Island mayors to ask EU envoy for migrant transfers to Greek mainland


European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos is to meet in Athens Thursday with the mayors of the five eastern Aegean islands that are hosting migrants, with the talks expected to focus on ways of decongesting overcrowded reception facilities and speeding up the processing of asylum claims.

The mayors of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros have formed a united front and are expected to press Avramopoulos to facilitate the immediate transfer to the Greek mainland of some 1,500 to 2,000 migrants.

According to sources, the five mayors claim that hundreds of migrants – 700 on Lesvos, 600 on Chios and 500 on Samos – are ready for relocation; that is to say that either their asylum applications have been processed or they belong to groups categorized as vulnerable, such as pregnant women, children or the elderly.

The mayors are also expected to emphasize their opposition to tentative plans by the government for the creation of “closed” centers on the islands to host migrants who have been linked to criminal activities.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this week appealed to European Union member-states to finish reforms on the Dublin Regulation by the end of June.

“I would like an asylum agency to become operative in a hurry; the credibility of Europe goes with it,” he told the European Parliament on Wednesday.

According to the Dublin system, migrants must seek asylum in the EU member-state they first arrived in which more often than not is Greece.