Greece removes refugees from Athens due to tourist rush

Government moves tens of thousands of refugees to Athens outskirts as the summer tourist season begins to warm up.

The Greek government is moving thousands of refugees from camps in central Athens to new settlements on the city’s outskirts to prepare for the arrival of tourists.

Greece expects 23 million visitors this year, who are expected to bring in about $20bn in revenue. 

For months the streets of the Greek capital were home to refugees from Syria and other countries living rough as they prepared for the next step of their journeys to northern and western Europe.

Makeshift refugee camps in Athens, once at the centre of the refugee influx, are now disappearing as residents are bussed out to new settlements far from the eyes of tourists on whom Greece’s faltering economy relies.

The new camps are air-conditioned and provide adequate sanitation facilities, a big improvement on the old ones which lacked the most basic necessities.

But many refugees are reluctant to make the move as they fear they will be ignored once they are out of sight.

“I’m afraid to go there [to the new camps] …everyone will forget about me,” a Syrian refugee told Al Jazeera.

UN officials, however, insist the new camps will keep the people safe from disease and other threats, such as people smugglers.

Safer option

Joanna Bekiu, who works with the UNHCR at the Elioanas camp in Athens, said refugees were safe in the new camps.

“It is a danger of sleeping outside; there are mothers with small children … sleeping outside,” Bekiu said.

“It’s no good for her health, no good for them … here they are protected.”

With up to 40,000 refugees living in the area, there is little guarantee that protection could extend to everyone.

Anna Freeman from Doctors Without Borders told Al Jazeera that not all camps were equal.

“Many of the camps that exist across Greece do not have the same facilities…  people are sleeping in tents, people don’t have access to water and sanitation, they don’t have access to good-quality food,” Freeman said.

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Source: Al Jazeera


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