People protest against the creation of new structures on the islands and demanding a solution for migrants and refugees asking for asylum, Lesbos island, Greece | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/DIMITRIS TOSIDIS
People protest against the creation of new structures on the islands and demanding a solution for migrants and refugees asking for asylum, Lesbos island, Greece | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/DIMITRIS TOSIDIS

Local residents of Lesbos and Chios have prevented a ship carrying building materials and machinery for the construction of migrant camps from docking. The Greek government plans to build "Closed and Controlled Access Centers" on both islands.

Local residents of both Lesbos and Chios prevented a ship carrying building materials and machinery for the construction of new migrant camps from docking.

Hundreds of local residents and local officials, first on the northeastern Aegean island of Chios and then on Lesbos, gathered at the main ports of both islands Thursday (January 6) to block the cargo ship 'Pelagitis', staging large-scale protests against the government's initiative.

Residents stage protest, despite holiday

The ship, which was also carrying other cargo, was unable to dock at either island and eventually set sail around 6 pm for Thessaloniki.

"We call on the workers and institutions of Lesvos to rise up," said the Pan-Lesvos Workers Center in a press release. "The government plans to create new detention facilities will not be accepted. The local communities of Chios and Lesvos have spoken; no new migrant centers, whether closed or open. We warned them: do not think of trying to bring the machinery to Mytilene. The people of Lesvos are waiting for them. We are here to prevent it," the organization said.

Despite Thursday being a national holiday for the epiphany in Greece, locals on both islands, as well as local officials, gathered to block the gates at both ports throughout the day, shouting slogans and carrying placards with the dominant theme: "Not on Chios, Not on Lesvos, and not anywhere. No more concentration camps on the Greek islands."

There were also slogans expressing their support to the refugee populations.

Government reaction remains to be seen

It remains to be seen what the government reaction will be. Two of the new Closed and Controlled Access Centers have already been built on Samos and Leros, and three more are planned by the government, two of those being on Chios and Lesbos.

Beyond celebrations among the local residents for what was seen as a big victory for the people, the move raises questions about the government's plans.

The relatively small police forces present on both Chios and Lesbos are a stark contrast to the scenes of ferries full of riot police descending on the islands in February 2020, when there were clashes between locals and police over the same issue.

According to local media reports, Thursday's events were perhaps an indication that the government does not want to clash further with local communities, given the current political situation in Greece with New Democracy's popularity dwindling.

Many media observers are also claiming that it could have been an "experiment", or litmus test to measure the reaction and mood of the local people.

At the time of writing (January 7) there was no official statement released by the Greek government concerning the incidents at the ports of Chios and Lesbos.

 

More articles