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Evacuation rumours denied

- by Lucy Speke

Greek Islands evacuation rumours denied.

Rumours that smaller Greek Islands could be evacuated to save cash have been strongly denied by the Greek government. Claims that some of the smaller islands of Greece could be stripped of their populations has swept internet social media sites recently. Sites claimed Greek Islands with populations of fewer than 150 people were now such a burden on the state that the residents could be forced to leave.

Islands affected would have included the popular Greek holiday islands of Hydra in the Argosaronic Gulf, with a permanent population of just 43, and the tiny island of Pserimos, a favourite day trip target for holiday visitors to Kos and Kalymnos which has just 130 residents.

But the Greek government has categorically denied that the issue has ever been raised and a finance ministry announcement stated such rumours "have nothing to do with reality".

"Anyone faced with such a prospect would only consider it a joke and one in bad taste," the ministry statement added.

The rumours sprang into life after a meeting between shipping ministry officials and members of the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund which is overseeing the €325 billion rescue package for Greece.

According to news agency reports, Greek shipping ministry officials raised concerns over the coastal shipping sector and in particular the cost of maintaining ferry boat routes to some of the more remote Greek islands.

Representatives of the Greek shipping industry were reportedly told that the envoys of Greece's international lenders wanted 23 islands with fewer than 150 inhabitants to be evacuated permanently in order to reduce the cost of subsidising regular ferries there.

The Greek preventatives in the talks were quoted as saying the request was 'insane' and that the Greek government would never comply with a request that would force people out of their homes.

The report spread rapidly and set off a maelstrom of criticism on internet sites, prompting the Finance Ministry to issue an immediate denial of the story as 'plain rumours.'

Greek islands with a population of fewer than 150 residents also include islets off the Alonissos coast at Kira Panagia, with just 10 residents, as well as Peristera, 5, and Piperi, 2. The islet of Telendos, off the coast of Kalymnos, has just 54 residents as does Arkii, near Patmos, while Gavados, in the Libyan Sea off the south coast of Crete, has a population of 88.

Ferries visit these islands throughout the winter months to carry vital supplies with the cost being heavily subsidised by the Greek government. Ferry companies are often obliged to run such services in return for franchised on more lucrative routes to islands popular for Greek Island holidays.