In the latest attempt to ease the overcrowding in migrant camps on the Greek Aegean islands, over 350 migrants left Lesbos and Chios over the weekend. 10,000 migrants have been moved to mainland Greece since July, but given the unabated influx of migrants from Turkey, that effort is not nearly enough.
More than 350 migrants were brought to mainland Greece on Saturday to take some pressure off overcrowded facilities on the islands of Lesbos and Chios, according to Greek radio reports.
Some 370 migrants were taken to the port city of Piraeus, Greek radio reported, citing port authorities.
According to government sources, 10,000 migrants have been moved to mainland Greece since July, and 10,000 more are expected to make the move in the next two months.
At present, however, the effort is not nearly enough to ease the overcrowding on the islands in the Aegean Sea, for the number of arrivals still exceeds the number of those brought to the mainland: In October alone, 9,000 people reached the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Leros, Samos and Kos.
Nearly 40,000 migrants currently waiting
According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Citizen Protection in Athens, 39,272 migrants are currently waiting in and around the registration centers on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos.
In April, that number stood at just 14,000. Athens has repeatedly called on the Turkish government to stop the influx of refugees.
Scores of migrants continue to arrive daily in the hope of eventually traveling from those islands onwards to wealthy European countries.
The high number of arrivals has created inhumane conditions in the reception centers, most of them vastly overcrowded, unhygienic and violence-prone. Last month, a nine-month-old baby died from severe dehydration in the Moria migrant camp on Lesbos.
No end in sight
An end to the influx of migrants isn't in sight, Greek coast guard officials said. On Saturday morning alone, 42 migrants were picked up off the island of Chios. Moreover, a suspected smuggler was arrested.
The migrants had started their journey from the Turkish port city Cesme.
According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 52,719 migrants had left Turkey for the Greek islands in 2019 up until November 24. That’s more than 20,000 more than the total number of sea arrivals to Greece in the full 12 months of 2018.
Although the vast majority of migrants come by sea, growing numbers have crossed via the land route across the Evros River in recent months. Many of those people claim they are subjected to violent and illegal treatment by authorities at the border.
With material from dpa