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Greece on “maximum” alert to the influx of thousands of migrants

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Greece was placed on “maximum” alert Sunday to protect its borders in the face of the influx of thousands of migrants at the gates of the country, which causes concern and anger on the islands and in border localities.

“Our national security council has decided to raise the level of border protection to its maximum,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after a crisis meeting.

Greece faces an “asymmetric threat to the security of our country” after Turkey’s decision to open its doors to the European Union, added government spokesman Stelios Petsas.

The Greek authorities have decided to further strengthen their patrols at the sea and land borders in the northeast of the country. All new asylum claims will also be suspended for those entering the country illegally, said Petsas.

In the Aegean Sea, at least 500 migrants docked Sunday aboard a dozen boats in different points of the island of Lesvos, according to the AFP count.

After the arrival of dozens of them on Skala Sikamineas beach, 150 inhabitants of the island gathered around a reception center for migrants located nearby, before setting it on fire, noted an AFP photographer.

Even though the center, formerly run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had been closed in late January, they feared it would open again. It was partially burned, and around 70 asylum seekers were still on the beach, without blankets, in the early evening.

– “Go back to Turkey” –

Earlier, when cries of “return to Turkey”, the inhabitants of the island prevented about fifty migrants, including several children, from docking with their canoe after several hours at sea, AFP photographers noted.

In the port of Thermi, some insulted the local UNHCR representative, others attacked journalists and photographers, hitting them and throwing cameras overboard.

“We have nothing against the refugees but (…) those who are preparing to come here must understand that this is the way we are going to receive them now. It is the only way to prevent them from coming”, said Despoina, a resident of Thermi.

For his part, Niki Tsirigoti, a resident of Mytilene, the main town of Lesbos, protested: “It is unacceptable to return the refugees and migrants. They are human beings, the authorities must take the situation in hand”.

On the road to the crowded Moria camp, where more than 19,000 migrants are already staying, another group of residents with chains and stones tried to stop police buses carrying asylum seekers, who arrived on Sunday, to access the reception and registration center, according to the Greek press agency ANA.

“The anger of the people of Moria is just,” said the mayor of southern Lesbos Taxiarchis Verros. “Moria cannot bear other arrivals”.

In search of Western support in his military offensive in Syria against the Damascus regime, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the doors of Europe to migrants, who, by the thousands, including women and children, flocked to Sunday across fields towards the border with Greece.

– “Endless migratory crisis” –

Saturday evening, the United Nations had estimated at 13,000 the number of migrants massed along the 212 km of border between the two countries, which borders the Evros river.

“It’s an invasion,” said Giorgos Karampatzakis, the mayor of Marassia in this border region in the northeast of the country.

The borders are “guarded and perfectly protected”, assured for his part the Greek Minister of Defense Nikos Panagiotopoulos, from the border post of Kastanies.

There, faced with the thousands of migrants massed behind the fences, some of which launched projectiles, the Greek police made use on Sunday of tear gas canisters and water cannons, AFP journalists found

In 24 hours, the authorities blocked the “illegal entry” of 15,500 migrants along the Evros river, according to a government source on Sunday.

In addition, nearly 200 migrants were arrested over the weekend in the region, the source added.

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