Refugees on hunger strike

In Samos hot spot and corinth pre-removal detention center refugees are protesting devastating living conditions and lacking access to asylum procedures as well as long waiting periods.

copyright: Hessam Ghafelpour

On 31st January refugee from Iran and Afghanistan in the hot spot in Samos started a hunger strike protesting against the long lasting asylum procedures, inhuman detention conditions and the restriction of their freedom. On the second day, one of the strikers

watch the strike here

copyright: Generation outside of Afghanistan

Yesterday detained refugees in Corinth pre-removal detention centre denied to eat lunch and dinner in protest against the bad detention conditions and lack of access to the asylum procedure. According to refugees, some of the detainees have been more than six months in detention. They suffer from bad food and the lack of warm water amongst others. Mainly people from Pakistan and Algeria are detained in Corinth these days. The refugees on hunger strike demand first of all their freedom.

interview from Corinth

Death in Greek Camps

Five refugees dead in Greek camps since last week due to inadequate reception conditions. Several others tried to commit suicide. Does life still matter in Europe?

– On Monday 30th of January a 20-year-old refugee from Pakistan died in Moria Hot Spot.

– On Saturday 28th of January a 46-year-old Syrian passed away in Moria Hot Spot detention centre reportedly from hypothermia. He was staying in the same tent as another man who died only four days ago.

– Meanwhile the same day in Ritsona camp in mainland Greece a two-months-old baby was transferred to hospital in Chalkida due to a cystic fibrosis and later on passed away in the ambulance which was taking it to Athens. While the parents had to deal with tremendous problems in finding help for their sick child since it was born, and were under shock of its sudden death authorities and media chose to accuse them for minor neglect and bring them to the local police station. Read here: Announcement of the solidarity group in Chalkida

– On Wednesday 25th of January a 42-year-old refugee named Benjo Massoud, father of three children, passed away in the overcrowded Hot Spot on Samos Island. According to Greek media the Kurdish refugee from Iraq had visited on Wednesday morning the camp doctor suffering reportedly from pain in the chest. He reported to have Diabetes and blood high pressure. A cardiogram was made and he got referred immediately to the hospital of the island, where he died while waiting to be examined. An employee of the camp said that the refugee had received already some days ago a letter of a doctor asking for heart exams in the hospital of the island. Despite this fact, he remained in his tent with his family the days that was very cold. Few days ago he had found by himself an empty container and settled in it together with his family. When he informed the camp managers, they just registered the transfer to the prefabricated house. The refugee had arrived on December 7th and went through first reception procedures without anyone noticing any heart problem. Already back in October Medicines Sans Frontiers reported the inadequacy of the system to screen new arrivals for vulnerability in the Hot Spots of the Aegean.

-One day before, on Tuesday the 24th, a 21-year-old Egyptian refugee was found dead in his tent by a friend in the Hot Spot in Moria on Lesbos Island. The cause of his death is still unknown. While reportedly his death was caused by the kerosine heaters’ gas he had inhaled while trying to keep himself warm.

– These were not the first refugee deaths of this winter in Moria. At the end of November 2016 a a 60-year-old woman and her 5-year-old grandchild died in a fire inside their tent while the woman was cooking dinner.
Continue reading ‘Death in Greek Camps’

w2eu Statement 22.01.2017: No Dublin Returns to Greece!

‘One step forward, hundreds back…’ seems to be the motto under which EU experts implement refugee policy, as currently also demonstrated in Greece. On 8 December 2015, the European Commission published its fourth recommendation on the resumption of Dublin Returns to Greece, this time stating that they could be gradually re-installed, as according to them, refugee rights would be adequately protected in Greece. At the same time, images of people who fled war and are now staying in tents covered in snow are spreading through the global media. Once more, the EU is using Greece to make a point: Dublin has to survive, not matter what, that’s the plan. But in reality, this failed plan has significant consequences, causing one more massive human tragedy in Europe for thousands of people who are escaping war, conflict, disaster, hunger and poverty.

