August 12, 2015 / 3:36 PM / 2 years ago

Greece sends cruise liner, extra police to help island of Kos with migrant crisis

KOS, Greece (Reuters) - Greece bolstered security at a holiday island struggling to cope with an influx of refugees on Wednesday, a day after frustrated migrants scuffled with police, and pledged to ease the plight of the hundreds arriving daily on its shores.

A Syrian refugee struggles to jump off a dinghy while holding his son as they arrive at a beach on the Greek island of Kos, August 12, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Greek Minister of State Alekos Flabouraris said a ship with a capacity for at least 2,500 people would be dispatched to the island of Kos, which has seen a spike in refugees in recent weeks.

The cruise liner would be converted into a reception center to process arrivals and would dock in the main port of the island, the minister said.

Two riot police units were dispatched to Kos from Athens and police reinforcements from nearby islands were also drafted in, police sources said.

On Tuesday, skirmishes erupted at a makeshift reception center at a sports stadium during which police used fire extinguishing spray to disperse people.

Hundreds of people, including infants, were still penned in under scorching temperatures at the sports stadium on Wednesday, waiting for papers that would allow them to travel.

A Reuters witness said those waiting had no food and little water. Scuffles broke out outside one of two closed gates of the compound between a small group attempting entry and riot police.

Police threw a tear gas canister to disperse the group of about 40 people and also violently pushed refugees to keep them in a tightly packed line outside a processing office.

CASH-STARVED AMID MIGRANT CRISIS

Flabourasis said the Greek government was going to do as much as possible to ease the problems facing Kos due to the refugee crisis.

Cash-starved Greece, mired in its worst economic crisis in decades, has found itself in the spotlight in recent months as Europe grapples with a stream of refugees fleeing war and poverty. Tens of thousands have crossed into Greece from Turkey along its long island coastline.

Dozens of tents lined a beachfront promenade leading from Kos’s main port on Wednesday. There have been reports of harassment by private security personnel, medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said.

“The Kos authorities have clearly stated that they have no intention of improving the situation for these people as they believe that this would constitute a ‘pull factor,'” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF head of operations.

“But the truth is that people fleeing war will keep on coming whether or not the authorities are trying to stop them from doing so.”

A coastguard spokeswoman said more than 200 migrants had been rescued in the past 24 hours on the island. Most arrivals are undocumented.

Additional reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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