Greece says it can now register all migrants.Comments
Just hours before EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss migration, Athens announced the opening on Wednesday of four migrant reception centres on some of its islands near Turkey.
It may not satisfy the rest of the EU however, which had demanded that Greece open five centres by the end of last year.
Touring one of the registration centres on the island of Leros, the Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos insisted that officials can now properly document and fingerprint all the migrants arriving on its shores.
Migrant men, women and children are now expected to stay between 48 to 72 hours at the registration centres before moving to Greece’s mainland, and from there to the next leg of their long journey towards central and northern Europe.
On Tuesday the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that 84,320 migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, reached Europe by sea since the beginning of the year, while 410 died or went missing.
Greece has been accused of allowing the migrants, most of whom want to reach Germany, to pass through its borders un-fingerprinted and un-documented.
Athens says the burden it is assuming in is disproportionate, adding strain on a nation reeling from six years of deep recession induced by austerity under the terms of threeinternational financial bailouts.
It says numbers are too big to handle, that it cannot turn back boatloads of migrants back to sea, and that Turkey must do more to stop the migranst at its shores.
There has been talk of shutting Greece out of the the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone entirely although the EU president Donald Tusk has been quick to dismiss the idea.
What is clear however is that one of the main principles of the union, the free movement of its citizens, is now in jeopardy.