Minister Says Greece Can Easily Handle Refugee Hordes

Migrants line up at a detention center on the island of Lesbos

ATHENS – Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas said Greece can easily handle the near 60,000 refugee and migrants in the country.

“Sixty-thousand migrants and refugees is not such a huge number,” he told Skai TV, adding that the country could take even more arrivals “if we didn’t… distribute them between only 200 of the country’s 354 municipalities.”

With some human rights groups and even European Union officials urging better conditions at detention centers and camps, Vitsas said they were created to to take in evacuees from a large makeshift camp that had been set up last year on the country’s border with FYROM.

He spoke just after the High Commissioner of the United Nations refugee agency called on Greece to take measures for the protection of thousands of refugees and migrants before the weather turns.

“With the arrival of winter, there are still many thousands of people living in sites that are not yet at standard conditions,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told a news conference in Athens on the final day of a three-day visit to Greece on Aug. 26, Kathimerini reported.

“It is important to upgrade conditions to minimize the risk factors to which these people are exposed. And they will be increasingly exposed when winter comes,” he added.

Vitsas said that the government plans to keep between 30 and 33 of the current 50 centers operating on the mainland, adding that with the exception of municipalities on Greece’s northern borders, all other parts of the country will have to share the burden “if the need arises.”

He also said that some would be moved to vacant apartments and abandoned hotels over the coming months.