Hundreds of people on Greece’s Aegean island of Chios have staged an anti-refugee demonstration, calling on the government to implement immediate measures to limit the arrival of further refugees on the island.
The protesters first convened at the Vounaki Square on the island on Wednesday, when a number of anti-refugee speeches were delivered, and then marched toward the Chandris Hotel, carrying banners and placards with anti-refugee messages.
Some 2,800 refugees are currently living on Chios — which is the fifth largest Greek island — including in its municipality-run Souda migrant camp. Chios is said to be capable of accommodating only 1,100 refugees.
The eastern island of Chios is separated from Turkey by the narrow Cesme Strait, and along with Lesbos Island, is considered by refugees coming from Turkey as the first stand on their path to elsewhere in Europe.
More than 60,000 refugees are currently in Greece; most of them seek to reach Germany, their ideal destination, as well as other wealthy European countries. But they are stuck in Greece as several eastern European and Balkan states, including Hungary, have shut their borders.
Official figures show that over 13,000 refugees are stranded on islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, living in cramped camps and shelters.
Back in March, the European Union (EU) and Ankara reached a deal to have irregular refugees arriving on the EU’s external borders returned to Turkey. Under the deal, new arrivals on Greek islands after March 20 face deportation to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.
As part of the EU-Ankara deal, Greece has since April 4 started deporting refugees who do not meet asylum-seeking criteria from Lesbos and Chios.
On Wednesday, the EU said that it hoped to resettle 30,000 eligible refugees in Greece to other member countries of the bloc by the end of next year.
Last year, the EU required its member states to abide by a quota system in a bid to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other member states, but recent figures reveal that only 5,600 people have so far been resettled under the scheme.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in those regions, forcing more people to flee their homes.