With key Greek islands close to the Turkish coast overwhelmed with more than 15,000 refugees and migrants sent there by human traffickers, residents on Chios have blocked plans to expand an overcrowded detention center.
Many of the residents live near an abandoned factory holding hundreds of refugees and migrants, some stuck on islands for up to two years or more after the suspension of a European Union swap deal with Turkey and as Greece hasn’t been able to keep up with the number of asylum applications.
The refugees and migrants are unable to move on to other EU countries after the borders were shut, abandoning them in Greece during a crushing economic and austerity crisis and as the bloc’s migration chief, Greece’s Dimitris Avramopoulos, hasn’t pushed other countries to honor pledges to take some of the overload.
While arrivals have slowed since the swap deal, refugees and migrants keep arriving on Greek islands by the boatload, adding to the severe overcrowding.
The residents are refusing to allow authorities to expand the facility with prefabricated housing, said Kathimerini, adding that the blockage has prevented garbage from being collected and chemical toilets from being emptied, adding to the health risk.
Around 1,600 migrants live at the state-run camp, twice its capacity, with many forced to sleep in tents due to a lack of space and as the government hasn’t met pledges to provide better housing for the winter.
The government wants to get the containers onto the site before the unusually mild winter turns cold, if that happens, but residents won’t let them as island officials are taking legal action against Tsipras’ coalition, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic, anti-immigrant Independent Greeks (ANEL) led by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
The delays have led to rising tension in the camps and detention centers and led human rights groups to criticize conditions there with the government embarrassed by secret video showing a camp on the island of Lesbos was feces-and-garbage filled, toilets not working and people living in tents in the winter and without enough blankets.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who critics said was fearful Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would unleash more refugees and migrants on Greece said he was “proud” of the conditions.
Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas has come under intense fire from officials and residents on the islands for his refusal to move all the migrants and refugees to the mainland, where there are another 50,000, as he said that would violate terms of the EU deal even though only a relative handful of people have been returned to Turkey.
Mouzalas, who previously said refugees in snow-covered tents weren’t cold but that he couldn’t guarantee none wouldn’t die this winter, has even by ripped by his own ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party for his response to the crisis.
During a trilateral summit between Greece, Cyprus and Jordan in Nicosia Tsipras appealed to the international community to support countries that host large numbers of refugees as Greece has complained about not enough help from the EU.
More than 50,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after land routes into Europe were closed in 2015.
“We underlined the huge challenges our countries face on the refugee crisis and naturally the need for the international community to actively and effectively support countries which host large numbers of refugees,” Tsipras said, according to the paper.
King Abdullah II of Jordan said that his country is “shouldering an immense refugee burden and cannot be left alone as we undertake this humanitarian responsibility on behalf of the world.”