The number of refugees and migrants still on the Greek islands in the Aegean has decreased toward the end of the year. The conditions for the remaining migrants however remain precarious, according to various aid organizations.
3,503 people continue to live in camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, the Greek refugee agency said. A year ago, more than twice that number lived on Lesbos alone. Overall, around 17,000 people lived on the five islands in December 2020.
In the past 12 months, the Greek government launched an initiative to take most of the migrants living previously on these islands to the Greek mainland.
Prison-like conditions for those who remain
Meanwhile, new camps were established in 2021 on the islands of Samos, Leros and Kos following international criticism about the previously poor living conditions for migrants there.
While there is only little criticism about the facilities in Kos and Leros, the newly built camp on Samos continues to draw criticism. Refugee organizations report that the 400 migrants who live there are confined to the site because they can only leave at certain times.
Europe Must Act, a coalition of aid organizations and NGOs working with migrants, said earlier this month that the facility resembled a prison.
Uncertainty on Lesbos
Earlier in 2021, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) made a similar statement about Lesbos, where a total of 1,863 migrants are currently staying in the Kara Tepe camp. The facility was built hastily after a major fire destroyed the notorious Moria camp on the island in September 2020.
A new camp is due to be erected on Lesbos using EU funds; however, locals have been protesting against the plan, as they believe it might encourage more refugees and migrants to come. Final court rulings are still pending in the case following various rounds of appeals.
Aid organizations meanwhile have also criticized the plans for the new camp even though the site is supposed to meet international standards.