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Refugee squats in centre of Athens under attack by new government while thousands housed in state-run camps are dumped in tents and containers under inhuman conditions

NO PASARAN! Against state repression. Solidarity to the squats.

In a wave of sweep-operations against refugees and migrants the new right-wing government of Nea Dimokratia (of July 7th) within the last month has evicted five refugee squats and announced more will follow. Meanwhile, nothing is done to improve reception conditions in the official camps – in contrary things get worse. The state literally denies dignified housing and integration to thousands of refugees and their kids. New camps built; old camps re-opened or expanded; more tents set up… this is how the state deals with protection seekers. Not to mention, the undocumented who are threatened by arrest, detention and deportation. 

“They are trying to bury us but they forget that we are seeds, that we are more than just a number, more than an occupied building, we are a community.”

5th school
copyright: Marios Lolos

On 23 September, 143 refugees and migrants were evicted from 5th school in Exarchia. During the sweep operation Photoreporter Alexandros Stamatiou got arrested for “breach of domestic peace” during his professional news coverage, as the Greek Union of Photoreporters denounced, “a fact that does not remind anymore of a democracy”. The raid in the building housing many families with kids was based on a complaint filed in 2016 by neo-Nazi and former parliamentarian I. Kassidiaris from Golden Dawn, as EFSYN newspaper uncovered.

“It was this that triggered the prosecutor’s intervention and the recent sweep operation during which nothing was found. As it turns out, the “law and order” doctrine even takes advantage of the neo-Nazis’ racist actions.”

EFSYN

The Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (B-ELME) denounced the violent sweep and the arrest of the photoreporter. As they state, many of the 56 kids residing in the 5th school squat had been visiting public schools in the neighbourhood of Exarchia and have now been once again uprooted and out of the educational system since their transfer to distant refugee camps. According to the Federation, the 5th school was closed and left empty for some years by earlier governments, until being turned into a refugee housing space, after the fusion with another school – a procedure which in the year 2013 led to the closure of three schools alone in this area.

“The State must provide decent living conditions within the urban centres for refugees and migrants, the vast majority of whom are victims of imperialist wars, with equal access to health and education. Children – without any exception – have the right to education in public schools. We are opposed to the long-term entrapment of thousands of people who were forced to get uprooted from their countries, through the flagrant EU Turkey “Deal”. We are opposed to the totally unacceptable living conditions in the hot spots on the islands and in the camps in mainland Greece. The “law and order” that the new government is trying to impose on human souls, trampling on labor and trade union rights, is targeting universal human values ​​and achievements.”

Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (B-ELME)

Also the parents association of 35th and 36th primary schools publicly demanded their kid’s school mates back.

“In recent days, buildings in downtown Athens have been evacuated where refugees had found shelter, waiting for what law, what government, what bureaucracy will proceed their asylum procedures. Their children were enrolled in the schools of downtown Athens, trying to integrate, learn the language, make their lives a normal one even under these conditions. But while it is the state that should ensure that all children are enrolled and attending school, while having ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is the state that most violently deprives them of their rights, it pushes them to the margins, it does not respect their fundamental rights, it does not respect their existence. Because the school year has begun and children are removed from their schools without any notice, without even registering them and transferring them to other schools.

We want our children’s classmates back. Because it is the obligation of all of us to finally ensure a safe environment for them. Thanks to them many of the city center’s schools were actually not closed. Because political games cannot be played on the backs of children and oppressed people!”

Parents Association of 35th and 36th primary schools

On 19 September already 269 people (46 families) had been evicted from the two refugee squats Jasmin School (also known as 2ndschool) and Acharnon22. These raids followed earlier evictions of Spirou Trikoupi 15 and 17 on 26 August where in total another 143 people had been residing. Following the raids, the former “homes” got sealed up with barbed wire; windows and doors locked with bricks and cement and people taken away from their neighbourhoods.

