A new migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has been given the go ahead after a vote by the local municipal council. The exact location of the camp is not yet clear.
The Municipal Council of Mytilene, on the northern Aegean island of Lesbos, first convened last Wednesday (April 7) and talks continued into the weekend before confirming a consensus for the new, modern, closed camp to be built.
However, instead of confirming the previous decision for the creation of the new facility for asylum seekers in the remote location of Vastria, the council voted in favor of a second option, the creation of the new facility without a specific geographical designation. The location is to be defined by the council at a later date.
The move comes just a week after a visit by the EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, whose presence was greeted by strong opposition from local residents and communities living near the planned site in the Vastria area.
The exact location of the new site remains to be seen, but reports stated it will be in a remote location, away from any towns or villages.
Capacity of new camp
The new structure's standard capacity will be 3,000 people, but it will be able to accommodate an additional 2,000 people. The licensing process and the announcement of the tender for the facility's construction is expected later this month.
While locals are against the move, in whatever location it may be, the truth is that the new facility is much needed for the migrant population currently living at the main camp at Kara Tepe.
The notoriously squalid 'tent city', or 'Moria 2.0' as it has been described by NGO's, human rights groups and media observers alike, is desperately primitive and overcrowded.
Greece's migration minister Notis Mitarakis said on Twitter: "The Municipal Council of Mytilene chose for the second time to leave behind the effects of immigration by closing the existing structures and apartments and creating a safe structure outside the city."
More migrants arrive
Meanwhile in related developments on Lesbos, a boat carrying 70 people arrived on the island's shores near Tsonia on Monday morning. According to Norwegian NGO Aegean Boat Report, the migrant vessel contacted the organization just prior to their arrival and asked for assistance.
No medical cases were reported, so port police were not informed. However, the videos of the incident showed a flimsy rubber boat completely overloaded, with over half of the passengers children, 37 of which were under five years old.
"This kind of incident is highly unusual these days, but to see the number of small children packed in this fragile rubber dinghy sent shivers down our spine," said Aegean Boat Report in a media statement.
"The boat was heavily overloaded, if it had capsized or gone down it would have been a disaster. Of the 70 people onboard, 44 were children, 37 of which were under the age of five. We advised the group to stay together, and not split up in smaller groups as they usually do after arriving. The entire group, 70 people, walked slowly in direction towards Klio, eventually they were spotted by locals and police were informed, and they were taken to the quarantine camp in Megala Therma, Lesbos north."
It remains to be seen where the migrants will be taken, but it is highly likely that they will end up at the large camp at Kara Tepe after staying in quarantine for two weeks.
Positive asylum claims
Last week, 115 people, whose asylum applications were successful, departed from Lesbos. While the number is not high in comparison to the many thousands who remain at the notoriously squalid tent city camp Kara Tepe, the Greek authorities continue their efforts to ease pressure on the overcrowded camp.
Overall, a total of 500 refugees have left the island since March 28, reducing the number of residents on Lesbos to under 8,000.
According to local reports, the government plans to close the municipal facility at Kara Tepe by the end of April, and also to further reduce the number of people at the temporary camp, which was hastily constructed to replace the Moria facility which was destroyed in a series of fires last September.
The camp started out with some 10,000 residents, and now it is reportedly home to fewer than 6,000.