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.
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’
On the March 19, 2016, one day before the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, Hamid* and his three friends arrived in a boat with 46 people on the shores of Chios. They where transferred to detention in VIAL. From that day on they suffer mostly from the lack of freedom and protection. They have expressed fear and anxiety due to a lack of information on their rights and growing tensions among inmates. According to the teenager many refugees in VIAL suffer severe psychological problems due to the detention conditions, the violence (also by law-enforcement officers) and the fear to be the next returned to Turkey.
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.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The EU-Turkey refugee deal has left thousands of refugees and migrants in squalid and dangerous living conditions, and must not be replicated with other countries, Amnesty International said today ahead of the deal’s one year anniversary.The deal aimed at returning asylum-seekers back to Turkey on the premise that Turkey is safe for them, […]
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