A weekend of violence against migrants in Europe

The following has not yet been verified. Please improve it by logging in and editing it. If you believe that is not sufficient to solve the problem, please discuss it with the community on the Talk Page. If you think that this article should be removed, please contact [email protected]ikitribune.com

Violence against migrants and asylum seekers erupted across Europe last weekend as part of a trend of alleged hate crimes that has human rights groups worried. 

On Sunday April 22, locals joined far-right groups gathered in Sappho Square on the Greek Island of Lesbos, to complain about the presence of migrants. Several days earlier, 200 asylum seekers, mainly of Afghan origin, had moved into the square to protest against the conditions in their camps and delays in the asylum applications (The New York Times).

The clashes began during the evening when far-right protesters started to throw stones, bottles and firecrackers against migrants while shouting “throw them in the sea” and “burn them alive.” Among the migrants were several women and children that others tried to shield by forming a circle around them (Al Jazeera). The clashes continued overnight until early morning and resulted in 10 people being injured. More than 100 refugees were also arrested after the confrontation (ABC News).

According to a statement from the left-wing Greek party Syriza, the right-wing attacks were part of a “well-organised action by specific extreme right, criminal elements”(The Telegraph).

Amnesty International migration campaigner Kondylia Gogou told Wikitribune that he believes Greek authorities must promptly and transparently investigate the attacks to bring all perpetrators to justice.

“This appalling incident is just the latest in a harrowing saga of abuse and disregard endured by men women and children who already suffered enormously.”

The attacks are part of a larger trend in Greece documented by the Hellenic Police. In March a police spokesperson told Al Jazeera that they recorded 133 hate crimes in 2017 that were motivated by race, national origin and skin color.

Kondylia said with increasing numbers of people stuck on the islands, frustrations and tensions are on the rise among asylum-seekers and locals.

Human Rights Watch researcher in Greece, Eva Cossè, told WikiTribune that racist violence is a longstanding issue in the country. A HRW report from 2012 pointed to patterns of attacks against migrants. They occurred at night in town squares and often involved masked perpetrators that made arrests difficult. Cossè said attacks peaked in 2010 but decreased after the government introduced some measures.

“Now the situation is getting worse again, we saw an increase of these kind of attacks and it’s very worrying,” she said.

Now human rights groups and Greek authorities are worried that further conflicts and tensions against migrants will take place in the Aegean Islands, that are located next to the Turkish border (The News York Times).

According to Amnesty International asylum seekers’ protests are a result of the EU-Turkey migration deal introduced in March 2016 that prevents migrants who arrive in the Greek Aegean islands to travel freely in the Greece territory. On April 19, Greece’s top administrative court enacted a new rule that allowed the new arrivals to move freely but on April 25 the government reinstated the travel ban policy. A group of human rights groups called the policy “abusive”(Reuters).

Eva Cossè said organisations have been saying for a long time that the situation in Lesbos and other islands is a “ticking bomb.”

“There are thousands of asylum-seeking women, men and children who are trapped on the island because of an EU policy of containment and this also put a burden on local population.”

Amanda Godballe, a project medical referent with Doctors Without Borders in Lesbos, said that access to healthcare is also big problem in the island.

“There aren’t enough doctors and medical staff to care for the patients and so the access to be seen by a doctor is very limited. Camps have issues with water sanitation and also from our side the situation is challenging at the moment.”

Godballe said, the EU policy was also worsening the living conditions.

“Confinement is really traumatizing for anyone and considering from where refugees come from they’re already traumatized to some extent and this situation is not making them stay better.”

She also said that the number of arrivals is always increasing with 7000 migrants in Lesbos, much more than 3000 spots available in the camps to host them.

Far-right extemists demonstrated on the France-Italy border

Meanwhile between Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd of April there have been protests carried out by pro immigrant and anti-immigrant groups next to the Alpine town of Bardonecchia, in the border between Italy and France (France 24).

On Saturday over 100 far-right activists blocked the Alps pass Colle della Scala, a hill in the border between Italy and France which is used by migrants to enter France from Italy (France 24).

The action has been organised as part of the “Defend Europe” campaign, launched by Generation Identity, a white-supremacist group according to Salah an-Ansari senior researcher at counter-extremism think-thank Quilliam. The group carried out a similar opeation last summer, when had tried to stop migrants rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea (BBC).

Activists reached the location on 9 am and built a “symbolic” plastic barrier to “block the passage of clandestines.” Pictures on their Facebook page show a red banner on the snow claiming “Closed border! You will not make Europe home! No Way, back to your homeland” and an helicopter with the Defend Europe logo on it policing the area.

On Sunday, 300 people from pro-immigrants groups like the Italian group No Tav and community centres blocked the state road of Monginevro in reaction to the far-right garrison. The activists crossed the border at the Montgenevre Pass taking 30 migrants with them and had minor clashes with security forces (Corriere della Sera). French gendarmerie took into custody four Italian citizens after the protest who are linked to the Italian community centres and anarchic movements, the charges are facilitation to illegal immigration (La Stampa).

Following these protest actions of anti and pro immigrant groups, on Monday 23rd April the France’s interior minister announced the deployment of “significant” security reinforcements to the Alpine border with Italy, assuring that forces will “ensure absolute respect for the control of the border” (France 24).

The Alps passage from Bardonecchia to Briançon have become a “strategic point of passage for illegal migrants” who are taking risking passages through the mountains after France reinforced the Ventimiglia border last spring. Over 2000 people crossed the border since then and volunteer mountain guides are patrolling the areas in search of migrants, who always take the pass without the proper equipment and risk death hypothermia (The Telegraph).

On the 23rd of March a pregnant Nigerian woman with a severe lymphoma was rejected while trying to cross the border and lately died in the Turin hospital after miraculously having given birth to her baby. The fact happened just few days after a mountain guide faced sentences for having helped another pregnant woman to cross the border. Local aid groups have condemned the behaviour of French police as “inhumane” (ANSA).

The IOM, United Nation agency for migration referred that, since January 2018, 557 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea and there has been 18.939 arrivals in Europe by sea routes (ANSA med).


  • TODO tags

      Is there a problem with this article? [Join] today to let people know and help build the news.
      • Share

      Subscribe to our newsletter

      Be the first to collaborate on our developing articles

      WikiTribune Open menu Close Search Like Back Next Open menu Close menu Play video RSS Feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Youtube Connect with us on Linkedin Connect with us on Discord Email us