Protesters shout slogans during a protest on the Lesvos island, Greece, 03 May 2018. Residents are calling for the relocation of the large number of refugees and migrants, and to maintain reduced VAT rates. Credit: EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU
Protesters shout slogans during a protest on the Lesvos island, Greece, 03 May 2018. Residents are calling for the relocation of the large number of refugees and migrants, and to maintain reduced VAT rates. Credit: EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

Greece's Migration Policy Ministry is reportedly examining the possibility of increasing the capacity of refugee and migrant centers on the mainland as the country struggles to cope with a recent spike in arrivals on the islands and via the northern Evros border with Turkey.

According to the latest data released, a total of 6,632 migrants crossed into Greece in April alone. Since the beginning of the year, nearly 16,500 migrants have entered Greece, adding to the already 60,000 which remain stranded waiting on decisions on asylum applications. 

From the newly arrived migrants, 7,103 arrived from the Evros border while 9,375 landed on the shores of the Northern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos, among others. 

Plan being drafted 

As a first step in managing the deepening and ongoing crisis, the government is set to put together a plan within this week to expand existing camps on the mainland. "If we manage to succeed [in easing the congestion around the country] then the long-term period to aim for should be by six months time - that would be best," Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas told Greek radio station 'Praktoreio 104.6'. 

"But, ideally, we are targeting to at least try to relieve the situation on the islands within 90 days," he added. In the meantime, the Greek government is still trying to fast-track a bill through Parliament which would help speed up the asylum process. 

Patra migrants relocated 

Meanwhile, in related developments in Patra, the Greek Police carried out an operation to relocate hundreds of migrants from makeshift camps which have popped up in abandoned factories in the port area. The move comes after one migrant, a 20-year-old Afghan man, was shot to death by a 27-year-old compatriot during fighting earlier this month in one of the buildings in the area. The perpetrator has since being arrested and charged with manslaughter, assault, and the possession of illegal weapons. 

Police moved in at around 5.30 on Tuesday morning with officers entering both of the improvised camps at the same time. Police said that there was no resistance from the approximate 600 migrants present, and they were put on buses and transferred to state-run facilities to have their paperwork checked. Among the migrants were four unaccompanied minors, who were transferred to alternative accommodation in hostels.
 

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