LESBOS, GREECE – The U.N. refugee agency said Monday it will no longer transfer newly arrived migrants on Lesbos to a camp on the island, after Greece began to confine them to the facility as part of the EU-Turkey deal.
The Moria camp, which was visited by Hollywood star and U.N. refugee agency envoy Angelina Jolie last week, has now been sealed and migrants transferred there are “not allowed to go out,” said a spokesman.
The UNHCR, which has a policy of not working in sealed camps, will scale back there and only monitor it to identify and assist the most vulnerable migrants, including unaccompanied minors.
Previously migrants at the camp were free to move around the island, despite a heavy police presence in the area.
Spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner Refugee Agency Boris Cheshirkov said: “We have taken a principled decision to disengage from transportation operations from the shoreline and the port to the closed facility of Moria.”
He added that the “majority” of migrants and refugees on Lesbos before Sunday “had left the island” to reception facilities on mainland Greece.
The agency has also raised fears that the EU-Turkey migrant agreement has been rushed into force. “The UNHCR is concerned about the premature implementation of the deal,” said Cheshirkov.
“The Greek state lacks the necessary capacity to assess large numbers of asylum claims and needs to be reinforced and that the EU institutions come and support the process.”
More than 1,600 migrants have landed in Greece since a landmark EU-Turkish deal on curbing the influx took effect, officials said Monday, highlighting the challenges still facing efforts to tackle the crisis.
Under the key clause in the landmark agreement, in exchange for Turkey taking back all migrants arriving in Greece, the EU will resettle one Syrian refugee for every Syrian readmitted on Turkish soil.