Greek islands overwhelmed, EU says migrant crisis will last

Tens of thousands of migrants massed on Greek islands today as the president of the European Union warned the refugee crisis would last for years and the UN pleaded for a worldwide solution.

PTI| Updated: Sep 08, 2015, 20:29 PM IST
Greek islands overwhelmed, EU says migrant crisis will last

Mytilene: Tens of thousands of migrants massed on Greek islands today as the president of the European Union warned the refugee crisis would last for years and the UN pleaded for a worldwide solution.

Germany, already bearing the brunt of the human wave to Europe, said it could take half a million refugees annually for a few years, but stressed other European countries should accept their fair share.

With Greece's migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas admitting the island of Lesbos was "on the verge of explosion", authorities opened a new centre to process the 30,000 refugees the UN said are stuck there and on other Aegean Sea flashpoints, with Athens promising more for other bottlenecks.

Greece's migrant reception agency said it had asked the EU for emergency medical aid, bedding equipment and over 9.5 million euros (USD 10.6 million) to support reception services on Lesbos, Samos and Kos and send an operational unit to Chios.

Lesbos mayor Spyros Galinos said procedural pressures were easing after an additional 140 staff arrived from Athens to handle migrant and refugee registration.

"Some 7,000 people were registered yesterday and we expect at least the same number today," he told AFP.
Hours earlier, a handful of coastguards and riot police armed with batons had struggled to control some 2,500 migrants in Lesbos's main port, screaming "keep back" as the crowds surged towards a government-chartered ferry bound for Athens.

"It was horrible the last three days... There are no rooms, no hotels, no bathrooms, no beds, no anything," said Hussam Hamzat, a 27-year-old engineer from Damascus who finally got his departure papers Tuesday after an overnight wait.

"I stayed here eight, nine days -- oh my God, I can't even remember," said Aleddin, an engineering student hoping to join his brother in Germany.

"Some people have been here for 14 or 15 days. The government doesn't care."

The chaotic scenes underscored the difficulty facing authorities across Europe as they struggle with waves of people trudging across the continent, many of them Syrians fleeing war and misery.

EU president Donald Tusk warned that the human haemorrhage to Europe would be long-lasting.

"The wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus, which means that we will have to deal with this problem for many years to come," Tusk said in a speech at the Bruegel Institute, a think-tank in Brussels.