Mostly families with kids but also many homeless single men fleeing from war and conflict areas to Europe to find safety, have been attacked during these raids and were taken away their homes and communities. Protection seekers already traumatised found themselves in early morning hours waking up by the shouting and threats of armed special forces, the massive police presence invading their temporary “homes” supposingly in order to “combat drug trade and lawlessness” – as government and mainstream media propaganda frame it. Refugees and migrants were transferred first to Petrou Ralli Aliens Police Directorate for hours of control. The ones with papers from Trikoupi Squats were temporarily transferred to an empty building, to Schisto camp and then spread to different camps. In Schisto they stayed outside in small tents for days. In Eleonas eight persons shared one room in a container “piled up like animals in a farm”.  Many rejected a transfer to distant camps such as Katsikas in the Northern Greece or Koutsochero near Larissa (also to Eleonas, Skaramangas, Thiva and Lavrio) and are homeless again today. The ones from Jasmin school and Acharnon22 were brought to the newly established state-run tent camp in Corinth from where they will be reportedly divided likewise the others to other camps all over mainland Greece.

People transferred to Corinth reported of miserable conditions as they were placed on a dusty field with 16 rub halls (big tents). Some already returned back to Athens, as they couldn’t follow their daily lives from such distance, with their kids being subscribed in downtown schools, medical cases being followed by doctors in the capital, people having found jobs there and legal cases being proceeded in Athens asylum service and the diverse embassies located in the city. Also residents of 5thschool residents were brought to Corinth. The undocumented from all squats were arrested and brought to the pre-removal detention centre Amygdaleza. (10 from Trikoupi Squats, 14 from Yasmin and Acharnon 22 while two families and 19 persons from 5th school remained in Petrou Ralli for their papers – information by 24. September) Reportedly, some of the detainees in Amygdaleza started a hunger strike.

„Most of us had to move to places around Thessaloniki, over 400 km from here. We don’t want to do that. They are playing with us. They have evicted us from our house and they have destroyed it, but they will not also take away the life we have managed to create here in Athens. Our children are going to the school in Exarcheia and we refuse to make them leave it and have to adapt to a new place once again. We want to stay here. We answered them that we will not go anywhere against our will. We keep strong.“

Trikoupi 17
Protest against the evictions of squats in Exarchia

“We are scared about our lives and our freedom and some of us have chosen to stay on the streets to avoid being chased and arrested one more time. They have tried to divide and separate us, but we continue to struggle together. They destroyed our home, but the family that we have created in Trikoupi’s community remains united. Against their repression, solidarity is our weapon!“

Trikoupi 17
Ideas cannot be evicted!

The governments attacks against refugee squats have to be understood in the broader frame of a (re-)introduced anti-migratory policy, increasing police repression, institutionalised racism and right wing populism which is used against any from of solidarity.  

With more than 29.000 refugees and migrants trapped in the Aegean Islands, of which 12.000 alone try to survive currently in the hell of hotspot Moria / Lesvos and a 5-year-old boy just lost his life there while playing in a carton box (24. September)…

With 5.000 who could actually officially leave the islands but have nowhere to go…

With more than 88.000 refugees and migrants currently stuck in Greece most of which are dumped in overcrowded camps far from local society and under squalid conditions… 

The focus of the state is to impose “law and order” in a hypocritical fight against “crime and lawlessness” while actually sacrificing what has been hardly achieved: peoples’ freedom, dignity and respect.

We denounce the attacks on refugee squats in Exarchia and elsewhere! No Pasaran! Solidarity will win!

Employ teachers, not police officers! 

Close the camps! Open homes!

For freedom of movement of all and the right to stay! 

NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!

W2eu / infomobile greece

For further information read following statements:

Press Release of the Greek Refugee Council (GCR) (in Greek)

10 YEARS NETWORK WELCOME TO EUROPE

10 years after the noborder camp Lesvos 09

For us it was the most inspiring Noborder camp, which we ever have organized. In Lesvos in late summer 2009 about 400 noborder activists from various countries met together with hundreds of refugees and migrants, who just had arrived from Turkey with small boats on the coasts of this Greek island. Some weeks before already strong protests started in the detention prison „Pagani“, at the margin of the capital city of Mytilene. Ongoing rebellions from inside and demonstrations and scandalization from outside finally led to the closure off this „hell of Dantes Inferno“, an important success against the EU policy of determent. During the noborder camp an info point was established at the port of Mytilene, which became a crucial and vivid meeting point for a week of common fights for freedom of movement.

