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Migrant Influx Out of Hand, Greek Border Island Mayors Warn

Symi Island. Photo © GTP

Symi Island. Photo © GTP

The mayors of several Greek border islands are calling on the government to step in with immediate measures to deal with the increasing numbers of illegal migrants reaching their shores daily as they do not have the resources to deal with the situation.

Plagued with the greatest influx are the Dodecanese islands, including Tilos, Halki, Symi, Kastellorizo and Agathonisi, where thousands of so-called “boat people”, mostly refugees from Syria who set off from neighboring Turkey in rubber dinghies, are camping out at ports, beaches and parks waiting for temporary travel documents in the midst of the tourist season.

According to South Aegean Prefect George Hadjimarkos, an estimated 10,000 migrants have made their way to Dodecanese shores in the last few weeks.

Mr Hadjimarkos is among other local authorities who are warning that the situation will get out of control if the government doesn’t do something straightaway.

“The migration issue is the sole responsibility of the central government, which is currently passing it on to local authorities, and then criticizing local administration on its actions,” said Mr Hadjimarkos, who has arranged meetings with authorities on Kalymnos and Kos to find solutions to the growing problem.

The small island of Leros is also facing similar problems with the mayor there, Michalis Kollias, stating in a letter to Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, that “the situation on the island of Leros is out of control… the problems are now endangering not only health and life of the illegal migrants but of the islanders and visitors as well”.

Agathonisi Mayor Evangelos Kottoros has also joined his colleagues in urging the government to take immediate action and to safeguard the residents of the tiny island the sea borders by boosting controls.

Kos residents up in arms

Kos (archive photo). Photo source: newsbeast.gr

Kos (archive photo). Photo source: newsbeast.gr

Kos residents, meanwhile, are up in arms after a group of illegal migrants became violent this earlier week, disrupting island traffic with a sit-in outside the police station and throwing objects at the police officers.

The island’s mayor, Giorgos Kiritsis, who expressed his disagreement to the establishment of a permanent detention center on the island, is warning that if the government does not take measures soon, there will be violence.

“It’s time that everyone understands that the documentation process cannot be carried out by the Kos police alone. It is impossible to record three and four thousand people,” he said, adding that the situation is bound to get out of hand.

“The incidents this week and those before are only the beginning. I fear that the worst is ahead,” he said.

In the meantime, a ferry which collected on Wednesday, some 1,300 migrants from Kos, and picked up hundreds more from Leros, Kalymnos and Lesvos, docked at the port of Piraeus on Thursday.

Local officials on Greece’s border islands have repeatedly called on the government to deal with the growing migrant problem, which has seen more than 1,000 refugees flock to Kos alone every day this month, at the peak of the tourism season.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 124,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece by sea since January, a massive 750 percent rise on the same period in 2014.

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