Tag Archive for '2016'

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Open the border! Open houses! – Struggles and resistance growing in Greece

Hot Spot Moria

Hot Spot Moria

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.

Schisto protest

Schisto protest

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

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

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.

EUs new Gatekeeper Turkey burning life-vests of refugees

copyright: Salinia Stroux

copyright: Salinia Stroux

The last few days hundreds of refugees were caught on the Turkish mainland, along the western coast and in Turkish territorial waters while trying to set over to Greece clandestinely. Among the refugees who come mainly from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are more than 30% children. Whilst getting intercepted, sometimes detained or directly send back to Izmir and Istanbul, the authorities take away their life-vests. Many refugees report that the Gendarmes even burned, while telling them that: “We do that so you wouldn’t try again!”

In some occasions refugee dinghies intercepted in the Aegean Sea even were threatened by Turkish coast guards that they would shoot their dinghy if they don’t go back.

Consequently, most refugees when trying again to set over have no money left to buy new life-vests while most of them cannot swim neither.

Refugees will not stop fleeing to Europe despite NATO, Frontex, Coastguards, the usage of Drones, war ships or helicopters to locate, intercept and return them. They will not stop at barbed wire or in front of armed soldiers who are blocking their ways. As long there is war, people will move on, no matter what.

An Afghan father indicates with a movement of his hand the dinghy bopping to the left and the right in the water: “It is life, or death. But there is only one road to chose.” Next to him stands his 10-year-old son. A few meters aside four small Afghan boys play “escaping from police”. The mum of one of them who is in the second month pregnant sits beside in the park feeling desperate. She is bleeding since six days, but she cannot stay in hospital as she was strongly advised by the doctor, because the family of four has to chose for the lives of all, not only for hers and the babies. Her husband cannot hold his tears, as he feels responsible for all of them, but still has to take difficult decisions.

Tonight we witnessed more than four families starting their dangerous trip over the sea without any life-vests. They had a 3 months old baby among them and two pregnant women. Yesterday there were more than five families we happened to know with more than 15 children – one of them handicapped, another only 6 months old. And these are only the ones we accidentally got to know during a random day at a random place. One random stormy night in Turkey…

Idomeni about to explode: Anybody listening out there?

copyright: Amir Karimi

copyright: Amir Karimi

“Like dogs! We are waiting here under unbearable conditions – it is not even suitable for animals!” says a young woman who is enduring since days at the borders of Idomeni. Everywhere around the transit border camp are media representatives from all over the world covering the humanitarian crisis of the last two weeks. It was then when Austria and the Balkan states decided to further reduce the numbers of the refugees who can pass the borders by limiting the eligible nationalities on Iraqis and Syrians. On Monday refugees started a hunger strike after a 13-years-old boy got electroshocked by a cable of a standing train. But is anybody listening out there?

copyright: Chrissi Wilkens

copyright: Chrissi Wilkens

Since the last weekend border police in Macedonia and other Balkan states are pushing refugees back who come from regions which are not considered to be war zones, like i.e. Damascus, Mosul, Rakka. Omar a refugee from Syria is standing infront of the border. He is sleeping with his family in a camp near Idomeni and came by taxi to check the situation. Next to him on the ground some families are sitting in the mud with their babies and waiting. “It’s not good at all here”, he says. In his hometown Aleppo he was a dentist. Now he wants to reach Germany. “The only thing that matters to me is the safety of my children. I hope if this border closes that another route will open for us through Albania or Bulgaria.” But his wishes seem far from reality. Albania just recently announced that it will not take refugees that are blocked in Greece. Bulgaria conducted during the last weekend a major police exercise on the Greek border, testing their capacity to seal the borders to any possible refugee influx. Continue reading ‘Idomeni about to explode: Anybody listening out there?’

Macedonia is further limiting the criteria for people allowed passage at the border with Greece

source: news that moves

March 3, 2016
Authorities confirmed they will deny entry to Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers who declare the intention to reach Western Europe because of family reunification, education and to avoid military recruitment in their country of origin.

