There is one thing that everyone agrees on, from left to far right. We don’t want a big refugee camp here. If you list all the people who live here on Lesbos and ask if they want to build a new refugee camp here, everyone will say no, says Arifele Ciotelli, a local politician in Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, on the eastern side of the island.
On the other side of the sea is TurkeyAnd, in front of us, as we sat in a cafe in the port, we were wearing big gray ships from Frontex, the border guard force of the European Union.
Ariflei Qotelli’s view comes from the left, it mainly belongs to those who have a more welcoming view of immigrants and refugees here.
During the refugee crisis a few years ago, we got out in boats and pulled people half of them drowned. We gave them clothes, food and drink, and we struggled to have a place to live.
She says there are still many Lesbos who help refugees and migrants, while there are others who don’t want to see any migrants here at all. But what unites everyone, regardless of the underlying position, is that no one believes that immigrants should stay here on the island. Today, there are about 7,000 asylum seekers here, at most there are more than 20,000 asylum seekers.
The European Union is currently discussing a new model for solving the immigration problem to Europe. The proposal by Commissioner Elva Johansson aims to speed up asylum application procedures and provide a more equitable distribution of the burden, but negotiations appear to be slow.
Meanwhile, plans are underway to build new, modern, and immigrant facilities on five Greek islands, including Lesbos.
Therefore, Greece received about 250 million euros. For Ariveli Kyotelli, this could mean establishing the permanent island of Lesbos as a reception center for immigrants wishing to go to Europe, which she considers unacceptable.
– It is no longer a matter of helping us for a limited time, it is now up to us as an island to be instruments of immigration policy in the European Union. Going forward, regardless of the refugee crisis that occurs, it will be dealt with with the help of the migrant camps that will be built here, says Ariflei Kotelli.
This is what sparks more She says that a lot at the same time, there are countries within the European Union that do not want to bear their share of the responsibility. For these countries, the immigration charter provides a way out, where they can pay to avoid receiving immigrants.
– He made us so angry. Here we took the burden off all of Europe, and now the European Union is coming and throwing money at us to set up internment camps for the refugees, says Ariflei Qotelli.
To the west on the island, in Kalloni in two other municipalities on Lesbos, the right-wing politician Taxiarchis Verros rules. For him, the opposition to immigration here is rooted largely in the damage Lesbos did as a tourist.
Can you imagine, he says, that we wish the total number of tourists this year to reach 20-30 thousand tourists, there are many who come in one day to Crete and Rhodes.
Although the refugee camps on Lesbos are generally much closer to the capital Mytilene on the eastern side, Taxiarchis Verros thinks its part of the island has been affected the most. Because when tourists stopped coming due to the migrant crisis, Mytilene residents were able to support themselves on the economy that arose around immigration, coffee shops served volunteers with colorful shirts and landlords could earn money by renting to NGOs.
In fact, rents rose faster in Mytilene last year than anywhere else in Greece.
He says all contributions from the state and the European Union are pouring into Mytilene, while Calone, which is totally dependent on tourism, is completely without it. And when Immigration Commissioner Elva Johansson visited Lesbos earlier this spring, Taxiarchis Verros took the opportunity to express his opinion on the matter.
I told her that when it comes to the immigration point of view, Greece and the Greek government are far from us – and the European Union is far from us. Nobody was bothered by our problems before.