Security tight on Lesvos for PM’s visit as stores close in protest

Security tight on Lesvos for PM’s visit as stores close in protest

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was due on Lesvos on Thursday for a speech at a "growth conference" as local businesses closed to protest the presence of thousands of migrants and plans to revoke the favorable tax status enjoyed by Aegean islands.

Security is expected to be tight on the island as residents are to stage protests at its main port of Mytilene to express their frustration with the current situation.

Police are expected to cordon off the area where Tsipras is due to give his speech at 7.30 p.m. three hours in advance.

Speaking ahead of the visit, leftist SYRIZA's party secretary Panagiotis Rigas said that protesting residents were acting illogically, noting that the conference was an opportunity for discussing growth prospects for the local economy.

The government sought to play down the issue on Wednesday, claiming that the police presence on the island was being boosted due to "tensions created by a minority of far-right elements." 

In his speech on Thursday, Tsipras is expected to acknowledge the burden placed on islanders due to migration flows and to announce some measures to offset a planned increase in value added tax. 

Speaking on Wednesday, Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas warned that the migration influx was growing, both from the land and sea borders, and said the authorities aimed to decongest overcrowded reception centers by the end of September.

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