Migrants, refugees on Greece's Lesbos chant freedom in second day of protest

ATHENS (Reuters) - Hundreds of migrants rallied for a second day on the Greek island of Lesbos on Tuesday to demand the faster processing of asylum requests, while local residents staged a separate protest calling for the camps to close.

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The migrants chanted “Freedom” and some held up a banner saying: “Our children are still alive”.

Riot police dispersed them without resorting to tough tactics, a Reuters witness said.

On Monday, police had fired teargas at protesters who marched from the congested migrant camps to the city of Mytilene. About 40 people were arrested.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lesbos residents rallied outside a government building to protest against having the camps on the island. A banner read “Lesbos is Greek land”.

Greece served as the gateway to the European Union for more than one million Syrian refugees and other migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond in 2015-2016.

The Aegean Islands, which are close to Turkey, have been struggling with a resurgence in refugee and migrant flows.

Lesbos’ main camp in Moria hosts more than five times its capacity. Aid groups have described living conditions in the camp as appalling.

A police official told Reuters more guards and riot police would be deployed on the island.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Tuesday the protests underscored the state’s duty to protect its citizens and the need to implement new policies.

Greece has adopted a tougher stance on migration since the conservative government led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis came to power in July. The government wants to set up detentions centers and deport those whose asylum requests are being rejected.

“Some people may not like it but they need to understand it: The policy has changed,” Petsas told reporters.

Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Renne Maltezou; Editing by Angus MacSwan