Greece Will Move 3,000 Refugees, Migrants, from Islands to Mainland

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this Friday, May 4, 2018 file photo migrants and refugees wait outside the European Asylum Support Service offices inside the camp of Moria on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

After bitter criticism from 20 activist and human rights groups and NGO's about inhuman conditions at a refugee and migrant detention center on Lesbos, Greek officials said some 3,000 will be moved off islands to mainland camps.

There are more than 15,000 on the islands, sent there by human traffickers that Turkey lets operate during a suspended swap deal with the European Union, which closed its borders to them and reneged on promises to help take some of the overload of more than 64,000, including on the mainland.

Some 217 were transferred to the mainland on Sept. 21 as efforts to reduce the overcrowding at the shelter got under way, said Kathimerini. That was in a bid to alleviate tension that has led to frequent riots between ethnic groups and with riot police over frustration in delays of two years and more in processing asylum applications.

Those moved from islands are first being sent to reopened centers near Volvi and Nea Kavala in northern Greece as well as other mainland camps and some to hotels in the northern town of Grevena. Estimates put the number of people crammed into the Lesbos Moria facility, which was built to accommodate some 3,000 people, at around 9,000 and that even food is becoming scarce at times with people queuing up to three hours a day for meals.

The Regional Authority of the Northern Aegean hit slapped Greece's Migration Ministry with fines worth 100,000 euros ($117,690) over conditions at two island migrant and refugee camps and failure to have adequate sanitation and sewerage systems at the camps.