The Macedonian police confirmed that those who stayed for more than 30 days in ‘safe third countries’ like Turkey and Greece are also not anymore allowed to cross into Macedonia.

Only Syrian and Iraqi citizens who declare during an interview with the police that they are fleeing war, and seeking asylum are now permitted to pass into Macedonia.

The Macedonian police confirmed today that more new rules for selecting which asylum seekers can enter Macedonia and proceed further along the Balkan Route are in force immediately. Continue reading ‘Macedonia is further limiting the criteria for people allowed passage at the border with Greece’

Idomeni: refugees brake border fence

Refugees brake borderfence
Police tear gas masses. Many children suffering.

“open the borders!” – refugee protests increasing in Greece

+Currently about 22,000-25,000 refugees trapped in Greece+ Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas estimates it can become 70,000 within one month if borders don’t open again+In Idomeni and Athens refugees protest daily and demand the opening of the borders*

Protest against closure of border 28. February in Victoria Square

Protest against closure of border 28. February in Victoria Square

The UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on February 26, 2016 voiced concern about increasing border restrictions in the Balkans and Austria for migrants and refugees streaming towards Europe “calls on all countries to keep their borders open, and to act in a spirit of responsibility sharing and solidarity, including through expanding legal pathways to access asylum,” his spokesman Dujarric said.
Continue reading ‘“open the borders!” – refugee protests increasing in Greece’

“We cannot survive here!” – Refugees desperate to flee humanitarian crisis in Greece

1“We cannot survive here! Please reopen the border! We have disabled people with us, babies, and pregnant women. In Greece there are no facilities!”, says Mohsen from Afghanistan. Sitting next to him in a wheelchair is his 85 year old father, who collapsed. Some meters away -on a blanket on the ground sits the rest of the 11-member family. They came from the city of Herat in Afghanistan. “Our plan is to go to Germany, to start a safe life there. But now I cannot think anymore. I am totally confused”, says Mohsen.

The famous Victoria Square where thousands of refugees all over the world passed the last years during their risky trip to northern Europe, looks like a war zone. Since last Sunday when the Western Balcans under the instructions of Austria decided to close the border for any refugees other than Syrians and Iraqis, this small square in the heart of Athens, is again the symbol of the failure of European migration policies. It shows in the most painful way how unprepared Europe was to this hugest refugee movement since second world war. More than 25,000 refugees were hemmed in Greece according to estimations on Saturday the 27th of February. All over Greece refugees sleep in parks, they are homeless heading on foot northwards. At the the same time, approximately, another 2,000-3,000 refugees arrive daily to Greece. Continue reading ‘“We cannot survive here!” – Refugees desperate to flee humanitarian crisis in Greece’

If the border to FYROM closes, reception conditions in Athens for refugees will become unbearable!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

copyright: Chrissi Wilkens

The borders along the Balkan Route are getting every day more militarized and difficult to cross for transit refugees in Greece. Since two months just protection seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan can pass the greek-macedonian border near Idomeni. Refugees of other nationalities are therefore forced to chose hidden paths and try to go to Northern Europe with the help of smugglers using dangerous routes. Many of them actually get stuck in Greece under inhuman and degrading conditions due to a lack of money to continue their perilous journey. The country is unable to cope with the steady peak in number of arrivals – i.e. last year there were more than 860,000 coming to Greece. According to recent media reports, the EU plans to practically ‘fence’ Greece in order to stop the (safe) passage of refugees. Plans include the threat to kick Greece out of the Sengen Zone if the government doesn’t improve border controls. A closure of the border along the Balkan route would lead without doubt to a massive humanitarian crisis in Greece when thousands of refugees have to stay in limbo in a country without any infrastructure which is itself hit strongly by half a decade of economic crisis.

“I am trying since more than one month to make an asylum request at the Asylum Service in Athens, but I can’t get access!”, says A. a 19-year-old refugee from Sierra Leone who is staying in the open transfer camp in the district of Elaionas in Athens. Continue reading ‘If the border to FYROM closes, reception conditions in Athens for refugees will become unbearable!’

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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