NEWS

Leros leads action to help illegal migrants

Authorities on Leros are working with aid organizations to make life easier for illegal immigrants arriving on the Dodecanese island, even though the number of undocumented visitors has increased more than threefold this year. The number of migrants arriving on Leros illegally from neighboring Turkey has increased to 3,500 this year from 975 last year, authorities say. Local authorities have set aside a hotel as temporary accommodation for the migrants. Meanwhile, local citizens and aid organizations provide the migrants with food and medical attention. «Locals here are sensitized to human pain due to the island’s history,» Tina Staikou, a local aid worker, told Kathimerini yesterday. The island’s mayor, Timotheos Kottakis, said he and other regional mayors intend to take this service a step forward. «The municipalities of the Dodecanese have decided to donate 5 percent of our income to aid for the migrants’ countries of origin,» he said. Back in Athens, in the central district of Aghios Panteleimonas, illegal immigrants are not so welcome. Many spend all day on the streets and in squares before being given shelter for the evening by longer-established local immigrants or representatives of aid organizations. Some are not so lucky. One heavily pregnant Afghan woman with labor pains was transferred to a local hospital by an aid worker just in time. She has since been given shelter in a tiny apartment with another six Afghans. The importance of shelter for the migrants is becoming increasingly crucial as winter sets in. A 3-year-old boy died of exposure on Aghios Panteleimonas Square a few days ago. Aid workers fear similar incidents may occur over the next weeks.