‘FOR THE RIGHT TO A SAFE HOME’

Four refugee squats evicted in Athens

Within just one week Greek police forces in April 2019 have evicted four refugee squats in Athens all located in Exarchia area leaving around 200-300 refugees homeless. While authorities are politically framing the operation as ‘a step forward in an anti-drug campaign’ in the area, their efforts have hit the ones in need of protection instead and criminalize the refuee squats. Refugee families, many with kids, are left ever since on the streets. They are now not only again unprotected and with empty hands but also (re–)traumatized. Around 60 refugees are protesting since two days at Syndaghma Square.

On 18 April 2019 two refugee squats in Exarchia (Athens) got raided in the early morning hours around 5am. People residing respectively in Clandestina and Cyclopi squats got evicted with a massive police presence. In total 68 refugees (among them 25 kids) were arrested and after more than 4 hours released to the streets of Athens. Among the homeless are refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Eritrea amongst others. There are many families, single mothers and small children. A pregnant lady had to be transferred to the hospital after the terror of the eviction. She is in danger to suffer a miscarriage. Sick refugees lost track of their medicines, prescriptions and attestations.

Everything I had is in that locked building now: My tax number, by social insurance documents, medical papers… I am at zero again. They didn’t let us take anything.

A young refugee former resident of Clandestina squat
copyright: Salinia Stroux

In the early afternoon of the same day mothers, fathers and children from different countries started together a protest in Syndaghma Square in the centre of Athens demanding dignified housing and safety from the Greek state. Despite the strong cold, they remained over night in a dozen tents set up in opposite side to the Greek parliament. The only ‘offer’ by the police until now was to find ‘shelter’ in the pre-removal detention centre in Amygdaleza, which refugees denied to accept.

copyright: Salinia Stroux

I suffer from psychological problems. My doctor instructed me to not stress myself. Yesterday in the morning we woke up by the sound of shouting and suddenly a lot of police entered the place we were sleeping in. Some of us got pushed. I had two panic attacks the last two days. Half of my body got paralysed from the fear. I am still under shock. Where should we go now?

A refugee lady former resident of Clandestina squatI
copyright: Salinia Stroux

I was sleeping with my children, when I suddenly woke up with guns being held in front of my eyes. There was police everywhere. I tried to collect our most important belongings. The police was shouting: ‘Fast, fast!’ Two of my kids have heart problems. One of them has Asthma. … It is six months I am trying to call the asylum service from Skype without success. Without the asylum seeker card, I can not apply for housing.

A refugee mother of three minors former resident of Clandestina squat
copyright: Bijan Sabbagh

Only a few days earlier, on 11 April 2019 Azadi squat and neighboring Babylon had also been raided by the police. Around 200 cops were reported on site that day. Refugees stated, that the police forces evaded the place suddenly at dawn. Approx. 90 persons got arrested and transferred to Amygdaleza pre-removal detention centre. The buildings were locked while their personal belongings were thrown on the street.

copyright: Azadi Squat

On 19 April the evicted families are remaining in Syndaghma square. They prepare to sleep one more night in the cold lacking any alternative. Authorities still have not found any solution for their accommodation. The protesting refugee stated, there were 20 kids among them and they would stay until there was a real solution found for them all.

We just demand a safe place for us and our kids!

A refugee mother of two toddlers with severe health problems and former resident of Clandestina squat
copyright: Salinia Stroux

Meanwhile, more than 70,000 refugees are estimated to live in Greece currently. Approx. 23,000 are sheltered in flats by UNHCRs’ ESTIA program (March 2019), another 28,000 are being provisory placed under deplorable conditions in temporary accommodation sites in mainland Greece (15,000) or the six infamous ‘hotspots’ on the Aegean Islands and in Fylakio (in Evros region) (13,000) and 6,000 stay in short-term housing provided by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) in 54 hotels all over Greece.

copyright: Marios Lolos

At the same time, an unknown number of protection seekers remains without an official shelter sleeping rough in public spaces or staying unofficially in the states’ refugee camps. They remain without access to the monthly allowances provided for by the Cash-Card system of ESTIA housing scheme or the Social Solidarity Fund (KEA), which people with refugee status can apply for along with Greek citizens. Without a roof over their head, without money to buy food or medicines, they would be exposed to life-threatening conditions, if not their self-organisation in around 12 refugee squats in Athens and other solidarity spaces would create the ‘welcoming and protective spaces’ that the state fails to secure.

