Monday, December 4, 2023

Greek government offer details about closed facilities for migrants

Migrants and asylum seekers who live in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos set garbage on fire and clash with police who tried to prevent the rioters from reaching the town of Mytilini.

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The Greek government has opted to speed up the process for establishing closed facilities on the country’s islands that are still dealing with the ongoing migration crisis. As the situation is becoming more precarious by the day, due to overpopulation problems at most of the camps on the islands, the Greek government has decided to announce the opening of five closed centres on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos, and Leros, with the new centres slated to replace the existing facilities in the coming months.
According to the planning, the new facilities will be ready and functional by the summer and will have a total capacity of 20,000 people, including 5,000 people that could be housed on Lesbos, Samos and Chios; 5,000+ on Kos, and 2,000+ on Leros. According to government sources, the new facilities will host newly arrived asylum seekers, those who have committed crimes, and illegal immigrants who need to be returned either to Turkey or to their country of origin.
The government’s executive action, which was signed by the Ministries of Migration and Finance, says the landowners of Lesbos, Samos, and Chios, whose land will be requisitioned for the sites, will be fully compensated over the next three years.
The new facilities will not be detention centres, per se, but both entrance to and exit from the sites will be limited and only certain people within these facilities will be able to come out and return, and only if they are in possession of a special card that grants them this right. Those individuals who have broken the law and illegal immigrants that have not been granted asylum will be barred from having the right to leave the facilities
The government’s decision has not gone uncontested. Mayors on the islands are demanding the closure of the existing facilities and strongly oppose any plan to create new camps. The local authorities claim that the inhabitants of the islands have reached their limit in terms and there have been clashes in the streets of Lesbos between asylum seekers, island citizens, and the police in recent days. The islanders claim that the unrest caused by the asylum seekers was initiated by certain NGOs on the island. Greece’s Migration Ministers Notis Mitarakis also accused certain NGOs of having a hand in helping to inflame the already tense environment.
Despite sustained protests by the citizens of the aforementioned islands, senior government officials explained to New Europe that the plan will have to be put forward. “Alongside the new and faster asylum rules, the closed centres are the only way to effectively decongest the islands.” At the same time, Greece hopes send a clear message to the Turks that asylum seekers should not consider making the trip to Greece since this will only lead to being detained in closed facilities.
In a discussion with New Europe, another minister from the Mitsotakis government said the new centres, and the revised asylum regulations that have been in place since January 1, are two powerful tools that the government is in full control of. In order to change course, the Greek authorities plan to have thousands of asylum applications processed in the coming months in order to coincide with the opening of the new closed facilities.
Some asylum seekers will be granted asylum, but the majority will be characterised as illegal immigrants and repatriated. The government claims that by March of this year, it will be able to return up to 800 illegal immigrants per month, a significant uptick from the 391 people that were deported in 2019.
The Greek authorities say they are in close contact with the authorities of third countries, including their counterparts in Afghanistan where many of the asylum seekers come from, in order to perform direct returns.

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