Rights groups slam Greece over migrant camps
In a statement on Dec. 6, a total of 20 groups sharply criticized the winter living conditions in Greece’s eastern Aegean island migrant camps, where asylum-seekers are held under the 2016 agreement. The statement called for all camp residents to be moved to mainland Greece or other EU countries.
“Despite the Greek government’s recent efforts to transfer asylum seekers from the islands to more suitable accommodation in the mainland, as of Dec. 3, 2018, over 12,500 people were still living in tents and containers unsuitable for winter in five EU-sponsored camps known as hotspots on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos, and Leros – almost triple their capacity. In addition to serious overcrowding, asylum seekers continue facing unsanitary and unhygienic conditions and physical violence, including violence based on gender,” said the statement.
“The Greek and European authorities should show genuine, humane leadership in addressing the deplorable conditions for the people trapped on the Greek islands. Women, men, and children seeking protection in Europe should be treated in accordance with their rights and not be forced to spend another winter in squalid and unsafe camps,” it added.
The deal foresees Greece containing migrants arriving illegally from Turkey on the islands until their bids for asylum in Greece are processed. If the applications are rejected, Greece could then return Syrians to Turkey and other migrants to their homelands.
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and improve the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The EU pledged €6 billion ($7.44 billion) in funding for the refugees, and promised to mobilize the second €3 billion ($3.72 billion) tranche by the end of 2018.
Turkey hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.
The country has spent more than $32 billion from its own national resources for helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.