Greek islanders protest over crowded migrant camps

Services stop as Greek government urged to step up migrant transfers to mainland

A man walks past a big national Greek flag hanging on the facade of the municipal theatre of Mytilene in the island of Lesbos on January 22nd, 2020. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

A man walks past a big national Greek flag hanging on the facade of the municipal theatre of Mytilene in the island of Lesbos on January 22nd, 2020. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

 

Residents, business owners and officials have launched a day of protest on the Greek islands hardest hit by migration, demanding that the government ease severe overcrowding at refugee camps.

Most stores were closed and public services halted on Wednesday on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, where some camps have more than 10 times the number of people they were built for.

Public protests are planned on all three islands, and their regional governors and mayors plan to travel to Athens on Thursday to present their demands to the government.

Nearly 75,000 people crossed illegally to European Union member Greece from Turkey last year, according to the UN refugee agency, an increase of nearly 50 per cent from the previous year.

Island authorities are urging the Greek government to step up migrant transfers to the mainland and are seeking further information on plans to build additional facilities that would be used to detain migrants listed for deportation.–AP