Tag Archive for 'struggles and resistance'

Not a happy day!

International Day of Families cannot be celebrated by those separated by borders!

copyright: Salinia Stroux

“My thoughts are dark. There are so many problems. I wouldn’t know it’s the International Family Day. I am feeling scared and worried inside the camp we stay in Greece. Even if I sometimes feel a second of happiness it gets lost in the manifold problems we face. Our kid is alone in Germany. He feels pain in his heart from the stress. He asks for help, but I am far. My wife’s situation gets worse day by day. She cries, she forgets, she loses control of her body. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, but I try not to loose hope.”

Morteza B.*, father and husband, whose story is here

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that the 15th May would be observed as the International Day of Families. While some families can celebrate this day, many others cannot. They are separated from each other, unable to live as one. 

But what makes one family different from another? Nothing! A family is a family no matter what papers they have or don’t have. Families should not be separated by passports and borders! The International Day of Families should not just be for some families – it is for all families! In fact, every day should be family day. 

Recently, the Infomobile started a campaign, sharing stories of families separated between Greece and Germany. We want to shed light on this issue and to struggle with people for their right to family life. Our demands are not exceptional. We do not ask governments do something extra, or out of kindness. We simply demand that European governments fulfil their legal obligations to reunite families, under the European Dublin III Regulation, national and international laws. 

And we will not be silent. These are just four stories of hundreds and we will continue to publishing more:

father is alone in Germany, fighting cancer away from his wife and their 8 year old boy in Greece. They lived in a tent on Samos while he was dying, he had to leave Greece but now he is alone. The family have been separated for 1 year and 4 months already.

12 year old boy is alone in Germany, his mother is dead and his father and three siblings are stuck in Greece. The boy got lost when the family tried to escape Greece together. They were trying to leave because they had suffered sleeping in a tent in Moria together, and then witnessed a terrible fire in the camp on the mainland they were sent to. Now the Greek Asylum Service will not allow them to apply for family reunification. The family have been separated for around 1 year already.

17 year old boy is alone in Germany, away from his parents and three siblings who are in Greece. They were violently pushed back to Greece when trying to escape together as a family. The Greek Asylum Service will not allow them to apply for family reunification. The family have been separated for 2.5 years already.

mother is alone in Germany, fighting cancer away from her husband and four year old son who are in Greece. Their boat almost sank when they risked their lives to reach European soil. Now the mother can only watch her son grow on the phone. The family have been separated for 8 months already.

!The separation of these families, and any families, is unnecessary, unfair and unlawful!

Although an evident injustice, as we say in our introductory statement to the campaign, thousands of families remain torn apart and are kept actively separated by national authorities.

We must raise our voices together with those who are separated from their loved ones especially today and every day!

A psychological expert opinion published as part of our campaign´s introduction, clearly describes the damage that separating families causes. Having that in mind, we insist once more that the well-being of children must be prioritised and their best interests have to be upheld!

Hey governments! Hey politicians! These are real people, like you and I! 

Kids should not be without family to look after them!

Partners should not be apart from each other!

Families should not be missing children!

WE DEMAND ALL FAMILIES TO BE REUNITED NOW!

“I see my boy growing, but only through the phone.”

A campaign to reunite families separated between Germany and Greece (4)

Small Mohammed* learned to ride a bicycle after his mother left Greece

A father with a 4-year-old boy in Greece – the wife / mother suffering cancer and going through chemotherapy alone in Germany 

This family belongs to Hamburg!

Fereshta* (37) married her husband Habib* (33) in Iran. She was born there as an Afghan refugee. Habib was born in Afghanistan but escaped with his family as a teenager. Life in Iran was hard. Most Afghan refugees in Iran have either temporary permission to stay, which can only be renewed upon payment of fees, or remain undocumented. While Fereshta had a six-month residence permit, her husband was without any documents and so was their child upon birth. After their marriage, Habib was arrested twice and deported back to Afghanistan, where he is in danger until today. 

In 2017 Fereshta fell ill. Her breast became more and more swollen and painful. She had no health insurance and so it took months until Habib could collect enough money to pay for the expensive examination at a local hospital. The diagnosis was bad. She had breast cancer. Desperate to save his wife, Habib worked every day and borrowed money to finance the chemotherapy she urgently needed. One day, on their way back from the hospital, the couple were controlled by police who wanted to arrest Habib and deport him once again. Fereshta cried and begged the officers to let him go because she was sick. The family had to bribe the Iranian police to escape.

