Island mayors seek transfer of migrants
The mayors of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros yesterday jointly presented their demands for measures to ease severe overcrowding at migrant reception centers on their islands during a meeting in Athens with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
According to government sources, the meeting was held in a cordial climate and both sides agreed it remained imperative that an agreement between Ankara and the European Union to curb human smuggling across the Aegean must not be allowed to collapse. However, though the sources described the mayors’ demands as “logical,” it remained unclear what action, if any, the government plans to respond with.
In the meeting with Tsipras, which was also attended by senior officials of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), the mayors emphasized that the situation on the islands was very tense and required immediate action. They called for the transfer of hundreds of migrants to facilities on the Greek mainland, the improvement of the asylum process so that migrants can leave islands without delay, and measures to boost local economies which have been hit hard by the refugee crisis on top of the country’s financial crisis.
Separately, in comments to the News247.gr website, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas remarked yesterday that the mass transfer of migrants to the Greek mainland would lead the EU-Turkey deal “to collapse.” He added that while in 2015 refugees accounted for 70 to 80 percent of arrivals, now 70 percent of arrivals are economic migrants.
According to a report yesterday by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the interior and defense ministers of several Balkan and Central European countries are planning to meet in Vienna on February 8 to discuss ways of bolstering their borders against illegal immigration.