By John Carr
Businesses on three major Greek islands closed their doors today to join a mass protest against a constant influx of migrants which they claim has overwhelmed the local economies.
Shops and services on Lesbos, Samos and Chios closed for 24 hours, while thousands, many carrying Greek flags, gathered in the main square of Mytilene on Lesbos. They called on the government here in Athens to scrap plans to house the migrants in more permanent quarters, claiming it will only encourage more to come.
Already Lesbos has more than 20,000 migrants huddled in makeshift camps, a population almost as large as that of the island itself. Many locals blame the migrants for heightened crime, and farmers claim their sheep are being stolen. Generally, they say, the islands’ resources are simply not enough to support the newcomers.
Last week the Greek government upgraded its migrant and refugee administration to full ministry status. But that has not mollified the islanders, who fear that the government is unwilling to exercise stricter border controls and send back to Turkey those ineligible for political asylum.
The number of Greek flags among the protesters in Mytilene today also signals that many Greeks fear being swamped by people of another culture, especially Muslims. They feel a sort of existential threat. And as long as Greece remains a magnet for the dispossessed of Western Asia, that sentiment can be expected to grow.