ATHENS (Reuters) - Hundreds of migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Chios tore down part of the razor wire fence surrounding their holding center on Friday and began walking to the port in protest, police officials said.
Under a European Union deal with Turkey, migrants and refugees arriving after March 20 are to be held in centers set up on five Aegean islands, including Chios, and sent back if their asylum applications are not accepted.
Returns are supposed to begin on April 4, though neither Greece nor Turkey are fully ready and uncertainty remains over how many will be sent back and how they will be processed.
About 1,500 migrants and refugees who arrived on Chios since March 20 were being held at the facility as of Friday morning.
Video clips on Greek websites showed dozens of migrants and refugees, many of them women and children, carrying their belongings and walking along the tree-lined road to the port.
A police spokesman for the northern Aegean region to which Chios belongs said about 300 people had left the center. Police were monitoring the situation, he said.
Clashes broke out at the site late on Thursday, during which windows were smashed and 10 people were injured lightly, another police official said.
“They say they don’t want to go back to Turkey and that they are afraid for their safety after yesterday’s clashes,” a police official on Chios said.
“The police tried to persuade them to return back but they refused and now walking to the port of the island,” he said.
Before the deal, arrivals on the islands were free to leave the camps and head for ferries to the Greek mainland, from where they would mostly head north via the Balkans in a bid to reach western Europe.
Since March 20, however, they are meant to be held in the five centers set up on the Aegean islands of Samos, Chios, Lesbos, Kos and Leros.
Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Tom Heneghan