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article imageGreece vows improved migrant camp conditions after Oxfam report

By AFP     Jan 10, 2019 in World

The Greek government on Thursday vowed to improve conditions in overflowing migrant camps on the islands of Lesbos and Samos following tough criticism by a leading charity.

"Doctors will be sent in by the end of January," migration minister Dimitris Vitsas told a news conference in response to a grim Oxfam report published Wednesday.

He said 29,090 vulnerable people were transferred to mainland centres from the islands last year.

"Two new camps with capacity for 1,500 people will be created in mainland Greece" to relieve the islands, he added.

According to the Oxfam report, "hundreds of pregnant women, unaccompanied children and survivors of torture are being abandoned in refugee camps on the Greek islands".

Oxfam said the system to identify and protect migrants had "broken down due to chronic understaffing and flawed processes".

The charity highlighted that "for much of the last year there has been just one government-appointed doctor in Lesbos who was responsible for screening as many as 2,000 people arriving each month.

"In November, there was no doctor at all so there were no medical screenings happening to identify the most vulnerable people," Oxfam added.

The charity's account included mothers being sent away from hospital to live in a tent as early as four days after giving birth by Caesarean section.

"Hundreds of vulnerable people are being lumped together to live in the EU 'hotspot' camp of Moria (on Lesbos) which is at twice its capacity" of some 3,000, the agency added, with a further 2,000 sheltering in a field beyond the perimeter.

The islands are a chief point of entry for migrants and refugees from neighbouring Turkey, just a handful of kilometres (miles) across the Aegean Sea.

In November, a spokesperson for the UN's UNHCR refugee agency slammed the "abhorrent" conditions on migrant centres on Lesbos and Samos.

A Cameroonian man aged 24 was found dead at the Moria camp Tuesday during an unprecedented cold snap, though his cause of death has not been confirmed.

"We are working to reduce the number of people in the camps," Vitsas insisted, saying Greece was handling more than 70,000 migrants.

"In 2018, 47,929 people entered Greece, 32,115 of them via the Aegean isles near the Turkish coast -- that is, a ten percent increase on the previous year."

He added 15,814 entered by the land border with Turkey in northeastern Greece -- "almost three times the 2017 figure."

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