Right-wing extremists accused of attack on Greek refugee camp with petrol bombs, boulders (PHOTOS)
A makeshift camp on the Greek island of Chios has been set ablaze in what was reportedly as an attack by far-right extremists who pelted refugees with 15 kilogram-rocks and petrol bombs, setting tents on fire. Police used tear gas and stormed the camp.
Authorities and volunteers, as well as the refugees themselves, give different accounts of the events leading to Thursday night’s clashes. According to police, the migrants looted two local shops, stealing alcohol and fireworks that they then set off at the camp. They also purportedly threw rocks at a police unit located nearby, to which police retaliated with tear gas, while making multiple arrests.
However, eyewitnesses say that some 60 members of the far-right neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party hurled boulders at the migrants, as well as Molotov cocktails that set their makeshift tents ablaze, while at the same time blocking the exits to prevent the refugees from leaving.
Several migrants, including a woman pregnant with twins, were hospitalized in the aftermath of the attack. Gabrielle Tan, an aid worker with Action from Switzerland, wrote on Facebook, adding that the woman lost both of her unborn children on Friday morning due to the stress she had endured.
Some 100 refugees refused to return to the camp out of fear of new assaults.
“They’d rather sleep outside in the cold than go back inside,” Tan told the Guardian.
It was reportedly the second day of violence at the camp, as the refugees were allegedly also attacked on Wednesday.
Tan said that the migrants, with women and children among them, feared for their lives, as some of the rocks were the “size of a shoebox, weighing approximately 15 kilograms.”
The new anti-migrant violence has sparked outrage among charity workers and was condemned by Amnesty International, which called on Greek authorities and police, whom the volunteers blame for failing to adequately respond, to investigate the incident, find the perpetrators, and protect the migrants.
“These shocking attacks against refugees cannot be permitted to continue with impunity. For the last two nights, suspected right-wing extremists have thrown petrol bombs, stones, and rocks down on the camp from castle walls, causing injuries and panic,” Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director said in a statement.
The attack comes just several days after members of the right-wing Golden Dawn party held a rally on the island, calling for the refuges to be deported.
“Of course Golden Dawn supporters are suspected to have participated,” Manolis Vournous, the mayor of the town, told the Guardian. On Thursday, Vournous urged Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas to deliver on a promise he’d made earlier to shut down the facility and resettle the migrants at a bigger camp, local Ekathimerini news site reported.
At the moment, about 2,000 refugees are living in overcrowded tents and makeshift shelters at the camp amidst squalid conditions.
Migrants frustrated with ‘prison islands,’ can’t leave
Behzad Yaghmaian, professor of political economy and author of Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West, told RT that the current refugee situation in Greece is “not sustainable,” as both the refugees and locals are running out of patience.
“Any bad actors among the refugees who would do something would be used as an excuse to attack the migrants and that is exactly what happened,” Yaghmaian said.
Frustration among refugees whose applications have not been processed since March of 2015 due to a “huge backload” in the application system, is on the rise, he noted, adding that the much-hailed Turkey-EU refugee deal has turned Turkey into a “warehouse for refugees,” but failed to solve the problem.
“Many of the migrants call the islands ‘prison islands’ because they can neither go forwards, nor go backwards – they are stranded there,” Yaghmaian notes, adding that some of the migrants he met would even prefer to pay people smugglers to take them back to Turkey, as they had done in order to reach Greece.
“Many migrants want to go back to Turkey, but going back to Turkey also requires official deportation and acceptance of deportation by Turkey. This is not happening,” he said.
The refugee crisis is compounding the economic problems that have long plagued Greece, giving a boost to nascent far-right movements such as the Golden Dawn, which has already gained ground in Greece.
“Something must be done quickly, otherwise this becomes an impetus to a lot of other crises. The humanitarian crisis there could become a further impetus for fascist movements,” he warned, adding that if nothing is done by the government soon, the refugees could be indoctrinated and “recruited by radical forces.”