Greece has warned it would not be turned into ‘warehouse of souls’ by the rest of the Europe after tens of thousands of migrants were left trapped in the country.
Two desperate men yesterday attempted to hang themselves in a square in the centre of Athens as frustrations grew with border closures that have stopped people leaving.
One of the men, a Pakistani, was left unconscious after tying a noose made from twisted lengths of fabric to a tree and was taken to hospital.
Two desperate men yesterday attempted to hang themselves in a square in the centre of Athens as frustrations grew with border closures
Greek officials estimate 20,000 migrants have been stranded there after neighbouring Macedonia abruptly shut its border on Monday to anyone not Syrian or Iraqi
At a makeshift migrant camp in one of the capital’s suburbs, hundreds queued for food.
Greek officials estimate 20,000 migrants have been stranded there after neighbouring Macedonia abruptly shut its border on Monday to anyone not Syrian or Iraqi.
With all migrant centres full, Greek authorities have started using stadiums as temporary accommodation.
The UN’s refugee agency yesterday announced it is looking to lease entire hotels with hundreds of rooms for at least nine months.
More than 800,000 people last year arrived from Turkey on the Greek islands, where they got boats to Athens and then headed to the Balkans and continued their journeys up through Europe.
But the tough new restrictions being enforced by Macedonia, which is only letting 200 people through a day, have created a bottleneck with thousands continuing to arrive each day in the country but with no way to leave.
The Greek Prime Minister has warned his country will block future EU agreements if other member states refused to share the burden of refugees.
Alexis Tsipras said Greece: ‘Will not accept turning the country into a permanent warehouse of souls with Europe continuing to function as if nothing is happening.’
Groups of frustrated migrants, including families with small children, yesterday walked along the country’s main motorway in the hope of reaching Macedonia after authorities stopped their buses to ease the crowds at the blocked border.
One of the men, a Pakistani, was left unconscious after tying a noose made from twisted lengths of fabric to a tree and was taken to hospital
The Greek Prime Minister has warned his country will block future EU agreements if other member states refused to share the burden of refugees
The men, one of whom was unconscious, were rushed to hospital from the square, a common destination for migrants when they reach Athens from the Aegean Sea islands
‘We have been here for six days. We cannot take it any more,’ said Hasan, an Iraqi in a group of hundreds heading towards the small border town of Idomeni.
One couple were using a plastic box as a crib for their baby, pulling it along the road.
Nearly 3,000 people are currently massed at the border. Wassim al Mousalli, 37, a pharmacist from Damascus said he, his wife and children aged three and six had spent two days camped at the crossing.
‘We spent the night in a small tent, the children were very cold,’ he said. ‘I want to reach Germany, and my main question is why are the borders being kept closed.’
Walaa Jbara, a 23-year-old Syrian student, said: ‘It took me 20 hours to get here. The police kept stopping us, but I couldn’t wait.’
Mr Tsipras said it was unacceptable for EU partners to force Greece to shoulder the crisis.
He said: ‘We did and will continue to do everything we can to provide warmth, essential help and security to uprooted people.
Other migrants tend to two Pakistani men who tried to commit suicide by hanging themselves with twisted lengths of fabric from a tree in central Athens' Victoria Square
Bystanders said the men were upset because of delays in their planned travel to northern Greece, from which migrants start their long trek through the Balkans to wealthier European countries
‘We will either be in a union of common rules for all or everyone will do as they please: we will not accept the latter.’
At a meeting in Brussels yesterday, Greece threatened to block all EU efforts to handle the crisis unless countries along the migrant route up through Europe began allowing people through again.
Relations between EU countries were strained to breaking point as Greece accused Austria of behaving like it still has an empire.
Athens officials were furious after Austria joined with nine other countries to warn they would no longer allow migrants to be ‘waved through’.
The countries said they had been forced to take matters into their own hands to protect their borders after the EU’s attempts at a unified response had failed to yield results.
As talks descended into chaos yesterday, Greece recalled its ambassador from Vienna.
The country’s migration minister, Yannis Mouzalas, said the other states were trying to make it take the brunt of the crisis.
He echoed the PM in when he said: ‘Greece will not accept becoming Europe’s Lebanon, a warehouse of souls, even if this were to be done with major funding.
‘Greece will not accept unilateral actions. Greece, too, can take unilateral action.’
Lebanon hosts around a quarter of the four million Syrians who have fled to neighbouring countries.
In a strongly worded statement, the Greek foreign ministry accused Austria of holding attitudes from the ‘19th century’ – a time when it had an empire in central Europe.
In response, Austria’s interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner raised the possibility of excluding Greece from the EU’s passport-free travel zone, Schengen.
‘If it is really the case that the Greek external border cannot be protected, can it be still a Schengen external border?’ she said.
More than a million people arrived on Europe’s shores in 2015 and over 100,000 have reached Greece and Italy already this year.