Greek nationalist anger turns to violence against refugees

Years into a refugee crisis, many Greeks continue to resist the integration of asylum seekers stranded in the country. New, far-right extremist groups are taking advantage of the frustration. Anthee Carassava reports.

Group of Golden Dawn protesters

A supreme court prosecutor has ordered an urgent investigation into a violent racist attack against a migrant minor after a new group of far-right vigilantes emerged from obscurity, vowing to chase refugees out of Greece.

The group, calling itself Crypteia, claims to be a modern-day remake of a sort of Hitler Youth of Sparta — a murderous clan of men who roamed the countryside of southern Greece, in ancient times, terrorizing and killing state slaves.

The investigation comes days after members of the hit squad attacked the home of Amir, an 11-year-old Afghan boy and his family in central Athens. Vigilantes used rocks and beer bottles to smash the boy’s bedroom window at 3 a.m., also tossing in a message in Greek that only Amir was able to read.

A smashed windowAmir and his family have been moved to a safe house after this attack on their home

It read: “Go back to your village. Leave.”

The hate crime — considered the first against a migrant minor — has sparked furious reactions from the United Nations and other humanitarian groups concerned that a rising rate of attacks on asylum seekers threatens to transform this once tranquil sun-kissed European nation into a hotbed of throbbing racist discontent.

Division over the treatment of refugees

Watch video01:21

Greek far-right praises Trump entry ban

But in Greece, the latest incident with Amir has triggered a nationwide debate — and division — over whether asylum seekers stuck in the country who wish to leave than stay, should be afforded the same rights as local citizens in the interim.

“There is no question that they should be embraced by all of us, and the state, to help them overcome the violent uprooting that they faced from their homelands,” said Panagiotis Armamentos, a local attorney. “They enjoy refugee status. And we as Greeks should honor that so much more because we too have been migrants and refugees, trying to seek a better life abroad.”

Read more: Refugee crisis further muddies Greek politics

But not all agree. In fact, in a random DW survey of Greeks in a middle class suburb of Athens, Armanentos emerged as the only emphatic supporter of refugee rights. All others appeared sympathetic but then biased and at times discriminatory on emotive, nationalist issues.

“They can eat and sleep here,” says Evangelos Dangalakis, a retired orthodontist. “But beyond that, refugees can not and should not enjoy the same rights as Greeks. They should not be allowed to appropriate Greek symbols and values.”

A Greek coupleEvangelos Dangalakis and his wife don’t want refugees to be afforded the same rights as locals

“A refugee, for example, can not lead a national parade and carry the Greek flag. It’s a right that should be afforded only to Greeks.”

Just days before Amir’s home was stoned, administrators at a state school demonstrated exactly that — stripping the young Afghan of the privileged prize he had won in a lottery organized by his teachers. Eventually, Amir was given a small, nondescript, school sign to carry during the march, instead.

National identity

“And rightly so” says George, leading his girlfriend, Nasia, into a luxury coffee shop in the Athens suburb of Drosia. “My grandfather fought for that flag; her’s was killed trying to defend it. It’s not an issue of racism or discrimination,” said the 37-year-old businessman, refusing to divulge his surname, “but of one of national identity. How can a Muslim hold a flag bearing a cross? And how can any migrant even aspire to enjoy the same rights as the local population when he himself refuses to assimilate, seeing us as a mere stepping stone to another destination.”

Like thousands of refugees who have streamed to Greece from Turkey in the past year, Amir and his family have refused political asylum here, hoping to reach their preferred destination of Germany to reunite with relatives.

Refugees at a protest in AthensMany refugees in Greece are eager to join their families and relatives in Germany

It’s not the first time that Greeks have tried to assert their national identity in the wake of Europe’s refugees crisis. Last year, scores of parents padlocked the gates of primary schools and kept their children from attending classes in one of the biggest and most violent protests to grip northern Greece.

Backed by extreme-right vigilantes, the demonstrations quickly took on strong racist and nationalist tones. Most worryingly, though, they underscored the beleaguered government’s daunting task of managing the integration of more than 62,000 asylum seekers stranded across the country.

Further attacks expected

With migration inflows rising anew, experts have warned of more far-right extremist attacks.

