The Greek island of Lesbos is “on the verge of explosion” with violence erupting as the more than 15,000 mainly Syrian refugees push local resources to the limit, the immigration minister said Monday.
Interim migration minister Yannis Mouzalas said 15,000 to 18,000 refugees were on Lesbos, an island he said could cope with 4,000-5,000.
Police armed with batons struggled to control a crowd of thousands of migrants surging forward in an attempt to board the ferry that had been charted by the government to help relieve some of the pressure on the Greek island. “It’s really terrible. You have people who are fainting while walking because it takes them days and days to walk”. “The government doesn’t care”, he told AFP.
The scenes underscored the task facing authorities from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea in handling the influx of people, many of them Syrians fleeing war and misery.
Signalling that the huge wave of arrivals marked a new milestone for Europe’s biggest economy, she said that “what we are experiencing now is something that will… change our country in coming years”.
However, she said that although Germany was “a country willing to take people in”, it was “time for the European Union to pull its weight”.
Germany has led the charge so far saying that it can take some 500,000 refugees annually for the next few years.
“The people here treat us so well, they treat us like real human beings, not like in Syria“, said Mohammad, a 32-year-old from the devastated town of Qusayr, whose eyes welled up with tears as he spoke.
He also insisted that there needs to be a system to evaluate who constitutes a refugee that is consistent across all nations, noting that now different countries are using different criteria.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is expected Wednesday to unveil a plan to relocate 120,000 migrants from frontline EU states.
Elsewhere tensions have flared too as about 40 men rioted at a Spanish migrant detention centre in Valencia late on Sunday and dozens tried to escape, in clashes that left five police injured.
“Almost all traveled onwards to Germany”, said police spokesman Patrick Maierhofer.
“Failure to recognize the severity of this situation has allowed it to reach a point where we are truly in the midst of a humanitarian disaster”, said Kirk Day, the worldwide Rescue Committee’s Field Director on Lesbos.
The migrants’ plight has touched hearts around the world, spurred especially by pictures last week of three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach.
Several Greek location are trying to survive as an abundance of certain people can be found in Turkey on weak vessels, greater number refugees running Syria. Canada’s Quebec province also said it will take 3,650 this year.