People shout slogans in a rally against racism and fascism in Athens, Greece, on March 17, 2018. Greek citizens, migrants and refugees took to the streets of Athens on Saturday to protest against racism and fascism ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which is commemorated annually on March 21. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou, Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Greek citizens, migrants and refugees took to the streets of Athens on Saturday to protest against racism and fascism ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which is commemorated annually on March 21.
Holding banners with slogans such as "Freedom of movement" and "Unity", demonstrators representing various groups confronting racism shouted for the end of wars, chaotic social inequalities, far-right violence and all forms of discrimination.
"We convey the message that we will not stand idle in front of the fascists who return 70 years after the Holocaust. If we are all united, we can stop them," Petros Konstantinou, director of the local anti-fascist group Keerfa told Xinhua, pointing to the rise of the ultra-right and the dozens racist attacks against migrants in Greece and across Europe in recent years.
"We send the message to the EU that we will not tolerate the images of women and children drowning in the Mediterranean. We demand the re-opening of the borders. Let's wish that the crime at Agathonissi today will be the last one," he added.
16 DIE AS BOAT SINKS OFF ISLAND
Earlier on Saturday the Greek Coast Guard had retrieved the bodies of 16 people, among them four minors, who perished when the wooden boat which carried them from Turkey to Greek sank off the Greek island in the Aegean.
Three people survived and another three were missing in the worst tragedy occurring in the Aegean after several months.
Over million people fleeing warzones and extreme poverty landed on the Greek islands since 2015 seeking safety in Europe.
Following the closure of the borders along the Balkan route to central Europe and the implementation of the European Union-Turkey agreement aimed to stem the influx, the number of new arrivals to Greece has dramatically decreased.
However critics of the deal like Konstantinou dismiss it as "racist."
"WE ARE HERE TO LIVE IN PEACE"
The Athens rally was part of a series of protests held in 70 cities across 15 countries on Saturday to protest the second anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal and the similar EU-Libya agreement, he explained.
"We are here against fascism and racism all over the world. We send the message to the world that we are here to live in peace, because you know the situation, the conditions in our countries," Samir, a Palestinian protester, told Xinhua.
"All refugees as one from Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Africa, all people and immigrants send the message... stop the bloodshed everywhere in the world," he said.
Javed Aslam, the President of the Pakistani Community in Greece union, asked for more measures to support migrants.
"There should be support to immigrants to live with dignity. Here in Greece they should legalize all workers," he said.
Aslam and other protesters also requested the closure of detention centers for refugees and migrants on the Greek islands.