ATHENS – Greece has moved swiftly to accommodate refugees getting out of Ukraine as fast as they can as invading Russian forces are occupying territory, including ethnic Greeks living in Ukraine, some 2,000 who have Greek passports.
Civil Protection Ministry sources not named told Kathimerini that one plan under consideration is using using houses or hotels that had been holding other refugees, mostly from the Mideast and Afghanistan, who were moved out.
That program, called Estia, held 27,000 people but that has fallen to 10,000 as fewer refugees and migrants came to Greece from Turkey, where they had first gone fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.
The entry of Ukrainian refugees to Greece will be eased in close cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy, Minister of Civil Protection Takis Theodorikakos told SKAI radio.
He said the decision was made in response to a Ukrainian request for Greece to allow the entry of people without biometric passports and families with children, with ties to Greece.
“The government and the police will make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to enter the country. This is a sign of humanity and full support for the Ukrainian people and the specific people who are being tested by the war in their country,” he said.
That also means that Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports will enter Greece freely while those with other passports will be registered at entry points to the country in cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy.
“So far, about 1,500 Ukrainian citizens have entered the country with biometric passports. All these people have relatives, friends and acquaintances in Greece,” Theodorikakos said.
That came after the Greek Consulate General in Odessa evacuated of 26 Greek citizens and their family members from the Ukrainian port city although most ethnic Greeks live in the southern city of Mariupol, where 10 were killed.
Theodorikakos said the Ukrainians requested Greece to ease the entry of people without biometric passports and families with children.
“The government and the police will make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to enter the country. This is a sign of humanity and full support for the Ukrainian people and the specific people who are being tested by the war in their country,” the minister said.
“We will also facilitate families with children, always on the condition that a representative of the Ukrainian embassy participates in order to secure and identify every person who enters the Greek territory. The Ministry of Migration and Asylum is making significant preparations to host these people,” he also said.
As they’re efugees from war, the maximum period these refugees would be entitled to stay is 2 ½ years, he added although many refugees and migrants from other countries have been in Greece far longer than that, being held in detention centers while awaiting processing of asylum applications.
He said that the experience of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 “is one of the main reasons why the Greek people, government and the political system are so strongly opposed to and denounce the provocative Russian invasion of Ukraine.”