Greece Continues Building Migrant Registration Centers Amid Protests

assets_LARGE_t_420_54630779Greece is rushing to complete the setting up of five migrant registration centers and two refugee camps amid violent reactions from local citizens.

Only one of the five required migrant registration centers (hotspots) is completed while the Greek government has promised its European Union partners to have all five ready by the end of February.

The hotspot on the island of Lesbos is completed, with four more planned to run on the islands of Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. the vast majority of migrants first arrive on Greek islands after crossing from neighboring Turkey.

However, the centers have become the target of protests by residents. Islanders are worried that the centers will deter tourists from visiting. On Monday, Kos residents renewed their clashes with police over the building of a hotspot on the island. On Sunday night, protesters threw molotov cocktails and rocks at police. Six arrests were made.

Alternate Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas on Monday said that the four remaining hotspots are almost ready. Regarding the violent reactions at Kos, he said: “I am deeply sorry when fear prevails in people’s minds and actions.”

Speaking on Mega television on Monday, Vitsas said that the hotspots are places where migrants and refugees “have a place to stay and eat for up to 48 hours after the identification and then to be transferred.”

Regarding the two former army camps that would turn into refugee hospitality centers, local residents oppose the presence of migrants in their area on the grounds that their numbers would be out of control. The Greek government tries to convince locals that the stay of refugees in the camps would be temporary.

Protest rallies were held at Diavata in northern Greece, where one of the camps is located. The demonstration at Diavata was peaceful. However, on Tuesday morning, area residents have blocked access to the former army camp.

At Keratsini in Piraeus, citizens demonstrated against the refugee camp at nearby Schisto. A counter-demonstration by leftist and anarchist groups in support of migrants was held at the same time. The opposing rallies ended without any incidents.