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North Aegean Islands to Hold General Strike Over Refugee Crisis

Plomari, Lesvos. Photo Source: Municipality of Lesvos
Plomari, Lesvos. Photo Source: Municipality of Lesvos

Authorities on the North Aegean islands, which include Lesvos, Samos, and Chios, announced a general strike scheduled for Wednesday, 22 January, in response to the refugee crisis, which has impacted local communities and strained already limited resources.

According to the UN’s agency for refugees, 59,591 people entered Greece on boats mostly from neighboring Turkey in 2019, and 14,891 by land, of which 27,108 arrived in Lesvos, 7,990 in Chios, and 10,711 in Samos.

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

The decision was announced on Tuesday, after a meeting headed by North Aegean Regional Governor Kostas Moutzouris.

Meanwhile, the Lesvos Chamber will be in talks today with the Mytilini Trade Association in order to decide the closure of shops and businesses.

Besides the strike action, islanders from Samos, Lesvos, and Chios – islands in close proximity to Turkey which have borne the brunt of the migrant and refugee flows – will be holding protests at noon on January 22.

According to reports, a committee consisting of municipal and regional authorities from the North Aegean islands is expected to hold talks with ministry officials in Athens, on January 23.

Samos, Greece. Photo Source: Municipality of Samos

Island authorities are demanding support measures, including funding and additional administrative, health, and protection services, and are calling on cities in mainland Greece to contribute to the hosting efforts.

The refugee issue has created tension between local Greek communities and the government. This week, the municipal council of Chios voted against the government’s plan to construct a closed hosting facility on the island, insisting instead on the creation of a documentation center with a capacity to host 500 people.

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