Residents of the Greek island Lesvos occupied a key government building during protests organized in response to a violent march by thousands of migrants currently occupying the island, according to reports.
Over 300 locals entered the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the Aegean & Islands Policy in the capital village of Mytilini, chanting, “We want our village back,” and demanding increased police patrols to mitigate migrant crime.
Hours earlier, some 2,000 migrants had embarked on a protest march that spiraled into chaos.
“Police fired teargas and sound flares against the men, women and children protesters,” Keep Talking Greece reports. “On their part, the asylum seekers set farm land on fire, and later in an area near the Kara Tepe accommodation center and a Public Power Company plant.”
Despite police efforts to block the combative mob from reaching Mytilini, many succeeded and proceeded to block main roads and erect tents and stage obstructive demonstrations.
Giannis Mastrogiannis, a local official, has accused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of organizing the protests in response to Athens’ plans to building permanent asylum centers on the island and also erect a ‘floating barrier’ to prevent illegal boats traveling from Turkish shores.
“We had a general disruption, we also had a fire in an abandoned warehouse. My fellow citizens are furious and have now reached their limits,” Mastrogiannis told local media.
There are over 20,000 migrants currently living on Lesvos, where the largest asylum facility was designed to accommodate just 3,000.
Locals are desperate to regain control of their island, while migrants are demanding to be brought to the mainland and for their ‘asylum’ claims to be processed quickly.
“I’ll admit that I’m not optimistic,” Northern Aegean Regional Governor Kostas Moutzouris told local media after a meeting with residents. “The numbers don’t add up. Given the 25,000 people trapped in open and closed centers and the inflows that are not stopping, I’m sorry, I cannot be optimistic and expect a solution.”
“Things are said all the time and promises are made that are not kept. The migrants are people who are suffering; they have crossed seas and oceans for a better life and are now trapped on Lesvos. Coupled with the appalling living conditions, it is a situation that creates anger and desperation.”
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