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Britain must halt sales of tear gas to Greece after its use on refugees in Lesbos, campaigners demand

THE government must immediately halt tear gas sales to Greece after its “appalling” use on refugee protesters in Lesbos, campaigners demanded today.

Anti-arms campaigners are calling on ministers to review whether British-made tear gas was used by Greek riot police on refugees demonstrating for safe passage off the island on Saturday. 

Twelve thousand asylum-seekers have been sleeping on the streets for six days, with little food and water, after Europe’s largest refugee camp burnt to the ground last week. 

They have faced routine tear gas attacks from police, with distressing footage on Saturday showing indiscriminate use against families and children. 

The British government approved “open licences” to Greece in 2010 and 2018, under which they are allowed to receive unlimited exports of tear gas. 

Although there are no details of where the tear gas used in recent attacks on refugees was made, CAAT claims British-made gas was used by Greek authorities on pro-democracy protesters in a previous incident in July.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith said: “The use of tear gas against refugees was appalling, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. 

“Tear gas has an indiscriminate impact, and can lead to serious injury and sometimes even death.  It has no legitimate role in policing or otherwise. 

“The Greek authorities have a long and shameful history of using tear gas against protesters. There must be a full investigation [into whether] UK-made tear gas has been used, and an immediate halt to all sales.”

Amnesty said there was “no way” the British government should continue supplying tear gas to Greece under the current circumstances. 

Amnesty’s military, security and police programme director Oliver Feeley-Sprague said: “It’s distressing to see tear gas fired at peaceful protesters, especially in an EU country so close to home and especially when those protesters are refugee families who have lost what little they had in the devastating fires.

“The UK government must act quickly to prevent the possibility of further supplies by cancelling all existing licenses and refusing any new requests to export tear gas to Greece.”

The call follows a similar demand by campaigners earlier this year to halt arms exports to the US over fears British-made weapons were being used to violently quell Black Lives Matter protests. 

Under arms licencing laws, weapons cannot be sold if they could be used for internal repression of civilians. 

The Department for International Trade was contacted for comment. 

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