Poll-leading New Democracy (ND) Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday promised that relieving a handful of Greek islands that have bore the brunt of the migrant crisis in the eastern Aegean over the past four years will be a priority for a ND government, if the party wins Sunday's general election.
The center-right political leader spoke from the verdant island of Samos, which lies roughly one mile from the western coast of Turkey. Samos, along with Lesvos (Mytilene), Chios (Hios) and Leros, were the preferred destinations for migrant smuggling rings ferrying people from Turkey to the nearest EU territory, activity that cascaded into the 2015 migrant/refugee crisis in Greece and beyond.
Mitsotakis added that reducing the number of third country nationals temporarily hosted on the isles, after clandestinely arriving on Greek territory, will "be towards the correct geographical direction, in other words, towards Turkey, not towards mainland Greece".
The former minister also said it was imperative for asylum petition procedures to change, saying the current regime is extremely time-consuming.
"Such procedures must conclude very quickly, and those not granted asylum must be returned to Turkey (from where they disembarked), based on the EU-Turkey agreement," he said, while also sharply criticizing the outgoing Tsipras government for the pitiful conditions at a "hotspot" on the island.