BELGRADE – Athens said Thursday it now had nearly 32,000 migrants on its territory, after Austria and Balkan states began restricting entries, creating a bottleneck in Greece.
“There are currently 6,857 refugees in the Aegean islands,” who arrived from Turkey, and “24,985 in mainland Greece”, Deputy Defence Minister Dimitres Vitsas said at a news conference.
The situation is stark at Greece’s border with Macedonia, where more than 11,500 people are stranded in difficult conditions, according to local police.
The United Nations has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis on the Greek-Macedonia border, where aid agencies have reported a lack of food and tents and warned that the wintry weather is taking a toll on people’s health.
Peter Sutherland, a senior UN migration official, warned that “on the present pattern”, the numbers trapped in Greece will reach 70,000 in the coming weeks.
With Macedonia tightly restricting passage across the border, only around 500 Syrian and Iraqi refugees have been allowed through since Tuesday, according to Greek police.
Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said nearly 1,200 people had crossed the Macedonian border at the Idomeni crossing in the last 10 days.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to announce on Friday a detailed plan for managing migrants.