‘Refugees welcome here,’ say Berlin demonstrators

Some 1,800 people took to the streets of Berlin on Saturday to express their solidarity with migrants seeking refuge in Europe

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Some 1,800 people took to the streets of Berlin on Saturday to express their solidarity with migrants seeking refuge in Europe and against austerity measures in debt-ridden Greece, local police told AFP.

In a demonstration held on World Refugee Day by German opposition parties Die Linke (The Left) and Gruenen (The Greens), as well as several other leftist groups, protesters chanted: “No frontiers, no nations, stop deportation!”

“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” cried others.

Marching from the bohemian Kreuzberg district to Brandenburg gate, some of the protesters held up flags of Greece and posters bearings slogans supporting Athens, as a critical June 30 deadline in debt talks looms.

Should Greece fail to reach a deal with its international creditors to secure the last tranche of funds from its massive bail-out, it risks a catastrophic crash out of the eurozone.

This “technocratic, cold and neoliberal Europe that is led by Germany is unbearable”, read one poster held up by a demonstrator.

Economic powerhouse Germany is seen by anti-austerity activists as taking uncompromising stances in the debt crises that have hit several European countries.

In Paris, hundreds including undocumented migrants also demonstrated their solidarity with the thousands risking their lives in the Mediterranean, and with Greece, chanting “together, together, against austerity.”

In Rome too, scores of protesters braved the rain and gathered under the slogan “Stop the massacre now” to express solidarity with migrants risking their lives to sail across the Mediterranean Europe on rickety, overcrowded boats.

“We are here to save our Europe, which includes immigrants, refugees and Greece. Europe must belong to everyone, not just to the Germans and the banks,” said Luciano Colletta, a 66-year-old pensioner, who stood along with the other protesters in front of the Colosseum.

Some 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, most of them landing in Italy, Greece and Malta which all want their EU peers to share more of the burden.

At least 1,800 people have drowned trying to reach Europe by boat this year.

On Friday, EU member states approved plans to launch as early as next week the first phase of a military operation against people smugglers in the Mediterranean.

Human Rights Watch said Friday that most migrants who have reached Europe in recent months come from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Syria, among the world's worst affected states by rights abuses and war.

Also on Friday, activists in Berlin staged a funeral for a Syrian refugee who died in the Mediterranean, plastering the capital with posters proclaiming: “The Dead Are Coming.”