Earlier this year, the Hellenic League of Human rights said in a report that after years of inaction, Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was once again starting to recruit and train anti-migrant hit squads.

Police investigating the attack on Amir and his family suspect that Crypteia is a violent offshoot of Golden Dawn. No arrests or prosecutions have followed. But to protect him against any future attacks, police have relocated the young Afghan and his family to an undisclosed safe house in Athens.

“Unfortunately,” said Armamentos, the attorney and human rights advocate, “this incident has put us all in a bad light. It marks a bad moment for Greece and the Greeks. Something must be done.”

COURTESY: DW

‘Islamic State’ car bomb kills dozens of civilians in Syria: monitor

Scores of displaced people from the latest fighting in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province have been killed in a car bombing. The blast follows the Syrian army’s recapture of the last major city held by the jihadists.

Syrien Krieg - Kämpfe in Deir ez-Zor (Getty Images/AFP)

Saturday evening’s blast struck refugees who had fled the fighting in the oil and gas-rich Syrian province and who had gathered on the east bank of the Euphrates River, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 75 civilians were killed and many others and some 140 were injured, the monitor said. IS fighters detonated the car bomb at close range, the Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told news agencies.

Syria’s state news agency SANA later described the blast as a suicide car bombing.

Watch video01:07

Iraq and Syria take last major towns from ‘Islamic State’

The blast happened in an area between the Conoco and Jafra energy fields controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and close to the city of Deir el-Zour, which last week was captured by Syrian regime forces from the “Islamic State” (IS) armed group.

The largest city in eastern Syria, Deir el-Zour is a center for the country’s oil extracting industry.

Read more:US-backed SDF captures Syria’s largest oil field from ‘Islamic State’

Refugees still in danger

Save the Children estimates that 350,000 people have fled the recent fighting in Deir el-Zour.

“The situation in the city, and surrounding countryside, has been especially bleak with civilians trapped between the fighting and all too often caught in the crossfire,” explained Sonia Khush, the charity’s Syria director.

Karte Syrien Deir ez-Zor Englisch (DW)

The Observatory, which gets its information from a network of Syria-based activists, said civilians were stranded on an island on the Euphrates directly facing Deir el-Zour and where some jihadist pockets remained.

IS is facing an onslaught by both Syrian government troops and the SDF alliance for the few remaining areas it controls in eastern Syria.

Read more:‘Islamic State’ suffers major losses in Syria and Iraq

Having been driven from about 96 percent of territory they once captured in Syria and Iraq, the jihadists still control a small stretch inside the war-ravaged country and some desert regions along the Iraq-Syria border.

Last IS areas remain

After taking full charge of Deir el-Zour city, the Syrian army said IS militants were now isolated and encircled in the countryside east of the city.

Meanwhile, Kurdish-led SDF forces were reported to be making fresh gains further north in Deir el-Zour province.

Syrian regime forces, backed by intensive Russian air strikes, are now attempting to retake Abu Kamal, the last urban center controlled by the jihadi group in Syria, and close to the Iraqi border.

Last month, Syrian Kurd-led forces, allied with the US, captured Raqqa, once the de-facto capital of IS’ self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria.

Also on Saturday, reports suggested that US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart may discuss a settlement to the 6-year Syrian civil war in the next few days.

Russia’s RIA news agency said the talks could take place on the sidelines of the Asian economic summit in Vietnam.

Washington and Moscow remain on opposing sides in the conflict and ties remain frosty over allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.

mm/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Courtesy: DW

30,000 rejected asylum seekers ‘disappeared’ in Germany, tabloid claims

The German government has admitted that it does not always know the whereabouts of rejected asylum seekers, but argues that the number doesn’t tell the whole truth. The government’s asylum agency faces a file backlog.

Refugees in Germany (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel)

Around 30,000 rejected asylum seekers have simply disappeared from Germany’s records, a German newspaper has claimed, though the government and refugee organizations call the statistical analysis inaccurate and “ridiculous.”

According to a report in Thursday’s mass-circulation daily Bild, the government’s Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR) counted around 54,000 people at the end of 2016 who were obligated to leave the country, but only around 23,000 were claiming state benefits in accordance with the law governing asylum applicants, according to numbers from the Federal Statistical Office.

