ATHENS – Residents of a Greek city slated to host a fresh wave of asylum seekers took to the streets to protest the move, amid growing anger over the influx of refugees that have poured into the country. Anti-migration protesters in the northern city of Thessaloniki called on Athens to return all illegal immigrants to their previous host countries and close the border to migrants, RT reported.
Footage from the march showed demonstrators carrying banners and Greek flags, while an activist at the front of the procession held an icon of the Virgin Mary. Thessaloniki and surrounding towns have been selected to host thousands of migrants that Athens wants to transfer from overcrowded facilities on the Greek islands to the mainland.
According to reports, over the weekend about 900 people were transferred from Greek islands to sites on the mainland. The government is planning to relocate 20,000 refugees in total by the end of the year. Greece has taken in 40,000 migrants and refugees in the past four months alone, Migration Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos told local media. He added that the mainland must “show solidarity” with border regions that have “borne the brunt” of the migrant influx.
Athens has repeatedly been at odds with Brussels over the European Union’s migrant policy. The country, already hampered by economic woes, has been one of the main entry points for refugees coming to Europe – and has been shouldering the burden of housing tens of thousands of asylum seekers.
This has angered the Greek people, and rightfully so, given that Greece has had economic problems for quite some time now and the last thing it needs is tens, if not hundreds of thousands of foreign people living off their welfare, which has been denied to many Greeks themselves on account of austerity measures.