MEDITERRANEAN: Mytilene Mayor reneges on promise to support Pipka welcome center for refugees; orders closure


19 September 2014
MEDITERRANEAN: Mytilene Mayor reneges on promise to support Pipka welcome center for refugees; orders closure

[Note: CPT Mediterranean’s original posting contains more information about its work with the Village of All Together on Lesvos.]

  Meeting with Mayor Galenos

On 16 September, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Mediterranean’s partner, the civil society initiative, The Village of All Together, met with Spyros Galenos, the mayor of Mytilene, on the Island of Lesvos, Greece.  They wanted to enlist the support of the mayor and to address the repeated failures of the police, coastguard, and other authorities at the Moria Reception Center to register and release migrants efficiently and to provide for their basic needs.

In the week before, the police had not processed many people, but continued to bring migrants to Pikpa without providing sleeping materials, clothes, or medical care for them.  On Monday night, around 600 people were staying in Pikpa—a place intended for 80-100.  Many slept on the grass with no protection whatsoever.

CPT Mediterranean accompanied the members of Village of All Together to the meeting in the mayor’s office.

 During the meeting, Mr. Galenos promised to support Pikpa and pressure all relevant authorities to increase the speed of registering migrants and providing for their basic care .  As a first step, he said he would order the coastguard to bring newly arriving migrants to the screening center of Moria directly to relieve Pikpa.

Later on the same day, he visited Pikpa for the first time.  He expressed surprise that despite the overcrowding at Pikpa , people were still calm and friendly.  He also shook a lot of hands and renewed his promise.

Sixty-seven refugees were 
forced to sleep in the port on 
17 September because of the
Mayor’s decision.

Then on Wednesday, in a public letter to the coast guard he reneged on his promises, ordering the permanent closure of Pikpa for newly arriving migrants and said to prepare its evacuation by the end of September.

He cited the lack hygiene and medical care at Pipka but did not acknowledge that these necessities are the responsibility of police and coastguard, who instead of dealing with them kept bringing more people to Moria.  (And see Ramyar Hassani’s piece about conditions at the center in Moria.)

CPT Mediterranean is saddened by this behavior and hopes Mr. Galenos will change his mind and live up to his promises.

The Welcome center of Pikpa and the initiative of the Village of All Together is an e example of what a humane alternative to Europe’s current militarized approach to treating migrants and refugees might look like—an alternative that is vastly less expensive and more efficient.

The hospitality provided to migrants in Pikpa is not encouraging people to come; they are fleeing war and threats of death and would come anyway.  It is but a simple gesture of the hospitality that should be granted to any human being and that the Greek Islands are known for in Europe.

We understand that the policies enacted here are only a small part of the overall makeup of the European Union’s militarization of borders and that as Greece is in an economic crisis it must follow the EU’s orders.  Still we think that official support for the work of the Village of All Together in Pikpa could be a powerful symbol against these deadly policies and could be very beneficial for the image of Mytilene, showing that it is a city that provides hospitality to tourists and refugees alike.

 Based on conversations CPTers had with local people, Pikpa has a lot of support in the community and deserves the mayor’s support as well.

CPT Mediterranean will continue to monitor the situation in Pikpa and to support the hospitality of the Village of All Together.


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