Protests by local residents on Chios against the establishment of a new closed camp on the island  continue. Citizens of Orestiada in the Evros border region in northwestern Greece received the migration minister Notis Mitarakis with protests over government plans to increase the capacities of the local reception and identification centre and the pre-removal detention facility. Parents of a local school on the island of Lesvos are protesting the enrollment of nine children with refugee background. The Greek government continue to pursuit a strategy of establishing permanent closed facilities funded by the EU.

Protests by residents of Chios continue with motorcade stretching more than two kilometers on 6 February to mark resistance to the establishment of a new closed camp to replace the overcrowded VIAL camp. With a capacity of 1,500 people, the new camp, which is to be located in the Tholos region, will be smaller than VIAL but local residents demand a facility for maximum 500 people for identification and registration prior to transfer to the mainland. The Greek government has condemned the hostile reception of migration Minister Notis Mitarakis who was met with stones, firecrackers, eggs and plastic cups thrown by local protestors during his visit to the Evros border region on 8 February. According to the President of the Evros Outpost Community, Christos Tyrbakis, Mitarakis threatened to bring 10,000 asylum seekers to the area if the locals attempt to prevent the government’s plans of increasing capacities of the local reception and identification center for asylum seekers and of the pre-departure detention facility. Protests by parents at a local school on Lesvos began on 5 February in response to the enrollment of a small group of students with refugee background. Reportedly, the parents reacted to false claims on social media that the enrolled students where aged up to 25 years old, and demanded the removal of the school principal and a teacher.

The Greek government announced the permanent closure of the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Vathi, within this quarter, and the simultaneous opening of a new EU funded “closed/controlled” center currently under construction on the island. On the narrowest possible mandate of 16 votes in favour and 15 against, the municipal council of Lesvos approved what was referred to as a small closed structure in an unspecified location. The approval was reportedly made possible through an unconventional method excluding the local community as well as the president of new Kydonia from voting. At the same time migration minister Notis Mitarakis present at the meeting failed to explain discrepancies between the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the government with the European Commission funding the facility, and the project presented and voted on. While the MoU describes “the establishment and operation of a new Multi-Purpose Reception and Identification Centre on Lesvos,” with a total capacity of 5,000 people, the municipal council of Lesvos approved a small closed structure with a total capacity of 3,500 people.

Statistics from the National Center for Social Solidarity E.K.K.A reveal that 932 unaccompanied children are living in informal insecure housing conditions such as temporary shared apartments, squats, or are homeless and moving frequently between different types of accommodation.

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Photo: ECRE

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.