Mi­grants on hunger strike to be re­united with fam­i­lies

Cape Times - - WORLD NEWS -

ATHENS: A group of mainly Syr­ian women and chil­dren who have been stranded in Greece have pitched tents op­po­site par­lia­ment in Athens in a protest against de­lays in re­unit­ing with rel­a­tives in Ger­many.

Some, who say they have been in Greece for over a year, said they had be­gun a hunger strike.

“Our fam­ily tiesare stronger than your il­le­gal agree­ments,” read a ban­ner held up by one woman, re­fer­ring to deals on refugees be­tween EU na­tions.

Greek me­dia have re­ported that Greece and Ger­many in­for­mally agreed in May to slow down refugee re­uni­fi­ca­tion, strand­ing fam­i­lies in Greece for months af­ter they fled Syria’s civil war. Greece de­nies this.

“What we’ve man­aged to do on fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion is to have an in­crease of about 27% this year com­pared with last year, even though we’re ac­cused of cut­ting back fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion and do­ing deals to cut back fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion,” Mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Yan­nis Mouza­las told re­porters.

Mouza­las said Greece had as­sur­ances from Ger­many that refugees whose ap­pli­ca­tions have been ac­cepted will even­tu­ally go to Ger­many, even if there are de­lays.

He de­nied that refugees had to pay for their flights.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for asy­lum, re­uni­fi­ca­tion and relocation to other Euro­pean coun­tries can take months to be pro­cessed.

“I have not seen my husband or my child for more than one year and nine months,” said 32-year-old Syr­ian Dalal Rashou, who has five chil­dren, one of whom is in Ger­many with her husband.

“I miss him and ev­ery day I am here in Greece I cry. I don’t want to stay here, I want to go to my husband,” she said.

About 60 000 refugees and mi­grants – mostly Syr­i­ans, Afghans and Iraqis – have been stranded in Greece af­ter bor­der clo­sures in the Balkans halted the on­wards jour­ney many planned to take to cen­tral and western Europe.

Some 25 000 refugees and mi­grants have crossed to Greece from Tur­key this year – a frac­tion of the nearly 1 mil­lion ar­rivals in 2015 – but ar­rivals have picked up in re­cent months.

An av­er­age of 214 peo­ple ar­rived each day in Septem­ber – up from 156 in Au­gust, 87 in July and 56 in March, Mouza­las said.

The rise has stretched Greek is­land camps, which are strug­gling to cope with num­bers two to three times their ca­pac­ity.

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