Hundreds of asylum seekers have turned themselves in at Greek police in Thessaloniki to seek a place at a migrant camp before winter comes.
Several hundreds of migrants formed a line outside a Thessaloniki police station Monday to be arrested and formally processed. After having camped out on patches of grass in the city’s main square, they are seeking a roof over their head.
Karzan Hassan, a 22-year-old Iraqi Kurd, came to Greece last week, and has slept outside the police station for the last two nights. He says he's hoping to reach Britain with his two brothers after abandoning a plan to travel to Italy, AP reports.
"We don't want to stay in Greece. We want to get our papers so that we can stay somewhere to clean up and rest." Hassan said he paid a smuggler in Istanbul $2,500 for the trip to Greece.
The migrants were transported by police on Monday to a nearby refugee camp. However, it was unclear whether there was sufficient space at the overcrowded camp.
Arrivals in Greece up
The authorities in Greece's second-largest city are overwhelmed by the recent surge in irregular migration . "The number of arrivals is high in Thessaloniki and that's created a bottleneck," Nikos Ragos, the Migration Ministry's regional coordinator for northern Greece, told AP. The Ministry is supporting police until migrants can be documented.
Greek police said 35 smuggling suspects were arrested in September in Thessaloniki on charges of illegally transporting more than 1,800 migrants to the city. The number of illegal transfers to the city rose 60 percent to the previous month.
Migrant arrivals to Greece overall have increased in recent months. Irregular crossings from Turkey, in particular, have increased significantly, according to an internal European Commission report from September. Between January and mid-September, 38,687 irregular migrant arrivals to the EU from Turkey were recorded, marking an increase of 43 percent. Out of the total number, 36,423 persons crossed from Turkey into Greece, just over 12,000 of which had traveled by land, dpa cites the report.
Over 20,000 migrants live in reception centers on the Greek islands. The overall capacity is 9,500. On a visit to Lesbos, one of the main islands hosting migrants, Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo described conditions in the camp as "appalling" and called for an emergency winter evacuation of migrants to the Greek mainland.