Fewer Arrivals, but More Refugees hosted in Greece
2016 has seen refugee arrivals to Greece continue to drop from late 2015, and the European border appears now to be almost completely sealed. While fewer arrivals may suggest to some that the refugee crisis in Greece has ended, the general ineffectiveness of the EU-Turkey ‘one-for-one’ deal has left Greece burdened with a large population of refugees. [The EU-Turkey deal is currently still active; however, the number of refugees relocated through the deal are negligible to the overall crisis in Greece. On 16th August, 143 Syrian refugees arrived in Germany from Turkish refugee camps, with eight refugees deported from Greece to Turkey on 17th August.]
With refugee arrivals to Greece now diminished, the images of dead and injured refugees on Greek shores feel only like distant memories; the humanitarian crisis now in the hands of Italy and Turkey. However, the refugee crisis in Greece is far from over; in March 2016, up to 44,000 refugees were hosted in Greece, whereas as of 21st August there are 58,380 refugees in the country. The dissolution of centres of humanitarian crises with high media attention, such as at Idomeni, has led to refugees being relocated to government-run camps, and new arrivals mostly remaining at holding centres on the Greek Islands; where refugees are essentially now “behind closed doors”, with much less media scrutiny.
Despite refugee conditions in Greece now out of the media spotlight, serious issues remain and require active Greek authority action.
Relocation of Refugees Within Greece
Greece continues to pursue effective relocation of refugees within its borders; with the refugee camps on the Greek Islands particularly overburdened. While the camps on Greek Islands have a capacity for 7,450 refugees, they house 11,280 refugees as of 21st August, of which 3,800 are said to be children. On 19th August, Interior Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis commented on the need for refugees to be relocated away from the Greek Islands in order to combat refugee numbers exceeding facility capacity.
Greek authorities are also pursuing a short to mid-term plan of building new centres for refugees on the islands, in order to increase the Islands’ capacity by several thousand; however, the issue of slow asylum procedures remains.
Sexual Assault Crisis in Greek Refugee Camps
The Greek government-run “Softex” refugee camp in Thessaloniki, established after the closure of the Idomeni camp, has exposed a crisis of sexual assaults on refugee women and children which has been suggested to occur in other government camps also. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has also commented that they have alerted Greek authorities of their concerns of sexual assaults in refugee camps.