To Keep Track Of Migrants, EU Sets Up 'Hot Spots' : Parallels Greece is struggling to screen asylum seekers and migrants quickly on the island of Lesbos. Migrants are arriving in record numbers, and the EU wants Greece to accommodate more.
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To Keep Track Of Migrants, EU Sets Up 'Hot Spots'

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To Keep Track Of Migrants, EU Sets Up 'Hot Spots'

To Keep Track Of Migrants, EU Sets Up 'Hot Spots'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Rain, cold and increasingly rough seas are not slowing the great migration to Europe. The numbers are startling. In the last week, more than 56,000 asylum seekers have crossed the sea from Turkey to the Greek islands. At least 70 have drowned. The EU had hoped to get control of the chaotic situation and efficiently register migrants as they enter Europe, but even with EU funding, the Greek government is struggling to cope. Joanna Kakissis begins our coverage from Greek island of Lesbos.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The rubber boats cross the rough sea nearly every hour, sometimes 60 or 70 boats a day. They carry thousands of mothers, fathers and children from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Noor al-Kadri, a mother of two from the Syrian city of Aleppo, weeps in relief as she and her daughters embrace a volunteer who helps them to the rocky shore.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: You're going to walk this way and then up.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Speaking Arabic).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Arabic).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: This way and then up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Arabic).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: (Speaking Arabic).

KAKISSIS: The next stop is neither friendly nor orderly.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

KAKISSIS: I'm at an old army barracks turned refugee camp where frustrated Syrians stand outside a chain-link gate. The European Union recently designated this camp a hot spot. That means Greek and EU officials are now supposed to screen migrants quickly and give them temporary transit papers. But Greek police captain Dimitris Amoutzias says nothing has changed. For starters, the camp is still understaffed.

CAPTAIN DIMITRIS AMOUTZIAS: Not enough officers.

KAKISSIS: You need more officers. How many more?

AMOUTZIAS: (Speaking Greek).

KAKISSIS: He says he needs at least double the 125 officers he has now.

Outside, the line is long, and it's starting to rain. Amani al-Mosuti, an English teacher from Damascus, shivers in her lilac headscarf, desperate for information and help.

AMANI AL-MOSUTI: Because nobody in charge telling us or guiding us as to what we're supposed to do. We are helpless, tired and wet, as you can see. I don't have even anything to change my clothes.

KAKISSIS: Conditions are even more chaotic on the other side of the camp where non-Syrians are trying to register. The line stretches down a muddy hill slick with trash and human waste. A skinny translator named Ismatullah Ashakzai tries to keep his fellow Afghans in an orderly line by prodding them with an olive tree branch.

ISMATULLAH ASHAKZAI: Some people are waiting for four days, three days.

KAKISSIS: The EU border agency Frontex has sent reinforcements to help, but those 70 officers are stretched thin. Many are helping the Greek coast guard patrol the sea, for more than a hundred migrants, many of them children, have drowned in the last month. Frontex coordiantor Jean-Noel Magnin says the priority is saving lives. He says at least 30 percent of migrants pretend to be Syrians to improve their chances of getting asylum. But his staff can identify them by asking the right question.

JEAN-NOEL MAGNIN: It can be like money, like vehicle plates. It can be like famous people of their country they should know.

KAKISSIS: The mayor of Lesbos, Spiros Galinos, says the screening takes too long.

SPIROS GALINOS: (Speaking Greek).

KAKISSIS: "This hotspot cannot screen more than 1,500 migrants daily," he says. And yet, 6,000 come ashore every day. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Joanna Kakissis on the Greek island of Lesbos.

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