In the middle of these struggles the idea of Welcome to Europe (w2eu) was born: to build daily structures and to provide useful multilingual information to empower and to support refugees and migrants in transit for their right to move to their desired destination. We tried to build links to the various countries of arrival and destination and within the years the network grew with every friend who arrived somewhere.

In September 2019 it is 10 years ago and we look back to an impressive common history of coming together and projects, of protest and of commemoration, and last not least of innumerable friendships, which spread with and through w2eu all over Europe.

In this brochure we want to highlight some milestones of our network during this decade. We assembled a mixture of chronology and documentation, of personal stories and reports, of quotations and photos. We hope it will offer an interesting and exciting review on the last years.

Against the background of the ongoing roll back of the deathly EU border regime this booklet is also a promise for the future: we will tear down these borders and will go on with our struggle until freedom of movement and equal rights will be reality for everybody.

PDF of the booklet in english

Further flight through EUrope

Afghan refugees from Bavaria in Paris, German speaking Pakistani refugees in Northern Italy, Somali refugees from Norway in Germany. The attempt to develop options for action based on solidarity.

Over the past two years, one round of tightening laws against refugees and migrants has been chased by another. In EUropean countries, the human rights of rejected asylum seekers are being trampled – homelessness and exclusion from social benefits as a means of deterrence. In light of this, more and more of those who are increasingly deprived of their rights decide to continue their flight to other EUropean countries. They are further fleeing from the threat of deportation or from impoverishment. They are also further fleeing, because some have had enough of the endless waiting. These are not always rational decisions, sometimes it would certainly be easier to continue the fight for the right to stay in the original countries of arrival. In most cases, however, the continuation of flight is underpinned by a conscious decision: the decision not to tolerate injustice any longer and to move on. Against stagnancy and for freedom. This text is an attempt to take a closer look at some of these further flight movements – and, above all, the attempt to develop options for solidarity. We do not have to start from zero. We can draw on decades of experience of solidarity with sans-papiers, with illegalised migrants throughout EUrope.

1. Three exemplary moments

Afghans from Bavaria flee Seehofer’s deportation charters to Paris

From Gare de l’Este to our meeting point with our Afghan friends at Porte de la Chapelle, we walk through streets full of migrant shops of all kinds: Indian tailors offering money transfers, Pakistani money transfers besides a Western Union, a Cameroonian hairdresser, a Somali restaurant, an Afghan grocery store, a Sudanese halal bistro… all side by side. A hairdresser offers advice in Bengali on problems with the Foreigners Authority (OPFRA). In these lively streets, Paris shows that all the racist madness of today has, in fact, already lost. At every corner one can feel the informal reality of migration, which creates spaces beyond the legal framework and has a long history here. With two Afghan friends from Bavaria we sit in an Afghan-Indian Hamburger-Fries-Kebab snack bar, where there are enough sockets for mobile phones to recharge and where the newly arrived get a discount on food. Some sit here also with sleeping bags and luggage. Another Afghan friend from Graz in Austria joins us at some point. Together they explain the system to us in some detail and try to underline what might be important for others who will come here, too. They talk about the difficulty of finding accommodation, about the first nights on the street and how difficult it is to find a place to recharge one’s mobile phones when you live on the street. We learn how important a French SIM card is at the beginning, because the first step in Paris is to register with the asylum authorities via a phone call.

Reza*, who has been here the longest, has witnessed the eviction of an informal settlement near Porte de la Chapelle. The residents were then distributed to various gym halls outside of Paris and after a lengthy procedure were given accommodation – for the time being. However, they did not receive any financial support and fear that they would soon be completely excluded from the system due to the Dublin proceedings, meaning that they would have to spend many more months on the street if they want to avoid deportation back to Germany. The two Afghan friends from Bavaria miss their previous place of residence very much. One of them could not bear it after the first week on the street in Paris and went back to Germany once again. But after a friend told him that the police were already there to pick him up for the charter deportation to Kabul, he returned to Paris.

