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

ATHENS (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 center 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 criticized for delays in building five large, EU-assisted reception centers - 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