Snow leaves refugees and govern­ment ex­posed

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Govern­ment of­fi­cials were try­ing yes­ter­day to find an emer­gency so­lu­tion that would al­low them to tem­po­rar­ily move some 1,000 refugees out of the Mo­ria camp on the is­land of Lesvos to pro­tect them from the snow and freez­ing weather.

Au­thor­i­ties met yes­ter­day with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the lo­cal hote­liers’ as­so­ci­a­tion but were un­able to reach an agree­ment as the union held an emer­gency gen­eral as­sem­bly three months ago, when mem­bers de­cided that ho­tel rooms should not be made avail­able for refugees.

“We un­der­stand that there is an emer­gency but for the de­ci­sion to be re­versed there needs to be an­other [union] gen­eral as­sem­bly,” the pres­i­dent of the Lesvos Hote­liers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Per­i­cles An­to­niou, told Kathimerini.

Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy Min­is­ter Yian­nis Mouza­las ad­mit­ted that the sit­u­a­tion on the is­lands due to the sub-zero tem­per­a­tures is not ac­cept­able but sug­gested that the main rea­son for this is that lo­cals have ob­structed plans to ex­pand re­cep­tion fa­cil­i­ties so mi­grants can be moved out of the hotspots, where some are housed in tents. Gior­gos Kyrit­sis, a govern­ment spokesman for refugee is­sues, told Skai TV that less than 1,000 peo­ple are still liv­ing in tents on the is­lands.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion spokes­woman Natasha Ber­taud de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as “un­ten­able” and said that Brus­sels is pre­pared to help the Greek govern­ment. How­ever, she stressed that Athens is mainly re­spon­si­ble for the con­di­tions at the camps.

One of the non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing on the is­lands, Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (MSF) raged against Athens and Brus­sels for the refugees’ plight. “Th­ese fam­i­lies are pay­ing the price of Euro­pean cyn­i­cism and the rep­re­hen­si­ble deal with Turkey,” said MSF’s head of the mis­sion in Greece, Cle­ment Per­rin, who called on Greek au­thor­i­ties to take emer­gency mea­sures to pro­vide “dig­ni­fied liv­ing con­di­tions” for the mi­grants.

New Democ­racy at­tacked the govern­ment over the same is­sue. “The sup­pos­edly sen­si­tive ones are again proven to be cyn­i­cal and un­re­li­able,” said shadow mi­gra­tion pol­icy min­is­ter Mil­tiadis Varvit­si­o­tis. He also turned his fire on Mouza­las, who had pre­vi­ously pledged that refugees would not be ex­posed to the cold again.

“Where did the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s mil­lions for the refugees go?” asked the con­ser­va­tive law­maker. “How much went to non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, and which ones? What did each of them do and how many peo­ple have been hired by them?”

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