Cold Times: More Migrants Moved off Lesbos  to Attica Mainland Camp

FILE - Migrants wait outside a military vessel after their disembarkation at the port of Elefsina, near Athens, on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

Trying to relieve pressure on the vastly overcrowded refugee and migrant Moria detention center on Lesbos, 668 people seeking asylum were moved from the island to the Ritsona camp 50 miles north of Athens.

Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said 20,000 of the more than 45,000 on islands near Turkey, which let human traffickers keep sending more during an essentially-suspended swap deal with the European Union, would be transferred.

The process has been slow, however, as residents and officials of towns on the mainland where hundreds of refugees and migrants were being moved blocked buses and objected to having them.

Despite the transfers, the Moria camp still is holding 18,640 people in a facility designed for 2,000, a refugee and migrant center the BBC had called “the worst in the world,” and where conditions have been decried by human rights groups, activists, NGO’s and volunteers.

Around 6,000 asylum seekers live in containers at the camp while some 13,000 live outside in tents on privately owned plots of land, said Kathimerini in a report on the government’s slowly-enacted plan that includes accelerating asylum applications.

The Movement on the Ground organization rented four of these plots and the Refugees 4 Refugees organization rented one, while another seven private plots of land have been encroached upon, the paper said.

The camp’s power supply was boosted to provide electricity to containers but Deputy Director Dimitris Vafeas said there’s not enough electricity, with many sleeping in tents, or the ground in the winter cold as the government said the EU won’t help more.

Virtually all the more than 95,000 refugees and migrants in Greece are seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them. They reached Greece from Turkey where they had fled war and strife in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and war-torn Syria.

The numbers have been swelled as well by economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and other areas who are less likely to be granted asylum and under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal would be deported back to Turkey, which has taken only about 2000.