As refugees continue to stream into Southern Europe, and make their way north to countries including Norway, the Norwegian government made another effort this week to offer assistance where they first arrive. Norway will now spend another NOK 13.5 million on improvements to an asylum center on the Greek island of Lesbos.
“It’s quite overwhelming, another 1,000 people arrived just during the night,” Vidar Helgesen, government minister in charge of EU issues and chief of staff to Prime Minister Erna Solberg, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “At the same time you can see down to the restaurants and tourists in the bay closest to the asylum center, which is up on a hill.” Greece is a popular tourist destination for Norwegians and the contrasts this summer are alarming.
Helgesen also met with Greece’s finance minister and the head of its central bank to discuss another crisis, the Greek economy and national debt. The numbers of refugees now arriving on rickety boats in Greece, many from Syria, puts even more strain on Greece’s financial crisis. More refugees are now arriving in Greece than in Italy, with around 40,000 now in the country on the islands alone.
“This is the beginning of a wave of migration that I think will last for several years,” Helgesen told DN. “It will demand more European (and Norwegian) help.”