Babies and children tear gassed during refugee protest on Greek island of Lesbos – Telegraph.co.uk

Babies and toddlers were tear gassed by police on the Greek island of Lesbos during a protest by refugees against the conditions in which they are being held.

Volunteers used Coca-Cola to try to wash the tear gas out of the eyes of screaming children after riot police fired tear gas canisters at the peaceful demonstration.

Coca-Cola and similar fizzy drinks are acidic and, like lemon juice and vinegar, can help lessen the effects of tear gas.

The clashes took place after around 2,000 refugees and migrants marched out of the notorious Moria camp on Lesbos with the aim of walking to the islands main town, Mytiline, to stage a protest.

Designed to hold less than 3,000 people, the camp now holds around 19,000, with many living in tents and makeshift shelters in muddy olive groves outside the perimeter fence.

Raw sewage trickles between tents and container accommodation, sacks of rubbish are left uncollected and scabies is widespread, earning Moria the reputation of being Europes grimmest refugee camp.

Afghan and Syrian women held up placards which read Freedom and Moria is a prison for refugees as they headed from the camp towards Mytilene, about five miles away.

When police blocked them, some staged a sit-in on the road while others tried to go round the police lines by scattering through fields and olive groves.

People were attacked with tear gas even though it was peaceful, a British volunteer helping refugees on Lesbos told The Telegraph.

Women and children were beaten by the police. We helped people who had been affected by the gas by giving them Coca-Cola to wash with. People were crying. People collapsed," said the volunteer, who did not want to be identified for fear of repercussions from the authorities.

Franziska Grillmeier, a German journalist working on the island, said: There was a lot of tear gas, it was constant. Fires broke out in the olive groves and firemen had to be called. Everybody who was there was tear gassed, including babies and small children.

Children were crying and in panic they couldnt catch their breath, they had respiratory problems.

The parents brought their babies and kids on the march because there are no safe spaces in the camp in which to leave them.

Dire conditions on Lesbos and four other Aegean islands which host migrant camps have been exacerbated by severe overcrowding and long delays in the processing of asylum applications.

The camps on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros were built for 5,400 asylum seekers but now accommodate more than 36,000.

The UNs refugee agency said it was deeply concerned about the escalating tensions.

On Lesbos, the vast majority are families from Afghanistan and Syria, over a third are children and many are living in tents and makeshift shelters without access to power, heating or hot water. Its filthy. There arent enough latrines and showers, said Boris Cheshirkov, the UNHCRs spokesman in Greece.

The UN called for Greece to accelerate its plans to transfer thousands of refugees from the overcrowded islands to the Greek mainland.

Greeces asylum service has a backlog of nearly 90,000 pending asylum cases.

The centre-Right government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pledged to speed up the repatriation of migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected.

Notis Mitarachi, the minister for migration, wants there to be weekly returns to Turkey of failed asylum applicants in a bid to ease overcrowding on the islands.

Last week it emerged that the government wants to deploy a 1.7 mile-long floating barrier off the coast of Lesbos to deter refugees and migrants crossing from Turkey.

Humanitarian groups said it was dangerous and could lead to more deaths at sea.

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Babies and children tear gassed during refugee protest on Greek island of Lesbos - Telegraph.co.uk

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