‘Fake news’ sparks Greek migrant clash

‘Fake news’ sparks Greek migrant clash

Greek police have clashed with hundreds of migrants in the northeastern city of Thessaloniki who were hoping to enter North Macedonia.

Violence occurred outside a migrant camp after social media reports suggested travel to the north was being allowed.

Tens of thousands remain in Greek camps that often have dire conditions, even after a sharp fall in arrivals and a legal judgement that overturned some rules for new arrivals.

In Athens, migrants protested at the Larissa station to demand trains to the border, disrupting services. Operator Trainose said the station would remain closed until further notice.

Migrants near the official Diavata migrant camp reportedly threw sticks and stones at police, who responded with tear gas.

A group calling itself Glitter of Hope Caravan declaring that borders would open on Friday.

Greek media called the Facebook story “fake news” about plans for a mass crossing of the North Macedonia border.

Greece’s migration minister, Dimitris Vitsas, said: “It’s a lie that the borders will open.” He urged migrants to return to their state-run camp.

But many migrants have no camps to return to.

About 600 migrants spent the night in a field near the Diavata camp but police blocked their route north.

Diavata, one of three temporary reception centres on the Greek mainland, has the capacity for 936 people, according to Asylum Europe.

Video showed the migrants trying to breach a police line and officers firing tear gas.

Bilal Jaf, a 25-year-old Kurdish migrant from Iraq, told the media: “We’re afraid that the police will try to evacuate our makeshift camp.

“I have been living in Greece for 11 months, waiting for my asylum request to be examined. I don’t know for how long I should wait for that.”

Karzan Abdullah, 24, another Iraqi Kurd, said: “I have lived in Greece for 12 months. I have to go to Europe because there is no life here anymore.

“We are informed that the Greek-North Macedonian border will open for us today. My friends, who also want to join the caravan, have been blocked by the police at a railway station in Athens.”

Tens of thousands of migrants remain in overcrowded camps in Greece with most arriving in 2015-16. They include many Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis.

Ali Elmishal, 11, from the former Syrian Isis stronghold of Raqqa, said he slept in parks in central Athens with his five siblings and parents. They sold tissues at traffic lights. “We want to go to Germany,” he said.

 

Diavata migrant camp. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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