Tensions simmer on Lesvos after migrant riot

Tensions simmer on Lesvos after migrant riot

Aid groups and local authorities expressed concern about the situation on Lesvos on Thursday after a riot broke out at a reception center for migrants in the area of Moria near the island’s main port, leaving several people injured and widespread damage at the camp.

The upheaval began shortly before midnight following a disagreement between Pakistani and Afghan residents of the camp, according to local reports. The brawl is said to have been sparked by a trivial issue, the charging of a mobile phone, but quickly escalated, with rioters setting fire to blankets and tents in the camp.

Some migrants wielded knives and iron bars in the fracas, which left 15 people with minor injuries and resulted in another four going to a local hospital with head injuries.

Hundreds of migrants, chiefly women and children, were evacuated from the camp during the upheaval on Wednesday night. Most had returned to the camp by late Thursday night but scores stayed in the surrounding fields, apparently reluctant to return, sources said.

The island’s mayor, Spyros Galinos, told Kathimerini that more such upheaval was likely as many migrants are getting restless. “There’s a lot of irritability in the Moria center,” he said. “Those who are in there are exhausted. We warned the government about this a while ago,” he added.

Galinos also expressed fears about local residents reacting negatively to such incidents, noting that recent thefts in the area had created bad feeling. “It would be a mistake for such upheaval to lead to Lesvos and Greece losing the face of solidarity they have shown,” he said.

ActionAid, one of the nongovernmental organizations helping migrants on Lesvos, also expressed concern about the situation at the Moria camp, saying that the food and medical treatment are inadequate and that migrants do not have proper access to information about procedures for making asylum applications.

Hundreds of migrants have applied for asylum but the applications are examined by officials at a rate of around 50 a day so there is a backlog. The European Asylum Support Office is to start operating mobile units across the country from June 6 so the process is likely to be accelerated from then.

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