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.
“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?’
+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
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’
“Do we look like animals or why do they play with our lives?”
A massive police raid in Idomeni put a temporary end to legal border crossings from Greece towards Northern Europe
Hundreds of refugees were transferred by busses to Athens from the border city Idomeni, near FYROM (Former Republic of Macedonia), following a massive police raid with more than 350 officers participating that took place on Wednesday December 9, 2015. Many refugees had been waiting and protesting for more than two weeks along the new barbed wire fence, while only Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans were allowed to cross since November 19. Around 1,200 refugees from more than 19 nationalities had remained in the provisory tent camp the last days “united”, as they claimed in gratifies for the right to a safe passage. As the border got partly closed and nationalities filtered in the ones allowed to cross and the rest, the situation had escalated with the Macedonian police using rubber bullets, tear gas and other forms of violence against anyone trying to cross. Dozens of refugees started started hunger strikes to protest the discrimination, as few of which even sew their mouths. A young Moroccan died during protests as he got electro shocked accidentally. In the peak of clashes between the Macedonian police and the desperate refugees, many big humanitarian organizations left the field “for their own security”, temporarily leaving alone refugees and activists alike to cope with the experienced violence, the following injuries and confront harsh living conditions. Only a day later Frontex accepted Greece’s request to deploy Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) on the Greek islands in the Aegean to assist the country in dealing with the record number of migrants coming to its shores.
Massive police raid far from the eyes of the public
Already on Tuesday activists informed that there were civil police checking the tents and counting people in order to prepare for their expulsion. The next day, no journalist, no volunteers and no NGO employees were allowed to be present when the police operation started in the early morning hours. Four journalists were even temporarily arrested as they were on scene. The only reliable information from then on came from the refugees themselves. “The police came early in the morning when there were no journalists with cameras around. They forced violently the single men to get out of their tents and enter the buses,” a young woman from Yemen said, who just arrived with her family to the Tae Kwon Do stadium in the district Palaio Faliro, one of three temporary accommodation sites the government provided for in Athens which was a 2004 Olympic Games venue. She is looking for a way to move to the open camp Eleonas because the huge gym is overcrowded and noisy. Living conditions there are hard to cope with specifically for her as a woman and her small children. Continue reading ‘++Police raid in Idomeni++Refugees trapped in Athens now++’
... 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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