Refugees and migrants disembarking in the port of Thessaloniki after being transferred from Lesbos island | Photo: EPA/NIKOS ARVANITIDIS
Refugees and migrants disembarking in the port of Thessaloniki after being transferred from Lesbos island | Photo: EPA/NIKOS ARVANITIDIS

The refugee crisis in Greece continues to intensify. Local residents on the island of Chios staged a roadblock near the Vial reception center to protest against the camp's overcrowding on Monday.

Residents told local media that they will ramp up their protests if central authorities do not do more to decrease number of migrants on Chios, as well as on the neighboring islands of Lesbos and Samos. 

Greek authorities have increased transfers from the islands to the mainland recently. But undocumented migrants and refugees are continuing to arrive on boats from Turkey and the island camps continue to be dramatically overcrowded.

Currently, around 5,000 people are being hosted at the Vial camp on Chios. That is several times its maximum capacity. The camp has spilled over into the private land surrounding the facility. 

During the Monday protest, locals from the nearby village of Chalkio blocked the entrance to the Vial camp. 

Mayor, regional minister support protest

"Our way of life in Chalkio has been lost," said Chios Mayor Stamatis Karmantzis, who expressed his support for the protest. Regional deputy health minister Pantelis Bougdanos called for the Vial center to be shut down. "The solutions being offered which basically involve transferring people to other locations are not actually solutions, because the influx of people coming in are continuing at a fast pace in recent months," he said. "The solution must be radical and central. The New Democracy government must deliver on its pre-election commitments." 

Bougdanos also said that the local medical center is in dire need of support. 

1,000 transferred to the mainland 

Over 1,000 migrants have been transferred from Chios to Athens recently. The first ships carrying 800 people from Lesvos arrived at Elefsina port near Athens on Saturday, while another 100 arrived in Piraeus port from Samos on Sunday. A further 200 asylum seekers reached Piraeus on Monday from Chios, Kos and Leros islands. The migrants will be transferred to facilities in different parts of the country by bus. 

There have been several protests on the Greek mainland against migrant transfers from the island recently. Many locals  are against the creation of new refugee centers in their areas. 

New controversial legislation

Greece's parliament approved a controversial new bill on asylum last Friday in an effort to tackle the growing refugee crisis.

The 237-page legislation mainly focuses on asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The goal: To process asylum applications faster and to send illegible applicants back to Turkey.

The bill has been criticized as inhumane by opponents, especially by the Syriza party and human rights groups. They see it as an "attempt to block access to protection and increase deportations."

Last week, the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR also expressed concern about the legislation, saying that it could weaken the protection of refugees.

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