Authorities at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University were on Thursday night bracing for the arrival of hundreds of supporters of the so-called No Border Camp pro-refugee movement, which started in Frankfurt and is now relocating to Greece’s second city.
According to sources, around 1,000 people were expected to board ferries at the Italian port of Ancona, including hundreds with bikes, vans and mobile homes, bound for Igoumenitsa before making their way to Thessaloniki.
Most are expected to arrive at a makeshift campsite that was beginning to take form earlier on Thursday on the university’s grounds. The majority are believed to be Italians, as well as German and Dutch nationals.
The administration of the university appeared to be concerned about the impact of the unauthorized event on university property. Unidentified vandals broke the main door of the university’s law faculty and have set up makeshift kitchens and showers on the premises. They have also set up a bandstand on the campus grounds where concerts are expected to be staged in the evenings. Hundreds of tents had also been set up on the grounds by late Thursday while the road between the law faculty and the observatory has been transformed into a large car park.
An official on a committee set up by the university to manage the situation told Kathimerini that they believed widespread vandalism by visitors was unlikely but could not be ruled out. “We believe they won’t resort to violent acts because the reason for the gathering does not suggest such behavior would be likely, but we can’t rule out the possibility of extremist elements who want to cause damage,” the official said.
It is considered unlikely that the handful of guards employed on the university grounds would be able to manage widespread unrest at the camp. There are also concerns about the fate of valuable equipment at university laboratories, computers and rare books in the university’s archives.
Authorities in Thessaloniki, as well as the university’s administration, still remember the riots that broke out during anti-globalization protests in the city in 2003. Thousands of foreign activists had descended on Thessaloniki then too and the protests resulted in widespread damage.