Police forced dozens of migrants, most Afghan asylum-seekers, who had been camped out on the main square of Lesvos island’s capital since last week, onto buses and transported them to the Moria camp in the early hours of Monday after downtown Mytilini turned into a battleground on Sunday.
The operation was intended to end clashes that raged all night in the center of the eastern Aegean island’s capital after a group of some 200 men chanting far-right slogans attacked the migrants who had been squatting on the square since last Wednesday in protest at their detention in Moria camp and delays in asylum processing.
The attack started at around 8 p.m. in the wake of a gathering of several hundred people at a flag ceremony in support of two Greek soldiers who have been in a prison in Turkey since early March, when some 200 men from that group tried to break through a police cordon guarding the protesting migrants on Sapphous Square.
Shouting “burn them alive” and other such curses, the hooligans threw flares, squibs, stones broken off the square’s pavement and planters, as well as bottles and other projectiles at the migrants, who formed a defensive circle around the women and children to protect them.
The cordon, meanwhile, was strengthened by leftwing activists on the island who came to the defense of the asylum-seekers and sought to chase off the attackers.
According to ANA-MPA, a website post brought more far-right supporters to the square, increasing the intensity of the violence, as they attacked the migrants with more flares and squibs, appearing to target the women and children in particular.
By around 1 a.m., the clashes had spread to the waterfront and Town Hall, as the hooligans set fire to garbage bins and attacked police with makeshift projectiles.
The clashes ended with the operation to evacuate the migrants off Sapphous Square and move them back to the Moria reception and processing center where they had originally come from. The facility is being guarded by a heavy police presence amid fears of more tension.
Several migrants were injured in the attack and are being treated at the local hospital, according to ANA-MPA, which did not release any additional details.