Northern Ireland news

Irish doctors flee Lesbos violence amid local fury over refugee crisis

Dr Nicola Cochrane, a GP originally from Belfast, had only been two days into her month-long volunteering stint when the attack happened on Sunday

A BELFAST doctor is waiting to hear whether she can continue to work with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos after her convoy of cars was attacked with "planks of wood and baseball bats" by angry local men.

Dr Nicola Cochrane, a GP at Carrig Clinic in Greystones, Co Wicklow, had only been two days into her month-long volunteering stint when the attack happened yesterday.

Following demonstrations at the Moria refugee camp, her group of medics had withdrawn and were attacked as they were being ferried back to their living quarters by Norwegian volunteers.

The rental car she was in was attacked by "Greek men and teenage boys in balaclavas" on motorbikes who "seemed to believe NGOs (charities) were encouraging refugees to arrive".

Dr Cochrane told RTÉ radio she sympathised with the plight of locals who "have been dealing with this refugee crisis for 10 years... (and) when the refugees started to arrive they were very welcoming and supportive an helpful".

She said tensions rose as "the island has been overwhelmed (and) the tourist industry has been devastated".

"The local people are financially living in extreme hardship and they're very unhappy and distressed and feeling unsupported."

Co Donegal doctor Victoria Bradley said she and a number of others have decided to leave the camp, for their personal safety after the attack by the "group of up to 50 men".

She told RTÉ's News: "They kicked my window in and tried to kick me in the head. All hell broke loose, they were hitting car with rocks, and our windscreen smashed."

"The situation is not tenable. About 20,000 refugees are now in Lesbos; 400 arrived yesterday. The local people have lost their livelihoods. It's wrong what happened yesterday but the islanders are overwhelmed. They can't cope with the refugees."

Dr Bradley said she "feels guilty" about leaving, because she said they are "leaving the refugees with no doctors" but she said if the protesters had got her and her colleagues out of their cars yesterday, "it would have been difficult to say the least".

The smashed windscreen in the car Dr Cochrane was travelling in. Picture by Dr Nicola Cochrane

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