Paris is the last hope for many Afghans who were rejected in Germany. Especially in Bavaria, which pursues the most rigorous deportation measures, it can affect almost anyone who is only legally ‘tolerated’ in Germany. Continuing the flight is a difficult decision. Some decide too early to flee, head over heels, when the foreigners authorities begin to exert pressure.[1] But some flee also too late. An article from July 2018 in the Stern magazine impressively describes in the portrait of a deportee to Afghanistan how he hoped until the end that the already signed vocational training contract would protect him.[2]

Pakistanis from Hessen in Northern Italy

With a protection rate between 70 and over 80% for Afghan refugees, the chance of obtaining a right of residence in France is indeed much better than in other EUropean countries – if the Dublin Regulation did not exist. The probability of a Dublin transfer to Germany is clearly given – absurdly about as many people are transferred from Germany to France (753 persons in 2018) as from France to Germany (978 in 2018).[3] And so, many people only have the option of going underground in France and thereby have to live with an extended Dublin transfer period of 18 months. Once this period has expired, the asylum procedure must be carried out in France. For many, going underground means having to survive two years in homelessness and without any support of the French authorities. They live in slums or somewhere without a roof. They do not speak French but Bavarian German – in Paris they are called “the Germans”. Nevertheless, life on the street is always better than being deported to Kabul – which usually means having to risk once more the dangerous path across the sea.

February 2018, a café in Gorizia, northern Italy. Around the tables men sit for hours with cups of tea, loading their mobile phones and chatting away. As it turns out, almost everyone speaks German as well as Urdu. It is a meeting point for newly arrived Pakistanis from Germany and Austria, who come to northern Italy to reapply for asylum. Unlike Austria and Germany, Italy still does not deport to Pakistan. We drive on, meet a friend from a small town in Hesse/Germany. He carries advertising leaflets and lives in an overcrowded apartment for which he has to spend a large chunk of his salary – simply a for a place with a mattress. But he soon has an appointment for his first Italian residence permit and is happy that he was not at home during the deportation attempt a few weeks earlier in Germany.

Many people, especially men, from Pakistan live in the Rhine-Main area around Frankfurt. About one-third of all Pakistani migrants in Germany live in Hessen. Quite commonly, at some point, they had failed with an asylum claim and lived for years, many since 2015 but more than a few even longer, with only status of ‘toleration’ (“Duldung”) in Germany. Until the beginning of 2017, the Pakistani government did not cooperate in issuing travel documents for deportations. Although many Pakistani migrants were tolerated during this period, deportation was in fact impossible due to the lack of travel documents. Most of them worked, often gastronomy (especially in pizzerias), but also in construction. The situation changed with the first deportation charter flights at the beginning of 2017. Before, there had been a lengthy period during which the Pakistani authorities refused to issue travel documents for deportations despite a readmission agreement between Germany and Pakistan that had existed since 2010 (and in late 2015,the Pakistani Minister of the Interior even announced that he had completely suspended the readmission agreement). Since 2014 there has been an agreement between Germany and Pakistan to allow Germany access to Pakistani databases. It appears that the German authorities have had direct access to the Pakistani database containing biometric data of Pakistani citizens (the so-called “electronic platform”), latest since early 2017.[4] Neither were the details of this “deal”  made public, nor the sum of money the Pakistani government was supposed to receive from the German government in exchange. For all “tolerated” Pakistanis, this created the incalculable risk of deportation. In 2018 alone, 367 people were deported to Pakistan, the majority in a total of 12 collection charter-planes. Almost every month a plane, always coordinated by Frontex, flew from Frankfurt, Berlin or Düsseldorf to Islamabad. While on the one hand we warned against exaggerated panic and gathered information about possibilities of the right to stay beyond the asylum procedure, on the other hand the search for alternatives became important.[5] Many Pakistani with “Duldung” decided to go to northern Italy from 2017 on. In some cities, mainly German-speaking Pakistani refugees from Germany and Austria gathered. While we had tried for a long time to prevent the Dublin deportations from Germany to Italy, it was now the other way round. In fact, Italy, for its part, has hardly implemented the Dublin Regulation to this day. There have been a few transfers from Pakistanis to Austria by bus but we have never noticed any deportations from Italy to Germany in all of this time.

