Deportation, Death Truck Rumors Rock Greece Refugee Camps

Refugee protests at the Moria camp on Lesbos. (Petros Tsakmakis/InTime News via AP)

Unfounded stories about mass deportations and migrants dying in trucks trying to escape are escalating tension at refugee camps in Greece.

The rumors have triggered outbreaks of violence by refugees and migrants stuck in detention centers for months, the newspaper Kathimerini said.

That came a European Union swap deal with Turkey was suspended because Greece can’t handle an overwhelming number of asylum applications and as more keep coming.

A Sept. 19 which destroyed the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos was set by frustrated migrants after reports Greek authorities would ship them back to Turkey, the newspaper said, following the untrue story about the death truck.

“The spreading of rumors, which can spiral out of control and become dangerous, is something we see everywhere, as we saw in Idomeni,” Stella Nannou of the Greek chapter of the United Nations refugee agency told Kathimerini, referring to a camp near the Greek border with FYROM that was closed earlier this year.

“As we don’t know the source, it is difficult to tackle (the rumors,”” Nanou said, adding that migrants at the camps are “desperate for ready information and tend to grasp onto rumors.”

Giorgos Kosmopoulos, who works for Amnesty International on Lesvos, said it is possible that human traffickers are spreading the rumors to lure desperate migrants into paying them to try to get to other European countries which have closed their borders.

Rumors are quickly disseminated by the migrants themselves via their cellphones, employees of aid organizations working on the islands said.