After this incident, it was clear to Fereshta and Habib that they could no longer stay in Iran. They took their small child and fled. In the mountains at the border to Turkey the Iranian border police detected their group. They let the dogs loose on them. Fereshta and her family ran. She took the bag and her husband their child. The police shot. She can still hear the sound of the bullets. She remembers the stones and bushes they had to cross through in panic.

“Every moment I thought, this bullet will hit me. On our way to Europe there were many moments like this one, when I thought it was our last. In between there were the moments I felt the pain in my body so strong and I remembered the cancer.”

Seven times the family tried to cross to Greece. Every time the Turkish police would arrest and detain them. Fereshta remembers with terror a week they spent in Izmir detention centre.

“Upon arrival, we were all body searched. The officer was shocked when she touched my breast. It felt like a stone. We were three families in one cell. We could not go out. I had my painkillers in my bag but I was not allowed to take them. I was sitting awake all night suffering. After a week, they brought a doctor. Then we got released…”

On our final attempt to reach Greece, our boat almost sank. There was a hole in it. Water was entering. It was the beginning of winter 2018 and the weather was bad. In the last moment we were saved. They brought us to Moria camp. I told them about my sickness. The doctor who examined me also got scared when she felt the state of my breast. I was sent to hospital for examinations. We stayed in a container with three families – a total of eleven people in one room. Then the UNHCR sent us to Athens to live in a house.”

Two months after arriving to Greece, Fereshta was examined again, this time in Athens. Her chemotherapy started. But it did not have the expected effects. The mother felt very sick and radiotherapy had to be initiated.

“The doctors said I needed an operation. I would receive a call to know when my appointment was. No one called. Meanwhile my teeth were hurting me a lot. I asked for help. My days were marked by visits to the hospital. I had to go there many times without a translator. Sometimes I was sent away, because they couldn’t understand me. It was not easy.”

Habib was scared and felt helpless. He didn’t know if his wife was receiving the treatment she needed and if it was in time. He didn’t want to lose her. His friends all told him that it would be better to send her to Germany to be healed. What to do? There was not enough money to go together. They had spent everything they had for treatment and medication in Iran and then to reach Greece. On the other hand, he didn’t want to leave her alone. The parents decided together that there was no other solution. They had to do everything possible to make sure she had the best medical care.

In September 2019, after almost one year in Greece, Fereshta arrived in Germany. She was examined by specialists and within just a few weeks she had an operation. Even today she must continue to undergo chemotherapy. Her asylum application was accepted on humanitarian grounds with a deportation ban (Abschiebungsverbot). She is legally resident in Germany now, but she didn’t get an international protection status and thus can only apply for family reunification based on humanitarian grounds. 

For more than two years, Germany routinely rejects such family reunification applications if the family member in Germany has Abschiebungsverbot, typically arguing that the first instance asylum procedure has been concluded negatively. At the same time, Germany in the majority of cases of Afghan asylum seekers issues only this Abschiebungsverbot status. 

Fereshta and Habib struggle hard despite the little hope to find a solution to be together.

“My therapy plan is scheduled to go on until 2021. Every week I have chemotherapy. It is tough to bear it. The worst thing is that I am alone and that my child and my husband are far from me. Every day we talk on the phone. My boy cries. He asks me when he can come to me. He makes plans for that day. I see him growing, but only through the phone. He learnt to ride a bicycle since I last saw him. He wants me to buy him a bicycle when he comes to me in Germany. It is difficult to deal with this situation alone. I had many bad thoughts. Then I started visiting a psychologist. I take medication to sleep now.”

It is now three years that Fereshta’s husband Habib has had the pressure of finding a way for his wife to heal. Since they reached Greece he suffers from constant headaches.

“Now she is in good hands and has proper medical care but I am not by her side to support her. Our child misses her. He needs his mother. We both cannot sleep. I am thinking a lot. It’s the pressure of life. My sick wife is there, we are here. Our son doesn’t believe me anymore, when I tell him we will soon be with his mother. He has lost his trust in his father. I still try to give him hope.” 

A few hundred kilometres north from her husband and child, Fereshta tries not to lose hope as she struggles to survive.

“I wish to be healthy. I wish for my husband and my child to come here soon. I wish for us to have a peaceful and normal life together. I wish that no family in this world will get separated!”

* names changed

Call for help from mothers in the quarantined Malakasa refugee camp

copyright: private

Hello from the (old) Malakasa refugee camp and our best wishes to all people outside,

We write this letter to ask you, the ones struggling to offer aid and assistance to people in need, to not leave us the people of Malakasa camp alone, especially during the COVID-19 quarantine!

