Tag Archive for 'greece'

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“I dream every night of being with him again”

A campaign to unite families separated between Germany and Greece (1)

copyright: private

A single father with three minor kids in Greece – his 12-year-old son alone in Germany

This family belongs to Berlin!

Hassan H.* from Afghanistan arrived to Lesvos, Greece with his four children in August 2018. His wife had died in Iran shortly before they escaped from there. When the single father tried to leave Greece through the Balkans a year later, one of his sons got lost and he and his remaining three kids were pushed back to Greece. Later, his son contacted him from Germany, but the father was told by Greek authorities, that he could not apply for family reunification under the given circumstances.

“We stayed seven months in a tent in Moria. There were a lot of fights. I wouldn’t let my kids go out due to fear. I didn’t know how to protect them otherwise. When we were finally transferred to Athens in spring 2019, I was first very happy. From the port we were brought to Skaramangas camp. Upon arrival there I saw a huge village made of containers on a pier near the sea and in the middle, there were dozens of tents. We ended up again living in a tent without electricity in the cold darkness – again unsafe.

One night a tent caught fire and a family got burned. They nearly died. Refugees in the camp then held protests against the conditions. One of my sons got beaten by riot police in the turmoil. My kids were seeing nightmares every night from then on. That was when I decided we should try to leave Greece, because we weren’t safe at last.

I collected some money from friends and we decided to leave from the land border. One tragedy followed the next. My 12-year-old son got lost half way. I thought he had died or been kidnapped. We were arrested and sent back to Greece. … It was a happy day, when my son contacted me from Germany. I heard his voice and all my worries were gone for a moment. I went to the camp employees to ask how we could join my son in Germany. But they said it was too late and we were anyway a “separated child case” and we could not even apply for family reunification because we separated “voluntarily”. I don’t understand what they mean. Our choices are made in a state of emergency while trying to do the best for our family and our situation has not only been a result of our choices but also of our destiny.

How can it be too late for a family to be together?

Now my little boy is there and we are here. We live in a container now, but it is no life if you first lost your wife and the mother of your children, and then you lose a child. I dream every night of being with him again. And I hope until that day, when we can be together again in a better place, I can keep all my kids safe.”

* name changed

FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO BE TOGETHER! A campaign to unite families separated between Germany and Greece

copyright: Salinia Stroux

All children have the fundamental right to be with their loved ones no matter what. Despite this fact it has been broadly accepted in Europe, that refugee families end up separated, due to limitations of laws and an even more restrictive interpretation of these laws by states. The “best interests of the child should be a primary consideration of Member States”, says the Dublin III Regulation, the primary legal tool within the EU to regulate the distribution of asylum seekers. Despite this fact, thousands of refugee children who reach Europe are held far from their parents, siblings or other close relatives such as aunties, uncles or grandparents, residing in other EU countries. 

In the dawn of the “long summer of migration” in 2015, thousands reached Northern Europe entering the EU initially through Greece. Many of their family members arrived later through the same route to Greece actually aiming to continue their journey and find protection near their loved ones in Germany or elsewhere. The following four years are marked by a sudden return from a short trend of a ‘welcome refugees’ EU-politics to the states’ deadly ‘closed gates’ approach, which came into force parallel to a right wing upsurge in the governments of different member states and left the vast majority of newcomers after March 2016 blocked in Greece. 

In an atmosphere ruled by repressive anti-migratory policies all over the EU, grassroots groups and networks across the continent are struggling against deportations, push-backs, police violence, repressive asylum laws, continuing border deaths, the criminalisation of solidarity and an increase in racist attacks. Silence persists despite the fact that thousands of families are torn apart and kept actively separated by national authorities. 

It is in this context that we want to share stories of refugee families split between Greece and Germany. It should not be accepted that failing to meet deadlines, separating with the best interest of children in mind or being separated by border policies, growing fences and intensified Frontex patrols / controls is an acceptable reason to keep families apart. Refugee families can in most cases not submit the necessary documents to prove they are relatives. They cannot supply authorities in many cases with passports, family books, birth certificates – all translated properly, because they escaped war and conflict, they came from situations and escaped under such conditions where most people lack such documentation or lose it on the way to safety. 

We chose to start this campaign on 15th March 2017, the date that marked the resumption of Dublin returns to Greece, following the European Commission’s recommendation that conditions had improved there. North European countries, most notably Germany, were keen to take the opportunity to force people back to Greece. Germany sent 1,887 take-back requests to Greece in 2017, 6,827 in 2018 and 9,275 last year, despite the ongoing systemic human rights violations documented by numerous organisations.

Protection seekers struggle to reach ‘safe’ territory and survive in Greece

Today, the right-wing government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Nea Dimokratia elected in Greece last summer is imposing more and more drastic measures to keep refugees out no matter what. Ruling politicians have re-introduced an anti-migratory, mostly racist rhetoric, offensively propagating even the most ridiculous measures that would supposedly seal the borders (i.e. floating fences). After a recent upsurge of attempted border crossings caused by Turkish Primeminister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement that he would open the Turkish border to Europe at the end of February, authorities’ use of violence to stop people from entering Greek territory has been apparently justified. Refugees were teargassed, beaten, stripped naked, pushed-back and even shot with rubber-bullets at the land border. They were attacked and shot in the sea, their engines were broken and petrol stolen and they were left adrift in distress. In these two weeks, two persons were documented dead at the land border and one child drowned in the Aegean Sea. Greek officials have found it legitimate, to start criminalising newcomers in search of protection with prison sentences reaching four years and fines of up to 10,000 Euros for mere ‘irregular entry’. It has also been agreed that people will be returned swiftly back to Turkey or deported to their homelands without even being able to claim asylum. EU authorities have been silent on these breaches of fundamental human rights, instead offering Turkey and Greece more money.