Refugees are exposed to snow and rain while forced to stay in tents and unheated prefabricated houses, some of which are old and have broken doors and windows. Over the last days awful pictures from the “Hotspot” detention-camp in Moria on Lesvos have travelled around the world. This time, small tents, not even sufficient for a short summer rain, were collapsing under the pressure of snow and the heavy rains. These pictures where taken by the inhabitants themselves, only a few days after the Greek Deputy Minister of Migration Ioannis Mouzalas had proudly announced that now most refugees would not have to live in tents any more. But refugees and solidarity people alike rose in anger immediately posting photos and videos from camps all around Greece on the internet, demonstrating the opposite. The ‘Winterization’ project failed, during a time when the EU is asserting that Greece is now a safe place for refugees, able to offer adequate living conditions and proper access to asylum procedures.

Greece is not a safe country for refugees. Refugees stuck in Greece are suffering in the inhuman and inadequate living conditions in detention centres and mass camps despite the presence of the UNHCR and numerous international and national NGOs. Refugees lack basic legal rights, access to information and legal aid. They have endured months without access to asylum procedures. They have spent months fighting for their right to stay in Greece while the feasibility of their deportation to Turkey is being examined by the EU’s so-called asylum experts. Hundreds were returned without proper access to legal aid for an appeal against the return decision, without a proper examination of their individual persecution in Turkey, without their asylum claim being heard, without a proper examination of their vulnerability, which should exclude them from any deportation procedure. Their lives have been put on hold on the islands of the Aegean and on the mainland by long-lasting procedures of pre-registration and registration. Access to the asylum procedure is yet not secured as the blocked Skype calls to authorities remain the only way to make an appointment, while thousands of families are separated and have to wait to reunite for almost one year.

Even Greeks are escaping Greece. And so are recognized refugees as there is no welfare system and no labour market, which could offer on the prospect of a dignified life. Even survival is not secured upon receiving the right to stay in Greece as those recognized are excluded even from state housing for refugees and from most of the social support structures offered by NGOs. May we remind you that Greece is suffering for years from a massive economic crisis and all people living here have to cope with the devastating austerity measures forced upon them by the Troika, by our European governments and institutions.

We strongly denounce the EU’s dirty game! The Hotspots are detention centres at the external borders of Europe, meant to select and sort human beings into ‘deportable’ or ‘not-deportable’, ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’, ‘useless’ or ‘useful’, ‘unwanted’ or ‘wanted’. EASO experts are those who carry out the selection. Frontex is not only the key-institution pursuing militarised controls and the deterrence of “refugee flows” at sea, but also responsible for deportations from the Aegean islands back to Turkey. The Dublin Regulation is a mechanism aimed to keep all refugees at the external borders of the EU. Relocation has failed with only 6,212 persons out of 66,400 successfully moving to other EU-states until the beginning of January 2016 – within the first year of a two-year implementation period. ‘Voluntary’ return is for most people the last choice, and a decision followed the suffering of massive deterrence policies, such as enduring for a year a life in a tent at the rims of Greek society. Refugees give up, finally, preferring to “die at once, than every second again and again” – a sentence that is heard over and over again by refugees in the Greek camps. The cruelty of deportations to Afghanistan is obvious, when we see how European citizens are advised not to go there due to concerns for their safety. Nevertheless, and ironically, the life-threatening situation in Afghanistan is swiftly forgotten when it comes to the granting of asylum to Afghan refugees. The EU-Turkey Deal is nothing more than the result of the blackmailing strategies of a dictator, using Europe’s desire to keep refugees out as leverage.

But Dublin will fall again! Deportations to Greece were already once stopped back in 2011 following the decision of the European Human Rights Court in the case ‘MSS v. Greece’ – and as a result of a long struggle during which many, many refugees escaped from Greece, were deported and escaped again. Some had to flee through Europe 5-6 times. But finally it was over, they succeeded often, and stayed.
Dublin Returns to Greece will be strongly contested in national and international courts again now. As we have seen, the Dublin-regulation has been overrun many times before by the struggles for freedom of movement of individuals and groups.
Mouzalas had to correct himself. We politely suggest the European Commission to do the same.

