‘Hotspot' migrant registration centers to open in Greece this week
ATHENSFeb 16, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Feb 16, 2016 12:00 am
Greece will open four migrant registration centers in time for an EU summit this week, a government source told AFP Monday, as Athens comes under intense pressure to control the massive influx to Europe.
Four of Greece's five "hotspot" centers will formally open by Wednesday on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Leros and Samos, which have been struggling to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees, the source said. The centers were supposed to open late last year but have faced repeated delays.
Each facility will have enough prefab housing to accommodate 1,000 arrivals for three days, during which they will be registered, have their fingerprints taken and be sorted between those eligible for asylum in the European Union and those who face eventual deportation.
Security checks will attempt to prevent the entry of extremists, a pressing concern after two of the men who carried out November's attacks in Paris sneaked into Europe via Greece, posing as refugees. The fifth center, on the island of Kos, will be set up slightly later, the source said. Opposition from local authorities and residents, complaining that the influx has damaged their vital tourism industry, has caused delays to the construction work.
Riot police Sunday fired tear gas at protesters on the resort island who are angry over plans to open the center.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who will attend the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, is facing mounting pressure from EU neighbors to do more to stem the relentless flow of migrants fleeing conflict and misery in the Middle East and elsewhere.
EU member states on Friday gave Greece a three-month ultimatum to remedy "deficiencies" in controlling the influx, or effectively face suspension from the Schengen passport-free zone.
While Greece has acknowledged delays in the opening of the centers - calling in the army to help complete them --the government insists it is already registering migrants with the help of 400 staff from EU border agency Frontex.