Dozens of people flee Souda camp with at least two wounded after molotov cocktails and rocks thrown at tents and occupants
Dozens of people have been driven out of a refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios after two successive nights of attacks by a far-right group.
At least two people were wounded after attackers threw Molotov cocktails and rocks as big as boulders from elevated areas surrounding the Souda camp, activists said.
Three tents were burned down and three others were hit by rocks. A 42-year-old Syrian man was assaulted, while a Nigerian boy was hit by a rock.
Fearing a third attack on Friday night, about 100 former occupants refused to re-enter the camp, instead taking shelter in a nearby car park. “We do not have any kind of protection,” Mostafa al-Khatib, a Syrian refugee, told the Guardian. “No one cares about us.”
Gabrielle Tan, an aid worker with Action From Switzerland, a grassroots organisation working on Chios, said those sheltering in the car park included families with babies and toddlers. “They’d rather sleep outside in the cold than go back inside,” said Tan.
The mayor of Chios said the attackers were thought to be affiliated with Greece’s main far-right party, Golden Dawn. “Of course Golden Dawn supporters are suspected to have participated,” Manolis Vournous told the Guardian.
Activists and camp occupants said the rocks appeared to have been thrown with the intention of killing people. Tan said: “These rocks were probably the size of a shoebox, weighing approximately 15kg. Some of them I can’t even lift.”
There were conflicting reports about who started the clashes on Wednesday. According to Vournous, the unrest began after Algerians and Moroccans stole alcohol and fireworks from a shop, frightening local residents. But some activists claimed the events escalated after a planned assault by Golden Dawn.
The attacks followed a two-day visit this week to Chios and Lesbos, the adjoining Aegean island, by a team of MPs from the neo-fascist Golden Dawn and far-right parliamentarians from Belgium.
Tensions are high on the Greek islands, which have borne the brunt of Europe’s increasingly isolationist refugee policies. Until March, refugees arriving from Turkey were moved quickly on to the mainland, and then bussed along a de facto humanitarian corridor, through the Balkans and towards northern Europe, where they claimed asylum.
But that corridor shut in March, and the EU finalised a deal with Ankara that was meant to see most new arrivals deported back to Turkey. About 16,000 have since become stranded on the Greek islands, pending deportation – including at least 2,000 on Chios, according to Vournous. This has created friction with local residents, some of whom have lost their livelihoods due to the collapse of tourism in the face of the refugee crisis.
Relations worsened after the deportation scheme faltered, leaving most refugees stuck on the islands for far longer than expected.
The Greek government refuses to move most of them to the mainland for fear of encouraging more people to follow their route.
But in the wake of this week’s events, the government announced it would send its migration minister, Yiannis Mouzalas, to Chios over the weekend.
Several foreign experts stationed on Chios were taken off the island this week amid security concerns due to the rising tensions. – The Guardian