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Catch 22 for Syrian refugees in Greece

19 November 2014 / 19:11:39  GRReporter
4055 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Over 250 refugees from Syria have started a hunger strike in protest against how the Greek state is treating them.

They gathered for a peaceful protest outside the Parliament building in Athens to ask the Greek government to take measures and solve the problem of their residence. According to the organizers of the protest, at least 250 Syrians have no shelter, being forced to spend the nights in and around the park Pedio tou Areos (Campus Martius) in the centre of the Greek capital.

Men, women and small children occupied the part of the pavement opposite the Greek Parliament and held large banners with the call, "We demand the Greek government to find a solution for Syrians in Greece." The children were holding images of crowded boats, quite unsuitable for sailing the sea.

"Greece must either recognize these people as refugees and provide housing and food for them, or give them documents to enable them to go to other European countries with proper attitudes towards refugees - they immediately place them in homes, provide them with food, their children attend school and so on," they said. In Greece, they rely on the support from those Syrians who have lived in the country for years and from non-profit organizations. They cannot however take complete care of all refugees.

The protesters explained that the majority of the Syrians in Greece have only the document obtained upon being apprehended by the border authorities, which actually gives them the right to stay in the country for six months. Having arrived in Athens their purpose is to apply for refugee status and then subsequently go to one of the countries in Western Europe, which was their original goal.

According to them, however, the pace of work at the asylum office of the Ministry of Public Order and Citizens Protection is very slow. "Only five people a day manage to submit their applications. Then they wait for their approval for months. Some obtain status for a period of three years, with no guarantee that they will receive a document that will allow them to travel to other countries," they added.

All this time the Syrians are blocked in Greece, which they accuse of "having done nothing for the refugees since the beginning of the war in Syria".

Although the exact number of Syrian refugees in Greece is not clear, the activists assume that they are about 15,000. Some of them manage to illegally leave for Western Europe and go to their friends or acquaintances.

The protest organizers were adamant that they would remain outside the Parliament building while the Greek government takes measures to solve their problem.

Tags: SocietySyrian refugeesGreeceProtestHomelessDocumentsWestern Europe
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