As simmering tensions threaten to boil over on the islands of the eastern and northern Aegean due to the prolonged stay of a growing number of refugees, Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas dismissed rumors on Friday that three more so-called hot spots will be created on the island of Chios.
Instead, Mouzalas told Parliament, just one new accommodation center will be set up on the island, to ease the burden on existing centers and replace others that will shut down. He added that 3.7 million euros has been set aside for the project.
With existing camps stretched well beyond capacity, island residents and authorities, particularly on Chios and Lesvos, have repeatedly stressed the need for decongestion measures.
“The limits of islands in the northern Aegean to host migrants and refugees have been completely exhausted,” Christiana Kalogirou, who is the regional governor for the Northern Aegean, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
For his part, Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos described the situation on the island as “explosive,” and called for “immediate” measures, while residents of Chios said they will hold a protest rally on Monday.
Mouzalas said that among the ideas the ministry is examining, is the transfer of refugees and migrants whose asylum requests have been approved to the mainland.
The minister also shot down claims by parents at Oreokastro in northern Greece, opposed to refugee children attending school on health and safety grounds, saying that 90 percent of children from Syria have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, tensions flared again at the Diavata camp in northern Greece when refugees tried to block the entry of a delegation of the European People’s Party in protest at poor living conditions and demanding to know when they will leave.