Turkey Return Rumors Rile Greece's Island Refugees

Αssociated press

FILE - Migrants and refugees sleep at the port on the Greek island of Chios. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Refugees and migrants living in poor conditions on Greek islands became anxious after unfounded rumors they'd be returned to Turkey.

A European Union swap deal with Turkey has been suspended because of an overwhelming number of asylum applications to stay in Greece after other European countries closed their doors to them.

Residents of detention centers and camps on the islands of Chios and Kos off Turkey demanded answers Dec. 19 after the rumors spread they'd be deported en masse, Kathimerini reported.

Citing the EU, the Citizens’ Protection Ministry said the refugees and migrants will stay put for now even though growing violence on the island camps has officials there demanding they be moved to the mainland, which the government alternately has said it will and won't do.

The newspaper said it was told by ministry sources it wouldn't identify that for now the refugees won't be moved because it would be an incentive for others in Turkey to come to Greek islands.

“It appears that this is actually working (to reduce flows) but it doesn’t comply with respect for human rights,” ministry sources said.

With winter rolling in, the refugees and migrants are living in difficult conditions and Greece has complained it's getting little help from the EU which has dumped the problem on a country with a long economic crisis ongoing.