As EU leaders meet today (23 September) over the refugee crisis, they will be warned by the newly reelected Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. The xenophobic Golden Dawn party saw its number of voters significantly increased in islands hardest hit.
Golden Dawn came third in the snap elections in Athens on Sunday (20 September) scoring 7% of the vote, and securing 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament.
Almost 365,000 immigrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean since January, and more than 2,700 have lost their lives in their effort to reach Europe, according to figures recently released by the International Organization for Migration.
More than 245,000 refugees have entered Greece, especially from those islands that lie along the Turkish coastline and approximately 116,000 have reached to Italy.
Popular holiday destinations such as Lesbos and Samos have turned into a gateway for refugees fleeing war zones in the Middle East, mainly from Syria.
At the beginning of September, Kos island had already recorded 170,000 cancellations for this season which could result in 7 million losses in hotels’ turnover.
The rise of Golden Dawn
In the Lesbos region, which suffered the most severe influx of refugees, Golden Dawn increased its rate from 4,66% in January to 7.85% at the last election, numbering 1,432 more votes.
Surprisingly, although the abstention rate reached 57% in Lesbos, Golden Dawn was the only party that increased the number of its supporters there.
On the island of Kos, Golden Dawn scored 10.15%, almost doubling its rate compared to the elections in January (5.87%). In Rhodes, the far-right party increased rose from 5.8% in January to 7.94%. In Dodecanese region (‘twelve islands’) Golden Dawn rose by 2,5 percentage points, reaching 8.09% (1,479 more votes).
An expected result
Giorgos Patoulis, the president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece, told EurActiv Greece that there had been no preparation for the refugee crisis on an economic and social level.
“It is crystal clear now that extreme situations actually boost the extreme parties”, he added blaming the Syriza-led government for being totally unorganized.
He went on, saying that Migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, was doing his best to address the critical situation and urged the reelected Syriza government to take immediate measures.
Patoulis said he discussed possible solutions for the Greek islands hit by the refugee crisis in a meeting yesterday (22 September) in Brussels with the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula, and Nicolas Schmit, the Luxembourg Minister of Labour.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on 21 September his country did not receive enough assistance from the European Union to tackle the refugee influx.
"Greece is a first reception country, and Europe has unfortunately not taken steps to protect reception countries from a (migration) wave which has taken on uncontrolled dimensions," he said as he assumed his duties from Vassiliki Thanou, the country's caretaker prime minister for the past month.
"There is a need ...that Europe deal with a global, a European problem and share the responsibility among all member states," Tsipras said.