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GreekReporter.comGreeceNumber of Refugees at Lesvos Camp Declines Significantly

Number of Refugees at Lesvos Camp Declines Significantly

Migrants and refugees at Kara Tepe in Lesvos in September, 2020. Credit: Greek Goverment

The number of migrants and refugees at the Kara Tepe Camp on the Greek island of Lesvos  dropped to under 6,000 in the last month.

The once massively overcrowded facility has served as a temporary home to the thousands of refugees and migrants that were forced out of the Moria camp after that notorious facility was destroyed by arson in September of 2020.

At the time of the firs, over 12,00 migrants and refugees lived in Moria, all of whom were then transferred to Kara Tepe.

Now, they number just 5,938, the lowest figure of refugees and migrants living in the camp recorded in many months.

Greek Government plans to turn former refugee camp in Lesvos into public land

Lesvos refugees kara tepe
Migrants and refugees at Kara Tepe in September, 2020. Credit: Greek Government

This drop in refugees at the camp is the result of the Greek government’s plan to “return” Lesvos to its residents by establishing more secure centers for refugees and migrants, and by conducting the rigorous interviews required for asylum seekers to be approved to leave the island.

In the period of March 23 to April 13 alone, over 1,100 people, whose applications for asylum were approved after a rigorous interview process, left the island.

Additionally, the location of the Kara Tepe camp will be turned over for public use by residents of the island, who have been inundated by thousands of refugees and migrants who have fled to the island seeking asylum in Europe.

In February of 2021, Μigration Minister Notis Mitarakis stated that the migrant camp of Kara Tepe on Lesvos will shut down within the following “few weeks” in anticipation of the construction of a new, more secure camp on the island, to be completed in November 2021.

Government officials now estimate that the camp will be shut down by the end of this month.

The new camp, which will house 3,000 people, is situated on a plot of nearly 24 hectares (59 acres) near the city of Mitilini, the capital of the island.

Facility at Kara Tepe under fire

Lesvos Refugees Kara Tepe
Kara Tepe. Credit: Ministry of Immigration

The facility at Kara Tepe, which is composed of a large number of tents, 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.

Some groups have even accused the Greek government of abusing the thousands of refugees and migrants currently living in the country.

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