On 8 September 2020, the infamous Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece burned to the ground, throwing fortress Europe’s policies of deterrence through immiserating conditions, border externalisation and ‘containment’ on the Aegean ‘hotspot’ islands back into the international spotlight. The fires came a week after a resident of the camp tested positive for COVID-19 and authorities responded by locking Moria down: effectively detaining around 12,000 people in unsanitary, inhuman, overcrowded conditions; at grave risk to their lives. In the days that followed, people who had been living in Moria camp and its surrounding olive groves were left in the streets, trapped between police and military blockades, without access to sufficient food, water, shelter, hygiene facilities or other basic necessities.
This story is written by Parwana Amiri, a young Afghan woman who has lived with her family in the Olive Grove from the Moria hotspot since September 2019.
When Parwana noticed how unbearable the living conditions were, she supported the people with her language skills and started to publicize the stories they had experienced.
Her “LETTERS TO THE WORLD FROM MORIA” have been published in a blog since September: Infomobile and and on this Blog.
This little book is based on the real story of one of the many people forced into the Olive Grove
Use olive trees to heat or bake. It is an imaginary conversation between an old woman and an olive tree.
It was drawn by Marily Stroux and printed by w2eu / alarmfone.
You can buy this little book for a donation of € 4.00. Write an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or get it Hamburg at Kölibri.
Where: at Kölibri, Hein-Köllisch-Platz 11 + 12 · 20359 Hamburg or via email@example.com
When: always on OpenFriday from 14-17: 30h
All proceeds go directly to Parwana for the projects in which she participates. The self-organized school WAVES OF HOPE FOR THE FUTURE, founded by ZEKRIA Farzad with 1,200 students of all ages in the Olive Grove, is one of them.
Sadece düzgün bir hayat yaşayabilecekleri bir yere ulaşmak için sınırları aşmak isteyen göçmenlere istenmediğinde kurtulunacak birer sayı, ya da bir tehdit muamelesi yapıldı. İktidarların insan hayatı üzerinden yaptıkları pazarlık masasından geri itilen insanlar hem varını yoğunu hem de yolculuklarını belirleyen umutlarını birer birer kaybettiler. Bir çırpıda Türkiye-Yunanistan sınırına itilen göçmenler, açlık, sefalet, polis zoru ile sıkıştırıldı ve geri itildiler. Şimdi aradan geçen bir aydan sonra yeni bir bilinmezliğe terk ediliyorlar. Türkiye ve Avrupa ise hala bu soruyu cevaplamakla yükümlü: #GöçmenlereNeOlacak?
Göçmenler için güvenli bir gelecek ve onurlu bir yaşam talep etmeyi sürdürüyoruz!
Sınır rejimi ve izolasyona rağmen toplumsal dayanışmayı savunuyoruz!
Migrants are treated as a threat or numbers to get rid of when unwanted, while they simply want to cross the borders to arrive to a place where they might live a decent life. Bounced on a negotiating table where powers dictate that they can be treated as subhumans, they seem to have lost everything they had as well as the hopes that guide their route so far.
Once drawn to the Turkey-Greece border, they were trapped by the police force, with hunger and miserable conditions, and pushed back several times.
After a month, they are now thrown into an unknown. Turkey and Fortress Europe are still responsible to answer: #WhatWillHappentoMigrants?
We demand a safe future for migrants and a life in dignity! Against the border regime and punitive isolation, we defend social solidarity!
On 10th July 2019 the keys of squatted City Plaza were handed back to the former employees of the hotel, to whom the mobile equipment in the building belongs. All refugees living at City Plaza have been moved to safe housing within the city.
On 22 April 2016, the Economic and Political Refugee Solidarity Initiative squatted the empty City Plaza building with a two-fold goal: to create, on the one hand, a space of safety and dignity in which to house refugees in the centre of the city and, on the other, to create a centre of struggle against racism, borders, and social exclusion. For the freedom of movement and for the right to stay.
