Greek MPs warned of catastrophe as Athens erupts in violence

Rioters set buildings on fire as highly divisive austerity package is passed by parliament

Athens

Violence and looting engulfed central Athens last night as the Greek parliament passed a highly divisive austerity and debt-relief bill, which the government hopes will help save Greece from a disorderly bankruptcy and a potential exit from the eurozone.

Several buildings including a bank, a cinema and a café were set on fire in the worst riots for years, as looters smashed shops and protesters threw petrol bombs amid tear gas fired by police.

Angry demonstrators chanted "thieves, thieves" and heckled representatives outside the legislative assembly, but the mood was also explosive inside as lawmakers fiercely debated the bail out package.

One communist MP hurled the document including the second loan agreement at Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who exhorted lawmakers to approve the bill before markets opened this morning. "You're fooling yourself if you think that you will lead the procedure to an impasse and will punish the troika and the IMF," Venizelos said. "you're only punishing the people and will lead it to a catastrophe."

Greece, lacking the cash to repay €14.4bn bonds on 20 March, needed to pass harsh cuts to secure a €130bn (£109bn) loan that will help keep its economy afloat. Among measures is the reduction of €100bn of Greece's privately held debt.

In the streets of Athens, youths hurled pieces of smashed pavement and petrol bombs while riot police retaliated, firing volleys of tear gas and stun grenades. The large crowds outside Parliament scattered when violence broke out but many reassembled. The street fights spilled into the shopping street of Ermou while policemen chased youths in the area near Parliament. At least 37 protesters were injured, with 20 suspected rioters arrested.

"Greece and corruption anger me, but we need to find another formula to pay back all these loans," said Anastasis Kalaitzis an employee for a US business firm.

"I'm here to oppose this memorandum because it will seal the fate of our children who will live in insecurity and fear," he added, as he held his two-year-old daughter Anastasia in his arms.

Homeless citizen Vagelis Mesitis, his wife and his seven-year-old daughter also attended the rally. His banner read in Greek: "An hour of freedom is better than slavery, poverty, cold and hunger." Mr Mesitis and his family pay €751 every three months to make use of the running water in the warehouse that belongs to the town hall of Aigaleo.

"I represent the future of Greece and people need to know this," he said. "I'm not here for our MPs as they just take orders. But the people of Europe need to know – they'll become like us." Protests were also held in Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki.

EU leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel, have been taking a firm line on the latest austerity measures .

Cutting deep: Austerity measures

The austerity measures which are being demanded by international lenders will cut deep into the Greek economy, hitting the earnings and jobs of thousands of ordinary citizens across the debt-laden country.

The measures are attached to the call for 150,000 public sector lay-offs. This is set to lead to an axing of pensions for many public employees and a 22 per cent reduction in the country's minimum wage.

Already, the combination of the financial crisis and the country's debt woes have delivered a body-blow to the economy, with one out of three Greeks now living under the poverty line, according to data from the European statistics office.

The number of unemployed, meanwhile, exceeds one million as Greece struggles to recover. That equates to an eye-watering unemployment rate of nearly 21 per cent. And the deeper that you dig into the figures, the worse it appears. Youth unemployment, for example, stands at 48 per cent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a career in custome...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot