Greece: island protests escalate

Lesbos, Chios and Samos have seen fierce protests against the construction of closed camps for refugees this week. Dozens of people have reportedly been injured in clashes between demonstrators and the police. The islands' inhabitants are demanding that migrants be taken to the mainland immediately after they have been registered. Does Athens need help to tackle the problem?

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Der Standard (AT) /

The EU is doing what it can

The UN should take over the management of the camps on the islands, Der Standard argues:

“The EU cannot do much more than it is already doing. It's been sending billions in funds as well as experts from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to Greece for years. Beyond assistance in registering migrants, however, Greece cannot delegate asylum procedures because they are a matter of sovereign rights ... It would make more sense for the UN refugee agency UNHCR to take over and improve the management of the camps. This would not only increase the quality of care but also prevent millions of euros from disappearing into the Greek administration apparatus.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Rely on facts, not fear

The EU needs a functioning migration pact as soon as possible, NRC Handelsblad stresses:

“If every European member state were to take in a fair share of the refugees, migration would be manageable at its current level. But that's exactly where the problem lies. The querulants, especially Hungary, are blocking the discussion. A cold wind is blowing through the polarised European migration debate. The ongoing situation of thousands of people living in inhumane conditions in Europe cries out for strong leadership, both European and national - and a solution based on facts, not on fear. ” (GR) /

Athens is responsible

The only way to calm the situation on the Islands is to relieve them of the high number of refugees, the news website Protagon writes:

“The Greek police clash with citizens who bear no blame for the situation and whose lives have been partially destroyed. The construction of the new closed camps only makes sense if the islands are provided with substantial relief. ... This must start immediately so that the islanders receive a positive message. ... At the same time, the state must provide resources and services to the islanders. The reduced VAT [for the five islands where the 'hotspots' are located] is a joke when you consider what is going on there - unless we have decided to sacrifice the islands for the good of the mainland. This is a view that no one dares to express openly.”

Dimokratia (GR) /

The government is sacrificing the islands

The way the Greek government is treating the islanders is unfair and wrong, writes the ultraconservative newspaper Dimokratia:

“The government is using the police to turn the eastern Aegean into a bridgehead for Islam because it has made the strategic decision to sacrifice the islands as if they were pawns in a power game that is useless for the homeland and its citizens. ... The islanders can't compare in numbers with the voters on the mainland, and therefore can't cause much damage to the government in the elections. No one would have thought it possible to do Turkey such a favour by settling tens of thousands of Erdoğan's fellow believers in this critical and decisive region.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Islanders denying reality

The protests of the local inhabitants are childish, the pro-government daily Kathimerini says:

“They insist on ignoring the geographical reality that has placed their islands next to the Turkish coast. ... They also insist on ignoring the agreement between the European Union and Turkey, under which the right to return migrants to Turkey no longer applies if they are relocated to the Greek mainland. In short, they don't want refugees or immigrants on their islands either in closed centres or in open ones! They want to be left in peace and demand that the government find a way for the so-called refugee flows to bypass their islands. ... This is a childish denial of reality.”

Avgi (GR) /

An unprecedented confrontation

The government's treatment of the islanders is unacceptable, writes the left-wing daily Avgi:

“The conflict between the government and the local communities over the question of closed camps is unprecedented. It's hard to remember the last time special police units were deployed to suppress the actions of local populations and enforce the will of the government. It's becoming more and more difficult for the government to manage the refugee problem because it remains beholden to its intolerant far-right election rhetoric.”