Riot police are accused of heavy-handed tactics as some people faint, have panic attacks and are crushed inside a locked stadium.
Migrants on the Greek island of Kos have been tear-gassed and reportedly beaten as hundreds suffer sweltering conditions locked inside an open-air stadium without water, food or toilets. The main charity trying to deal with the crisis has accused authorities of “state abuse“.
More than 7,000 refugees, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, arrived on the island in July – a two-fold increase on June – and officials have been accused of using “heavy-handed force“.
Extra police have been called in, with some reportedly manning the top of the 12ft stadium walls to stop people climbing out to get supplies.
Aid workers from Medecins Sans Frontieres claim many families were told to stand “under the blaring sun” in temperatures of 32C (90F) for hours on end – in the hope of getting the paperwork they need to travel to Athens before heading to mainland Europe.
A day after police were seen using batons and fire extinguishers to disperse crowds, at least six people have also reportedly been beaten by officers in the stadium.
“The situation here is very bad and police here they beat a boy, they beat a man, they beat children. It’s too bad,” Syrian refugee Laith Saleh told the AP news agency. Police also used tear gas on others trying to get inside the stadium desperate to meet the three officials processing the migrants’ paperwork.
Sky’s Tom Rayner – at the scene – said the smell of the tear gas was still hanging in the air on Wednesday night.
He said some women and children had been moved to an air-conditioned facility but that the scene remained “chaotic” with “frustrations running high”. “Many of these people have spent a month or two in Turkey, living in camps there, to try to make it to Europe,” said Rayner. “Now they’re in Europe they are finding themselves in very difficult situations again.”
MSF added that 28 people were treated for panic attacks on Wednesday – with several more receiving help after fainting in the heat, being crushed in the crowds, or suffering from malnutrition.
It also claims police have also been evicting migrants from public areas in Kos, even stopping them from sitting on park benches. The Greek government has said it will charter a ship to house the migrants and process their paperwork. More details are expected later today.
Most of the migrants are hoping to seek asylum in Germany, Scandinavia or the Netherlands – and will travel through the Balkans to get there. Brice de la Vingne, a director for MSF, said: “The Kos authorities have clearly stated they have no intention of improving the situation for these people, as they believe that this would constitute a ‘pull factor’.
“But the truth is that people fleeing war will keep on coming whether or not the authorities are trying to stop them from doing so.”
Last week, a Save the Children report warned migrant and refugee children in Greece were “at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and physical abuse”. Some young people have described being too frightened to sleep outside or use the bathroom at night, and many hadn’t eaten in days.
One English graduate who managed to make the crossing to Kos said “Aleppo is the worst city in the world” – and described how his house in the warring Syrian region had been destroyed by a rocket blast.
“There was no electricity, no water, no internet. I was so happy to be alive that I took a selfie,” he added.
Many refugees and economic migrants have to make several attempts before they reach Greece, as Turkish officials try to stop them from leaving. For people travelling by sea, Greece has become the main gateway to Europe in recent months – with continued fighting in Libya making the route from North Africa to Italy even more dangerous than before.