ATHENS, Greece (AP) — European Union countries wouldn't be ready to deal with another surge in migration if a deal with Turkey to limit migrant and refugee arrivals collapses, a minister for migration in Greece said Thursday.
Yiannis Mouzalas said Greece and other European countries would be "severely tested" if the March agreement failed — in the wake of an attempted coup in Turkey and a government crackdown on its alleged sympathizers that has strained relations with the EU.
Mouzalas told private Skai television that "no country in Europe is ready" for a repeat of the mass arrival of migrants and refugees that occurred last year.
He made the remarks a day after a government official told The Associated Press that the EU-Turkey deal was holding so far, with daily arrival numbers remaining low.
About 1 million people seeking a better life in Europe's prosperous heartland arrived on Greece's eastern Aegean Sea islands from the beginning of 2015 to March this year.
But a series of border closures in Austria and the Balkans — through which the refugees and other migrants headed north — combined with the EU-Turkey deal, greatly limited the flow.
Just over 57,000 people are still trapped in Greece, distributed in about 50 state-run camps, and in apartments and hotel rooms provided by the United Nations.
The slow asylum process and often crowded conditions in the camps have sparked tension in several instances. On Thursday, a group of Greek and international charities working with migrants expressed concern at what they said was a deteriorating security situation in the camps.
In a letter to Mouzalas, the charities warned of a "serious security vacuum" in which deadly stabbings, sexual violence, fights and verbal threats had occurred.
"Clearly coordinated security protocols for the protection of people living and working in the camps, are imperative," the letter said, requesting a meeting with Mouzalas. "In some sites it is not clear to us who is in the lead for security, police or military, and what we as humanitarian (organizations) can expect."