Five refugees dead in Greek camps since last week due to inadequate reception conditions. Several others tried to commit suicide. Does life still matter in Europe?
– On Monday 30th of January a 20-year-old refugee from Pakistan died in Moria Hot Spot.
– On Saturday 28th of January a 46-year-old Syrian passed away in Moria Hot Spot detention centre reportedly from hypothermia. He was staying in the same tent as another man who died only four days ago.
– Meanwhile the same day in Ritsona camp in mainland Greece a two-months-old baby was transferred to hospital in Chalkida due to a cystic fibrosis and later on passed away in the ambulance which was taking it to Athens. While the parents had to deal with tremendous problems in finding help for their sick child since it was born, and were under shock of its sudden death authorities and media chose to accuse them for minor neglect and bring them to the local police station. Read here: Announcement of the solidarity group in Chalkida
– On Wednesday 25th of January a 42-year-old refugee named Benjo Massoud, father of three children, passed away in the overcrowded Hot Spot on Samos Island. According to Greek media the Kurdish refugee from Iraq had visited on Wednesday morning the camp doctor suffering reportedly from pain in the chest. He reported to have Diabetes and blood high pressure. A cardiogram was made and he got referred immediately to the hospital of the island, where he died while waiting to be examined. An employee of the camp said that the refugee had received already some days ago a letter of a doctor asking for heart exams in the hospital of the island. Despite this fact, he remained in his tent with his family the days that was very cold. Few days ago he had found by himself an empty container and settled in it together with his family. When he informed the camp managers, they just registered the transfer to the prefabricated house. The refugee had arrived on December 7th and went through first reception procedures without anyone noticing any heart problem. Already back in October Medicines Sans Frontiers reported the inadequacy of the system to screen new arrivals for vulnerability in the Hot Spots of the Aegean.
-One day before, on Tuesday the 24th, a 21-year-old Egyptian refugee was found dead in his tent by a friend in the Hot Spot in Moria on Lesbos Island. The cause of his death is still unknown. While reportedly his death was caused by the kerosine heaters’ gas he had inhaled while trying to keep himself warm.
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’
Protest against readmissions to Turkey and for the right to continue the journey to Europe
Today, on Tuesday 22nd of March, in the afternoon, hundreds of refugees locked up in the new detention centre and former fabric “Vial” on Chios island started a protest raising their voices against the new Fortress Europe. They continue their struggle for freedom of movement as they became the first refugees affected by the new cruel detention / readmission measures following the dirty deal between the EU and Turkey.
Refugees are stuck the islands of the Aegean as Greek government forbid them moving on to the mainland in order to control the distribution of thousands to different mass camps. Currently more than 4,000 persons are caught up in Piraeus port at different gates in warehouses and tents outside. There is no more space for newcomers. Among the refugees in the port are many who were transferred to new mass camps in the periphery but denied to stay in these nowhere lands and returned. Continue reading ‘Moria, Lesvos: Refugee protest against Readmissions to Turkey’
The last few days hundreds of refugees were caught on the Turkish mainland, along the western coast and in Turkish territorial waters while trying to set over to Greece clandestinely. Among the refugees who come mainly from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are more than 30% children. Whilst getting intercepted, sometimes detained or directly send back to Izmir and Istanbul, the authorities take away their life-vests. Many refugees report that the Gendarmes even burned, while telling them that: “We do that so you wouldn’t try again!”
In some occasions refugee dinghies intercepted in the Aegean Sea even were threatened by Turkish coast guards that they would shoot their dinghy if they don’t go back.
Consequently, most refugees when trying again to set over have no money left to buy new life-vests while most of them cannot swim neither.
Refugees will not stop fleeing to Europe despite NATO, Frontex, Coastguards, the usage of Drones, war ships or helicopters to locate, intercept and return them. They will not stop at barbed wire or in front of armed soldiers who are blocking their ways. As long there is war, people will move on, no matter what.
An Afghan father indicates with a movement of his hand the dinghy bopping to the left and the right in the water: “It is life, or death. But there is only one road to chose.” Next to him stands his 10-year-old son. A few meters aside four small Afghan boys play “escaping from police”. The mum of one of them who is in the second month pregnant sits beside in the park feeling desperate. She is bleeding since six days, but she cannot stay in hospital as she was strongly advised by the doctor, because the family of four has to chose for the lives of all, not only for hers and the babies. Her husband cannot hold his tears, as he feels responsible for all of them, but still has to take difficult decisions.
