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AFP
February 19, 2020

On Greek mainland, locals stonewall migrant relocations

World

AFP
February 19, 2020

MAKRYGIALOS, Greece: "We will not accept a single illegal coloniser," reads a banner in the small village of Makrygialos.

The village is one of many areas in mainland Greece where the government is locked in a tug of war with local communities over the housing of migrants.

Just months after the new conservative administration took over promising to get tough on migration, deadlock is rapidly emerging over where to accommodate tens of thousands of asylum-seekers currently languishing in overcrowded, unsanitary camps on five islands facing Turkey.

There are over 38,000 people in the camps on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos despite an official capacity of 6,200. Island officials and residents have told the government that after five years on the front lines of the European migration crisis, they are no longer prepared to accept thousands of asylum-seekers in their midst.

But while the administration of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tries to alleviate the problem by relocating thousands of migrants to other parts of Greece, many communities on the mainland are also stonewalling the move.

"We are determined to defend our homeland. We will do anything to keep them out," says Tasos Yiakoumis, a lawyer taking part in an anti-migrant protest in Makrygialos, a coastal village 450 kilometres (280 miles) north of Athens.

Some 300 people have gathered to protest against plans to house 200 asylum-seekers in a disused former home for the mentally ill. "We know their plan, they want to Islamicise the entire western world. This shall not pass," Yiakoumis shouts at the crowd through a microphone.

Another speaker claims that "refugees steal children" and that "most people coming to Greece have criminal records and are hunted in their home countries." Other residents in the village of 1,000 say that the crime rate will increase in the village, which mainly lives on tourism.