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Tension over immigrant reception center in Drama

Six people were arrested and police were seeking another nine on Tuesday following several days of vehement protests by residents and right-wing groups against a new detention center for immigrants in a town in the northern prefecture of Drama.

Dozens of residents of Paranesti and members of the Drama Patriotic Organization on Tuesday gathered outside the old military barracks for the fifth day in a row after learning that 150 migrants were to be transferred there from a reception center in Komotini which is said to be seriously overcrowded. They were relatively restrained compared to Monday, when protesters clashed with riot police guarding the facility, throwing stones and other objects at the officers as they tried to force their way into the grounds. One policeman sustained minor head injuries after being hit by a rock. Officers sought to contain the scuffles by firing liberal amounts of tear gas, causing many of those present -- including two children -- to suffer breathing problems. One man, believed to be related to the children, reportedly twice fired shots in the air from a hunting rifle in anger. The man, who reportedly has been identified, and another eight people were being sought by police on Tuesday.

In comments to reporters, the deputy mayor of Paranesti, Michalis Parloglou, did not justify the violence but said the residents’ exasperation was understandable. “It’s unacceptable to move immigrants to a military facility in the center of a village without informing local authorities,” he said.

It was unclear whether the members of the movement are allied with the far-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), as members of the party participated in a rally held on Sunday outside the facility.

The significant police presence outside the Drama military barracks is believed to have averted efforts by Golden Dawn members to exploit the frustration of local residents’ at the plans for the local center.

However debate about possible links between the police and Golden Dawn flared again on Tuesday after four leftist SYRIZA MPs submitted a question in Parliament accusing police of abusing 15 anti-establishment protesters following clashes between leftists and far-rightists in the run-down central Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas on Sunday night.

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday October 2, 2012 (21:39)  
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