Residents have fought riot police with wooden sticks and set up flaming barricades on the roads in an attempt to halt the construction of new migrant detention centres on two Greek islands.
At least 500 people on Lesbos and Chios – including regional governor Kostas Moutzouris and West Lesbos mayor Taxiarchis Verros – clashed with riot police last night and into this morning. On Lesbos locals attempted to stop authorities unloading excavation machines from ferries which will be used to construct refugee camps.
Riot police marched in formation and used tear gas and flash grenades on residents. At least three people on Chios, including the mayor and a priest, were rushed to hospital last night after suffering breathing difficulties due to the toxic fumes.
Horrified at the treatment of residents, labour unions on Lesbos called for an island-wide strike today. Further protests are expected in the coming hours.
The islands are at the centre of the Greek migrant crisis, as a first stop for many migrants travelling to Europe from Asia and the Middle East. Residents have called for detention centres to be built on the mainland, but the newly-elected Greek government has promised to build them on the islands.
Residents fought riot police on Chios and Lesbos last night as they tried to halt construction of a migrant camp. A resident is pictured above hitting a police officer with a wooden stick
Locals pictured fighting Greek riot police near the village of Karava, Lesbos, early this morning. Regional governor Kostas Moutzouris and West Lesbos mayor Taxiarchis Verros joined the protesters
At least one protester was injured. Three others – including the mayor and a priest – were hospitalised in Chios with breathing problems after police used tear gas to disperse demonstrations
At least 500 protesters descended on the port in Lesbos last night in an attempt to stop authorities offloading excavation machines which will be used to build the new camp
Flaming barricades were also erected on roads to impede the police convoy’s progress. Pictured near Karava, Lesbos
Riot police strike protesters with batons as they disperse a rally in Diavolorema, on Lesbos, this morning. Demonstrators want camps built on the mainland but the Greek government has promised to build them on the islands
Footage shows Greek riot police firing tear gas at protesters as they march along the island’s roads with excavation equipment this morning. They are also shown marching past burning barricades.
In one clip an old man is shown facing down the police and arguing with them, before they turn backwards.
Pictures from last night show tear gas clouds floating through the streets in Lesbos as protesters are dispersed by riot police.
Rows of police officers are also shown coming off the government-chartered ferry carrying the excavation equipment as it arrives on the mainland.
Horrified at the scale of the violence overnight, local unions have called for crippling strikes on Tuesday.
‘Nobody should go to work, nobody should go to school, no shop should open,’ Lesbos’s central labour force announced, reports The Guardian.
‘We call on all workers, the people of Lesbos, bodies and associations to stand against government plans to turn our island, and other Aegean islands, into a vast prison of human souls.’
Horrified at riot police using tear gas on citizens last night, the Chios labour union called for an island-wide strike today. Above is a police officer next to a fire near the port of Mytilene, Lesbos
‘We understand that there is a problem of trust that was created over the previous years,’ government spokesman Stelios Petsas told state-run TV. ‘But the closed facilities will be built and we are calling on the public to support this.’
He argued authorities could not impose any order on the migration situation on the islands without the camps.
The Greek head of the International Rescue Committee, Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, told the BBC that overcrowding ‘is good for no one’. ‘Local communities feel their islands have been transformed into giant prisons,’ she said, ‘while asylum seekers are forced to live in dangerous conditions’.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was elected in July, has pledged to build new camps to replace the overcrowded facilities on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos.
A total of 42,568 migrants are currently on the island and 19,000 are housed at Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, which was designed to accommodate 3,000.
The UN’s high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, recently called for conditions in Greek camps to be improved.
The five island’s are the busiest entry point for illegal migration in the European Union with most arrivals occurring on eastern Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast. Under a 2016 agreement backed and funded by the EU, the movement of migrants is restricted to those islands until their asylum claims are processed.
Nearly 60,000 migrants and refugees arrived on Greek islands last year, almost double the number recorded in 2018, according to the U.N. refugee agency.