1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Strike shuts down Greek islands over migrant camp protests

February 26, 2020

Several Greek islands, including Lesbos, have launched a labor stoppage following "extremely aggressive" clashes between police and anti-refugee protesters. Locals continue to call for an end to migrant camps.

Protester stands in front of riot police
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Varaklas

The local governments of the Aegean islands announced on Wednesday a general strike against the actions of the Greek central government. The move follows violent clashes between protesters and riot police over plans for new migrant camps

All regional and municipal authorities and most businesses were shut down on the islands of Chios, Lesbos, and Samos.

"We want our islands back" is the motto of the protests, as well as: "The islands must stop being the camp of lost souls."

The island of Lesbos is expected to continue rallies on Wednesday afternoon against the new camps for a second day in a row. 

Read more: Greece: NGOs accused of stoking unrest in refugee camp

Anti-migrant sentiments flare 

Costas Moutzouris, governor of the northern Aegean region, had announced the decision of the 24-hour general strike following Tuesday's police clashes.

Witnesses said police fired tear gas at some 500 protesters who tried to block the unloading of machinery at the construction sites of new migrant facilities on Lesbos. 

Similar flare-ups were also reported on Chios, where residents say they are bearing the brunt of Europe's refugee crisis.

Condemning the protests as a "day of shame," Moutzouris called the deployment "extremely aggressive" and so decided on a services shut down, the Athens News Agency reported.

Read more: Lesbos: 'We want our island back'

Overcrowded migrant camps

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis plans to replace old, overcrowded camps with new ones. The four north Aegean Greek islands host some 42,000 migrants who live in crowded conditions in and outside of camps built for only 8,000.

But some local populations, who say the there is not sufficient space on the islands, strongly oppose the government's plan for further development of the camps, saying authorities should relocate them to mainland Greece. 

The Greek government also announced plans to strengthen land border controls and maritime patrol to restrict the influx of migrants

Lesbos wants to get back to normal

mvb/rg (Reuters, dpa)

Each day, DW sends out a selection of news and features. Sign up here.