Europe

Migrant crisis: Athens braced for refugee influx to continue

Refugees in Athens
Image caption Young migrants have set up tents in Victoria Square in central Athens

Hundreds of refugees and migrants - most of them Afghans - continue to live rough in Victoria Square in central Athens waiting to start the next leg of the long journey to their final destination, Germany.

Tents and blankets are strewn across the grass and concrete. Suddenly there is a rush as a Greek man parks his car and starts handing out food and clothes.

Munir Ahmed, who is from Afghanistan, says the authorities have not given him anything since he arrived here days ago.

Like many of the Afghans, he is stuck until he can get more money to pay for the train and bus journeys to northern Europe. He is relying on a relative to help him out.

"I want to go to Germany because in Afghanistan there is no work. I am an engineer and I would like to find a good job and study," he says.

'More and more'

Underneath the square in Victoria metro station, more Afghan families lie on the floor as commuters walk by.

There are reports the Greek authorities may soon move all of them to facilities in one of the old Olympic parks in the southern suburbs.

It is inevitable that the numbers of refugees and migrants on this and other squares in the capital will swell.

"The Afghans will not stop, they will come more and more," says a young Afghan man, Abdullah.

Smugglers 'offering discounts'

There are still more than 5,000 refugees and migrants - the majority of them Syrian - arriving every day on the Greek islands close to Turkey, according to Daniel Esdras, the head of the Athens branch of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

And he believes the influx may continue throughout the winter if the weather remains good and the borders stay open on the route through the Balkans to Germany.

The European Union's border agency, Frontex, is also concerned that high numbers will keep crossing to Greece in the months ahead.

According to some estimates, as many as two million Syrian refugees are now in Turkey with about 300,000 living in camps.

And there are reports that the smugglers have recently dropped their prices for the short but dangerous boat trip from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands, perhaps encouraging even more to take the risk.


A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.