Migrants and refugees disembarking from a ferry in the port of Kavala, northern Greece | Photo: EPA/LASKARIS TSOUTSAS
Migrants and refugees disembarking from a ferry in the port of Kavala, northern Greece | Photo: EPA/LASKARIS TSOUTSAS

The Greek authorities on Thursday announced that they have transferred 784 migrants from the overcrowded camps on the Greek islands to the mainland since July 1.

The Greek national broadcaster ERT said Thursday that the Greek Migration Ministry had already transferred 784 migrants from overcrowded island camps, like Moria on Lesbos, to the mainland since July 1.

According to the news agency dpa, in June the transfers of migrants from islands to mainland totalled 2,144 and took migrants from camps on Lesbos, Chios and Samos. These transfers, continued dpa, mean that "for the first time in several months less than 15,000 migrants were recorded as living in and around Moria [on Lesbos]."

The notorious Moria camp was still housing 19,000 people at the beginning of March 2020.

Migrant numbers in Greece

According to the latest UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) data, last week only 27 people arrived on the Aegean islands. Departures to the mainland totaled 823 that week. The present migrant population on the islands is listed as "some 33,000." 50% of those people come from Afghanistan, about 18% from Syria and 6% from Somalia. Women account for 22% of the population and children for 33%. Approximately 13% of those children are unaccompanied or separated, the majority of whom also come from Afghanistan.

Many of those transferred are older or people who could be at risk from COVID-19 infection. Many of the camps on the island have continued to remain under quarantine measures even while the rest of Greece has been gradually opening up after the lockdown.

Migrant smugglers arrested

Meanwhile dpa reports that two human smugglers have been arrested in the Greek city Thessaloniki, in the north of the country. The smugglers were chased by police in a car, when the police stopped the men on Wednesday evening, they found three Somali men hidden in the trunk of their vehicle.

According to police, the two men were hoping to transport the migrants to Italy. This was not the first arrest of smugglers this week. Dpa reports that seven human smugglers were stopped by police on Tuesday in western Greece following “months of investigations.”

Many of the smugglers hope to put migrants on boats in Greece’s western ports like Patras and Igoumenitsa where there are daily ferries to Brindisi, Bari, Ancona, Venice and Trieste in Italy. At one of these ports, police found 20 migrants hiding in a "hollow space on a track [bound for Italy] transporting watermelons."

With material from dpa

 

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