Prefabricated container homes have been offloaded on Lesbos after being stuck in the port since Monday. Local authorities and residents had protested against further migrant housing on the island.
Local authorities and residents on Lesbos have finally lifted a blockade against the delivery of 50 shipping container homes to the refugee reception and processing center at Moria amid an ugly war of words between Lesbos mayor Spyros Galinos and the government. A delivery of the prefab units had been stranded on a ferry at the port since Monday morning after the municipal authority ordered its rubbish trucks to form a blockade to prevent the government-chartered vessel from offloading the cargo.
Residents promised containers would not be 'new facilities'
Galinos and Lesbos residents strongly oppose the construction of any new facilities on the island, calling on the state to speed up the transfer of migrants from hugely overcrowded and squalid camps on the Eastern Aegean islands to the mainland. But finally, the blockade was lifted late on Tuesday with the government promising that the containers would be used for existing facilities at Moria to replace the summer tents in preparation for the colder winter months.
Mayor and central government trade accusations
The Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras, however, delivered a verbal broadside to Galinos, releasing a media statement which said: "Instead of trying to exploit an extremely difficult situation politically, it would be preferable and more useful for the local community to function as appropriate to its institutional role and the responsibility it entails."
The statement went on to say that from October 16 to December 10, a total of 5,701 refugees were transferred to the mainland, of whom 3,589 were from Lesbos, while the operation "continues at an intensive pace."
"Those who are interested in improving refugee living conditions at the hot spots should not prevent actions to replace tents and huts with proper shelter within the existing facilities; and they should not ignore that a huge decongestion operation is underway on all the islands affected by the refugee and migratory crisis, as per the framework of the EU-Turkey agreement", the statement continued.
Galinios countered, saying the statement was made to distract from his own outspoken criticism of Yiannis Mouzalas, Minister of Migration. "Living conditions for refugees and migrants on the island are tragic, and this is the responsibility of Mr. Mouzalas," Galinos told radio station Thema 104,6FM. "What's happening is simply psychological warfare. They are trying to paint a picture that we are the bad guys of the situation, blocking their efforts to do good."