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08/12/2016

Refugees attack EU asylum offices on Lesvos

Global Europe

Refugees attack EU asylum offices on Lesvos

Syrian and Afghan refugees fall into the sea after their dinghy deflated before reaching Lesvos. [Reuters]

Asylum-seekers attacked the premises of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) on the island of Lesbos on Monday (24 October), protesting against delays in dealing with asylum claims, Greek and EU authorities said.

About 70 people, mostly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, threw rocks and burning blankets at EASO containers inside the Moria migrant camp, damaging three of those, a Greek police spokesman for the island said.

EASO spokesman Jean-Pierre Schembri said protesters had hurled petrol bombs while interviews with asylum-seekers were taking place. EASO staff had evacuated the camp.

“They burnt our offices this morning … The process will not resume for the time being,” he said. “We have to evaluate security issues and in our view, we need more presence of Greece police to be in place.”

Jose Carreira, executive director of EASO, said, “Incidents have occurred in the past but this is the most serious one.”

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No-one was hurt in the incident and the blaze was quickly brought under control by firefighters, but the shipping container offices were virtually destroyed, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We are looking into ways of guaranteeing that this might not happen again,” added Carreira, who is in Athens for meetings with Greece’s immigration ministry.

Part of the camp was badly damaged in a fire on 19 September during clashes between refugees and police, and thousands had to be moved out before returning two days later.

More than 15,000 asylum-seekers are living in overcrowded camps on Greek islands close to Turkey, stranded by a European deal with Ankara to seal the main route into the continent for a million refugees and migrants last year.

Nearly 66,000 refugees and migrants are currently stranded in Greece, according to official figures.

Asylum-seekers wait for weeks or months for their claims to be processed.

There are nearly 6,000 asylum-seekers on Lesbos alone, nearly double the capacity its two camps can handle. Violence and protests at the conditions there are frequent.

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