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Belfast doctor at Greek refugee camp was in car attacked by angry locals

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Migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

Migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

The fire at the Moria refugee camp (InTime News/AP)

The fire at the Moria refugee camp (InTime News/AP)

AP

Migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

A Northern Ireland doctor working with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos was forced to withdraw after she faced attacks from angry locals armed with "planks of wood and baseball bats".

Dr Nicola Cochrane, who is from Belfast and works as a GP at Carrig Clinic in Co Wicklow, told RTE Radio 1 she was two days into her month-long stint as a volunteer when the attack happened at Moria refugee camp on Monday.

Her group of medics was forced to withdraw when they were attacked by up to 60 men as they were escorted back to their living quarters by Norwegian volunteers.

She said the rental car she was travelling in was attacked by "Greek men and teenage boys in balaclavas [who] seemed to believe NGOs (charities) were encouraging refugees to arrive". The men and boys were travelling on motorbikes, she said.

Dr Cochrane said she sympathised with locals who "have been dealing with this refugee crisis for 10 years" but that she believes there is a right-wing element emerging.

"When the refugees started to arrive they were very welcoming and supportive and helpful," she said.

However, tensions have increased as the island has become "overwhelmed - the tourist industry has been devastated," she said.

"The local people are financially living in extreme hardship and they're very unhappy and distressed and feeling unsupported."

A fellow doctor from Co Donegal, Victoria Bradley said the attackers do not want Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on the island, saying some locals believe their presence encourages refugees to come to Lesbos.

"They kicked my window in and tried to kick me in the head. All hell broke loose, they were hitting car with rocks, and our windscreen smashed," she said.

She said she was travelling in one of three cars that "managed to stay together and got back to the refugee camp" while another had to drive around "for about two hours because they couldn't find anywhere safe to stop".

Dr Bradley said she has decided to leave the island for her personal safety along with a number of others.

"The situation is not tenable. About 20,000 refugees are now in Lesbos; 400 arrived yesterday," she said.

"The local people have lost their livelihoods. It's wrong what happened yesterday but the islanders are overwhelmed. They can't cope with the refugees. The refugees have no choice but to leave where they're leaving."

She said she has decided to leave now out of concern that protestors will block roads to the airport.

"Yesterday they blocked roads and stopped cars to see if the people inside were Greek. And if you weren't, there was trouble."

Belfast Telegraph