European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos announced on Tuesday that he has approved a 12-month extension to a pilot programme, which grants Turkish nationals a short-term visa to Greek islands of the eastern Aegean.
The move comes after meetings with mayors from various islands who demanded the terminated programme be reinstated in an attempt to help boost local tourism, which has crumbled after the islands were found at the forefront of the refugee crisis.
Avramopoulos made the decision after meeting with five mayors from the Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros in Brussels. These islands are hosting migrants under the EU-Turkey agreement signed in 2016.
Avaramopoulos told the mayors of Lesvos Spyros Galinos, of Chios Manolis Vournous, of Samos Michalis Aggelopoulos, of Leros Michalis Kollias, and of Kos Georgios Kiritsis that they have responded to their mission with “a high sense of responsibility, expressing with humanity, dignity, much effort and trouble, these deeper feelings of the local community”.
The pilot scheme started in 2012, when Avramopoulos was Greece’s foreign minister and ended on 30 October 2016.