Refugees block Greek immigration minister from camp amid hunger strike (VIDEO)
Angry protesting refugees at the Ellinikon camp near Athens would not allow a visit by Greece’s immigration minister on Monday. Some of the asylum seekers have declared a hunger strike last week.
The incident happened at the entrance gates of the abandoned Greek international airport that had been re-purposed by the Greek government to house refugees in autumn of 2015. Footage of the altercation showed a small crowd of protesters physically blocking Ioannis Mouzalas from entering the camp.
Some punches were thrown between the refugees and the minister’s police escort and the confrontation was threatening to escalate into clashes, but Mouzalas left minutes after arriving, Proto Thema newspaper reported.
Reportedly more than 200 refugees at the Ellinikon camp announced a hunger strike on Sunday in a protest against what they call appalling living conditions at the site. They say they lack hot water, baby food, access to schools for children and hospitals for the sick. They also complain that Greek officials would not come to the camp in person and would only communicate with them via Skype, according to a pro-refugee movement KEERFA.
Ironically, the hunger strikers demanded a visit by Mouzalas to explain their grievances.
Mouzalas said the reports about the hunger strike were unfounded, according to Reuters.
“I completely understand their pain and hardship. We are trying to ease it as much as we can,” he told reporters.
There are some 1,300 people living in three separate facilities at the abandoned airport. All residents of the camp were supposed to be relocated by July 2016.
Greece, a country still struggling with the fallout from the 2008 financial meltdown and a prolonged budgetary shortage, was hit hard by the 2015 refugee crisis, when more than a million asylum seekers arrived in EU countries. Greek territory is the primary destination for refugees traveling to Europe through Turkey.