ATTICA, GREECE – The mayor of the Greek island of Kos on Sunday called on the government to abandon its plans to build a migrant registration center as demanded by the EU, warning that local opposition could lead to “uncontrollable” protests.
“There is a present danger that we will mourn victims and be led to uncontrollable situations,” Kos Mayor Yiorgos Kyritsis said in a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, made public by the state agency ANA.
Three locals were hurt this week in a scuffle with riot police near the area chosen to build the migrant center, or hotspot, including a journalist covering the protest, who was later detained.
The government reacted by sending extra riot police to the island, which Kyritsis said was a mistake.
“I call on the prime minister to order to withdraw the riot police units to de-escalate tension,” he said.
A police union also criticized the move, claiming that units were facing angry islanders armed with hunting rifles and dynamite.
“Four of our colleagues have been hurt so far in the attacks,” the POASY police union said, a detail not divulged by the authorities so far.
Under European pressure to improve migrant controls at Greece’s maritime borders with Turkey, Tsipras’ government has pledged to complete hotspots on Kos and another four islands by mid-February.
The islands of Lesbos, Leros, Samos and Chios have accepted the challenge, but Kos authorities have been opposed from the start, arguing that the long-term presence of migrants will undermine the tourism industry, which is the island’s main source of income.
Kos officials have proposed creating a facility to register migrants but want them to leave the island immediately afterward.
Government officials say the protests are being motivated by a minority on the island backed by far-right hardliners.
“The mayor is neither smarter nor a greater patriot than other mayors,” Interior Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis told Real FM radio on Sunday.