which is a small island with a population of 33,000. It also says nearly all the new arrivals in Greece are people escaping the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of the immigrants who arrived in Kos sleep in tents, abandoned buildings or out in the open.

In Athens, hundreds of migrants living in tents in a park were transferred to a newly-built reception center in the rundown neighborhood of Eleonas west of the capital. TV records showed some of the residents protesting after buses of migrants arrived on the site.

TRTWorld and agencies