June 2, 2017 / 3:12 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Greece clears migrants from former Athens airport

2 Min Read

(Updates with camp cleared out)

ATHENS, June 2 (Reuters) - Greek police on Friday cleared out a makeshift migrant camp in the former Athens airport that has long been criticised by rights' groups as unfit for human habitation.

About 400 people were living in tents in Hellenikon, the former airport complex that also houses abandoned venues used in the 2004 Olympic Games, a police official said. That total was down from about 3,000 last year because most have been moved to other sites.

At its peak occupancy last summer, hundreds slept crammed in tents in the old arrivals terminal, in scorching temperatures with little food and bouts of crime and violence.

Migrants were first taken to Hellenikon in November 2015 when police began transferring hundreds from the Greek-Macedonian border where they were trying to move on to northern Europe.

The government had long promised to empty the site, which it has agreed to lease to private investors under its economic bailout programme, but struggled to convince the migrants to move to other camps around the country.

Many migrants, mostly Afghans not eligible for an European relocation programme to other member states, feared moving away from Athens would make it harder to leave Greece.

More than 62,000 migrants and refugees heading to northern Europe have been stranded in Greece since countries in the Balkans shut their borders to those seeking passage in March last year. (Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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