The human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, sounded the alarm again last week about the reception of boat refugees on the Greek islands just off the coast of Turkey. After a five-day visit to the islands of Lesbos and Samos, she said shocked by the terrible circumstances in which thousands of people reside there. Athens got a slap on the fingers because of the "explosive situation" in the camps on the islands.
Mijatovic called on the new right-wing Greek government to take urgent measures. There is a major shortage of medical care in the camps. And people have to wait for hours before they can go to the toilet or get food. More refugees have been arriving on the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea in recent months. The relief camps cannot cope with the influx and are overcrowded. More than 34,000 people are waiting (some of them for years!) For their asylum application to be processed, while there is only room for a maximum of 6,300 migrants.
Partly because of this, the migratiedebat has flared up again in Greece. In the Greek population, xenophobia has already increased in recent years, and in recent elections the right-wing populist party ND gained a majority and the left Syriza government was sent home. In addition, the country has once again grown in recent months into the most important gateway to Europe for refugees. Spain and Italy had taken over the torch in previous years.
The increasing flow of migration saddled the new Greek government with problems. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis received the green light from parliament last Friday after a marathon session for a new asylum law. This law gives the authorities the opportunity to speed up the processing of asylum procedures. In addition, the government can return migrants who are not eligible for international protection to Turkey faster. From now on, Greece is less likely to grant asylum to migrants.
In the debate in the Greek parliament, conservative Prime Minister Mitsotakis repeatedly clashed with his predecessor, the radical left Alexis Tsipras. The leader of Syriza accused his successor of spreading an "extremist rhetoric" and lies about the "too lax migration policy" of the earlier Syriza government.
Mitsotakis said that Greece cannot host tens of thousands of refugees without an efficient system. This law provides us with an instrument that protects refugees but prevents us from opening the gates wide open for iedereen, he said.
Due to its migration policy, the Mitsotakis team also received criticism from aid organizations in recent weeks. Her intention to send some 10,000 asylum seekers back to Turkey by the end of this year is receiving criticism. However, the Greek government continues to relocate migrants from overcrowded camps on the islands. This weekend around 800 migrants will be brought from Lesbos to mainland Greece. They are housed in hotels, which are often without guests now that the high season is over.
The Greek government plans to relocate 5,000 migrants from the islands to the mainland over the next two weeks. Nearly 15,000 migrants live in the Moria camp in Lesvos alone, while there is only room for 3,000. There are also major problems with housing, medical care and hygiene.
Nearly 44,000 people entered the sea from Turkey to Greece this year. Most are originally from Afghanistan or Syria.