THE Greek Prime Minister has pledged the government will build a permanent migrant reception centre on Lesbos in the wake of fires which devastated the island’s overcrowded Moria refugee camp last week.
“I want to say with absolute conviction that there will be a permanent reception and identification centre. I want to send that message to everyone”, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday.
The Prime Minister also called on the European Union for a shift in policy on dealing with the issue of migrant arrivals.
“We want to turn this problem into an opportunity,” Mitsotakis commented at a news briefing.
“Europe should be a lot more involved in the management of the new centre, wherever we finally decide it should be.”
Last week’s blazes at the Moria camp left nearly 13,000 people without shelter. Many have since had little choice but to sleep outdoors with not much in the way of access to food, water and sanitation, although the Greek authorities have begun taking in a good number at a temporary tented shelter near the Lesbos capital Mytilini.
Conditions at the Moria camp before the fires, which reports say could have been started on purpose by migrants protesting about Covid-19 rules, were in any case what some aid organisations described as “inhumane.”
It was home to around four times as many people than its official capacity.
The Greek PM’s promise to now build a better alternative to the camp on Lesbos suggests he is not prepared to take on board the objections of local residents who are vehemently opposed to a permanent migrant centre on their island.
Many of the migrants themselves have also said they don’t want a new centre on the island, but are demanding the chance to get off the island and go elsewhere to start building a new life.