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Read the announcements of City Plaza Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space

The ” Montmartre” of politicking, riot police and racism (18.04.2019)

Two days ago we experienced the second act of operation “target refugees to harvest votes”. Heavily armed squadrons of MAT and EKAM riot police units invaded two refugee squats in the neighborhood of Exarchia. As with the previous police operations, no links were found between the refugee squats and the local mafias. In addition, no refugee was arrested for any criminal act. Drugs displayed by the police were found in another irrelevant apartment.

But the government’s goal was achieved. That is to say, a large quantity of “law and order” style TV show material was produced. Refugees were once again targeted as criminals. SYRIZA sent out the message that there is no need to vote for New Democracy since they too can act out the role of a police state.

The fact that some dozens of refugees have nowhere to sleep is a minor detail which politicians and the media couldn’t show any less interest for.

Mrs. Papakosta’s “Montmartre” consists of repression, politicking and racism but no rights and solidarity.

Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Government and police use refugees as scapegoats (13.04.2019)

The police operation that took place 2 days ago in Exarchia, against the two refugee squats was not directed against the mafia in the neighbourhood. Despite the propaganda, they did not find anything in the squats to link them with mafia. The goal of the government and the police was a show of power. Refugees have been turned into scapegoats for pre-election purposes. Refugee targeting does not harm mafia, but it strengthens the racist stereotype of identifying “foreigners/refugees” with criminal activity and of course, opens the way to fascist violence. 

We remind them that the squats are the voices against the failed policies of the state on “migration management”. The housing problem is more acute than ever, for both refugees and locals. Instead of finding solutions for the housing problems, government and the oppositions are turning against those who have no shelter and hope. The recipe is classic: Instead of limiting poverty, targeting and criminalising poverty. 

Do not let them impose the policy of fear and hatred.

Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

It is about hope…

copyright Border Crossing Greece

Hundreds of refugees residing in Greece left in the last four days the infamous hotspots, mainlands’ camps, IOM-hotels and ESTIA flats, the refugees squats and other places they were temporarily staying, taking down to the streets in what they called ‘march of hope’. They headed to the North of Greece, first towards Ioannena and then in the direction of Thessaloniki using busses, trains or even walking with the aim to leave Greece, finally. They reported of feeling entrapped in a hopeless situation with asylum interviews dated up to 2024 and with no future prospects, while many kids were not even able to go to school and they were facing difficult and provisory living conditions.

In the last three days, bigger groups from different places tried to move to the border aiming to reach it at the dates announced by social media of 4 and 5 of April. Until that point mainstream media had not followed-up on the movement. Meanwhile, UNHCR and IOM have been since weeks, when the idea spread in social media, warning refugees to not follow the false rumors about an opening of the borders on these dates. Only recently, the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy also declared that borders would remain closed and that there was a fake news spreading.

copyright Marios Lolos

Despite the warnings by the authorities, IGOs and NGOs, refugees from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan mainly continued following their hope and reached Diavata camp at the outskirts of Thessaloniki – among them are also families with kids. Many others were blocked by police, their busses were stopped and trains halted and they had to return back. Hundreds of refugees, awaiting the train to Thessaloniki on Thursday night, were forced to leave the Athens railway station the next day.

copyright Angelos Christofilopoulos

Around 1.000 refugees are camping now since three days on a field outside of Diavata and have not been allowed to continue their journey towards the border. Repeated attempts to move beyond the police blockade got forcibly stopped and small clashes have erupted again and again for a third day in row. Not willing to give up, they decided to spend one more night in their little summer tents, despite rainfalls, cold, hunger and thirst.

copyright: Daphne Tolis

In the morning hours the regional coordinator for Northern Greece and Epirus of the Migration Policy Ministry, Nikos Rangos, tried to talk people into the busses organised by IOM, saying that he didn’t want them to loose their rights in this dead end situation that might end in violence but surely not in the opening of the borders. One of the women who had a day earlier tried to brake the riot police blockade with their mere hands, replied: “We have nowhere to go back!”

With the conditions outside of Diavata getting harder throughout the days, and after todays extensive tear-gas use, which also newborns, many bigger kids but also adults suffered from, at least 300 refugees today decided to return to their shelters. “The alternative solution we can offer from the Ministry,” Mr. Rangos stated to a Kurdish TV Channel, “is to return back to their containers, to their camps or hotels and let their Cash-Cards get recharged”.

copyright Border Crossing Greece

What gets forgotten in the whole discussion around “fake news” or “false rumors” and the search for the organizers of the march, is that, hundreds of refugees took a decision to participate in this and try to get out of Greece, however initiated, in order to flee the misery and improve their families’ situation. The containment policy Greece is upholding by any means and under the pressure of the EU, paired with a mere emergency approach to reception and an overloaded asylum system inspired fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers to find a better solution for their kids, to seek for more than “being kept alive”, to follow their hope…

Update 07.04.2019: Busses have been taking people from the informal tent camp outside of Diavata back to their official shelters all through the night. 874 persons had left at 5am already with another approx. 50 remaining in the small tents. Mr. Rangos told media outlets, that until Monday the informal tent camp will have disappeared.

Injured photoreporter in Diavata following police violence

Update 08.04.2019: The last refugees left Diavata. Meanwhile, the Greek Union of Photojournalists denounces the beating of one of their members by police officers. Various Greek reporters who had been present during the last weekend in the field next to Diavata – among them the injured photoreporter, who were witnessing the developments from within the field, stated, that without their presence the police would have taken more excessive measures against the refugees and they would have used more violence. They also denounced the absence of any humanitarian organization, when the officials inside Diavata had cut off non-resident refugees from the access to the sanitary infrastructure, water and food. The “spring” we disappointed, one of the Greek comments titled….

Three refugees arrested during the events of Saturday (A 28-year-old Palaistinian, a 32-year old Syrian and a 28-year old Iraqi) got today trialled by the Three-member Misdemeanors Court of Thessaloniki to 12 months detention for resisting the authorities, but they were released upon appeal against the sentence.

Closed borders, barbarism and despair

A statement by City Plaza Refugee Squat about the March of Hope 2019

6 April 2019

The anti-migration policy of the European Union and the Greek government is a machine that constantly produces barbarism, misery and despair. The closed borders, the shameful hotspots in the islands, the very difficult living conditions on the mainland and, in particular, the lack of options, lead refugees to an impasse. Any kind of “rumors” can catalyze a person who has now reached the limit. The refugee protests in Diavata and Larissa station are in fact instigated by the continued containment of refugees in Greece. The request of refugees to open the borders and to continue their journey into Europe is not just fair and right but also perfectly reasonable. The policies followed with regard to refugees are irrational and inhumane. 

We declare our solidarity with the refugees -We call on the government to stop the violence and the repression against them. 
Open the borders now – Stop racism 

Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

There are many holes and gaps in this “reception” system and they can not be hidden behind the violence and chasing downs in Diavata and the highway. Let the government and stakeholders see the core and the root causes of this mobilization instead of hiding (again) the problems of a permanent “emergency” state, which it has chosen as a method to manage the issue, behind an orgy of repression, criminalization and vengeance.

Antiracist Initiative Thessaloniki

https://www.efsyn.gr/node/190195?fbclid=IwAR39vpv7wZ0cgTumpbruJm-PiV2zCq9LTvW2aRCVNOWuucDQn-qMPXRdHTc

Destroying the memorial cannot erase the memory!

[caption id="attachment_4412" align="alignleft" width="212"] Foto: Marily Stroux[/caption] On Friday, 11th of August 2018 some vandals completely destroyed the memorial for the dead at the European borders on Lesvos.   It was standing since October 2013 in Thermi next to the fishermens club. Reminding the death of people fleeing war and trying to reach safety in Europe. The memorial was set up also to thank the fishermen who risk their lives in saving people in the sea and collecting dead bodies. We went there once a year since then, together with survivors and friends. We are disgusted by the brutality of those destroying the memorial now for the third time and their missing respect to dead humans and the fishermen. We will reinstall the names and dates in this place. It is not possible through acts of violence to erase the facts and the memory to the dead. We will continue welcoming people who arrive seeking safety. We will continue to finally tear down the borders and to build another, a welcoming Europe. W2eu Memorial October 2017 in Thermi: In English In Greek Memorial in April 2018 in Skala Sikaminias: http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2018/05/02/memorial-24th-of-april-2018/