An Interior Ministry spokesman told Bild, “It can’t be ruled out that individuals obligated to leave the country documented in the foreign nationals register have already left the country or have disappeared without the relevant foreign nationals authority having been made aware of it, or reporting the fact to the AZR.”

Read more: Do refugees travel to their home countries on vacation?

The BAMF (picture alliance/dpa/Geisler-Fotopress)The BAMF said the statistics cited in Bild are misleading

But in response to the Bild report, another Interior Ministry spokesman told DW that the paper’s calculations were based on various false assumptions. “The article fundamentally misunderstands the basic premise that only around 49 percent of all foreign nationals registered in the AZR as obliged to leave are people whose asylum applications have been refused,” the spokesman said in an email. “Apart from rejected asylum seekers, people with expired visas are also often obligated to leave.”

The ministry also said Bild was comparing numbers that had no statistical connection: “Neither all those obliged to leave, nor the group of rejected asylum seekers are entitled to asylum seeker benefits,” the spokesman added.

Watch video01:13

Potential coalition partners divided over asylum seekers

Absurd claim

Bernd Mesovic, director of legal policy at refugees’ rights organization Pro Asyl, said it was ridiculous of Bild to claim that these figures were new or in any way surprising. “This is an ancient story,” he said. “The fact is that one can assume that a lot of people in the AZR have long since left. Just because they’re not there doesn’t mean they’ve ‘gone underground.’ In our experience many people move on at the beginning of the procedure.”

“There are no checks on who has left, unless they’re considered dangerous,” Mesovic added. “People can leave Germany whenever they want, and many don’t register with the authorities when they do.” He also pointed out that many immigrants arrive in Germany and simply tell authorities that they have relatives elsewhere in Europe and then travel there of their own accord.

“I know cases of people who say, ‘I’m sick of waiting in Germany; I’m going back to my country of origin,'” Mesovic said. “There are people who even voluntarily go back to Syria or Afghanistan. They’re not obliged (to tell authorities they’re going anywhere), and it’s hard to check.”

Read more: ‘Returning from Germany’ online portal to boost number refugees leaving voluntarily

Long processing times

This same week, regional newspaper Nürnberger Nachrichten reported that Germany’s central immigration authority, BAMF, is once again struggling to process asylum applications.

Citing an internal BAMF document from mid-October, the newspaper said that while BAMF had been processing around 50,000 cases a month at the beginning of the year, its rate had recently slowed to 15,000-18,000 a month. New cases were now taking up to two months to process, while in January decisions were being made in around 10 days.

The document said BAMF was currently aiming to process another 15,000 asylum applications a month by the end of the year. But the authority is facing a backlog of applications. At the end of 2016 some 430,000 applications had remained untouched. Today, 52,000 old applications are still being processed, some from as far back as 2015. The current target to deal with new applications is three months.

Asylum seekers (Getty Images/S. Gallup)Successful asylum seekers are supposed to take integration classes

Dwindling staff

Despite the ongoing media interest in asylum seekers and immigration procedures, the German government is reducing the number of BAMF personnel: while the agency was employing some 10,000 officials at one point earlier this year, this dipped to 7,800 by September, around half of them on temporary contracts, the regional paper reported.

Similarly, BAMF is currently failing to meet its integration course targets. By September, it had only managed to bring 28,000 asylum seekers onto integration language courses, well below its target of 56,000. While 3,000 people finished the course successfully in September, some 3,000 did not, and a further 9,000 were categorized as “inactive,” having not attended class for nine months.

At the same time, the BAMF document showed it is taking longer for accepted asylum seekers to be given access to a course. On average, it now takes successful asylum seekers 15.2 weeks to be admitted to an integration course after they have received a registration notification, while in January that figure was just 11.7 weeks.

Courtesy: DW

US restarts stricter refugee program, 11 countries still banned

The Trump administration has allowed the resumption of refugee admissions into the US under new stricter screening rules. Arrivals from 11 nations will remain blocked from entry, pending a 90-day review.

Statue of Liberty (Getty Images/D. Angerer)

The US will once again accept refugees after a 120-day ban on admissions lapsed on Tuesday, with new arrivals facing stricter security screening, US officials have announced.

