Migration policy ministry announces measures to protect migrants during cold spell

Greece's migration policy ministry on Wednesday announced a series of measures to protect migrants and refugees that are currently homeless during a cold spell expected to sweep over the country in the coming days.

At the same time, interpreters hired by the ministry reported receiving threats from traffickers while trying to inform migrants and refugees about the facilities. They also said that many migrants were reluctant to make use of the shelters in order to continue their journey to Europe as quickly as possible.

In a meeting on Wednesday, the ministry decided to open a heated hall at the Friendship Club in Kolovos, able to house between 150-200 people, if the facilities at Elaionas and Elliniko were filled to capacity. The ministry has also secured 200 vouchers that will allow refugees and migrants to stay at Athens hotels, in collaboration with the aid organisation Caritas and under the auspices of the UN High Commission for Refugees.

The transfer of refugees currently camped outdoors in Victoria Square will be carried out using public transport buses and a 35-seat coach supplied by the Greek Police. Few refugees and migrants opted to board the buses sent to take them to Elaionas on Wednesday morning, however, explaining that they had already bought tickets to continue their journey to the Greek border later the same day.

Greek Forum of Refugees Yonous Muhammadi noted that even those nationalities that are not permitted to continue their journey into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at Idomeni want to remain in the centre of Athens, in hopes of finding a trafficker that will help them reach central and northern Europe.

The Caritas programme, which offers short stays (up to three days) in free housing to vulnerable groups of refugees in Athens and the Aegean island of Lesvos, has been running for the last month. It is financed by Caritas Switzerland and is directed at refugees and migrants that are passing through Greece for only a few days on their way elsewhere. It offers 220 beds in a hotel on Lesvos and 210 beds in two hotels in Athens to families with small children, those aged over 60 and disabled people. The programme, which has housed 1,850 people since the start of December, is expected to run until April 15.


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