AYS Special from Lesvos: Right Wing Attacks on Refugees, Volunteers, and Locals
In cooperation with the Latitude Adjustment Podcast, we bring you a series of interviews with protagonists and victims of the recent clashes on Lesvos, where over 20.000 refugees are hoping to be allowed to move to the mainland.
It should be noted that the following analysis and collection of first-hand accounts represents a very conservative estimation of the threats posed by right wing groups on Lesvos. Having been on Lesvos since mid January I can say that there has been a consistent exchange of warning messages in WhatsApp groups for NGO’s, and between volunteers, warning of possible threats. However I’ve elected to balance the need to inform the public about perceived threats with the need to focus on verifiable eyewitness accounts. Tensions are high and it’s necessary to be mindful when sharing unverified information that might contribute to panic.
Some eyewitness testimonies have been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
Tensions and a climate of fear and mistrust are on the rise on Lesvos after a week that saw multiple attacks by right wing extremists on refugees, volunteers, and on locals perceived as sympathetic to the plight of the more than 20,000 refugees and migrants stuck on the island as they await transfer to the Greek mainland or deportation to Turkey and elsewhere. Seven right wing extremists were arrested on Lesvos on Thursday, with two others still wanted by authorities.
These attacks come after an anti-immigration March on January 22nd, with thousands of Greeks staging a general strike across the islands and marching in Mitilini Harbor to protest against, among other things, their perceived abandonment by Athens to shoulder the responsibility for the ongoing influx of refugees on an island with a population of about 32,000 residents. Signs organizing the protest were taped inside dozens of shop windows in the days leading up to the march, stating: “We Want Our Islands Back. We Want Our Lives Back”. A contingent of island mayors and governors later went to Athens to petition the national government.