Migrant influx to islands doubles

The number of illegal immigrants arriving on the Cyclades Islands increased by 220 percent in the first eight months of the current year compared to the same period of 2007, government statistics revealed yesterday as local authorities on the islands run out of patience with the swelling influx of desperate foreigners. According to Interior Ministry figures, the first eight months of the year saw 11,001 illegal immigrants arrive on Lesvos, 8,000 on Samos, 4,300 on the islet of Agathonisi and 3,400 on Leros. Authorities on the islands have reacted differently to the influx. On Patmos, locals have blocked their ports to vessels carrying would-be migrants. Local hoteliers say they have had enough as the migrants pose a public health risk and upset tourists. On Agathonisi, a small islet between Patmos and the Turkish coast, authorities have been bearing the brunt of arrivals since Patmos blocked its ports. But now residents there, too, have had enough, municipal authorities say. One of the chief problems appears to be the lack of space at migrant reception centers on the Cyclades. Most of the centers are currently holding double the migrants they were designed to accommodate, posing health and safety problems for the migrants themselves but also for staff. On some islands, such as Agathonisi, there are no centers and migrants wander the streets. According to Doctors Without Borders, the situation is also critical at the central port of Patras, where illegal migrants trying to board ferries to Italy have created a makeshift camp. The group said some 1,600 migrants are crammed into the camp, up from around 1,000 in May.