Thousands of demonstrators march through Berlin over refugees, Greece | News | DW | 20.06.2015
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Thousands of demonstrators march through Berlin over refugees, Greece

Thousands have demonstrated in Berlin for World Refugee Day, while calling for a solution in crisis talks with Greece. Protesters said Europe should adopt a more open and understanding approach to both issues.

The demonstrations were hosted by Germany's opposition Left and Green parties, as well as several other related movements. Local authorities said around 3,700 people attended the demonstrations, chanting slogans welcoming refugees and against deportation. The organizers behind the "Remake.Europe" rally said numbers were closer to 10,000.

"In light of the mass casualties in the Mediterranean and the brutal austerity measures in the European south, the limits of acceptance have long since been reached," the group's website read.

"We want to publicly declare on the streets of Berlin: This Europe is not acting in our name."

Protesters gathered in the bohemian Kreuzberg district in the city's south to hear speeches by politicians, including Theano Fotiou, Greece's deputy minister for social solidarity, before making their way to the Brandenburg Gate.

"We are demonstrating for a Europe of solidarity and peace," Fotiou said. "For a Europe of the people, not the bankers."

'Technocratic, cold and neoliberal Europe'

Greece is on the brink of collapse, as a debt talks deadline of June 30 edges closer. If it fails to reach a compromise with its international creditors over access to its last tranche of bailout funds, it risks a chaotic exit from the eurozone.

Protesters walk past banners in Berlin

Protesters said people were angry at how Europe is treating migrants

The bloc's strongest member, Germany, is seen by many anti-austerity activists as being unnecessarily harsh towards Greece and several other nations hit hard by financial crises. One poster held by a demonstrator declared that this "technocratic, cold and neoliberal Europe led by Germany is unbearable."

Speaking at a ceremony in Berlin earlier in the day, German President Joachim Gauck called for European countries to do more to support those fleeing war-torn homelands.

"Remake.Europe" said Saturday's demonstration was speaking for those people who are horrified "that Europe's answer to the war and poverty that surrounds us is deportation back into exactly this war and poverty. And that the arriving refugees are isolated and treated like criminals, warehoused in detention camps."

'In our names'

This year alone, around 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe, with most touching down on Italian and Greek soil. Almost 2,000 have died making the journey. Emergency talks over the situation have reached a stalemate, with nations disagreeing over how to distribute refugees. An EU summit on the issue is to begin in Brussels next week.

On Friday, activists from the "Center for Political Beauty" protest group staged a funeral for a Syrian refugee who died during the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. It says this is one of a number of planned ceremonies for refugees who drowned or died in other ways.

The group's spokesman, Philipp Ruch, said they were highlighting the true cost of human trafficking.

"These crimes happen in our names," he said. "But I don't know of a single person or friend who says that in his name, human beings should die on the EU's outer borders."

The movement has vowed to rally outside the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, and to turn the space into "a memorial for the victims of Europe's military isolation."

In the Slovak capital of Bratislava, meanwhile, thousands rallied on Saturday against what they called an "Islamization of Europe." The protesters, mainly right-wing extremists who oppose an EU plan for member states to share the burden of hosting asylum-seekers, clashed with police and interrupted a cycling race.

an/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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