The Mayor of Lesvos Spyros Galinos gave a stern response to Austria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sebastian Kurz, underlining that the Aegean island will not “be turned into a second Alcatraz” in an interview published in Die Presse.
Mr. Galinos responded to provocative statements of the Austrian Minister, who suggested that refugees and migrants be kept on Greek islands, similar to Australia’s model. Australia has frequently been blasted for human rights violations over detaining migrants offshore and attempting to resettle refugees in poorer counties.
In his interview, Galinos explained that the island of Lesvos is part of Europe’s eastern border and is a part of an independent and sovereign Greece, with 85,000 residents on its 1,600 square kilometers and thousands of years of cultural tradition.
“The Austrian Minister’s proposals are unacceptable, insulting and slander my island” argued Galinos, adding that the aim is to convert Lesvos and Greece into a “warehouse of souls”. Mr. Galinos also pointed out that the Austrian Minister is inconsistent, as he appears to ‘warn Turkey’ over ‘blackmailing’ and at the same timie threatens to send ‘illegal immigrants’ over there.
According to the mayor, the recent EU-Turkey agreement has “made everything worse” for the island residents and likened the situation to a “powder keg”, explaining that there were “no problems” last year when hundreds of thousands of refugees passed through the island.