A new camp for migrants and asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesbos has been given the green light by the local authority after a fiery meeting that lasted more than two days.
The municipal council of Mytilene first convened at 9.30 pm on Wednesday, April 7, to discuss previously approved plans to build a new facility in the remote location of Vastria.
The first session closed at 2 am. The marathon session then continued into Friday night before a vote was taken.
Instead of approving the out-of-town Vastria facility as expected, representatives voted in favour of a second option: to create a new structure with an expected capacity of 3,000, without a specific set location.
The same proposal included the immediate closure of all other facilities in the city of Mytilene that currently house and support migrants and refugees.
The meeting came days after a visit to the island by European Union home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.
She’s pledged the EU would give a total of €276 million for the renovation and construction of migrant camps on Greek islands, an additional €155 million for reception centres on Lesbos and Chios.
Johansson and Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi also toured the temporary camp on Lesbos that was set up after the devastating fire at Moria camp in September 2020.
The camp at Tara Kepe has been dubbed “Moria 2.0” by some observers due to the level of overcrowding and squalid conditions. The site on the Mediterranean coast was built to house just 650 people. But more than 6,000 people are currently living in tents, exposed to storms and flooding, and have complained about the lack of sanitation and electricity.
During the visit, the commissioner put the total number of migrants and refugees currently on the Greek islands as somewhere below 40,000.
In February, Mytilene council also approved the construction of a new reception and identification centre for new arrivals in a similarly close vote of 16 to 15.
Proposals for new facilities on Lesbos have been met with strong push-back from locals. Protests took place in front of the regional governor’s office during the Commissioner’s visit last week.
During the latest meeting of Mytilene council, some representatives said they had been targeted on social media by anguished residents who called them “traitors”.
Licensing and the tender for the facility’s construction are expected to get underway later this month.