Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Greek migrant clashes as EU chief warns 'exodus' could last years

Greek officials on Tuesday (Sep 8) rushed to open new centres to process thousands of migrants arriving on the country's already overwhelmed islands as EU President Donald Tusk warned the refugee "exodus" could last for years.

With the country's migration minister admitting that the island of Lesbos was "on the verge of explosion", authorities opened a new centre to process the 30,000 refugees the UN said are stuck there and on other Aegean flashpoints, with Athens promising more for other bottlenecks.

Hours earlier, a handful of coastguards and riot police armed with batons had struggled to control some 2,500 migrants in Lesbos's main port, screaming "keep back" as the crowds surged towards a government-chartered ferry bound for Athens.

"It was horrible the last three days ... There are no rooms, no hotels, no bathrooms, no beds, no anything," said Hussam Hamzat, a 27-year-old engineer from Damascus who finally got his departure papers on Tuesday after an overnight wait.

The scenes of chaos underscored the difficulty authorities across Europe find themselves in as they struggle with the wave of people trudging across the continent fleeing war and misery in their home countries.

With EU land borders also at breaking point from huge build-ups of refugees, Tusk insisted "the wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus, which means that we will have to deal with this problem for many years to come."

As the desperate plight of migrants touches hearts around the world, Britain, France and even South American countries have pledged to accept tens of thousands of the refugees.

Venezuela said it would accept 20,000 - the same number that Britain has promised to take over five years - while Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff declared migrants would be welcomed there with "open arms", and Chile's leader Michelle Bachelet said it "was working to take a large number".

Canada's Quebec province also said it will take 3,650 this year.

Germany, Europe's top economy, has said it can take some 500,000 refugees annually for a few years, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying the influx would result in profound change in the country...


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