The migrant camp of Kara Tepe in the island of Lesvos will shut down within the next few weeks, Μigration Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Thursday.
The camp provided temporary accommodation for thousands of migrants and asylum seekers after the notorious Moria camp was torched last year.
Mitarakis said that the Kara Tepe camp, which had been erected on public land, will shut down and be turned over to the island’s residents “within the next few weeks.”
Its facilities will be moved to a new area of nearly 24 hectares (59 acres) near the city of Mitilini, the capital of the island.
The new center’s capacity will be 3,000 individuals and it is expected to be completed by November of 2021.
The Minister said in a letter to Mitilini mayor Stratis Kitelis that all migrants currently staying at Kara Tepe have been interviewed.
A decision on whether they have been granted asylum or not has been made and is pending delivery, he said.
He also added that other facilities hosting migrants, such as the Estia apartments, will no longer do so after the new enclosed control facility is built.
Referring to the decongestion of the island, which bore the brunt of the crush of the migrant influx to Greece, Mitarakis said that 6,000 refugees were transferred out of Lesvos.
The number of asylum seekers between January 2020 and January 2021 also dropped by 58 percent, from a high of 20,868 down to 8,764.
Facility at Kara Tepe under fire
The facility at Kara Tepe has been heavily criticized by humanitarian NGO’s and the United Nations.
On February 17, UNHCR Greece tweeted: “Αs a cold spell sweeps across Greece, thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers living in tents or makeshift shelters on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos face freezing temperatures and icy winds in precarious conditions.”
Since the Moria fire, which was set deliberately in an act of arson, camp residents have no longer been permitted to prepare their own meals.
Instead, Greek military personnel are in charge of supplying them with food.
Kara Tepe is surrounded by barbed wire fencing and is under constant surveillance. A strict lockdown has been imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Some 2,500 minors live at the camp, which was once used by the Greek military for training exercises.
On February 17, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report stating that parts of Kara Tepe were built on ground contaminated with lead.
“For seven weeks after the Greek government received test results that showed unsafe lead levels, it took minimal action, and now is continuing to downplay the risk and the need for further action,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW.