ATHENS – Greece Police and refugees seeking asylum tangled over an attempte to move them to another detention camp, reports that tear gas and a flash grenade were used to try to corrall the trouble.
The attempted eviction of the Eleonas camp, which hosts around 670 refugees and migrants, started at about 5 in the morning and police were seen removing barricades, said Agence France-Presse (AFP.)
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis said on Twitter that the government was “proceeding with the closure of the Eleonas camp” as part of an upgrade of the area and with places available in other areas.
“Unfortunately, a small group of migrants and solidarity groups are trying to disrupt the move,” Mitarachis said.
Many of those living in the camp don’t want to leave a facility that has better living conditions than many others and where they aren’t detained but allowed to come and go.
They were taken to the Schisto camp in the port of Piraeus and Mitarachis said that the transfers will proceed with the cooperation of Athens city officials despite some resistance from those not wanting to go.
Authorities said they managed to remove only a couple of dozen people, mostly to the last remaining camp in Athens in the outskirts of the city and a Migration Ministry official told AFP those taken out had consented.
It was said it could take until the end of the year to remove the rest from a facility that had been visited by officials from other countries, including European Parliament President Roberta Metsola from Malta.
Greece is housing scores of thousands of refugees and migrants who fled war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan and went to Turkey as a jumping-off point.
Turkey is supposed to contain them as part of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union but is allowing human traffickers to keep sending more and Greece has been accused of pushing them back.
Procedures to close the Eleonas camp for asylum seekers in Athens by the end of the year are continuing with transfers to other structures, the report said of a facility that opened seven years earlier, in August 2015.