Greek Island of Kos Officials Slam Athens for Ignoring Migrant Crisis


Officials governing the Greek island of Kos, home to tens of thousands of illegal migrants from the Middle East, have issued a letter calling Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou and the Athens government “irresponsible” for offering insufficient aid to help curb the increasingly tense migrant issue.

According to the Greek newspaper Rodiaki, the municipality of Kos referred to Christodoulopoulou as “irresponsible” and “the destroyer of Kos,” accusing her of creating a “health bomb” situation by not working diligently enough to find space throughout Greece to harbor the thousands of migrants currently living on the streets or relegated to the island’s sports stadium or “an inappropriate and abandoned hotel.” The letter accuses federal officials of shirking responsibility on the migrant issue.

This weekend, Kos experienced a surge of violence as frustrated migrants, cordoned into a stadium to be processed by immigration services, began attempting to escape. Police were forced to use water cannons and beat more violent migrants with batons to restore order. The federal government stepped in, sending in backup law enforcement following Kos Mayor Giorgos Kiritsis’s declaration that, without outside help, the island would experience “bloodshed.” The reinforcements were expected to leave the island by the end of the week, however. Agence France-Presse notes that Kos’s population is typically around 33,000, but it is currently housing about 7,000 migrants– the equivalent of more than 20% of its population.

Chief migration official Christodoulopoulou announced a plan on Saturday to construct a new camp to house migrants in Athens, hundreds of miles away from the islands. Critics say one such camp is not enough, however, as it is expected to be able to house only 600 people, while Greece has taken in more than 100,000 refugees in 2015 so far, 750% more than the nation took in during all of 2014. The increasingly volatile situation in the Middle East and expansion of the Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria and into Libya, Afghanistan, and potentially Pakistan are largely considered to blame for the surge in refugees trying to enter Europe.

The Greek islands have experienced significant economic setbacks, due to the surge in migrants living on their streets. In June, many who had returned from Kos used travel websites to warn others of the dire situation migrants were living in and their effect on the general appeal and attitude of the tourist destination.