February 6, 2017 / 12:12 PM / 6 months ago

Stranded migrants in Greek camp protest over living conditions

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Refugees and migrants, most of them Afghans, block the entrance of the refugee camp at the disused Hellenikon airport as police officers try to disperse them, in Athens, Greece, February 6, 2017.Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - A group of migrants and refugees on Monday blocked a Greek minister from entering the former Athens airport terminal, where they have been stranded for months, in a protest against their living conditions.

Dozens of protesters, among them many children, rallied outside a gate chanting "Go, Go!" and "Liar!" to Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas. One migrant handed him a crying child as he reached the chained gate.

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The government wants to clear out the entire compound, which consists of venues used in the 2004 Olympic Games and the former Athens airport, as Greece has agreed to lease it to private investors under its bailout programme. About 1,600 people, mostly Afghans, are camped in these facilities.

About 600 people live at the former arrivals' terminal where Monday's protest took place.

The protest, a day after local media reported that a group of migrants were going on hunger strike, was brief. Mouzalas said some migrants had tried to block food distribution at the camp on Sunday but the reports that they were going on hunger strike were unfounded.

    "I completely understand their pain and hardship. We are trying to ease it as much as we can," Mouzalas told reporters.

About 60,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece from border shutdowns throughout the Balkans, halting the onward journey many planned to take to central and western Europe.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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