Islands appeal for measures to deal with influx of migrants

30 July 2016
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As the influx of migrants from neighboring Turkey continues – with a slight but noticable increase – regional authorities and tourism professionals are calling for measures to support communities on the Aegean islands.

Over the past two weeks, following a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, the influx of migrants has increased, according to government figures.

Overall, more than 1,000 migrants landed on the five so-called hot spots: Lesvos, Chios, Kos, Samos and Leros since the failed coup.

Those islands are now accommodating 9,313 migrants in camps, many of whom have been there for several months awaiting the outcome of asylum applications or deportation.

In a letter to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas and Alternate Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas, the governor of the northern Aegean region, Christiana Kalogirou, asked for immediate steps to decongest the islands.

“We are seeing a constant and apparently increasing flow of migrants and refugees toward the islands of the northern Aegean,” she wrote, noting that the maximum capacity of state reception centers has been exceeded on all the islands.

A representative of an aid agency working on Lesvos said that the increase in migrant arrivals on the island has not yet fuelled tensions in the camps. “But if they keep arriving at the same rate, we’ll have a problem soon,” according to the worker who asked not to be identified.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE) and the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) met yesterday with officials from the affected islands to discuss the impact of increased migrant arrivals on tourism.

According to figures supplied by local airports, foreign charter flights to Lesvos and Chios were down by 65 percent and 40 percent this month compared to July last year, respectively.

Representatives of businesses on the islands have asked the government for “offsetting measures” to boost businesses that have been hit by a slump in tourism and to help employees with less summer work by lowering the number of social security stamps they need to qualify for unemployment benefits in the winter.

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