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Greek police arrest 120 migrants after violence by islanders on Lesbos

The clashes in Mytilene left at least 10 people in hospital.

Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have arrested 120 asylum-seekers for illegal camping, following overnight violence by local residents trying to end a five-day sit-in protest in the island’s capital.

The clashes in Mytilene left at least 10 people in hospital. State television, quoting hospital officials, said most of the injured were migrants and none were seriously hurt.

Police cleared the town’s main square early on Monday after the night-long stand-off during which Greek men set fire to waste bins and hurled flares and firecrackers at the migrants and refugees who had set up tents.

None of the assailants were arrested and police issued charges against unknown people for the attack.

In addition to the 120 asylum-seekers, police arrested — also for alleged illegal camping — two Greeks who had been protesting on their side.

Riot police in Lesbos

The sit-in protest by asylum-seekers began after a high court ruled last week that migrants arriving on Greek islands from Turkey could travel to the Greek mainland while their asylum applications are processed.

The ruling does not have retroactive effect, meaning migrants already on the islands will not be allowed to leave.

Before the clashes, the island’s mayor, Spyros Galinos, had renewed a plea to the government to reduce high levels of overcrowding at camps on Lesbos and other islands.

“There are 10,000 asylum-seekers and our (municipality) has a population of 27,000. Our island once again has been held hostage,” the mayor wrote in a letter to the Greek ministers of migration affairs and public order.

“Lesbos can’t take this any longer.”

The governing left-wing Syriza party said right-wing “thugs” were behind the overnight attacks.

“This was a well-organised action, with murderous intent, by specific extreme right, criminal and hooligan elements that have nothing to do with the island or its traditions,” the party statement said.

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