Greek Island Mayors Don’t Want VAT Discount Tied to Refugees

FILE - In this Friday, May 4, 2018 file photo migrants and refugees wait outside the European Asylum Support Service offices inside the camp of Moria on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. The jammed Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos and the dangerous migrant detention centers in Libya serve as a sober reminder to European leaders that their statistical success in curbing migration into the continent has spawned what the U.N. and others condemn as massive humanitarian failures. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

The mayors of five Greek Aegean islands near Turkey are objecting to a discount in the Value Added Tax (VAT) being linked to the number of refugees and migrants being held in detention centers and camps housing more than 15,000 of them.

The VAT discount on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, the primary destinations for refugees and migrants that Turkey lets human traffickers send to Greece during a suspended swap deal with the European Union has been extended through June 30.

That gives them a 30 percent break in what the rest of the country and other islands are charged as partial compensation for the burden put on them and as thave repeatedly asked for more government help and been essentially ignored.

The mayors and local officials denounced as “unacceptable and immoral” the government’s decision to link the lower VAT rate to refugee numbers on the islands. “What are we to do if the numbers don’t add up? Borrow refugees from other islands?” one local authority official said, according to Kathimerini.

They also said associating the two issues would bring further negative publicity as they’ve struggled the past few years of record-breaking tourism to lure visitors frightened off by constant images of refugees, migrants and detention centers with the Moria camp on Lesbos being called “the worst in the world” by the BBC.

Human rights groups and activists have also decried conditions in the facilities and said it’s going to get worse with the onset of winter and as more keep arriving although in smaller

The mayors insisted that lower VAT on the islands is supported by a 2006 European Union directive that allows member-states to implement different rates based on geographic criteria.

“The overwhelming majority of these geographic criteria concern island areas,” the statement said, citing the example of the Faroe Islands and Greenland of Denmark, Heligoland of Germany, Spain’s Canary Islands, Portugal’s Azores and Madeira, and the UK’s Isle of Man.

HIGH SEAS BREAK

Meanwhile, recreational boat owners operating in “high seas” will be exempt from VAT, Greek Shipping Minister Fotis Kouvelis and Alternate Finance Minister Katerina Papanatsiou said in a decree, according to GTP headlines.

According to clarifications made to the regulation which sets out the terms and conditions for the operation and activities of tourist and recreational craft, boats and watercraft, vessels used for navigation on high seas will be exempt from VAT, the site said.

That comes after the government said it would end tax deductions for the purchase and operations of recreational watercraft as Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has begun backtracking on reforms agreed with international lenders in a bid to restore popularity in an election year after plummeting for reneging repeatedly on anti-austerity promises.

Recreational seacraft owners operating in high seas will not be obliged to pay VAT when

The predetermined sea route traveled between the port of departure and the port of arrival or between two ports is greater than 12 nautical miles, or for routes or day itineraries, when the distance traveled from the port of departure and back is greater than 24 nautical miles, irrespective of intermediate ports.

There are other exemptions as well, including when vessels carry out 60 percent or more of their pre-set journeys in high seas (open waters) or to international destinations, when boat owners can provide mapping of travel, data and information extracted from satellite navigation or transponder systems meeting IMO standards and via the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (AADE) application.