In a move certain to upset officials and residents who wanted refugees and migrants moved off the island, a new permanent camp will be build on Lesbos in 2021.
That will replace a temporary tent city built to house 12,500 people burned out of the notorious Moria detention camp by protesters angry over a quarantine imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis said contractors had already been selected to construct the new camps, which will also be built on the islands of Samos, Kos and Leros which are also holding thousands of people who came from Turkey.
They had gone to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic misery in their homelands only to find the European Union closed its borders to the after scores of thousands made it through Greece to other countries in 2015.
The camps will be closed facilities, with “ NATO-style double enclosure” and tightly controlled entry, as well as fire protection systems, Mitarachis said, reported Middle East Monitor.
“Our goal is to have the permanent facility operating in the summer of 2021” on Lesbos but no timetable was given for the other islands where residents and officials also want refugees and migrants sent to mainland camps.
Greece is holding about 100,000 of them, including nearly 34,000 on five islands where Turkey has let human traffickers keep sending more during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.
Mitarachis said Greece is “moving forward with an ambitious, EU-funded program for closed camps”, where “entry will be controlled” and residents will be protected with a “NATO-style double enclosure”.
While human rights groups have blistered the New Democracy government for conditions in camps they said were inhumane, he said a new facility would provide “dignified” conditions for residents.
The people moved into the tent city known as Kara Tepe will stay there through the winter months which can be chilly and damp, making life tough especially for children and families with babies.
Many complained the makeshift facility, which was built on a former military firing range, has no electricity or running water and only basic bedding and that it was flooded in recent heavy rains, the report added.
Mitarachis said authorities were “taking steps to shield the camp for winter”, including plans to bring housing containers from another camp on Lesbos to Kara Tepe.
He said he hoped the population of Kara Tepe could be decreased to under 5,000 by next summer, as part of a drive to reduce the number of migrants living in Greece as the government is trying to discourage more people from coming by cutting funding for benefits and housing and eliminating all funded hotel stays for refugees by the end of the year.