Police on the Greek island of Lesbos on Friday said they had arrested seven people on suspicion of planning attacks on migrants in the wake of anti-camp demonstrations this week.
The seven men, aged 17 to 24, were arrested on Thursday in possession of makeshift clubs and a metal rod, police said.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
“An investigation showed that the suspects had banded together to carry out illegal acts mainly against foreign migrants,” the police said in a statement.
Two more minors are sought in connection with the case.
Overpopulation in migrant camps on Lesbos and other islands near Turkey has led to an outpouring of anger in recent days, with locals accusing asylum-seekers of stealing livestock and damaging agricultural property.
On Monday, hundreds of migrants on Lesbos staged a protest against tougher new asylum rules and camp conditions, demanding to be allowed to leave.
When some of the protesters neared the village of Moria – which is close to Greece’s largest migrant camp – residents called on the police to deny them entry.
Tear gas was fired to keep the migrants from entering the island capital of Mytilene.
In the following days, according to news reports and social media accounts, local residents had formed vigilante patrols to intimidate migrants and NGO groups supporting them.
In 2019, Greece became the first port of entry for migrants and refugees entering Europe.
The government has struggled to manage the influx, keeping many in overcrowded camps on the Aegean Greek islands near the Turkish coast.
At Moria, where more than 19,000 people live in and outside a camp built for fewer than 3,000, many are housed in tents and makeshift shelters without access to power, heating, or hot water.
More than 36,000 asylum-seekers are currently crammed into camps on five islands, where the official capacity is for 6,200 people and in conditions repeatedly condemned by aid agencies.