New immigration laws introduced at the end of 2019 already had created numerous practical obstacles to protection seekers in Greece accessing their rights, with an increasing number of asylum claims being ended for arbitrary reasons and the number of rejections to asylum claims growing. No more social insurance number for asylum seekers (AMKA), new obstacles to get a tax number (AFM), no more direct right to enter the job market (only after six months from registration), big technical difficulties to access the asylum procedure through Skype, long waiting periods to receive social benefits for asylum seekers (people waiting for the cash-card for many months), increased periods to naturalize for beneficiaries of international protection (from five to seven years) and so on.

In mid-March 2020, the threat of the Corona virus pandemic has not only bought public life in Greece to a halt, but experts warn that an upsurge in infections is still to come next month and will hit the most vulnerable worst. Greek refugee camps where hundreds of vulnerable persons are living close to each other, usually without their basic needs being met are spaces of high risk of infection. NGOs have called for the immediate evacuation of the camps on the islands. At the same time, emergency measures for employees have limited the presence of site managing organisations such as IOM and NGO employees offering essential services to a minimum level. The Asylum Service has temporary halted its services to the public nationwide.  

On the Aegean Islands, thousands of refugees remain trapped in tents in and around the ‘hotspots’, many of which do not even have access to food, medical aid or basic sanitary infrastructure. Those arriving after March 1sthave been held in dire conditions in outside areas of ports and a navy ship in Lesvos Island for many days. After two weeks trapped on the warship they have been transferred to the mainland. On the islands, protection seekers are searching desperately for legal aid, to access information on their rights and procedures. Most remain without any help and go through the asylum process unprepared. The already burdened public health care system is breaking down and medical aid as well as access to medication is in fact not existent. In the meanwhile, locals infiltrated by fascists are protesting since weeks against the government’s plans to build closed immigration prisons next to the already infamous and overcrowded ‘hotspots’ on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros islands. They have attacked refugees, aid workers and journalists alike. 

On the mainland, more and more people live in marginalised camps far from any possibility to find help, to integrate or to identify any future prospects for themselves. The number of people homeless is growing and with the announced exclusion of beneficiaries of international protection from state housing, hundreds more will be on the streets by the end of this month. People arriving from the land border to the cities do not have access to the asylum procedure. They cannot access reception conditions and have to stay unregistered inside camps without any social welfare and services for months while living in tents, overcrowded common spaces or other residents’ prefabs. 

In short, protection seekers risk their lives to reach European soil and continue to be at risk even upon arrival to Greece.

Germany actively hinders families from being reunited since 2017

With the surge of family reunification applications after the sudden closure of the ‘Balkan Corridor’ and the implementation of the EU-Turkey ‘Deal’, the German authorities started developing a harsh anti-reunification policy. First, hundreds of family reunification cases which had already been accepted were unlawfully delayed, keeping children for months and even years apart from their families. By the end of 2017, systematic and generalised rejections of such applications increased suddenly first from the German side and as a consequence also from the Greek side, using administrative grounds to keep refugee families apart for indefinite periods. Instead of authorities deciding in favour of refugee families being united, the families now have the burden to prove why it is best for them to be together. Today, it is a common story of desperate children, mothers and fathers, that they are told by the Greek Asylum Service and NGOs: ‘You cannot apply for family reunification!’ or ‘It is likely that your application will be rejected by the German authorities!’ 

Before, there was strong self-organised resistance from refugee families against the delays of transfers to Germany throughout 2017 / 2018. Nowadays, the extremely harsh interpretation of the Dublin III Regulation and German immigration law when it comes to family reunion, is being presented as a given fact and seems non-negotiable, despite the inherent injustice. Refugee families’ voices have remained widely unheard.

We want to platform these voices. We stand against EU-policies that focus on closing borders and subjecting children to extreme violence, we demand families must be reunited. Basic rights are superior to immigration and asylum law. The wellbeing of children has to be protected and their best interest must be upheld. Authorities of all EU member states must stop putting children’s welfare in danger and instead comply with the Dublin III Regulation, which explicitly states:

„(T)he best interests of the child should be a primary consideration of Member States when applying this Regulation. In assessing the best interests of the child, Member States should, in particular, take due account of the minor’s well-being and social development, safety and security considerations and the views of the minor in accordance with his or her age and maturity, including his or her background. In addition, specific procedural guarantees for unaccompanied minors should be laid down on account of their particular vulnerability.“ (paragraph 13)

„In order to ensure full respect for the principle of family unity and for the best interests of the child, the existence of a relationship of dependency between an applicant and his or her child, sibling or parent on account of the applicant’s pregnancy or maternity, state of health or old age, should become a binding responsibility criterion. When the applicant is an unaccompanied minor, the presence of a family member or relative on the territory of another Member State who can take care of him or her should also become a binding responsi­bility criterion.“ (paragraph 16)

End the separation of families!

Equal rights for all children and families!

Contact details for the families whose stories are included in this campaign as well as other separated families can be shared with the consent of the families in order to support legal efforts to reunite them with their loved ones. Contact us on facebook: www.facebook.com/w2eu.gr or email to: contact@w2eu.info

copyright: Salinia Stroux

EXPERT OPINION

Psychosocial repercussions of the authorities’ practice of not reuniting families 

From a psychological point of view, it is unjustifiable in a family separated by the circumstances of the flight, to deny the affected children to re-establish a relationship and bond with the parents and / or siblings, or other closest caregivers, who have taken the place of the parents (grandparents, aunts / Uncle), unless their behaviour is per se endangering the child’s well-being (‘Kindeswohlgefährdung’).

The experience of children who, together with their family, survive an often very long flight, is characterized by extreme forms of relying on one another. The habitual social framework is missing, which was enabling the children to take development steps outside of the core family. Instead, the family is dependent on itself in an unknown environment. The children are required to perform enormous adaption, which often puts them an unhealthy dependency from their parents or other adult relatives who replace them. On the other hand, children generally adapt to new environments and languages faster than adults, so that because of their faster language acquisition, they often have to carry out translations for their parents. They also experience their adult relatives helpless, humiliated and sometimes ill-treated by the authorities and police officers. Experiences of safety from earlier childhood are lost both externally and internally.

