More than four years after being overwhelmed with waves of refugees and migrants – some 100,000 of them being held in Greece – about 11,000 will have to leave where they are staying starting in June to make room for asylum seekers on five islands.
That’s under a plan by the New Democracy government to decongest island camps holding more than 38,000 of them which had been underway before the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic struck and a lockdown went into place on March 23, being gradually lifted.
About 6,500 of those refugees live in apartments paid by the UNHCR-implemented ESTIA program, 2,500 are in accommodation centres and about 1,500 refugees never left the reception and identification camps after being ejected for asylum, said Kathimerini.
Officially, these refugees, whose asylum application was accepted five months or – in some cases – even three years ago are no longer entitled to stay in those facilities and will have to look for a way to secure a livelihood.
Sources from the Migration Ministry told the paper the Citizen Protection Ministry will coordinate the transfers to try to prevent social disruption, noting that asylum seekers on the islands are living in dismal conditions.
That’s even as more are trickling in from Turkey, which lets human traffickers keep operating under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union and tension rises between the countries.
But many of those who will be evicted don’t speak Greek and have almost no chance of finding a job with the economy sinking again in the aftermath of COVID-19 that could see thousands of businesses go under and the tourism season suffering a big hit.
A representative from an NGO that offers Greek lessons to refugees said that many of these people “often ask us if we know where they could stay,” the report added.
Migration Ministry officials said the HELIOS program for recognized asylum seekers – the only activated integration program – has room for more applicants as only 1500 have been included in a program for 5,000.