Regional governors of Greece's North Eastern Aegean islands are making fresh calls on the state to transfer thousands of refugees and migrants from overcrowded camps to the mainland, claiming the government is breaking its promises.
Greece's Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas said earlier this summer that the state would speed up relocation efforts and ensure that the number of migrants staying at overcrowded camps on Lesvos, Chios and Samos would be cut to 10,000 by September. However, the reality is that with only a week to go until September, there are still over 16,000 people stranded on those islands at reception centers where living conditions are grim.
"Is this what the government promises look like? We can not stress enough how vital it is for the quick decongestion of the islands - there is already a heavy burden on the local economy and society, as well as the fact that this has been going on for three years," Christina Kalogirou, the Regional Governor of the North Aegean told reporters.
A 55% rise compared to last year
According to the latest official statistics, at the same period last year, there were just over 10,000 refugees on those same islands, so this year marks a 55 percent rise, despite having the EU agreement with Turkey in place which accounts for returning non-eligible asylum seekers back to Turkey. "We must not forget the humanitarian dimension of the problem, as five times more refugees and migrants are packed into facilities which were designed to hold just 5,000 people; in addition, there are huge security problems," added Kalogirou.
Kalogirou added that the regional governors have received no information as of yet from the Ministry of Migration Policy as to how Vitsas' promise will be carried out. Various human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also been consistently putting pressure on the Greek government to speed up relocation efforts due to the fact that the overcrowding has lead to serious mental health problems - among other health issues - affecting migrants, as well as frequent fighting and riots between rival ethnic groups.