Pressured Refugee Camp Director on Island of Chios Quits

January 23, 2018

The director of a refugee asylum processing center on the overwhelmed Greek island of Chios has resigned after he said he was coming under intense pressure with long delay in their applications and the government planning to expand the facility.

Theofilos Tsingalakis, who was hired to run the Vial so’called “Hot Spot” on the eastern Aegean island after a competition for the post a few months ago, didn’t specify what that was, the state-run ANA-MPA news agency reported.

The only indication was that there’s growing anger on the island over the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition’s insistence on keeping most of the more than 15,000 refugees and migrants on the islands instead of moving them to the mainland.

They are stuck there as Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said a mass transfer would violate terms of a suspended European Union swap deal with Turkey, which let human traffickers send them there and isn’t taking them back, apart from a handful, as promised.

There are another 50,000 on the mainland and island officials, who even took protests outside Mouzlas’ office in Athens, which he ignored, don’t want the center expanded as he said he would do. They have been trapped there up to two years and more after the EU Residents on Chios have blocked plans to expand an overcrowded detention center.

Many of the residents live near an abandoned factory holding hundreds of refugees and migrants.

While arrivals have slowed since the swap deal, refugees and migrants keep arriving on Greek islands by the boatload, adding to the severe overcrowding.

The residents are refusing to allow authorities to expand the facility with prefabricated housing, said Kathimerini, adding that the blockage has prevented garbage from being collected and chemical toilets from being emptied, adding to the health risk.

Around 1,600 migrants live at the state-run camp, twice its capacity, with many forced to sleep in tents due to a lack of space and as the government hasn’t met pledges to provide better housing for the winter.

The government wants to get the containers onto the site before the unusually mild winter turns cold, if that happens, but residents won’t let them as island officials are taking legal action against Tsipras’ coalition, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic, anti-immigrant Independent Greeks (ANEL) led by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.

The delays have led to rising tension in the camps and detention centers and led human rights groups to criticize conditions there with the government embarrassed by secret video showing a camp on the island of Lesbos was feces-and-garbage filled, toilets not working and people living in tents in the winter and without enough blankets.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who critics said was fearful Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would unleash more refugees and migrants on Greece said he was “proud” of the conditions.

Mouzalas, who previously said refugees in snow-covered tents weren’t cold but that he couldn’t guarantee none wouldn’t die this winter, has even by ripped by his own ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party for his response to the crisis.


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