It is very difficult to live a life in the Greek camps in general. We have many problems, but we will mention only a few of them, that are putting a lot of pressure on us now:

1. Lack of sufficient medical services inside the camp, specifically for those with Covid-19 symptoms and those with chronic and serious diseases or the mentally ill who need regular follow-ups and medication

2. Lack of sufficient medicine in the camp, for example: Depon, Amoxicillin, Paracetamol. During the quarantine we are not allowed outside. Most of the times also before the pandemic, we were told to buy our medicines ourselves. Most of us have no AMKA. Many faced problems already before the lock down as they lack money to buy anything still waiting for their Cash-Cards. Now, we cannot even go out to a pharmacy. We depend completely on what medicines we may be given by the camp doctors and these are highly limited! In the afternoons and weekends there is no doctor here anyway. We feel unarmed in this worldwide struggle for health. 

3. Lack of secured access to clean running water inside the camp and lack of drinking water. How can we follow the preventative measures explained to us if we have not even that?

4. Lack of safety and security for everyone in the camp, particularly at night. There are police outside the camp to hinder us from going outside, but inside we are left alone when no organization is present during the nights and weekends. We worry a lot for the safety of our children specifically! We are locked-up, peoples’ psychology has become worse and we don’t know who to address during an emergency. 

5. Lack of camp wide stable WIFI access (internet), so that people can be informed about the daily news, can contact the emergency number handed out by the camp management. We also need to keep up our contacts to the outside world and specifically to our families whom we worry about in these times as you worry for your beloved ones. 

6. Lack of access to ATMs and Western Union and shops. During quarantine they do not give us permission to exit the camp so the ones with Cash-Cards cannot withdraw money from banks any may lose the last charges and the others cannot receive money from relatives in other countries. Many of us are left without any cash. We also cannot purchase anything from the shops inside the camp. The shops have doubled their prices since the lockdown. 

7. Lack of vitamin food products and insufficient supply of basic food products. The food baskets we receive once a week do not contain fresh fruits and vegetables. We need vitamins for our kids, the elder and the sick at least to be healthy and strong and resist the virus. Also, we do not receive sufficient basic products such as oil, eggs and flour in order to secure sufficient meals.

8. Lack of masks, gloves and disinfection sprays. We were not handed any materials to protect ourselves from getting infected by the virus, while we are more than 1,800 persons locked up together and living side by side with an unknown number of infected. Among us are many highly vulnerable persons: elderly, kids, persons with Diabetes, heart disorders and other chronic diseases. We need masks and gloves or disinfection sprays – at least to protect the vulnerable among us. 

Those of us who live in tents face even more problems: 

9. Lack of adequate shelter. More than 400 people (among them many kids) sleep in summer tents and even if we assume that there is no other solution than these tents for newcomers, while the containers (prefabs) have exceeded their capacity, there is also no suitable place for these tents where they could be protected from the weather AND be in safe distance to each other. Even now during the pandemic, several people are sleeping in tents which are placed in a very close distance to each other inside a big tent and another building. Others have placed their tents under the sky and suffer from every rainfall and storm. We cannot practice social distancing here! We cannot protect ourselves from the cold like this! Many of us are sick and we cannot understand if we have a cold due to the bad living conditions or if we got infected by the virus. 

10. Lack of hot water in the commonly shared showers and water taps. How we should disinfect things like our plates or clothes without hot water? How should we use the soaps, when there are water cuts? How we should keep distance from each other when water taps are placed all together and next to each other?

11. Lack of clean and functioning toilets. The filthy toilets people without proper shelter have to share are a further source of infections. 

The reason why many of us are desperate to go out of the camp is because we need help. If we cannot keep our families safe, clean, healthy, protected from hunger, we struggle for more basic things than just against a virus. 

We ask you to stand in solidarity with us at least as long as we cannot go out and completely depend on what is given to us.

We urgently need the following items:

  • Masks (at least for the infected and the vulnerable)
  • Gloves or disinfection sprays 
  • Antipyretic medication for adults and kids such as Depon and Depon Syrup (for kids)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (potatoes, onions, tomatoes mainly)
  • Oil, flour, eggs
  • Pampers and baby milk

Sincerely,

Mothers of Malakasa refugee camp

(21.04.2020 – after the extension of our quarantine and lock down that started on 5 April)

“We should be with him now, and he needs us too!”

A campaign to unite families separated between Germany and Greece (3)

Zinab* and Ahmed in Greece speak with Farhad, who lies in hospital in Germany

A man separated from his wife and young child stuck in Greece – he is dying of cancer in Germany

This family belong to Aachen!

Zinab* came to Greece with her husband Farhad and son Ahmed who is 8 years old. Now Farhad is in Germany, separated from his wife and son and he is in the late stages of cancer, with only months to live.

