Two migrants sell coffee in the Identification Center of Moria, Lesvos island | Photo: EPA/PANAGIOTIS
Two migrants sell coffee in the Identification Center of Moria, Lesvos island | Photo: EPA/PANAGIOTIS

Greece's newly-appointed Citizens' Protection Minister, Michalis Chrysochoidis, spent the weekend inspecting the notorious Moria refugee reception and identification center (RIC) on the North East Aegean island of Lesvos. He said the sole purpose of his visit was to get himself "more informed".

Michalis Chrysochoidis, who took on the post of Citizen's Protection Minister on July 9 after New Democracy won the recent national elections, made his first visit to Lesvos. Chrysochoidis was briefed by facility director Yiannis Balbakakis about the latest conditions at the refugee hotspot, which currently hosts over 6,000 asylum-seekers.

The previous Greek government has come under constant pressure for it's so-called "containment policy" in the Aegean region, crowing far too many asylum seekers into the cramped camps on Lesvos, Chios and Samos. The Moria camp on Lesvos, in particular, has been the subject of many protests and pleas from NGOs, charities and human rights organizations who called for conditions to be improved and more refugees transferred from there to the mainland. 

Violence, overcrowding

Earlier this month, a total of 14 asylum seekers were arrested by police after violence broke out between rival ethinic groups there - a regular occurrence at the camp where the atmosphere has been consistently tense due to overcrowding. As it stands, just over 6,000 people are currently registered as being hosted at Moria, which has a capacity designed for just 3,500.

"This visit is for the sole purpose of getting myself more informed, up close with the situation," Chrysochoidis told reporters. He added: "I am very impressed with the responsibility, modesty and comprehensiveness with which all the people working here, as well as the representatives of the local community, expressed their concerns about the crucial refugee and migrant issue on the island." 

"I leave with a positive impression that I have gained from the complete picture I have received from those working hard here. I realize the problems the country faces in managing the refugee problem here on this island, and throughout the Aegean." 

During his visit, Chrysochoidis was also able to witness first hand how migrants are registered. While he was there, around 40 mostly Afghan nationals were screened. He also toured the municipality-run Kara Tepe camp at the island's capital, where he discussed the prospect of relocating more than 300 unaccompanied minors currently living in Moria. 

Chrysochoidis also chaired a meeting of local administration and migration policy, which was attended by representatives of local authorities and organizations involved in migration and refugee crisis management. 

Greece still struggling to cope 

Greece has been welcoming huge influxes of refugees since the outbreak of the crisis in 2015, and the country is still struggling to cope with the thousands of asylum seekers which are staying in camps all over the country, with many subjected to terrible living conditions at the likes of Moria on Lesvos, as well as on Chios and Samos. The ongoing crisis shows no sign of letting up. Overall, it is estimated that Greece's population of asylum seekers will surpass the 90,000 mark by the end of 2019 at current rates. 

With its current systems and infrastructure, Greece's outgoing Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas, recently conceded last month that the country only has the capacity to process only 20,000 asylum applications every year, whereas the number of applications received in 2018 were a massive 67,000.

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