Arrivals continue on eastern Aegean islands but outlook on funding for housing projects is uncertain.
The future of more than 6,000 migrants staying in temporary housing in Greece is under a cloud with funding programs for several projects up in the air as arrivals of more refugees continue to arrive from Turkey. Several temporary housing projects on the mainland, including Philoxenia which is EU-funded and one of the largest, are coming to an end in the summer - during a time when the numbers of migrant arrivals are expected to increase due to better weather conditions.
Philoxenia, which is implemented by the Greek chapter of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosts just over 6,000 asylum seekers in 56 hotels around Greece. But it is scheduled to finish at the end of June, with no solid announcements yet as to what will happen afterwards. "The Philoxenia program was supposed to end on March 31, but it was extended until the end of June, when the main tourist season starts. Right now it's unclear as to whether or not the program will be renewed in some shape or form. We are awaiting further developments," Christina Nikolaidou, the IOM press spokesperson, told Infomigrants.
"It has been in operation since October 2018 and provides dignified living conditions in temporary accommodation for asylum seekers, as well as core protection services ensuring identification and assistance of the vulnerable population residing in all targeted facilities, providing case management and monitoring," added Nikolaidou. "There are obviously big challenges for the government and organizations like ourselves as we continue to try and handle this ongoing situation. I expect that there will be announcements well before the end of June as to what alternative arrangements will be made for those staying in temporary accommodation."
Extention of Philoxenia program?
Infomigrants understands that it is likely that the Philoxenia program may be extended further, although how it would be funded if the EU do not continue to support it is unclear.And while there is no official information from the government as yet; according to reports in the local media, Migration Ministry officials are seeking to solve the issue by expanding existing camps as well as creating some new facilities by making use of empty buildings and converting them into accommodation facilities for migrants.
"Overall we've seen the government already making several announcements in the past about extending some facilities and adding new ones to help ease the burden on the North Eastern Aegean islands, so this is something that would help obviously," added Nikolaidou. Her optimism is not shared by the general public, however. Plans for new reception centers and other housing facilities to host migrants are causing tensions and resistance all over the country, from the Aegean islands to Athens and right up north to Thessaloniki.