The decision by the Migration Policy Ministry to expand and upgrade hot spots on Chios and Lesvos have cultivated a tense atmosphere, as critics say it will do nothing to ease pressure on the eastern Aegean islands and or to alleviate the situation of thousands of stranded refugees and migrants crammed in camps designed to hold far less people.
Moreover, the onset of winter has made a bad situation even worse and the calls for authorities to accelerate asylum applications so as to transfer people to the mainland have become even louder.
In the bid to deal with the deteriorating conditions, a team from Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has, since last week, set up operations outside the Moria camp in Lesvos, offering assistance to those in need in cooperation with the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO).
In a Facebook post, MSF said the harsh conditions and the cold are posing a serious threat to the health of the some 7,000 people that remain at the Moria hot spot.
The group, which has called for the immediate transfer of those living at Moria to the mainland, has set up a mobile unit outside the camp to help children under the age of 16 and pregnant women.
MSF is also distributing blankets, mattresses and other basic necessities as the situation, it said, is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.
At the same time, the Migration Policy Ministry is planning to transfer another 65 prefabricated huts to Moria in a bid to increase the camp’s capacity and to improve the living conditions of those that are still staying in summer tents.
But the move is set to trigger more acrimony, as islanders and local authorities have said they do not agree with the expansion of the hot spot’s capacity.
This was abundantly clear at the weekend when vehicles of the municipalities had blocked the port in an, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to stop the transfers of a small number of prefabricated huts to Moria.
The situation appears no calmer on Chios, where local authorities are locked in a legal battle with the Migration Ministry over the government’s plans to expand the capacity of the VIAL hot spot. “Expanding the capacity of VIAL does not aim to tackle the emergency situation,” said Chios Mayor Manolis Vournous.