UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Riot police units were sent Tuesday to the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios in the Aegean Sea, as the Athens government prepares to start building new controversial migrant camps, officials said.
A police source told AFP that at the ports of the two islands where hundreds of local residents gathered, the police used tear gas to open the way for security forces and construction machinery.
Television footage from the port of Chios showed a number of masked protesters throwing stones at riot police upon their arrival.
Residents put their cars and garbage trucks on the roads leading to the camp sites, each of which is supposed to house seven thousand people, in an attempt to block their construction.
“There are roadblocks. We will intervene when necessary,” the police source told AFP.
After weeks of futile negotiations with local authorities, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis confirmed at the end of last week that a project to build new camps would be implemented despite the opposition of the residents of the two islands.
“The work will start immediately and it will be done. There will be no going back,” Mitsotakis said on Sunday to officials from his conservative party.
The main opposition Syriza party (left Radical) accused the government of its undemocratic behavior.
“We will not allow Mitsotakis and his government to turn the islands into a battleground,” said party spokesman Alexis Kristis.
Currently there are more than 38,000 immigrants in camps located in the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leroyes and Kos, while their capacity does not exceed 6,200 people.
New camp construction work on the islands of Lesbos and Chios is supposed to start this week.
The officials and residents of the two islands told the government that after five years of being on the front lines of the European immigration crisis, they are not ready to receive hundreds of asylum seekers.
The conservative government that came to power in July announced that the camps in Lesbos, Samos and Chios will be closed this year, to be replaced by new ones that are smaller than size and open their doors by mid-2020.
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