Thousands of refugees to lose access to free housing in Greece

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Unhygienic and unsafe living conditions in these camps have been repeatedly criticised by rights groups.

Thousands of refugees in mainland Greece will lose access to free housing as officials seek to move asylum seekers from island camps into the accommodation, the government said on Friday.

 The migration ministry said more than 11,200 people would be "gradually" moved out of flats, hotels and camps on the mainland starting on Monday.

 

"In this way, thousands of accommodation spaces for asylum seekers will be secured on the mainland to immediately decongest the islands," the ministry said in a statement.

 

The refugees are supposed to find their own places to live, officials saying they have the same rights as Greek citizens.

 

The government is trying to reduce overcrowding in camps on the islands near Turkey, which are housing more than 32,500 asylum seekers - over five times the intended capacity.

 

Unhygienic and unsafe living conditions in these camps have been repeatedly criticised by rights groups.

 

"I understand the concerns, but we cannot have 10,000 people (in subsidised accommodation) for six months, a year or more, while others sleep under trees," Manos Logothetis, the migration ministry's asylum secretary, told state TV ERT on Friday.

 

Unaccompanied minors and families with sick people or heavily pregnant women will be given up to three months extra time to find somewhere else to live, the ministry said.

 

Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said the process had been due to start in April but was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The ministry said refugees had been moved out of subsidised accommodation at regular intervals for over a year.

"The (hospitality) system cannot expand forever," Logothetis said, "the state must set a limit, a red line".

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