Tonight we witnessed more than four families starting their dangerous trip over the sea without any life-vests. They had a 3 months old baby among them and two pregnant women. Yesterday there were more than five families we happened to know with more than 15 children – one of them handicapped, another only 6 months old. And these are only the ones we accidentally got to know during a random day at a random place. One random stormy night in Turkey…
In the night of the 12.05.2015 a refugee boat by the name of “M/S Sula” carrying 192 refugees got in distress near Palaiochora, Crete. The mainly Syrian passengers were saved and brought to a closed gym. According to testimonies of refugees the police authorities wrote registration numbers on their arms while they were sleeping. Representatives of local NGOs explained, this was a common practice during massive arrivals on the island.
registration numbers marked on the arms of the refugees
It’s the second arrival of a refugee boat in Crete within one month. The “M/S Sula” had reportedly started in Antalya, Turkey and was heading towards Italy when the bad weather conditions forced the refugees to send SOS to Greek authorities. Most of the passengers were Syrian protection seekers while there were also some Palestinians. There were also 70 children among them as well as five unaccompanied minors. All refugees were first brought to a closed gym. The minors were then transferred the next day to detention in the police station of Souda/Chania awaiting a free place in a reception center for minors. UNHCR and IOM representatives visited them the first day of arrival. On May 14, 2015 most of the newcomers were transferred to Athens with an official note that allows them to stay for six months in Greece.
“M/S Sula” – 12.05.15
In the meantime, six persons were arrested and charged as smugglers. One of these arrested was traveling with his wife. She had to be brought to emergency department of the Hospital of Chania because of a panic attack on May 14, 2015 and following the arrest of her husband.
R. from Syria:
“We went to Lebanon and from there to Turkey. We wanted to go directly to Italy. Our boat was only 35 meters long while we were more than 180 persons. It was in a very bad condition being rusty and old and the waves were getting very high. We were four days on the sea. It was very dangerous. Some people got crazy of fear and started screaming. All people in the boat vomited. We were alone in the sea. No other ships. We called for help. Then the Greek authorities came and brought us to Crete. The police wrote registration numbers on our arms. They called me with the number. That is horrible. It’s not my name.”
M. from Syria:
“I am from Damascus. I lost everything in Syria. I just have my family. A lot of friends are dead. Some of my friends escaped to Europe. Others stayed in Syria fighting. I want to go to Germany to save my family. (…) When no NGOs and no journalists are here in the gym during night, they start shouting on us. They also don’t allow us to go out. The first night while I was sleeping, they came and wrote on my arm this number. I feel horrible about this. Why they put a number on me? Why they call me by a number? We are humans. We have names. Even they wrote numbers on small children arms.”
gym where all refugees spent the first nigiht
registration numbers instead of names
registration numbers marked on the arms of the refugees
On the early noon of Sunday 11th of July a refugee boat got in distress 10nm North East of Karlovasi, Samos. The refugee boat carrying approximately 35-40 people was a sailing boat according to the testimonies of the survivors.
The causes of the shipwreck are not yet clear. The media speak about bad weather conditions, overloaded boat, panic, sudden movement of the passengers etc as possible causes.
On Sunday there are 15 survivors in the Greek side (9 were brought to Chios, 6 to Samos) and 8 survivors on the Turkish side (2 near the shipreck area and 6 norhernof this area). In Samos Hospital (ICU) there is a minor in intensive care. They were trying to transfer him to Mytilini ICU but his severe health condition made the transfer impossible.
2 corpses were found Friday on the Greek side: a dead man and a dead woman and 2 more bodies (of a man and a boy) were found on Saturday also on the Greek side. Another two corpses were found on the Turkish side.
At least 8 persons are still missing.
The rescue operation was carried out with 4 Greek coast guard boats, 1 helicopter and 5 boats that were sailing in the area that day.
Migreurop published in May 2014 their new report “Frontex between Greece and Turkey”
In this report, FiDh, Migreurop and eMhrn present the results of an investigation in Greece and Turkey, which explored the specific nature of Frontex’s activities at the Greece-Turkey border and their impact on the human rights of migrants. By participating in the EU policy to combat irregular immigration, despite numerous reports of human rights violations, is the agency complicit?
... 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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