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Greek Island Officials Will Sue Over Land Seizures for Migrant Centers

Αssociated Press

Protesters demonstrate outside the Interior Ministry in central Athens, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Regional government officials and residents from Lesbos and four other Aegean Sea islands oppose government plans to build new sites for migrants and refugees, and are demanding that thousands of asylum seekers at overcrowded camps on the islands be moved to the Greek mainland. The Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos currently has more than 20,000 people at a facility built for just 3,000 people. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS - Signaling a breakdown with the ruling New Democracy, officials of five Greek islands holding nearly 50,000 refugees and migrants in detention centers said they would sue to block government plans seize local properties to build new facilities.

They also said they would suspend all cooperation with the government as tension is simmering at the same time violence in the camps is soaring over frustration with long delays in processing asylum applications.

Trying to hold down the reaction, Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said private property owners could send a letter requesting compensation  to the ministry detailing any damages by refugees and migrants, some of whom have taken to cutting down trees for firewood.

Αssociated Press

A protester holds a Greek flag and a paper that reads in Greek. "Close the Borders, Deport illegal migrants" as they demonstrate outside the Interior Ministry in central Athens, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The mayors of Lesbos, which has the notorious Moria camp, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros joined together to take on the government, trying to block creation of new centers aimed at vetting those ineligible for asylum.

Those rejected for sanctuary would be returned to Turkey under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union. Turkey is being used as a jumping-off point for refugees and migrants who fled their homelands, especially Syria's civil war and Afghanistan, in a bid to get to Greece for asylum after the EU closed its borders to them.

Turkey is letting human traffickers operate and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, embroiled in feuds with the EU over his country's drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus, has threatened to unleash millions more on the bloc, through Greek islands if he doesn't get his way.

Islanders from Lesbos were to hold a protest rally outside the Interior Ministry in Athens on Feb. 13 to show their displeasure.

Αssociated Press

A protester holds a Greek flag and a paper that reads in Greek. "Close the Borders, Deport illegal migrants" as they demonstrate outside the Interior Ministry in central Athens, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Αssociated Press

Protesters demonstrate outside the Interior Ministry in central Athens, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Regional government officials and residents from Lesbos and four other Aegean Sea islands oppose government plans to build new sites for migrants and refugees, and are demanding that thousands of asylum seekers at overcrowded camps on the islands be moved to the Greek mainland. The Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos currently has more than 20,000 people at a facility built for just 3,000 people. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Αssociated Press

Protesters demonstrate outside the Interior Ministry in central Athens, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Regional government officials and residents from Lesbos and four other Aegean Sea islands oppose government plans to build new sites for migrants and refugees, and are demanding that thousands of asylum seekers at overcrowded camps on the islands be moved to the Greek mainland. The Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos currently has more than 20,000 people at a facility built for just 3,000 people. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Αssociated Press

Protesters hold placards as they demonstrate outside the Interior Ministry in central Athens, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Regional government officials and residents from Lesbos and four other Aegean Sea islands oppose government plans to build new sites for migrants and refugees, and are demanding that thousands of asylum seekers at overcrowded camps on the islands be moved to the Greek mainland. The Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos currently has more than 20,000 people at a facility built for just 3,000 people. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)