Greece is coming under increasing pressure from the European Commission to decongest refugee and migrant camps on the islands of the eastern Aegean amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The living conditions of migrants on the islands, where some 40,000 people live in overcrowded camps, have turned these facilities into potential public health risks.
The initial request for the decongestion of the island camps was made by European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson in a letter to the Greek government two weeks ago.
Sources from the Migration Ministry told Kathimerini that although a solution is being sought for vulnerable groups, the European Commission has said it wants to decongest the islands to the extent that conditions are suitable for authorities to deal with a possible outbreak of the highly contagious disease.
Indeed, the EU has stressed to the Greek government that it has already provided relevant assistance to Greece, with plans to relocate 1,600 unaccompanied minors to other countries.
During a recent teleconference with Migration Ministry officials, Johansson expressed her satisfaction with the lifting of a suspension on asylum applications, which was imposed for a month on March 1. She also said that securing hotel accommodation would be a solution for protecting vulnerable migrants.
Meanwhile Gerald Knaus, the official behind the March 2016 migrant deal between Turkey and the EU, described the situation on the islands in an interview with Deutsche Welle last week as a “ticking time bomb.”