Migration minister vows to improve conditions at camps

29 December 2016
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Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas vowed on Wednesday to improve living conditions for migrants stranded on the islands, boost policing and create detention centers.

“We are planning to have new, small venues on the islands, either by setting up small, two-story houses, in order to empty the tents, or by finding other places… to improve conditions,” he said, adding that it will take time but “we will do it.”

Overcrowded conditions, coupled with the slow processing of asylum requests, have fueled tensions, while outbreaks of violence are not uncommon – especially on the islands, where some 15,000 migrants are crammed into ill-equipped camps.

Mouzalas, however, insisted that the situation is better on the mainland and all refugees in the 36 camps there are staying in sheltered, heated areas. The exception, he said, is the camp at Elliniko, southern Athens, where some migrants are still living outdoors in 70 tents.

He also announced that by March, soup kitchens at camps around the country will be abolished. Instead, he said, migrants will be given money – no more than the minimum wage of 400 euros.

Mouzalas said Greece will hire more staff to deal with the slow pace of processing asylum requests, which he called an Achilles’ heel.

Moreover, he said that migrants living legally in Greece will receive an electronic card that will replace their residence permits.

The card, he said, will contain biometric data and other information, and will be given to migrants who want to renew their residence permits or to new arrivals.

The cards will be ready by April, he said, adding that they are part of the effort to modernize the system that processes residence permits, and to help fight forgeries.

Roughly 60,000 migrants – mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing war and poverty – are scattered throughout the country, many living in overcrowded and poor living conditions.

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