More than 2,000 asylum applicants will be moved from Greek islands due to pandemic fears



The head of International Organization of Migration (IOM) in Greece, Gianluca Rocco, announced on Monday the temporary transfer of more than 2,000 asylum applicants from migrant camp hotspots.

According to Rocco, the IOM plans to temporarily house these people in hotels and apartments on the islands and the mainland, preventatively. The group includes everyone over 65 years of age, even those who have no health issues, he said.

The move follows a similar call by the UN High Commission for Refugees which issued an invitation for rentals of hotels and ships. The latter would dock at the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros, and the contracts would cover 15 days with the option of extension to two months. The Migration and Asylum Ministry had approved the plan and the European Union will fund it.

Rocco asserted that "hoteliers are interested in housing migrants at this point to house migrants for a limited amount of time." The ongoing UN program to house refugees will continue as well, he said.

In addition, he noted that Greek authorities and the IOM are trying to create facilities to house 5,000 asylum seekers within the next two months, including refurbishing older buildings and using prefabricated homes.

As for unaccompanied children, the first group to leave for relocation to an EU country consists of 12 children goes to Luxembourg, one of about a dozen countries accepting unaccompanied migrant children from Greece.

The number of migrants who have been granted asylum under the program Helios, which helps integration, totals 7,753 beneficiaries of whom 1,294 are receiving a rent subsidy. Rocco said that one of the urgent issues after the pandemic will be for them to find jobs, for which they will need support due to the limited access to the job market they will have.