Greek PM asked to end island containment policy

In an open letter, nineteen aid organisations and human rights groups have called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to end the “containment policy” which traps asylum seekers on the islands and “to immediately transfer asylum seekers to the mainland and meet their protection needs.”

The groups include ActionAid, Amnesty International, Care, Danish Refugee Council, Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee, Jesuit Refugee Council, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Greek refugee councils and organisations.

A Greek newspaper article documents a “spike” in migrant arrivals in Greece.

“In the last week, 1,194 people arrived on Greece’s Aegean islands from the coast of Turkey, adding to the thousands of asylum seekers who have been trapped at camps for months and showing increasing signs of frustration, with protests and scuffles becoming all the more frequent.”

The article in the Kathimerini English Edition – a daily newspaper published in Athens and exclusively distributed with the International New York Times in Greece and Cyprus – suggests that the Greek government have been caught “off guard, with critics saying it has no plan of action as the situation has become reminiscent of the crisis at the end of 2015”.

Without a concrete plan, government officials are reportedly hoping for bad weather to save the day and limit arrivals.

Lesbos Mayor Spyridon Galinos is reported saying: “Incidents and troubles are everyday life for us. Now people are sleeping on the streets or in Sappho Square in the city centre. With the first rain we will have floods and management problems.”

Although winter and colder weather is fast approaching, asylum seekers on the Greek islands of Chios, Lesbos and Samos are reported to still be either sleeping in light-weight tents or outside under blankets. The article says:

“The fact that 40 percent of arrivals are children, 20 percent are women and a large number have health problems, makes matters even more ominous … Four of the five camps on the islands have well over the number of residents that they were originally designed to shelter.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the islands and transfer to the Greek mainland until their asylum applications have been processed.

“With the latest data showing that more than 13,000 people, mainly Iraqis and Syria refugees, are crowded into these camps, the island are bursting at the seams.”