Leasing a cruise ship is among the options being considered as emergency accommodation for thousands of migrants who are stranded in Lesbos Island, Greece, after fire gutted their camp.
Hiring a stadium is also in contention after island’s overcrowded refugee detention centre went up in flames on Monday, September 19, night after clashes between rival factions.
Riot police have been sent to the island to bolster security in Moria, a hilltop village near the camp.
About 3,000 migrants who fled have since been caught and escorted back to the camp, but at least 2,000 others remain unaccounted for, with officers searching fields and olive groves to track them down.
The island’s mayor, Spyros Galinos, demanded that the Greek government move the asylum seekers off the island and find a more permanent answer, The Times reported. There were more than 5,700 migrants in a camp built to house 2,500.
“We don’t want temporary solutions,” he said. “We need a boat to start shipping these people out of here, to other places in Greece. We don’t need additional flashpoints, especially as the situation remains explosive here.”
Witnesses said dozens of tents and prefabricated units were destroyed by fire after reports circulated that the authorities were planning to deport hundreds of migrants to Turkey. At least 200 children have been transferred to a shelter in Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos.
More than 500,000 migrants crossed from the Turkish coast to Lesbos last year. A deal between the EU and Turkey initially helped to stem the tide, but the number has increased again in recent months, leaving 60,000 people trapped in Greece.
Under the EU deal, all new migrants should be sent back to Turkey, but only after any claims for asylum have been heard in Greece. The plan allows for those accepted as refugees to go to the top of the queue for relocation into the EU — once they have returned to Turkey.
An estimated 13,000 asylum requests have been filed since March, creating a backlog that understaffed officials in Greece have been unable to handle.
Each asylum request takes up to four months to process, creating friction among those stranded in detention centres such as Moria, while opposition to the arrivals appears to be growing, the newspaper reported.
“The situation is out of control,” Galinos said. “We’re like a powder keg about to explode.”