Minister seeks ‘growth’ program to help islands hit by refugee crisis

Minister seeks ‘growth’ program to help islands hit by refugee crisis

As residents and business groups on islands of the Aegean plan to ratchet up their protests against the scheduled revocation of a value-added tax discount next month, Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis called for a European “growth” program to boost the islands’ economies, which have been dealt a double blow by the economic and refugee crises.

In comments at a conference in Thessaloniki on Saturday, Kouroublis called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to undertake an initiative, with other countries in the region, to seek financial support for areas that have borne the brunt of the refugee and migrant crisis.

“The islands of the Aegean have shown huge reserves of humanity, but at some point fatigue comes and it is only human,” he said, adding that, “we must see how we can offset the difficulties.”

Following protests on Lesvos and other islands over the week, officials are to meet with Tsipras next week for talks on the issue.

The northern Aegean islands are the last group to lose the 30 percent VAT discount that was originally introduced to offset increased transportation costs. Those islands will follow Santorini, Myconos, Naxos, Paros, Rhodes and Skiathos, which lost the tax break in October 2015, and Syros, Thasos, Andros, Tinos, Karpathos, Milos, Skyros, Alonnisos, Kea, Antiparos and Sifnos, which have been without the discount since June.

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