Greece has vowed to improve living conditions for refugees held in detention camps on its Aegean Sea islands.
“We will make every effort to improve the living conditions on the East Aegean islands,” Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said on Tuesday.
Europe has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of refugees from crisis zones in Asia and Africa in recent years. Particularly when the crisis began in 2015, many of the refugees arrived in Greece, one of the nearest destinations in Europe.
As arrivals surged, Greece and other European countries began to feel overwhelmed, either shutting their borders to new arrivals or taking the refugees to squalid detention camps.
Vitsas said arrivals had almost doubled this summer compared to last year on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Kos, Samos, Chios, and Leros, the main gateways to Europe for refugees mostly fleeing from conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan via Turkey.
“On Sunday, 416 people arrived on the islands, including 324 on Lesbos,” Vitsas said.
He added that the European Union (EU) “has not done enough to deal with the influx of migrants in the eastern Mediterranean.”
Vitsas, along with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, will meet with European migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in Athens on Wednesday to address the situation.
Government data on Monday showed there were more than 11,000 refugees on Lesbos, including nearly 9,000 in the Moria camp, almost triple the nominal capacity.
Earlier this month, 19 NGOs, including Oxfam, Caritas, and Terre des Hommes, called for “immediate and urgent action” by Athens to end the “shameful” situation in Moria.
The medical charity Doctors without Borders warned on Monday that the dire conditions in the overcrowded detention camps on Lesbos were leading to increased suicide attempts and were putting refugees at a high health risk.
MSF said its teams “are seeing multiple cases each week of teenagers who have attempted to commit suicide or self-harm, and are responding to numerous critical incidents as a result of violence, child self-harm, and lack of access to urgent medical care.”
“It is time to immediately evacuate the most vulnerable to safe accommodation in other European countries,” the organization said.
The EU is bound to share out the incoming arrivals. But most countries where the refugees initially arrive in have complained of a lack of cooperation by other member states.
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