Dozens of residents at the port city of Piraeus heckled representatives at a meeting of the municipal council on Monday, in protest at plans by a nongovernmental organization to open a hostel for unaccompanied refugee and migrant children.
According to reports, Piraeus residents are opposing a project by the NGO Praksis, which has rented a former school building in Piraeus’s fifth district and plans to turn it into a hostel. Questioned by Piraeus Mayor Yiannis Moralis on the scheme, the NGO reportedly said that the hostel would only be hosting 20 children from the thousands that are left stranded in Greece after making the treacherous crossing from Turkey alone.
Responding to citizens’ concerns, the municipality’s zoning commission put a stop to construction work at the site, as the NGO did not have the necessary license. However, Moralis defended the plan and scolded protesters for their reaction.
“I find it inconceivable that in a city which has received so much praise from Greeks and foreigners for its efforts to feed and provide crucial services to thousands of people, there should be voices against housing unaccompanied children,” Moralis was quoted by the ANA-MPA news agency as saying.
The mayor added that in a city of 200,000 residents like Piraeus “even a bigger number [of refugees] would not be capable of disturbing its day-to-day operation.” He went on to lambast opponents of the plan who have been “making rhetorical or written references to hot spots,” saying that “either they don’t know what they’re talking about or are trying to frighten residents for their own reasons, as though residents can’t distinguish between a [migrant processing center] and an organized hostel for 20 children.”
Tension was further stoked by comments from representatives of Golden Dawn, who accused the municipal council of “racism against Greeks.” The far-right party has held protest rallies outside the building in question.