Located just 6 miles from the Turkish shore, the migrants come over in inflatable boats which they cut up on arrival to prevent being turned back, expecting to be able to quickly travel on by ferry to mainland Europe, German station RTL has reported.
Instead, they are being held on the Island while the police issue emigration documents, a delay which can take days. The wait is causing tension between groups as Afghans accuse Syrians of getting preferential treatment by the authorities, leading to vicious violent clashes.
As rocks, bottles and municipal bins fly, one tearful local woman told RTL “We are in danger, every day, every minute. We need someone to protect us. They come into our houses. I want to go to work, but I can’t. Our children want to go to school, but they can’t. They have stolen our lives!”
Another yells at the migrants flinging rocks as they pass his house: “Go away from here! This is private land! Respect Greece!”
The main town of Lesbos, Mytilene, now resembles a war zone as the migrants rip apart the infrastructure and use the town as a urinal. Mayor Galinos helpless in the face of such an onslaught is out of ideas, and is calling on the European Union to do something.
“This is a ticking time bomb that will go off soon,” he said. “We have managed to avert some catastrophes, but we need help, more ferries. This island is so small, we can’t solve a worldwide humanitarian crisis by ourselves. The European Union needs to act.”
Monday night saw fresh clashes as 2,500 surged towards a government chartered ferry bound for Athens. Just a dozen police and coastguards, armed with batons, struggled to control the crowd by shouting “keep back”.
Junior interior minister Yiannis Mouzalas told local radio “the situation is on the verge of explosion.” It is a scene being replicated on islands all along Greece’s coastline.
Evangelos Meimarakis, leader of Greece’s right wing New Democracy party which could retake power this month, said the country should strengthen its borders to as to dispel “the message that ‘it’s good over here, come over’”.