The family are Kurdish, from Afrin (Syria). It was in Turkey that Farhad found out he was seriously ill with cancer. But because he is Kurdish, none of the hospitals in Turkey answered the family’s questions or cared for his wellbeing. The family were harassed regularly in Turkey only because they are Kurdish. It was not a safe place for them.

So, in March 2018 the family risked their lives to find safety in Europe and travelled by boat to the Greek island of Samos. They spent 40 days sleeping crowded together in a summer tent in the ‘hotspot’ Vathy on the island. Farhad was incredibly sick – vomiting and unable to eat. Due to the dire living conditions his situation worsened.

When the doctors examined him, they said he was dying. It was cold and raining and the ground was wet beneath them in the tent. Ahmed was begging his parents to leave Greece – he couldn’t use the toilets they were so dirty. There was no warm water to wash with. Farhad was suffering in pain and his family had only cold water to bathe him and cold earth to sleep on.

Because Farhad needed urgent medical attention, the family were transferred to a refugee camp on mainland Greece. Farhad was in the isolated camp almost one month still in severe pain.

Once in the mainland camp, Farhad’s pain did not cease. On three occasions an ambulance had to travel the long distance to the family’s camp because Farhad was in such pain. They injected him with pain killers. Eventually, he was taken to hospital, where he stayed for 2 months. Farhad had many tests and an emergency surgery that lasted eleven hours. Zinab was warned that he might not survive this. Zinab and Ahmed slept in the hospital for 4 days because the camp they were supposed to live in was over an hour away.

A few days before Farhad left hospital, Zinab and their child were moved to an apartment in Athens and Farhad was discharged there. He had to go to the hospital every week and was constantly taking medication. The family stayed around six months together in Athens but everyone, including Farhad’s doctors, said that he would have a better chance of survival if he was treated in Germany because they had a better equipped public health system and secured access to the necessary medicines there. Farhad said his Greek doctors treated him very well but he hoped he would have more chance to heal elsewhere and survive his dangerous sickness.

Throughout his time in Greece, Farhad was suffering, he had even thought of committing suicide to end the pain. It was an unbearable decision and a gruelling journey but in January 2019 Farhad travelled alone to Germany as the family had no possibility to go together. He went to Germany to get well and to struggle for his life and for his family.

The family had no idea that they would end up separated for such a long period. When they understood how difficult it was to be together again, they found a lawyer in Athens who is assisting with their case for family reunification through the German embassy. But over one year later, the family remain apart. It is difficult to get essential documents from Syria because of the war and Farhad does not have long to live. 

The family video call almost every day but it is a cruel replacement for life together, especially when little time is left. In his waking hours Ahmed talks of his father – he tells his friends at school he will go soon to be with his father in Germany, he asks his mother when he will be able to kiss his dad again, or walk with him the streets. While asleep, Ahmed dreams of Farhad.

Zinab also cannot bear life without her husband beside her. She fears that nobody is there to do the simple things for him, to talk with him, give him a glass of water.

In the last weeks, Farhad has had multiple operations. Little Ahmed cries for days on end, he says he wants to see his father, he wants his family to be together. Zinab tries to be strong but she also cries often.

“We should be with him now, and he needs us too!”

Zinab

* names changed

Some facts about obstacles that cancer patients in Greece face

For many years, all cancer patients in Greece face huge obstacles to obtain timely access to necessary diagnostics, examinations and treatments. Austerity measures have hit the public health system hard since the start of the debt crisis in Greece in 2009. Cancer patients are among the ones who suffer most.

Funding for state-run hospitals was cut by more than 50% in the last decade. They suffer from severe shortages in everything, from sheets, gauzes and syringes, to doctors and nurses. The patients who can afford it, thus often turn to private health care. The others struggle.

A new study titled “A New National Health System” commissioned by Dianeosis, found out that Greece nowadays spends only 5 percent of its gross domestic product on public healthcare versus the European Union (EU) average of 7 percent.

“The minimum safe limit for every health system, as we have repeatedly stressed, is 6 percent of GDP.” 

Panhellenic Medical Association 2019

The authors of the study ascribe the healthcare crisis in Greece to cuts to funding, under-staffing and mismanagement—the source of which is linked to a decade of austerity measures. As one consequence, the young generation of Greek doctors was forced to emigrate in search for jobs. It is estimated, that more than 15,000 doctors left the country, mainly for the UK, Germany, Cyprus and Sweden.

The difficulties of accessing and using health services in Greece have grown particularly for those who need them most, thus jeopardising the element of equality and social justice. More than that, the study found, that today one in five Greek people are unable to pay for health services when they need it; one in three cancer patients are unable to see their doctor regularly while one in four have difficulties obtaining the medicine they need.

