The government is intent on pressing forward with the creation of new, more restrictive, reception centers for migrants despite the vehement opposition of local authorities both on the islands of the eastern Aegean which are under particular pressure and on the mainland.
“The closed facilities will be built and and the sprawling camps that discredit Greece and fail to offer basic living standards will close,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters on Tuesday, referring to intensely overcrowded centers such as the notorious Moria camp on Lesvos.
Petsas added that construction is already under way in some places and will begin in the coming days at the remaining sites slated for the new camps. In an apparent bid to allay concerns about a sudden influx of migrants into local communities, Petsas added that the capacity of the camps will not exceed 1 percent of the local population.
“In the first months of 2020, local authorities will see tangible results from [migrant] returns and from the [stricter] guarding of the borders as part of plans to reduce flows in the first half of the year,” Petsas added.
The spokesman’s reassurances came just a few hours after the municipal council of Chios rejected a government proposal to set up a new center on the island in a marathon session that ended at midnight on Monday and was marred by the protests of locals who heckled Deputy Labor Minister Notis Mitarakis, a Chios MP. Two men were charged with disturbing the peace.
Addressing an angry council meeting, Mitarakis stressed that creating a new facility on the island was a prerequisite for the transfer of migrants and the eventual closure of the Vial center, which is intensely overcrowded.
However, the council said it would only accept an identification center hosting up to 500 people and is planning protest action against the government’s plans.
Communities on other islands and in parts of the mainland where new centers are planned are also organizing protests.