ATHENS, Greece: On Saturday, Greece announced it has opened a new migrant holding camp on the island of Samos close to Turkey, adding that other facilities will be constructed on the islands of Kos and Leros in the coming months.
"We have created a modern and safe new closed controlled access centre, which will give back to people seeking international protection their lost dignity," said Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi.
The new camp, which has a capacity of 3,000 people, will also hold illegal migrants for return or deportation, he added.
Some 450 asylum-seekers housed at another camp will be moved to the new facility on Monday.
While the number of migrants arriving in Greece has dropped since 2015 and 2016, when it was at the forefront of Europe's migration crisis, thousands of asylum-seekers are still stranded in the country, whose conservative government, which took power in 2019, has toughened its migration policies.
A 25-mile fence was built in the Evros region on the Turkish border, and a European Union-wide tender was launched this summer to build two facilities on Samos and Lesbos to replace previously overcrowded camps.
But aid groups stressed the new facilities, which are surrounded by fences topped with barbed wire, appear more like prisons.
"For us it is a jail," said Iorgos Karagiannis, head of mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Greece has deported, returned and relocated thousands of stranded migrants and refugees, mainly to its outlying islands in the Aegean Sea.
Migration ministry statistics for August showed the number of registered asylum-seekers is currently 42,000, which is half the number from last year.
The fear of a new wave of refugees has been fueled by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and Greece affirmed it will not allow a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis and is seeking a joint European response.