ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s prime minister and his national security advisers decided Saturday to transfer refugees from overcrowded migrant camps on its eastern islands to the mainland and accelerate the deportation of rejected applicants for asylum without giving them the right to appeal.
The Greek government’s Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence also agreed while meeting for several hours Saturday to increase border surveillance and to activate a 50-million-euro integrated maritime surveillance system that the previous government didn’t put in place. Greece will also boost the coast guard’s fleet with 10 new speedboats.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the council also decided to reunite 116 unaccompanied minors living in Greek migrant camps with their families residing in other European Union countries.
Petsas charged that the previous leftist government had done nothing about “thousands of cases” of people whose asylum applications had been rejected by courts. “The police have already detected 1,000 cases” and will take immediate steps to arrest these individuals, he said in his statement.
The meeting was called after the mass arrival Thursday of nearly 600 refugees and other migrants on the island of Lesbos.
The Moria migrant camp on Lesbos is overcrowded, with over 10,200 people housed in a space designed for 3,000.
Hundreds of people continue to head to Greece from Turkey each week, despite a European Union-Turkey deal restricting new arrivals to the islands pending deportation or a successful asylum application. But Thursday’s mass arrival was the largest of its kind since 2016, when the deal with Turkey came into effect.