Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Greece to move 2,000 out of overcrowded Lesbos migrant camp

Published:Wednesday | September 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
FILE - In this Wednesday, May, 2, 2018, file photo, children play inside the Moria refugee camp on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece.

ATHENS (AP):

Some 2,000 asylum seekers will be moved out of a severely overcrowded migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos this month, a Greek official said yesterday as charities slammed conditions at the camp, which has raw sewage running out of its main entrance.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said those being moved out of the Moria camp, which houses 9,000 people in a facility built for 3,100, will be sent to the mainland so their asylum claims can be examined.

"The situation in Moria is indeed difficult, it is indeed at the limit," Tzanakopoulos said.

Regional governor Christina Kalogirou had threatened to shut down the facility unless the Greek government improves conditions at Moria.

Doctors Without Borders has called for the emergency evacuation of vulnerable people at the camp to the mainland and other European Union countries, citing an increase in suicide attempts and self-harm among children in Moria and cases of sexual attack.

"This is the third year that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been calling on the Greek authorities and the EU (European Union) to take responsibility for their collective failures and to put in place sustainable solutions to avoid this catastrophic situation," said Louise Roland-Gosselin, MSF's head of mission in Greece. "It is time to immediately evacuate the most vulnerable to safe accommodation in other European countries and to stop this never-ending cycle of emergency decongestions and the horrendous conditions we continue to witness in Moria."

Thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty at home are still arriving at Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast. Between Friday and Sunday, more than 600 reached Lesbos alone.

Under a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey designed to halt the flow of refugees and migrants into Europe, those arriving on Greek islands are held in detention camps there and face deportation back to Turkey unless their asylum applications are approved.

But the massive backlog of applications has led to severe overcrowding on the Greek island camps, even as authorities move hundreds of vulnerable people to the mainland.