Greece’s government announced it is holding off on plans to build new closed migrant detention camps on the Greek islands to allow for negotiations with local authorities who strongly oppose the initiative.
Notis Mitarakis, the migration affairs minister, said the plan announced last week has been put on hold until demands by authorities on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos are discussed.
The government says it wants to replace existing overcrowded camps with closed facilities and has already issued land appropriation orders. But islanders staged protests against the proposed construction — setting up roadblocks on Lesbos — amid fears that the new sites would place an additional burden on their small communities.
The Athens government angered residents on the five islands, by announcing last week it would expedite the construction of closed detention centres to replace open-access, severely overcrowded camps. Local residents say they are concerned such an arrangement could become permanent.
“I’ll put the plan on hold until we discuss [it],” Mitarakis told regional governor Kostas Moutzouris during a heated debate aired on Greek state television.
“Local authorities have one week to point out alternative locations,” Mitarakis, who is from one of the affected islands, Chios, tweeted later.
Angry locals created a massive Greek flag overnight on the island of Lesvos by painting stones blue and white and inscribing ‘OXI’ with pebbles beneath it in protest at a detention center planned at the location.
*Source: Reuters and AP