If, after such experiences, the children are separated from their parents and / or siblings or other close relatives, by the circumstances of the flight, they leave the family framework under circumstances that are already stressful. In addition to war and violence as reason for fleeing, many families have already experienced massive exclusion. As a result of the flight and its traumatizing circumstances – also in Greece, the families come under additional pressure and sometimes lose their old functions. On the other hand, they are the reference framework that is necessary for survival. Many children find themselves suddenly without their habitual family environment and often have to adapt to another foreign language in a foreign culture and environment without their main caregivers. The children are now trying to orient themselves on the given reference frame of the current place of residence, but remain very closely connected internally and through multiple phone calls every day to the separated family of origin – a family framework which is not practically liveable.

Children separated from families can have unforeseeable effects on their psychological development. In particular, their emotional stability can be so severely affected that the factual impossibility of seeing the family of origin again endangers the child’s well-being. Also, children who have been separated from individual main caregivers (mother, father, brother, sister, etc.) need contact with these people for their further development. If the family or individual family members remain unreachable due to authorities’ omissions, it is sufficiently likely that a child will dive successively deeper into psycho-somatic symptoms and develop them into a (virtual) world of their own. These children in a dysfunctional way, try to stay in touch with the separated parents, siblings or other close relatives who are replacing them, knowing and feeling that they are in a likewise bad psychological condition. Depression and other symptoms often become a self-affirming bond, which aims to keep the torn family together. This is particularly important if children are separated in the main phase bonding (up to the age of 3 years), as otherwise the bonding possibilities are likely to be disrupted.

A permanent separation from the family creates increasing risks for the psychological development of all affected children and consequently endangers their best interests.

Dipl. Psychologist and Family Therapist Reimer Dohrn

At the Greek-Turkish border, politicians play with people’s lives

People trying to enter Europe in search of protection face brutal repression in the Aegean region. Although this is not new, we currently see an escalation of violence as Turkey and Greece play a dangerous game with people’s lives. The survival instinct and hope of many for a better future is exploited and manipulated for cynical political stunts. Greece has now declared a state of emergency and to remove people’s right to claim asylum.

On the Greek side the situation is devastating, every day: Overcrowded detention centres and camps where thousands are forced to survive the inhuman conditions. Riot police forces secretly transferred to the Greek islands to crack down on local inhabitants with tear gas and clubs. Riot police forces along with soldiers and anti-terror squads firing tear gas and water cannons at refugees who attempt to enter through the land border. Those who do succeed in reaching Greece face imprisonment merely for crossing the border. Boats attacked by masked men in the Aegean Sea and prevented from disembarking by fascists at Greek harbours. 

In Turkey, on the other side of the border, the situation is equally cruel: As a response to the Turkish fatalities in Idlib, President Recep Erdoğan announces the ‘opening’ of borders and thousands of people follow his call and move toward Greece, in the hope of finally finding safety. They enter white busses, reportedly provided by the Turkish government, but end up trapped in the border-zone between Turkey and Greece stopped by armed forces and army vehicles. 

Despite this current escalation, it is clear that push-backs and violent excesses along the border are daily phenomena, not exceptions. But commonly, they target smaller groups, not such a large crowd. Usually, civil society is not able to see how these human rights violations unfold, how police and army officials stand in people’s paths, preventing them from stepping on EU soil and exercising their right to ask for asylum. 

Europe enacts a ‘closed door’ policy, enforced by the right-wing government in Greece which sends riot police and special forces to deter people escaping war, conflict, and hunger, and aims to temporarily suspend their right to claim asylum and immediately deport them to countries of origin. We have already seen images of NATO war ships patrolling the Aegean Sea along with border guards from all over Europe in Frontex missions. 

We will not accept this European war against people who seek protection! We will not remain silent, when repressive anti-migration policies give space to fascism!

We have seen people being violently pushed back to Turkey where they are detained or even deported from to places where they face war and persecution. We have seen people drowning in the Aegean Sea or Maritsa river. We have seen dehydrated, frozen, and unrecognizable bodies of mothers, fathers, children. We have seen also people dying in Europe’s ‘hotspot’ camps due to inhumane conditions – babies dying of dehydration, lack of adequate medical aid and desperation leading to people committing suicide. 

But we have also seen people ‘on the move’ claiming their rights and standing in solidarity together with locals against these repressive policies. We have heard their loud voices shouting united for freedom. We have seen people marching across borders against all odds and against the violent European border regime. 

We will stand united against this cruelty! We will raise our voices to tell the stories that are not told, show the images that are hidden away from the world! We will not stop denouncing the violent excesses at Europe’s borders and we will not stop struggling for another world of freedom of movement! 

Equal rights for all! No one is illegal!

Stop the border deaths! Stop racist policies and fascist violence!

Close detention centres, hotspots and other camps and open homes!

No borders! 

w2eu – infomobile Greece and WatchTheMedAlarm Phone 

Fire in protest at horrific conditions in Amygdaleza pre-removal immigration prison, Athens Greece – footage and words from those detained inside

I am a young man from Syria, detained in Greece. Amygdaleza.  I escaped from the war in my country in order to obtain safety, but I was detained in Greece for a long time. I no longer feel safe, reassured and stable that I was looking for here in the camp. There is nothing and they do not offer us any help. We hope for your help. There is someone who tried to commit suicide because of the difficulties he is facing here.

