A Greek football match was delayed as players from both teams staged a sit-down protest to draw attention to the increasing death toll of immigrants trying to cross the Aegean Sea.
As the match between AEL Larissa and Acharnaikos commenced, all 22 players and the coaches of the two teams observed a two-minute silence to show solidarity and sympathy with the thousands of asylum seekers who fell victims to the waves, trying to escape persecution from Iraq and Syria.
A statement on the PA system before kick-off in the Thessalian city of Larissa criticized the indifferent attitude of the European Union and Turkey in light of the refugee crisis. The announcement further added: “The players of AEL will protest by sitting down for two minutes in an effort to drive the authorities to mobilize all those who seem to have been desensitized to the heinous crimes that are being perpetrated in the Aegean.”
The Greek island of Lesbos is the primary hub for entry into Europe, for migrants crossing the Aegean and Mediterranean sea, despite wintry conditions, on small boats and fake life jackets.
As refugee migration to Europe continues, a boat carrying a hundred people, reportedly from Kurdistan Region and Kurduva, went missing on Jan. 22. Reports claim that at least 250 migrants lost their lives in January alone making the perilous sea journey. The Turkish coast guards have been searching to find the bodies of drowned asylum seekers so that their bodies could be interred.
Last year, Greece welcomed over 850,000 arrivals at its coasts. On Wednesday, the European Union lashed out at Greece, saying it has seriously neglected its duty to protect the bloc’s frontier.
The protest came hours after the International Olympic Committee announced its decision to run the flame for the 2016 Olympic Games through the Eleonas refugee camp in Athens, where one refugee will be among the torch bearers.
Many Premier League clubs have also contributed small percentages of match day revenues to the migrant crisis efforts.