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Greek police in clashes with immigrants

GREEK police clashed with dozens of immigrants at the western port of Patras yesterday in the latest violence to hit the country's conservative government since riots last December.

Police said a passerby and a policeman were injured in the violence that broke out after an immigrant tried to hide on a truck boarding a ferry to Italy and got hurt in the attempt.

Greece's Patras port is a gathering point for hundreds of migrants from the Middle East, East Africa and Central Asia hoping to stow away on ferries bound for Italy, where they believe they have a better chance of receiving asylum.

"The immigrant got trapped under the truck and was injured," a police official said. "About 70 other immigrants attacked the driver and clashed with police."

Greece is struggling to cope with a rising number of migrants swamping its long coastline and border with Turkey.

Last month, truck drivers staged protests at Greek ports and border crossings, demanding measures to deal with illegal immigrants destroying goods and fighting drivers in efforts to stow away. The government pledged to start talks soon.

It was the second time this year that border crossings had been blocked by protesters. In January, angry farmers demanding higher prices for their products blocked roads and crossings with Bulgaria but the protest ended after promises of a half-billion-euro aid package.

Since the fatal police shooting of a teenager last December which triggered the country's worst riots in decades fueled by anger at economic hardship, a wave of violence has put pressure on the government clinging to a one-seat parliamentary majority.

Police said that late on Monday that more than 10 people masked arsonists forced passengers off an Athens subway train and then set it alight. Several carriages of two trains were destroyed, but no one was injured.

The attack occurred at a subway station that is above ground in the northern suburb of Kifissia shortly after 1am.

Small-scale arson attacks are common in Greece, although they usually target symbols of state authority.


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