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THESSALONIKI, Greece -- About 1,500 asylum-seekers were being transported from Greece's eastern Aegean island of Lesbos to the mainland Monday as part of government efforts to tackle widespread overcrowding in refugee camps and a recent spike in the number of people arriving from the nearby Turkish coast.

A ship carrying 635 people, mostly Afghan families, from Lesbos reached the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Monday evening. From there, authorities said, the asylum-seekers were being bussed to a camp in Nea Kavala in northern Greece that already holds another 1,000 Syrian migrants.

Abdul Tamim Azimi, 24, from Afghanistan said he spent nine dire months in Moria with his parents and two siblings, and was looking forward to the new camp.

"The situation was very bad," he told The Associated Press. "Every day there were fights among the people living there. For food, for water, for anything. Now we are going to the camp and we will see."

A second ship carrying about 800 people from Lesbos was expected in Thessaloniki early today.

The Citizens Protection Ministry said a total of around 1,000 of those being transferred will be housed in Nea Kavala, where they will be staying in tents until the end of the month, after which they will be transferred to a new camp under construction. The rest will be housed in other facilities in northern Greece.

The transfer was part of decisions made during a national security meeting that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis convened Saturday, after nearly 600 people arrived on Lesbos in more than a dozen boats in the space of an hour Thursday.

A Section on 09/03/2019

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