LESBOS – Showing the magnitude of the problem facing the New Democracy government, Greek police figures showed that some 46,000 refugees and migrants were sent to islands in 2019 from nearby Turkey where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homelands, but only 48 sent back from the overwhelmed island of Lesbos.
Turkey is letting human traffickers to keep operating during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union to deal with a near-invasion to stem the flow of refugees and migrants.
There are about 96,000 in Greece, including some 45,000 on islands, the numbers swelling after New Democracy took power in July 7, 2019 snap elections in ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA the Conservatives aid encouraged them with an open door policy.
With virtually all seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them, dumping the problem largely on Greece, New Democracy’s plan is to accelerate sanctuary reviews and hope to send 20,000 back to Turkey which can’t be forced to take them.
The government also wants to replace detention centers and camps on islands with facilities aimed at sorting out economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and other countries while giving asylum preference to refugees fearing for their lives after fleeing war, especially Afghanistan and Syria.
More than 27,000 went to Lesbos, the favorite destination, followed by Samos and Chios, the 2019 numbers for Lesbos double the previous year, and 13,400 were transferred to mainland detention centers.
There are still 18,747 asylum seekers at the notorious Moria camp in Lesbos in a facility designed for 2,000 and which the BBC called “the worst in the world,” and where tension over asylum applications delayed two years and more has led to frequent violence between ethnic groups and riot police called in to quell disturbances.
According to camp officials, 36 percent of those hosted in Moria are males; 29 percent women, and 35 percent under the age of 18, based on their claims or documentation, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.
The majority of those in Moria, 73 percent are Afghan nationals with only 12 percent from Syria and 5 percent from Somalia and 10 percent of the population there from sub-Saharan African countries.
In a statement accompanying the release of the figures, the acting director of the Moria camp, Dimitris Vafeas, stressed that “in order for the situation at the Moria center of Lesvos to be understood, this year we cared for more than 27,000 refugees and migrants, when over the same period Italy accepted a total of just 11,000 people,” in that country.