Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas presented on Tuesday the government’s plan to alleviate some of the pressure on the island of Chios caused by migration. During the meeting, chaired by State Minister Alekos Flambouraris, ministers and authorities from Chios focused on proposals to support the islands bearing the brunt of the problem.
Mouzalas said the government proposal foresees giving priority to the completion of infrastructure and environment projects on the island with the cooperation of the Northern Aegean prefecture and the municipality. He said the ministry of development will legislate by the end of the year a new development plan for the region which will be funded by the National Program of Pubic Investments.
The government plan also includes the construction of a new accommodation center in the area of a former uncontrolled landfill as the only economically feasible solution for now, as well as the possible closure of the Souda center and the use of VIAL solely as an identification and registration center.
Mouzalas said a third measure is to use temporarily the camp in Mersinidi as a pre-removal center for 120 migrants and try to find another location, while boosting police presence on Chios. The minister also pledged to speed up the asylum procedure by hiring more staff at the Asylum service, which will have 40 members by the end of the year.
“The government accepted that that there should be a special support program of the islands that are faced with the problem,” Northern Aegean prefect Christina Kalogirou told journalists as she exited Maximos Mansion. “During the meeting I stressed the need to maintain a reduced VAT on the islands in order to address the social and economic impact,” she added.
New Democracy MP Notis Mitarakis, who is elected in Chios, said talks were constructive and “the government adopted significant changes which are moving in the right direction.”
“We stressed the significant delays in issues of granting asylum and generally problems concerning the management of refugee hotspots. We asked for a speeding up of the procedure, separation of refugees from migrants and a better coordination and support of islanders,” he said, adding that the government also has to find new spots to accommodate refugees that meets necessary security standards.
Chios mayor Emmanouil Vournous said the municipality will review what was discussed at the next municipal meeting and mentioned the proposal to create a registration center and a pre-removal center to detain those who failed to receive asylum.
Commenting on the proposal to lower VAT on the islands burdened from migration, Vournous said its adoption from the government would show it understands the problem caused to the islands.