On 29 and 30 March, Commissioner Johansson went to Greece to visit the Greek islands of Lesvos and Samos to meet with Greek authorities and the camps’ residents and discuss the progress on the construction of new reception centers, in order to be ready before the next winter.
During her mission, Commissioner Johansson engaged not only with politicians, but also with the camps’ residents, the local communities and NGOs working on the ground, to listen and speak with them personally. Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, as well as members of the Task Force for Migration Management, joined the Commissioner on her visit.
On the first day, the Commissioner visited the Vathy reception centre on Samos and the temporary facility on Lesvos, where reception conditions remain below EU standards. She met with NGOs and international organisations that, together with the Greek authorities and EU support, undertake efforts to improve the situation and engaged with the residents to listen to their stories and their experience in the centres.
Speaking with residents at the Vathy reception centre, Samos
Both Lesvos and Samos islands are in preparation of the construction of new multi-purpose reception centres, that will ensure:
better living conditions
decongestion of the temporary facility on Lesvos and the existing Vathy reception centre on Samos
end to overcrowding and better managed migration on the islands
All the above will also allow a sustainable way forward for the local communities at the EU external border.
Commissioner Johansson spoke with Mr Stantzos, Mayor of Samos, and Mr Verros, Mayor of West Lesvos and interacted with locals on both islands to understand and listen to their concerns.
Commissioner Johansson, together with Minister Mitarachi, meeting Samos Mayor Strantzos
During talks, local inhabitants:
expressed their concerns on the building of the new reception centres, and their fear to be confronted with a reception crisis as has happened in the past.
requested support to revive the local economy and communities
Commissioner Johannson indicated the importance of European support to the region and to the Greek authorities for improving conditions on the islands, both for migrants and local communities, and underlined the new reception centres’ role in better managing migration.
Finally, Commissioner Johansson inspected the progress of ongoing works of the new multi-purpose reception centre at Samos, the first new reception centre on the Aegean islands.
During her second day, Commissioner Johansson met with Prime Minister Mitsotakis, to discuss the importance for making fast progress on the Asylum and Migration Pact. The Prime Minister declared full support for finishing the new reception centre in Lesvos on time. The Commissioner also met with several ministers to discuss the various aspects of migration management in Greece, which would be further supported and enhanced in its effectiveness through the new Pact on Asylum and Migration.
Commissioner for Home affairs, Ylva Johansson and the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis
During talks, the Commissioner emphasised that new reception centres are a key element to accomplish a better managed migration on the islands, with dignified conditions for arriving migrants, and an improved situation for the local communities. It is essential for these centres to be ready before the next winter.
In the context of the visit, on 30 March, the Commission awarded the grant of €155 million to the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum to build new reception centres on Lesvos and Chios. This award complements the grant agreement of €121 million already granted last year for the construction of the smaller centres on the islands of Samos, Kos and Leros
On this occasion, Commissioner Johansson marked:
“Spring is the best time to prepare for winter. With this award decision, the Commission provides the necessary funding to set up new reception centres with acceptable standards on a reasonable timetable. These are facilities that will not be closed, they will be humane, and allow for areas for families and vulnerable people.”