A large fire was sweeping through a refugee and migrant processing camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Monday night, destroying tents and prefabricated homes, and prompting the evacuation of the facility’s estimated 4,000 residents. No one was injured.
Authorities have not ruled out that the blaze at the Moria hot spot may have been started by migrants frustrated by long delays in processing procedures, as it began shortly after a group of around 300 residents of the camp returned with a police escort from a rally organized by locals calling on the government to reduce the number of migrants and refugees staying there.
Tension also ran high at the rally, which was attended by some 500 local residents, as well as by a few dozen ultra-nationalists protesting the migrants’ presence on the island. Local media reported that a group of around 15 men chanting anti-migrant slogans physically assaulted three female university students at the rally, one of whom is known as a volunteer who works with migrants.
Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos was reportedly verbally attacked by the ultra-nationalists, who appeared at the rally as part of a group calling itself the “Patriotic Movement of Lesvos.” Galinos was addressing the protesters when the ultra-nationalists started shouting “throw them in the sea,” before they turned their vitriol on the official.
The events on Lesvos mirror similar violence last week on the island of Chios by ultra-nationalists who gate-crashed a protest rally calling for more action from Athens to manage more than 13,500 refugees and migrants who are trapped on just five islands in the eastern Aegean.