Thursday

27th Jul 2017

Migrants set fire to Greek detention centre

  • Detained migrants set fire to a detention centre in Greece. (Photo: ggia)

Over 500 undocumented migrants detained for the past three months at the Komotini police academy in eastern Greece have rioted and set fire to the premises.

"The riots have stopped. It is not the first but it is the largest. It is inhumane," a ranking officer told Euobserver on Saturday (November 24) evening.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The entire site is on lockdown.

Outside the gates, a police officer in riot gear stands guard armed with a machine gun in near complete silence. Behind him, a parking lot and the nearby buildings are obscured in darkness. The lights turned off.

The officer says all 520 migrants set fire to their mattresses on Thursday with riots raging all through Friday and into early Saturday. "We don’t know what to do, we do not have a solution," he says.

Four of the 15 guards overseeing the detainees were injured. Another four migrants were reportedly injured and around 50 arrested. Some were chanting "freedom" and "send us home" report local media.

Guards fired tear gas as the migrants, mostly young men from Pakistan and Afghanistan, pelted the officers with rocks.

The scale of the violence has prompted Greece's minister of public order to hold a late night meeting with the city's public authorities.

The young men at Komotini were swept up from Athens as part of Greece's operation "Xenios Zeus." Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had launched the campaign in the beginning of August in an effort to "clean up" and "make safe" Athens.

The campaign's first week detained in Athens some 6,030 people suspected of having entered the country illegally. Greek police then arrested 1,525 of them.

"Those arrested will be deported to their home countries," a spokesperson for Greece’s ministry of public order and citizen protection told this website in an email in August.

Authorities says Xenios Zeus will spread throughout the entire country.

But housing the migrants rounded up en masse has posed a number of logistical problems. Authorities are placing them in residences once used by police cadets, prompting protests from locals who oppose their presence.

Around 1,000 cadets are normally schooled at Komotini's police academy. Now, around 300 remain on site in two of the five buildings. The remaining three buildings have been turned into detention centres.

Residents in surrounding villages say they feel overwhelmed by the number of undocumented migrants that have entered the country.

"Three months ago around a hundred would gather at the train station on a daily basis. Some would ask for food and water and we would give it to them," a farmer at the Nea Vissa border town told this website. "They were very polite and never caused any harm," he said.

But public anti-immigrant sentiment runs high and many favour the 12.5 km razor-wire fence that runs across the land where the Evros river loops into Turkey.

The fence is meant to dissuade people from crossing into the country and forces some to attempt the more perilous river crossing.

A section runs across garlic and asparagus crops that belong to local Nea Vissa farmers. Tractors till the fields up to the fence amid heavy guard from Greek border police, the Greek military, and the EU's border control agency, Frontex.

"In July 2012 we had 6,500 illegal migrants who passed the border. In August, we had only 1,800. In September, only 71 illegal migrants, in October only 26 and now there are none," said Pashalis Syritoudis, chief of police at Orestiadas on the Greek Turkish border.

Meanwhile, border police continue to stop vehicles at random along the E85 highway that runs the length of the border.

Four police patrol points are set up between the 120 km stretch of highway between Orestiadas in the north and Alexandroupoli in the south. The officers are checking vehicles for smuggled migrants.

Locals at a village in Peplos in the Evros Delta told EUobsever that smugglers avoid the highway. "They take the back roads and villages and go through the mountains," they said.

Anti-immigrant view being 'legitimised' in Greece

Anti-immigrant and nationalistic discourse has existed in Greece since the 1990s, say experts, but has become more radical with the economic crisis. Voters are no longer ashamed to say publicly they support the neo-Facist Golden Dawn party.

Private security firms bid on Greek asylum centres

Private security firms are bidding to guard EU-funded migrant detention centres in Greece, amid a report by Medecins Sans Frontiers which says poor conditions are causing disease.

EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

Andrzej Duda decided to veto two of the controversial draft laws, which would put the judiciary under political control, but the EU executive is awaiting details before deciding on whether to launch legal probes on Wednesday.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

News in Brief

  1. Member states relocate 3,000 migrants in June
  2. Top EU jurist says Malta's finch-trapping against EU law
  3. EU judges rule to keep Hamas funds frozen
  4. EU court rejects passenger data deal with Canada
  5. US votes in favour of Nord Stream II sanctions
  6. Greece makes return to bond market
  7. Trump accuses the EU of protectionism
  8. EU parliament's Brexit group urges progress on talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. EU defends airline data-sharing after court ruling
  2. Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis
  3. EU and US scrap on Russia sanctions gets worse
  4. Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles have one month to start taking migrants
  5. EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7
  6. Court told to 'dismiss' case against EU migrant quotas
  7. Russia's EU pipeline at 'risk' after US vote
  8. EU Commission to act on Poland