Dozens of asylum seekers remain practically under siege in a hotel in the town of Vilia. The migrants were transferred to the hotel under the IOM’s program aimed at taking pressure off the overcrowded camps on the Greek islands. Soon after their arrival on Friday they were attacked with rocks and petrol bombs by local residents.
In the small town of Vilia about 40 kilometers from Athens, the asylum seekers, mainly from Syria and Iraq, are remaining largely indoors nearly a week after a violent attack
by local residents.
The group of 102 people, according to the UN migration agency, the IOM, arrived at the Hotel Verori in the village on Friday having been transferred from reception centers on several islands including Samos, Lesbos and Leros. A couple of hours later, dozens of demonstrators from the village gathered outside the building.
The mob attacked the migrants with petrol bombs and rocks. They broke the glass door of the hotel lobby and some stormed into the rooms, according to Euronews, breaking down one man’s door and ramming a fire extinguisher into his chest.
Alarmphone, the hotline for refugees in distress at sea, said someone from the group contacted them asking for help.
Another man from Syria said: "Most people don’t dare leave the hotel. The women don’t even go to the supermarket. But we can’t live like this, we’re not in prison." According to the Euronews report, police who were present did not prevent the attack.
Council and hotel opposed to refugees
Alexis Galatis, who runs a café in Vilia and was among the demonstrators, said it began peacefully. "We wanted to know who they were, where they came from," he told Euronews. Galatis said ten people then lost control and attacked the refugees. "That was really stupid. We lost control of the situation," he said.
Local opposition to the migrants is not confined to shop-owners and other villagers. The owner of the Verori hotel is also against the asylum seekers staying there, InfoMigrants has been told.
Police from nearby Mandra confirmed to InfoMigrants that the mayor, Ioanna Kriekouki, was involved in Friday’s demonstration, which Euronews says was linked to the local council’s decision that the refugees should not be accommodated in the village.
An IOM source who was in Vilia yesterday said they were waiting on a decision on whether the hotel would be obliged to continue hosting the migrants.
Asylum seekers still threatened
Police in Mandra say the situation has calmed down, and that there is "nothing really wrong." However, the IOM source said some asylum seekers in the hotel still feel under threat. "They know they are not welcome in all of the stores there," he said, adding that they were only going into the village in small groups of two or three people so as not to attract the attention of locals.
The asylum seekers have been transferred from overcrowded facilities on the Greek islands under the IOM’s Filoxenia program, which is funded by the EU.
Through the program which began last summer, 6,000 asylum seekers are being moved into hotels on the Greek mainland. It’s due to run at least until the end of May.