Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said Dec. 28 that detention sites with capacity for up to 200 people would be erected to speed up the asylum claims process and reduce crime.
Nearly a quarter of the 62,700 migrants stranded in Greece are on the islands and are not allowed to leave because of a deportation agreement Turkey and the European Union reached in March.
The agreement was aimed at limiting refugee and migrant travel to Europe after more than a million people crossed Turkey to reach the EU.
Commenting on the EU-Turkey deal, Mouzalas said that it was the reason Europe could “shape the chaos” of unparalleled migration.
“If it wasn’t for our deal with Turkey we would have 100,000 more refugees and migrants - mostly migrants - in Greece right now,” Mouzalas added.
According to figures from U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, 173,208 people have reached Greece this year, down from 856,723 in 2015.
Speaking about measures taken by the Greek government to deal with cold weather conditions in the camps, Mouzalas said: “There is no-one living in tents, no-one living without heating, with the only exception being 100 UNHCR tents in Elliniko [an Athens camp], that are winter tents and they do have heating.”
The Greek government plans to post more asylum officers to its islands, provide more space in overcrowded hot-spots and substitute free meals issued to refugees with cash.
“The goal is that by Easter every house [shelter] will have a kitchen and eventually each family will receive cash, so they can be independent and we can give them some of their dignity back,” the minister added.
However, the amount of cash given will not exceed €400 euros ($416 dollars) per family, Mouzalas said.
The minister said mistakes had been committed but a lot of progress had been made as well.