All activities stand still on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Leros as the public and private sector are holding a general strike to protest the government policy on migration and the continuous flows of refugees and migrants. Local residents and authorities and business owners have joint the strike.
Shops, public services, schools and even cafes and kiosks are closed and thousands of islandeners have flocked to main squares since early morning Wednesday.
They demand decongestion of the islands in the East Aegean Sea and oppose the government plans to build closed accommodation centers for thousands of refugees and migrants. But also the control of non-governmental organizations operating on the islands, better guarding of the borders and support for local communities with health and security structures.
Main commercial street
Municipality hall: “We want our islands back… we back our life back!!!”
Flyer by several local commercial associations calling on strike participation “wearing black.”
Protesters told reporters that they want their islands to return to normal life. some complained about the rise of criminality, others said that refugees and migrants deserve better living conditions.
Regional governors and mayors plan to travel to Athens and present their demands to the government.
There are currently about 42,000 asylum seekers on the five islands of the eastern Aegean, hosted in overcrowded facilities built for much lower numbers of people.
According to the UNHCR, nearly 75,000 people have crossed illegally to Greece from Turkey in 2019, an increase of nearly 50% from the previous year.