Refugees are no numbers on a tent, no fingerprints, but people with faces, names and stories!

The Dublin Regulation has to be abolished now.
Human rights violations have to end now.
People have to join their families now.
People have to be in safety and in dignified conditions now.

We therefore demand:

Equal rights for all!
Freedom of movement to all refugees in Greece and elsewhere!
The right to stay for all!
Stop deportations!

No one is illegal!

w2eu – a network born out of the struggle against Dublin returns in 2009

Paralysed and stored at the margins: Refugees in Greece forced to survive snow and cold

Moria Camp / Stratis Balaksas EPA

Moria Camp / Stratis Balaksas EPA

Following the closure of the Balkan-Route on March 2016 thousands of refugees who had been waiting for months in the tents in Idomeni were transferred and ‘parked’ in mass camps in northern Greece, in Greater Athens area and other parts of mainland Greece. Although they promised them better conditions than in the jungle of Idomeni or the informal tent camp in Piraeus Port, as well as quick legal transfers to other European countries, many of them still wait until today under devastating conditions. It is winter, and still hundreds live in tents or without heating while struggling with snow, heavy rains and strong winds. Most of them have some of their relatives waiting for them in other EU-countries and the other half remaining back home in war trying to survive. Meanwhile the EU tries to invest just as much in the improvements of refugees’ living conditions and asylum procedures in Greece as needed to re-establish Dublin returns to Greece as announced for 15. March 2017. It is the same infamous mass camps, which refugees are trying to survive now, where Europe seemingly plans to send Dublin returnees. A closer look shows the enormous tragedy resulting from this cynical plan to keep refugees stored at Europe’s inner borders unsafe, under devastating conditions and far from their relatives.

no shoes

no shoes

Imprisoned in camps that are located in abandoned industrial sites and military camps, forced to live far from local society, exposed to inadequate and undignified housing and harsh weather conditions, the currently 62.000 refugees living in Greece escaped war and conflict, hunger and poverty in order to end up in Europe without safety and without dignity, without sufficient food, without heating, without any hope to find a job and create a new life. They got stuck in limbo when the Balkan corridor was closed in March 8th 2016 and mainstream politics were transformed back from a short upsurge of a “welcome” trend to the old “closed borders” attitude confronted with the massive militarization of borders. In the Hot Spots on the islands of the Aegean and the mass camps on the mainland, these refugees since early 2016 get managed by the army, government officials, the UNHCR and international NGOs as a faceless mass identified by a number on a tent or a container and sorted by nationalities, and into the groups of ‘deportable’ and ‘non-deportable’, ‘undocumented’ and ‘documented’.
Continue reading ‘Paralysed and stored at the margins: Refugees in Greece forced to survive snow and cold’

Happy Birthday City Plaza Squat!

6 months – more than 1,000 refugees hosted

A booklet with memories, thoughts and feelings of the ones who were there from the very first day and who stayed until today.

City Plaza 6 months Birthday

Lesvos turns into a deportation hub to Turkey

Uprisings in Moria on 24th October, EASO-containers burned down once again

Already for weeks, tensions on the Aegean islands run high after the Greek government announced to open three more so-called “hot-spots” only for “pre-removals” on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Kos. They are, in fact, deportation prisons. Local residents and municipalities oppose these plans. At the same time, the atmosphere within the camps is boiling over. After months of waiting, the entire time threatened to be deported to Turkey, people have repeatedly protested against the imprisonment in inhumane conditions. It has been announced that, from November onward, weekly deportations to Turkey for 200 persons each time will take place, coordinated by Frontex. This would turn Lesvos into a deportation hub.

