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Migrants in Lesbos stage a protest demanding to be released from the overcrowded refugee camps they are unable to leave  Migrants in Lesbos stage a protest demanding to be released from the overcrowded refugee camps they are unable to leave   (AFP or licensors)

Migrants and locals clash on Greek island

Serious clashes broke out on Sunday night on the Greek island of Lesbos between forced migrants and locals who fear that the migrants’ continued presence could harm their businesses in the approaching tourist season. Pope Francis visited the mostly Syrian migrants in two camps in Lesbos in April 2016 to express his solidarity and raise awareness regarding their plight.

 

By John Carr

The most serious incident occurred in the main square of Mytilene, the chief port town of Lesbos. For about a week protesting migrants had been occupying the square, until local vigilante groups moved in to try and clear it. The police had to use tear gas to separate the two sides, while trying to fend off attacks on the migrants by a far-right group.

Several migrants were arrested and there were some injuries described as minor, plus some damage to shops in the Mytilene square. But unrest continues in the main holding camp at Moria on Lesbos which contains several thousand migrants and refugees unable to acquire EU political asylum.

The Greek islands are bracing for fresh waves of migrants in the wake of the ongoing conflict in Syria. Local tourism businesses have been the losers in recent years, as scenes of desperate boat people have put off many European holidaymakers. However, last year, despite the migrant problems in some islands, Greece enjoyed a record number of tourist arrivals.

Listen to John Carr's report
23 April 2018, 17:10