Arrivals from 11 nations will, however, remain blocked from entry, pending a 90-day review on implementing even stricter screening measures. The new state of affairs came after US President Donald Trump signed a presidential decree late Tuesday to replace one that expired that day.

Authorities have declined to specify the 11 countries on the temporary ban list, but said they matched a 2015 list for tougher screening, requiring a “Security Advisory Opinion.”

Read more: US refugee intake slashed to 45,000

Refugee agencies said the affected countries were Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. All but two are Muslim-majority nations. Out of the 53,716 refugees the US accepted in the 2017 financial year, almost half came from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Somalia.

Some applicants from those 11 countries will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, “if it’s deemed to be in the national interest and they pose no threat,” a senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Read more: Refugees flee US on foot, seek safety in Canada

‘Enhanced’ vetting

Applicants from all countries will face “enhanced” vetting, including more detailed checks of social media posts and connections, said Jennifer Higgins, associate director for refugees at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

“The security of the American people is our highest priority,” she told journalists in a briefing.

Watch video02:06

Travel ban in the US hinders asylum

The measures will also include collecting additional information to better determine whether refugees are being truthful about their status, stationing fraud detection officers at certain locations overseas and improving training for adjudicators who process refugee applications.

In his election campaign, Trump vowed to “stop the massive inflow of refugees” and warned that terrorists were posing as refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

“Thousands of refugees are being admitted with no way to screen them and are instantly made eligible for welfare and free health care, even as our own veterans, our great, great veterans, die while they’re waiting online for medical care that they desperately need,” Trump said last October.

A program that allows reunification of refugee families has also been placed on hold, according to a Trump administration memo seen by the Reuters news agency and sent to Congress. The program will resume once screening “enhancements have been implemented.”

Trump’s various travel bans have been legally challenged in several cases. But the Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the last remaining challenge to an earlier version of Trump’s travel ban.

Read more: Hawaii judge blocks Trump administration’s latest travel ban

Process will add months or years

Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of US programs for the International Rescue Committee aid group, said ahead of the announcement that she was concerned the new screening procedures would add months or even years to the most urgent refugee cases.

Sime said most of those cases involve women and children in “heinous circumstances who need the permanent and proven solution of resettlement.”

“With a world facing brutal and protracted conflicts like in Syria, or new levels of displacement and unimaginable violence against the Rohingya — this moment is a test of the world’s humanity, moral leadership and ability to learn from the horrors of the past,” she said.

Refugees International, an advocacy group, said the decision to bar the 11 countries amounted to “a new and near-total ban on admission of refugees from 11 nationality groups.”

aw/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Courtesy: DW

Migration: Angela Merkel’s first hurdle to forming a coalition

Among German Chancellor Merkel’s biggest challenges to building a new coalition government with the Free Democrats and Greens will be migration and refugee policies. Migration fears helped push voters toward the AfD.

A line of people walking to Germany over the German Austrian border (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel)

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces the task of negotiating a coalition of her Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) with the free-market liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, finding a way to get the parties to agree on common migration and refugee policies will likely prove to be her biggest challenge. And success will be far from assured.

“The truth is, there is an arithmetical majority, but the four parties each have their own election mandates. Whether these can be allied without contradiction and in the interests of the country remains to be seen,” FDP head Christian Lindner told Die Welt newspaper on Wednesday.

Read more: Where do German parties stand on refugees, asylum and immigration?

 

The so-called Jamaica coalition, named because the parties’ colors of black, yellow and green correspond to the Caribbean country’s flag, would need to overcome vast ideological and policy differences to unite as a stable government. So what are the potential stumbling blocks toward an agreement on migration?

Read more: German election: Can the Greens and FDP join Angela Merkel in a coalition?

The Free Democrats

In an interview with DW ahead of the election, Lindner alluded to the uncertainty which concerned many in Germany following the arrival of more than a million people seeking asylum in 2015 and 2016.

“We’ve got to get a grip on the situation. That’s one of the cornerstones for any coalition, There have got to be changes in our immigration policy,” he said.

The FDP’s migration policy states there be no maximum number of people granted asylum due to persecution. It advocates creating a new category of humanitarian protection for refugees who have fled war zones and other dangerous situations, which would require them to leave Germany when there was peace in their home countries.

