Clashes have broken out on Greece’s islands of Lesbos and Chios over new facilities
Clashes have broken out on Greece’s islands of Lesbos and Chios as Greek citizens faced off with riot police amid attempts to block the construction of new migrant camps in their areas.
Residents tried to prevent the arrival of excavating machines to be used to build more refugee detention camps.
Locals also attempted to block riot police from accessing the sites to disperse protesters, leading to violent face-offs.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds that started gathering early Tuesday to prevent the ships from docking.
The government says it will move ahead with plans to build the new facilities on appropriated land, despite fierce opposition from residents.
Officials have promised to replace the existing camps where conditions of severe overcrowding have worsened in recent months and violent crime continues to spiral.
Many island residents and the local authorities vehemently oppose the plan.
They argue that the migrants and asylum seekers should be moved to the Greek mainland.
Earlier this week, protest groups on three eastern Greek islands started setting up blockades aimed at stopping the government from building the new migrant detention centers.
The groups on Lesbos, Chios, and Samos have received broad support on the islands including from municipal authorities and farming associations.
The government says it is determined to build detention centers on recently appropriated land.
Officials announced that construction would resume Monday after a brief break for consultation.
But many islanders fear that new facilities will only increase the number of migrants and refugees.
The government has previously failed to deliver on a pledge to ease overcrowding over the winter months.
“We are guarding the (appropriated) area, and if they start building, everyone here and from the surrounding villages will join the protest — because we don’t want this,” Stephanos Apostolou, a protest organizer and municipal council member from the village of Mandamos on Lesbos, told The Associated Press.
In September last year, protesting migrants set fire to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos following violent clashes with police.
Authorities say the overcrowded camp was burned down by migrant protesters.
Police confirmed that at least one person was been killed in the blaze after a burned body was taken to a local hospital.
Officials said they had found the charred remains of an Afghan woman after the blaze erupted inside a container used to house refugees at the Moria reception center.
The fire was eventually extinguished by plane.
“The situation was totally out of control,” said the local police chief, Vasillis Rodopoulos, describing the melee sparked by the fire.
“Their behavior was very aggressive, they wouldn’t let the fire engines pass to put out the blaze, and for the first time they were shouting: kill police.”