Arrivals Pick Up, Greek Island Refugee, Migrant Camps Overflowing

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Antonis Pasvantis, FILE)

With summer in its last month, the number of refugees and migrants landing on Greek islands from Turkey has started to jump, pushing already overcrowded detention centers and camps way over capacity.

Officials said 1,607 migrants and asylum seekers landed between Aug. 5-11, bringing the total number of people staying at island facilities to 21,550, said Kathimerini, with some 50,000 also in mainland camps and centers.

All the so-called migrant reception and identification centers are stretched far beyond their infrastructure to support the numbers that have continued to gradually rise during an essentially suspended swap deal between Turkey, which let human traffickers operate, and the European Union.

The Moria hotspot, on the island of Lesbos, is currently holding more than 9,000, nearly three times its capacity. The BBC, in a visit last year, called in the “worst in the world,” although then-Premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he was “proud” of conditions in which refugees and migrants were being held.

The Chios camp has a capacity of around 1,000 people, but houses 2,440 while the center on Samos, closest to Turkey, has 4,005 people in a center designed to hold 600, with frustration in island facilities leading to frequent violence and clashes with police.

Most of those being held are seeking asylum with the EU closing its borders to them and other countries reneging on promises to help take some of the overload and the bloc’s migration chief - Dimitris Avramopoulos from the ruling New Democracy - saying he can’t force them or take them to court because it’s too delicate politically for him.

The hotspots on Kos and Leros are also overcrowded, the paper said, with the numbers growing slowly but incrementally and with nearly two dozen human rights groups, activists, volunteers and NGO’s saying the facilities aren’t fit for humans, with not enough sanitation or showers or doctors.

Data provided by Turkish authorities showed that country’s Coast Guard recorded a total 132 boats carrying an estimated 4,098 people trying to make the often-perilous Aegean crossing to Greek islands, with scores having drowned trying to make it.

Turkish authorities said they managed to stop 86 vessels but there was no explanation why human traffickers are often more successful than not with Turkey, Greece, and the EU border patrol Frontex trying to stop them from operating.