Nine human rights and humanitarian organisations have set out to remind the Greek government of the thousands of men, women and children trapped on the Greek islands.
They released a report this week, reports New Europe, condemning the squalid living conditions, and lack of access to basic services and adequate protection.
“The containment policy has turned the Greek islands, once a symbol of hope and solidarity, into open prisons that put the lives of refugees on hold for months on end, causing them additional suffering,” said director of Amnesty International in Greece, Gabriel Sakellaridis.
“The Greek authorities, with the support of the EU, need to immediately bring refugees to safety on the mainland.”
The containment policy forces asylum seekers to remain on the island they arrived on until their asylum status is decided, regardless of whether there is accommodation available access to services, or not.
The policy was put in place as part of the EU-Turkey deal, which allowed all new migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands after the agreement came into force to be returned to Turkey.
As part of a promise, since December the Greek government has moved 7,000 people from the islands to the mainland, but since then over 5,000 new asylum seekers have arrived on the islands. With almost 10,000 people in facilities that have a total capacity of 6,292, there is significant overcrowding with many forced to sleep on the ground or in tents in extreme weather conditions, with a lack of adequate and appropriate medical care and legal representation.
With the number of daily arrivals expected to rise over the warmer months, the humanitarian groups are requesting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to end the containment policy once and for all, and to transfer all people to improved conditions on the mainland.
“People seeking protection from war or abuse should not feel unsafe when they reach the Greek islands,” Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch, Eva Cossé said.
“Greek and EU authorities should work to restore the dignity and humanity of people seeking protection, and start by scrapping the containment policy, which has caused tremendous suffering.”