Greek riot police fire tear gas at demonstrators protesting against new migrant centre being built on Kos
- 2,000 islanders marched against migrant ‘hotspot’ being built in Kos
- They fear that migrant centre will hurt tourism industry
- Greece pledged to build five centres to house and process migrants on Agean islands
Greek riot police have fired teargas and stun grenades at local residents protesting against the construction of a registration and reception centre for migrants on the Aegean Island of Kos.
About 2,000 locals marched at a rally against the so-called ‘hotspot’, which is being built on an abandoned army base outside the village of Pylio. Residents and the mayor oppose the centre’s construction for fears it will hurt the tourism industry, the island’s main source of income.
They also fear that young male refugees will be free to roam the local area at will.
Local media said police fired tear gas to disperse several dozen protesters who tried to break in to the construction site about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the port of Kos.
‘This is not about racism, it is about the security of our homes and our children. At the moment the kids can walk to school on their own and walk to each others’ houses but we worry that that will all change,’ Anna Karagiannis Chatzisevastou, 36, a mother of five, told the Telegraph.
‘We do feel very sorry for the refugees but we also worry about terrorism. Greeks are a very hospitable people but this situation has made us feel afraid. The country is already in a horrible economic crisis. It cannot cope.’
Many islanders also do not trust the Greek government, which assured them that migrants will spend no more than 48 hours on the island before being dispatched to Athens.
The island’s deputy mayor David Gerasklis said there were about 2,000 demonstrators in all, about double the number who turned out for a similar rally at the port on Wednesday.
The Greek government is building five ‘hotspots’ to house and process migrants on the islands of Kos as well as Chios, Leros, Lesbos and Samos.
Greece, which is the main gateway to Europe for more than a million refugees and migrants fleeing war-torn countries, has been heavily criticised for delays in building these reception centres.
Athens said most of the facilities will be operational by mid-February but argues that its request for EU support has only been partially met and that it largely hinges on Turkey stemming the migrant flow from its coast.
Last week, the Commission warned Greece it could face more border controls with other states of the free-travel Schengen zone in May, if it does not fix ‘serious deficiencies’ in its management of the area’s external frontier.
French and German interior ministers discussed the country’s progress with their Greek counterpart and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Friday and promised to send staff reinforcements and coast guard vessels to help Greece.
‘We must find European solutions or everything we have been building for decades will be destroyed in a year,’ German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said after the meeting.