Greece Plans Two New Refugee, Migrant Mainland Camps

Αssociated Press

FILE - A migrant girl stands at the fence of the port of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

Trying to cope with more than 70,000 refugees and migrants, including 22,700 on islands, Greece's new New Democracy government is planning to transfer more to mainland camps and detention centers and will build two more to accommodate them.

The move technically violates terms of a 2016 swap deal between the European Union and Turkey, which lets human traffickers move refugees and migrants who went to that country fleeing war and strife in other lands, to Greek islands.

Government officials said the new centers would be only temporary and serve as transit centers without saying where the refugees and migrants would go next. The first will be located in a disused military base in Karavomylos in the region of Fthiotida, while the second will be an addition to an already existing pre-departure facility in Corinth, said Kathimerini.

The Citizens' Protection Ministry wants to them them running by the end of September as the islands saw a surge in August, overwhelming overcrowded facilities and with most of those being detained seeking asylum so they won't be shipped back to an uncertain fate in Turkey.

The new centers, however, would be able to hold only about 900 people in tents housing up to 50 people at a time and it wasn't said if those would be used when the fall and winter sets in. The first to be moved will be those who've on islands for more than a year as the government said it would speed asylum applications but also deportations.

The EU closed its borders to the refugees and migrants, dumping the problem on Greece during its 9 1/2-year-long economic crisis, the camps and centers being called among the worst in the world and cited by human rights groups and activists as unfit for humans.

hopes to have both facilities up and running by the end of the month in order to accommodate

Ministry sources who weren't named told the paper said that individuals transported to these camps aren't expected to remain there for more than a month.

Additional facilities are also reportedly being planned on the mainland to house as many as 4,000 others would be moved from the islands after officials there pleading for help were ignored by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.