Greek Islanders Protest EU, One-Third of Population Now Migrants

Milos Bicanski/Getty

An angry mob on the Greek Island of Lesbos has attempted to overturn a police bus after protests against European Union (EU) migration policies and the arrival of the Greek prime minister turned ugly.

The policies have left around 10,000 to 15,000 migrants stranded on the tiny island, overwhelming locals. The unrest follows a general strike on Thursday that brought the entire island to a standstill.

The island has a population of around 86,000, and local leaders claim a third of the population is now asylum seekers. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrived this week to stiff protests.

“How can he [Tsipras] talk about growth, when we are facing this huge migrant problem?” Demitris Karagiannis, President of the Lesbos Agricultural Association, told Euro News.

“They have thousands of refugees and migrants trapped and exhausted here, who are also creating problems for the local community. How can we talk about growth, when Turkish aggression is rising daily?” he added.

According to a deal between Turkey and the EU, migrants arriving on Lesbos are supposed to be held there until they can be deported back to Turkey, or successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

“The people of Lesbos are exhausted,” the island’s mayor, Spyros Galinos, told The Guardian. “The rhythm of our lives has been shattered by refugees and migrants who now number a third of our population… fear prevails.

“Women are afraid to leave their homes at night, children are kept locked up indoors because parents are afraid to let them go out and play. No community would put up with this.”

Last week, it was reported that Greece is once again being “overwhelmed” by migrants surging across its land border with Turkey, in scenes compared to the height of the 2015 migrant crisis.

The EU’s border agency, Frontex, said Wednesday that asylum seeker arrivals on Greece’s north Aegean islands had increased by 17 per cent in just the past month.

The country bore the brunt of the 2015 influx, which saw over 815,000 illegal migrants cross the Aegean Sea in boats.

“Commerce and investment has come to a standstill,” said Evangelos Myrsinias, who heads the local chamber of commerce.

“On these islands, we feel very neglected, very abandoned with frustration compounded by the decision to raise VAT which after everything we’ve been through will drastically raise the cost of living.”

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