Armed Greek riot police raid refugee centres

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Refugees demonstrate on Thursday evening in Athens against police raids Photo credit: NASEEM LOMANI/KIRIAKI KROK
Refugees demonstrate on Thursday evening in Athens against police raids Photo credit: NASEEM LOMANI/KIRIAKI KROK

GREEK armed riot police squads raided in the early morning of last Wednesday three buildings in the northern city of Thessaloniki where refugees were housed assisted by an international team of volunteers.

Police arrested 74 volunteers (of Greek, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish nationalities) who appeared in court on Thursday charged with ‘disturbance of peace’. Three persons were acquitted but six others were given four-month sentences. All appealed and were released. The remaining 65 volunteers are to be tried next week.

The riot police action produced a wave of protest with demonstrations in Thessaloniki and Athens last Wednesday and Thursday. The ruling SYRIZA party’s premises in Thessaloniki and other public buildings have been occupied as well as the office of the government spokesperson Olga Yerovasili in the city of Yiannina.

Protests intensified on Thursday following the death of a 29-year-old woman refugee in a ‘refugee reception facility’ set up by the EU and Greek authorities in a warehouse. Refugees demonstrated on the Thessaloniki national road demanding proper medical care.

Both the SYRIZA party and the so-called ‘Trend of 53’ SYRIZA parliamentary deputies have issued statements condemning the police action. Alternate Minister for Citizens’ Protection Nikos Toskas condemned the ‘autonomous’ refugee hostels set up by volunteers and claimed that the state ‘refugee reception facilities’ provide proper housing for the 8,500 refugees now in Thessaloniki.

But volunteers have described these facilities as ‘military run’ and ‘abysmal’. In fact several ‘refugee reception facilities’ on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesbos and Mitilini are barbed wire concentration camps guarded by private security firm personnel.