Amid pressure, Greece puts migrant shelters under state control

EU urges Athens to take measures for people at risk of COVID-19

More than two dozen shelters hosting asylum seekers on the Greek mainland will come under the administrative control of the Migration and Asylum Ministry as part of the effort to improve the operation of these facilities, many of which are currently under the authority of international organizations or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Ekathimerini reported on Thursday.

The Greek government was urged by rights groups to “immediately reduce congestion at the islands' reception and identification centers (RICs) for asylum seekers and migrants to avert a public health crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic."Human Rights Watch (HRW) said 21 human rights and humanitarian organizations are citing the fact that thousands of people, including members of vulnerable groups, are trapped during a pandemic in dangerously overcrowded, deplorable conditions on the islands.

EU also urged Greece to take measures for migrants at risk of COVID-19 in overcrowded camps. Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson asked Athens to move migrants most at risk of contracting the coronavirus from squalid, overcrowded camps on its Mediterranean islands. But Johansson told Reuters that Athens had opposed moving the migrants to the Greek mainland, citing the absence of coronavirus cases in the camps, while the disease spreads elsewhere in Greece.

The situation in the camps is dire at the best of times. They are designed for several thousand people, but the European Commission says they house about 42,000. The situation has become even tenser since Greece last week imposed restrictions on the movement of people living in the camps to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Greece has said it receives insufficient EU help in caring for the migrants arriving across the Mediterranean from Turkey, which has recently allowed more refugees and migrants, many of them from Syria, to leave its territory for Europe.

 

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