KOS, Greece (AFP) – Greece on Saturday (Nov 27) opened two more of its new “closed” migrant camps that have been criticised by rights groups for their restrictive measures.
“A new era is beginning,” Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi said announcing the opening of the camps on the islands of Leros and Kos.
“We are extricating our islands from the migration problem and its consequences,” he said.
“The images that we all remember from 2015-2019 are now in the past.”
Greece was the main point where more than one million asylum seekers – mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans – entered Europe in 2015 and its islands in the Aegean Sea are the main port of call from people arriving via Turkey in search of a better life in Europe.
The crisis in Afghanistan has prompted fears of a new migration wave.
The “closed” camps feature barbed wire fencing, surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners and magnetic doors and gates remain closed at night.
They also have many features, like running water, toilets and more security, that were absent from the previous facilities that became infamous for their living conditions.
Greece inaugurated the first such camp on the island of Samos in September and plans to open two more, on the islands of Lesbos and Chios.
The EU has committed 276 million euros (S$429 million) for the new camps.
“Today the EU is turning a page in its migration policy,” European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas told reporters.
“We are turning a page with… structures and centres that reflect our values, our way of life, that dignify people.”
“Europe will continue to be an asylum destination for all those who flee dictatorship, wars and persecutions and it is in our interest that we provide humane… conditions,” he added.
NGOs and aid groups have raised concerns about the new camps’ structure in isolated places and residents’ confinement, saying that the movement of people in the camps should not be restricted.
According to latest UN estimates, there are currently around 96,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Greece.