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Greece Says Refugee ‘Hotspots’, Relocation Centers to be Set Up Promptly

Syrian refugee parents Afeesh and Rasha hug their daughters shortly after landing on the Island of Lesvos, Greece. Photo © UNHCR/I.Prickett

Syrian refugees hug their daughters shortly after landing on the island of Lesvos. Photo © UNHCR/I.Prickett

Amid ongoing threats that Greece will be expelled for the Schengen zone and suspended from the US visa waiver program due to its inefficient management of the refugee crisis, the Greek government said on Sunday, that it would move faster to complete five hotspots on the islands bearing the brunt of incoming refugees and two relocation camps on the mainland, with the defense ministry stepping in to ensure they are set up in two weeks’ time.

The five screening centers, to be set up on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros, will manage the registration procedure for the ever-growing number of refugees entering Europe through Greece.

The government will also use two former military camps at Schisto and Sindos on the mainland as relocation centers, each set to handle up to 4,000 migrants.

Local governments, however, are critical of the decision to set up hotspots claiming that these will in effect draw even more refugees to the already struggling islands.

Serving as a first stop to Europe, Greece has had to face the ongoing flow of fleeing refugees from Syria through Turkey, seeing more than one million migrants go through its borders last year.

During the inter-ministerial meeting over the weekend, ministers said they believed Greece will have implemented its obligations by the next EU summit, expressing their hopes that “other EU countries and institutions will show the same sense of responsibility by then”.

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