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Locals in Northern Greece set hotel on fire to prevent resettlement of refugees

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Protesting locals in Northern Greece set fire to a hotel which refugees relocated from island camps were supposed to be housed in, Greek authorities said on Wednesday.

Police said 150 protesters prevented buses carrying 57 refugees, brought to the mainland from Moria camp on Lesbos island, from reaching a rented hotel at a village in the northern region of Pella, and set fire to a room on the hotel’s ground floor.

No injuries or arrests were reported. Greece’s COVID-19 lockdown only allows public gatherings of up to 10 people, who must observe social distancing.

The buses were rerouted to another village in the Pella region, where protesters had set up roadblocks to prevent their entry. The group was eventually driven to the northern city of Thessaloniki, where they were put up in a local hotel.

Smaller protests also occurred at a hotel in the northern region of Kilkis, where 250 refugees from Lesbos were being taken to. Those protests were short-lived, however, and the migrants were housed in the facility which already accommodates other refugees, authorities said.

Greece’s government has vowed to ease massive overcrowding in refugee camps on the eastern islands, where tens of thousands of migrants and refugees live, and has begun moving some to the mainland.

Due to lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, new arrivals on the islands from the nearby Turkish coast are not allowed into the camps.

So far no coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the island camps, although two refugee camps on the mainland were put under quarantine due to local outbreaks.

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