The parliament in Athens has pushed through a law aimed at restoring order on the Aegean islands. The laws puts restrictions on non-government organizations, which have been accused of inciting migrants to stage violent protests.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday that NGOs will no longer be allowed to "operate unchecked" and in future they would be "strictly vetted," the Greek newspaper, Proto Thema, reports.
Speaking at a celebration for the centenary of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Mitsotakis said "Most NGOs do a great job. They are helpful in tackling the problem. But we know, we know it, beyond any doubt, that there are some who do not fulfill the role they are claiming. We will not tolerate this anymore."
NGOs providing medical, legal and other assistance to migrants on the Greek Aegean islands include Oxfam, the Danish Refugee Council, Doctors of the World, European Lawyers in Lesbos, Terre des Hommes, Refugee Support Aegean, Medecins Sans Frontieres and others.
The prime minister's remarks came after the deputy migration minister, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, told Proto Thema Radio that the NGOs had sprung up "like mushrooms after the rain." "Some behave like bloodsuckers," he said.
Inciting migrant protests
Koumoutsakos accused some of the organizations operating on the islands, where tens of thousands of migrants are stranded after arriving from Turkey, of abusing the volatile situation to get money directly from the European Union.
The deputy migration minister also suggested that some NGOs had incited thousands of migrants on Lesbos to hold a protest, which ended with police firing tear gas to disperse the people occupying the island capital Mytilini.
The government began transferring refugees from the overcrowded islands to the Greek mainland last year, but an estimated 42,000 people continue to suffer in squalid and unsafe conditions in and around the island camps.
Last week, the Greek government opened a tender for the construction of a floating barrier off Lesbos aimed at deterring migrants from crossing from the Turkish coast, which is about 10-12 kilometers away.