Working class sections and other progressive, pro-refugee groups in Greece have protested the EU sponsored plans to open new refugee detention facilities on Greek islands. On Monday, February 7, hundreds of people including members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Workers Centers of Lesvos, councilors from the People’s Rally in the municipal council of Mytilene, and local residents held a protest on the Greek island of Lesvos against the plans.
The detention facilities, announced by the right-wing New Democracy (ND)-led government and at the behest of the European Union, would be in Vastria of Lesvos and in other other islands in the Aegean Sea. Protesters have reiterated that “neither in Vastria, nor anywhere, we don’t want concentration camps in the islands.” Earlier in January, at the Mytilene port on the island of Lesvos, residents, unions, and institutions of Lesvos prevented the disembarkation of the machinery carried by the ship “Pelagitis’’ for the construction of detention centers for refugees and migrants in Vastria.
The Aegean islands of Greece are at the center of the worsening refugee crisis that has been prevailing in the Mediterranean for the last decade. Tens of thousands of refugees have been held in unsafe conditions in the refugee camps across the islands.
The largest of these camps, Moria located on the island of Lesvos, was constructed to accommodate around 3,000 people, but as many as 20,000 refugees were living at the camp at one point of time. Detainees in the Moria camp were subject to precarious, unhygienic, and psychologically stressful conditions, with intermittent fires breaking out. In 2020, a fire destroyed close to 70% of the tents and other materials in the camp and it was forced to close. The refugees were then transferred to the Kara Tepe temporary camp.
According to reports, the Greek government and EU are gearing up to open new facilities at Lesvos, Samos, Leros and Kos. The refugee support groups and charities which are active in the region have also opposed the opening of new camps.
In their statement, People’s Coalition of the North Aegean stated that “our struggle will not stop as long as the policy of trapping refugees and migrants remains, as long as the unacceptable decisions-treaties of the EU on the refugee issue remain active, as long as the causes that give birth to and reproduce refugees, poverty and exploitation remain active.”
Following the protests, the Lesvos Committee of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) stated that ”the government’s dangerous insistence on implementing the EU’s choice to turn the islands into warehouses of souls, with which SYRIZA and KINAL agree, got another response from the assembled who demanded that the work should not begin, that no concentration camp should take place.”