March 7, 2016 / 9:05 AM / 2 years ago

Greece says pledges on shelter for refugees will be met by next week

A migrant plays with a baby at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants waiting to cross the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will deliver within a week on its pledges to shelter 30,000 migrants and refugees, a government spokesman said on Monday, as EU leaders and Turkey meet in a last-ditch attempt to stem the massive movement of people across the continent.

Greece has been the main entry point for more than a million people who crossed into Europe from Turkey, fleeing war conflicts in Middle East and beyond in what has become the biggest refugee crisis for Europe in generations.

As part of an EU plan agreed last year, Greece committed to opening reception centers to accommodate 30,000 refugees by the end of 2015 with the United Nations providing another 20,000 places.

European Union has also given Greece until May to fix its handling of irregular migrants, moving forward a process that could see frontier checks in Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone extended for up to two years.

“By (March) 13 or by March 15 the latest, which means in a week, next Monday, Greece will have more than fulfilled its promises regarding capacity,” spokesman George Kyritsis told Greek Skai television.

”We will have a capacity of at least 37,400 people on March 15 compared to 30,000 we had promised.”

Greece will make available existing buildings and camps to temporarily shelter another 17,400 people by next week, Kyritsis told Reuters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a media interview published on Saturday that Greece needs to deliver quickly on its promise to provide accommodation for 50,000 refugees and the European Union should help Athens with this task.

Kyritsis said that the United Nations’ plan has been facing delays.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Toby Chopra

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