THESSALONIKI, Greece — Migrants and refugees around Greece staged demonstrations at four sites Thursday to protest delays in implementing asylum procedures promised under a European Union agreement with Turkey.
Around 500 migrants chanting “open the borders” gathered Thursday in Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki.
“I’ve been here for six months and we are still trapped here. People reaching Italy can cross borders. But we are not allowed to, I don’t understand why,” said Abdo Rjab, a 21-year-old Syrian from the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa.
Protests were also held Thursday on the islands of Chios and Lesbos, while scores of migrants at a camp near the Greek-Macedonian border in the north of the country blocked the main highway linking the two countries for about 30 minutes.
Demonstrators on Chios marched to the island’s town hall, with many holding up hand-written placards. One boy had the words “children deserve a future” written with an orange marker on his chest.
Police announced no arrests at any of the protests.
Some 60,000 migrants remain stranded on Greece’s mainland and the islands since European border closures earlier this year.
Under the EU-Turkey deal, migrants who arrived in Greece after March 20 can be deported back to Turkey. But most of the detention camps there are over capacity.
Despite border closures in Macedonia and across the Balkan route to other EU countries, migrants in northern Greece are trying to sneak over the border in increasing numbers — many hiding in forest areas and attempting to make the crossing at night.
Police in northern Greece told The Associated Press on Thursday that 196 migrants and refugees were detained in the border area in the previous 24 hours and escorted to refugee camps — the highest daily number since the EU-Turkey deal took effect.
“We are doing what we can to stop them,” a senior officer told the AP, speaking anonymously because he is not authorized to talk to the news media. “But some are bound to make it across.”