Refugees and migrants waiting to board buses outside Kara Tepe camp on their way to the port of Mytilene, the capital of the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos | Photo: Vangelis Papantonis/archive/EPA
Refugees and migrants waiting to board buses outside Kara Tepe camp on their way to the port of Mytilene, the capital of the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos | Photo: Vangelis Papantonis/archive/EPA

The government of Greece has been accused of the "criminal abandonment" of asylum seekers in Athens and other areas of the country after suddenly and unexpectedly shutting down a housing program.

Scores of migrants and refugees gathered Sunday evening in Athens' Victoria Square as they had nowhere to go after the Greek government suddenly shut down the Filoxenia housing program, which was providing them shelter. In total, it is estimated that around 7,000 people will be evicted.

The Filoxenia program provided 6,898 places to asylum seekers, with temporary accommodation at state-leased hotels. In the past 15 months, 79 hotels had been leased under Filoxenia. The hotels hosted vulnerable groups from Greek island reception and identification centers, including families with children.

Migrants evicted in various cities

The shutdown of the Filoxenia accommodation program is part of the restructuring of the Greek refugee support system. Evictions already took place last month, leaving people on the streets in Thessaloniki, Athens and Corinth.

Currently, only the Helios' accommodation program is available for people leaving the island camps. Vasilika Moon of the Filoxenia branch in Corinth said the result of the shutdown is that "almost 7,000 people are now on the streets in distress, among them many families and children."

"We are receiving dozens of calls from desperate people looking for food and a place to stay," Moon said. "The majority of them still don't have official documents, so they can't travel or be included in other help programs."

Locals protest on Lesbos and Chios

Meanwhile, the tense situation on the northeastern Aegean Islands of Lesbos and Chios continued at the weekend, as locals held protests against the proposed construction of new 'closed' reception and identification centers.

Hundreds of citizens took part in protests on motorcycles to mark one year since the government sent hundreds of riot police forces on ferries to curb unrest on both islands.

"We will not allow our islands to be turned into warehouses of souls" was one of the many slogans that prevailed at both rallies.

On Chios, the Coordinating Committee of Elected Residents started their protest march at the Gulf of Tholos, where local municipal officials gave a green light to the creation of a 60-hectare site at Cape Akra Pachy.

This was followed by a march to the city center, where a queue several kilometers long arrived at the airport with protesters honking horns and waving black flags.

On Lesbos, the Committee for the Struggle of Loutropolis of Therma inspired a gathering of hundreds of citizens joined by elected representatives from all levels of local government.

The island's two deputies, Giannis Bournou from the Syriza party and Maria Komninaka from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), also joined the gathering.

 

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