Mayors to help host immigrants

Greek mayors on Thursday promised to support the government’s emergency plan for dealing with an increased influx of immigrants as long as their contribution is funded by the state.

The pledge followed a meeting between Alternate Immigration Policy Minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou and members of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE), including Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis.

Christodoulopoulou asked local authorities to propose venues and facilities where groups of between 20 and 100 immigrants could be temporarily accommodated. The aim is to quickly identify several such locations around the country to allow the swift transfer of hundreds of immigrants from islands in the eastern Aegean. The minister said she had requested European Union funding for the chartering of ferries to relocate the migrants and would look into securing additional money for facilities proposed by local authorities.

The government is also working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) to ensure that all new immigrant arrivals undergo tests for potentially infectious diseases, she said.

Underlining that most of the migrants arriving in Greece are from war-torn states, and therefore merit protection as refugees, Christodoulopoulou called on authorities at all levels help tackle the problem. “The dilemmas we face are dramatic and our choices restricted,” she said. “We call on all of you to offer something, and not to create a panic,” she said.

Kaminis said municipal authorities could offer food and seek to borrow military facilities to accommodate the migrants but he stressed the importance of the EU shouldering some of the burden. He also warned against allowing city squares to fill with homeless immigrants again, highlighting the risk of “resurrecting the fascist, racist movement on a political level.”

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