Arrivals to Greece have dropped significantly from almost 75,000 in 2019 to less than 16,000 in 2020. Conditions in the so-called Moria 2.0 camp on Lesvos continue to deteriorate. Local opposition to government camp policies while closure of alternative accommodation continues. Medical capacity at pre-removal centres less than minimal.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) sea and land arrivals to Greece have decreased from 74,613 in 2019 to just 15,669 in 2020 – a year where evidence of systematic pushbacks from Greece to Turkey has continued to mount. However, the general situation for asylum seekers and refugees in Greece remains dire.
Already harsh conditions in the so-called Moria 2.0 on Lesvos continue to deteriorate with large parts of the camp flooded by water, sewage and mud, tents and portable toilets swept away by winds, the skin of residents dissolving after weeks of being wet and temperatures set to drop below zero and forecast of extreme weather over the weekend. The camp houses 2,664 children, of whom 1,865 are below the age of 12. Tougher lockdown restrictions have been announced on 12 January on the island of Lesvos following a spike in positive COVID cases.
Following an appeal by the Municipality of Chios to a local Court, to return the reception facility of VIAL as after two years the concession of the site to the Greek government expired, Migration Minister, Notis Mitarakis, has announced that the construction of a new closed camp for migrants on the eastern Aegean island will be accelerated. The minister stated that the new camp “should be operational” in 2021, while noting that VIAL will only close when the new facility is ready. Government plans to establish new larger Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) for asylum seekers on the Evros land border and the Aegean island of Leros have been met with strong objections from local authorities. The deputy governor of Evros, Dimitris Petrovic, stated that a planned increase of current reception capacity of 500 people to 1,500 could potentially lead to the creation of “a camp of migrants on the country’s borders”. The Municipal Authority of Leros has appealed to the Council of State to prevent the construction of a new structure on the island aimed to increase current reception capacity of 800 people to 2,000. Giorgos Giasimakis, the mayor of the municipality of Oropos North of Athens where the Malakasa camp is located, denounced government policies, stating: “I will continue to demand the removal of these structures from Malakasa, and at the same time, until this is done, will try to support the value of human life that knows no distinctions of color, ethnicity, religion”.
Despite local resistance, widespread overcrowding and harsh conditions in camps across Greece, the eradication by the Greek government of alternative accommodation to camps continues. The Filoxenia program, at its peak hosting an average of almost 7,000 people with priority given to vulnerable asylum seekers from the RIC on Greek islands, is set to close. 130 asylum seekers under the program housed at three hotels will be transferred in January to what local media refer to as other accommodation structures.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the systematic administrative detention of rejected asylum seekers continues and the medical capacity at the eight pre-removal detention centres across Greece is minimal, including one doctor for 877 detainees in Corinth.
The Greek government has filed a request to the European Commission and Frontex “for the immediate return” of 1.450 rejected asylum seekers from the Aegean islands to Turkey currently hosting 4 million refugees and asylum seekers. Only 139 returns took place in 2020 and none since March when Turkish authorities suspended returns under the EU Turkey agreement allegedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For further information:
- ECRE, Greece: Deaths and Push-backs Continue, Racist Attack on Hosting Centre for Unaccompanied Children, Camp Conditions Deteriorating, January 2021
- ECRE, Greece: Authorities Block Scrutiny of Camp Conditions, Lead Poisoning adds to Risks in Moria 2.0, Concern over Remote Interviews, December 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Migration Minister Praises Conditions in Moria 2.0, Pushbacks and Shipwrecks Continue, December 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Frontex Denies Involvement in Pushbacks, Expert Council Critique of NGO Registration Rules, November 2020
- ECRE, Greece: EU to Finance Camps on Islands, CPT Calls for Reforms of Detention System and end of Pushbacks, Whereabouts of Rejected Asylum Seekers Unknown, November 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Father of Drowned Child Arrested, Thousands of Pushbacks Documented, Frontex Involvement in Pushbacks Under Scrutiny, November 2020
- Joint statement, Turning rhetoric into reality: New monitoring mechanism at European borders should ensure fundamental rights and accountability, November 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Well-run PIKPA Camp Evicted while Situation on Islands and Mainland Continue to Deteriorate, November 2020
- ECRE, Frontex: Commission Calls for Urgent Meeting over Complicity in Pushbacks, Critique of 100 Million Euro Investment in Drone Surveillance, October 2020
- ECRE, Greece: PIKPA Eviction Postponed, Shortages in New Lesvos Camp, COVID Outbreak Continues, New Pushback Incidents, Golden Dawn Leadership Straight to Jail, October 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Golden Dawn Declared Criminal Organisation, People Return from Mainland to Lesvos, Push-backs Continue, October 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Closure of Accommodation for Vulnerable Amid Deteriorating Conditions in Camps, Transfers to Mainland, October 2020
- ECRE, Greece: New Camp Filling Up, Conditions are Harsh and COVID on the Rise, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Transfers to Improvised Tent Camp has Begun, Thousands Sleeping Rough, EU to Co-manage New Reception Structure in Lesbos, September 2020
- Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), Solidarity Now and others: Joint statement of 48 NGOs regarding the fire at the Registration and Identification Centre at Moria, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Moria Fire – Thousands Sleeping Rough, Chaos Prevails, Calls for Structural Solutions, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: 10,000 People Prevented Access, Lockdown Extended, Recognition Rate Increases, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Border Fence Extension, Denial of Push-backs, Anti-migrant Violence, Continued Destitution, Drop in Protection Rate, August 2020
- ECRE, Greece: No Accountability for Deadly Shooting, Continued Push-backs and Evictions, Critique of Crack-down on NGOs, German States Willing to Relocate, July 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Camp Lockdown Extended, Children in Detention, Cuts in Housing, Red-tape on NGOs and Continued Push-backs, June 2020
- AIDA, 2019 Update Greece, June 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Pushbacks Continue, Eviction of Makeshift Camp in Athens, June 2020
- ECRE, Greece: 500 to Escape Greece – Thousands Facing Destitution, Detention and Push-backs, June 2020
This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.