With Salvini’s racist tightening of the law, from June 2018 onward, times became harder for the Pakistani friends also in northern Italy, so that, at the moment, the flight to northern Italy makes less and less sense. Although there still are no deportations from Italy to Pakistan, it is hardly possible anymore to get a right to stay. Even those who have already been temporarily legalised are now threatened with withdrawal of their humanitarian status, which has not been granted since the so-called Security Decree was passed at the end of 2018.[6] And so some of our Pakistani friends think about coming back to Germany. They are again seeking advice as to whether they could try to gain a foothold here once more. When viewed in light of the overall number of tolerated persons, there are only a few who are actually caught and deported in the end. And some are thinking about developing a new “Plan B” and evaluating possibilities in different European countries again, if necessary residing there illegally.

Somali women from Scandinavia and Eritrean women from Swiss bunkers continue to flee to Germany

3pm on a completely normal Monday: the refugee-café in a small occupied house in Hanau becomes alive. It is difficult to move through the strollers, table football is being played and conversations takes place while two women pray on the stage in the concert room. Still in 2013, when “Lampedusa in Hanau”, a self-organised group of East African refugees was created here, the issue at hand were almost exclusively Dublin proceedings to Italy. By 2017, at the latest, the issues had widened, and we started to face threats of deportation to almost all European countries. An Iranian with fingerprints in France, an Iraqi woman with a toddler who went through an unsuccessful asylum procedure in the Netherlands, a Somali man who had lived on the streets in Belgium after his rejection, Eritrean refugees from Switzerland who had had to live in bunkers. And, again and again Scandinavia – Afghans who fled being deported from Sweden, Somali women who faced the same threat in Norway. All of them had good reasons to flee – and a new fight for the right to stay began for all of them, which will continue for several years to come. Even if they do manage to prevent the Dublin deportation, they usually have a lengthy legal process ahead of them, because asylum applications in Germany are often rejected as confirmatory applications. If an asylum procedure in a EUropean country has already been negatively concluded, then the procedure here is assessed as a follow-up application in which only new reasons count. Within a few hours, the gruelling consequences of EUropean asylum policy can be experienced here – and always also the persistence of the people to get through them. It is true that it gets very noisy in this refugee-café in Hanau, there or sometimes larger crowds and it gets hectic, but most of the people are also very concerned about the others and there are always small groups sitting together in which those who have already survived the problem can share their experiences.

At the EU summit in Brussels in June 2018, the prevention of migration to EUrope was again negotiated. All horror scenarios of a failed EUropean asylum policy from satellite camps to hotspots were discussed at length and in great detail. The German Federal Government raised the issue of secondary migration within the EU as an important issue – not least because the phenomenon of secondary migration accounted for a significant proportion of the number of asylum applications filed in Germany in 2018. A similar phenomenon can also be seen in France. Over some months of the past years, the number of asylum applications in Germany was higher than arrivals by sea on all three routes to Europe. This was mainly due to the increasingly restrictive migration policy throughout EUrope. However, instead of discussing legalisation, the issue here was again isolation. While the Dublin Regulation was originally intended to prevent the phenomenon of secondary migration and flight, in today’s reality it accounts for a large proportion of flight in EUrope.

Fadumo* is 18 years old. She fled Somalia as a minor. Her parents died when Fadumo was two years old. She grew up with her uncle’s family, in which she experienced a lot of violence. She was subjected to genital mutilation as a child and still suffers from the physical consequences today. In 2015 she fled due to increasing problems with the Al Shabaab militia in her neighbourhood via Turkey and Greece and then on to Norway. In Norway, she was first accommodated in a shelter for minors. On her 18th birthday, she received a threat of deportation to Somalia following the rejection of her asylum application.

Fadumo therefore fled to Germany in January 2018, as she saw no perspective in Norway and noticed how other Somali refugees were deported to Somalia. In fact, after returning to Norway, she would be threatened with deportation to Somalia. In October 2017, a 36-year-old Somali woman had been deported from Darmstadt in Hesse to Norway. There she was arrested at the airport in Oslo, then detained for three weeks and deported directly from prison to Mogadishu.

