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Overcrowded camps: Athens starts to bring refugees to the mainland

In order relieve the crowded refugee camps in the east of the Aegean, the Greek government began on Monday to bring hundreds of asylum seekers to the mainland.

640 asylum seekers have already been transfered from Lesbos to the mainland on Monday. Hundreds of other migrants arrived in another ferry in the afternoon, the government said. Altogether, according to reports of the state television on Monday alone 1,500 migrants should leave the islands, predominantly minors, women as well as ill persons.

The Coast Guard took 58 migrants on Monday off the Greek island of Kefalonia, on their way to Italy. The day before, the Greek Coast Guard had discovered 19 migrants south of the port city of Kalamata, who also wanted to go to Italy. The migrants are Kurds and Iraqis, according to a report by the state broadcaster (ERT).

Meanwhile, the EU Commission asked Greece to help relocate the refugees to the mainland. "We are ready to assist the Greek authorities in these transfers," said a spokeswoman in Brussels. The EU Commission is therefore "concerned about the large number" of the last arrivals of refugees in Greece. However, she assumes that Turkey continues to comply with the EU refugee agreement, the spokeswoman said.

The European Commission notes with concern the high number of arrivals on Lesbos. This would further burden the already tense situation, the spokeswoman said. Work continues with the Greek authorities to improve the situation on the islands.

In recent days, hundreds of migrants from Turkey have been traveled to Greece. Almost 25,000 people are currently housed on the islands of the Eastern Aegean. The camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos have only a capacity for 6,338 people. When the EU-Turkey Agreement on the Repatriation of Migrants started in March 2016, only about 5,800 people lived in the camps of the Aegean island.

The EU had agreed with Turkey in 2016 that all migrants who travel from Turkey to the islands and receive no asylum in Greece could be sent back to Turkey. The asylum applications are handled slowly due to lack of staff. The conservative government in Athens has repeatedly stated its intention to accelerate the process.

"Lager überfüllt - Athen bringt Flüchtlinge auf das Festland" (Kleine Zeitung, 02-09-2019)

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