The refugee camp on Samos island is severely overcrowded | Photo: Jannis Papdimitriou
The refugee camp on Samos island is severely overcrowded | Photo: Jannis Papdimitriou

The Greek Migration Ministry said Friday it had concluded a bilateral agreement with Portugal to relocate 1,000 people with a right to asylum. The first phase will start with 100 persons.

Greece and Portugal signed an agreement last week over the relocation of 1,000 refugees to Portugal, the Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said Friday.

The first 100 refugees to be transferred in the "pilot phase" will be mainly families and other vulnerable persons "granted and/or seeking international protection who are currently in camps," Vitsas announced on his Facebook page. No information about the exact date was given. 

The arrangement follows an initial agreement that Athens came to with Portuguese Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita in October. After the initial meeting, the two countries submitted the draft bilateral agreement to the European Commission to receive funding for the program. In Friday's statement, Vitsas said the arrangement had been given the blessing by the European Commission.

According to reports in October, persons covered by the agreement will first have to apply for asylum in Greece before being interviewed by the Portuguese authorities for the relocation process.

Greek camps still severely overcrowded

As part of the Relocation Scheme established by the EU Council in 2015 as an emergency measure to alleviate the situation in Greece and Italy, Portugal relocated 356 people from Italy and 1,192 people from Greece. The scheme officially expired on September 26, 2017, yet relocation cases across the EU were still pending a year later. 

The situation on the Greek islands has not improved. Around 15,300 refugees and migrants are currently residing on Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, according to the Migration Ministry in Athens. Tensions are particularly high on the island of Samos, where the number of refugees and migrants - at 4,000 - far exceeds the official capacity of 650, dpa reports.


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