Refugees and migrants line up to receive a meal provided by the Greek authorities at a makeshift camp next to the Moria hotspot on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, in this photo taken in late November.
The effort to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants stranded at overcrowded reception centers on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos by transferring some of them to the mainland will fail to yield the desired result as long as flows from Turkey continue.
In its latest report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that 17,764 people were transferred from the islands to the mainland in the period from July 2016 to November 2017.
UNHCR sources clarified, however, that the number of those removed from the islands is significantly higher than the official figure. Many of the people who have completed the necessary procedures or are deemed to be vulnerable, and as such are allowed to depart for the mainland, do so at their own cost, the same sources said.
They also reckoned that in 2016 around 40 percent of transfers were conducted by the UNHCR but the percentage rose to 80 percent in 2017 after a request by the Migration Policy Ministry.
At the same time, however, in the period between early April 2016, when Ankara and Brussels reached a deal to limit migrant flows into Europe, until late November, some 48,600 people arrived in Greece.
In November, 3,800 people arrived on the Greek islands from Turkey, while 2,128 asylum seekers were transferred to the mainland in the same month.
The Migration Policy Ministry on Saturday dismissed rumors on Chios that there are plans for the immediate removal of some 1,000 people from the Vial hotspot. It said that removals will take place gradually.
Meanwhile, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas told Germany’s Spiegel Online that he cannot guarantee that no one will die in the camps with the onset of winter. “What we can do,” he said, “is try the utmost to prevent death.”
Moreover, the German newspaper Bild said that an increasing number of refugees in Greece are trying to get to other European Union countries using forged passports.