How I wished and how much I looked. I left my homeland and looked for safety. I looked for freedom. I looked for an alternative homeland. I needed help, but no one gave me a hand. No one comforted me. I dreamed a lot of things and big dreams, but dreams were awake, and now I have fallen again.  Whoever says to me will realize your dreams that I had built when I arrived in Greece I have said this is the beginning of my career and from here I will fulfill my dreams but unfortunately it was not what I expected but the worst was my dreams were broken in front of me I no longer want to achieve those dreams but rather I want to live in peace and security  And stability, I just hope to be a cat that lives in the house with its owners or a dog that lives  I have a private house and its owner takes it on a short walk or I am a rose that grows on the balcony of a house and the owner of the rose takes care of it every day, but I found myself flying in a cage and could not fly as I had dreamed, it was only my fault that I was born in my country where the war broke out and because I no longer  I can dream, I can no longer think. The sun rises every day to increase my suffering again and every night I say Is this what I was looking for Is this life that I had hoped for but I could not answer my question I started dying from all empty promises I can no longer search for myself I wonder  Every day, why does this happen to me? I did nothing but dreams, screaming loudly, I did nothing  Why am I here but nobody hears my screams searched among my papers my numbers books but I did not find myself can I dream again or that dreams not present in the human language dictionary searched and did not find myself

I will write but I do not know what to write. Should I write about the war in my country, or the war in my country? I do not know about it except the smell of blood, the screaming of children, the tears of women, the sadness of youth, the loss of young dreams, or write about the war in me, but I will not be able to describe that war and that outrage, or write  What I feel, but I no longer feel anything, I no longer feel for myself, I no longer feel the spirit that inhabits my body, I no longer find my thinking, I can no longer think of things that I was thinking about before. Has the stage of thinking ended for me or am I thinking that has become restricted? I did not know about  What do I write? Do I write about the freedom I searched for and did not find it or write about the vine  My time is no longer human dignity or write about humanity that I did not find her presence Soh with animals I can not find what you should write about Soh meanings experienced by humans do not know what to write and did not promise I want to write something will just read what they write.

What happened?

What happened Why am I here Why am I in this place that looks like a swamp Why did I become alone in this place What led me here I began to feel tired and I am trying to leave this place I no longer have even a glimmer of hope Will my life end here I no longer dream about a light I have started my life  By fading before my eyes, I no longer see anything but sadness. I see with everyone’s eyes. There is only a question, why are you here. I did not realize that I would be every animal placed inside a cage. Unfortunately, the animal has some rights until it has a name, but I only became a number. I am called through that number.  What happens to human beings as if they do not see it and avoid hearing our screams? Is this it for man?  Why is this life? I don’t think that’s what I was looking for. What happened? Why am I here?

What happened?

Deadly cold

  It was raining and strong winds I tried hard to get to my brother’s bedroom. The suffering of reaching it was dark. The darkness prevailed over the atmosphere of the place, and the land of each swamp had a lot of wetness on the road. I was falling from that to another that I got up and completed my career. I reached my brother’s fortune. It was lightening quickly and quickly closed.  The door was few, the door was not closed with provisions that were as if all kinds of rain and wind were permitted to enter a worn ship taken by the waves. My worn-out coat was removed from me, my worn out coat and I looked at my brother, he was trembling with the freezing cold.  Know how I can comfort myself  My brother just stayed silent. He wrapped himself in a blanket that did not protect him from anything from the cold. My brother embraced me in my arms. I was warming him, even a little. I wanted to burn myself to warm my brother. My tears were falling on my cheeks from pain.  I want something, just save my brother.

drinking water supply in Amygdaleza
food in Amygdaleza
18 people sharing a room in Amygdaleza

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 13)

Author: A migratory girl

Note: This photo is not showing the persons described below in the letter.

I am the mother of two sick babies

Every mother raises up her baby being proud of it from the first day. When she kisses her baby, her baby kisses her back, and this is the absolute happiness for her. When the child grows, she is watching how it plays with others. She watches it grow and develop. These are the joys of a mother. 

I have raised my two children under the hardest conditions of life. I spent everyday praying for them. But while the body of my four year old girl grew, her brain did not follow along. And the same happened to my boy.

I love my children. But society humiliated us for them being different. I will never forget that everybody expected my husband to get married again, because I gave birth to mentally disabled babies.

I didn’t even know that I was getting married. I was so small, getting married was for me was like playing with my dolls, and it was the same for all other girls of my very young age.

When I started to learn about life as a couple, I realised that I was pregnant and when I hugged my Mariam* (names changed) for the first time, I became also aware of people’s talk – mostly the nearest persons around me. They called my baby “handicapped”, “abnormal”, and those words aggrieved me.

To find medical help for the growth problems of our child and escape their stigmatisation and the painful talks around our family we decided to escape, first to Iran and after to Turkey.

We tried to find appropriate treatment for our daughter for four years. For the first three years, no one could tell us the reason of her illness. Finally, they found out, that she had a brain damage.

My Mariam … she is full of emotions, full of love and affection, full of innocence. Her world is simple, but pure. Her view on life is different. Even when humiliating hands rest on her shoulders, she feels that they are innocent, hands full of sympathy.

When I see that she goes near flowers, I become happy that maybe she is getting pleasure from her environment, but then she becomes aggressive to them. Observing her in such scenes feels like thorns piercing my eyes.

Every mother wishes to see her baby crawl, but I couldn’t see it, since she was like a dead body in a corner until she became two years old. Every mother wishes to hold her baby’s hand and teach her how to walk, but I touched her weak joints and she whined and cried in pain.

Hey mothers on this earth! Hey you who have children!

I swear that I raised this girl 9 months in my belly. I swear that I desired death while giving birth. I passed a long period after her birth, eating dry bread with water, praying that she becomes better, that she becomes a happiness for us and happy herself.

I have lived with such pain. The Turkish doctors told us that there was no hope to treat Mariam.

