“We Want Our Island Back.”
Greek islanders clashed with police for the third day on Thursday over their government’s plan to build more migrant camps on their islands.
The protests mainly happened on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios, which have witnessed an unabated flow of migrants from the Middle East since the Migrant Crisis unfolded in 2015. Similar clashes on Wednesday left 60 people injured.
The protests erupted after Athens secretly shipped building material for the facilities despite widespread local opposition, media reports said. An estimated 50,000 migrants are currently camped in the Greek Islands, mainly Samos, Kos, Leros, Lesbos, and Chios. Residents of these islands have witnessed a rise of violence and crime since the migrant inflow began five years ago. Abandoned by their national government and the EU, they have taken to streets in their thousands, demanding “We Want Our Island Back.”
The Radio France International reported on the ongoing unrest in the Greek islands:
More than 1,000 people rallied on the Greek island of Lesbos on Thursday to protest against new migrant camps, a day after violent clashes left more than 60 injured, mostly police officers.
Lesbos businesses and unions called for a general strike on the island to continue, with shops shuttered for the second day in a row.
Wednesday saw violent clashes over the construction of new migrant camps on the islands of Lesbos and Chios, over the fierce opposition of local residents, with hundreds of angry islanders throwing stones at police who responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Late Wednesday, the Greek government said that hundreds of anti-riot police who had deployed to the islands to ensure the construction work could continue were leaving. (…)
“The overwhelming majority of riot police left the islands on Thursday morning,” police spokesman Thodoros Chronopoulos told AFP.
“Forty-three officers were injured slightly on Lesbos on Wednesday… but they are not in any danger,” the spokesman said. Three had foot injuries from rifles fired by local residents, he said.
After weeks of fruitless talks with island officials on where to build the new facilities, the government had on Monday secretly shipped construction machinery and hundreds of riot police to Lesbos and Chios, causing outrage.
The surging migrant wave is a breach of the 2016 EU-Turkey pact engineered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Under the deal, Brussels pledged billions of euros in return if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to stem the migrant wave flowing over from Turkey. Chancellor Merkel also agreed to fly in between 150,000 and 250,000 migrants from Turkish camps directly, German newspaper Die Welt disclosed in 2017. Merkel’s dream of settling hundreds and thousands of migrants across the EU failed in the face of still opposition from the Eastern European member states, thanks mainly to the efforts of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
The unfolding crisis in Greece is the result of the national government’s failure to secure its borders and the EU’s insistence on open borders for immigrants. The government in Athens, financially dependent on the EU since the 2008 Monetary Crisis, has shown little resistance to the wave of migrants from the Middle East overrunning the islands along the Turkish border.
“There is no alternative plan,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, admitting failure on the national television. “We have done everything to increase the returns,” he explained, pointing to the failing EU-Turkey deal, which promises the repatriation of illegals.
With the EU-Turkey deal in tatters, migrants have again started swarming on to Greek Islands. The island of Lesbos, just 10 kilometers from the Turkish coastline, is housing about 20,000 migrants. The migrant camp on the island has turned into a hotbed for crime and violence, with migrants regularly clashing with the police and security forces. “The so-called “jungle,” the newest part of the camp, sprang up just a few weeks ago and is growing like wildfire,” German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported last month.
With migrants overrunning the islands, the tourism sector has taken a big hit. The migration crisis has already shattered economies of these islands, “with the business of many hotels and restaurants falling off by more than 50% in recent years,” the Voice of America reported last week.
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