Saturday

17th Nov 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us