For this, he also declined to name an upper limit for the number of people who could be taken in each year but said a limit could be imposed if the country’s capacity to accept them in became strained.

Read more: FDP: Are Germany’s ‘liberals’ in reality ‘libertarians’?

Watch video01:51

FDP and the Greens: unlikely bedfellows

The Greens

Though the Greens differ vastly from the FDP when it comes to many economic matters, their positions on refugees, asylum and migration are similar in many ways.

The Greens are strongly opposed to an upper limit for asylum seekers, calling it an “absolute no-go.”

Like the FDP, they want to introduce a points-based, Canada style immigration policy and the possibility for people who arrived in Germany as asylum seekers to be able to apply to stay on as regular migrants under the points system.

However, unlike the FDP, the Greens do not believe Afghanistan is safe enough to deport rejected asylum seekers. They also called for family reunification for recognized refugees, which have been paused by Merkel’s government, to resume, saying their party’s “political compass” was oriented toward protection for refugees and human rights.

Read more: Germany’s Green party: How it evolved

“In a coalition with us, just like with the CDU and the FDP, there will be no upper limit for refugees. The CSU must adapt to that if they seriously want to explore a Jamaica coalition,” Greens chair Simone Peter told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Wednesday.

The Christian Social Union

It’s the Christian Democrats’ longtime allies, their Bavarian sister party the CSU, that may prove Merkel’s biggest headache to forming a deal on migration.

Listen to audio58:59

WorldLink: A German metamorphosis via migration

The CSU wants a limit of 200,000 migrants a year. Bavaria was the main entry point for people seeking asylum in Germany via the Balkan route in 2015. Merkel has consistently ruled out a cap and the pressure on her has eased as the number of people arriving in Germany has sunk.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer, who has clashed with Merkel on migration policy, said he had agreed with the chancellor to approach possible coalition talks with a united front, but added they had to respond to voters’ concerns. The CSU lost more than 10 percentage points in Bavaria, hemorrhaging voters to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany which advocated closed borders and adopted anti-migrant rhetoric.

Read more: Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies CSU threaten rightward shift

CSU deputy Manfred Weber said that despite differences with the other potential partners, he still thought a Jamaica coalition was possible.

“We’ll sit together and talk with each other,” Weber told the Bayern 3 radio station on Wednesday morning. “We need a policy that takes account of people’s concerns,” he said, echoing similar statements from other leading CSU figures including Seehofer.

The prospect of losing further support to the AfD in a state election next year is also a factor pushing the CSU to dig in its heels on migration issues.

Illustration Jamaika-Koalition (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Rumpenhorst)Three-way handshakes are awkward. Four-way even more so. Can Merkel make a Jamaica coalition work?

Lessons from the north?

The current CDU premier in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, where a Jamaica coalition has been in force since June, saw room for compromise. Daniel Günther pointed out that the CDU had done well in other state elections post-2015 without insisting on a refugee cap and that stricter policies enacted since then had kept the number of asylum-seeker arrivals below the CSU’s proposed limit anyway. However, he warned against aiming for blanket unity across all issues.

“The secret to our success was that every party accepted that, for such a coalition to work, individual parties needed to have clear victories in certain points,” Günter told Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday.

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Tensions heat up between Bangladesh, Myanmar over Rohingya

Dhaka has warned Myanmar of “unwarranted consequences” over violations of its airspace amid a crackdown on Rohingya. The UN says nearly 400,000 Rohingya have been displaced in what amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

There are 3,70000 Rohingyas in Bangladeshi refugee camps in Cox's bazar. (DW/M.M. Rahman)

Bangladesh again warned Myanmar on Friday of violating its airspace as violence has driven nearly 400,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh over the past three weeks in what the UN has described as “ethnic cleansing.”

The Foreign Ministry in Dhaka said Myanmar military drones and helicopters had violated its airspace on September 10, 12 and 14, as well as on August 25.

The ministry said Myanmar’s “provocations” could lead to “unwarranted consequences.”

Ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar have been strained since Myanmar’s military launched “clearance operations” on August 25 following an attack by Rohingya militants on police posts.

