Authorities evacuated a makeshift camp at the site of the old Athens airport in Elliniko on Friday, moving hundreds of migrants to another venue in Thiva, north of the capital, where conditions are said to be better.
The camp, which sprung up in late 2015 as the influx of migrants into Greece reached unprecedented levels, had hosted around 3,00 people at its peak last year. Most had abandoned the premises in recent weeks as rumors of the impending evacuation of the site emerged following widespread criticism by international rights organizations which condemned conditions on the site as deplorable and unfit for humans.
Buses transported the remaining 500 people – mostly Afghans – from Elliniko to the Thiva facility on Friday.
According to observers of the United Nations refugee agency, the evacuation was carried out “smoothly.”
Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas was at the Elliniko site to supervise the evacuation by police and later visited the Thiva center too to ensure the migrants had settled in properly.
The mayor of Elliniko, Yiannis Konstantatos, who also visited the site, said he hoped “that the refugees don’t go to a new ‘Elliniko’ but to better living conditions than here.” He and local residents had lobbied for months for the closure of the site, decrying the substandard living conditions and the exploitation of migrants by criminal rackets.
Last month Amnesty International decried “appalling” living conditions at the Elliniko facility, claiming that women and underage girls were living in constant fear of sexual and verbal abuse. Meanwhile, European Union auditors said in a report that the centers that have been set up in Greece and Italy to fast-track the registration of migrants are in urgent need of more expert help – particularly with regard to children – as they are overcrowded.