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Greek islanders protest detention of refugees on Lesbos

The residents of the Greek island of Lesbos have staged a strike and rally to protest the detention of thousands of refugees on the island.

Islanders shut businesses, shops, nurseries, and civic offices on Monday to take part in the protest rally.

Demonstrators gathered in a central square, calling on the Greek government to move the asylum seekers out of a detention center on the island and onto mainland Greece.

The demonstrators held banners reading “Lesbos is not a place of exile.”

Local authorities had called on all residents to go on strike on Monday after releasing a statement that described Lesbos as an “island prison.”

The island’s residents decried the government’s failure to resettle the refugees, who are living in dire conditions in tents and makeshift accommodations, despite the arrival of winter.

Authorities say the harsh weather conditions on the island will make the already-bad conditions at the refugee detention centers there even worse.

Mayor of Lesbos Spyros Galinos called on all the islanders to “fight for those people too, who are today in danger of living under these weather conditions.”

“No minister has the right, no prime minister or official from the European Union [has the right] to say that winter caught them by surprise,” he said.

He said the residents of Lesbos would not allow the transformation of their island into “an open prison.”

Lesbos is currently hosting around 8,500 asylum-seekers at its main center, Moria, which is designed to hold fewer than 3,000.

Earlier on Monday morning, Lesbos police cracked down on refugees protesting at the overcrowded refugee detention center.

Protests often break out over delays in asylum procedures and poor living standards.

Refugees demanding to be released from the Greek detention center stage a protest on Lesbos Island, Greece, November 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Rights groups have described the conditions in the Greek refugee detention centers as deplorable and unfit for humans.

Since 2015, approximately one million refugees have landed on Lesbos, from where they seek to head north to countries like Germany, France, and the UK. However, many of them are not granted refugee status and are held on the island awaiting deportation to Turkey under a deal between the European Union and Ankara.

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