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Greece opens new holding camp to house 3,000 migrants as it prepares for a wave of Afghan refugees

Greece has opened a new migrant camp capable of housing 3,000 people as preparations begin for the Afghan refugee scramble from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The EU-funded holding camp, which opened on Saturday on the island of Samos, near to Turkey, was the first of five new border control facilities set to open across Greek islands coming months. 

Private security forces will patrol the reception and identification centre's perimeter - which is also protected by steel fencing topped with barbed wire.

Campaigners have criticised the new Samos asylum seeker camp and compared its barbed wire fencing and heavy security as being akin to a prison facility.

Despite questions over its exterior, thousands of refugees will be housed in rooms featuring six bunk beds and will be able to use amenities including a park with a slide and a basketball court.  

The first 450 asylum-seekers who currently reside at another camp will move into the new facility on Monday, as Greek ministers praised their 'modern' and 'safe' closed camp. 

More than 42,000 asylum seekers entered Greece in August, roughly half the number recorded at the same time last year.

But recent developments in Afghanistan, which saw Kabul fall to the violent second-coming of the Taliban, have sparked fears of a new humanitarian crisis with upwards of 500,000 Afghanistan refugees expected by the end of 2021.  

Greece has opened a new closed migrant camp on the island of Samos (pictured above) capable of housing 3,000 people

The multi-purpose reception and identification centre will open for the first 450 asylum-seekers on Monday

The EU-funded holding camp, which opened on Saturday on the island of Samos, near to Turkey, was the first of five new border control facilities set to open across Greek islands coming months

'We have created a modern and safe new closed, controlled access centre... that will give back the lost dignity to people seeking international protection,' Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said inaugurating the new camp. 

Alongside the new structure, a 25 mile long fence has been erected in the Evros region that borders Turkey to prevent a fresh flood of migrants turning Greece into the 'gateway to Europe' again.

Mitarachi said the new Samos camp, which can accommodate 3,000 people, would also hold illegal migrants to be returned or deported. He said two other centres would be ready on the islands of Kos and Leros in a few months.

'For us it's a jail,' Iorgos Karagiannis, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said of the new camp.

'It's a declaration of harmful policies that are preferred by EU leaders rather than the care, the induction and ensured asylum.'

The EU has committed £235 million (€276m) for new facilities on Greece's five Aegean islands - Leros, Lesbos, Kos, Chios and Samos. 

Inside, refugees will be able to use amenities including a basketball court (left) and park with slide (right)

Campaigners have criticised the new Samos asylum seeker camp and compared its barbed wire fencing and heavy security as being akin to a prison facility

A view of a room inside the new multi-purpose reception and identification migrant centre which was constructed near Vathy town, on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, Greece

Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi smiles to one of his associates during the inauguration of a closed-type migrant camp on the island of Samos, Greece

Greece was at the frontline of Europe's migration crisis in 2015-16, and dubbed the 'gateway to Europe' as millions of refugees fled war and poverty in the Middle East

The Mediterranean country was at the frontline of Europe's migration crisis in 2015 and 2016 when a million refugees fleeing war and poverty from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived, mainly via Turkey.

The number of arrivals has fallen since then, but with tens of thousands of asylum-seekers still stranded in Greece, the conservative government that took power in 2019 has toughened its stance on migration.

Under a 2016 deal, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for financial aid. It has since protested that the EU has failed to honour the agreement.

Since then, daily clashes between border police and asylum-seekers have broken out at the land border. 

But Greece has still deported, returned and relocated thousands of migrants and refugees who have been stranded for years, mainly on its outlying islands in the Aegean Sea.

The number of asylum-seekers was 42,000 in August, about half the number a year ago, migration ministry data showed.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has fuelled fears of a new wave of refugees.

 Greece says it will not allow a replay of the 2015 migrant crisis and has demanded a joint European response.

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