Nobody could have foreseen how quickly the situation in the Aegean changed in 2015, due to unpredictable migration movements. More than 7.000 people arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos on a single day in late October 2015 and more than 56.000 people arrived on the island in the last week of October. When we stood on the beaches of northern Lesvos and experienced how one boat after another arrived there, while volunteers from all over Europe welcomed the newly arrived, one could have thought that this border had long been overrun and become a fact of the past. But, at the same time, we became witnesses of the loss of hundreds of people who drowned in the Aegean Sea. Even the mayor of Mytilene demanded ferries that would transport people from Turkey to Greece so long as no safe paths to Europe existed. 2015 was an incredible year. Since we have followed the refugee situation in the Aegean for a long time, we detected major developments here: in 2015 and still today, more and more women and children, as well as old people, those injured through war, and the sick were now travelling. And while the first groups of travellers had to assert themselves at every border anew, as of September, people were able to move more quickly than ever before. Many of those we had encountered along this route in previous years needed months, if not years, to arrive because they were repeatedly arrested for months or had run out of money and thus could not move on. But now, at the end of 2015, the average time of travel amounted to merely 2 weeks, from Turkey to Germany.
In early 2016, circulating threats concerning the closure of the Balkan corridor and the massive militarisation of the border between Turkey and Greece, for example through a novel mandate of the Greek military in coordinating reception and registration, the Frontex Rabit-mission as well as the recently deployed NATO vessels to the area, raise various questions and make it difficult for us, maybe more than before, to make a prognosis. What is clear, however, is that the eastern maritime border of the European Union will remain a contested space and our presence there will continue, to support those on the move who enact their freedom of movement. In the following we will provide an overview of the Infomobil activities in 2015:
On 4th of April 2016 refugees in Idomeni reported to us a push-back operation they experienced at the Greek-Turkish land-border in February. Among the witnesses are a 63-year-old woman and several families with small children.
In the night from 12th to 13th of February they crossed the land-border coming from Edirne/Turkey, fleeing to Greece. They arrived in Greece around 6am. It was a big group of about 120 refugees, among them many children and also several elderly. After the border-crossing they divided into three groups, each group about 40 persons, because it seemed too difficult to walk with the big group. They hide in a forest until it was dark again. At 8pm they started to walk and they walked until 6am.
This was the way the group had already walked by foot.
After the whole night walking the smaller children were unable to continue. In their group of 40 there were 13 children and also 3 elderly, one of the woman sitting with us is about 63 years old, another couple was much older then her, in their 80ies. In this group all people were refugees from Syria, all Kurds from the region of Qamishli.
At about 6am they found a kind of closed compound, maybe belonging to the military (see GPS-position and pictures they had sent via WhatsApp to relatives).
This was near the Greek village Asimenio, between Orestias and Didimoticho. It rained heavily. They entered there, but there was nobody.
We were traveling with the ferry Blue Star 1 from Mytilene to Piraeus on the 21.3.16.
As we entered the ship at 19.45 o’clock we saw an overcrowded bus entering filled with with sitting and standing persons. Outside media representatives and volunteers where watching the situation.
Protest against readmissions to Turkey and for the right to continue the journey to Europe
Today, on Tuesday 22nd of March, in the afternoon, hundreds of refugees locked up in the new detention centre and former fabric “Vial” on Chios island started a protest raising their voices against the new Fortress Europe. They continue their struggle for freedom of movement as they became the first refugees affected by the new cruel detention / readmission measures following the dirty deal between the EU and Turkey.
During an antiracist rally that started from Victoria Square in the centre of Athens and passed the Greek Parliament to reach the Offices of the Representation of the European Commission in Greece, hundreds of antiracists along with many Afghan refugees demanded the opening of the border, protection and a safe passage instead of deportations. The Afghans came from different transit camps as Elliniko and Schisto.
Refugees are stuck the islands of the Aegean as Greek government forbid them moving on to the mainland in order to control the distribution of thousands to different mass camps. Currently more than 4,000 persons are caught up in Piraeus port at different gates in warehouses and tents outside. There is no more space for newcomers. Among the refugees in the port are many who were transferred to new mass camps in the periphery but denied to stay in these nowhere lands and returned. Continue reading ‘Moria, Lesvos: Refugee protest against Readmissions to Turkey’
“We need a solution!”, says Mohamed an afghan refugee who protest together with other refugees from Afghanistan in front of the camp Schisto in Attika Region. “Our papers are to expire! We demand from the Greek government to renew them for one month more. Otherwise we will get illegalised and they might detain us here or even deport us back”, he says.
Along the protesters is also a woman from Afghanistan, who is trying to describe the situation inside the camp, inside the big tent where she and her children are sleeping. “The wind blows through the tent. There is no heating. Lately rain water entered the tent. Each of us has just two blankets in order to warm herself in the night. We are freezing! How can I survive with my children under these conditions?”, she says. Next to her is a couple of very elderly refugees also from Afghanistan and a young woman with a serious health problem. She can be fed through a tube that is in her stomach. “The doctors here told me to solely drink water.” Continue reading ‘“We need a solution!” – Refugees protest in front of Schisto camp’
In the past two weeks protests of refugees and supporters are growing over all of the country as the border to the Balkans was closed and thousands are stuck in Greece. From the Hot Spot in Moria, to the transit camp Schisto near Athens, Victoria Square, Thermoupolis, Kozani to Idomeni – people are standing up and demanding the opening of borders.
Solidarity is further sprouting in all over Greece with the sixth refugee housing squat opening yesterday in Athens at Kaningos / Kapodistriou in the centre of Athens. “open borders – open houses” it says on a banner outside the building.
Victoria Square – Refugees Welcome
One of the first squats which opened to host refugees was Notara 26 / Exarhia on 25. September 2015. In the former building of the insurance fund ETAM, which had been empty for years activists at first provided for 35 places. Meanwhile more than 120 are hosted there as needs grew rapidly. A priority is given to families and minors. Papers are not any matter to be accommodated. In the beginning refugees stayed 2-3 days only transiting Athens to move on to the Balkans fast. Nowadays with the Balkan corridor closed, refugees stay out much longer. Activists try to find longterm solutions for people hosted long time to be able and offer rooms also again to newcomers. The squat is running now for months with the support of activists and donations only.
Hot Spot Moria
In beginning of December Orfanotrofio (the orphanage) opened in Thessaloniki when more and more refugees got stuck in Idomeni at the border to FYROM following the limitation in allowing the border crossing only to Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. Later on in February 18 also Afghans were not allowed anymore to cross until recently when the border was closed to all. The orphanage fits about 100 persons.
In Athens in January Themistokleous 58 / Exarhia opened with about 40 places. Another squat was established in Patrizia with about 18 places for refugees and in the end of February the gates of the famous Athens Polytechnikums were opened. The last available number of hosted refugees was 70. The number is growing.
... 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.
In the case of Sakir v. Greece (application no. 48475/09) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights with regard to Mr […]
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