Access to necessary medication is a big problematic with possibly fatal consequences. Cancer drugs are vital, but often inaccessible. In February 2020, the Pharmaceutical Association of Athens denounced the severe lack of specialised medicaments in Greece, amongst others drugs used to control the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients, but also for the chemotherapy itself. The Hellenic Cancer Federation (ELLOK) taking action, appealed on 22.1.2020 to the Ministry of Health to take action in order to normalise the disposal of medicines. Deficiency of basic antineoplastic drugs for cancer patients, according to the Federation, means serious delays and cancellations of chemotherapy that have led patients and doctors to despair. 

Many medicaments reach Greece but are then traded to other countries such as Germany who pay higher prices. Then there are medicines that are essential but so cheap that no company will import them to Greece. These should be covered by emergency imports, but the government agency responsible has no funds to pay for them and has stopped placing orders. At the same time, Greek commercial pharmacies are owed by the government, according to the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association (PFS), so many request payment for medication from patients up front.

“It is one thing to ask a patient to bring his own blanket to the hospital. And quite another to deny him a drug that means the difference between life and death.”

Persefoni Mitta, head of the Association of Cancer Patients in Macedonia and Thrace

During the Covid-19 pandemic things have got even harder. Today, the main problem faced is the long waiting lists for radiotherapy and surgeries. Zoe Grammatoglou, from the Association of Cancer Patients, volunteers, friends, and doctors in Athens, explains:

“In Attika Hospital in Athens the average waiting time for radiotherapy is currently 3-4 months. These delays existed also prior to the Covid-19 pandemic due to lack of staff in the hospitals. The average waiting time for surgeries is currently about one month. All appointments have been further delayed in public hospitals. It is very important to add, that in Greece there are no hospices for the care of persons in the last cancer stadium.”

Zoe Grammatoglou (13.04.2020)

In the case of refugees and migrants, there are even greater obstacles to access free medical care, especially since July 2019 when the right wing New Democracy party was elected. The new government refused to ascribe the Social Insurance Numbers (AMKA) to third country nationals. Medicines sans Frontiers (MSF) estimated in the beginning of this year that 55,000 protection seekers had remained without access to public health care, and specifically denounced the devastating situation for seriously sick children in the ‘hotspot’ of Moria.

“We see many children suffering from medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease, who are forced to live in tents, in abysmal, unhygienic conditions, with no access to the specialised medical care and medication they need.”

Dr Hilde Vochten, MSF’s medical coordinator in Greece

Only this month (April 2020) is a parallel system called PAAYPA supposed to function in which asylum seekers should be ascribed a temporary Social Insurance Number. It was announced that the system would start from 15 April onward but is not yet working as promised. 

Covid-19 has presented further barriers to healthcare as protection seekers reaching Greece must first register their claim for asylum in order to regularise their stay, and only then will they be eligible for a PAAYPA number. As the Greek Asylum Service has been closed since 13 March and will remain closed until at least 15th May, people seeking protection are unable to claim asylum. Therefore people with chronic and serious diseases may have to wait for months until they can access necessary healthcare. Until then, only emergency care is available.

Furthermore, for as long as protection seekers cannot claim asylum, they cannot access the cash allowance for asylum seekers, which means that they have to pay for all medicines themselves.

Protection seekers arriving from the land border in Evros region face a systematic lack of reception conditions as their asylum claims are usually not registered in the Reception and Identification centre (RIC) of Fylakio. Upon release they reach Thessaloniki or Athens themselves staying most of the times for weeks or months homeless.

At the same time, protection seekers arriving on the Aegean Islands are stuck among thousands of others in the infamous ‘hotspot’ camps of Moria (Lesvos), Vathy (Samos), Vial (Chios), on Leros and Kos living in highly precarious conditions in tents or overcrowded containers. Since recent changes in law, newcomers after March 2020 are regularly detained and face even greater gaps when it comes to accessing the public health care system.

UNHCR Greece highlighted the problems in Moria ‘hotspot’ recently:

“Abdul, 67, sitting on a stool outside his tent. In Afghanistan, Abdul had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Abdul said he had been treated with nothing more than paracetamol since arriving in the camp. Medical workers at Moria and the local hospital are overwhelmed. NGO and volunteer doctors work around the clock. Even so, often they can only attend to the most urgent emergency cases and even serious chronic conditions are left untreated.”