Searching Home – Homes Lost: A booklet about the meaning of “home” and “homelessness” in Greece

11

Ten people who lost what was their home to war, conflict, and other life-threatening conditions…

Ten people who were forced to escape and who decided to try to search and create another home somewhere else in safety and peace…

Ten people, who are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of someone…

Ten people with talents, professions, passions and dreams…

Ten people living in Greece for some moments…

Ten people without a shelter…

and one person, who lost his home during the economic crisis in Greece.

searching home – homes lost (download here the pdf in english)

 

no home

The loss of ‘home‘ in one country combined with the current lack of a ‘home’ in the broader sense in Greece but also in its simple meaning as a shelter, for displaced people have multiple implications on their daily life, their wellbeing and the transformation of their identities. Continue reading ‘Searching Home – Homes Lost: A booklet about the meaning of “home” and “homelessness” in Greece’

Memorial 24th of April 2018

Foto: Marily Stroux

On 24 of April 2018 one year had passed since 22 people among them two children lost their lives in the boat accident north of Lesvos. Rescue teams managed many hours later to rescue two women alive, one of them pregnant in the 8th month.

Sylvie and Joelle and the little girl Victoria, born in Mitilini just one month later, came again to Lesvos to remember this year. Together with the rescue teams of Refugee Rescue / Mo chara and with the activists from Watch the Med Alarm Phone and Welcome to Europe they returned to the place the rescued women and also the dead bodies had been brought one year ago.

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

Also the spotting teams who still care every night at the beaches to spot boats on the way from the Turkish to the Greek side, Lighthouse relief and The Hope Project, joined the invitation to the three women.

On 22nd of April we travelled with the survivors on the ferry to Lesvos. At the ships restaurant we introduced them and their story to the crew who have been really touched to have survivors on board. Continue reading ‘Memorial 24th of April 2018’

Protest of refugee families against delayed transfers to their beloved ones in Germany

Today again dozens of refugee families gathered in Athens in front of the Asylum Service at Katekhaki to demand their immediate transfer to Germany. At the same time, some others gathered for a protest in Heraklion, Crete Island.

“We escaped the war in Syria as a family. On our way to Europe we got separated from our small daughter, when the smugglers split us in groups by force. We didn’t know if she is alive for months and we haven’t seen her for more than three years. We got stuck in Greece before two years but got the acceptance to go to Germany already back in March 2017,” says the father F. His wife cannot talk anymore without crying. “I just miss my daughter,” she says with tears in her eyes.

The mothers and children in front of the Asylum Service pound on the metal fence around the Asylum Services gate shouting loudly: “We want to go! We want to go!”
Continue reading ‘Protest of refugee families against delayed transfers to their beloved ones in Germany’

SYLVIE AND JOELLE: Survivors of the shipwreck of 24 April 2017 between Turkey and Greece

Sylvie

I start from the moment we were in Turkey. I am Sylvie and I am 42 years old. I left Turkey on the 20 April 2017, I was only 3 days in Izmir. Joelle and me didn’t know one another. We met in the dinghy. To start with: I could not enter, I just wanted to escape. We were 24 people. I all the time went back, giving space for others to enter first. I entered the boat last because I was scared. While trying to get inside, my bag was creating obstacles, so I passed it over to Joelle and told her: „Please help me“. She took my bag. I then entered the dinghy and told her to hand me the bag back. She answered: „You gave me the bag, let it be with me. I will give it to you when we arrive. No problem.“
„Ok, no problem,” I replied.

We were uncomfortable there, too many people. We were suffocating. I preferred to give her the bag. The time was 21 o’clock. We had started.

All of a sudden in the middle of the sea the fuel finished. I wanted to take my bag from Joelle to take out my phone. All telephones were switched off. We had asked a boy to turn on his phone and call for help, but he did not. So, I asked Joelle for my phone that was in the bag. She opened my bag, gave me my phone. The time I wanted to call, a wave came and took the phone in the sea.

