A group of migrants Monday tried to prevent Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas from entering a facility set up at the former Athens airport terminal at Elliniko, on the city’s southern coast, in protest at poor living conditions.
Dozens of protesters, including children, gathered outside a gate heckling and harassing the leftist minister and other officials. Small-scale scuffles followed after the migrants turned down a request by Mouzalas that they unlock the entrance gate.
A 15-year-old Afghan was injured during clashes with police.
Photographs showed a migrant woman holding a baby aloft as Mouzalas approached the gate.
Access was restored following negotiations between the two sides. In what he described as a “symbolic gesture,” Mouzalas handed over the chain used to lock the gate to the police, saying: “You are responsible for this facility which belongs to the Greek state. I do not want to see locks again.”
Mouzalas urged any migrants who do not wish to stay at the Elliniko camp to leave the site.
“They have rights, and we respect them. But they too ought to respect the laws of the state. Anyone who feels oppressed inside this facility can leave and be subject to the provisions of the law,” he said.
After a two-hour meeting with migrants’ representatives, Mouzalas vowed that authorities would take steps to improve food and supply an additional boiler for hot water at the facility. The improvements will be carried out in cooperation with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), a humanitarian NGO that has a strong presence at Elliniko.
Speaking in Parliament Monday, Mouzalas admitted that some migrants had tried to block food distribution at the camp on Sunday but denied reports of a mass hunger strike at the site.
About 500 people, mostly Afghan nationals, currently live at the Elliniko terminal.