Migrants involved in violent clashes at Moria on Lesvos

Trouble flares up again as overcrowding intensifies

05 September, 17:30

    Migrants in the refugee camp of Moria, Lesvos island Migrants in the refugee camp of Moria, Lesvos island

    ATHENS - Migrants clashed in ugly violence at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, just 24 hours after the operation was completed transferring 1,500 people from the desperately overcrowded camp to the mainland.

    The notorious so-called "hotspot", where approximately 10,000 people are staying in facilities designed only for 3,000, witnessed violent clashes yet again as groups of migrants attacked officials at the processing area of the reception center.

    According to local media reports, around 100 juvenile migrants threw rocks and other missiles at camp workers and officials, while chanting slogans criticising the authorities for not allowing them to leave. Tension began shortly after 12.10pm local time and riot police were called in immediately to disperse the crowds using tear gas in an operation which took around 40 minutes before things calmed down.

    Incidents at Moria have been a common occurrence since its establishment at the height of the ongoing refugee crisis in 2015.

    This latest outbreak of violence comes just one day after 1,500 refugees were transferred to alternative facilities in Northern Greece on two naval vessels after the overcrowding situation intensifying in recent weeks.

    The transfer was a landmark for the Greek authorities, who have been accused of operating with a "containment policy" where refugees are concerned, essentially trapping them on the Eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos where the bulk of people have been arriving on boats from the Turkish coast.

    Meanwhile, despite the large recent transfer of people, migrants are arriving in increasing numbers on boats from Turkish shores, with people traffickers trying to take advantage of the good weather conditions.

    According to figures released by the Greek Coast Guard, from 07.00AM on 03.09.2019 to 07.00AM on 04.09.2019 a total of 227 refugees were rescued off Greek shores in the North East Aegean, adding to the 500+ number of people which arrived last week.

    Last month, Greece's Alternate Minister of Citizens' Protection Giorgos Koumoutsakos, who is also responsible for migration issues, said that the Eastern Aegean Islands were suffering from "strangulation" due to overcrowding such as that at Moria and other refugee camps.

    Overall, it is estimated that Greece's population of asylum seekers will surpass the 90,000 mark by the end of 2019 at current rates.

    With its current systems and infrastructure, Greece's Migration Policy Ministry recently conceded last month that the country only has the capacity to process only 20,000 asylum applications every year, whereas the number of applications received in 2018 were a massive 67,000.

    Meanwhile, Turkey has refuted claims that there has been an increasing migrant flow from Turkey to Greece.

    According to the country's state-run Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said recent claims by EU officials are false, adding: "We regret the recent statement from the EU," Soylu. "If the EU was concerned about Turkey as much as Greece, we would solve issues and problems better." Turkey, the biggest host country of refugees worldwide, is reportedly home to over 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, according to figures from the UNHCR.

    However, many of those refugees are trying their luck on boats from Turkey, with the aim of getting into central and northern Europe after passing through Greece.

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