Greek islanders protest against plans to build new migrant camps



Locals residents of Greek islands have urged authorities on Thursday to shut overcrowded migrant camps that host thousands of asylum seekers.

Greek officials and residents from islands hosting thousands of migrants staged a protest in Athens on Thursday against plans to build new camps.

Demonstrators from the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos gathered outside the interior ministry, brandishing banners against the camps project.

“Our islands should not be warehouses of souls,” read one banner.

“These people live in terrible conditions in the mud,” said Theodora Kokkinelli, 50, whose parents live in Moria village on Lesbos.

The New Democracy government which came to power in July 2019 has announced that the present camps, which are stretched several times beyond capacity, are to shut down this year.

They are to be replaced with new, closed facilities that are to be operational by mid-2020.

But authorities and residents on the five Aegean islands with camp facilities, which include Leros and Kos, have opposed the new camps.

The islanders demand the immediate removal of most of the asylum-seekers and accuse the EU of abandoning them.

Some banners called for "illegal migrants" to be expelled and for the country's borders to be closed.

In the meantime, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos called for the strengthening of NATO's presence in the Aegean Sea on Thursday so as to halt, as he said, the migration influx from Turkey, while speaking at the two-day meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Brussels.

*Main source: Reuters