As two more boatloads of migrants were deported from Greece Friday, in line with a European Union deal with Turkey that has come under fire from humanitarian groups, government officials were discussing ways of evacuating the makeshift camps at Idomeni and the port of Piraeus.
According to official figures, 52,666 refugees and migrants were Friday stranded in Greece. Of these, 4,660 were camped out at the port and 11,269 at the tent city near the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Migrants have mostly turned a deaf ear to authorities’ calls to move to organized reception facilities, fearing that conditions there will be worse.
Daruosh Shareef, a young man from Afghanistan, told Kathimerini Friday that fellow Afghans warned about the new centers, speaking of “poor conditions.”
“We are not leaving Piraeus. We’ll stay put until we are heard,” Shareef said as a group of migrants held a sit-in protest chanting, “Open the border.”
In a sign of rising tensions, members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party briefly clashed with anti-fascist groups Friday evening during an anti-migrant protest in Piraeus.
In a fresh bid to evacuate the port ahead of the Easter tourism season, authorities plan to hand out a leaflet on Monday advising people not to trust smugglers and urging them to refrain from violence.
“Do not despair. Remain calm. Make sure that no violent incidents take place among you,” says the document, adding that the port will have to be emptied in view of the busy tourism season.
“Do not lose your courage. We stand by you. We love you!” it says in Arabic, Farsi, English and Greek.
Meanwhile Friday, 123 migrants from Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq were sent back to Turkey on two ferries from the island of Lesvos. No Syrians were reported to be on board. At least three activists plunged into the sea in protest at the deportation.
Authorities say that returns have been stalled by a last-minute surge in asylum applications by people desperate to avoid expulsion.