Riots on Greek islands against prisons for refugees

During protests on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios, dozens of people were injured on Wednesday after local residents and police fought each other. Thousands of islanders are protesting against building plans for new 'closed asylum seeker camps'.

There has been concern for a long time about the arrival of these camps on the islands. The riot police would have sprayed with tear gas to drive the crowd apart. On Chios, people stormed a hotel where police officers were staying. On the island of Samos and two other Aegean islands, protests are being made against the arrival of a new camp.

The islanders call it 'prisons' and want to prevent the Greek government from transferring even more unauthorized asylum seekers to their islands. For years Lesbos and Chios have been home to tens of thousands of refugees and displaced persons. Most are from the Middle East, where they fled the ISIS caliphate in Iraq or the civil war in Syria.

The refugees have tried to travel to Europe via Turkey, and have been sailed by human smugglers with small boats from the Turkish west coast to the Greek islands. However, the Greek authorities are refusing to take the tens of thousands of refugees to mainland Greece, much to the anger of local islanders and aid workers.

The Athens government announced two weeks ago that it would accelerate the construction of secure detention centers on five Aegean islands to replace existing camps. The existing camps on the Greek islands are overcrowded. According to the government, the camps ensure a safer situation for migrants and local residents.

Greece has been suffering from a migrant crisis since 2015. The country has received more than a million refugees from the Middle East. Because the EU countries cannot or do not want to agree on the distribution of those asylum seekers, they are mainly in camps on the coasts of the southern EU countries (Greece, Italy, Spain).

A few years ago, the EU signed a billions of euros contract with Turkey whereby the EU countries 'contribute' to the reception of refugees in UN camps in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, in exchange for which Turkey is concluding the human smuggling route to the Greek islands.

The arrival and reception of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East has already led to great tensions and conflicts in Greek society in recent years. The inhabitants of the Greek mainland do not want all those foreigners to be transferred from the islands to their regions. The residents of the Greek islands, on the other hand, beg the government in Athens to do so.