Around 1,400 asylum seekers to be evacuated from overcrowded camp on Greek island

Greek authorities have started moving asylum seekers from Moria, an overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos. Over 600 people were taken by passenger ship to camps on the mainland in early September, and around 800 more are expected to follow them.

The camp, which used to be a military base, currently holds around 11,000 people, but it only has capacity for 3,000. 

Humanitarian organisations have criticised Moria, the biggest camp in Greece, for its squalid living conditions. Its poor hygiene standards and lack of security put the migrants who live there at serious risk of harm.

Greece is a popular transit country for asylum seekers travelling from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan to Europe. At the moment, all of Greece’s five island camps for asylum seekers are overcrowded. 

This decision to reduce the number of people at Moria is part of the Greek government’s response to the growing number of asylum seekers arriving in Greece. It was agreed upon during an emergency meeting on 31 August.

At the meeting, the Greek government also annulled appeal procedures for rejected asylum applicants to encourage their return to Turkey. The country will additionally be strengthening their border patrol with the help of the EU border control agency, Frontex. 

Last month, about 7,000 irregular migrants reached Greek shores, the highest number since a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey was signed to cut off the flow of migrants to Europe. 

Under the 2016 deal, almost 1,900 migrants have been forcibly returned to Turkey. Around 17,000 migrants voluntarily returned home from Greece over the last three years. 

Ari Jalal, head of The Summit Foundation for Refugees and Displaced Affairs, told The Migrant Project that between 10,000 and 20,000 Iraqi and Kurdish migrants are living in dismal conditions in Greek camps.

“Most of them are in Greece for years, authorities didn’t let them leave the country. Some are in prisons with different charges,” said Jalal. 

He urges the Kurdistan Regional Government to work with Greek authorities to bring migrants home.

TMP 19/09/2019

Photo credit: Dimitris Tosidis

Photo caption: Moria, Lesvos / Greece – September 04 2019: Aerial view of Moria refugee camp