Berlin, Rome, Paris protests on ‘World Refugee Day’

Thousands across Europe protest in solidarity with migrants to mark ‘World Refugee Day’

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Thousands of people across several European cities marched on June 20, marking World Refugee Day, to show solidarity with tens and thousands of migrants seeking refuge in Europe.

The protest in Berlin, which was called for by German opposition parties Die Linke (The Left) and Gruenen (The Greens), attracted 3,700 people according to local police. However, organisers stated the number was much higher and said 10,000 people participated in the protest.

Demonstrators marched from the Kreuzberg district to the Brandenburg Gate chanting: “No frontiers, no nations, stop deportation!” and “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”

Some protesters also held up Greek flags to show support as the country heads towards a critical June 30 deadline in its debt talks with international lenders.

In France, police stated that there was around 3,500 protesters including undocumented migrants in a rally held in the capital Paris, while hundreds of others gathered in the southern city of Marseille and in the northern port city Calais,  which is currently home to around 3,000 refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and Syria.

Calais has long attracted migrants who want to use the city as a transit to travel to the United Kingdom.

A recent video recorded by tourists in Calais showing migrants trying to climb into a UK-bound truck in order to cross into Britain went viral and gained more than 500,000 views on YouTube.

Towards the southeast of the country, demonstrators joined hundreds of migrants stuck at the Italian border as France refused to allow them entry.

Rome also hosted a protest in front of the Colosseum where demonstrators chanted “stop the massacre now,” referring to the deadly Mediterranean voyage which thousands of migrants take on and risk their lives to flee poverty and war-torn countries.

“We are here to save our Europe, which includes immigrants, refugees, and Greece. Europe must belong to everyone, not just to the Germans and the banks,” said 66-year-old pensioner, Luciano Colletta.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres released a statement to mark the importance of World Refugee Day and said, “World stability is falling apart leaving a wake of displacement on an unprecedented scale. Global powers have become either passive observers of distant players in the conflicts driving so many innocent civilians from their homes.”

He also added that “Around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children. Their numbers are growing and accelerating, every single day, on every continent.”

Anti-migrant protest

Meanwhile, in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, at least 140 people were arrested following an anti-immigration protest that attracted thousands of people after violence broke out.

Although police refused to give an estimate, Slovakian media reported that the protest organised by an anti-Islam group called Stop the Islamisation of Europe attracted 8,000 people.

Far-right governor of a central Slovak region, Marian Kotleba, was also present at the protest.

“I wish you a nice, white day… We are here to save Slovakia,” said Kotleba to the crowd.

While a protester held a banner reading “Multi-culturalism equals genocide”, some others launched tear gas at the police and tore up an European Union flag.

Violence broke out towards the end of the protest as protesters and police clashed, leading to six police cars being damaged, reported the country's TASR news agency.

According to AFP, local media also reported that a group of protesters attacked spectators at a cycling show, adding that some unidentified attackers threw stones and bottles at an Arab family at the main train station.

The protest was organised following the European Commission's call in May that Slovakia, which has a populations of 5.4 million people, should accept 471 migrants from Italy and 314 from Greece.

However, on Friday, Prime Minister Robert Fico and his allies from neighbouring countries Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland reiterated that the three EU and NATO member states are strongly against the migrant quotas imposed by the European Union.  

Italy and Greece are struggling to cope with the number of migrants flooding into their countries as tens and thousands are continuing to flee conflict regions.

The two countries are constantly urging the EU to share the burden of hosting migrants by relocating new migrant arrivals across Europe.

TRTWorld and agencies