An elderly Syrian refugee in the Moria camp | Credit: epa/O. Panagiotou
An elderly Syrian refugee in the Moria camp | Credit: epa/O. Panagiotou

Greece is being criticized by human rights groups over the living condition of migrants as it struggles to accommodate a growing number of people entering the country.

Greece continues to come under pressure from human rights groups for living conditions on the Aegean island camps, but the country persists in trying to accommodate the flow of people into the country.

According to local media reports, the Syriza-led government is planning to reopen four former migrant camps in an effort to ease the pressure on the North Eastern Aegean islands as the peak tourism season approaches. At a time when other European Union countries such as Italy and Malta are closing their doors to migrants, as demonstrated in their recent refusal to allow the rescue ship Aquarius carrying over 600 refugees to dock at their ports, Greece's authorities are responding with a different strategy.

After Greece's Council of State ruled in April that new refugee and migrant arrivals in the country can move around the country freely, and a renewed plea last month from Doctors Without Borders for more asylum-seekers to be transferred to the mainland, action is imminent. 

Four camps to reopen 

Reports on Monday claimed that four camps at Malakasa, north of Athens, Elefsina, Oinofyta and Vagiochori close to Thessaloniki, which were used during the height of the crisis in 2015 will again be used to host refugees. This will bring the total number of camps in Greece to 25.

According to the latest official figures, an average of 75 migrants per day land on Greek shores, with 12,065 people having been recorded as arriving so far in 2018 up to June 11. A total of over 16,000 migrants remain stranded there. 

Lesbos and Chios carry greatest burden

The islands of Lesbos and Chios are still bearing the brunt of the ongoing crisis which shows few signs of abating.The already painfully overcrowded and notorious camp at Moria on Lesbos is now bursting, with over 7,000 people staying in a space designed for less than half that number.

Officials hope that the reopening of the mainland camps will help ease the pressure on both islands and appease local residents who are beginning to lose patience with the situation.

The move to reopen some mainland camps comes after the Greek parliament's approval of a new law designed to speed up the country's notoriously slow asylum process.Under the new legislation, more staff will be recruited at Greece's asylum service to handle the thousands of applications, while the appeals process for rejected applications will be shortened. 

In addition, some travel restrictions can be imposed on asylum-seekers who get moved from the islands to the mainland. 

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