Police in Greece removed more than 50 Kurds from a building in the town of Lavrio, southeast of Athens, which Turkey has claimed was a cover for Kurdish militants.
The police in a statement said they had transferred 26 men, eight women and 19 children from Lavrio to other facilities run by the Greek migration ministry.
Officials noted that the building, which had initially housed refugees from the former Soviet Union in 1947 before being used in the 1980s to accommodate Kurds fleeing Turkey, is slated for demolition.
“A small earthquake could have brought down the building, crushing the residents,” Lavrio Mayor Dimitris Loukas told reporters at the scene.
The police said the operation was conducted “calmly and there was no resistance.”
However, a Kurdish representative told AFP that police had “broken down all the doors and violently entered rooms” to clear the residents.
The Kurdistan Cultural and Democratic Centre, a group representing Kurdish refugees in Greece, said “an army” of 300 police officers accompanied by a prosecutor had taken the residents to a migrant camp in Malakasa, near Athens.
“They were awakened and rounded up, they did not even have time to collect their clothes,” the center said.
Dozens of Kurds protested the evacuation of the building by marching in the center of Athens on Wednesday.
— Vedat Yeler (@vedatyeler_) July 5, 2023
Some social media users claim that the decision to shut down the building was a present to Turkey, a few days before the NATO Summit where a meeting between Greek PM Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to take place.
Turkey has accused Greece of harboring terrorists among the Kurds
It added that Greece had closed the shelter to satisfy Turkey, which for years has claimed that it was a training centre for militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
The camp has been criticized by Turkey which claims that members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Gulenists (FETO) and other individuals associated with what it calls terrorist organizations have been using the camp to spread propaganda and initiate attacks against Turkish targets.
In September 2022, Erdogan accused Greece of harboring terrorists at Lavrio.
“Terrorists are protected in almost every country in Europe, especially in the Greek camp in Lavrio,” said the Turkish president, noting that terrorists threaten the peace and security of Western countries which protect terrorist groups.
“We expect all countries, especially the neighbors, to take appropriate measures against terrorist organizations,” he added.
Greece has rejected the accusations. The then Minister of Civil Protection Takis Theodorikakos stated: “It is sad that Turkey repeats the slanderous claim without having any evidence that Greece is training terrorists against it.”
The shutting down of the Lavrion camp comes as relations between Greece and Turkey are seemingly improving following the devasting earthquake in Turkey in early February and the train disaster in Greece later in that month.