ATHENS- With Turkey accused of letting human traffickers keep sending refugees and migrants to Greek islands – a recent surge bringing more than 40,000 – the growing numbers has seen residents in villages where the newcomers would be housed trying to block it and resistance rising.
There are now some 96,000 of them, including more than 33,000 on islands near Turkey which Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said is flooding Greece with more and as he wants to send back 20,000 under an essentially-suspended swap deal between Turkey and the European Union, and as he wants to speed asylum procedures.
In a feature, Turkey’s state-run TRT World international channel noted how activists are complaining about the reluctance of Greeks to let refugees and migrants be housed in hotels in their villages after reports buses had been stopped and diverted.
“These incidents may be committed by small groups from local communities but the widespread and organized nature they seem to take, as well as the involvement of officials, are of particular concern to us,” the Athens-based Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) said in a statement.
The group said the government should better educate local communities about the transfer of refugees and migrants to their communities, urging the government to establish a national council dedicated to combating xenophobia and racism.
The United Nations-backed watchdog cited a “link between the rise of xenophobia and racist events both in the lack of a coherent immigration policy,” in the demise of the most vicious anti-refugee group, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn that had led protests against migrants and refugees.
Since winning July 7 snap elections and ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that was accused of letting the crisis fester after it began when they won power in 2015, New Democrracy has gotten tougher, including emptying abandoned buildings in the anarchist-dominated neighorhood in Exarchia of squatting refugees and migrants not in camps and detention centers.
“We control our borders and always take in the hunted of this world,” Mitsotakis said last month. “But one country alone cannot carry the problems of three continents on its shoulders,” he said, now accusing the EU of being afraid to confront Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said he would flood the bloc – through Greece – of millions more unless he got his way.
Contacted by TRT World, the Greek government’s migration spokesperson did not reply to requests for a comment but Petros Constantionou, national coordinator of the Athens-based anti-fascist union Keerfa, told TRT World that, “Mayors supporting New Democracy are organizing actions against refugees,” without specifying what that was.
Boris Cheshirkov, a UNHCR spokesperson in Athens, estimates that at least 2,000 unaccompanied minors are currently confined to refugee camps on five Greek islands.
“We are also concerned at a number of recent incidents of island and mainland communities objecting to the government transfer of asylum-seekers to their areas,” Cheshirkov told TRT World by email response.