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‘We want papers! We want to eat!’ Fights break out among migrants as tensions rise on Kos

Police spray fire extinguishers as they try to disperse migrants waiting to be registered on the Greek island of Kos on Tuesday. (Yorgos Karahalis/AP)

Thousands of migrants are waiting for registration on the Greek island of Kos. On Tuesday, the wait turned violent as officials tried to move a large crowd into a stadium through the narrow streets of the popular tourist destination.

"We want papers! We want to eat!" chanted migrants who blocked the island's main coastal road in protest, according to an Associated Press report. In the stadium, some of those waiting to be registered — as many as 1,500 people had lined up — began to fight.

The few police officers on hand to help maintain order used their batons on the migrants and sprayed fire extinguishers into the crowd, the AP said.

[One tragic picture shows despair in the Mediterranean after a migrant boat sinks]

Migrants who wait in the streets of Kos for registration and food often have fled conflict in Syria and Afghanistan. But those who make the journey across land into Turkey and then travel by small boats to the nearby Greek islands are landing on shores that are unprepared for their arrival. Greece has taken in at least 124,000 migrants since the beginning of the year, all while weathering its own economic crisis.

On islands such as Kos, the overwhelmed government has been slow to provide the migrants with registration papers or food and shelter. The new arrivals have camped in the island's parks and public squares as they wait for help, the AP notes.

Even more migrants are arriving on Lesbos, another Greek island.

The Washington Post reported on the conditions there earlier this month, noting that the island paradise has turned to purgatory for many migrants:

Lesbos has nothing to offer the migrants — a fact they know well. This is just the first stop in a far longer odyssey that they hope will take them to countries such as Germany, Sweden or Denmark, where they believe they will be able to receive asylum and find work. But first they must stay in the camps for up to a week to obtain the registration needed to travel through Greece legally.
For many, it is an unexpectedly grim welcome. The toilets — just five of them in one camp for a population of hundreds — are typically out of order. The men shower in the open for all to see. The women have no place to shower at all. With the tents often full, the only protection from the searing midday heat is thin mesh netting or the sparse shade of an olive tree.
“At least there’s no violence here. No bombs exploding. No kidnappings,” said Haydar Majid, a 32-year-old Iraqi who said he had worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Army. “But this place isn’t for humans. It’s for animals.”

The United Nations estimates that more than 225,000 refugees and migrants have fled across the Mediterranean into Europe this year. At least 2,100 have died at sea or gone missing before reaching land.