Greece Assures There are Plans to Keep Migrants From Living in Tent Camps During Winter

On Wednesday, Greece's migration minister assured there are plans to keep migrants from living in tents during the winter months, the Associated Press reported.

However, work on a new refugee center on the Greek island of Lesbos has not yet begun after a fire ripped through the overcrowded Moria camp nearly nine months ago. A temporary camp titled Mavrovouni was then established and its poor conditions were highlighted by the media that showed flooded and muddy tents.

"In case we're still not in the new camps in Lesbos, we have contingency planning to ensure that we will never again see these pictures we've seen in the temporary camp in Mavrovouni," Greece's Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said when asked if migrants would spend a second winter in tents.

By wintertime, three camps in Samos, Kos and Leros are expected to be established, Mitarachi said. On Greece's islands, there are currently around 10,000 migrants.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Migrant Tent at Refugee Camp in Greece
A migrant leaves a tent inside the new refugee camp of Kara Tepe in Mytilene, on Lesbos, on March 29, 2021. Greece's Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi assured that there are plans to prevent migrants from living in tents during the winter. Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Greece has pledged to have the new facility in Lesbos built before next winter.

Greek authorities said the fires were started deliberately last September by residents who were protesting their confinement at the overcrowded Moria camp. The camp, which was built for less than 3,000 people, was jammed with 12,500 people and was locked down due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Some people were later moved to the mainland or to a temporary camp.

Mitarachi said the tender process for choosing companies to build the new facility, foreseen to hold up to 5,000 people, is underway. He said it has taken time to get the necessary licenses and environmental permits, as well as finalize a grant for European Union funds.

The Mavrovouni camp was set up after the fire at Moria as a temporary emergency measure.

Mitarachi said a separate refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios is also under tender.

The Moria camp mainly accommodated people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who arrived clandestinely on Lesbos from the nearby Turkish coast. Aid agencies had long warned of dire conditions at the facility, which was built to house just over 2,750 people.

Around 10,000 migrants remain in the Greek islands. After a meeting with Mitarachi in Brussels, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said a priority must be to "make sure that we will be able to have good winter conditions for migrants."

Karatepe Refugee Camp in Lesbos, Greece
In this Monday, March 29, 2021, file photo, a woman holds a baby at Karatepe refugee camp, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. Greece on Monday, June 7, 2021 designated neighboring Turkey as a safe country in which to seek international protection for the majority of asylum-seekers departing its shores for Greece. Panagiotis Balaskas/AP Photo