Lesbos Lifts Block on Shipping Containers to House Refugees

December 12, 2017

ATHENS – Moving to prevent the possibility of some refugees and migrants housed in tents dying this winter, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition has sent 50 shipping containers to the island of Lesbos, where officials have said they will no longer try to prevent them from being used.

Mayors and officials on Lesbos, Chios and Samos want more than 15,000 refugees and migrants stuck on the islands with the suspension of a European Union swap deal with Turkey, which flooded them with those fleeing war and strife in the Middle East, to be sent to the mainland.

They don’t want detention centers and camps expanded and resisted the idea of the shipping containers. Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, who has refused transfers except for the most vulnerable, said he couldn’t guarantee no refugees or migrants wouldn’t die this winter as he has come under fire in his own party for what human rights groups said are unsuitable conditions on the islands.

The shipping containers are going to the Moria detention center that rights groups have said is overcrowded and not fit for humans and where violence and tension have grown with people stuck there up to two years as the government tries to process an overwhelming number of asylum applications.

The prefabricated units had been on a ferryboat at the port of Mytilini since Dec. 11 when  the municipal authority ordered its garbage trucks to form a blockade that prevented the government-chartered ship from off loading the containers.

Minister of State Alekos Flambouraris wrote Lesbos Mayor Spyros Galinos to offer assurances that the container homes would not be used to create a new camp on the island, but only to accommodate refugees staying in tents in Moria, Kathimerini said.

The islands mayors had taken protests against the refusal of transfers outside Mouzalas’ office in Athens but he continued to ignore their pleas and didn’t meet with them.


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