Archive: Refugee kids play with the snow in the refugee camp of Malakasa, some 60km north of Athens, Greece | Photo: EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU
Archive: Refugee kids play with the snow in the refugee camp of Malakasa, some 60km north of Athens, Greece | Photo: EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

The mayor of the Oropos municipality where the Malakasa refugee and migrant camp is located -- 40 kilometers from Athens -- has appealed to the Greek government to stop "human warehouses" following the tragic death of a young child at the camp.

A five-year-old Afghan boy was fatally injured after being run over by a heavy duty truck close to the entrance of the camp in Eastern Attica.

Local media reports said that the boy, one of nine children in a family staying at the camp, had been playing near the area. The child was rushed to hospital immediately but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Mayor has repeatedly asked for the closure of camp

Giorgos Giasimakis, the mayor of the municipality of Oropos, denounced the inhuman conditions that the migrants there are living in. He pointed out that from day one he has focused his efforts to facilitate in making the facilities more humane. However, he said he has not stopped demanding that the center be closed down and a more permanent, humane and just solution be found for the inhabitants.

"I will continue to demand the removal of these structures from Malakasa, and at the same time, until this is done, will try to support the value of human life that knows no distinctions of color, ethnicity, religion," said Giasinakis in a media statement.

He added: "The creation of human warehouses is not a solution, nor are temporary solutions of this kind an indication of a civilized society, which clearly do not solve the problems, but cover them up and cover them only temporarily. Nor does it give a way out both to the local communities, but also to the immigrants themselves, who in this way are treated in a tragic way and are not given the opportunity to live with meaning and humanity."

"The tragic death of a five-year-old child unfortunately brings to the surface once again the tragic living conditions of the refugees and the inhumane way they live and try to survive. We do not want any further victims in this "warehouse" of souls at Malakasa."

Migration minister plans visit to North

Meanwhile, Greece's Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis has announced that he will visit the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace region on January 16-18 for talks with local government officials in an attempt to resolve their local concerns about the creation of a new 'closed' reception center on the Evros land border.

In a letter sent to the President of the Regional Union of Municipalities of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, and the Mayor of Orestiada, Vassilios Mavridis, Mitarakis stated that the project is simply an upgrade of the current facility, rather than any effort to expand the migrant population there.

Last week, representatives of the local government, church and local communities stated that they would move to block the proposal, which at Evros could mean tripling the capacity of the current facility from 600 to 1,500 people.

The local municipalities are fearful that the move would potentially lead to essentially creating a migrant camp on the country's borders, similar to scenes from the peak of the crisis in 2015 when such camps were scattered across the Northern border.

'Government has reduced migration'

In his letter, however, Mitarakis emphasized that the government has reduced migration flows by 80% in 2020, executed the expansion and upgrade of the border fences at Evros, and recruited more border guards, as well as mentioning the fact that the operation of closed / controlled structures contribute decisively to consolidate a sense of security in the region.

He notes that closed centers in Evros have been operating for decades, while the Reception and Identification Center at the border outpost was established in 2012.

"With the proposed projects to upgrade existing facilities and strengthen security measures, for obvious reasons, there is a commitment that there will be no extended stay of refugees and migrants in Thrace. This remains and will be strictly enforced," said Mitarakis' letter.

He added: "Nor, of course, will there be any transfers of migrants from other areas of our homeland to the outpost. It is also stressed that there are no plans to change the number of temporary residents, in relation to the current capacity of the structure. The upcoming tender announcement will define the project precisely."

Mitarakis will outline his detailed plan to the regional governors, as well as the President of the Central Union of Greek Municipalities, Dimitris Papastergiou during his upcoming visit.


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