Thousands of Greek campaigners have demanded asylum seekers be removed from their islands amid overcrowding and violence at the migrant camps. The islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios staged a general strike, shutting down shops and public services and rallying in central squares, with protesters shouting: ‘We want our islands back, we want our lives back.’ The largest camp of Moria on Lesbos Island, with a capacity for 2,840, hosts more than 19,000 economic migrants. 72-year-old Lesbos pensioner Efstratios Peppas said, ‘you can’t walk alone outside after dark, people get stabbed.’

The government announced plans in November to build larger camps on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros, which currently host a total of nearly 42,000 migrants and where outbreaks of violence are frequent. The day of protest was organised by regional governors and mayors who plan to travel to Athens on Thursday to present their demands to the government.

Nearly 75,000 people crossed illegally to European Union member Greece from Turkey in 2019, according to the U.N. refugee agency, an increase of nearly 50% from the previous year. Two young migrants have been fatally stabbed in brawls at the Moria camp this month. An 18-year-old Afghan girl was also seriously injured in a knife attack and remains in hospital. Greece last year again became the main entry into Europe for migrants and refugees ... The UN refugee agency in 2019 recorded more than 59,000 arrivals by sea and more than 14,000 via the land border with Turkey. Already more than 3,000 have arrived so far this year. Only a fraction is allowed passage to the Greek mainland while the rest spend months in the camps, waiting for their asylum applications to be processed.