No re-instalation of Dublin returns to Greece! Solidarity to all squats!

One year after the closure of the Balkan Route – One year after the EU-Turkey Deal – Six years after the halt of Dublin returns to Greece: 62,000 and more refugees are stuck in limbo in Greece merely able to survive

copyright: noborder

Two days ago, two squats in Athens got attacked and raided by Greek police on March 13, 2017. In one of the squats 127 refugees were hosted. This repressive measure comes one year after the closure of the Balkan Route when more than 57,000 refugees got trapped in Greece and were transferred in provisory tent camps without any assistance, which were set up ad hoc over the night were run in the majority of cases by the army. It is a period where still 23,000-30,000 refugees have no adequate housing but stay under inhuman conditions in state run camps – some of which still are in tents! Among them are hundreds of highly vulnerable people placed at the margins of Greek society without adequate support and any survival perspective on the long run.

On March 13th, the Athens police raided in the early morning hours two squats in the capital one of which in Alkiviadou Street (near Aharnon) was hosting more than 120 refugees since February, who all got apprehended. The other squat which got raided was “Villa Zografou”, an alternative social space and one of the oldest squats in Athens. More then 120 persons were arrested in Alkiviadou Squat and eight persons in Villa Zografou. After one day detention at the Central Aliens Police Departement Petrou Ralli only 31 got transferred to Skaramangas Camp. All the rest of the arrested refugees were left in the middle of the nights on the streets with anywhere to go, while the activists had been released quickly after the apprehension. Many of them are families and people with medical problems from Syria (according to activists there were two people diagnosed with diabetes, one pregnant woman, a man in a wheelchair and one woman who had recently had surgery on her back with severe pain). They finally found emergency housing in other squats and through volunteers. People who were arrested in the squats and who did not have papers, were taken to detention in Amygdaleza pre-removal detention centre where they will stay until their registration. In the meantime more than 1,500 people protested in the evening against the eviction of the two squats. The next day the refugees tried to pick up their belongings from piles outside of the evicted building in Alkiviadou but they were soon stopped by the police and their belongings got thrown in the garbage. Even documents or other important things like medicines got lost this way. The building which was squatted belongs to the Red Cross, which announced that they had planned to open a reception centre for unaccompanied minors there.

copyright: Khora

Around 3,000 refugees live currently in squats in respectable conditions in the centre of Athens. The government estimated that more than 7,000 refugees are self-sheltered in general – which is more than 12% of the refugee population in Greece. The refugee squats along with other forms of self-funded solidarity housing have saved hundreds of vulnerable people since the closure of the Balkan Route in March 3, 2016, who had been cramped in the state’s mass tent camps, without any support for months. People with life threatening diseases like cancer, elderly, disabled persons, pregnant women and mothers of newborns, people with severe psychological trauma, victims of shipwrecks or fascist attacks and other forms of violence and abuse… all found refuge in the squats when no help was offered to them by the state. Only run with private donations and the solidarity of the civil society – people from crisis stricken Greece and all over the world – these squats have shown how we can live together despite differences and how we can stand side by side in solidarity to create another world especially in difficult times.

The EU-Turkey Statement from 18. March 2016 was only one crucial step towards the increased militarization of the EU’s external and internal borders throughout 2015/2016 that hit the essence of human rights in general and refugee rights specifically. The inauguration of Hot Spots on the Aegean Islands (October 2015 – March 2016), the arrival of NATO boats in the Aegean (11. February 2016), the closure of the Balkan Corridor (8. March 2016), the raid and evacuation of Idomeni informal camp (24/25. May 2016), the pre-registration excercize (9. June- 30. July 2016), the amendment of Presidential Decree 144/2010 which gave way to the new independent asylum committees (24. June 2016), the raids in two squats in Thessaloniki and the evacuation of Piraeus informal camp (27. July 2016), the transformation of Frontex to the European Border- and Coast Guard and the expanding of their operational framework (6. October 2016) and the changes brought with the Joint Action Plan of the European Commissioner for the Implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal (8. December 2016) were all steps towards an even darker future for refugees in Greece. In 2016 borders were closed and deportations increased, leading to death and despair instead of protection and security.

