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More protests likely over Greek migrant center - mayor

February 8, 2016

Kos mayor Yiorgos Kyritsis has warned that protests may turn deadly over the building of a migrant registration center on the island. The EU has demanded Greece build a migrant 'hotspot' to deal with the refugee influx.

Protests on Kos
Image: picture alliance/dpa/Str

Kyritsis sent a letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warning that local opposition to the new migrant registration center could lead to "uncontrollable" protests.

"There is a present danger that we will mourn victims and be led to uncontrollable situations," the state news agency ANA cited him as writing.

His warning followed the wounding of three local residents during scuffles with riot police on Friday at a disused barracks, the site chosen to build an EU-commissioned migrant 'hotspot'.

Among those injured was a journalist who was covering the protest, which turned ugly when police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of local residents.

"About 100 people tried to enter the facilities under construction, and we fired tear gas," one of the police officials admitted on Friday.

Athens has blamed a minority of residents backed by far-right hardliners for the protests and responded by sending extra riot police to the island, which Kyritsis said was a mistake.

Lesbos migrant processing center
The island of Lesbos has already completed its centerImage: picture alliance/dpa/S. Baltagiannis

"I call on the prime minister to order to withdraw the riot police units to de-escalate tension," he wrote in his letter to Tsipras.

Anger likely to worsen

His criticism has been backed up by a police union, which claimed they were facing angry islanders armed with hunting rifles and dynamite.

"Four of our colleagues have been hurt so far in the attacks," the POASY police union said, a detail not divulged by the authorities so far.

Following the violence, the island's deputy mayor David Geraskalis told the news agency dpa: "The situation here is serious. All hell has broken loose."

Kos sees hundreds of migrants arrive on its shores each day, after crossing from the Turkish coast.

Residents says the refugees should be sent to the mainland, amid concerns the influx could "ruin" the tourism industry, which is the island's main source of income, according to local officials.

The center is one of five that the government has pledged to build by mid-February, under European pressure to stem the number of migrants arriving and then traveling north without being registered.

The islands of Lesbos, Leros, Samos and Chios have welcomed the plans, but authorities in Kos have been opposed from the start.

Reports suggest the building work in Kos is continuing at the site despite the protests.

Meanwhile, Greece has warned that its request for EU support to deal with the crisis has only been partially met and that the success of registration 'hotspots' largely hinges on Turkey stemming the migrant flow from its coast.

The heroes of Lesbos

mm/bw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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