Migration official quits amid fears over tension

TAGS: Migration, Politics

Concerns intensified about the management of the refugee crisis in Greece on Tuesday after a senior official dealing with the matter resigned while a protest by parents in Oraiokastro, northern Greece, against plans to induct refugee children into schools later this month fueled fears of further social unease.

Odysseas Voudouris, the general secretary for refugees in the Interior Ministry, tendered his resignation on Tuesday and – although SYRIZA officials initially intervened in a bid to emit an image of unity before a party meeting later this week – it was finally accepted by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Earlier in the day, Voudouris criticized Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas over the latter’s handling of the refugee crisis, accusing him in comments to Skai TV of not implementing regulations aimed at improving the management of reception centers. In a separate interview with Vima FM, Voudouris said refugee centers are “ungoverned” and claimed that Mouzalas had not allowed him to appoint directors to the facilities. He also hinted at the mismanagement of funding for refugees.

“Norway spends 12,000 euros a year for each refugee and Greece spends 15,000,” he said.

Meanwhile, a decision by a parents association in Oraiokastro to block refugees from attending a local primary school, in accordance with a plan heralded by Tsipras over the summer and due to come into effect at the end of this month, has fueled concerns. The parents association has said its members would occupy the building in protest if refugees from nearby camps are allowed to attend lessons. The head of the association, Fotini Kitsiou, rejected accusations of racism, saying the group’s reactions were “purely related to health concerns” as some refugees have not been vaccinated and there are fears the children could have malaria or hepatitis.

In comments to Real FM, Education Minister Nikos Fylis, said “there is no justification” for the group’s reaction. “Fortunately this is the reaction of a very small minority of parents,” he said, adding that health concerns were “unjustified” as an immunization program is included in the school integration scheme.

There are also concerns over growing tensions on the Aegean islands, where facilities are overcrowded and arrivals from Turkey continue.