Mayors of the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos have held two days of protests, AFP reported. The officials demand the government to tackle the severe overcrowding of migrant camps, which are all grossly overcapacity.
Greece’s six-month-old government has vowed to ease overcrowding on the islands, but, so far, has not delivered that promise. On Thursday, Migration and Asylum Minister said that the “anxiety and indignation” of residents of islands at the forefront of a migration crisis are justified, and vowed again measures to tackle the increased number of refugees to come.
Today, several mayors and the regional governor have arrived in the capital city to meet with Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis to press their demands.
“We consider citizens’ anxiety and indignation justified,” minister said after the meeting at PM’s office. “Our country is indeed dealing with a migration crisis and increased migration flows in 2019,” he added.
According to Greece’s government, the deportations should speed up as well as introducing closed pre-departure camps. As island mayors say, the problem is the increasing number of refugees press the local population.
Greece remains the forpost of entry into EU
Over decade, Greece has been the first point of entry into the European Union for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war or poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The vast majority arriving on eastern Aegean Sea islands from the nearby Turkish coast. But under a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey, new arrivals must stay on the islands pending deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.
Long delays in the asylum process have led to thousands being stranded on the islands, with camps at between six and 12 times over their capacity. Rights groups have long criticized living conditions in the camps, where fights and violence have become common.
Mitarakis said the government and the island’s local officials agreed on current priorities, which are to reduce the entry of more people, ease overcrowding in the island camps, speed up returns to Turkey, improve the asylum process and improve healthcare facilities on the islands.
“We agree on the need for there to be closed pre-departure facilities, we disagree on the size and the method of operation,” Mitarakis said.
As part of confidence-building measures between the government and island authorities, the minister said he would be having meetings with the mayors and regional governor every two weeks.