NEWS

Greece takes lion's share of asylum seekers

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU

TAGS: Migration

Greece has received the largest number of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean this year, taking in about 45,600 out of the 77,400 arrivals. The number is larger than that received by Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus combined.

A glaring illustration of the spike in flows is that the some 200 asylum seekers who were transferred from Lesvos to the mainland on Monday, as part of the government’s plan to decongest island camps, were almost immediately replaced yesterday by 265 new arrivals.

According to data from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the highest monthly number of arrivals (10,258) since 2016 was recorded in September – mostly Afghan and Syrian families. Almost half of these arrivals (4,867) were on Lesvos.

The alarming rate of arrivals is also suggested by the fact that last week alone (September 23-29), 3,164 people crossed the sea from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands.

The number is far greater than the 596 that arrived in the last week of September in 2018.

Meanwhile, after last Sunday’s fire at the overcrowded Moria migrant camp on Lesvos, which led to the death of one woman, hundreds of asylum seekers holding signs saying “Moria is hell” took part in a protest march on the island.

The march to the island capital, Mytilene, was halted just a few hundred meters from the camp by riot police.

Deploring conditions at the overcrowded camps, the UNHCR called on the government yesterday to take “urgent steps” to “fast-track” the transfer of more than 5,000 asylum seekers from Lesvos, Samos and Kos who already have permission to continue their asylum procedure on the mainland.

It said the official reception center at Moria is at five times capacity, with 12,600 people, while at a nearby informal settlement, more than 100 people share a single toilet.

It added that the Vathy facility on Samos is housing 5,500 people – eight times capacity – and on Kos, some 3,000 people live in a space meant for just 700.

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