The Greek government said on Wednesday that it planned to gradually shut down the three largest refugee camps on its Aegean islands and replace them with closed facilities.
The government said the plan was in order to ease the pressure of overcrowding and accelerate the returns process.
The so-called hotspots on Lesbos, Samos and Chios will be replaced by “departure and identification’’ centres, government spokesman Stelios Petsas told a news conference .
The new camps will be intended for migrants without a chance of receiving asylum in the European Union and they will be of a closed type, unlike the existing centres.
All those estimated to be true refugees will be brought to camps on the mainland.
The hotspots were set up under an EU-Turkey agreement in 2016, with the task of vetting refugees from economic migrants.
But the arrivals from Turkey have vastly outpaced Greece’s ability to process the migrants, which has led to terrible overcrowding, eroded the conditions for the local population and sparked tensions, even incidences of violence.
The five main camps were built for 6,200, but are now home to around 36,000 people, Seeking to relieve the pressure, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government began ferrying people – mostly families and unaccompanied minors to the mainland.