NEWS

Island migrant numbers climbing

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU, ANTHI PAZIANOU

TAGS: Migration

Despite the transfers of migrants to the mainland, the number of asylum applications submitted by those stranded on the Greek islands has risen to more than 40,000, according to the latest data.

Authorities say that despite deteriorating weather conditions, arrivals from neighboring Turkey are continuing unabated. From last Friday until late Wednesday afternoon, 908 people landed on the islands, while in the same period 325 migrants were transferred to the mainland.

Moreover, in the December 2-8 period, 1,471 people arrived on the islands – a significant rise compared to the same period last year. Afghan nationals account for 44 percent of the latest arrivals.

Meanwhile, islanders have continued to express their vehement disapproval of the government’s plans to create new closed centers.

According to the government’s plans, the new centers will have a capacity of between 5,000 and 7,000 people. However, judging by the current numbers of migrants on the islands, the capacity of these centers will not suffice.

Local opposition to the plans was on full display yesterday during a large rally in western Lesvos organized by the municipal authority, which deployed vehicles to stage a symbolic blockade of main roads in the region. The rally was attended by local officials, school pupils, firemen and police.

“Forty thousand people are trapped on the islands of the northern Aegean, and more than half of them are on Lesvos,” said West Lesvos Mayor Taxiarchis Verros at a joint press conference with the regional governor of the northern Aegean, Kostas Moutzouris, and Mytilene Mayor Stratis Kytelis.

Verros bemoaned that people are being exploited by traffickers “on both coasts, the Asian and European.”

“It’s wrong to think that opening new centers, when you can’t decongest [the island] even in the slightest, will resolve the problem,” he added.

For his part, Kytelis reiterated the opposition of all islands of the northern Aegean, vowing that “our decisions are clear and we will escalate [our actions] until the end.”

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