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Greece Opens Olympic Venue to Migrants

  • VOA News

Children carry toys and bags leave from their family's tent at Victoria square, where hundreds migrants and refugees stay temporarily before trying to continue their trip to more prosperous northern European countries, in Athens, Oct. 1, 2015.

Children carry toys and bags leave from their family's tent at Victoria square, where hundreds migrants and refugees stay temporarily before trying to continue their trip to more prosperous northern European countries, in Athens, Oct. 1, 2015.

Greek authorities have opened a disused Olympic venue to house more than 400 migrants who have been camping out in Athens' Victoria Square.

Police on Thursday escorted buses carrying the migrants, many from Syria and Afghanistan, to Galatsi Olympic Hall. The venue was home to table tennis and gymnastics competitions during the 2004 Olympics.

City officials have been trying to ease citizens' concerns about the number of migrants camping out in the open in central Athens. Greece is on the front lines of the European migrant crisis and has been overwhelmed with people who travel across the Mediterranean Sea from the Middle East and Africa to seek better lives in the European Union.

Ban Ki-moon's appeal

At the U.N. General Assembly in New York Wednesday, Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the world Wednesday to approach Europe's refugee crisis with "creativity, compassion, and courage."

Ban told meeting of 70 ministers at the General Assembly that "the future does not belong to those who seek to build walls or exploit fears."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, talks with Vitaly Churkin, Russia's U.N. ambassador, before a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 30, 2015.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, talks with Vitaly Churkin, Russia's U.N. ambassador, before a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 30, 2015.

He stressed cooperation among all those who are struggling to cope with the crisis with all efforts focused on saving lives. Otherwise, Ban said "the winners will be smugglers, traffickers and unscrupulous employers. Those who lose will be the dispossessed, the hungry, the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the children."

Opening the General Assembly earlier this week, Ban urged Europe to do more. He called on international community to tackle the source of the migrant problem — including the civil war in Syria and terrorism and instability in Afghanistan.

The world's seven leading industrialized countries, along with Gulf states, have pledged $1.8 billion to U.N. aid agencies helping with the migrant crisis.

Separately, Japan announced it will give $810 million.

Number of asylum seekers grows

The U.N. reports nearly 515,000 asylum seekers have left war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa since January, reaching Europe through Greece and Italy. But nearly 3,000 have drowned or disappeared, crossing the hazardous Mediterranean Sea on rickety or overcrowded boats and rafts. Most were left to the mercy of the sea by human traffickers.

Some European countries who at first opened their borders to migrants have now sealed them or have reimposed visa rules and checks on asylum seekers.

Hungary has built a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia.

Migrant watchers say many have arrived in eastern Europe dressed for temperate climates and are unprepared for the cold, damp autumn nights

A Syrian refugee wrapped in a thermal blanket looks on, following her arrival on an overcrowded dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast, Sept. 30, 2015.

A Syrian refugee wrapped in a thermal blanket looks on, following her arrival on an overcrowded dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast, Sept. 30, 2015.

A number of women and young children were seen this week between the Croatian and Serbian border, shivering in the mud and cold as aid workers came in with tea and hot soup. They say conditions will only get worse as winter approaches.

Delegates at the European Trade Union Confederation meeting in Paris Wednesday overwhelmingly adopted a resolution to ensure more rights for asylum seekers and demand the migrants and refugees are "evenhandedly" accepted among EU member states.

The confederation, a group of 90 unions, condemned governments who refuse to fully cooperate in the resettlement of asylum seekers and said "obstacles and closures" must be banned.

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