And, then, in Turkey, another seed was planted and started growing. I have grown Amir* full of hope. Although looking at Mariam made me cry every day, my husband, cleared away my tears, put his hand on my belly and gave me hope. How many nights didn’t I cry for the health for my kids… but in this inhumane world, my souls screams haven’t been heard.

This mother, after 9 months of carrying her baby and 6 days of labor pains, was told once again the same news: She is having an unhealthy baby.

I passed two years full of hope, telling myself that maybe it was not true, that things may change. The doctors in Turkey told us that he had the same problem as Mariam. His brain will not grow and the muscles of his body will not work well. However, there was a treatment for him, especially because he was smaller that Mariam, but that treatment was not possible in Turkey. For that we needed to move on to a European country.

We had been living as refugees in Turkey for four years. We were beggars on everybody’s door. Every day we visited the doctors. However, we didn’t know their language, and we didn’t have an interpreter. We wandered for hours and days to find the hospitals as we didn’t know the addresses, only to understand, in the end, that we were in Turkey for nothing. We saw that all doors were closed to us. So we gathered everything, held our children’s hands and started our migration towards Europe.

Now we ask ourselves: Is this really Europe? Is this the continent of hope? Where is that bright light that we came here to find for our children?

No! Here our heart’s light didn’t turn on. Europe turned our hopes off and we are trapped in darkness.

For four months now every day we go to the doctors in Mytilene. It seems that our babies are pictures, that can be diagnosed by a quick look. Without having carried out any test, they tell us that our babies don‘t have any problems. It is as if you go to the doctor and tell him that you have a headache and the doctor tells you, “where is your pain, I cannot see it”.

No one answers our questions. We are like ping pong balls for them. They throw us from one hospital to another for nothing.

If you have parents, if you are a father or mother, if you love someone around you, you will understand us. You will understand how hard it is to see a seed of your body, growing to become a human that is just alive but doesn’t live. Every day looking at our children’s situation we wish to die.

We didn’t come here for money or luxuries but for the doctors. For us just having a nest to protect us from the cold and to live with our healthy children would be enough.

In search of just a nest…

Parwana

p.s. Thanks to my friend who shared her story with me. I wish she will find what she is seeking for!

Letter to the World from Moria (No 12)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Hinrich Schultze

I am mother Earth

I have existed for billions of years. Every century I raised new generations, but I have never been at the same time as proud of myself as I am today and as sad and disappointed as I am today.

Today, I stand tip-top on some incredible advances and discoveries achieved in this world. Yet, it looks like my residents are returning back to old false thoughts, thoughts thousands years old. Thoughts of egoism, thoughts of greed, thoughts that make you fight between each other, that made you built borders in order not to share between your kind or other creatures.

I am mother of you all. I am equally belonging to all people. You can all live on me. So what are these borders for that you created? Why don’t you open your doors to each other? Why don’t you get rid of racism and come together sitting on one table?

We are a family. Didn’t you realise? Is it possible for one child to ask another child to give him back his mother? Is she mother to just one child? Which mother can be happy to see one of her kids happy and wealthy and another poor and miserable? Which family can draw borders between its members? You are all earths people, how can one be more and another less?

You want to conquer other people, other countries, other planets. Have you pleased me, to now think that you will please other planets? Did you look after me so now you think that you can look after other planets?

Today, more than any times in the past, I need protection from you people and people need protection from each other. Instead of looking after me, you want to conquer me, you think that I belong to some few of you. You don’t want to care and to share…

Don’t you need me all in order to survive? I am soil and water for you, and if the goal is to live and not to turn others into slaves, get a piece of land for yourself and give a glas of water to others.

Every day, with your growing greed I fall into more trouble and you loose yourselves. Your attempt to conquer me burns forests into ashes, forests that have grown over thousands of years nurturing us with oxygen. Seas turn red with human blood, and more lands with their thousand years old history, turn into dry sand.

Your pressure on me is ever growing. With every century of your “progress”, I get closer to the end of my life. You want to exploit me, but don’t you realize that you deplete me every day, that you end my days and yours.

Why don’t you content with what you already have? Why don’t you protect the treasures in your hands? Your life would be terribly short if I belonged to one man only, if you were alone. If you continue the same way, you won’t be able to have me for more than 100 years more. I will die. You will die.

So let the people see the grasses also in future, let them touch the lawns, let them smell fresh air, let them climb the mountains and swim in the seas. Don’t force the future generations to spend all their days and lives with masks! My ozone layer is being destroyed. I cannot escape harmful radiations anymore, all because of you! Every day by making more nuclear power, by building more factories, I come closer to the end of my life.

Your egoism and greed is my death. But my death will be your destruction. It will affect all of you. Every day more species of herbs, plants and animals become extinct. More humans lose their lives fighting in front of the borders of your greed and pride.

People were all born with many hopes, but not feeling the joy of life, they lost everything. When I see that in one part of me, people die from hunger and children are threatened by malnutrition, and in another part of me, people go under surgery‘s blades to lose weight, I feel anger.

I am sorry for the countries where people live below the poverty line. I should also say: I am sorry for the residents, of those parts of a country, living under the poverty line, while just next to them others live on top of joviality. I feel pain for those who work in their own territories for other people and give their own natural wealth away for a few cents.

It pains me to think that, millions of years from now, the inhabitants of other planets would call Earth “the planet of the greedy species”, and amazed from the horror, they will look at the destruction caused by atomic wars and missile weapons.

You have closed the borders, when in one of my hemispheres population density is low, while in my other hemisphere it is very high. The rich eat more, the poor face hunger more.

Are not the rich countries of the world responsible for that? The nations, the presidents, the politicians, the businessmen? Have they not taken away all natural resources? Should they not feel shame? They don’t. Instead the rulers, the real thieves, just give “development aid” and present themselves as benefactors to our world. They interfere in politics of other countries, they throw down governments and start wars to “save” others.

