ATHENS – Greece's government says it is suspending an emergency plan to build migrant detention camps on Greek islands near the Turkish coast to allow for negotiations with local authorities who strongly oppose the move.
Notis Mitarakis, the migration affairs minister, said Monday the plan announced last week has been put on hold until demands by authorities on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos are discussed.
The government says it wants to replace existing overcrowded camps with closed facilities and has already issued land appropriation orders. But islanders staged protests against the proposed construction — setting up roadblocks on Lesbos — amid fears that the new sites would place an additional burden on their small communities.
Under a 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey, Lesbos and the four other islands have been used as natural barriers for migrants and refugees trying to reach the mainland of EU member Greece. That has resulted in serious overcrowding at the existing island camps and living conditions for migrants that U.N. officials have called horrific.