Journalists on the Greek island of Lesbos downed tools Thursday to protest aggression by far-right militants seeking to capitalize on the presence of over 10,000 refugees and migrants in squalid camps.
According to the local journalist union, far-right militants have been harassing and threatening media on Lesbos for over a year amid efforts to whip up xenophobic fervor on the island.
Earlier this month local journalist Anthi Pazianou — an AFP contributor — said she received threats after writing about a Greek girl who was threatened by far-right militants for wearing a headscarf.
Another Lesbos journalist, Stratis Balaskas of the state Athens News Agency, said in August he was warned by hardliners to stop writing about “illegal apes.”
“We’ve been requesting protection since May… but the state does not seem to be listening,” Pazianou told state TV ERT.
Journalists say local hardliners have also been spreading false reports that new refugee camps will be built on the island in a bid to stir fear and anti-migrant sentiment.
— Mapping Media Freedom (@MediaFreedomEU) September 13, 2018
Lesbos has been a gateway to the European Union since the start of the bloc’s migration crisis in 2015.
At the height of the influx, some 5,000 migrants and refugees, many from war-torn Syria, landed on the island’s beaches daily.
Lesbos has the highest concentration of migrants and refugees in Greece.
Most arrivals live for months in squalid conditions while waiting for asylum applications to be processed.
“There is no excuse for the shameful conditions in which thousands of people remain trapped in limbo while they wait out their asylum claims,” the International Rescue Committee said Thursday.
“The sewage system does not work and filthy toilet water reaches the tents and mattresses where children sleep,” the rights group said.
Lesbos authorities have resisted calls to create new facilities and the Greek government warns that emptying the island would threaten an E.U. deal with Turkey that has drastically reduced new arrivals.