Read more: Myanmar’s Rohingya rebels: What you need to know

Watch video03:26

Rohingya fleeing Myanmar find no shelter in Bangladesh

Burning villages

Human rights organizations say Myanmar’s military and Buddhist vigilante groups have burned villages and killed villagers as part of a scorched earth policy to drive them out of the country.

“Our field research backs what the satellite imagery has indicated — that the Burmese [Myanmar] military is directly responsible for the mass burning of Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Myanmar has denied the allegations.

The UN says nearly 400,000 Rohingya have been forced across the border in Bangladesh, raising concerns of a humanitarian crisis.

“There’s really no sign that this flow of people is going to dry up,” said Chris Lom of the International Organization for Migration.

Read more: Myanmar’s Rohingya: A history of forced exoduses

Humanitarian crisis

Aid agencies are still blocked from accessing all of Rakhine state due to what the Myanmar military says are security concerns.

The violence has mounted international pressure on Myanmar’s military leaders and civilian administration, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

US State Department official Patrick Murphy was set to visit Myanmar to press for an end to violence and allowing humanitarian aid in Rakhine state.

But Myanmar officials said Friday Murphy would not be allowed to access the northern part of Rakhine state at the center of the violence during his trip that includes a visit to the state capital, Sittwe.

The UN refugee agency said Friday it was appealing for $30 million (25 million euros) for the emergency humanitarian aid for Rohingya in Bangladesh. Myanmar says refugees can return if they are citizens, but most Rohingya are stateless despite having lived in Myanmar for generations.

Watch video01:21

Rohingya influx stretches Bangladeshi hospitals to the limit

cw/cmk (dpa, Reuters)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Courtesy, DW

‘Indiscriminate use of violence’: Police clash with migrants protesting eviction in Rome (VIDEO)

Riot police with water cannons in Rome clashed with stone-throwing migrants at a makeshift camp where they were protesting their eviction from a building they have occupied for years. MSF says 13 people were injured in “indiscriminate use of violence.”

Scuffles broke out in central Rome early Thursday, as officers tried to squeeze out around a hundred refugees from Independence Square, which they have occupied since the weekend. Police in riot gear deployed water cannon against the migrants, who used pepper spray and threw stones and bottles at the officers, La Reppublica reports. Two people were arrested, according to Reuters.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says that 13 people have been injured, most of them women. On its Twitter feed, the organization said the “indiscriminate use of violence” followed the eviction, without specifically blaming the police or protesters.

Police, citing the risk that some refugees had gas cylinders and flammable liquids, say force was used in order to remove them from the square, which they refused to do. Protesters have camped inside an office building for the past five years, and have defied an eviction order since last week. According to Italian media, the refugees refused to accept the housing proposed by the municipality yesterday.

On Saturday, 500 police officers cleared the Palazzo Curtatone building, where around 800 refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Ethiopia, had lived since 2013. According to Il Post, the migrants were not offered alternative lodgings immediately after the eviction. As hundreds of displaced people had to sleep on the pavement outside the building, the authorities allowed women and children onto the first floor, Reuters reports.

READ MORE: Tent city: Refugees crowd Paris after ‘Jungle’ closure, residents don’t recognize own city

With most of the squatters having been granted asylum in Italy, banners reading “We are refugees, not terrorists” or “We are not terrorists. We want a house to live in” were hung on the building.

“This is a very sad situation: we are talking about 800 people with refugee status, survivors of wars, persecution or torture, which in some cases have also obtained Italian citizenship, thrown into the streets in inhuman conditions without a real sustainable alternative by the city of Rome, which we have in vain expected in the square,” UNICEF Italy spokesman Andrea Iacovini wrote in a Facebook post.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Italy previously issued a statement, voicing “deep concern” over the eviction, calling on the authorities “to ensure adequate integration measures for those with a right to international protection.”

One of the Eritrean squatters, named Simon, told Internazionale newspaper that two women were beaten after police entered the building to take the refugees to the station.

Saturday’s eviction is said to be the fourth such operation since July, conducted as a security measure, AP reported.

As of July, nearly 84,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea this year in an almost 20 percent spike, compared to the same period of last year. Almost 200,000 accommodation places across Italy are nearly filled, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said.

Courtesy, RT