Czech Republic sends emergency assistance to Greece for migrants

The Czech Republic is sending an emergency aid shipment to Greece to help it shelter migrants and refugees there, a fire brigade spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The convoy with 2,000 blankets, 500 field beds and 40 heaters was due to complete the 2,000-kilometre trip to Athens by the end of the week, the spokeswoman said.

The majority of the migrants are refugees fleeing civil war in Syria and other conflict zones. Most take the increasingly dangerous sea route from Turkey across the Aegean, with Greece recording a steady stream of arrivals despite worsening weather conditions.

The aid shipment comes amid strained relations between Prague and Athens, after Czech President Milos Zeman criticized Greece's supposedly lax border controls.

Greece and the Czech Republic are both members of the European passport-free Schengen zone, which has been put under strain as countries across Europe institute border checks in response to the influx of migrants.

Zeman also reportedly said that the Czech Republic would first join the eurozone when Greece was no longer a part of it. The remarks spurred Greece to recall its ambassador in Prague for consultations.

The Czech Republic, along with Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, opposes the mandatory migrant redistribution quote imposed by the European Union but - unlike Hungary and Slovakia - does not intend to take legal action against it.

The country is presently housing a small number of refugees - in 2015, 71 of the 1,425 people who applied for asylum were granted the right to stay, while 385 received temporary protection.

Last update: Wed, 06/01/2016 - 13:23

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