“Hotspot” migrant centres to open in Greece this week

15 February 2016
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Greece will open four migrant registration centres in time for an EU summit this week, a government source told AFP on Monday, as Athens comes under heavy pressure to control the massive influx to Europe.

Four of Greece’s five “hotspot” centres will formally open by Wednesday on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Leros and Samos, which have been struggling to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants landing from Turkey in flimsy boats, the source said.

The centers were supposed to open late last year but have faced repeated delays.

Each 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 EU and those who face eventual deportation.

Security checks will attempt to prevent the entry of jihadists, a pressing concern after two of the men who carried out November’s terror attacks in Paris sneaked into Europe via Greece, posing as refugees.

The fifth centre, 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 fired tear gas Sunday at protesters on the resort island who are angry over plans to open the centre.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who will attend the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, is under heavy pressure from EU neighbours to do more to stem the relentless influx 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 centres – 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.

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