Refugees protest at Greece border, islands

Refugees protest at Greece border and islands after Turkey and EU agreed last week to drastically reduce number of refugees allowed into Europe

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Refugees block a railway during the protest demanding the opening of the border between Greece and Macedonia in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Greece, Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

Following an international agreement that will ensure the reduction of refugee flows into Europe, refugees staged protests on Wednesday at the Greece border with Macedonia and on islands near the Turkish coast.

Several hundred protesters camped out at the border disrupted food distribution by charities in the sprawling tent camp that has sprouted near the village of Idomeni and demanded the border be reopened.

A 21-year-old refugee, who is from Syria’s pulverized Homs was in Idomeni with his parents, 18-year- old sister and 13-year-old brother, said that "I think it's wrong that they're protesting in this way. We must all get into the relocation program. It's our only solution,” and hoped to get to Germany or the Netherlands.

Around 150 people also blocked one lane of a highway and a highway flyover by the nearby town of Polykastro, which is in the regional unit of Central Macedonia and Greece, staging a demonstration outside a small hotel frequented mainly by charity workers.

The situation in Idomeni, where thousands have been stranded since the border was closed off to refugees earlier this month, has steadily deteriorated, exacerbated by days of rain that have turned the fields into muddy swamps.

A young Syrian man set himself on fire during a protest of the European border closure there on Tuesday. He was hospitalised with burns to his upper body doctors said.

“We’re staying here without any plan. We don’t know what to do,” said Emad Sukaria, a 54-year-old who fled the Syrian civil war with his wife. He added that, three of his children are already in Germany and one is in Austria.

"I came from the war in Syria to go to Germany, not to stay here," Sukariah said. "I don't agree with this move to hold the protests, but the situation has led (the protesters) to it.”

Small protests have also taken place at three detention camps on three Greek islands, where arrested refugees are waiting to be deported back to Turkey.

Greek officials could not say when the deportations would start, with outstanding legal and practical issues still to be resolved.

"It is clear that the processes are no longer ones of transit through Greece, but ones of control, and yes, that does mean that some measures are tougher," Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas said to local media.

"It is not pleasant for anyone, but we are implementing measures that have been agreed with the European Union. Everyone who does not get asylum will be returned to Turkey — that is not something pleasant."

Toskas said the numbers of refugees now arriving on the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast was "still very variable''.

"So we will see what the situation is in a few more days."

TRTWorld and agencies