Local authorities on the Aegean islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros have rejected the government’s plan to create new closed centers for migrants.
In a joint statement, the mayors of the five islands called on the government “to honor its pre-election commitments to proceed immediately with the large-scale decongestion of the islands and to respect the decisions of our city councils.”
Indicating that the transfer of migrants to the mainland cannot have any substantial effect unless flows into the country from Turkey are stemmed, they insisted that “the government should guard the sea borders.”
Their decision follows a similar rejection of the government’s closed center plan by the Regional Council of the Northern Aegean on Wednesday.
However, going against the tide, the community leader of Moria, home to the notorious camp on Lesvos, has embraced the plan.
In a letter to Kathimerini, he said the “government’s program moves within the spirit of what we have asked for.”
Moreover, he added that he will provide his assistance so that the plan is “implemented as soon as possible” and expressed certainty that if everything the government has announced is enforced “correctly and quickly, the problem will be minimized.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday that Greece risks “dramatic consequences” if it does not improve living conditions at migrant and refugee camps, particularly on the islands.
For his part, Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister George Koumoutsakos said that “Greece is at its limit.”
Grandi agreed regarding the pressure on local communities, but emphatically stressed that “living conditions at the reception centers must be improved,” along with the need for immediate measures to deal with unaccompanied minors.