NEWS

Tsipras meets with island mayors, religious leaders over refugee crisis

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with island mayors and religious leaders on Friday to discuss the growing refugee crisis. The talks were held as the bodies of another five refugees were discovered.

“We are confronting a problem that is bigger than our powers,” Tsipras said during the meeting, which was attended by the mayors of Lesvos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios. The bishops from these islands, as well as Archbishop Ieronymos, Interior Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis, State Minister Alekos Flambouraris and government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili also took part in the talks.

The mayors requested that there be better coordination between the central government and the municipalities. They also called for more funding. It was agreed that one person would be appointed on each island to coordinate activities related to the influx of refugees and migrants, and that these coordinators would meet with the five mayors and two regional governors from the area every 20 days.

One of the subjects that came up during the discussion was whether the government could restore lower value-added tax rates on the Aegean islands, even though they have been increased as part of Greece’s bailout obligations. Sources close to Tsipras said he would raise the issue with Greece’s lenders.

The coast guard said that three men and a woman were found dead in the sea off Lesvos over the past two days. The body of another man was found Thursday off the islet of Agathonisi.