In Somalia, Fadumo would not only have to fear further persecution from her family. Even as a single young woman, she would have little chance of securing a livelihood. Fadumo was therefore taken into church asylum in a parish in Hesse and was thus able to overcome the Dublin proceedings. She is currently in the process of filing a complaint, as her asylum application was then rejected as a secondary application. She does not give up and is certain that she will finally have a future here – because she has found a network that supports her, not least in a growing East African community. Fadumo’s story is that of many and she is not alone.

2. Further flight as resistance against the terror of deportation

These further flights are not only desperate forms of flight, they are active forms of resistance against the machinery and industry of deportation. At a time when EUropean interior ministers are outbidding each other with plans on how to make such machinery even more merciless and effective, these people are opposing it by ‘voting’ with their feet. They are building on the informal migrant structures that we experienced in Paris and described in the first part of this text. In them they find paths that are usually very stony, but which they prefer over being forcibly returned. In their search for a life without a constant fear, they set off again from countries within EUrope that they originally thought were the destination of their journeys.

Like many of their Pakistani friends in northern Italy, they are often exposed to massive forms of exploitation – often enough also within migrant communities, which are at the same time often the only sources of protection and the necessary, albeit often very precarious, infrastructure they need. Refugees who flee for the second, or third, time are often particularly vulnerable. Especially for women on the run, further flight and renewed illegalisation increase the danger of sexualised violence.

Many have already fought for years for the prospect of staying and are accordingly more exhausted than before. Quite a few are worn down by years of insecurity. As they continue to flee, they often face homelessness once more, and are therefore more at risk of suffering drastic health problems. In France (and in many other countries, too), living conditions during the Dublin procedure are a major problem: many of those affected receive accommodation only after long waiting periods (if at all), which they lose again as soon as they fail to report to local police stations during the Dublin procedure. Since the evacuation of the “jungles” in Calais, new informal settlements have emerged, initially in Paris and now in many places in France. It seems to be in the political interest to evict these settlements again and again, though they are also used as a deterrence strategy. A social worker from an aid organisation in Paris impressively described to us the danger of re-traumatisation and eventually impoverishment in homelessness, as many young adolescents get lost on the street and often end up addicted to drugs.

3. Connecting Solidarity Cities with one another

“From the sea to the cities”, a network of solidarity structures has formed in recent years, which has its origins in the support of refugees rescued from distress at sea. Here, sea rescue NGOs meet with representatives from municipalities in EUrope that adopt a different, solidarity-based attitude towards migrant travellers. They make connections with activist movements such as the “Seebrücke” networks in Germany. These often-informal networks can be important to maintain connections and strengthen migrant communities in EUrope by giving them additional support for their daily work and struggles.

What is still needed is a well networked “Underground Railroad” for freedom of movement, a structure that also supports the often-necessary instances of further flight. In times when there is no place of freedom, the movements can take place in all directions, not only from the port cities of the Mediterranean Sea towards the metropolises, but sometimes also from north to south. Along these routes that mark the shifts in miserable conditions within EUrope, also a map of solidarity can emerge.

Spaces of contact and connection are crucial to create this map of solidarity. Like the fast food bistros in Paris, which serve as recharging stations for mobile phones and where newcomers can drink tea and exchange ideas without being forced to consume, such spaces emerge from the solidarity of individuals. They are just as important as squatted houses and social centres, which serve not least as collectively created spaces for contact and exchange. In Athens, the occupied seven-storey-tall City Plaza Hotel gave a temporary home for up to 400 refugees at the same time. It also has the function of providing information about other solidarity structures with which fleeing people can connect.

Last but not least, City Plaza has also taken up the permanent challenge of how the struggles of women can take place in these spaces and how solidarity-based spaces can be created in such a way that they offer as little room as possible for exploitation and structural violence and where experiences of sexism and racism can be discussed openly. To do justice to the many experiences made here it would need a separate article but it is crucial to allude to them as they are central challenges when it comes to developing everyday structures of solidarity. The City Plaza Squat is a “lighthouse” and is certainly unique in its size and continuity for over 3 years. Nevertheless, it is representative of many other places that are less public and have formed information hubs of solidarity in a more quiet way but similarly producing rich experiences and developing further.

If transit no longer remains at the EUropes’ external border, but shifts to its centre with the increase in diverse forms of further flight and increasing illegalisation, then we need the experience gained from transit also for the metropolises at the heart of the EU. We need more of these places of solidarity, we need closer forms of networking with community structures and, not least, we need learning processes from successful practices.

