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Despite Protests, Greece Plans Mainland Refugees, Migrants Centers

Αssociated Press

FILE- Refugges and migrants board a coast guard ship during a rescue operation. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS - Facing anger from both island officials and residents of villages in inner Greece over housing refugees and migrants, the New Democracy government is going ahead with plans to build more detention centers on the mainland.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ plan also includes speeding asylum processes for those seeking sanctuary, virtually all of the 35,687 packed into the five hotspots on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros and 22,000 in 29 mainland facilities. He wants to move 20,000 more to the mainland.

With island officials and residents screaming over the scheme that will replace camps with centers to vet those ineligible for asylum and mainland residents blocking buses trying to move refugees and migrants to hotels in some small towns, the government has a dilemma.

Authorities plan to set up about 15 accommodation centers in Livadia, Lamia, Ioannina, Arta, Fokida, Pyrgos and Sparti, said Kathimerini, adding that up to three will be built on Crete and four in northern Greece to spread them out.

Sources who weren’t identified said the facilities will each hold 1,000-2,000 people with the detainees given identity cards and face penalties such as loss of benefits for breaking rules although with more continuing to come from Turkey, where they had first gone fleeing war and strife in their homeland, that tents could also be used, even in the winter.

The problem will get worse when a plan placing asylum seekers at state cost in hotels and apartments ends in March, 2020 although it wasn’t said why it wouldn’t be refunded and continued instead of ended. About 8,500 are currently covered by the program, far below initial expectations that were set.