As part of an overhaul of its migration policy amid an ongoing influx of migrants from Turkey, the government on Wednesday announced plans to set up five “closed pre-departure centers” for migrants on the Aegean islands of Samos, Chios, Lesvos, Kos and Leros.
Meanwhile, Kathimerini understands that another 10 centers will be set up on the mainland with certain restrictions on migrants residing there, though it remains unclear when they will open.
According to the plan for the island facilities, which was announced jointly by government spokesman Stelios Petsas and Deputy Defense Minister Alkiviadis Stefanis, new centers will be created on Lesvos, Samos and Chios by July next year, while existing camps on those islands will close, including the Moria and Vathy facilities which have been repeatedly and roundly condemned by rights groups as “inhumane.”
The plan also foresees the remodeling of smaller camps on Kos and Leros, which will house 2,000 and 1,000 migrants respectively, compared to the 5,000 to be hosted at each of the new centers slated for the other three islands.
Some 35,000 migrants are living on the five islands, many in tents set up around camps – a state of affairs that rights groups say cannot continue as winter approaches.
Petsas said the centers would make it easier for authorities to control the movements of asylum seekers and prevent them from traveling to the mainland.
“A clear message should be sent to those planning on or thinking of coming to the country illegally when they aren’t entitled to asylum,” he said. “They should understand that if they give money to a trafficker to bring them to Greece, they will lose it,” he said.
Another measure announced on Wednesday – to transfer 20,000 migrants to the mainland by early 2020 – is expected to ease the pressure on the islands. The government hopes the transfers, along with tighter border controls and the speeding up of asylum procedures and returns will address the problem.
“We will avert the creation of a new Moria,” Stefanis said.
Meanwhile, speaking at an event on youth participation in European politics in Zagreb, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned that “Greece has reached its limits” on migration.
“We need a common system on asylum that will replace Dublin,” he said, adding that sharing the burden should not be just an empty slogan without any substance.