Greece’s caretaker government will introduce measures to improve conditions for the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants arriving on eastern Greek islands, as well as for the islands’ residents, the migration policy minister said Wednesday.
The country has borne the brunt of a massive refugee and migration influx to the European Union, with more than 200,000 people arriving so far this year. The coast guard said it had rescued 1,058 people at sea in 28 incidents from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning. Those do not include hundreds who make it to the islands themselves.
Three people reported missing at sea overnight off the island of Kos were found alive and rescued by a fishing boat Wednesday, the coast guard said.
Authorities on the islands have been overwhelmed by the numbers.
“Measures will be announced (so that) soon … there will be an improvement both for the refugees and for the residents of the islands that are facing these difficulties,” said Migration Policy Minister Yannis Mouzalas.
The caretaker government will run the country until Sept. 20 elections.
“The problem is very big. I am optimistic that a crisis will be avoided,” said Mouzalas, a doctor and member of the Doctors of the World aid organization.
Speaking after discussing the issue with Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou, he stressed European Union and United Nations intervention was needed.
“If the European Union doesn’t intervene quickly to absorb the populations, … if the issue isn’t internationalized on a United Nations level, every so often we will be discussing how to avoid the crisis.”
The minister insisted the issue was a refugee, and not a migration matter.
“There is no migration issue, remove that – it is a refugee issue,” he told journalists.
Separately, police arrested six suspected smugglers in northern Greece after finding 103 migrants or refugees, including 19 children, hidden in a truck heading from the Turkish border area to the main northern city of Thessaloniki, authorities said.