LESBOS, Greece – More than 100 asylum seekers went on trial on the Greek island of Lesbos after protesting against over-crowded camp conditions, a frequent occurrence with thousands penned up in a center the BBC called “the worst in the world.”
They were mostly Afghan migrants who were accused of taking over the central square of the island’s capital in April, 2018, although there have been more protests and violent clashes with riot police trying to keep control.
The news agency Agence France-Presse said the trial was underway of protesters who, along with women and children, staged a sit-in attacked by far-right extremists who tossed stones and flares.
“We didn’t do anything. We were attacked by some extreme people. We are innocent,” one of the defendants, Afghan refugee Hadisse Hosseini told AFP outside the courthouse. Some 26 defendants were reportedly identified by police but no trial date has been set for them.
There are more than 70,000 refugees and migrants in Greece, some 15,000 on islands near Turkey which lets human traffickers keep sending them during a largely-suspended swap deal with the European Union, which closed its borders to them, dumping the problem on Greece during a long-running economic crisis.
They had gone to Turkey to escape war and strife in the Middle East and other countries and hoped to use Greece as a jumping-off point before the EU slammed the door shut on them and other countries reneged on pledges to help take some of the overload.
With 7,000 detainees, the Lesbos camp is six times over capacity and has been the scene of constant tension and clashes between different ethnic groups and with police and as island officials and residents want more taken to mainland camps, which Greece said it can’t do because it would violate terms of the swap deal.