ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The United Nations secretary-general on Saturday visited camps on the eastern Greek island of Lesbos, where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants first set foot in Europe over the past 18 months on their way to the continent’s prosperous heartland.
Ban Ki-moon was accompanied by Greek officials to the Moria and Kara Tepe camps, where about 3,400 people live pending the lengthy process of having their asylum applications assessed.
Most reached Greece after a deal came into effect between the European Union and Turkey on deporting refugees and other migrants back to Turkey. Human rights groups have strongly criticized the agreement, saying refugees face poor conditions in Turkey.
Earlier, Ban held talks in Athens with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who presented him with an orange life vest jettisoned by migrants arriving on a Greek beach. Ban briefly donned it — the wrong way round.
He congratulated Greece for its assistance to more than a million refugees and other migrants who have flowed through the financially troubled country since the beginning of 2015, and called for greater global participation in the relocation of refugees.
About 57,000 refugees and other migrants have been stuck in Greece since a series of Balkan border closures in March prevented them from travelling further north.
The border crackdown, combined with the EU-Turkey deal, has drastically reduced the flow of migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands in unsafe, crowded smugglers boats. Accidents were frequent, and hundreds of people drowned.
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