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Powder Keg: Asylum Seekers Demonstrate for 2nd Consecutive Day on Greek Island (Photos)

February 4, 2020

MORIA, Lesbos – Asylum-seekers demonstrated on the Greek island of Lesbos for a second day to protest increasingly dire living conditions in and around the island’s massively overcrowded migrant camp and delays in Greece’s asylum application process.

The protest by about 300 asylum-seekers, most of them from Afghanistan, Tuesday came a day after riot police used tear gas to disperse several hundred residents of the Moria camp who planned to march to the capital of Lesbos.

Conditions in the severely overcrowded island camps have deteriorated dramatically in recent months. On Lesbos, more than 19,500 asylum-seekers are living in and around the Moria camp, which was built to house 2,840 people.

The situation has increased tension with island residents, who have called for the camp’s residents to be transferred away. Local officials have called on the Greek government to declare a state of emergency on the islands.

Under a 2016 deal the European Union reached with Turkey to curb an upsurge in Europe-bound refugees and migrants, those who arrive on Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast remain where they landed pending deportation unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

But a massive backlog in asylum applications has led to thousands of refugees and migrants being trapped on the Greek islands.

Greece’s 7-month-old government has vowed to ease the overcrowding by speeding up the processing of asylum claims, speeding up the deportations of rejected applicants and cracking down on new arrivals.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Tuesday that Greek authorities are aiming to get the number of people deported up to 200 a week within the next three months.

That would represent a huge increase; a total of 391 people were returned in 2019, and 85 were deported last month, Petsas said.

“There is a very large number of people who are currently on the northeastern Aegean islands due to the increased number of flows our country saw in the second half on 2019,” Petsas said.

Moria villagers on Lesvos ask authorities for protective measures

Residents of Moria on Lesvos island protested on Tuesday outside the General Secretariat of the Aegean and Island Policy in the main town of Mytilini over the problems created by the hotspot of Moria, near their village, which is filled multiple times over capacity.

The residents were alarmed on Monday night when migrants returned to the hotspot after protests in Mytilini through the village, and they gathered at the community’s central facility for talks with local government officials. The migrants have been protesting over delays in the processing of their asylum applications and living conditions at Moria hotspot.

On Tuesday, the residents of the village called for permanent policing of their village of 1,200 people which lies adjacent to the hotspot, housing nearly 20,000 people applying for asylum. They also called on authorities to defuse the tension.

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