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Refugee crisis hits Lesvos tourism

Greek islands hit by the refugee crisis are to get some help to tempt tourists back for their annual holidays.

The impact of the migrant crisis has had a big impact on tourist numbers for some Greek islands, especially those that lie along the Turkish coastline.

Popular Greek holidays islands such as Lesvos and Samos have become a gateway for refugees fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East.

And news reports of thousands of migrants arriving on Greek island beaches and the tension growing between refugees and Greeks has had serious consequences for tourism.

The impact of the refugee crisis on tourism was the main topic of a meeting at Greece's Ministry of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism between a number of national and regional tourism leaders.

Now the Greek Tourism Ministry and the Greek tourist board GNTO are to launch targeted promotional campaign to try and attract more holidaymakers back to those islands hardest hit by the refugee crisis.

Islands such as Lesvos have seen tourist numbers plunge as news reports tell of clashes been local Greeks, refugees and police as tensions build over the handling of migrants and the sheer scale of the problem.

Lesvos tourism officials claim six cruise ships with about 5,000 passengers have recently cancelled their calls to the Lesvos holiday resort ports of Mytilini and Molyvos, citing concern at the refugee crisis.

Island tourism professionals warn that the crisis has not only been a serious blow to the local economy this summer, but they also fear that the island's tourist reputation could be damaged for years to come.

More than 230,000 people have landed on Greek island shores this year and the numbers have soared in recent weeks as refugees take advantage of the calm summer weather, crossing from Turkey on flimsy boats.

It is thought that Lesvos is currently home to around 85,000 refugees, mainly Syrian migrants, with the island unable to cope with processing numbers on such a scale.

Fresh clashes erupted between police and refugees on Lesvos this week. A dozen riot police armed with batons struggled to control some 2,500 migrants in Mytilini as crowds surged towards a government-chartered ferry bound for Athens.

Other islands in the Aegean Sea, such as Kos, Samos and Leros continue to be inundated by arrivals at the rate of more than 2,000 a day. Kos, like Lesvos, has seen growing friction between the migrants and island residents.

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