Despite the vehement opposition expressed in recent days by local authorities in response to the planned expropriations of land and property for the construction of new closed centers for migrants on five eastern Aegean islands, government officials reckon that the storm will blow over.
Local authorities insist that the new structures will only serve to further exacerbate the problem of large numbers of asylum seekers – currently at 42,000 – on the islands, rather than relieve the pressure.
However, the statement by North Aegean Regional Governor Kostas Moutzouris, who was at the forefront of Thursday’s demonstration outside the Interior Ministry in Athens, that “we will not back down... even if we lose,” was seen by the government as an admission of sorts that local authorities are losing ground in their campaign to stop the government’s plans.
Chios Mayor Stamatis Karmantzis, who also attended Thursday’s demo, sent out a clear message that “mobilizations are good but dialogue is the key.”
Migration and Asylum Policy Ministry officials said Thursday that a new round of negotiations will begin in February with local authorities after talks that were scheduled for Thursday were called off – due to the acrimony sparked by the government’s decision to introduce a legislative act that will allow the expropriations to move ahead.
“It’s crucial for us to confront the migration crisis in a unified way,” ministry sources said.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Bild newspaper on Thursday, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned of a new migration/refugee crisis in Europe similar in scale to that in 2015, if countries of first entry are not assisted.