EU Border Staff Flee from Greek Islands

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Belgian border officials have been withdrawn from Greek islands due to concerns for their safety in connection with rioting migrants.

EU Border Staff Flee from Greek Islands

Greek army check the documents of refugees and migrants, before leave a transit camp in the western Athens’ suburb of Schisto, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 (Photo: AP / Thanassis Stavrakis)

Belgium has withdrawn its border officials from Greek islands due to concerns for their safety in connection with rioting migrants, the Daily Mail newspaper reported. According to the newspaper, the spate of riots and violence by migrants has been caused by a delay in moving on to the mainland, which has been initiated by European border officials in hope to return at least some of them to Turkey.

“The security situation has worsened. The atmosphere is particularly grim because asylum seekers, often single men, are stuck there and realise they cannot journey on to Germany or Belgium,” Belgium’s migration secretary Theo Francken told the De Standaard newspaper. “Some express their frustrations in a particularly aggressive fashion. In recent days asylum agency staff has been targeted,” he added.

Francken also stressed that the safety of Belgian staff is the priority of the country’s government, though Belgium would like to show its solidarity with the people of Greece.

“The Greek authorities must take action. I warned them several months ago. They have done too little,” he noted.

Last week, Greek police detained 37 migrants on Chios, after a road was blocked by more than 100 migrant men, throwing rocks and fireworks at officers. The next night, migrants burned to the ground their makeshift camp.

“Both incidents together have destroyed the places to sleep for some 100 men women and children. Today there was a third incident where… stones were thrown and one Syrian man was seriously injured to his head and had to be hospitalised,” spokesman for UNHCR Greece, Roland Schoenbauer, said.

It was the third such an incident in the last month. Similar incidents took place on nearby Lesbos, where migrants burned down the island’s largest camp and the office of the European Asylum Agency in September.

According to the UN’s refugee agency, currently, there are more than 51,000 migrants in Greece, 16,000 of them are stuck on the islands. Chios currently hosts 4,143 migrants, while it has just 1,100 places for them, and Lesbos has 6,142 migrants, despite the fact that its capacity is 3,500.

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