In a period when Europe has decreasing birthrates and schools and universities close down because of a lack of students, in Asia and Africa and in most other continents, thousands of schools are destroyed under bombs and students are deprived of education.

In an era when generations should deliberate together to get to know and understand each other, people have raised borders higher and thousands die as a result, including children, pregnant women, old men.

One day from the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea terrible screams will rise — screams to break down the borders. I have never raised borders to hold someone out. Nature has always stretched a friendly hand to all – so hold it tight.

In an era when you still want to visit Mars, I have never constructed a border. You were created as free people and freedom is what you deserve. I need life not borders. No one needs borders.

Come together to find new ways to protect life and dignity. I am getting old and I cannot tolerate fumes of chemical factories, atomic power’s gases, missiles, atomic bombs.

Let one day of life be a gift for yourself and give one day also for all the others.

I turned centuries around the sun to give your life, but, today, when I need you to listen to me, don’t turn your back on me. Earth don’t want no borders. Earth want people united.

One can wander to the East or the West, to the North or the South, but where home is, it is the best.

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 11)

Author: A migratory girl

Life of a Transgender

I am in Moria Camp.

Being a transgender means not to be of female or male sex, neither man nor woman – but of transgender sex. In a society like Afghanistan, being a transgender person is like being an extra-terrestrial, landing on earth from outer space. In Afghanistan people think of sex binary: only female and male are considered as “normal” genders.

In Afghanistan I used false names. I am Mina. This name gives an understanding that I am a girl. Yet, every day, during my whole being, my soul screams: “I am not a girl! Don’t cover your self with these clothes.”

I was born, in 1992, in Mazaresharef, the western province of Afghanistan. Being a girl in such a society carries guilt. Being a transgender born as a girl carries double guilt. So when I realised that I was not really a girl, my life became a nightmare. I felt myself separate from everyone, not belonging to any of the dominant sexes. Although I had a female body, I wanted to be with boys, behave like a boy. Playing with them, learning with them, speaking with them was pleasant for me.

While I was little, my family allowed me to do more or less what I wanted. But as soon as my female body developed, they didn’t allow me to be what I wanted to be, as I wanted to be. They were always thinking about their reputation and honour and not about what I wanted. When I became 18, I felt like a prisoner in the jail of my female body and I couldn’t tolerate anymore wearing girl’s clothes. So, I decided to take off my hijab and be what I wanted to be.

I loved one of my classmates and I was all the time with her. She didn’t know everything about me. She just knew my deep feelings for her and she thought that I was like all girls. Sometimes, she felt uncertain and would ask if I was ok. Soon, I decided to speak with her and with my family.

First I told her all my feelings, that I really loved her and wanted to be with her all my life. She was shocked, but she accepted me and wanted me to be what I wanted to be, not what others wanted me to be.

When I then spoke with my family, they told me that they would kill me if I did not do what they wanted. They also told me that there was a suitor asking for me and that he and his family were coming the next day to visit to ask for my hand. I should just dress like a lady and that was it!

I thought ok, I will do what they ask me to do. I will get married, but I won’t have any relation with him. Relations need feelings and I had no such feelings for him or any men. I thought, I will divorce him after two months, I promise!

I did the opposite. I went to a barber and cut off my hair like a boy. Then I wore a t-shirt with a pair of jeans and went home.  

My older sister was shocked to see me like that and told me to change my clothes immediately and wear a scarf. “Otherwise”, she told me, “our father will kill you”.

I put a scarf over my short brown hair and wore a skirt over my jeans.

The guests came and I got married, but I had no relation with him. We were together for two months and then I divorced.

When my father learned that I divorced, he beat me up. My eyes became black and purple.

“What is this,” he shouted. “Do you want me to kill you? What did I do wrong to you that you behave like this? What did you want, that I didn’t give you”, he shouted and continued to beat me.

“You didn’t give me my right,” I answered. “Did you ever ask me what I wanted? Did you ever ask how I felt? Did you ask anytime how I wanted to be? You know nothing about me,” I went on. “You were always thinking about your reputation and honour, not about your child.”

And as I was speaking my voice stopped. I was sobbing. “Your crying won’t change anything,” he cried, “I will decide about you.” He threw me out of the house and that was the last time I saw him.

It’s about six years that I have not had a single contact with my family.

My mother died some years ago and my two sisters got married. I went to them.

I couldn’t stay a lot with my sister. Her husband, my brother in law, was not happy with me and his behaviour towards me became worse and worse. I understood that I could not stay there any longer.

One day, my bother in law called me in the room and told me: “We are taking a decision about you. As you know, our financial situation is not good and we cannot spend money for you. We will tell you our decision tomorrow.”

I felt totally stressed out. I didn’t know what he was going to decide and how it was going to be. That night was like a nightmare for me. I couldn’t sleep. Yet, I was pleased with my new style. I was day-dreaming all night long in front of the mirror, brushing my short hair and changing my parting hair line.

The next day, the sun was shining and I was still day-dreaming. I wanted to become a lawyer to protect the rights of people, make the world a just world. But they burned my dreams, they burned my child and my adult dreams. They burned my hopes.

In the morning my brother in law asked me: “Will you change yourself?”

“No”, I replied.

“Won’t you change your decision?”

“No!!!”, I insisted. “I know who to be and how to be. Everyone has the right to chose.”

“We are not in Europe, never forget it”, he shouted. “I live in society, with many other people. Every day I hear them speak about you. Their words bother me. I don’t have any problem with you working in the municipality, or you going to university, but I cannot tolerate that people speak about you and us.”

I was living with my sister for 3,5 years. But, after this conversation with my brother in law, I decided to leave them and not to make them uncomfortable anymore.

I was sad, hopeless, upset and disturbed. I realized that I was alone. Alone in all respects. Totally alone in the whole world. I didn’t know what to do and where to go. I cried, and cried. I cried continuously.

I went to my classmate who had promised to give me money to escape from Afghanistan and become free — free to spin in the air for all to see me. No need to hide anymore.

