Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis this week met with local authorities of Leros to lay out a plan to restore tourism to the island after negative publicity over the refugee crisis has kept tourists away.
Leros together with several Greek islands near the Turkish border, mainly Lesvos and Samos, have been on the receiving end of increasing refugee and migrant flows from neighboring Turkey.
Theoharis met with Leros-Lipsi Hoteliers Association President Manolis Mathioudakis and with local professionals to discuss ways to restore traveler confidence, improve the island’s reputation, and support affected tourism businesses.
According to the local hotelier association, Leros has seen the number of visitors decline compared to previous years due to the crisis.
Theoharis announced ministry plans to launch a promotional campaign for the islands impacted by the migrant influx through the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO).
New Surge in Refugee Flows
Greece has come under fire recently due to the conditions at refugee camps mainly on five of its islands near the Turkish border. Since 2015, over one million refugees seeking admission to the EU have passed into Greece, with some 37,000 asylum seekers currently living in island camps that have by far exceeded their capacity.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece would be tightening borders in efforts to address a new influx in refugees. He said a single border surveillance agency manned with 1,200 guards would be set up to ban entrance to undocumented migrants, sea patrols would increase, and additional staff would be hired to speed up the deportation process.
“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose,” Mitsotakis said. “Those who are not welcome will be returned. We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter even though they are not entitled to asylum,” he told parliament.
Indicatively, some 10,551 people passed into Greece by sea in September, and an additional 8,996 in October.
Greece has also announced plans to relocate 20,000 people to the mainland. At the same time, some 10,000 asylum seekers who have been rejected will be deported to Turkey by the end of 2020.