Europe

Refugee children in Greece face protest on first day of school

Refugee girls look at local residents as they hold a protest outside a school at the Greek village of Profitis some 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Thessaloniki, on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption Refugee children passed a protest on their first day of school in Profitis

A protest has marred the first day of school for young refugees in Greece, with some 1,500 children getting education under a nationwide programme.

In Profitis, north of Thessaloniki, a small number of parents chained up the school gate in protest, waving Greek flags, the AFP news agency reported.

Around 100 police officers formed a corridor to escort 40 "puzzled-looking" refugee children inside, it said.

In other schools, the new pupils were welcomed without incident.

"Our children will be raped and then, who will take responsibility?" AFP quoted one Greek parent at the protest as saying.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Migrant children will attend classes in the afternoon, learning Greek and other subjects

The Greek education minister, Nikos Filis, said the demonstration was an isolated incident. A statement from the ministry said the welcome in other schools was "enthusiastic".

The 1,500 or so pupils who started at 20 schools on Monday are part of a national education programme for migrant children. They received books and school bags before arriving at schools in the afternoon.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Residents locked one entrance to the school and affixed Greek flags to it in protest

The pupils will receive lessons in a number of subjects, including the Greek language, during four-hour days after the local schoolchildren finish for the day.

The project is also running in six migrant camps.

Authorities plan to expand the project across the country in the coming weeks.

The UN refugee agency estimates that more than 160,000 people have arrived in Greece across the Mediterranean Sea this year, 28% of whom are children.