A summer surge of refugees and migrants landing on the Greek island of Lesbos has continued into the autumn with so many more arriving that the detention center housingt them – already far over capacity – is so saturated it can’t take in any more.
The facility there was designed to hold 2500 but now has more than 10,000, with the totals on other islands in the Aegean near Turkey – which lets human traffickers send them – soaring past 25,700, with another 50,000 on the mainland.
Two officials told The Associated Press the Moria camp has a population of 12,000 and no way to accommodate additional occupants with officials saying newcomers are sleeping in the open or in tents outside the camp, which was built to hold 3,000 refugees, and as chilly weather set in.
Some were taken to a small transit camp run by the United Nations’ refugee agency on the north coast of Lesbos. Island officials said another 410 came from Turkey on Sept. 22, which lets human traffickers operating during an essentially suspended swap deal with the European Union.
They go to Turkey to escape war and strife in the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan and Syria’s civil war and head for Greece to seek asylum after the European Union closed its borders to them and another countries reneged on promises to help take some of the overload.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wanting concessions from the EU, said he would flood Greece and the bloc with 5.5 million of them but hasn’t acted on that threat yet even as the numbers landing in Greece built through the summer and still continues.
Greece has again become the busiest point of entry for migrants in the EUU, surpassing Spain and Italy, according to figures published by the bloc’s protection agency Frontex.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees, many fleeing wars in Iraq and Syria, traveled from Turkey to nearby Lesbos and on to mainland Europe during 2015-16, fueling political tensions and a humanitarian crisis.
But the number of people arriving dropped sharply after the EU reached agreements to close off Balkan borders and for Turkey to serve more migrants and prevent them from embarking for Europe.
Officials from Greece’s army, coast guard, local governments and various agencies plan to meet on Lesbos to consider emergency housing options. Lesbos is one of five Greek islands off the Turkish coast with camps and where the movement for migrants to the Greek mainland is restricted.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)