Authorities on the Greek island of Lesbos say at least 10 people were hospitalised and more than 100 detained following a violent protest against migrants who had been camped out at the island’s main port for five days. Police cleared the square at the main port of Mytilene early on Monday following the night-long standoff. Local protesters hurled flares and fire crackers at the migrants and set fire to trash bins.
State television, quoting hospital officials, said most of the injured were migrants and that none of the cases was serious. The protest by asylum-seekers began after a high court ruled last week that migrants arriving on Greek islands from Turkey could travel to the Greek mainland while their asylum applications were being processed. The ruling does not have retroactive effect, meaning that migrants already there not be allowed to leave.
Before the clashes, the island’s mayor Spyros Galinos had renewed a plea to the government to reduce high levels of overcrowding at camps on Lesbos and other islands. “There are 10,000 asylum-seekers and our (municipality) has a population of 27,000. Our island once again has been held hostage,” the mayor wrote in a letter to the Greek ministers of migration affairs and public order. “Lesbos can’t take this any longer.”
The governing left-wing Syriza party said extreme right “thugs” had been behind the overnight attacks. “This was a well-organized action, with murderous intent, by specific extreme right, criminal and hooligan elements that have nothing to do with the island or its traditions,” the party statement said.