The decision to squat was taken at a critical political juncture. On 18th March 2016, one month before the squat opened, the EU-Turkey deal to restrict the movement of refugees to Europe was signed. It was the deal that marked the end of the “summer of migration” – the period which began in July 2015 when, under pressure from approximately one million people, the European borders “opened”. This was the deal that turned the islands of the Aegean into a sort of prison for migrants, and which turned mainland Greece into a trap for over 60,000 people. The SYRIZA-ANEL government, following its capitulation to the neoliberal management of the economic crisis, took on the the implementation of a policy of control, deterrence and discouragement of migration. With Frontex and NATO patrolling the Aegean, with detention centres such as Moria on the islands, with awful camps as the only policy for housing refugees on the mainland, by punishing solidarity and the struggle of refugees. During that time, the housing issue was very pressing. The refugees who had arrived in Athens were either homeless or were being housed in the awful camps of Elliniko, Malakasa, or the port of Piraeus, while hundreds of people slept in tents or cardboard boxes in city streets and squares.
It was while these were happening that a discussion began within the Economic and Political Refugee Solidarity Initiative, which led to the decision to squat City Plaza, a hotel on Acharnon street which remained shut for seven years. The decision had certain features of voluntarism, and was not justified by the forces in our disposal, nor by the state of the anti-authoritarian movement at the time. Yet it was a move which addressed the political situation and the great struggle of the refugees who had, over the previous months, opened the borders of Fortress Europe and thus won their right to freedom of movement. It also matched the massive and spontaneous social solidarity movement which developed along the length of the migration route.
City Plaza as an example of dignified housing, space for social solidarity and cooperation between locals and migrants.
From its inception, City Plaza was organized around two key goals:
- to create a space for safe and dignified housing for migrants in the centre of the city, a space of solidarity and cooperation between locals and migrants.
- to function as a centre of struggle in which political and social demands by migrants and locals will interweave and complement each other.
CP proved in practice that the state policy of “hospitality” towards refugees is a mixture of harshness, incompetence, and political expediency. Where the solidarity movement, without any funding from formal institutions, without any “experts” or employees, managed to create one of the best housing spaces in the centre of the city, the state continued to abide by the trapping of refugees in makeshift camps and tents in the mainland, and by imposing a regime of refuting the rights of refugees and detaining them in hot spots on the islands, at the threat of deportation.
This contrast was the key element which led to mass support for CP at the beginning of its operation, by individual activists, organizations/collectives of the left, as well as by people who joined the movement for the first time there. Of course, because of the ownership status of the hotel, there were several attacks “from the left” which, fully aligned with the narrative of the owner and the petty bourgeois rhetoric on the “supreme human right to property”, attempt to belittle the effort, by spreading conspiracy theories (ranging from claims that we’re being funded by Soros, SYRIZA, the German State, to claims that we traffic drugs, firearms, children, and sex workers), slandering the collective and the activists who are part of it.
City Plaza proved in practice that refugees and locals can live together when, instead of isolation, punishment, and hatred, there is solidarity, struggle, and community. At the opposite pole from the camps, located outside the cities and in awful conditions, CP managed, in a difficult neighbourhood, until recently patrolled by neonazis, to brighten the formerly dark corner between Acharnon and Katrivanou, by giving it the character of security truly valued by those from below: the security of dignified housing, community, solidarity, and vitality of the people selflessly fighting for better lives.
At the same time, dozens of people showed their solidarity around the world. Through their daily presence, their participation in shifts, positive attitude and a large-scale international campaign for the financial support of the project. Dozens of crates of food and other essentials were sent to Plaza, thousands of people and groups made donations to support the project, which relied solely on donations for its survival.
