Dozens arrested for erecting giant cross in Lesbos meant to deter migrants

Dozens arrested for erecting giant cross in Lesbos meant to deter migrants
By Panos Kitsikopoulos
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The Greek island was one of the main gateways into Europe at the height of the migrant and refugee crisis.


Dozens of people were arrested on Sunday on the Greek island of Lesbos for erecting a giant metallic cross meant to deter migrants and refugees from reaching the island.

Police arrested 35 Greek citizens and an Albanian man on charges of arbitrary occupation of public property and erecting an illegal construction. The site on the cliffs of Apellia in Mytilene — Lesbos' capital city — is on the grounds of the island's famed fortress and is protected by archaeological law.

It comes after a cement cross was similarly erected in August 2018, drawing the ire of the local "Coexistence and Communication in the Aegean" group, which denounced the monument as "offensive to the symbol of Christianity, a symbol of love and sacrifice, not of racism and intolerance."

It labelled those who had erected it as "aspiring crusaders" and called on authorities to take it down.

It was destroyed by vandals in the night a month later but no-one was arrested.

The monument was the latest in a series of events seen as anti-migrant. White crosses were painted near beaches frequented by migrants and refugees and some local residents also evicted some migrants and refugees from beaches.

Some locals later demanded the cross be restored, including the far-right "Free Citizens" party, which argued in a statement last month that the "Syriac mass, which ravages our country's power, has attained its highest goal: the total destruction and extinction of every Greek and Christian element of our Greek Orthodox culture."

The Greek island, located in the Aegean Sea near the shores of Turkey, became one of the main gateways to Europe when the migrant and refugee crisis erupted to new heights in 2015.

Years later, thousands still remain in overcrowded camps.

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