Push to move migrants from islands to mainland

Push to move migrants from islands to mainland

Municipal officials from the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos, which are bearing the brunt of an increased influx of migrants from neighboring Turkey, are due in Athens on Tuesday to press the government for action to ease the pressure on their local communities. 

The officials decided to coordinate their protests and seek a meeting with Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas to speed up the transfer of migrants from the islands to mainland Greece. 

There are currently more than 15,000 migrants living in state-run camps on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. More than 15,000 have been transferred to the mainland over the past year. Of those more than 3,500 were transferred in the last month alone. 

But islanders say more action is needed due to growing tensions in the reception centers and among the local communities as arrivals from Turkey have increased. 

Hopes that a European Union refugee relocation program could ease some of the pressure have been largely frustrated as the process is a slow one.

European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has said the so-called Dublin Regulation, which dictates that refugees apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, must be reformed for pressure on countries such as Greece and Italy to ease.

In a related development on Monday, a court on Lesvos indicted 16 North African migrants who participated in the occupation of a central square in Mytilene, the main port of Lesvos.

Authorities on the island detained a total of 25 protesters late on Sunday but the other nine were released as they are minors.

The migrants had staged the protest in a bid to press authorities to accelerate their asylum applications and their transfer to mainland Greece.

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