Greeks fight against settlement of migrants
| Reading time: 3 minutes
The Greek government is transferring migrants from the congested islands to the mainland. But the local residents fight back. Blockades prevent them from getting through buses. A total of 20,000 migrants are to be relocated.
"Against trafficking, against smugglers, against the destruction of our place" – with this call citizens of the northern Greek city Vrasna went two weeks ago on the street. Its blockade forced eight coaches with around 400 migrants to repent – the people who came from the island of Samos and were to live in Vrasna in the future, were housed elsewhere. Since then, the demonstrations pile up. Especially drastic: A nationalist group wants to mobilize this Sunday in a refugee camp near Thessaloniki with grilled pork and plenty of alcohol against the refugees.
The background to this is a tightening of the Greek asylum law and the measure included therein of moving at least 20,000 migrants from the completely overburdened islands of the East Aegean to the mainland by the end of the year. Some 6,500 people have already been taken by ferry to the port of Piraeus and from there by buses – mainly to northern Greece, where there are many empty military barracks to accommodate.
On the island of Lesbos, the locals have successfully prevented the construction of another refugee camp. They fear that they will have to serve as a refugee island now and in the future, leaving tourists behind. Nearly 15,000 migrants currently await Lesbos, with a capacity of less than 3,000. They live mostly in miserable conditions, in unheated tents, without electricity, running water and toilets.
In northern Greece, the residents argue that they no longer feel safe, that crime has increased, that the children can no longer take to the streets. "We warned the authorities that no more refugees should come because the citizens are so upset," says Diamantis Liamas, Mayor of Vrasna.
But the government of the conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has no choice but to bring refugees to the mainland. "The situation is so tense for us that a minor incident may be enough to get people on the barricades," says Giorgos Stantzos, Mayor of Vathy City, Samos. Vathy has about 7,000 inhabitants – in the refugee camp above the village live 6100 migrants.
Refugee pact of Turkey with EU will not be softened
Due to the approaching winter, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) welcomes the relocation of migrants to the mainland. "The situation is so desperate that now it's all about better people to accommodate," says the spokesman for the Greek UNHCR, Boris Cheshirkov. On the mainland, old military barracks, hotels and apartments are used.
The refugee pact between the EU and Turkey will not be softened by the move, says Cheshirkov. "Those who are brought to the mainland are people whose asylum applications are likely to be approved." This group included Afghans and Syrians, including mothers with children and unaccompanied minors.
For the mainland Greeks, the development is new, because before the refugee pact, the migrants traveled through Greece on to Central and Northern Europe. And since the pact came into effect in 2016, they have remained largely on the islands.
But there is not only resistance: After the first xenophobic failures, numerous communities from all over Greece came forward with the offer to take in the refugees. "With us they are accommodated and treated decently," assures approximately the mayor of the place Servia in northern Greece.
(tTransTranslate) Newsteam (t) refugee camp (t) Greece (t) migrant (t) Thessaloniki (t) EU (European Union) (t) Vrasna (t) Elefsina (t) Northern Greece (t) Ostägäis (t) Samos (t) t) migration (t) Turkey (t) Lesbos (t) Greece