ND leader visits Lesvos, urges support for islands coping with migration crisis

The repercussions of the refugee and migrant crisis once again dominated talks held by main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a visit to the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Friday.

Meeting the island’s business and professional community at the local Chamber of Commerce, Mitsotakis repeated a list of measures that need to be taken to protect local communities.

Among these he included effective guarding of the borders, detention of irregular migrants in closed pre-departure centres, decongestion of islands through a rapid processing of asylum applications, exploiting European funds that currently remain unutilised and the implementation of a special programme to benefit island communities.

Talking about the EU-Turkey agreement on migration, Mitsotakis said that this was a good agreement that did not bring the expected results due to the mishandling and omissions of the Greek government. He noted that the entire agreement was based on the premise that asylum applications would be processed quickly, since all sides were aware that migrants would ask for asylum once the borders were closed.

“Under the agreement, anyone not granted asylum would be returned to Turkey, while those given the status of refugee would be able to move freely throughout the country. At its conception, therefore, this agreement did not necessarily result in a great concentration of refugees and migrants on the islands. The main reason this happened is because asylum services are understaffed and there was a considerable delay, both at the first and secondary level of examining asylum requests,” Mitsotakis said.

He promised that ND will adopt a policy of decongesting the islands that would not jeopardise the core of the EU-Turkey Statement. He also noted that those critical of the government’s handling could not automatically be cast as belonging to the far-right and cited a need to better control non-governmental organisations.

Referring to the problems created for tourism, Mitsotakis listed three ND proposals for a recovery of tourism, such as directly communicating with tour operators at a top level, contacting the large cruise companies and striking deals with budget airlines, such as Ryanair.