Call to end 'abysmal conditions' for refugees in Greece
Oxfam and 17 other rights groups sent an open letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, demanding the government revokes its policy of trapping asylum seekers to the Aegean islands.
"Europe is refusing to offer humane reception conditions and dignity to people in need who arrive on our shores. Greek and EU authorities should immediately transfer migrants to the mainland instead of leaving them trapped in abysmal conditions on the Greek islands", said Nicola Bay, head of mission for Oxfam in Greece.
This comes under the implementation of a deal between the EU and Turkey in March 2016, which leaves asylum seekers stuck on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros in which they are trapped into a cycle of violence and poverty.
"Thousands of people including very young children and pregnant women are trapped in deplorable and volatile conditions, with many denied access to adequate asylum procedures.
"Asylum seekers who arrived on the islands in the first days of the implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal have been stuck there for almost 19 months," Oxfam said.
The situation is particularly dangerous on the islands of Samos and Lesvos, where more than 8,300 asylum seekers are living in facilities meant for only 3,000 people.
"Greece should end its cruel policy of trapping asylum seekers on the islands. People should not be forced to suffer another winter in unheated tents and without proper services," said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Athens recently announced that more than 2,000 asylum seekers will be moved from Samos and Lesvos islands, but it is not sufficient to alleviate the overcrowding, rights groups said.
Gianmaria Pinto, Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, added: "Making these Greek islands a huge detention center isn't in the interests of anyone.
"We all know what it is needed, including the government: to provide vulnerable people trapped on the islands with dignified accommodation and adequate services, without overlooking legal aid."