UNHCR, 21 February 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Greece has declared a nationwide lockdown from 23 March 2020. Meanwhile asylum seekers and refugees cannot #stayathome but have to #stayinthecamp. Until today, three refugee camps on mainland Greece have been locked down for a 14-day-quarantine as residents were diagnosed with Covid-19. Human rights activists all over the world demand that we #leavenoonebehind and evacuate Greek refugee camps and release people from detention. Calls have grown loud to relocate unaccompanied minor refugees from Greece and the first 62 have travelled to Luxembourg and Germany.

We must also raise our voices for the families who have been separated between two countries, who are victims of borders and restrictive migration policies such as the ones of Germany, who is systematically rejecting family reunification requests for more than two years.

Severe delays in accessing the urgent examinations and the necessary medicines, in order to provide for the medical diagnostics and adequate therapy/surgery for cancer patients can cost human lives.

STOP CUTS IN PUBLIC HEALTH CARE!

PROVIDE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WITH ALL THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO SAVE LIVES!

ACCESS TO FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL!

CLOSE THE CAMPS AND OPEN HOMES!

REUNITE ALL FAMILIES!

“Home is where your family is – together!”

A campaign to unite families separated between Germany and Greece (2)

Massoud* (17): “When I was in Greece, we lived in a tent.”

A mum and a dad with three young kids in Greece – their 17-year-old son alone in Germany

This family belongs to Hannover!

Morteza B.* (37) from Afghanistan escaped his country after the lives of his family were threatened. He arrived to Greece with his wife and four children shortly before the EU-Turkey ‘Deal’ was implemented at the end of February 2016. After a few months feeling unsafe in a Greek emergency refugee camp near Athens, the family tried to continue their flight through the Balkans.

More than ten times they were intercepted and unlawfully pushed back to Greece. Once they finally reached Serbian soil, they were intercepted again and pushed back arbitrarily to Bulgaria, where they had never been before.

In winter 2016, after a week-long odyssey, they were finally returned from Bulgaria to Greece. Left with no money, they saw no option but to send their eldest son Massoud* (now 17 years old) to Germany, where they thought he would be safe, as he had been the one along with his father threatened most in Afghanistan.

Their family reunification application was never sent by Greek authorities despite repeated promises. Instead after two years in Germany and despite having claimed asylum there, Germany attempted to return the family’s minor son back to Greece. When Greek authorities refused to take him back, he was allowed to continue his asylum procedure in Germany. He finally received a one year national humanitarian status (Abschiebungsverbot). He is legally resident in Germany and goes to school there ever since. But he is alone.

“Our son was almost kidnapped in Afghanistan. Masked men were waiting for him in front of his school. After this terror, we had to take our kids from school to keep them safe. We fled to Greece. We tried for months to move onward all together through Macedonia and Serbia as we felt unprotected among the hundreds of other Afghans around us.

On our way, we got illegally returned more than a dozen times. We were beaten, pushed by border guards, soldiers and police; our phones got stolen. We were forced to cross through the freezing waters of a river and were kept detained in Bulgaria for two months in miserable conditions and without being able to even go out.

Back in Greece, after our son reached safety in Germany and when we informed the Greek Asylum Service that we wanted to apply for family reunification they just told us they would send it but we had to wait. Every time we renewed our papers, they’d say the same pushing our patience beyond its limits. Until that day I will never forget, when they suddenly said: “No! We will not send your family reunification request. You will have your asylum procedure in Greece.” I felt I was breaking.

Me and my wife still try to understand that we will have our asylum interview in Greece in one year, exactly five years after we reached Europe, when we will have been separated far away from our son for 3 1/2 years already.

We still live in this refugee camp, a container village in an industrial area. My wife is suffering from severe psychological problems for years, she has therapy and takes medicines. Her situation worsened after the violence we faced at Europe’s borders, but her health is devastated since our eldest child is so far from us.

We have a few neighbours that have been with us all the time in the camp – they have created little gardens on the dusty soil. But I cannot think of putting even one plant in this earth, as we cannot build anything like ‘home’ when one of us is missing.

Home is where your family is – together!” 

On the other side of the continent, up in the North, the 17-year-old Massoud* is counting the days to see his family again.

“I miss my family. I wish they come here to live with me in a house. When I was in Greece, we lived in a tent. There was no language lessons, no school. I was very scared to go out alone. When my parents decided I had to move to Germany alone, I was only 13. They were scared to let me go and I was scared to travel alone, but I was more scared to stay in Greece.

I speak every day on the phone with my family. I want to give them strength. The good thing about Germany is that I am not afraid to go out and that I can go to school again. In my future I want to become a cook. I learned cooking by myself when I arrived in Germany and I had to take care of myself. My mum often cries when we talk on phone, but she is happy that I learned to cook, because she doesn’t need to worry about me being hungry. She knows I can fill my stomach now with tasty food.”

