On 5th February 2017, most of the adults among the 711 refugees residing in a state-run Camp in the former Athens National Airport (Camp Elliniko II), in the majority coming from Afghanistan, started a hunger strike to protest against their degrading living conditions demanding for their transfer to homes, papers and freedom of movement for all. As reported by one of the refugees, it is very likely that residents of the two other camps in Elliniko (the nearby Olympic baseball and a hockey stadiums) might join in the protest tomorrow.
Hunger strike starts in Elliniko Camp
Among the 1,600 refugees living in the three camps of Elliniko there are some who are there already since one year. Elliniko Camp was opened already back in autoumn 2015, in a period where thousands were arriving to Greece and many stayed homeless in the parks and squares of Athens. Planned as a temporary solution to ‘clear’ the capitals’ streets from the many homeless and repeatedly announced to be closed as belonging to one of the most infamous camps in Greece, it still stayed open until today, but always portrayed as ‘provisory’ under the UNHCR-category ‘informal site’. Continue reading ‘Hunger Strike in Elliniko Camp’
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
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.
Since the dirty deal between the EU and Turkey was made on 18th of March the situation in Greece worsened rapidly. Safer formal ways through the Balkan-corridor were closed down already before by the European governments while more than 50,000 refugees are caught up inside Greece. More than 90% come from war torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and the majority are women and children. More than one month after the closure of the border to FYROM / Macedonia they are still under shock by the sudden changes unable even to consider alternatives such as relocation, family reunification or asylum. They cannot realize and accept that this is the new reality they have to confront, with everybody being stuck in limbo under inhuman conditions in refugee tent camps all over Greece.
From Monday, 4th of April, on the return agreement with Turkey will be implemented with more than 500 people being readmitted from the Hot Spots on the islands of the Aegean which have been turned into detention and deportation centres in practice. Only the ones applying for asylum or family reunification and unaccompanied minors will not be deported back to Turkey. Asylum applications since a few days have reached unprecedented peaks while the Asylum Service is not able to deal with the many applications. Statistic concerning Asylum applications in Greece 2016 and Hellenic police statistics illegal migration according to nationalities 2016 first 2 months: 61022 Syria, 32776 Afghanistan, 21907 Iraq.
Resistance against deportations in the hotspots on the Greek islands started already: in Moria, Lesvos, the Hot Spot that is totally overcrowded with more then 2,000 detainees a group consisting mainly of Pakistani refugees started a hunger strike. They belong to the five nationalities that are already affected by the more than 700 readmissions that were conducted since the beginning of the year. In “Vial”, the Hot Spot on Chios, half of the people escaped after a revolt on 2nd of April from the closed camp and marched to the port of Chios city where they are staying since then. They are protesting and demanding their freedom of movement in order to travel further on. Today again another protest was started in Vial by mainly Afghan refugees against their deportation. In Athens demonstrations for open borders took place already twice with hundreds of refugees most of which were Afghans, a major group within the refugee population who can not take part in the relocation program and who are largely excluded from the few possibilities of adequate reception conditions. In several open camps on the mainland protests within the last week refugees all over Greece demanded open borders as well as for better conditions in the camps.
Already since several weeks solidarity structures are being increasingly criminalized suffering repression by the authorities and exclusion from different official refugee agglomeration sites. We declare our deep solidarity with all the people who have been since months on the ground, struggling for the rights and dignity of those on the way and a lot of times for their mere survival. The example of Lesvos, which was for the last year the island with the highest number in arrivals, shows how an amazing amount of solidarity and the many support structures could create a welcoming atmosphere even in the hardest conditions reacting immediately to emergency situations contrary to the formal structures of the government, UNHCR or many bigger NGOs. Continue reading ‘Solidarity structures in Greece confronted with criminalization, control and diverse obstacles’
“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
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?’
On Thursday 19, 2014 about 17 unaccompanied minors started a hunger strike in Lithi police station near Thessaloniki. Most of them were only recently released after months of detention. They had been in pre-removal centres such as Corinth, Amygdaleza or Paranesti Drama while waiting to be assessed as underage and / or awaiting their transfer to one of the scarce accommodation places for minors in open reception centres. Some of the minors detained in Lithi have been already more than six months detained. They have been arrested as they left the reception centers hosting them and were reported missing thereafter. The so called “protective detention” is supposed to be the better alternative than leaving them on the streets. This kind of “protection” is not wanted by any of them.
Currently only around 350 places are available in 12 reception centres all over Greece while there are nearly 200 registered unaccompanied minors waiting in detention for a place in order to get released. The new government has announced to focus on the creation of reception centers and the release of vulnerable groups like unaccompanied minors from detention.
The minors held in Lithi demand their immediate freedom.
Minors should receive special protection and not long and repeated detention!
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT IS EVERYBODYS’ RIGHT!
On Friday 20, 2014 two minors were brought to hospital.
The hunger strike continued until the evening.
