Greek authorities on Thursday said they have moved a few hundred asylum seekers from the island of Lesvos to the mainland in an effort to ease overcrowding in its camps.
Thousands of asylum seekers have become stranded on Lesbos and four other islands close to Turkey since the European Union agreed a deal with Ankara in March 2016 to shut down the route through Greece.
“I came to heaven from hell,” said 30-year old Mohammad Firuz, who lived for two months in a state-run camp in Lesvos.
Firuz was among 300 people, many of them women and children, aboard a ferry that reached the port of Piraeus early on Thursday morning. The asylum seekers would be taken to camps and apartments in the mainland, authorities said.
Lesvos is now hosting some 8,500 asylum-seekers, nearly three times the capacity of state-run facilities. Violence often breaks out, mainly over delays in asylum procedures and poor living standards.
Lesvos residents went on strike earlier this month to protest against European policies they say have turned it into a “prison” for migrants and refugees. [Reuters]