Clashes broke out on the Greek island of Lesbos early on Tuesday (February 25) between police and residents protesting the construction of a new migrant holding centre, witnesses and police said.

Witnesses said about 500 residents then attempted to block access to the construction site. The new site on Lesbos will be a closed reception centre for newly arrived migrants and will replace the current open-access Moria camp, which is a sprawling facility built for less than 3,000 people that is now accommodating more than 19,000 asylum seekers.

Greek authorities plan to construct closed detention facilities on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros islands to replace the camps. Hundreds of thousands of people crossed into Europe from Turkey via Greece in 2015 and 2016 before a deal brokered between the European Union and Turkey limited the flow, but there has been a resurgence in arrivals since August 2019.

The Greek government has been transporting asylum seekers to the mainland in order to empty the camps. Migrants’ stay in the new holding centres will be temporary and will number only a few thousand, but locals fear they will turn into overcrowded camps such as the previous facilities.