New clashes on Greek ‘hotspot’ island ahead of planned migrant returns
Three migrants were hospitalised Friday after a brawl in a camp on the Greek “hotspot” island of Chios, the ANA news agency said, as the country prepared to begin returning migrants to Turkey under an EU deal.
The agency said police used stun grenades to restore calm during the late-night fight, which caused serious damage to the island’s Vial camp, including the medical dispensary.
Pro-migrant activists said the trouble began after demonstrations Thursday evening by migrants demanding they be allowed to leave the camp.
Eight migrants were also hospitalised early Thursday after a fight between Syrians and Afghans in the overcrowded migrant camp at the Greek port of Piraeus near Athens.
Chios is one of five so-called hotspot centres set up to house and process migrants on Greek islands, which have been struggling to cope with an influx of desperate people, many fleeing the civil war in Syria.
The Vial camp houses 1,500 people at a site which has capacity for just 1,200, ANA said.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed on Thursday that migrant returns from Greece to Turkey will begin on Monday under the terms of an EU deal.
As part of the agreement, all economic migrants landing on the Greek islands after March 20 face being sent back to Turkey — although the deal calls for each case to be examined individually.
For every Syrian sent back from Greece, the EU has agreed to resettle one refugee directly from Turkey.
Aid groups have criticised the agreement on ethical grounds, warning that the Greek registration sites would become de facto detention centres for people slated to be sent back to Turkey after risking their lives and spending a small fortune just to reach Europe.
Over 51,000 refugees and migrants seeking to reach northern Europe are stuck in Greece, after Balkan states sealed their borders. Hundreds more continue to land on the Greek islands every day despite the EU deal.
Greece’s parliament was expected to adopt by Friday a bill bolstering its migration and asylum services, and activating a 2013 European directive which says that migrants cannot be sent to a third country where they face danger or discrimination.
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