ATHENS – Greek authorities still haven't been able to keep dozens of refugees and migrants from camping out in Victoria Square near the capital's center, while trying to deal with more than 100,000 in detention camps and centers.
Thousands had been brought to the mainland from five islands near Turkey, which has allowed human traffickers to keep sending more during an essentially suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those sleeping outdoors in the square adjacent to a number of businesses – the square has been occupied before by refugees and migrants – reportedly were among those formerly in camps who had been given asylum but have nowhere else to go.
"All these people are exhausted. We feel their pain. We’re also human, even if we have businesses that don’t have any customers because people are afraid to come here," 35-year-old cafe owner Haris Koureas told Kathimerini.
He said he has never felt fear. "We just want the problem of the people in the square to be settled so that we also feel more comfortable and they do not feel trapped," he added.
Human rights and activists groups had earlier warned about the plight of people who waited two years or more for asylum applications to be reviewed, many finding that after they granted sanctuary their ordeal was worse because now they had no shelter, food or access to doctors and other services to help them.