A passenger ship arrived Friday at the island of Kos, Greece, to serve as a temporary shelter for some of the thousands of migrants whom the small island has not been able to accommodate. The Greek ship, Eleftherios Venizelos, can house as many as 2,500 people and is part of the federal government's effort to ease the strain on Kos, where migrants have been arriving daily.
Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, many of them from Syria or Sudan, arrive on the eastern shores of Greece every day, due to its proximity to Turkey. The smaller islands, like Kos, have been unable to provide food, water and shelter for these people because the sheer numbers have overwhelmed the limited resources of the small town. Aid workers from the United Nations, Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) have been unable to keep the situation from spiraling out of control.
"The world finds itself facing the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War," EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Friday in a statement.
After nearly 2,000 migrants were locked overnight Tuesday in a stadium on Kos, one aid worker said that the situation had become a full-blown human rights crisis, calling for assistance from the Greek government. People in the stadium were fainting every 15 minutes from heat exhaustion as there was not enough food or water. Some migrants were stuck in a playground area of the stadium that offered no protection from the hot sun.
The Greek government's decision to send the passenger ship to Kos was part of an effort to find additional housing for migrants while they're waiting to be processed by local authorities. EU laws state that the country where a migrant first lands is responsible to document, photograph and fingerprint him. Most migrants have no interest in staying in Greece because of the continuing economic crisis there and lack of employment, and the documentation process has caused part of the bottleneck on the Greek islands.