That’s how the worst nightmare started. The dinghy started sinking in the water. (She stops talking)
I cannot continue … can you Joelle?

Continue reading ‘SYLVIE AND JOELLE: Survivors of the shipwreck of 24 April 2017 between Turkey and Greece’

Statement by 5 of the Persecuted Migrants of the Moria 35 Tuesday March 13th, 2018

On the 20 April, we are scheduled to attend trial in Chios after waiting
nine months, trapped on Lesvos, while 30 of our brothers unjustly have
waited in prison for this same time period.  Our humanity has been
denied since we stepped foot in Europe, the supposed cradle of democracy
and human rights.  Since we arrived we have been forced to live in
horrible conditions, our asylum cases are not taken seriously, and most
Africans are denied residency in Europe and face deportation.  We are
treated like criminals, simply for crossing a border that Europeans can
freely cross.
Continue reading ‘Statement by 5 of the Persecuted Migrants of the Moria 35 Tuesday March 13th, 2018’

The Memories of the Dead will not be erased with Black Paint

Copyright: Michalis Bakas

In the night of the 24th of November 2017, by the harbour of Thermi on Lesvos Island, unidentified persons vandalised the memorial that we had erected there in 2013. It carries the names of those who had drowned on their journeys to Europe. Two wooden paddles hold the plaque with the names of the dead and the memorial looks out to the sea, dedicated to those of all ages and backgrounds, whose lives ended at sea.

On the memorial plaque, we thank the fishermen and all others who endangered their own lives when rescuing others, or when retrieving the dead from the water. Written on the plaque are the names of refugees who drowned in this area in 2013, but also of others who were later found all over the beaches of Lesvos.

Gader Turkamni, who was 14 years old and lived in Athens with his family, had returned to Syria to attend a funeral. Unable to legally return to Greece, he was forced to travel in a dinghy.

Fatma Hadjas and her three children Lodgen (3 years), Abdul (6 years) and Ginan (7 years) – her husband and their father lived in Athens and they escaped war to come and live in peace with him.

Ramazan Jomali, who was 19 years old when he died, was awaited by his brother in Greece, who had come from Paris to meet him.
Continue reading ‘The Memories of the Dead will not be erased with Black Paint’

Memorial for the Dead of the European Borders, Thermi/Lesvos 25th of October 2017

Today in the afternoon more then 50 people gathered in the harbour of Thermi/Lesvos in commemoration of the dead of the European border regime. Among them were survivors of a shipwreck on 23rd of April of this year in the North of Lesvos as well as people active in rescue. The memorial happens once every year since October 2013 and was initiated by the Welcome to Europe network.

When we started to remember this year, who we have to mourn for, we realized that we are more and more confronted with death even after people have survived the sea. We had to commemorate today also friend who died last winter in the hot-spot of Moria, because they had been left during winter in terrible conditions. We are in close contacts with families that they waited too long to be reunited with their beloved even if they had the right for family reunification and died before. If you really want to mourn the dead of the Sea, you have to respect also the survivors. The only solution to end their suffering is to create safe passages, to give the people their right to move freely – and for those who are stuck here to finally open the islands. This is why every memorial for us is combined with the promise to tear down the borders that killed them and to create another, a welcoming Europe.

This year the memorial plate was renewed and fixed. We thank to: the local club of the fishermen ΝΕΣΕΑΛΘ “ΠΟΣΕΙΔΩΝ“, Stellios from the shipyard in Kontouroudia, metal work Gianis Moisis, Chrisanthos, Alcalica-ALM eV, Simos and Web copy shop.

Memorial speech

25th of October 2017

We came together today here in the harbour of Thermi for remembering the dead of the European border regime.
Continue reading ‘Memorial for the Dead of the European Borders, Thermi/Lesvos 25th of October 2017’

The infomobile

... is like a “paper boat”. We chose this as a metaphor for what we want to create and for the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. The paper boat is a folded boat able to swim – for a while. Then you have to build a new one to go on travelling. A paper boat is symbolic for the journey of life, vulnerable but in your own hands and to be recreated again and again. It is simple, but it carries many hopes and dreams. It can dance on a turbulent sea. It belongs to everybody. And it might become the small version – like a first draft – of a welcome-space.

Get in touch

email: infomobile.w2eu@gmail.com

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