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Society

Activists Blast Greek Islands Refugee Detention Center Conditions

September 16, 2018

Some 19 activist and human rights groups again said a refugee and migrant detention on Lesbos is unfit for humans with the governor of the region saying it could be shut down unless piling amounts of waste are cleaned up.

There are more than 17,000 refugees and migrants on Greek islands, including more than 8,300 in a former military camp in the Moria center on Lesbos, more than twice the capacity it’s designed to handle and which the BBC said, after a visit with a video crew, said was the worst in the world.

Groups, NGO’s and volunteers have been complaining about conditions for more than two years with people being housed in the centers waiting for asylum applications to be processed after the European Union shut its borders to them and dumped the problem on Greece during a more than eight-year-long economic crisis.

The Lesbos camp sees people packed in shipping containers and flimsy tents in a former military camp where there is frequent violence between ethic groups who fled the civil war in Syria and also from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. There have been clashes with riot police too.

The NGOs, which included Oxfam and Action Aid, called conditions at Moria “shameful”, but said the same applied to other island camps, the news agency Reuters said in a report. There are centers as well on Samos, Chios, Rhodes, Kos and Leros as Turkey is letting human traffickers continue to operate during a suspended swap deal with the European Union.

“There is no excuse for the … conditions in which thousands of people remain trapped in limbo while they wait out their asylum claims,” the NGOs said.

“Moria … is currently housing almost three times its capacity. The sewage system does not work and filthy toilet water reaches the tents and mattresses where children sleep,” they added.

Last month the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR urged Greece to speed up transfers of eligible asylum-seekers from Aegean islands to the mainland, noting that conditions at Moria were “reaching boiling point”.

Greece has moved asylum seekers to the mainland in recent months and is looking to speed up efforts to reduce numbers at the camps but not fast enough, the groups complained and as the government said mass transfers would break the suspended EU-Turkey deap.

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