Greece says EU aid means it can shelter 20,000 more migrants

Refugees from Syria and Iraq disembark on the Greek island of Lesbos after arriving with other 120 people on a wooden boat from the Turkish coast, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 (AP)

Greece said on Monday the European Union had offered to pay the costs of accommodating 20,000 more migrants in temporary camps on its islands as the bloc struggles to improve its management of the flow of refugees across Europe.

More than half a million migrants have transited through Greece so far this year, many fleeing Syria’s civil war on a short but perilous crossing from Turkey on inflatable rubber boats. Once they get ashore, they move on to destinations in wealthier western and northern Europe, especially Germany.

Greece, mired in a multi-year economic crisis, made clear its readiness to provide shelter for more refugees was strictly conditional on the EU financial aid and on the understanding that those offered shelter would later be relocated.

“What we did manage to extract (from EU partners) was that this would be financed by the European Union, something that was not the case until now. Their (the new camps’) creation will depend on financing,” Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas told Skai radio.

Asked if it were possible to have the facilities set up by the end of this year, he said: “If the financing is available it is, if financing is not available it won’t be.”

EU leaders agreed on Sunday at a mini-summit in Brussels to cooperate in managing migrant flows through Greece and the Balkans to help ease a crisis that threatens to set European states against one another.

The EU’s new 17-point action plan includes United Nations-aided accommodation for 100,000 people, half of them in Greece.

The vice-president of the European Commission tried to reassure Greece of the EU’s willingness to provide more cash.

“From the Commission’s point of view, we are willing to find additional means of supporting those countries which are most exposed to the refugee crisis and Greece is among them,” Valdis Dombrovskis told a news conference in Athens on Monday.

The 20,000 new places will be in addition to some 30,000 Greece already agreed at an earlier EU summit to provide for refugees. But these figures are small compared to the sheer numbers of people now arriving.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45