Refugee general secretary stays put as tensions grow on islands

TAGS: Migration, Politics

Odysseas Voudouris, Greece’s general secretary for refugees, appeared to put off a decision to resign on Monday amid signs of growing unrest at migrant centers on the Aegean islands.

According to sources, Voudouris had informed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of his intention to step down over disagreements with Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas. The move appears to have been averted, at least for now, following an intervention by senior SYRIZA officials keen to maintain an image of unity ahead of the ruling party’s central committee meeting later this week.

Meanwhile, pressure on the eastern Aegean islands continued to intensify.

On Monday, a group of young migrants on Kos set fire to mattresses and other bedding in protest at living conditions and delays in processing their asylum requests. Police intervened before the protest escalated. There were no reports of injuries.

In a related development, European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova on Monday urged Greece to improve conditions for 1,500 unaccompanied migrant children.

“We still need to create 1,500 places for unaccompanied minors, this is a matter of urgency,” Jourova said after a visit to Athens.

Her comments came in the wake of a scathing report by a human rights group last week lambasting Greece for the poor conditions under which it is keeping minors at migrant centers.

A total of 1,540 migrants and refugees are currently stranded on Kos. A much bigger number, 5,571, are on Lesvos and 3,596 on Chios, bringing the total number on the islands to 13,080.