* names changed

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

“Listen to our voices!”: Tear-gas and protests in overcrowded Katsikas Camp

Refugee residents from Katsikas refugee camp, managed by Arbeiter Samariter Bund (ASB), call for solidarity as officials try to place newcomers from the Aegean Islands in the already overcrowded camp. About 100-200 refugees are protesting right now. Riot police has been called to assist the camp management. Residents report of scared kids and tear-gas. They say conditions have been already squalid before while no one is listening to their problems.

“We are already around 1,500 people living here. The officials say we are only 1,000, but thats not true. There is no assistance to us. Now they want to put 2-3 families in one container; about 10-12 people. They say to us: `Here is Greece. You don’t have a right to speak. You are migrants. You have to listen to us.` There is no security, no rules here, no doctor… We have many problems. Yesterday they brought new people here from Kos. Today they want to bring more from Lesvos. They come with the police to knock the doors and put more people inside. The kids get scared, the families get scared. They want to force us to accept whatever they decide. Now the riot police entered the camp and they shot tear-gas on our kids. People are asking why Greece is doing that to them? Why nobody listens to our voices? We are human beings! We want to be respected! It is no solution to transfer the problems of inhuman living conditions from the islands to the mainland. We demand a life in dignity inside the cities and not in isolated and overcrowded camps! We demand freedom for all!”

 

 

‘FOR THE RIGHT TO A SAFE HOME’

Four refugee squats evicted in Athens

Within just one week Greek police forces in April 2019 have evicted four refugee squats in Athens all located in Exarchia area leaving around 200-300 refugees homeless. While authorities are politically framing the operation as ‘a step forward in an anti-drug campaign’ in the area, their efforts have hit the ones in need of protection instead and criminalize the refuee squats. Refugee families, many with kids, are left ever since on the streets. They are now not only again unprotected and with empty hands but also (re–)traumatized. Around 60 refugees are protesting since two days at Syndaghma Square.

On 18 April 2019 two refugee squats in Exarchia (Athens) got raided in the early morning hours around 5am. People residing respectively in Clandestina and Cyclopi squats got evicted with a massive police presence. In total 68 refugees (among them 25 kids) were arrested and after more than 4 hours released to the streets of Athens. Among the homeless are refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Eritrea amongst others. There are many families, single mothers and small children. A pregnant lady had to be transferred to the hospital after the terror of the eviction. She is in danger to suffer a miscarriage. Sick refugees lost track of their medicines, prescriptions and attestations.

Everything I had is in that locked building now: My tax number, by social insurance documents, medical papers… I am at zero again. They didn’t let us take anything.

A young refugee former resident of Clandestina squat
copyright: Salinia Stroux

In the early afternoon of the same day mothers, fathers and children from different countries started together a protest in Syndaghma Square in the centre of Athens demanding dignified housing and safety from the Greek state. Despite the strong cold, they remained over night in a dozen tents set up in opposite side to the Greek parliament. The only ‘offer’ by the police until now was to find ‘shelter’ in the pre-removal detention centre in Amygdaleza, which refugees denied to accept.

copyright: Salinia Stroux

I suffer from psychological problems. My doctor instructed me to not stress myself. Yesterday in the morning we woke up by the sound of shouting and suddenly a lot of police entered the place we were sleeping in. Some of us got pushed. I had two panic attacks the last two days. Half of my body got paralysed from the fear. I am still under shock. Where should we go now?

A refugee lady former resident of Clandestina squatI
copyright: Salinia Stroux

I was sleeping with my children, when I suddenly woke up with guns being held in front of my eyes. There was police everywhere. I tried to collect our most important belongings. The police was shouting: ‘Fast, fast!’ Two of my kids have heart problems. One of them has Asthma. … It is six months I am trying to call the asylum service from Skype without success. Without the asylum seeker card, I can not apply for housing.

A refugee mother of three minors former resident of Clandestina squat
copyright: Bijan Sabbagh

Only a few days earlier, on 11 April 2019 Azadi squat and neighboring Babylon had also been raided by the police. Around 200 cops were reported on site that day. Refugees stated, that the police forces evaded the place suddenly at dawn. Approx. 90 persons got arrested and transferred to Amygdaleza pre-removal detention centre. The buildings were locked while their personal belongings were thrown on the street.

copyright: Azadi Squat

On 19 April the evicted families are remaining in Syndaghma square. They prepare to sleep one more night in the cold lacking any alternative. Authorities still have not found any solution for their accommodation. The protesting refugee stated, there were 20 kids among them and they would stay until there was a real solution found for them all.

