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Refugee Arrivals to Greek Islands Increase, Hoteliers Request Debt Freeze

Mytilini town, Lesvos. Photo © Koutrolm / Wikimedia Commons

Mytilini town, Lesvos. Photo © Koutrolm / Wikimedia Commons

Hoteliers across the Eastern Aegean islands bearing the brunt of the ongoing refugee influx for over a year are calling on the Greek government to suspend all of their debts due to a sharp decline in tourism there.

The Lesvos Hoteliers Association in a letter to the relevant ministers is asking the government to replace the support measures with a debt moratorium as island professionals have seen revenue plunge due to a massive decrease in tourism revenue.

In the meantime, the flow of refugees and migrants is once again on the rise, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). More than 460 refugees arrived on the Greek islands from Turkey on Tuesday, despite a European Union deal with Ankara agreed in March to curb the flow of migrants into Greece.

Turkey, meanwhile, is threatening to annul the deal by October claiming the EU has not delivered on its promise to award visa-free travel to Turkish nationals.

Archive photo of a refugee from Syria hugging her crying daughter moments after reaching the Greek Island of Lesvos from Turkey in an inflatable boat. Photo © UNHCR/A. Zavallis

Archive photo of refugees on Lesvos from arriving from Turkey in an inflatable boat. Photo © UNHCR/A. Zavallis

The island of Lesvos, which has been on the receiving end of the bulk of refugees on their way to Europe, is currently hosting 5,307 refugees and migrants, according to the latest Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body figures.

The hoteliers are requesting the suspension of debts due to “extraordinary  circumstances as well as of financial obligations to the state, public utilities, municipalities, and banks” citing a 60 percent slump in the number of charter flights, decreased cruise ship approaches, fewer tourists from Turkey and Northern Greece and a damaged public image.

There are currently some 12,211 refugees and immigrants on the Eastern Aegean islands.

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