Greece will not allow an uncontrolled influx of refugees from Afghanistan, in the way Syrians entered the country in 2015, its prime minister said after visiting a new migrant camp near the Turkish border.
“We will not accept uncontrolled migratory flows similar to the ones we saw in 2015,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, in a further signal that he will not allow large numbers of Afghans into his country after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan six weeks ago.
Last month, Greece opened a £37m EU-funded camp on the island of Samos near Turkey, a sprawling facility, surrounded by barbed wire.
It has also built a 25-mile fence in the Evros region on the Turkish border.
The new camp, with air-conditioned containers forming family homes and dormitories, is intended to house 3,000 people temporarily while their applications are processed.
About 300 people are already living there, from Afghanistan, Syria and African countries, housed in neighbourhoods according to nationality. The base also has basketball courts and playgrounds.
But medical aid group Doctors Without Borders – MSF – said: “There is no doubt that this new centre will only further dehumanise and marginalise people seeking protection in the European Union.
“Millions of euros have been spent on the construction of this facility that comes with military-grade barbed wire fences and advanced surveillance systems.
“In addition to the mass rejections of asylum applications, this new centre is another symbol of the complete rejection of refugees and of their right to seek asylum.”
In Greece, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan brought fears of a replay of 2015, when nearly a million asylum-seekers, mostly Syrians, fled to Europe by crossing from Turkey to Greece.
However, Athens welcomed 26 Afghan women lawyers and judges and their families on Thursday, but such cases will be the exception, Mr Mitsotakis said. “They cannot be perceived as a pull factor.”
Afghanistan has been plunged into economic crisis, prompting the International Committee of the Red Cross to warn of widespread hunger within weeks.
Before visiting the new Samos camp, Mr Mitsotakis addressed local authorities from the island’s former camp of Vathy – once an overcrowded, rat-infested tent city of 7,000 people he called “a camp of shame” and “a disgrace to human dignity”.
The government is planning more asylum facilities on other islands close to Turkey, saying they will provide safer accommodation.
The prime minister said his government’s migration policy had “crushed” migrant-smuggling networks.
“We have been successful in sending a message to smugglers, and their clients that undertaking the treacherous trip across the Aegean is probably a waste of money,” Mr Mitsotakis said.