ATHENS – A group of nearly 200 Syrian refugees camped near the Greek Parliament refused to budge on Dec. 9 when offered shelter elsewhere sticking to demands they be allowed to go to other European Union countries.
The group, including some on a hunger strike, also has women and children sleeping under makeshift shelters in Syntagma Square directly across from the Parliament and in one of the most prominent sites in the city.
An Interior Ministry official said they have offered asylum – rarely granted in Greece – but that they want to join families in other EU countries. EU law prevents them from moving or being allowed asylum outside of the country in which they landed.
They were fleeing the Civil War in Syria, and like scores of thousands of other illegal immigrants each year, landed in Greece on rickety boats, many perishing when the crafts capsized.
Secretary General for the Population and Social Cohesion Angelos Syrigos has been in negotiations with representatives of the group for the past week but has gotten nowhere and there’s been no attempt to forcibly remove them.
Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis asked that the women and children – some of whom are unaccompanied – be moved to a shelter normally reserved for abused women for their safety but they refused to board a bus sent by the city despite heavy rain making shelter difficult.
Speaking on Mega television on Dec. 9, Kaminis suggested that the women and children were being coerced to remain at the protest site.
“It is unacceptable that the children are being used as shield and are not being allowed, along with their mothers, to make use of the accommodation being offered,” Kaminis said.