Greece set to close 'notorious' refugee camp in move to appease Ankara: report

Greece set to close 'notorious' refugee camp in move to appease Ankara: report
Greece is expected to gradually close a refugee camp on its southernmost tip which Turkey claims is harbouring 'Kurdish terrorists'.
2 min read
10 April, 2023
Greece currently hosts approximately 50,000 refugees, according to the International Rescue Committee [source: Getty]

Greece is set to close a major refugee camp which Turkey has long claimed is harbouring "terrorists" disguised as asylum seekers, local media reported on Saturday.  

The Lavrio camp, located on the southernmost tip of mainland Greece is a military base that has been turned into a refugee camp. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have passed through it in the hopes of reaching northern Europe

Ankara has routinely claimed Kurdish militants used the camp as a base to plot "terrorist" activities against the Turkish mainland, according to Hurriyet Daily News. 

Live Story

Greece’s Migration and Asylum Ministry is expected to gradually close the facility on the grounds that it is unsuitable for refugees, said Greek daily Ekathimerini

The move was widely viewed in Turkish media as a bid to improve relations between Ankara and Athens, which have been tense in recent years. 

"The Lavrio refugee camp has been targeted by the Turkish government, which claims the site has been providing shelter to the members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other outlawed left-wing groups from Turkey, calling it a ‘terrorist training camp’," said the Kurdish MedyaNews website.

The PKK has led an insurgency aimed at achieving autonomy or independence for Turkey's Kurdish minority since 1984. Ankara has targeted members of the group in neighbouring countries including Syria and Iraq. 

"The Municipality of Lavreotiki have several times warned against the poor condition of the refugee camp building, which to a large extent hosts Kurdish refugees," MedyaNews added. 

Live Story

It is estimated that 150 refugees were previously residing in the camp. Around 100 have already been transferred to other places in the Attica region and the remaining refugees are set to be transferred to other facilities soon.

Athens and Ankara have been long-time adversaries over a series of issues including sovereignty over the Aegean Sea, gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, and the ongoing dispute in Cyprus, in addition to the refugees who travel through the two countries typically en route from the Middle East to Europe. 

There have been several well-documented reports of "pushback" across Greek and Turkish borders, as both governments adopt an increasingly hostile stance to the hundreds of thousands seeking refuge. 

Tensions between the two countries have cooled in recent weeks however, particularly in the wake of the devastating Turkey-Syria earthquake in February this year. 

The decision to close the refugee camp was made before the disaster, according to Greek media reports.