A peaceful police operation was underway on the island of Lesbos on Thursday to move homeless migrants into a temporary tent camp after thousands had resisted entering the new facility.
The police operation included female officers and officials from the National Public Health Association who were testing the migrants for the coronavirus.
A police source said no force would be used in the ongoing operation, which could take days.
“The operation began with many officers in white body suits, things are calm and migrants are slowly streaming into the new camp,” a Reuters witness said.
A week after the official Moria migrants camp burned down, which had housed more than 12,000 people, many have been sleeping on the streets, in parking lots and in forests in the hope of leaving Lesbos for other European countries.
Refugee agency UNHCR, which is assisting authorities with the operation of the new tent camp, said on Wednesday that the new temporary tent camp at Kara Tepe, near the island’s port of Mytilene, is ready to take in at least 8,000 people, but officials have said that some of the migrants were reluctant to move to the new camp as they hoped to leave the island.
Authorities had encouraged the migrants to enter the camp, saying if any transfers from Lesbos took place they would be organised from within the camp.
Groups of migrants carrying their luggage in shopping carts walked to the camp, Reuters images showed.
“The operation will continue until all those who are on the streets are sheltered,” a police official said, declining to be named.
Early on Wednesday, only 1,200 had moved voluntarily but more streamed in later in the day.
By Thursday afternoon the Kara Tepe tent camp housed 3,000 and 77 migrants had been found COVID-19 positive, a government official said.
Petsas said “it was a matter of a few days” for migrants to be completely resettled.
Government ministers have said authorities would continue “for some more days in good faith and communication” to convince the migrants to enter the new camp, expecting their transfer would be completed within a few days.