World Refugee Day: Berlin, Paris, Rome rally in solidarity with migrants; Slovakia holds anti-immigration protests

originally posted at ABC.net.eu

Activists attend a demonstration on World Refugee Day in Berlin

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PHOTO: Activists used the World Refugee Day rally to protest against demands for austerity in Greece. (Reuters: Hannibal Hanschke)

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in several European cities, in a show of solidarity with migrants seeking refuge in Europe and against austerity measures in debt-ridden Greece.

In Berlin, some 3,700 turned out according to local police, while organisers said 10,000 participated in a protest held on World Refugee Day, that had been called by German opposition parties Die Linke (The Left) and Gruenen (The Greens).

In the German capital, protesters chanted, “No frontiers, no nations, stop deportation” and “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”.

Marching from the bohemian Kreuzberg district to Brandenburg gate, some of the protesters held up flags of Greece and posters bearings slogans supporting Athens, as a critical June 30 deadline in debt talks looms.

Should Greece fail to reach a deal with its international creditors to secure the last tranche of funds from its massive bail-out, it risks defaulting and possibly crashing out of the eurozone.

This “technocratic, cold and neoliberal Europe that is led by Germany is unbearable”, read one poster held up by a demonstrator.

Economic powerhouse Germany is seen by anti-austerity activists as taking uncompromising stances in the debt crises that have hit several European countries.

In Paris, police said 3,500 protesters including undocumented migrants rallied behind a banner that reads: “Greece, France, Europe: austerity kills, democracy is dying, let’s resist”.

Elsewhere in France, hundreds gathered in the southern city of Marseille and in Calais – the northern port city used as a springboard by migrants seeking to reach Britain.

In the south-east, activists gathered in Menton near the Italian border, in solidarity with hundreds of migrants stuck in Italy after France refused to allow them in.

In Rome too, scores of protesters braved the rain and gathered under the slogan, “Stop the massacre now”.

“We are here to save our Europe, which includes immigrants, refugees and Greece. Europe must belong to everyone, not just to the Germans and the banks,” 66-year-old pensioner Luciano Colletta said.

In the Spanish city of Valencia Amnesty International activists took part in a performance on a beach to commemorate World Refugee Day, holding signs “I flee from gender violence” and “I flee from war”.

World Refugee Day in Valencia
PHOTO: Amnesty International activists in Valencia hold signs “I flee from gender violence”. (Reuters: Heino Kalis)
‘I wish you a nice, white day’: Slovakia’s anti-refugee protest

However, in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, at least 140 people were arrested after violence broke out at an anti-immigration rally attended by thousands of people.

The rally, organised by an anti-Islam group called Stop the Islamisation of Europe, was called after the European Commission said in May that Slovakia should accept 471 migrants from Italy and 314 from Greece.

“I wish you a nice, white day… We are here to save Slovakia,” far-right Marian Kotleba and the governor of a central Slovak region said.

Carrying a banner bearing the slogan “Multiculturalism equals genocide”, some protesters tore up an EU flag and launched tear gas at the police.

Later in the train station, unidentified attackers threw bottles and stones at an Arab family.

A poll by the Focus opinion research agency showed Slovaks perceived the current wave of migrants heading to Europe as the hottest international topic.

“The vast majority of the Slovak public… perceives migrants as a security risk for the country, or as an economic or social burden,” said Focus head Martin Slosiarik.

Some 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, most of them landing in Italy, Greece and Malta which all want their EU peers to share more of the burden.

At least 1,800 people have drowned trying to make the journey.

EU member states on Friday approved plans to launch the first phase of a military operation against people smugglers in the Mediterranean.

Human Rights Watch said most migrants who have reached Europe in recent months come from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Syria.

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