PIRAEUS (Reuters) - Greek authorities on Thursday moved a few hundred asylum-seekers from the island of Lesbos to the mainland in an effort to ease overcrowding in its camps.
Thousands of asylum-seekers have become stranded on Lesbos and four other islands close to Turkey since the European Union agreed a deal with Ankara in March 2016 to shut down the route through Greece.
“I came to heaven from hell,” said 30-year old Mohammad Firuz, who lived for two months in a state-run camp in Lesbos.
Firuz was among 300 people, many of them women and children, aboard a ferry that reached the port of Piraeus early on Thursday morning. The asylum seekers would be taken to camps and apartments in the mainland, authorities said.
Lesbos is now hosting some 8,500 asylum-seekers, nearly three times the capacity of state-run facilities.
Violence often breaks out, mainly over delays in asylum procedures and poor living standards.
Lesbos residents went on strike earlier this month to protest against European policies they say have turned it into a “prison” for migrants and refugees.
Reporting by Idyli Tsakiri; Editing by Renee Maltezou and William Maclean