ATHENS, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 1st August, 2016) - Greek police on Sunday arrested 26 anarchists who disrupted an Orthodox church service in northern Thessaloniki to protest against the eviction of refugees from disused buildings, a police source said. The activists ran into the city's cathedral, scattering leaflets that read "Solidarity with the refugees", before they were taken into custody by anti-riot forces, the source said.
Among those arrested were nine foreigners from Austria, Britain, Germany, Morocco, Spain and Switzerland. They will be charged with "disturbing a religious gathering", the same source said. The protest came after local authorities in the city last week forced refugees out of three buildings where they had been squatting, including an orphanage belonging to the diocese. An explosive device was set off earlier Sunday outside the company that demolished the orphanage.
A number of abandoned buildings in Athens and Thessaloniki in recent months have been taken over by anarchists and groups helping migrants and refugees to find shelter. Official estimates say more than 2,000 refugees are currently living in such squats, mostly former schools. While the left-wing government has been quietly tolerant of the squatters, local authorities have taken a harsher stance, warning of health and safety hazards.
"Occupying buildings cannot resolve the problem of migrants and refugees," Athens mayor Yiorgos Kaminis said recently, threatening to file a complaint against those squatting at some 20 sites across the capital. Ever since Balkan nations on the migrant trail closed their borders earlier this year, the Greek government has been struggling to cope with a build-up of new arrivals prevented from continuing their journey further north into Europe. It is currently hosting some 57,000 people, mainly Syrian refugees. Greece's public health watchdog has warned that many of the camps in the country -- often created out of abandoned industrial facilities and warehouses -- are overcrowded and ill-suited as long-term accommodation. The government says it is in the process of building other facilities.