ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The European Commissioner for Home Affairs met on Tuesday with the Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, two of the eastern Aegean islands most affected by migration to Europe.
The EU is currently working on a new migration pact to address the number of asylum seekers wishing to join the alliance. Refugee rights groups have criticized the bloc’s migration policy as inhumane.
The southern countries of the continent, which have become the main entry point for migrants, have long called for a fairer distribution of asylum seekers, more solidarity than other EU countries. Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus have formed a group to lobby for a change in the new migration pact.
EU Commissioner Ilva Johansson will also meet again with Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi, with whom he visited the islands of Lesbos and Samos on Monday.
The Commissioner stressed the need for solidarity between the 27 EU member states in regulating migration, and called on Turkey to resume accepting the return of people whose asylum applications are rejected in Greece after arriving from the Turkish coast.
Speaking at a meeting with Johansson on Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said mass overcrowding on the island’s camps had eased significantly over the past year.
“We have made significant progress in the collapse of the islands. “We are moving forward with the help of the EU, with the construction of permanent facilities on the islands, which will be a decisive change in the past,” he said.
Last year, the famous overcrowded “poor” camp in Moria, Lesbos, burned down, and its residents were relocated to a makeshift tent camp. The barn suffers from flood problems, which Mitarachi said were being resolved.
On Monday, Johansson noted that the number of asylum seekers in the Greek islands has dropped from 42,000 in 2019 to about 14,000 today. Still, the Samos facility, built to accommodate only 650 residents, remains overcrowded. More than 3,000 people live in the camp, and a shantytown has been established around it.
A new facility is being built on Samos, while others are planned for some other islands. Johansson said Monday that the EU was providing 276 million euros ($ 325 million) to build new migrant facilities.
Aid groups և refugee rights organizations, however, have criticized Europe’s migration policy.
The 2016 EU-Turkey deal stipulates that newcomers must stay on the islands until they return to Turkey until their asylum application is successful. The agreement reduced arrivals but did not stop them, leading to overcrowded camps on the island.
On Monday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in an open letter to Johansson accused Johansson of “putting a really positive turn in a catastrophic situation” and said the EU planned to “pursue the same policy that has only created suffering for the last five years.” during. ”
Hilde Vochten, MSF Lesbos Medical Coordinator, wrote that the asylum seekers had been on the islands for “five winters, leading to poverty, trauma and even death in EU-funded reception centers”.
Describing the miserable living conditions on the island’s camps, Vochten wrote that “none of this is an undesirable consequence, nor is it a problem of lack of capacity or resources. It is supposed that the conditions of the Greek islands are preventive for those who are still thinking of traveling ”
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