Migrants in Greece are protesting for their “rights”. As reported by French daily Le Figaro, some 200 asylum seekers invaded the railway station in Athens on Friday, April 5, disrupting rail traffic between the Greek capital and the city of Thessaloniki.
More than 600 migrants massed at the station on Thursday night, trying to board trains to the north. They were encouraged by social media rumours from a group calling itself Glitter of Hope Caravan declaring that borders would open at noon on Friday.
The Larissis Street train station in Athens saw travelers being prevented from using rail services for trains departing on Friday evening.
In particular, migrants were asking for the opening of the border between Greece and neighbouring Macedonia, a crossing to northern Europe for the constant stream of illegal immigrants. Social media rumors spoke of a massive push to break through border patrols in the north.
Some have even set up tents on the platform of the station to denounce the “slowness” of the procedure of granting asylum in Greece as well as the poor living conditions that prevail in migrant camps across the country.
Currently, about 70 000 migrants are living in Greece, of which 15 000 are huddled in camps on Aegean islands. The demonstration comes in the aftermath of clashes between asylum seekers and law enforcement officials in the north of the country, in front of Diavata camp, a hundred kilometers further north.
Rioting migrants clashed with police in northern Greece for a second day on Friday in demonstrations that authorities said had been triggered by false reports on social media that restrictions on travel to northern Europe had been lifted.
“This is false information, the borders aren’t opening,” said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesman for the UNHCR told the New York Times.
Greece restricts migrants from continuing further north under an agreement reached to stem a Europe-wide crisis in 2016. The United Nations and the Greek government meanwhile said they were false rumors that restrictions keeping them from traveling to Northern Europe would be lifted.
While visiting the station, the Secretary General at the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy, Miltiadis Klapas, said he saw in this event “a message for Europe that they must understand that the [migration] issue requires a European solution”.
“An effort is under way to make these people understand that the promises and reassurances they were given are not true. They stand to lose more than they hope to gain. We are constantly informing them and they are already starting to withdraw,” Klapas, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA).
With nearly 5 500 arrivals in January and February, according to the European border agency Frontex, Greece leads Spain in the ranking of countries with the most illegal arrivals.