I found a family that also wanted to go Germany. So I took the money from my classmate and I went with them to Farah, then to Nemroz, the nearest city to Pakistan’s border. Then we went to Pakistan, to a city of thieves, war and deception. When we were there, I didn’t know that I should dress like a girl and wear a hijab. I thought it would be more tolerant and open-minded than Mazar-e-Sharif. But when we arrived at Nemroz, I understood that I should cover all my body. Even then, however, everyone was looking at us as if we “women” were guilty of a crime. Then I understood that they were looking at us, because our men wore t-shirts and trousers, clothes very different from theirs, since they were all wearing long dresses and Tomban (traditional trousers). So our men changed their style and borrowed a Pirahsn and Tomban for themselves.

We were eight nights at the Pakistan border and this was the most difficult part of our journey. One night three men wanted to invader our tent while we were sleeping, but fortunately our men stopped them and had a fight with them. They left, but, after that, we couldn’t sleep all night.

We reached Iran, a country of racism and hatred, between Shiites and Sunnis, Iranians and Afghans. When we were there, we spent three days in the mountains. The weather was very cold, but no one of the smugglers helped the families that had children. I felt very sorry for the family of that baby who fell from the mountain and died.

Finally we arrived to Turkey.

The UNHCR helped me a lot in every respect. When they learned that I wanted to change my gender, they tried to collect money for the operation. Unfortunately there was no doctor to perform such an operation. They suggested that, I should go to Europe.

I spent two and half years in Turkey. After six months, I got a money card, and every month, I took 7 hundred and fifty Lire from PTT. But as I had to pay for rent, water, gas and electricity that money wasn’t enough for me. So I was peddling everyday at the corners of the streets. I do the same here too, just to earn 5€.

It’s so hard when somebody asks me, how many siblings I have. How can I say 6, when I have not been with them for so long? I share nothing with them.

Isn’t it wrong?

It’s very hard when somebody is looking at me strangely and I sense that he or she wants to ask me who and what I am.

I cannot say anything. I just hide myself, hide my gender, because of my feelings and I hide my feelings, because of others.

I passed the borders not to be hidden!

I risked my life not to be hidden!

I lost everything not to be hidden!

I did all of that in order to live in freedom, and I will continue my struggle until I achieve my freedom. Freedom for ever.

I hope that here I will be free!

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 9)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Salinia Stroux

I am mother

I am mother of three children and  wife of a sick husband. He has a hernia on his backbone. He cannot walk. Neither should he get tired. So, I must look after my entire family on my own.

I am a woman, softer than flowers, but this life makes me harder than rocks.

Every day, as the sun rises, my mission starts. I wake up at 5am. I spread the blanket over my children. Then I go to get food. I walk 800 meters to the food line.  The line starts at 6:30am., but I want to be up front, the first one among a thousand women.

All this waiting for just 5 cakes and one litter of milk, which I suspect is mixed with water.

My boy has a kidney infection for five years now. He cannot tolerate hunger. I must go back as fast as I can.

When back, I gather all the blankets and spread them on the tent’s floor.

I sweep in front of my tent. With my own hands I made a broom from tree branches. I wet the soil with water to prevent the dust and dirt from coming inside.

I hardly finish and, once again, I must run to the food line for taking lunch. The queue starts at 11:30am although they distribute the food only at 13:00pm. So the whole waiting process, under unbearable conditions, starts for me again. In the line for hours, I do not know what happens to my children: Are they well? Are they safe? Has my son’s pain started?

We have been here for 200 days. And every week, we eat the same food – repetitive, tasteless, with no spices, little salt and oil. Three times a week beans, once meatballs, once chicken and once rice with sausage, which we don’t know for sure if it is Hallal. But I force my children to eat so they won’t stay hungry.

Securing meals is only one of my tasks. I must also wash my family’s clothes. As my children are all the day outside, their clothes get really dirty. Trying to clean the stains my hands get all chapped, the skin cracks. I need to rub them with oil every night.

I hang the clothes and, tiredly, I walk, once more, to the line for dinner—dinner only by name. Dry bread, one tomato and one egg. We must wet the bread to chew it. This is no dinner. When we have nothing to eat, we have to eat onion with bread (it’ s hot for children but we try to eat it cheerfully).

When my day finishes, I am really exhausted. But I do not want my family to notice. I fix my face. It should show no sadness, no fatigue. I hide my chapped hands from my husband and my children.

Sometimes, I don’t make it to the food line, because of the long queues, which I have to stand in to visit the clinic. I go there at 7:00am, but the process is very slow and, usually, every patient takes about 20 minutes inside. Then, the situation of my child gets worse than it normally is, because of his exposure to the sun and the polluted air outside. We need a specific permit to go get some drinking water.

Waiting in queue for four hours, without any toy or game, is very hard for children. It is equally hard for pregnant women like me. I know my husband is not happy when he sees me trying to manage on my own every day. But there is no other way. We don’t have anyone to help. Only ourselves. And he cannot.

I am my family’s strength, their courage, their hope. If I lose hope, who will stand by them? Who will help them? No one.

When the sun sets and darkness spreads, I am filled with fear. I fear also when it becomes cloudy and it rains. I fear the wind, I fear the cold. How will I protect my family? With what will I protect them, when we do not have anything?

When you don’ t have any resources, what are you going to do? I collect the blankets from the floor and spread the cardboards instead. The blankets are our covers at night and the carpets during the day.

I am a mother and wife. My children are the pieces of my heart and my husband is my blood. They are all I have in my life. But who am I for myself?

I don’t have time to even see myself in the mirror. I don’t have time to comb my hair once a day. I don’t have time to brush my teeth in 24 hours.  I can’t take care of my skin. I can’t be a woman .

