Riot Police Dispatched to Greek Islands As Govt Constructs New Migrant Camp

27 Février, 2020, 10:06 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Local protesters clash with police on Greek islands

Clashes have broken out overnight on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios, where residents tried to prevent the arrival of riot police and excavating machines to be used to build migrant detention camps.

Officers fired tear gas when people tried to block equipment heading to new construction sites.

The regional governor's office has called a 24-hour strike, rejecting the government's plans to build the new camps to replace now overcrowded facilities where asylum-seekers live in dire conditions.

On Chios, hundreds gathered in a protest at the main square of the island's capital.

In addition to Lesbos and Chios, Greek authorities plan to construct closed detention facilities on Samos, Kos and Leros.

Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, Greek head of the International Rescue Committee, said the tensions should be no surprise, adding that overcrowding "is good for no one; local communities feel their islands have been transformed into giant prisons, while asylum seekers are forced to live in unsafe conditions".

"We want our islands back" is the motto of the protests, as well as: "The islands must stop being the camp of lost souls".

Greece remains the European Union's busiest entry point for refugees and migrants, with almost 4,000 making the winter crossing from Turkey to Greek islands this year through February 16, according to data from the United Nations refugee agency.

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"That's very important and we have to fight the smugglers, the criminals who organize illegal immigration and we should should protect the European Union from illegal immigration".

Work on the new camps on Lesbos and Chios, with a capacity of up to 7,000 each, is to begin this week.

The government says that the new camps, where entry and exit will be tightly controlled, will actually address most of the islanders' concerns by ending a now "chaotic" situation.

"We are creating 20,000 places of hospitality on the islands when today there are over 42,000", migration minister Notis Mitarachi told Skai radio.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the weekend insisted that the plan would go ahead despite local opposition.

After weeks of fruitless talks with local officials, the government on Monday secretly shipped construction machinery and hundreds of riot police to Lesbos and Chios, causing outrage.

"There is a limit to our patience", said one villager, Stratos Paspalas, a retired butcher.

A police spokesman said more than 1,000 people were at the site and claimed they had thrown stones at officers, smashing their helmets.

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