The opposition between the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, and a large part of the island’s citizens has intensified after the failure of an attempt to unload equipment for the construction of a new closed structure for receiving migrants in Chios on 6 January.
The conflict is now taking on a political dimension, as the census predicts that Chios will become a single-mandate region from the summer.
Immigration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis, the island’s New Democracy MP in an attempt to calm the mood of residents, yesterday gave an online press conference in local media that lasted more than 2.5 hours. At the same time, he insisted that the intention of the ministry was to create a closed structure on Chios, similar to the one that exists on Samos and other islands.
As the minister emphasized, the closed structures will be completed in any legal way, since they protect all the islanders. On the day of Epiphany (according to the Gregorian karendar), early in the morning, several hundred residents of Chios, gathered in the port, prevented the unloading of equipment from the contractor company (GEK TERNA) intended for the construction of a prison-type camp.
Earthmoving equipment arrived on the island to begin work on the establishment of a new camp in the Plati area (Tolos Bay). The Minister of Immigration and Asylum stressed that the new structure, which will replace VIAL, “will be designed for 1230 places for the general population and vulnerable groups.”
According to Mr. Mitarakis, the total area that the camp will occupy will be 141 acres, but the buildings will occupy about 18 acres. The construction cost of the new structure is 54.8 million euros.
It is worth noting that the current mayor of Chios, Stamatis Karmantsis, who promised to close the VIAL refugee camp in Chios before the elections, has now moved to the camp of supporters of the creation of a new structure in Tolos, which is 11 km from the city of Chios and 6 km from Vrontados.
Opposite, the Governor of the North Aegean Sea, Kostas Mutsuris, took an active part in the protest rally on 6 January. At the same time, opponents of the project note that the plan also includes PROKEKA (pre-departure detention center for foreigners), the size of which is not strictly defined, which leaves the possibility that thousands of people will remain on the island again.
SYRIZA supports the reaction of residents to the creation of the new structure, calling it “Guantanamo” in a statement signed by the responsible head of the department Gergios Psychogios, MP of Chios Andreas Mihailidis and MEP Costas Arvanitis.
On January 7, the shipping company Αειναύτης, the owner of the ferry Πελαγίτης, which transported construction equipment, assured that it would be unloaded at the port of Piraeus, at the place of loading on board the vessel.
Apparently, the ruling New Democracy in Greece, having a negative experience, did not dare to repeat events 2 years agowhen, in a similar situation in Lesbos, a real war between the inhabitants of the island, who obstructed the progress of construction equipment, and the police, who tried to prevent this. Then the police fled, “not eating salty”, leaving behind more than 60 wounded and receiving the nickname “occupiers”.
Reference. In 2019, the Mitsotakis government announced an ambitious construction plan for the so-called. closed camps (prison type)in which persons who are denied refugee status should be detained and where they should await deportation to their homeland.
The main difference from the currently existing refugee camps, which are called Hot Spot, will be that they are structures closed type, with a ban on leaving the territory. Since deportation, in fact, has nowhere to do (most illegal immigrants destroy their documents immediately upon crossing the border), there will be no deportation either. Apparently, the authorities hope that the persons placed in the camps will themselves be asked to go to their homeland.
At the same time, the population of the islands of Chios and Lesvos, where it was planned to build these camps, was strongly opposed.