Overcrowding in Lesvos refugee centres now ‘critical’, island’s mayor warns

Lesvos Mayor Spiros Galinos on Tuesday called for urgent action to reduce overcrowding in the migrant and refugee reception centres on the island, warning Migrant Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas that the situation was “critical” following a recent increase in the flow of migrants arriving on the island.

Galinos, who also sent copies of the letter to European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, the government’s coordinator for the refugee crisis Giorgos Kyritsis and the prime minister’s office, described the situation on the island as “extremely difficult and verging on explosive”.

“The refugees and migrants housed in hospitality facilities on Lesvos have exceeded 6,000, which means that existing facilities have greatly exceeded the maximum number of people they can house. The steady increase in arrivals, combined with the fact that no action is taken to reduce their numbers, either through returns or transfers to mainland Greece, is once again leading a large population of asylum seekers to be trapped on Lesvos,” he said.

The mayor also stressed that the island had already made a great contribution to the management of refugee flows and that the construction of additional refugee centres was not a viable solution.

“The tactic of avoiding taking action until conditions worsen to the point where we once again have a crisis on our hands cannot, on any account, be tolerated by the local community,” Galinos underlined, saying that the island’s capacity to accept refugees and migrants had already reached its limit.

The island was “a hostage” of such tactics, he added, stressing that “no one has a right to extort solutions in such a way as to put the future of an entire community in question.

“I appeal for immediate and drastic action, with measures to decongest Lesvos for the benefit of both asylum seekers and our fellow citizens. Responsibility for managing refugee flows and, in consequence, the prosperity and progress of an entire community is in your hands,” Galinos said.