Noborder Protest in Mytilene. Photo: Marily Stroux
Noborder Protest in Mytilene. Photo: Marily Stroux

Continue reading 'Lesvos turns into a deportation hub to Turkey'

Frontex’s Prison Island Lesvos: Apartheid in the tourist paradise

Since 2013, Welcome to Europe (w2eu) and Youth Without Borders (JOG) organise journeys for young refugees, to make it possible for them to return to the place where they had first reached Europe: The Island of Lesvos/Greece. This year, the ‘back to the border’ journey turned into a horror trip, especially, for all of us who were without European identity cards. Twice, the police and coast guard didn’t let us take the ferry to Piraeus (Athens) and leave the island as they said they had to re-check the asylum seekers cards for their genuinity – a paper issued by the Greek government itself. We observed dozens of people who were pulled out of the passengers queues at the airport while providing for passports or Greek aliens documents and dozens more who were unsuccessfully trying to leave from the island from the port along with us even though some of them were living and working in Greece for years. Continue reading 'Frontex’s Prison Island Lesvos: Apartheid in the tourist paradise'

Welcome to Greece guides arrived and we started to hand them out on Lesvos

guideOn Tuesday we finally got the guide! We were really happy and started to hand out them at the same day. We went to Moria and Kara Tepe and gave it to the people we met. This year it is much more difficult, we are not allowed to enter the camps and we can only reach some refugees. If we can speak with them they are happy to get informations – like we know it from the last years. In the last time there have been organisations which tried to hand out bibles and religious things. Because of that there is a big mistrust against everybody who is handing out paper. In Kara Tepe we have not been allowed to hand out the guides between the cantinas which are in front of the camp and where the people are sitting. We had to stand close to the dangerous road – outside the ground which belongs to the camp. In Moria they check identities of two of us – the cantinas are on the other side of the road, so that we could stay there and continue.

When we started to hand out the guides we realised that this year the French version is missing because there are many more people from (western) Africa here in Lesvos. Many of them are French speakers. We will try to speed up the French translation to at least have an online version.

What is really clear this year: everything is controlled very much. Many big NGOs are working in the camps, networks like us are not welcome and they don‘t let us in. This was really frustrating, although we met people, spoke with them and spread the guides.

You can find the online-versions here:

Arabic: http://w2eu.info/greece.ar.html

Farsi: http://w2eu.info/greece.fa.html

English: http://w2eu.info/greece.en.html

PDFs in all languages:http://w2eu.info/greece.en/articles/greece-guide.en.html

126-year old woman arrived on Lesvos – fleeing to join her children and grandchildren in Germany

126years-2Photos by Marios Lolos

Eida was born 1890, she is Syrian and all her children and grandchildren are in Germany. When they left she didn’t want to go and was taken care by a family in Kobane. When the family decided to go also Eida had no one anymore and decided to follow. After many adventures they arrived in Lesvos and stayed for 1 month in Moria Hotspot without any NGO organizing housing or care for the 126 year old lady. After they finally got their papers they travelled all together to Athens and went to a hotel. The wife and mother of the 4 small kids is giving birth these days and the Noborders Athens group supports the family and asks for financial support to manage to house this unbelievable travel group. Again it is activists that manage to show respect to fleeing people. One of the oldest women in this world fleeing, we all have to support her now! Continue reading ‘126-year old woman arrived on Lesvos – fleeing to join her children and grandchildren in Germany’

“My shoes burned in Moria. Before my shoes burned I used to run.”

A talk with a friend from Ethiopia on Lesbos Island…

If you want to run away and you are black they see you from far, White people they can run. Me sometimes i ask where can I get this white skin? For white people it is easy to run away.

……………..

“I am 21 years old. I come from West Ethiopia. I belong to the Oromo. The Oromo are a very big tribe, which inhibits a very rich part of country in the country. This is why we have so many problems.

Before I left I was a student in Adis Abeba and I also used to run. I have a good time: 10 kilometers I used to finish in 33’.

In my university they killed many Oromo students. They used to pick… well, they know us by our traditional names. My name is an Oromo name. They used to pick up all clever students from Oromo tribe and said they wanted to give us money and teach us to teach Oromo people to change their mind. They wanted us to make our people accept to give our land away. They wanted to force us to go and change them. We said: No! We can not do that. We can not change the rules.
Continue reading ‘“My shoes burned in Moria. Before my shoes burned I used to run.”’

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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