Tens of thousands of pro-refugee demonstrators hold rallies across Europe to show their solidarity with asylum seekers escaping war and execution, mainly caused by foreign-backed militancy, in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Europe-wide ‘Day of Action’ on Saturday includes dozens of events with the biggest demonstration in the British capital of London, where about 90,000 people have expressed readiness to join the pro-refugee rallies.
The protesters are assembling at Park Lane by Hyde Park and from there march towards the Downing Street residence of Prime Minister David Cameron.
Some 30,000 people also joined a rally in Copenhagen in favor of taking in thousands of refugees seeking shelter in Europe, police said.
“Everything is taking place in a calm and orderly way,” said a post on the official Twitter feed of Copenhagen police, indicating that roughly 30,000 people had gathered for the demonstration.
Protesters also marched during a silent rally in support of refugees in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Similar demonstrations have also been planned in Germany, Austria and Portugal, which is set to see over 4,000 people joining a series of demonstrations.
More than 5,000 people are to hold a candlelight vigil in Berlin, while some 6,000 are expected to rally in Vienna. Several thousand have planned a demonstration in Athens, Greece.
“It’s time to speak out against the deadly borders that have been enacted in our name,” organizers of the rallies wrote in a message posted on a Facebook page called “European day of action for refugees.”
“We want to show, with thousands of people all over Europe, our solidarity with those fleeing war, violence and destitution,” the message read, adding, “We want to let all the refugees know: You are welcome!”
Meanwhile, anti-refugee demonstrations have been staged in three European countries.
Nearly 5,000 people held a similar protest in the Polish capital city of Warsaw, while organizers claimed some 10,000 people took part in the demonstration.
The Slovak capital, Bratislava, also was the scene of an anti-refugee rally, which drew 1,500 protesters, some holding up banners reading: “You’re not welcome here so go home.” The march was organized by the far-right Our Slovakia party.
Furthermore, about 800 people in the Czech capital, Prague, demonstrated against the arrival of refugees holding up banners saying: “Send them back!” and “Protect the borders.”
Less affluent member states of the European Union, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have already rejected to accept refugees under a compulsory quota system outlined by the European Commission.
Hungary, which has been on the forefront of opposing the flow of asylum seekers into Europe, has urged massive aid to Syria’s neighbors. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called for the donation of three billion euros (USD 3.4 billion) to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
“If it takes more money, we will increase aid until the refugee flows are drying up,” Orban told Germany’s Bild newspaper, adding, “These migrants do not come from war zones but from camps (in these border countries), where they were safe.”
Europe is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis, which has escalated over the summer as refugees are coming directly to the continent instead of staying in camps in neighboring countries.
The International Organization for Migration said Friday that more than 430,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, with 2,748 dying or going missing in packed and unseaworthy boats.
The continent is now divided over how to deal with the flood of people, mainly Syrians fleeing the four-year foreign-backed militancy in their homeland.