We just demand a safe place for us and our kids!

A refugee mother of two toddlers with severe health problems and former resident of Clandestina squat
copyright: Salinia Stroux

Meanwhile, more than 70,000 refugees are estimated to live in Greece currently. Approx. 23,000 are sheltered in flats by UNHCRs’ ESTIA program (March 2019), another 28,000 are being provisory placed under deplorable conditions in temporary accommodation sites in mainland Greece (15,000) or the six infamous ‘hotspots’ on the Aegean Islands and in Fylakio (in Evros region) (13,000) and 6,000 stay in short-term housing provided by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) in 54 hotels all over Greece.

copyright: Marios Lolos

At the same time, an unknown number of protection seekers remains without an official shelter sleeping rough in public spaces or staying unofficially in the states’ refugee camps. They remain without access to the monthly allowances provided for by the Cash-Card system of ESTIA housing scheme or the Social Solidarity Fund (KEA), which people with refugee status can apply for along with Greek citizens. Without a roof over their head, without money to buy food or medicines, they would be exposed to life-threatening conditions, if not their self-organisation in around 12 refugee squats in Athens and other solidarity spaces would create the ‘welcoming and protective spaces’ that the state fails to secure.

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Read the announcements of City Plaza Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space

The ” Montmartre” of politicking, riot police and racism (18.04.2019)

Two days ago we experienced the second act of operation “target refugees to harvest votes”. Heavily armed squadrons of MAT and EKAM riot police units invaded two refugee squats in the neighborhood of Exarchia. As with the previous police operations, no links were found between the refugee squats and the local mafias. In addition, no refugee was arrested for any criminal act. Drugs displayed by the police were found in another irrelevant apartment.

But the government’s goal was achieved. That is to say, a large quantity of “law and order” style TV show material was produced. Refugees were once again targeted as criminals. SYRIZA sent out the message that there is no need to vote for New Democracy since they too can act out the role of a police state.

The fact that some dozens of refugees have nowhere to sleep is a minor detail which politicians and the media couldn’t show any less interest for.

Mrs. Papakosta’s “Montmartre” consists of repression, politicking and racism but no rights and solidarity.

Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Government and police use refugees as scapegoats (13.04.2019)

The police operation that took place 2 days ago in Exarchia, against the two refugee squats was not directed against the mafia in the neighbourhood. Despite the propaganda, they did not find anything in the squats to link them with mafia. The goal of the government and the police was a show of power. Refugees have been turned into scapegoats for pre-election purposes. Refugee targeting does not harm mafia, but it strengthens the racist stereotype of identifying “foreigners/refugees” with criminal activity and of course, opens the way to fascist violence. 

We remind them that the squats are the voices against the failed policies of the state on “migration management”. The housing problem is more acute than ever, for both refugees and locals. Instead of finding solutions for the housing problems, government and the oppositions are turning against those who have no shelter and hope. The recipe is classic: Instead of limiting poverty, targeting and criminalising poverty. 

Do not let them impose the policy of fear and hatred.

Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

The Memories of the Dead will not be erased with Black Paint

Copyright: Michalis Bakas

In the night of the 24th of November 2017, by the harbour of Thermi on Lesvos Island, unidentified persons vandalised the memorial that we had erected there in 2013. It carries the names of those who had drowned on their journeys to Europe. Two wooden paddles hold the plaque with the names of the dead and the memorial looks out to the sea, dedicated to those of all ages and backgrounds, whose lives ended at sea.

On the memorial plaque, we thank the fishermen and all others who endangered their own lives when rescuing others, or when retrieving the dead from the water. Written on the plaque are the names of refugees who drowned in this area in 2013, but also of others who were later found all over the beaches of Lesvos.

Gader Turkamni, who was 14 years old and lived in Athens with his family, had returned to Syria to attend a funeral. Unable to legally return to Greece, he was forced to travel in a dinghy.

Fatma Hadjas and her three children Lodgen (3 years), Abdul (6 years) and Ginan (7 years) – her husband and their father lived in Athens and they escaped war to come and live in peace with him.

Ramazan Jomali, who was 19 years old when he died, was awaited by his brother in Greece, who had come from Paris to meet him.
Continue reading ‘The Memories of the Dead will not be erased with Black Paint’

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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    Clandestina participates in the ‘Stop War On Migrants’ campaign. The campaign was initiated on October 2019, after the announcement of the new anti-immigration policy in Greece. This is the text that presented the new governmental policy on migration and called for launching the campaign (Oct. 2019): StopWar_leaflet_EN This is a presentation of the assembly of […]

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