Athens to turn refugee camp into public park

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The Eleonas camp for asylum seekers, the country's first official temporary accommodation center in the Greek capital, will be turned into a park for the local community, the Greek government said on Monday.

Eleonas was built in a former industrial zone in the autumn of 2015 to accommodate 2,000 people. The last group of its residents was transferred to other facilities this November.

On Monday, Greece's Migration and Asylum Ministry, which had temporarily assumed responsibility for the 1,000-hectare site from the City of Athens, signed a handover agreement in the presence of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

"The handover of this site today back to the City of Athens symbolizes the successful management of the migration problem … (In 2019) we took over 121 facilities, which were overwhelmingly in dire condition. By the end of this year, we will have only 31," Mitsotakis said.

Under a wider redevelopment project drafted by the City of Athens, the area, which is about 4 kilometers from the Acropolis hill, will be transformed into a park for sports, greenery and culture that will improve the quality of life in the city center, Mitsotakis said, according to the Greek national news agency AMNA.

Eleonas was a symbol of a period of crisis, which has now ended, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi said.

Greece hosted some 90,000 asylum seekers in organized facilities in 2019. By now, their number has dropped to 16,000 nationwide, Mitarachi said.

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Arrivals exceeded one million people between 2015 and 2017, during the peak of the migration crisis, and this number dropped to around 46,000 in 2018, according to an e-mailed press release.