Hundreds of Afghan refugees wait in Athens city square

Hundred of Afghan refugees trapped in Greece are camped out in an Athens city square, living in poor conditions

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

People carry their belongings, walking through the transit center for refugees near northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, while waiting for permission to cross the border into Serbia, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.

Several hundred Afghan refugees who have found themselves trapped in Greece are camped out in an Athens city square, lying on blankets or pieces of cardboard.

Aman Golestani, a 22-year-old psychology student took five weeks to get to Greece from Afghanistan's eastern Ghazni province.

"I got here yesterday, but we haven't tried to go to the border," he said, speaking slow but clear English, and sitting on the ground with friends who traveled with him.

Golestani said he was afraid to return home.

"The Taliban are killing people like us, young people who are trying to get an education."

He added: "I don't know what I'll do now. ... We just hope the border will open."

Around Golestani, families ate sandwiches, a man read the Quran, and children ran around the square and blew soap bubbles. Volunteers from Greece and the Netherlands handed out sanitation kits and emergency supplies, while vendors from cell phone companies sold SIM cards.

Greece's migration minister says he expects the number of stranded refugees in Greece to reach "tens of thousands" after Balkan countries introduced stricter transit rules.

"There are about 12,000 (stranded) people right now. Tomorrow it could be 14,000 and then 16,000 the following day," Mouzalas told private Antenna television. "Eventually there will be tens of thousands, but that is a number that is manageable."

Mouzalas said the government was looking at additional sites to set up temporary transit camps by the end of the week.

"It's not something we can do in one or two days, but we are trying to keep people in humane conditions," he said.

Greece, he said, was applying diplomatic pressure on European Union and NATO allies to limit unilateral actions by EU member states to restrict entry to asylum seekers and to make recently deployed patrols by the military alliance in the Aegean Sea more effective.

TRTWorld, AP