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Refugees, Migrants Moved Out of Makeshift Camps in Athens' Center

Αssociated Press

Afghan migrants camp with their families, following their arrival from Lesbos Moria camp, on a central square of Athens, Sunday, June 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS – Greek police evicted migrants who had set up camps in central squares in the Greek capital after they'd gone there when they were previously booted from other shelters to make way for new waves of replacements.

A new law adopted in March 2020 reduces the grace period for recognized refugees from six months to 30 days to transition from organized accommodation and essential support to independent living.

The United Nation's refugee arm, the UNHCR urged Greece to increase the national reception capacity at sites, apartments, hotels and provide cash for shelter as droves were being put onto the streets and stripped of benefits with few work prospects.

The New Democracy government said that thousands of people who have secured asylum had to leave the state-funded accommodations and make it on their own during the still-running COVID-19 pandemic that has put many businesses in peril.

Police moved out migrants and refugees from Victoria Square to state facilities at Elaionas and Amygdaleza, but it remained unclear what their fate would be or if such police operations will continue, said Kathimerini.

The departures from centers and subsidized hotels started earlier this month but was progressing slowly until it picked up this month when more than 800 refugees have left facilities on the islands, chiefly from Lesbos' overcrowded Moria camp.

Masses of migrants, with no other option, moved to Athens and returned to Victoria Square which had become an outdoor camp during the early days of a refugee and migrant crisis that began in 2015.

Local residents said who families and children were sleeping in tents and on benches before the police cleared them out while volunteers working in Moria said refugees given asylum were being forced out.

When stories circulated that authorities were planning deportations, many, including economic migrants who have little chance of being granted sanctuary, boarded ferries to Athens. Five islands near Turkey are holding more than 34,000 people.

With Greece moving out of accommodations refugees given asylum to make way for others seeking it, Turkey's pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah said they are being dumped on the streets of Athens.

Many were expelled from the notorious Moria detention camp on the island of Lesbos, the report said of a facility holding more than 18,000 in a space designed for only one-third that many.

With European Union funding ending for some programs, the report said, “They were abandoned by the Greek authorities,” without mentioning Turkey has repeatedly violated an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU by letting human traffickers keep sending more to the Greek islands.