Port block­ade against mi­grants

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Hun­dreds of res­i­dents blocked the main port of Igoumenitsa in north­west­ern Greece yes­ter­day to ex­press their frus­tra­tion at a bur­geon­ing pop­u­la­tion of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who have been camp­ing out in the area for months, try­ing to sneak onto fer­ries to Italy and get­ting in­volved in fre­quent vi­o­lent brawls.

The pro­test­ers gath­ered in the early af­ter­noon and stayed un­til late in the evening, stop­ping trucks from board­ing and disem­bark­ing fer­ries. Lo­cal store own­ers joined in by clos­ing their shops for the af­ter­noon in protest. Or­ga­niz­ers said that they want the gov­ern­ment to in­ter­vene as out­breaks of vi­o­lence be­tween dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups are fre­quent de­spite a re­cent po­lice crack­down. “The sit­u­a­tion is de­gen­er­at­ing and de­mands an im­me­di­ate so­lu­tion,” said Igoumenitsa Mayor Gior­gos Katsi­nos.

Last week, Cit­i­zens’ Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter Chris­tos Papout­sis told Par­lia­ment that the gov­ern­ment had taken ac­tion to solve the prob­lem, send­ing in po­lice to re­move many of the mi­grants who have been staying at makeshift camps in the port sim­i­lar to those that had sprung up at the west­ern port of Pa­tra. A po­lice source told Kathimerini that be­tween 600 and 700 mi­grants re­mained at the port camps, about half the orig­i­nal num­ber. Lo­cals ar­gue how­ever that po­lice raids pro­vide only a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion to the prob­lem as new mi­grants are con­tin­u­ally ar­riv­ing to re­place the ones that have moved from the area. Own­ers of lo­cal stores, travel agen­cies and other busi­nesses that rely on tourism have been press­ing lo­cal authorities to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion as the high sea­son looms.

A key concern among lo­cals is the vi­o­lent clashes be­tween ri­val groups of mi­grants – usu­ally Afghans against Iraqis – over who should have “the best po­si­tion” at the port from which to try and sneak onto fer­ries bound for Italy.

The brawls of­ten in­volve knives be­ing drawn and have re­sulted in sev­eral se­ri­ous in­juries in re­cent months.

The ten­sions at the port have also fu­eled racist at­tacks. One in­volved an uniden­ti­fied as­sailant fir­ing an air gun out of a car, re­sult­ing in an Iraqi mi­grant sus­tain­ing in­juries to the fore­head.

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