Violence on Lesvos between Third World asylum seekers, local residents; police clear square

23 April 2018
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Riot police in the early morning hours of Monday cleared the central square of Mytilene, the capital of the large eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, of third country nationals and asylum seekers that had occupied the area since last Wednesday. The latter have demanded better living conditions at ‘hot spots’ on Lesvos and the rapid processing of their asylum requests.

The police operation came hours after groups of local residents, mostly young men, tried to violently remove the third country protesters, mostly Afghans and to a lesser extend Pakistanis, from Sappho Square.

Video from the scene showed flares, fireworks, rocks and pavement launched at the protesters camped out at the square, including groups of women and minors that had been brought along in protest.

Riot police at first took up positions between the two groups, while self-styled anti-state activists and migrant rights proponents came to the aid of the asylum seekers, reports state.

Authorities had cleared the square by roughly 5.20 a.m. (03.20 GMT), with several instances of injuries reported, mostly among would-be migrants and asylum seekers.

The migrant/refugee crisis erupted in the eastern Aegean in 2015, with smugglers operating from the opposite Turkish coast taking advantage of a decision – among the first made by the leftist-rightist Tsipras government at the time – not to arrest third country nationals illegally entering Greece. Instead, Greek authorities were instructed to record third country’s nationals’ particulars – based on their statement in lieu of no travel documents – and order them to leave the country within a month.

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