300 persons in a sit-in, more than 150 on hunger strike, 45 children, at least 9 collapsed, 8 days sit-in, 3 days hunger strike
In a bid for better living conditions, temporary working permits and medical care, more than 200 Syrians – among them many families with small children – fleeing the war-torn country and seeking asylum in the EU, have begun a hunger strike in Athens’ main square. Protesters began to gather on Syntagma Square on November 19, camping out and sleeping on cardboard boxes and in sleeping bags before staging the hunger strike on Monday. Dozens of Syrians are living homeless in the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki without any support. The demonstrators, many of who sat with masking tape covering their mouths, called for the Greek government find a way to solve the refugee crisis. Read their declaration:
SYRIAN REFUGGEES IN GREECE AT SYNTAGMA SQUARE
We are the Syrian refugees who are standing from 19 November 2014 outside of Greek Parliament in Athens at Syntagma square.
We started hunger strike on 24 of November.
We demand full asylum rights as refugees.
We escaped from death in Syria. We escaped from death passing the Aegean sea. We want to live with dignity in Europe.
Our demands are the following:
· Open the boarding gates by affording us proper travel documents to enable us to travel abroad, inside European Union.
· Support the Syrian refugees who are blocked in Greece. Book ships to transfer them to the countries which have already announced that they are ready to accept them.
· Support Syrian refugees with full rights of refugee which include: regular salaries, shelter, food, health insurance, education, reunification of their families, and work permit.
We call the Greek government to solve this issue immediately.
We appeal to Greek Parliament to support our case.
We appeal to Greek people for solidarity to our demand for full asylum rights.
On November 17th, 2014 hundreds of refugees detained administratively in the pre-removal centre of Amygdaleza started to protest massively against the prolonged detention of more than 18 months, against the detention of dozens of minors and the detention conditions that amongst others recently led to the death of two detainees.
“They coop us up here like sheep and then don’t care anymore about us. (…)”
“There are persons detained 26 months. (…)”
“When we say ‘my stomach hurts’, they’d answer ‘my balls hurt’.”
Only on November 6th the 26-year-old Mohammed Asfak died of the consequences of beating by law enforcement officers in Corinth detention centre during one of the uprisings of migrants there 5-6 months ago. His injuries had not been taken care of adequately. He was only transferred to hospital after a break down. For 15 days he had been begging the police to bring him to the hospital as he had respiratory problems. When asking for medical aid, police even replied: “Die, we don’t care.” Only some days after this tragic incident, another detainee from Bangladesh died of lacking sufficient medical aid.
Yesterday, on the third day of hunger strike the Movement against Racism and Fascist Threat (KEERFA) reported of 15 detainees who had been transferred to the hospital after fainting and 90% participation in the hunger strike. KEERFA furthermore said that the detainees chose to go on hunger strike on November 17 as a symbolic move because the particular date marks the 41st anniversary of the student uprising against the junta.
The Amygdaleza detention center is 10 kilometers away from Athens and it is supposed to hold 1,000 inmates. In October 2014, the number of detainees was 1,600. The facility has repeatedly come under serious criticism both due to the indefinite time of the detention of migrants and refugees, as well as the squalid conditions they are held in. Among the approximately 1,600 detainees are many vulnerable groups such as 15-year-old children, asylum seekers, de facto refugees such as Syrians and other nationalities whose deportation is not feasible according to UNHCR such as Eritreans. There are also persons with close relatives in other EU-member states awaiting family reunification, victims of torture who have never been identified by the authorities and sick persons.
“We will fight until freedom”, an underage refugee declared, who has been registered as adult.
Protests in the big detention centres after declaration of an extension of the detention duration to more than 18 months
Today the authorities of the mass detention centres in Drama/ Parenesti, Komotini, Corinth and Xanthi informed the detained sans-papiers that they might stay even longer than 18 months, up to 24 months, or 36 or for an endless period if they do not co-operate with the authorities according to a new rule. In fact co-operation means here “voluntary return”. The only alternative is an asylum application.
It has to be noted though that according to the European Directive 18 months are the maximum period for administrative detention and this only if the deportation is feasible. Nevertheless, the greek authorities detain many people belonging to nationalities that can not be deported, such as Afghans, Eritreans, Somalis and even people from Syria.
copyright: Ta NEA 2013
The detainees in the so called pre-removal centres that opened with the initiation of Xenios Dias police raid in beginning of August 2012 have been already psychology broken by getting every three months the information of their prolongued detention for another 3 or 6 months. The limit of 18 months seemed already so far but at least gave a hope to an end of their imprisonment. Today the shocking information of even more time behind the bars led to uprisings, self-injuries and hunger strikes.
Yet it will become clear in the next days if the threat of another extension of the detention duration will get real or not when the next detainees complete 18 months. Reportedly a few of them have already received detention decisions that with an extension of the maximum detention period of 18 months for another 6 months – even before they have completed 18 months.
GlobalPost documentary shows footage recorded inside Corinth camp
Granted political asylum in December, Farhad, detained for 14 months at the detention centre in Corinth, said detainees were packed scores to a room and often beaten by police. In protest at the appalling conditions, he and others sowed their mouths together and went on hunger strike
“We didn’t have any choice so we started a hunger strike, we sewed up our mouth and we stopped eating and drinking. Anyone will do whatever it takes to get his freedom. Some people have tried to commit suicide to get free, others went crazy in there,” he told Anna Giralt Gris, who made the documentary.
Former detainees have spoken out about the appalling conditions inside the government’s migrant detention centres, in a short documentary that offers a rare glimpse into what the government calls migrant pre-removal facilities.
... 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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