Migrants: 700 transferred off Samos to Greek mainland

Rally being held to demand speeding up of 'decongestion'

21 October, 16:53

    (ANSAMed) - ATHENS, OCTOBER 21 - On the day that a public rally will be held on the Greek island of Samos to call on the government to accelerate "decongestion" of the refugee and migrant population there, a total of 700 left by ship bound for Piraeus where they will move to alternative camps on the mainland.

    The move is part of an effort to relieve the chronic overcrowding of Greece's island camps, where conditions are squalid and have led to frequent outbreaks of violence.

    Only one week ago, a huge fire ripped through the Vathy camp on Samos following clashes between rival ethnic groups, forcing many people staying there to sleep rough outside of the camp.

    And Samos Mayor Giorgos Stantzos on Monday made a passionate appeal to locals to attend the rally, planned for 16:00 local time.

    The initiative is to raise awareness of the desperate situation of the overcrowded reception centers which continue to swell due to fresh influxes of migrants arriving daily on boats from the Turkish coast.

    Stantzos is urging Kyriakos Mitsotakis' Nea Dimokratia government to scale-up their efforts and clear the congestion at the Vathy migrant reception facility, which currently hosts over 6,000 people in a space designed for just 650. And although 700 people, mainly from vulnerable groups such as women and children, people in need of medical care and unaccompanied minors, the situation at the camp, and others like on Lesvos and Chios, remains desperate. "Over the past few years, this island, and particularly its main town, is experiencing an unprecedented and tragic crisis, which has totally upset the normality of our lives," Stantzos told reporters. Stantzos closed the island's schools last Monday as an emergency measure.

    "The rising migrant population was creating security issues for islanders, their children, visitors but also the refugees themselves," he added. As the island camps and the Greek government struggle to control the problem, the flows of people coming into the country continue unabated.

    According to the latest official data, a total of 10,882 migrants crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands from September 16 to October 16 alone. The situation is not helped by recent tensions between the EU and Turkey over the troubles in Syria, as well as the fact that Ankara has so far rejected amendments to the crucial 2016 so-called EU-Turkey agreement to allow the return of more asylum seekers back to Turkey from the Greek mainland. (ANSAmed).

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