Anti-migrant protesters on Greek island Lesbos try to overturn police buses (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Protests flared on Thursday night, after Tsipras arrived to speak at a conference. A group of 2,500 demonstrators flocked to the streets of the island’s main town, Mytilene, to demand an immediate solution to the immigration crisis and the evacuation of migrants from the island’s refugee camp that currently hosts about 9,000 asylum seekers.
The protestors made their way to the General Secretariat for the Aegean and Island Policy, where Tsipras was giving his conference speech. Protestors rocked buses but they were blocked by police that formed a cordon and launched tear gas to disperse them.
Clashes with police forces lasted for more than an hour but no serious injuries were reported. Store owners had also joined in and closed down their shops as a sign of protest against government policies.
Thursday's protest condemned the 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey that was supposed to have migrants, arriving on Greece’s shores, returned to Turkey. However, Lesbos remains one of many Greek islands that continues to host some 15,000 migrants in total.
Tensions had been mounting in the past several weeks, when, instead of diminishing, the number of asylum seekers on the Greek islands had surged. Having become a key gateway into Europe, Lesbos is now forced to receive some 500 new migrants arriving each week.
“The situation on the island is exceptionally difficult... we must be lifted out of this emergency situation,” Lesbos mayor Spyros Galinos said.
Tsipras’s government promised to solve the migration problem and move asylum seekers to the mainland, but that seems to be taking more time than expected due to a lack of staff and sites that could host the refugees around Greece.
During his speech at the conference on Thursday, the Greek leader tried to quell growing concerns, arguing that things could have been “three times as bad” if the EU and Turkey had not reached a migration agreement. He added that: “three years ago we had 4,000-5,000 people arriving every day”, admitting that the conditions were “very difficult for migrants and residents.”
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