Ever since, the Aegean Islands were turned into open air prisons. Now, European member states plan to re-instal also Dublin returns to Greece for the first time after six years. On 8th of December 2016 the European Commission had suggested this step backward in terms of refugee rights to be implemented from March 2017 onwards gradually. Germany for its part, along with Belgium and Austria, already gave a hint that it agrees that Greece has improved the conditions for refugees in such a sufficient way, that it plans to re-start the returns from 15th of March.

We have been fighting against Dublin returns already eight years ago. We strongly oppose this step backwards that reduces again freedom of movement. It will make more people loose years of their lives escaping from unbearable living-conditions, being deported back and need to escape again. We have been whitnessing it already years ago, in summer 2010, when we reported about those refugees who had escaped from Greece 1-2-3-4 times being again and again deported back, without another chance to try it another time. Fortunately and as a result of consistent struggles, in 2011 this tragedy could be stopped. The unbearable conditions for refugees in Greece were obvious but needed to be documented by different human rights organizations in order to show results. In the case of MSS vs. Greece and Belgium the European Court of Human Rights decided to temporarily halt the returns after years of protests by refugees being detained and deported back and forth all over Europe. Ever since many things changed in Greece but only few to the better. What we see today is only a “lifting” of the ugly face Greece had many years. Behind the curtain there is still only suffering.

The re-instalation of Dublin returns to Greece has to stop now!

– Today more refugees than ever are dying at the European borders. In 2016 5,022 persons died or were reported missing in the Meditarranean Sea (compared to 3,771 in 2015). The number of dead refugees per 1,000 new arrivals in the same period rose from 0,9 to 2,5 (absolute number 2015: 799; 2016: 441).
– 58,000 refugees have been blocked from finding security in Greece and the European Commission is putting pressure on Greece to detain and to return more refugees (37,000 arrests in Turkey at the border to Greece, 2,000 readmissions to Turkey from Greece, 19,000 deportations and voluntary returns from Greece to the countries of origin in 2016).
– More refugees than ever are suffering from the severe deterioration of their mental health in Greece. The number of committed suicide attempts is on the rise also among children and youngsters.
– Hundreds of vulnerable refugees are left alone in camps or other housing forms with no or inadequate support. More than 85% of refugees in Greece come from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 35% of them are children.
– Adequate access to the asylum procedure is not secured. The independence of the asylum committees is in danger with recent amendments to law, the new independent asylum committees and the role of EASO in the decision-making process. Procedural safeguards are successively shrinking due to pressure form the EU to effectively implement the EU-Turkey Deal and respective returns of refugees.
– The mismanagement of aid and the dysfunctional system of big INGOs and NGOs have left refugees until January 2017 in unsafe and appalling conditions with the “winterization” of accommodation been too late to save the lives of seven people dying in Moria and Samos Hot Spot, while staying in the cold and trying to warm themselves with kerosine heaters.
– Newcomers who arrived after 20. March 2016 are excluded from relocation. Almost half of the refugees in all of Greece are excluded only by belonging to nationalities that do not correspond to the criteria (over 75% of recognition rate in Europe) – among them are Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Somalis and many others. Only 9,632 persons have been relocated so far from Greece (as of March 3rd) corresponding to 14% of the aimed 66,400.
– More than 2,000 refugees are currently in administrative detention under devastating conditions in the six pre-removal detention centres. Another five pre-removal centres are planned to open soon on the Aegean Islands.
– Recognized refugees merely survive in Greece as they lack access to their social rights in the majority of cases.

Smash the borders, open houses!
Freedom of movement is everybodies right!
No one is illegal!
Safe passage!