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Dozens of stranded refugees in Greek capital protest over living conditions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Refugees, most of them Afghans, shout slogans while blocking the entrance of the refugee camp at the disused Hellenikon airport in Athens, Greece, February 6, 2017 (Photo by Reuters)

Dozens of stranded refugees, among them many children, have held a massive protest rally over their poor living conditions in the Greek capital, Athens. 

The angry refugee protesters on Monday rallied outside the gate of a former Athens airport terminal, where they have been stranded for months.

The demonstrators blocked Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas from entering the refugee camp at the disused Hellenikon airport. One refugee handed Mouzalas a crying child as he reached the chained gate.

They also held placards and chanted slogans such as “Go, Go!" and "Liar!"

The minister expressed sympathy with the refugees.

"I completely understand their pain and hardship. We are trying to ease it as much as we can," Mouzalas said.

Some 1,600 people, mostly Afghans, are camped in these facilities, which consist of venues used in the 2004 Olympic Games and the former Athens airport. Nearly 600 refugees live at the former arrivals' terminal where the latest protest took place.

The government wants to clear out the entire compound after Greece agreed to lease it to private investors under its bailout program.

The protest took place a day after local media reported that a group of refugees were going on hunger strike at the camp.

Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas (C) talks with protesting refugees, most of them Afghans, at the refugee camp at the disused Hellenikon airport in Athens, Greece, February 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Mouzalas has confirmed that some refugees had tried to block food distribution at the camp on Sunday. The minister, however, denied the reports that they were going on hunger strike.

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Greece, which has over 60,000 refugees trapped on its soil,  is still struggling to cope with the refugee crisis despite a deal between the EU and Turkey aimed at reducing the number of people crossing by boat to the Greek islands.

Many analysts believe Western intervention and policies are largely to blame for the refugee crisis crippling Europe.

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