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Refugees Trapped in Greece Start Hunger Strike, Demand Speedy Transfer

Syrian refugees seeking reunification with family members in Germany announced hunger strike in Athens on Wednesday, a reflection of frustration as Greek authorities keep delaying their transfer.

According to a leaked letter published last spring, Greece and Germany have agreed to slow the reunification of refugee families divided between the two nations during their scramble to safety. Greece denied that both nations had such a deal.

In Greece, refugees who are eager to meet with their families held banners that read “Our family ties are stronger than your illegal agreements.”

Some of the protestors said they have been in Greece for over a year, and seeking to reunite with their families in Germany soon.

Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas told reporters that family reunification increased about 27 percent this year compared with the last year, “even though we’re accused of cutting back family reunification and doing deals to cut back family reunification.”

Mr. Mouzalas said Berlin ensured Greece that those refugees whose applications were accepted would eventually go to Germany despite delays.

Nearly 5,000 refugees, mostly Syrian or Iraqi families, crossed from Turkey in September — a quarter of all arrivals this year, UNHCR data shows. The rise in the number of new influx of refugees overwhelmed already overcrowded camps in Greek islands.

UN data showed that most new arrivals are women and children.

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