Greece opened on Saturday two more migrant camps in the islands of Kos and Leros to accommodate asylum seekers crossing the water from Turkey.
These camps are being referred to as “closed” camps due to their increased isolation and elements of confinement.
“A new era is beginning,” Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi said. “We are extricating our islands from the migration problem and its consequences,” he said. “The images that we all remember from 2015-2019 are now in the past.”
The “closed” camps feature barbed wire fencing, surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners, and magnetic doors and gates that remain closed at night.
They also have many features, like running water, toilets and more security, that were absent from the previous facilities that became infamous for their living conditions.
Both camps can accommodate 2,140 people, each. They have facilities to also accommodate unaccompanied young refugees.
Greece inaugurated the first such camp on the island of Samos in September and plans to open two more, on the islands of Lesvos and Chios. The EU has committed 276 million euros ($326 million) for the new camps.
New migrant camps in Greece criticized by rights groups
The two “controlled access” centers have been criticized by rights groups for their restrictive measures. NGO’s say that the movement of people in the camps should not be restricted.
The organizations, Amnesty International amongst them, accused Greece of practicing “harmful policies focused on deterring and containing asylum seekers and refugees.”
45 NGOs and civil society groups asked both the EU and the Greek government to stop their plans to control the activity of the migrants in their camps.
The groups believe that the restriction “will impede effective identification and protection of vulnerable people, limit access to services and assistance for asylum seekers, and exacerbate the harmful effects of displacement and containment on individuals’ mental health.”
The Greek government says that the new camps will be a vast improvement over the previous facilities, which became infamous for their dilapidation. The previous facility on Samos–where some migrants are still currently living– lacked heating and functioning toilets, and was ridden with rats.
According to the latest UN estimates, there are currently around 96,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Greece.