Greece’s conservative government has announced plans to overhaul the country’s migration management system, replacing existing open camps on the islands with detention facilities and moving 20,000 asylum seekers to the mainland over the next few weeks.
It will shut down its largest three migrant camps on islands facing Turkey, and replace them with new facilities, officials said Wednesday.
The Greek government said it would close existing, badly overcrowded camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, and replace them with new facilities with a capacity of at least 5,000 people each.
Deputy Defense Minister Alkiviadis Stefanis announced the changes following a surge in the number of arrivals from nearby Turkey - with the number of migrants and refugees exceeding the islands’ populations in some cases.
Greece has been dealing with a resurgence in refugee and migrant flows in recent weeks from neighboring Turkey. Nearly a million refugees fleeing war in Syria and migrants crossed from Turkey to Greece’s islands in 2015.
More than 9,000 people arrived in August, the highest number in the three years since the European Union and Ankara implemented a deal to shut off the Aegean migrant route.
The changes planned are the most significant since a landmark deal in 2016 between Turkey and the European Union to limit migration to Europe.