Facing Backlash, Greek Government Pulls Back Migrant Detention Plans

Deputy Labour and Social Affairs Minister Notis Mitarakis. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said he will delay seizing land on islands to build migrant detention centers to vet those deemed ineligible after hot objections from officials and residents who don’t want them.

The plans were to put them on Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios where camps are holding more than 50,000 people who want sanctuary in Greece after coming to islands from Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homelands.

The New Democracy government had said it would issue a legislative act to expropriate properties, land and sites in a bid to speed up the building of closed camps on the islands mostly affected by migration.

The council of the North Aegean Region said it would sue to stop that and the backlash grew rapidly against the plans. Speaking to public broadcaster ERT,  Mitarakis said he won’t go ahead for now until more talks with island officials.

He also said the requisitions are “nothing more than a lease of those premises” for three years, adding that the aim is to reduce the time asylum seekers remain in the camps to below six months with some waiting for asylum application reviews some two years or more.