A group of residents on the eastern Aegean island of Chios have blocked the road leading to a refugee hot spot to protest its further expansion as tensions in and around camps across the country have intensified in recent weeks.
The roadblock set up by the group near the Halkeios hot spot prevented the delivery of containers transporting 10 small kiosks to house the services of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which is responsible for processing asylum applications on the island. People visiting the camp were forced to do so on foot.
Despite reassurances by local authorities that the kiosks were not intended to house more migrants, protesters refused to open up the road, which they intend to block on a 24-hour basis with rotating shifts.
With thousands of migrants stranded on the Greek islands for more than a month, authorities are growing increasingly concerned with increased tensions, as exemplified by the violent clashes between riot police units and migrants at a hot spot on Lesvos earlier in the week.
The deal signed last month between the EU and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe has indeed reduced arrivals, but Greece is now grappling with hosting asylum applicants for the long term rather than waving them through.
As a result of the deal, most migrants at hot spots on Chios are allowed to circulate freely – as long they have been on the island for more than 25 days – until their asylum application is processed.
Authorities say this has had a positive effect on the refugees, but locals have complained of a spike in thefts and damage to farm crops. There are some 2,000 refugees stranded on Chios.
According to the latest official figures there are 53,717 migrants and refugees stranded in Greece.
At the port of Piraeus there are 2,732 despite the government’s pledge to evacuate the refugees before Easter.
The government’s migration spokesman Giorgos Kyritsis said he was satisfied with the transfer rate of migrants from the port and said efforts will continue “until it is completely evacuated.”
Meanwhile, migrants at the sprawling border camp of Idomeni in northern Greece are still refusing to move to other centers with better living conditions – still hoping that the border of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will open.
Five transfer buses remained parked outside the camp on Thursday as migrants refused to board.