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Greece opens new migrant holding camp on island amid tougher policy By Reuters


© Reuters. View of the newly opened closed-type, closed-type, migrant camp, Samos (Greece), September 18, 2021. This picture was taken by a drone. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis


By Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece opened a new holding camp for migrants on Saturday on the island of Samos, close to Turkey, and said other new facilities would follow in coming months as it tightens migration policy.

It will provide protection for those who need it, according to the minister. According to aid organizations, the facility will be used for asylum seekers or people to be deported. It looks more like an old jail, with its wire-topped fence.

In 2015 and 2016, the Mediterranean nation was at the forefront of Europe’s refugee crisis. More than a million people fled war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They arrived mostly via Turkey.

While the numbers of migrants have declined over time, there are thousands of refugee seekers still trapped in Greece. In 2019, the conservative government took office and has been more strict about its policy on migration.

This government built a wall of 40 km (22.5 miles) along the Turkish border. In addition, it launched a European Union-wide competition this summer for two additional facilities to be constructed on Samos (and the Lesbos) islands. These will replace overcrowded camps.

Inaugurating the camp, Notis Mitarachi, Greek Migration Minister, said that “we have created a safe and secure new controlled access centre…that will give back dignity to those seeking international protection.”

The new camp will house approximately 450 people seeking asylum out of 7,500 inmates who had previously lived in another camp.

Mitarachi indicated that the camp could accommodate up to 3,000 people. It will also house illegal migrants who can be either returned or deported. Two other centers would soon be available on Leros Island and Kos, said Mitarachi.

Iorgos Karagiannis from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), described the camp as a “prison”. It’s an EU leader preferring to declare harmful policies rather than provide care, induction or ensured asylum.

Greece has returned, relocated and deported thousands of asylum-seekers and refugees that have been left behind for decades, mostly on the Aegean islands.

Migration ministry data revealed that August’s asylum-seekers reached 42,000, a half the amount a year prior.

Fears of another wave of refugees have been fueled by the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. Greece claims it will not permit a repeat of 2015’s migrant crisis, and demands a European joint response.

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