Greek protesters slam EU policies on refugees
Thousands of Greeks have hit the streets in the capital, Athens, for a mass protest rally against EU policies towards refugees mainly coming from the Middle East.
Chanting pro-refugee slogans on Wednesday, the protesters condemned the "imperialist war in the Middle East" and expressed solidarity with refugees arriving in Greece.
They rallied outside EU offices in Athens before heading to the US embassy. They held banners reading, "NATO, USA, European Union governments create wars, poverty, uprooting” and “Refugees welcome."
Police forces were deployed in large numbers outside the US embassy, however, no clashes were reported and the rally went by peacefully.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Some 1.3 million refugees have entered the EU since the start of 2015.
Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the mass exodus of refugees from their home countries.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that over 131,000 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, more than the total number recorded in the first half of 2015.
Asylum seekers have become stranded in Greece after Austria and some Balkan countries such as Macedonia imposed restrictions on their borders, limiting the numbers able to cross.
An estimated 25,000 refugees have been camping in squalid conditions with little food or medical help on the Greek side of the border as Macedonia is letting very few in. On Wednesday, Macedonia allowed only around 250 asylum seekers to cross its border with Greece.
Reports say some 1,800 refugees, mostly from Syria and Iraq, pour into Greece from Turkey each day.
Aid groups have warned about a shortage of food and tents in Greece, saying the bad condition is taking its toll on the refugees, including children.
German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country accepted over one million asylum seekers last year, defended her approach to the refugee crisis.
"We take on this challenge of globalization according to our values, but also according to our ability to secure our borders and still take on humanitarian responsibility," she said.
Turkey and Greece should not allow for the sea area between them to be governed by mafia-like human traffickers, Merkel noted.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, however, said the EU is “really worried” by the buildup of refugees at the border between Greece and Macedonia.
“We are not only concerned, but really worried about what is happening there. It was foreseen that it would lead to a huge humanitarian crisis in Greece”, Juncker said.
In France, authorities continued to forcibly evict thousands of homeless asylum seekers from a refugee camp, nicknamed ‘Jungle’, on the outskirts of the country's northern port town of Calais for a third day on Wednesday.
The camp houses some 3,500 refugees gathered in the hope of reaching Britain. London has put substantial pressure on Paris to stem the flow of refugees into the UK.