With migrant arrivals on the Greek islands continuing at a steady rate and returns under the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement proceeding at snail’s pace, a pledge by Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas to reduce the number of migrants and refugees on the Aegean islands to below 10,000 by the end of September, appears highly unlikely.
According to official data, the Greek islands are struggling to manage a population of more than 17,000 migrants and asylum seekers in facilities designed to hold a maximum of 7,000, while arrivals from Turkey continue at an average rate of around 100 per day. Facilities on the mainland are also struggling, as the migrant population there is above 45,000, bringing the nationwide total to the 63,000 mark.
From June 18 to September 2, 5,289 refugees were transferred from the islands to the mainland, while from early June to end-August new arrivals came to 7,907. Transfers to Turkey, meanwhile, are no more than 1,700 people in the two years since the agreement with Brussels was signed.
Hoping to make good on its promise if only in part, the ministry is planning 5,500 new spaces on the mainland to accommodate refugees from the islands, some 2,000 of which will come from Moria, the notoriously overcrowded camp on the island of Lesvos, sources said.