A group of migrants and refugees stranded for months in Athens block the visit of a Greek minister.
Dozens of stranded refugees, among them many children, have held a massive protest rally over their poor living conditions in the Greek capital, Athens. The angry refugee protesters on Monday rallied outside the gate of a former Athens airport terminal, where they have been stranded for months. The demonstrators blocked Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas from entering the refugee camp at the disused Hellenikon airport. One refugee handed Mouzalas a crying child as he reached the chained gate. They also held placards and chanted slogans such as “Go, Go!” and “Liar!” The minister expressed sympathy with the refugees.
“I completely understand their pain and hardship. We are trying to ease it as much as we can,” Mouzalas said. Some 1,600 people, mostly Afghans, are camped in these facilities, which consist of venues used in the 2004 Olympic Games and the former Athens airport. Nearly 600 refugees live at the former arrivals’ terminal where the latest protest took place. The government wants to clear out the entire compound after Greece agreed to lease it to private investors under its bailout program. The protest took place a day after local media reported that a group of refugees were going on hunger strike at the camp.
The Bangladesh government is moving to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees to a vulnerable island in the Bay of Bengal. A government directive said they would be transferred to Thengar Char before being repatriated to Myanmar. Rights groups have raised strong objections to the plan, saying it amounts to a forced relocation. Thengar Char is engulfed by several feet of water at high tide, and has no roads or flood defences. It was formed about a decade ago by sediment from the River Meghna, and does not appear on most maps. The low-lying land is around 30km (18 miles) east of Hatiya island, which has a population of 600,000 – and nine hours’ journey from the camps where the Rohingya have taken shelter. An official in the region told the AFP news agency Thengar Char was “only accessible during winter and is a haven for pirates”.