Mayors of Aegean Islands Send SOS over Migrant Influx

The mayors of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros on Thursday briefed a parliamentary committee on the dire situation they face after excessive migrant flows and overcrowded registration centers.

Lesvos mayor Spyros Galinos told the permanent committee on public administration, public order and justice that locals are overwhelmed by the migration issue and feel abandoned by the State. “We jumped into the sea to save people and have come to the point of being criticised as racists,” he said, noting that the migrant overflow problem is not a local problem but one of Greece and Europe.

Chios Mayor Manolis Vournous said that, “Seven villages are in a continuous crisis situation, with migrants searching for food, some of them entering their homes as well.” Although this was an exception rather than the rule, he said, it has influenced the attitude of locals. He also noted that the agreement between the European Union and Turkey to stem the flow of refugees “is implemented only by half, because the return (of migrants) to Turkey is not being carried out.”

Samos Mayor Michalis Angelopoulos argued that the islands don’t need money, but they need political will to solve the problem, better infrastructure as well as more personnel. The staff reviewing refugee applications, he said, consists of three people who can only process a total of eight applications a day, resulting in 14-month delays for refugees. The islands of the Northeast Aegean must not be the only ones responsible to solve the migration problem, he said.

Kos mayor Giorgos Kyritsis criticised the use of the islands as “an easy solution for some”, and said that the majority of migrants on his island “are neither refugees, nor do they have the profile of a refugee; their own countries will not take them back.” He proposed that they should be returned to Turkey, as per the EU-Turkey agreement.

Michail Kolias, Mayor of Leros, said the islanders live in insecurity because there was no clear answer to whether a new hotspot would be created on the island, something that he is opposed to. He also called for additional staff for the local hospital, which could hardly serve locals as it is.

All mayors agreed that islanders and migrants alike are in a state of despair, feeling that the State shows no political will to resolve the issue, and they fear that the islands would serve as places of detention for migrants. They also spoke of atrocious conditions at migrant and refugee camps.