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Greece says EU-Turkey deal helped control migrant chaos

ANADOLU AGENCY
ATHENS
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The EU-Turkey deal from March is the reason Europe can "shape the chaos" of unparalleled migration, a Greek government minister said on Wednesday.

Migration Minister Giannis Mouzalas was talking to reporters in Athens about progress made during the past year regarding the refugee crisis and steps to follow in the first quarter of 2017.

According to Mouzalas, right now there are 36 official camps in Greece, hosting about 60,000 migrants and refugees.

"If it wasn't for our deal with Turkey we would have 100,000 more refugees and migrants -mostly migrants - in Greece right now," Mouzalas added.

Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March, which aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The deal also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area that comprises most EU states.

Speaking about measures taken by the Greek government to deal with cold weather conditions in the camps, Mouzalas said: "There is no-one living in tents, no-one living without heating, with the only exception being 100 UNHCR tents in Elliniko [an Athens camp], that are winter tents and they do have heating."

The Greek government plans to post more asylum officers to its islands, provide more space in overcrowded hot-spots and substitute free meals issued to refugees with cash.

"The goal is that by Easter every house [shelter] will have a kitchen and eventually each family will receive cash, so they can be independent and we can give them some of their dignity back," the minister added.

However, the amount of cash given will not exceed 400 euros ($416 dollars) per family, Mouzalas said.

The minister said mistakes had been made but a lot of progress had also been made.

"You cannot solve the migration crisis, but you can manage it," he concluded.

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