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article imageGreece begins migrant transfers from overcrowded island camps

By AFP     Sep 21, 2018 in World

Greece has begun transferring hundreds of migrants from chronically overcrowded camps on islands in the Aegean Sea after NGOs highlighted poor conditions, sources said Friday.

"A hundred people were transferred Friday morning from Moria camp on Lesbos and another camp on that island to that of Filippiada at Ipiros, in the mainland's northwest, with a view to transferring a total of 2,000 people by the end of next week, 500 on Monday," a camp official at Moria told AFP.

The official added a transfer was contingent on first attending an interview with asylum services.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had Monday warned of the health consequences brought on by chronic overcrowding at camps on Lesbos, adding its personnel had seen multiple cases of suicide attempts and self-harm.

Government data showed the same day that Lesbos was housing more than 11,000 refugees and migrants, including nearly 9,000 in Moria, almost triple the nominal capacity of Europe's largest camp, prompting Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas to promise action.

The Samos Volunteers group said meanwhile in a social media post that 350 people had been transferred from that island to camps on the mainland since the start of the week.

"The people transferred to the mainland were families, young persons, single men and people that had been there for a few months up to two-and-a-half years," the group told AFP, adding that "this transfer was long overdue."

The Samos camp had been bursting at the seams, housing 3,600 people at a facility designed for 650, according to official figures.

European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met Greek officials Wednesday and Thursday in Athens for talks on migration, three years after Lesbos found itself at the heart of Europe's greatest migration crisis since World War II.

Maas emerged to say Thursday that the situation was "anything but satisfactory," as migrants continue to head to the Greek islands from the nearby coast of Turkey, the world's largest refugee-hosting country with over three million Syrians and up to 300,000 Iraqis.

The German minister also noted after meeting Avramopoulos that "we must reflect on how better to apply the EU-Turkey pact" concluded in March 2016 and designed to stem the flow of migrants reaching Europe via Turkey.

Under the deal, illegal migrants arriving in Greece would be returned to Turkey while for each Syrian returned to Turkey one already in Turkey would be resettled in Europe.

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