MYTILENE, Lesbos – Mayor Spyros Galinos said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition has not delivered on promises to ease overcrowding in refugee camps and detention centers on the island, saying nothing has been done to help.
Migration chief Yiannis Mouzalas, responsible for what human rights groups said is failure to provide decent living standards for some 64,000 refugees and migrants, including 14,000 on islands near the coast of Turkey, which has let human traffickers operate, was also ripped by angry members within SYRIZA for failing to ease suffering.
Despite bitter criticism of his tenure, which saw him agree to a European Union swap deal with Turkey that’s been suspended because of an overwhelming number of asylum applications, Mouzalas has been backed to the hilt by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and is up for the spot on the Council of Europe – which has chided him over the centers and camps.
The Lesbos municipal council said it is opposed to a new center to deal with overcrowding as officials on islands want the refugees and migrants taken to the mainland, which Mouzalas has refused to do even as some in SYRIZA said he’s done too little to prepare better conditions with the winter approaching.
The council said that it is opposed to “the effort to turn Lesbos from an island of humanity and solidarity into a prison for thousands of people” and ordered an investigation into reports that some non-governmental organizations, or members of NGOs, operating on the island are connected to the human traffickers and profiting off misery.
Mouzalas, who at one point during the dead of a cold winter said no refugees were cold despite sleeping in tents on islands, rejected calls from within the party for an open border policy that is close to what SYRIZA’s policies use to be before Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity promises to get more bailout money from international lenders.
“Despite the difficulties of (the deal,), which has gray areas Europe must clarify, it is a useful agreement for Greece,” Mouzalas said in an interview with Kathimerini.
Describing the crisis as “the biggest migration and refugee wave after the Second World War,” the minister said the influx was being financed and guided by human smugglers Turkey continues to let operate in violation of the swap deal.
“Migration and refugee flows of this magnitude have to be dealt with with agreements of this sort,” he said, adding that asylum seekers also benefit from the deal without explaining how since so many are still in limbo – they can’t go to other EU countries which closed their borders and don’t want to return to the strife-ridden countries they left, especially Syria’s civil war.