I am content to sacrifice myself to make a comfortable life for my children and my love, my husband. Because I am a woman. It is my choice to be like this. Life is hard here and there is nowhere good to go.

I was given the documents to go to the mainland. But I canceled my ticket. On the mainland, the authorities will put us in a hotel, far from hospitals or clinics that we depend on. What am I going to do there with my sick child and my husband and myself pregnant? We need (specialised) doctors. We need protection and care. 

I am sorry that I don’ t have time to speak with my family as a mother, as a wife and as a friend. Because I don’ t have more power. I can’ t do more in 24 hours, than bring food, go to clinics, stand in lines.

I have had enough. I can’t continue anymore. Truly, if I didn’t have my children, I would have committed suicide. I live only because it is worth living for them. And now, I am pregnant and I carry one more life in me.

I am one for myself, but four for my family. Soon I will be five…

Parwana

p.s. For all the mothers!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 8)

Author: A migratory girl

My pen won’t brake, but borders will

I didn’t know that in Europe people get divided in the ones with passports and the ones without. I didn’t know that I would be treated as ‘a refugee’, a person without papers, without rights. I thought we escaped from emergencies, but here our arrival is considered an emergency for the locals. I thought our situation in the camp is an emergency, but in Europe the meaning of emergency for people like ‘us’ is to be dead.

Under the conditions we live exposed to heat in summer and rainfalls in winter, in the middle of garbage, dirt and sewage water, unsafe in permanent stress and fear facing the violence of the European Asylum System in this small world of 15,000 people – we are all emergency cases.

In fact in Moria, most arrived already with injuries in their souls and sometimes on their bodies. But here everyone gets ill, also the healthy, and our situation let our sicknesses turn to emergencies very fast.

Consider the story behind life in Moria hotspot: Having spent days, weeks or months walking up and down hills, over rocks and in between trees while living in a forest. Standing in queues for hours. Lost between what we think of as protection and what they create to hinder us reaching it.

In Europe we become like ping pong balls. The authorities shoot us from one office to another, back and forth without ending and without understanding what, where, why – which makes our situation worse and worse. Even the ‘success story’ of receiving finally a residence permit can’t end the discriminating looks we have to live with every day.

We are not another quality of people; another class of humans; another kind. We are different people with thousand different stories. What unites us is just that we had to leave our homes.

So stop treating us different. Stop lying and pretending that people are safe here. Stop saying Europe was a better place, when it is only better for some and not even accessible for others.

We are not treated like being a part of Lesvos’ population, like Greeks, like Europeans. Our destiny depends on a bureaucrats decision, on the economical value of a political decision in favour of migration or not, on the political mood dominant in the continent, on European strategies and plans. It is not build on the foundation of ‘us’ and ‘you’ being one kind.

I am a girl in a tent and I am thinking about this world as the days won’t pass by and I am waiting for the permit to leave this place.

My pen wont brake unless we won’t end this story of inequality and discrimination among human kind. My words will always brake the borders you built.

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 7)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Parwana

For a bread – for life

Life has normally ups and downs, but my life has always been flat. I have been trapped in a deep valley.

I am getting close to my lives’ end. At an age when every old woman needs to rest, I push my heart to work and earn money for my husband who suffers from heart problems and for our son.

Yet, instead of taking care of my husbands sickness, we must first prove his illness, they say. Our words don’t count, but only papers. Do we need to take out his heart to show he is ill?

After many medical tests we undertook with many difficulties, they told us that his illness should be certified by the doctors of the big hospital. The name of his sickness has to be written in words on a paper. They didn’t tell us, who will cove his transportation costs to go to town? Of course no one will!

When my husbands’ heart suffered, I desired my death as I could not help without a Cent in my pocket…

Days passed. I decided to build a tandoor (trad. oven) to bake break and sell it. I thought, I could purchase the necessary ingredients by borrowing some money from one of our relatives, who had a cash card. Just 0,50 euros, that’s all I needed! I touched the fifty cents and my old hands were shaking. Not only because of my old age. Not only because of my worry for my sick husband. They shake at the thought of the thousand year old olive tree that will burn under my tandoor. I tremble with the idea of the axe reaching the old tree. I can feel its crying out. Yet, I must have fire to bake my bread. …

But it is the rule of nature: Eat or be eaten.

How many troubles have I faced in hope of today’s bread to cure my husband. Yet, I need a cure too. My heart burns at the thought of the felled burning trees. But, I must ignore my heart, I must take care of my old husband. I must bake the bread!

With my old hands I shall prepare dough that needs powerful arms, but my arms are weak and shaking. I will do it! I will wake up at 4:00am! First, I will read my prayers. Then I will start the dough. Flour, oil, salt, yeast and water. I will mix them all together. And then. I will let the dough rest. Once raised, I will cut out small shapes and let them rest again. By 7:00am the pieces will be ready for the tandoor.

My son walks far away onto the hills to collect dry wood and start the fire. Oh, how the old trees turn into ashes. My son instead of going to school will go around trying to sell the bread when its ready. From the early morning until the late evening he will call people to buy it. There are a lot of bakeries nowadays in Moria and selling is very difficult.

Hundreds of steps, hundreds of moves, a lot of sweat in respect of life, in respect of the bread and in respect of the trees.

This is our situation and this is how we spend our days. No one knows about it. No one can see. I have always been in the flat valley. No ups in my life. My voice, my cries will never be heard. They are old and weak. My shaking hands will be never held by a stronger hand. In this age, they still have to hold my family.

I want to be a friend of nature, not its enemy. I want to pass my last days with my family in rest, to have some comfort, to sit for days in the shadow of the trees, not to burn them. But life is very ruthless. Sometimes we people are obliged to do things we don’t want to do it. See what life forces us to do…

What if someone in this world would hold my hands, so I could become an ally of nature walking away from the deep valleys, up to the mountains and the sun?

Parwana

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.

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email: infomobile.w2eu@gmail.com

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