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Greece’s Refugee-flooded Island Mayors Call for Help

Archive photo of Syrian refugees lining up to board a night ferry from the Greek island of Kos to Athens. Photo © UNHCR/S.BaltagiannisThe mayors of Samos, Lesvos and Chios, the Greek islands bearing the brunt of the ongoing refugee crisis, are requesting that migrants be moved elsewhere in order to proceed with the necessary works to modernize the housing units and hotspots.

Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos, his counterpart from Samos, Michalis Angelopoulos and from Chios, Manolis Vournous accompanied on Wednesday, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, on his visit to Lesvos.

Galinos said Avramopoulos’ visit was sending out a “strong message” and stressed that the islands must be ”immediately decongested”.

“We islanders haven’t suddenly lost our humanity and this has been more than obvious,’’ he said. ”But now the priority is to alleviate the local communities, which have exhausted all their resources carrying for a long period of time the burden, which now risks crushing them.’’

The mayor of Samos underlined that it was impossible for an island of 33,000 residents to deal with an influx of migrants five times its population.

Meanwhile, North Aegean Region Governor Christiana Kalogirou underlined that ”neither the North Aegean Region nor Greece can address this unprecedented and tremendous issue on their own. We need the assistance and support of the European Union and the international community,’’ she said, adding that ”visits and conclusions are not enough to address the issue; acts are needed”.

Meanwhile, the mayors of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros, who are expected to meet with Avramopoulos in Athens on Friday to discuss the refugee problem, have requested a meeting on Monday with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

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