PM to join more talks on refugees amid unrest

24 September 2016
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As Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras joins nine of his European counterparts, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Vienna on Saturday to discuss the refugee crisis, authorities on the Aegean islands on Friday struggled to keep order at overcrowded migrant reception centers.

Another 241 migrants arrived on islands of the northern Aegean from Turkey on Thursday, according to government figures released on Friday, including 123 on Chios, where violent clashes broke out between migrants at the local camp.

In total, 13,983 migrants are currently being hosted at camps on the islands of the northern and eastern Aegean while the maximum capacity of the camps in question is 7,450.

The overcrowded conditions at the camps, where most migrants have been waiting months for their asylum applications to be processed, often fuel unrest and, occasionally, riots.

In the early hours of Friday morning, unrest broke out at the migrant reception camp on Chios when a group of Algerian nationals, who are believed to have been inebriated, started breaking beds and throwing stones.

Riot police units were called in when the unrest escalated, leaving four migrants injured.

On Lesvos, hundreds of migrants remained homeless, following Monday night’s fire at the main camp at Moria, as the government’s original pledges to send a ship to accommodate some of the migrants had not materialized by late on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Greek authorities returned seven Syrians to Turkey, bringing the total sent back under an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to 509.

In a related development, a report by three humanitarian groups – Praksis, Doctors without Borders and Save the Children – expressed concern that 1,487 unaccompanied minors are living in unsafe conditions in reception centers and police precincts as they wait to be placed in special hostels.

Most of the minors are in camps on mainland Greece, with only around 20 percent of them in the centers on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros.

On Friday, officials at the Health Ministry discussed the issue of vaccinations for refugee children who are to be inducted into Greek schools.

Officials noted that the vast majority of refugees at centers have been vaccinated and the remainder will get their jabs before they join schools.

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