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Greece Says Turkey is Safe for Migrants from Five Countries

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Migrants and refugees at Kara Tepe in Lesvos in September, 2020. Credit: Greek Ministry of Migration Policy

Greece said on Monday that migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia should seek asylum in Turkey instead of Greece.

Asylum seekers from the five countries specified by Greece should seek protection in Turkey instead because they “are not in any danger…due to their race, religion, citizenship, political beliefs or membership in some particular social group,” according to the decree.

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In 2021 alone, more than 3,000 people traveled to Greece from Turkey seeking asylum. The United Nations’ refugee agency documented 47 percent were from Afghanistan, 15 percent from Syria and nine percent from Somalia.

Greece has struggled with sheltering migrants

Greece has struggled with its ability to shelter refugees who seek asylum on the grounds that they are in danger.

There have been calls for the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by Greek authorities to be examined and improved, with some alleging that migrants have been abused.

As noted by Luca Montana, the field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders for the Moria camp, the 2018 BBC report on the camp called it “the worst refugee camp on Earth.”

Overcrowding at the camp continued into the Summer of 2020, which saw 20,000 people living in Moria despite having an intended capacity of only 3,000.

The arson at the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos in September 2020 was started by residents as a protest against living conditions there. The fires saw the closure of the Moria camp, and refugees were transferred to Kara Tepe.

Greek Government plans to turn former refugee camp in Lesvos into public land

A drop in refugees at the camp is the result of the Greek government’s plan to “return” Lesvos to its residents by establishing more secure centers for refugees and migrants, and by conducting the rigorous interviews required for asylum seekers to be approved to leave the island.

In the period of March 23 to April 13 alone, over 1,100 people, whose applications for asylum were approved after a rigorous interview process, left the island.

Additionally, the location of the Kara Tepe camp will be turned over for public use by residents of the island, who have been inundated by thousands of refugees and migrants who have fled to the island seeking asylum in Europe.

In February of 2021, Μigration Minister Notis Mitarakis stated that the migrant camp of Kara Tepe on Lesvos will shut down within the following “few weeks” in anticipation of the construction of a new, more secure camp on the island, to be completed in November 2021.

Government officials now estimate that the camp will be shut down by the end of this month.

The new camp, which will house 3,000 people, is situated on a plot of nearly 24 hectares (59 acres) near the city of Mitilini, the capital of the island.

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