NEWS

Tension building on Lesvos as residents react to migrant rally

TAGS: Migration, Protest

Residents on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Tuesday barged into the General Secretariat for Aegean and Island policy in the capital of Mytilini to demand a response from Athens to overcrowding at the Moria refugee and migrant camp following tension the previous day at a rally by camp residents protesting substandard living conditions and asylum processing delays.

The sitin at the government office came just hours after a tense community meeting on Monday night that was attended by Northern Aegean Regional Governor Kostas Moutzouris and Mytilini Mayor Stratis Kytelis, where island residents expressed their frustration at the slow pace of measures to address mounting problems at the camp, which led to Monday’s march of some 2,000 refugees and migrants to the island capital. The rally became violent when riot police prevented the protesters from marching into the town Mytilini.

Following Monday’s meeting with residents and local authorities, Moutzouris contacted Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis in Athens to relay demands for more police. The request was answered, and two riot units are expected to arrive on the island on Tuesday night, in addition to two units that were dispatched on Sunday to respond to Monday’s planned rally.

“I’ll admit that I’m not optimistic,” the regional governor said in comments to the press after the meeting, however. “The numbers don’t add up. Given the 25,000 people trapped in open and closed centers and the inflows that are not stopping, I’m sorry, I cannot be optimistic and expect a solution.

“Things are said all the time and promises are made that are not kept. The migrants are people who are suffering; they have crossed seas and oceans for a better life and are now trapped on Lesvos. Coupled with the appalling living conditions, it is a situation that creates anger and desperation,” Moutzouris added.

Monday’s rally was organized in protest at conditions at the Moria camp and the neighboring makeshift spill-over camp known as the Olive Grove (Elaionas), but also new asylum regulations introduced by the government that will temporarily freeze the course of applications by hundreds refugees and migrants who have already been trapped at the camp for several months.

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