Tensions bubbled to the surface at a reception center on Chios on Wednesday when migrants angrily protested against the slow processing of asylum applications, damaging the offices of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) just two days after similar unrest on Lesvos.
The upheaval underscored the problem of overcrowding at centers on five eastern Aegean islands where more than 15,000 migrants are awaiting the outcome of asylum applications or deportation. Most of the camps are packed to double their maximum capacity, fueling frustration and frequent protests.
Wednesday’s unrest on Chios was reportedly started by four Syrian refugees who began banging on the windows of the EASO to protest delays in the asylum process. The unrest quickly spread until most of the center’s residents were protesting, some causing damage, and riot police officers were called in to restore calm.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the situation on the islands and at mainland camps. Meanwhile Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, who some believe will lose his job in an upcoming reshuffle, on Wednesday expressed the fear that Turkey might not honor an agreement with the European Union to crack down on human smuggling across the Aegean, leading to a renewed influx of migrants through Greece.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that he was aware of the critical situation in Greece but noted that arrivals of undocumented migrants in the country had dropped by 98 percent since last year.