Migrants in Patras fight over ferry access

Local authorities and residents in the western port of Patras are appealing for help following a spate of violent clashes between Afghan and African immigrants arguing about who can attempt to sneak aboard daily ferries to Italy. «We are worried that some unsuspecting passer-by might get injured,» said Achaia Regional Police Chief Vassilis Constantopoulos. «Imagine two frenzied groups preparing to attack each other with iron bars – who’s going to help?» he said. Several such fights have broken out near the port in recent weeks, most recently last weekend, although there have been no reports of serious injuries. Police say they need at least another 40 full-time officers to handle some 300 Afghan migrants and hundreds more Africans. Nearly all the Afghan migrants live in a makeshift camp at the main port, gradually established over the past few years, where they try to illegally board ferries to Italy daily. The Africans, chiefly from war-torn states such as Somalia and Sudan, are seen as a threat by the Afghans, who believe that they are trying to take their place in the line for a ferry, police say. Local officers cite several incidents of groups of Afghans attacking groups of Africans, usually Somalians, near the port area. The worst clash to date occurred on Saturday, when some 100 Afghans wielding iron bars and other weapons charged at a group of Africans. Police say they reacted immediately to quell the fracas with motorcycle-borne officers chasing the migrants through pedestrianized areas in the city center. But police are worried that tensions will rise unless action is taken. «The worst has yet to come,» a senior officer based in Patras said.