As work continued to rebuild a burned reception center for migrants on the Aegean island of Lesvos, Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas on Wednesday visited a new annex of a facility in Amygdaleza, north of Athens, which is exclusively for migrants who want to return to their homelands.
The annex, which can host up to 158 people, adjoins the main facility where some 300 migrants are being detained.
Originally the leftist-led government had condemned the Amygdaleza facility as inhumane and had pledged to shut it down on coming to power.
On Wednesday, Toskas told reporters, “there are no wretched places, there are wretched conditions,” adding that the government had cooperated with the Greek chapter of the International Organization for Migration, which runs voluntary repatriation scheme, to provide decent living conditions.
On Chios, where a reception center for migrants is overcrowded, leading to heightened tensions, the mayor on Wednesday chaired a discussion with local councilors on the situation on the island, which was also attended by local residents. Some locals called for the immediate removal of all the migrants from the island and others for a large number to be moved to the mainland to free up space in the center.
The mayor, Manolis Vournous, suggested that another center might be set up to accommodate migrants currently sleeping in parks and squares and new arrivals from neighboring Turkey.
A new local organization calling itself the Pan-Chios Committee for Struggle has called a protest rally for next Wednesday, opposing plans for a new center on the island.
In a speech at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that Europe’s migration crisis required more effective management and that the erection of border fences is fueling racism.