Greece, with Turkish cooperation, intends to start deporting 200 refugees every week, the Greek immigration minister announced yesterday.
Notis Mitarachi told local media that his country would start establishing closed refugee camps in Greece's Aegean islands in March. The move came following a series of violent incidents, growing exasperation among islanders, and migrants' sufferings in the current overcrowded facilities in recent months.
"By the beginning of March, we will start establishing closed-type refugee camps on five of the Aegean Sea islands," Mitarachi said, adding that the camps' construction works would be completed by "the end of this summer."
"The camps will accommodate up to 20,000 refugees," he noted.
The official pointed out that the entry and exit of refugees to camps would be "regulated and limited," stressing that the refugees would not be allowed to leave the camps during night hours.
Greece is a transit point through which thousands of refugees attempt to get to the EU from Turkey. The number of men, women and children arriving in Greece has not been so high since the Europe-Turkey agreement was struck in March 2016, at the height of the Syrian war, under which it was agreed that migrants whose applications failed would be returned to Turkey.
Some 74,613 refugees arrived in Greece during 2019, 10,551 of which had entered in September alone, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official data.
Nationwide, Greece hosts some 90,000 refugees – including over 5,000 unaccompanied children – more than the number registered in Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus combined.
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It has been heavily criticised for the conditions in which it houses refugees, with the camps on the Aegean islands housing up to six times their capacity with 300 people sharing one toilet.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have previously called the camps housing refugees on the Aegean islands, the worst humanitarian sites in the world and pressed for the immediate transfer of refugees to the European mainland.
Amnesty International has said the barrier is "alarming" and raises serious issues about Greece's plans to deal with people urgently seeking safety.
Former Greek migration minister, Dimitris Vitas, recently said the barrier was a "stupid idea" that wasn't "going to stop anybody making the journey."
Rights organisations have consistently tried to highlight how stricter immigration measures don't stop people attempting to make the journey; they simply force them to take more dangerous routes.