NEWS

Lesvos strained by migrant influx

Coast guard officials intercepted more than 400 undocumented immigrants on several islands in the eastern Aegean within 24 hours, officials said on Wednesday as authorities on Lesvos appealed to the central government for support as the relentless flow of arrival fuels tensions and overwhelms local services and infrastructure.

Officials detained a total of 432 migrants off the shores of Lesvos, Samos, Agathonisi, Farmakonisi and Kos between Tuesday and Wednesday morning, officials said.

The situation on Lesvos, a key tourist destination, is one of the most serious. Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos said authorities were doing all they could. “The situation is very difficult but we’re trying,” he said. Noting that most of the migrants are “very polite people despite what they have been through,” he said virtually all want to get to Athens without delay, and the impatience is leading to tensions.

On Wednesday, some migrants reacted angrily as others boarded ferries, insisting they wanted to leave too. Two injuries were reported in the ensuing scuffles.

Local authorities are concerned as they are waiting to receive cruise ships bringing thousands of tourists.

Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis met on Wednesday with Alternate Immigration Policy Minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou and regional officials overseeing islands in the Aegean. Christodoulopoulou told the regional officials that a “task force” of 40 European Union officials would be traveling immediately to Lesvos to bolster efforts to speed up the procedure of registering the arrivals and help with infrastructure problems.

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