Showing growing frustration with a detention center on their island, a growing number of parents on Samos are keeping their children out of primary school to protest the admission of refugee and migrant children.
Media reports said that 106 out of 150 pupils at the Ano Vatheos school did not attend with parents extending their boycott in complaint of what they said would be exposing their children to health risks with the camps said to be a fertile ground for diseases.
The Education Ministry accused the parents of trying “to cultivate a climate of racism and xenophobia,” although residents and officials on the island within sight of Turkey, which has been allowing human traffickers to work during a suspended refugee swap deal with the European Union, said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA is doing too little to help.
In February, more than 2500 people on the island protested the refugee center that was meant to house 650 but has more than 3,685 that residents want shut down.
Businesses and other organizations want the refugees and migrants who were sent to the island by human traffickers in Turkey, the first destination as they fled war and strife in the Middle East and elsewhere, moved to the mainland.
There are more than 15,000 on Aegean islands, including Lesbos and Chios and others and some have been transferred but the government said it can’t do mass movements without violating the terms of the swap deal that has seen only a relative handful returned to Turkey and most others seeking asylum.
Fearing being sent back to Turkey or their own countries, especially a civil war that hit Syria, most are seeking asylum in Greece after the European Union closed its borders to them and reneged on promises to help take some of the overload.
Human rights groups and activists have repeatedly said the detention centers and camps aren’t suitable for people to live in and on Samos, municipal officials and residents have Dozens of camp residents took part in peaceful protest rallies in recent months calling for better shelters – most are staying in summer tents – sanitation and safety, but mainly to be transferred to the mainland.