This all sounds like a major task ahead. Nevertheless, as in all social struggles, every first attempt counts. It is possible to start small. If a circle of supporters from a small Bavarian town refuses to let the contact to an Afghan friend break off and continues to support him by providing the rent for a sleeping place in Paris and also visits him there every few months, three things are created: First of all, there is a very material form of solidarity, which in this concrete case may prevent a young man from becoming re-traumatised during his further flight. Second, a point of contact has been made, a contact in Paris, a person there who knows how it works when the next ones have to leave. And finally – as we know from experience – a story has been created that will live on both in the small Bavarian town and in Paris. This story will live on and will be told ten years from now, showing under which hard conditions and tough efforts, carried by solidarity, a right to stay was struggled for and realised.

We can create welcome islands and rent apartments in which friends can rest and develop a perspective. There are many models of welcome islands in Athens, rest houses in Rabat and shelters for ‘illegal’ immigrants from the past. We can also build on the structures of previous struggles when it comes to medical care: since the end of the 1990s at the latest, with medical aid provided to refugees in Germany, structures have been built up that in some cities have also been able to fight for communal medical care for illegalised and uninsured people today.

Cities in Germany are also stations of transit. The extended transfer periods in the Dublin proceedings, which force more and more people to survive up to 18 months, while completely deprived of their rights, are also here regarded as ways to generate deterrent effects in the long term. More and more people spend long periods of time illegally in the cities in order to survive their Dublin deadlines. Here we need more structures and networks of support.

So, we need more solidarity rooms and apartments. We also need more contact points for those who are completely deprived of their rights, where it is possible to develop perspectives for each individual beyond the increasingly narrow legal requirements. And above all, we need to strengthen the community structures that are based on solidarity and find ways of connecting them with one another. This is not so difficult, because much of it already exists. We need a long-lasting power and energy to overcome this migration regime – and we need the courage to enforce equal rights for all every day. In all cities, we need to contest these outdated ideas of national legislation. . In Italy, the port cities with their solidarity with the newcomers are already showing us the way.

                                                           no one is illegal hanau / Welcome to Europe

************************

* All names changed.


[1] With regards to deportation threats from those residing in Germany back to Afghanistan, Welcome to Europe provides information online about the different ways of securing a right to stay even after the asylum procedure has been completely negative through its information guide “Information against the fear” : https://w2eu.info/germany.en/articles/germany-deportation-afghanistan.en.html

[2] https://www.stern.de/politik/deutschland/nach-afghanistan-abgeschoben–wer-sind-die-69-betroffenen–8187742.html

[3] https://www.24matins.de/topnews/pol/2018-sechs-dublin-ueberstellungen-von-deutschland-nach-griechenland-161278

[4] See: https://www.aktionbleiberecht.de/?p=13879

[5] Information Against the Fear, Deportations from Germany to Pakistan, w2eu, April 2018, online: https://w2eu.info/germany.en/articles/germany-deportation-pakistan.html.

[6] In the first three months of this year, the number of Nigerian asylum seekers in Germany rose sharply for the same reason. They call themselves Salvini-refugees. After years of residence in Italy, most of them have started to flee because their living conditions have become unbearable, not least because of the increasing racist agitation in the media, and because they cannot develop a perspective on the right to stay in Italy.

‘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

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’

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

RSS Clandestina

  • Bulletin : Βreaking the borders, communicating and struggling together
    Clandestina is participating in Bulletin, a group of local and migrant activists publishing the magazine under the same name aiming to help break the barriers of communication and unite our struggles in both the cities and the migrants’ camps. Bulletin is a multilingual magazine published in Arabic, English, French, Albanian, Farsi… You can vist Bulletin’s […]

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  • NOTICE
    The GROUP OF LAWYERS FOR THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES advises you that legal counselling WILL NOT be provided anymore after 18th December 2018. You are therefore kindly requested to contact other organisations providing legal assistance. ________________________________________________________ Le GROUPE DES AVOCATS POUR LES DROITS DES MIGRANTS ET DES RÉFUGIÉS souhaite vous informer que

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