Refugees and migrants protest against living and medical treatment conditions at Sappho Square in Mytilini, Lesbos Island, Greece. Police formed a barrier to protect the migrants from being attacked by right-wing supporters. Credit: EPA/STR
Refugees and migrants protest against living and medical treatment conditions at Sappho Square in Mytilini, Lesbos Island, Greece. Police formed a barrier to protect the migrants from being attacked by right-wing supporters. Credit: EPA/STR

Tensions on the Greek island of Lesbos remain high following the recent attack on refugees in the city center by far-right groups. Member of Parliament Giorgos Pallis insists that fascism "will not survive" on the island.

A vicious physical attack allegedly lead and coordinated by members of the Golden Dawn movement on around 120 refugees and migrants last week at Lesbos' main square sparked outrage among the majority of local residents on the island. Far-right right groups chanted slogans of "burn them alive" and assaulted migrants who were gathered at the square to protest living conditions and slow asylum application procedures with bats, rocks, sticks and other weapons. 28 people were hospitalized for first-aid treatment. 

Local police have so far identified 16 people allegedly involved in the attacks. Four of them are facing felony charges of attempted arson and grievous bodily harm, while the other 12 face charges of sedition. 

'Far right taking advantage of locals' fatigue' 

"The attack was the product of a structured plan from far-right organizations on the island, but what has encouraged me is that any fatigue and discomfort caused by the prolonged presence of refugees on the island, such trouble and fascism will not survive," said Pallis, the Lesbos Member of Parliament of the Syriza party. He added: "Obviously the people of Lesvos are extremely jaded by the situation [of prolonged presence of large numbers of refugees], and the presence of the refugees at Sappho Square in recent weeks has created discontent, but thankfully after the fascist attack however, this feeling has given way to a profound sense of shame." 

European Parliament members, as well as human rights groups, have continuously urged Greece to reduce the number of migrants staying at overcrowded camps on the islands by speeding up the decision-making process within the Asylum Service. This would allow for quicker transfers of people to the mainland. Such an issue with be a hot topic of discussion at the regional development conference of the North Aegean which will be held on Lesbos this week on May 2-3. 

"The most crucial issue for Lesvos is to activate its capabilities, not with the concept of exploitation and exhaustion but by creating synergies and collective networks from the bottom up," said Pallis.

Trouble on land border with Turkey

Meanwhile, in related developments, tensions are rising at Greece's northern land border with Turkey at Evros due to a recent surge in arrivals trying to cross. Local officials from the Evros area and the Aegean islands met last Friday with a parliamentary committee in Athens and called for urgent, decisive action to deal with the rising influx of migrants while declaring that proposed changes to the asylum procedure are inadequate. 

Orestiada Mayor Dimitris Mavridis described the situation at Evros as "the new northern Aegean", and he added that the situation could easily "spiral out of control." Meanwhile, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on authorities to open more reception facilities in Evros to ease the problem. 
 

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