Scuffles break out over construction of migrant centre on Greek island of Kos

by Reuters
Friday, 5 February 2016 14:30 GMT

In this 2015 file photo, refugees and migrants disembark the Blue Star Patmos passenger ship at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

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Greece authorities are struggling to manage an increasing flow of migrants

By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Scuffles broke out on Friday on the Greek island of Kos between police and a small group of residents protesting against the construction of a registration and reception centre for migrants, police officials said.

Police used tear gas to disperse the residents, who attempted to block the construction saying a "hotspot" would hurt tourism, the island's main source of income.

Greece authorities are struggling to manage an increasing flow of migrants arriving on the country's islands, while still navigating an exit from one of the worst debt crises in decades.

"About 100 people tried to enter the facilities under construction, and we fired teargas," one of the Police officials said.

The main gateway to Europe for more than a million refugees and migrants from war-torn countries, Greece has been criticised for delays in building five large, EU-assisted reception centres - called hotspots - on its islands.

Athens says that most of the facilities will be operational by mid-February, but argues that its request for EU support has only been partially met and that it largely hinges on Turkey stemming the migrant flow from its coast.

Last week, the Commission warned Greece it could face more border controls with other states of the free-travel Schengen zone in May, if it does not fix "serious deficiencies" in its management of the area's external frontier.

French and German interior ministers discussed the country's progress with their Greek counterpart and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Friday and promised to send staff reinforcements and coast guard vessels to help Greece.

"We must find European solutions or everything we have been building for decades will be destroyed in a year," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said after the meeting.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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