ATHENS – A false message on social media has sparked violent clashes between migrants and police in Greece on Friday.
Riot police were deployed during a rally near a refugee camp in the village of Diavata, near the town of Thessaloniki in the north of the country.
Around 700 people have camped in the area since Thursday after a message went out on social media saying that a caravan would be crossing the border to North Macedonia, local police told EFE.
The rumors were started from false accounts that asked refugees to join the “Glitter of Hope Caravan,” according to the Greek Ministry for Migration.
The situation in Diavata was tense, with clashes between refugees and police, a group of around 40 women and children tried to break the police cordon and were repressed with tear gas on Friday morning.
In Athens, refugees sat on railway tracks at the capital city’s main station protesting against the blockades in the north of the country.
Dozens of people, including children, positioned themselves on the railway lines, which led to the cancellation of dozens of domestic and suburban trains.
The occupation began on Thursday night after police stopped ticket holders from boarding trains to Thessaloniki.
The regional coordinator of the Ministry for Migration announced that no trains were to depart from Athens to Thessaloniki until further notice in a bid to “contain the mobilizations to the north and the borders.”
Migrants were demanding transfers to the border to be able to continue their trip to other European countries, with the hope of finding a better life.
“It’s a plan that takes time for people who want to leave Greece and that materialized two days ago. The majority of refugees in this country have a lot of problems, like for example, that I lived seven months in Moria, the worst camp that I’ve known in the world,” a young Afghan man, who did not want to give his name, told EFE.
In his country he was a musician, a rapper and participant in the television contest “The Voice” but he does not see a future in Greece.
He has not been granted refugee status yet and says he has to wait a year for the next interview.
Authorities have cordoned off the Diavata camp to stop the number of people camping in the area from increasing.
The Greek Secretary-General on Immigration Policy, Miltiadis Klapas, said authorities had not expected so many people to gather in response to the social media rumor, which had been circulating for two months.
“We will try to find a solution and convince them that they will not be able to cross the border, they will get their money back, we know they are looking for hope, but it is a situation that does not depend only on Greece,” he told the media.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration issued a statement warning that “in addition to possible legal consequences, those who participate in these movements may end up in dire conditions when they stay without shelter, food or other adequate basic services.”
They also warned people not to trust information that is shared through informal networks, because “it is often misleading or totally incorrect.”