The Greek Police (ELAS) has sent additional officers to the eastern Aegean island of Kos to help deal with a burgeoning migrant crisis there which escalated into violent clashes Tuesday.
ELAS chief Dimitris Tsaknakis has dispatched 12 officers from the force’s immigration unit to the island, including one Arab-speaking employee, to help accelerate the process of identifying some 7,000 immigrants there, most believed to be Syrian.
Local authorities allocated a municipal gymnasium and an old soccer field for officers to interview the immigrants and issue them with documents allowing them to remain in the country for six months. The officers arrived on the island on Monday and had interviewed around 750 migrants by late last night, a police source told Kathimerini.
The process of identifying the arrivals was brusquely interrupted Tuesday when a fracas broke out between migrants and police officers as the former were being transferred to the old soccer stadium. Police used truncheons and even fire extinguishers to keep back the immigrants in an apparent bid to avert a stampede amid a crush to enter the stadium.
Responding to the rising tensions, ELAS ordered two riot police units to be flown to the island on a C-130 military transport aircraft. Tsaknakis also ordered the transfer of some 250 additional officers to be stationed on Kos and other islands in the eastern Aegean such as Lesvos and Samos which have been besieged by large numbers of immigrants.
Kos Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis said local authorities were overwhelmed and warned of “bloodshed if the situation degenerates.”