Greece to shutdown major migrant camps in islands near Turkey
Greece says it will overhaul its overcrowded migrant camps on islands facing Turkey and ensure borders are sealed against a feared surge of asylum-seekers.On Wednesday, Athens announced its plan to decongest the islands. Alikivaiadis Stefanis, defence minister and special government coordinator for migration, said it was a priority.
Speaking at news conference, he stressed the move is designed "to show our determination in dealing with the migrant refugee crisis”.The government says it will relocate 20,000 asylum-seekers to camps on the mainland by 2020.
The camps were initially made to house 4,500.
Athens added that it will replace the camps with new closed facilities for identification, relocation and deportation, each with a capacity of 5,000 each.
The defence minster noted that the smaller camps found on the islands of Kos and Leros will also be enlarged and renovated similar to the larger ones.
Stefanis added that only non-governmental organisations that meet certain requirements will be allowed to say on in the country to help the migrants.
Asylum-seekers will also see their mobility change. Instead of being allowed to move freely in and out of the camps, they will now be locked up until they are granted refugee status and relocated to the mainland, or are rejected and sent back to Turkey.
The new camps will provide the migrants access to refectories, schools and places of worship, but they will remain enclosed.
Growing in numbers
Since the refugee crisis peaked in 2015, Greece has become a key point of entry for asylum-seekers looking to get into Europe.
According to government figures, there are over 37,000 migrant on the islands, with hundreds arriving daily.
The International Organization for Migration says there is an additional 22,000 people in camps on the mainland which are already at full or well over capacity.Protests have occurred in several towns in northern Greece to block the attempt to relocate asylum-seekers.