Clashes reported at Greek island hotspot

Chios, Greece. [Canonim/Flickr]

The EU-managed hotspot on the Greek island of Chios descended into anarchy yesterday night (31 March) following severe clashes between Afghan and Syrian refugees. EURACTIV Greece reports.

According to the Greek press, at least two people were stabbed, and several were injured.

Riot police forces entered the hotspot in order to put an end to violence using stun grenades.

Chios hosts one out five hotspots in Greece. Its capacity is approximately 1,200 people while currently it hosts 1,500 immigrants and refugees.

After the EU-Turkey deal on 20 March, Greek hotspots have turned into quasi-detention centers, as they impose severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of registered refugees.

Greece has been detaining refugees who arrived after 20 March, and will begin deporting them back to Turkey next week.

First refugees to be returned to Turkey

Migrant returns from Greece to Turkey will begin on Monday (4 April) under the terms of an EU deal that has worried aid groups, as Athens struggles to manage the overload of desperate people on its soil.

Injuries and damage

Christiana Kalogirou, Regional Governor of the North Aegean, told EURACTIV Greece that people were injured, and that the hotspot was damaged by the violence.

“We need more time in order to make a first assessment of the damage,” she added.

Reports in Athens suggest that an infirmary set up by Doctors Without Borders was destroyed. The damage is estimated at €30,000.

“After the EU-Turkey agreement on 20 March, having so many people confined creates special and difficult conditions in the hotspot, [and the situation] is not always easy to be handled by the limited police forces in the area,” Kalogirou stressed. He added that police need reinforcement.

She also said that since NGOs opposing the EU-Turkey deal suspended their operations and assistance to refugees, regional government had assumed the responsibility of distributing meals for refugee children, including infants.

UNHCR refuses to play ball with EU, as 'hotspots' become prisons

The United Nations refugee agency has refused to be involved in the refugee returns organised by the EU under its recent deal with Turkey, claiming that the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered, have become prisons.

Kalogirou noted that the situation needed to be closely monitored, and that close cooperation between the Greek government, and local authorities, was vital.

Asked if there is a proposal on the table to separate Syrian and Afghan refugees, she replied that all possibilities were open.

Greek Coast Guard sources told EURACTIV that violent incidents had been recurring in hotspots for the last two weeks, as immigrants began losing their patience.

Asked if the Commission was aware of tensions and violence at hotspots, spokesperson Mina Andreeva said that the EU executive was following developments from the media.

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