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Amnesty head: Previous gov’t has ‘huge responsibility’ for state of migrant camps

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The previous leftist government bears a “huge responsibility” for the overcrowding and dire living conditions inside Greece’s migrant reception centres, the head of Amnesty International’s local chapter said in an interview published Thursday.

“The previous government bears huge responsibility for the current situation, which [responsibility] is not forgotten, regardless of the policy that will be followed by the current administration,” Gavriil Sakellaridis was quoted as saying by website Newpost, noting that a government is judged by its actions and results, not its rhetoric.

“The wretched living conditions in the reception centers on the islands, the allegations of pushbacks in [the border region of] Evros, the uncertainty about the continuation of the ESTIA [housing] project, are just a few of its legacies,” he added.

However, Sakellaridis expressed “intense concern" over New Democracy’s decision to exclude refugees from free healthcare and slammed the “cinema-style” evictions of migrants from squats in the district of Exarchia.

He said Amnesty is concerned about the measures announced after a meeting of the government’s Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) on August 31 to tackle a new rise in migrant arrivals on the islands, saying they have “sounded the alarm” over possible human rights infringements.

The measures announced by KYSEA include the transfer of migrants from cramped camps on the islands to facilities on the mainland, the immediate relocation of 116 unaccompanied minors from the islands ahead of their reunification with relatives in other European Union countries, and the transfer of another 250 minors to the mainland in the coming weeks.

Additionally, authorities are to boost the monitoring of Greece’s borders, with the help of the European Union’s Frontex border agency and NATO.

There are also plans to change the institutional framework for the issuing of asylum with the abolition of reviews of rejected applications.

Also on the cards is an increase in police patrols to locate migrants whose asylum applications were rejected but are still in the country.

Sakellaridis served as spokesman in the previous leftist administration but resigned in November 2015 over his disagreement on the approval of a bailout bill.