Refugees and migrants near tents at the Mavrovouni camp on Lesvos island, Greece, March 29, 2021. REUTERS / Elias Marcou
Greece said Friday it has reduced overcrowding in its migrant camps and the number of asylum seekers on its islands fell below 10,000 for the first time since the start of the migration crisis in Europe in 2015.
The crowded island camps, some of which have turned into makeshift groups of tents in nearby olive groves, have come under heavy criticism from the European Union and organizations, including the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
In the worst case, some camps worked at two to three times the official workload.
“The reduction in the number of asylum seekers to less than 10,000 on our islands is further proof of the easing of the immigration burden on local communities and shows that we are working in the right direction,” said Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi.
Initially, the five camps were designed to accommodate about 6,000 people.
The Ministry of Migration said there were 9,811 asylum seekers in five camps on islands close to the Turkish coast in mid-May, up from 19,748 in November 2018.
The ministry said the number of arrivals from Turkey in the first four months of 2021 decreased by 73% compared to the same period last year, and the number of asylum applications reviewed fell by 41% over the past year.
In 2015, Greece was the main route to Europe for nearly a million asylum seekers, most of whom are refugees fleeing wars and conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The following year, their numbers plummeted after an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to close the main corridor for migrants from its shores to the Greek islands.
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