NEWS

More unrest over asylum system

Hundreds of asylum seekers went on the rampage near central Athens on Saturday after a migrant was injured falling into the same ditch in Votanikos where a 29-year-old Pakistani man died last month. It was not clear what led to the unidentified man falling into the canal on Saturday. Police said that he was taken to the hospital for treatment and an investigation had been launched into what led to the incident. The man's fall appears to have provoked the outrage of hundreds of migrants waiting to submit their asylum applications at the Aliens Bureau on Petrou Ralli Street. They began setting fire to garbage cans and branches from trees, which they threw into the street. Some threw stones at passing vehicles. The riot lasted for about one hour. No injuries were reported and the fire service extinguished all the blazes. The incident is likely to draw even more attention to the government's asylum policy. Greece approved only 140 of more than 20,000 asylum applications last year, according to the UN refugee agency. The Aliens Bureau accepts asylum applications only once a week, forcing some 4,000 migrants to queue up outside the office from Friday night to have a chance of being one of the small number that are chosen to hand in their paperwork the next day. Officials processing asylum claims at the bureau had briefly started processing claims daily, apparently in a bid to appease protesters after the death of the Pakistani asylum seeker last month. It seems that officials switched back to a once-a-week service after the furor subsided. Civil rights activists claimed that police officers pursued the 29-year-old following a clash outside the bureau, resulting in him falling into the ditch. However, this version of events is at odds with the statement issued by the police. According to the police statement, the 29-year-old had been with his family and had approached the ditch to relieve himself but slipped and fell. Kathimerini discovered last week that the chaos outside the bureau has inspired opportunists to sell asylum application forms - photocopies of the original - for 20 euros each. Some of the asylum seekers waiting in line outside the Athens bureau reportedly applied for asylum on the Aegean island through which they entered Greece, but were subsequently issued with a deportation order.

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