ATHENS – Repeated demands from Greek island officials and residents they can’t deal with an overwhelming number of refugees and migrants will see the transfer of some 1000 but it wasn’t reported to where.
The refugees and migrants among more than 15,000 housed on Lesbos, Chios and Samos, all close to the coast of Turkey, which has let human traffickers operate, were put on board a Greek ship sent to the mainland, Kathimerini said.
Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, who had refused the transfers after he said it would break an already suspended European Union swap deal with Turkey, authorized the removal of the most vulnerable among those in detention centers and camps.
Human rights groups and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) complained he was leaving the refugees and migrants to sleep in the cold in summer weight tents although in past winters he said they weren’t freezing despite being in snow-covered tents.
Those being moved are the elderly, the disabled, and families with children, along with some women. Most have fled war and strife in the Middle East, especially Syria as the government struggles to separate them from economic migrants, with almost all seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them.
Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) and other groups helping the refugees and migrants had pleaded for the immediate removal of the refugees and migrants to the mainland where there are another 50,000 already being housed.
Recent data showed some 8,322 refugees and migrants on Lesbos, 2,704 in Chios and 2,289 in Samos. MSF said many people are living in unfit conditions that has spiked violence between groups and mental health problems, including suicide attempts and drug and alcohol abuse.
Island officials complained that Mouzalas, instead of removing the refugees and migrants, is having detention centers and camps expanded, leaving the problem mostly in their hands.