A refugee hospitality program on the tiny southeastern Aegean island of Tilos, hailed as a paradigm of assimilation policy, has started to unravel after responsibility for the ESTIA program providing private accommodation for asylum seekers was transferred from the UN refugee agency to the Migration Ministry earlier this year.
According to the island’s mayor, new regulations have also made it impossible for the municipal authority to run the program itself and to pay the salaries of its workers, who have not seen a paycheck in five months.
“On an island of 500 residents, five workers means five families. The people who rented their houses to the program are also not being paid. It is a huge problem for Tilos standards,” the island’s mayor, Maria Kamma, tells Kathimerini.
Tilos’ refugee hospitality program has a capacity of 52 yet it is only hosting 20 people right now – most in single-parent families – who were relocated from an overcrowded camp in nearby Kos.
The island also employs the asylum seekers at a local dairy farm created for the purpose.