Residents of the small village of Vrasna, northeast of Thessaloniki, forced Greek authorities on Tuesday to abandon plans to house approximately 400 migrants and refugees in local hotels.
Local residents blocked the road at the outskirts of the seaside village to stop the buses carrying the migrants, who had been transferred from an overcrowded camp on the island of Samos.
Riot police were also called in when local hoteliers, under pressure from the protesters, reneged on their initial agreement to house the new arrivals.
“We had warned the authorities not to bring to Vrasna more people because local residents are enraged. They didn’t listen to us,” Volvi mayor Diamantis Liamas told the local news website Voria.
“There was tension early on and eventually, when the buses arrived, the hotels were closed,” he added.
The migrants will now be sent to the island of Evia instead, to be hosted in bungalows by the sea, authorities announced on Wednesday.
Ministry sources told the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) that the reaction of the residents was understandable, as the municipality of Volvi is already hosting a number of migrants and asylum seekers.
The same sources said that, on the one hand, we talk about the poor conditions prevailing on the islands and on the other hand we don’t have anywhere to take the migrants because local communities on the mainland do not want them.
They also added that the ministry’s intention is to fairly distribute refugees throughout Greece but noted that regional governors have not yet sent any proposals on potential accommodation sites, as they had agreed to do in a recent meeting with the minister.