City Plaza also served as a centre for struggle. Aiming to internationally denounce the anti-refugee policies of the SYRIZA-ANEL government and the EU, we brought to the fore topics such as criminal responsibility for shipwrecks and loss of human life, the delay or obstruction of sea rescue, the practice of illegal pushbacks in Evros and the Aegean, the conditions of imprisonment in hotspots. City Plaza hosted dozens of open discussions on the border regime, racism, the struggle for rights, often featuring contributions by well-known intellectuals from around the world, such as Judith Butler, Angela Davis, David Harvey, Alain Badiou, Sandro Mezzandra, among others. Yet the goal was not just to highlight issues relating to migrant struggles, but also to link them to the struggles of locals. In the rallies for International Worker’s Day, the Polytechnic Uprising, antifascist and feminist protests, the City Plaza block was present throughout the three years.
The City Plaza community: Practices, Rights, Cooperation.
The answer to the question of what City Plaza is is known to the thousands of people who passed through its doors: CP is a project for the realisation of a conception of everyday life which aims to empower those “from below”, in the constitution of a space of freedom, which practically realises an aspect of the society we envision.
Its mode of operation expressed a politics of everyday life which is in opposition to the dominant model of managing migration, especially to its “NGOisation”. At the core of this voluntary contribution of time, effort, and emotion was not the “provision of services” to “the vulnerable” but the attempt to combat insecurity and fear, to empower and encourage confidence and trust in the collective. Help to refugees was re-politicised – and became solidarity and common struggle. Self-organisation, shared responsibility and decision making were central, as was a constant reflection on the inequalities permeating relations within the project: localisation, class, gender, language, education, etc.
Despite the inherent contradictions and difficulties, the collective experience of organising everyday life was the foundation for building a strong community of solidarity. At the same time, in this context, and in contrast to dominant victimising narratives, refugees and migrants became dynamic subjects with an active role on social and political life.
Daily life at CP was based on the principle of participatory organisation and collective decision making and operations, processes particularly complex in a community of 350 people speaking different languages, and with different ethnic, class, and social backgrounds, and different plans for the future. Regular coordination meetings became the space in which equal discussion took place on issues of operation and organisation, while House meetings were – especially in the beginning – a real lesson in how we can and should discuss, operate, and co-implement, as refugees and as locals. The organisation of residents and solidarians into working groups was a component of organising the project but also an essential basis for developing personal and political relationships amongst ourselves. The working groups were: Reception, Education, Children’s Activities, Health Centre, Kitchen, Security, Economics, Cleaning, Communications, as well as a self-organized Women’s Space.
In its 36 months of operation, City Plaza hosted over 2,500 refugees from 13 different countries. About 100 of the 126 rooms of the hotel hosted 350 refugees at any one time, while the remaining 26 either served as communal spaces (classrooms, women’s space, storage space) or to host solidarians from around the world. It was, after all, City Plaza’s political choice to not serve as a housing space “for” refugees but as a space of cohabitation and shared everyday life.
Yet we will not provide statistics referring to countries of origin, ages or ‘vulnerable” cases. In contrast, we will provide “statistics” on the enormous amount of resources that the movement was able to mobilise in order to keep City Plaza going:
* 812,250 hot meals were prepared by the kitchen team
* 74,500 work hours on security shifts
* 28,630 hours of shifts at reception
* 5,100 hours of language teaching and creative educational activities
* 69,050 rolls of toilet paper
However, the most important things cannot be counted. They have to do with human relationships, mutual respect and solidarity, emotions and experiences, optimism born out of common struggle.
The end of an era, the beginning of a new one
Such a project demands enormous resources. It is not a political squat which can stay closed for a couple of days in August without any problems. It is a space which demands a daily commitment, responsibility, and presence. Besides, the way we see it, self-organization is not automatic. To the contrary, it requires many hours of work, often endless processes of shared decision making, and interminable difficulties. In other words, self-organization and solidarity are not theory. They are action in the here and now. Action full of contradictions and life’s problems. In a society in which authoritarianism, war, capitalism, and competition between the subjugated is considered normal, while multiple divisions and hierarchies permeate us all, because of our origins, genders, and class backgrounds, self-organisation is not a slogan. It is a struggle.
Unfortunately, as often happens in many self-organized projects, enthusiasm, commitment, and participation dwindle over time – especially when circumstances are so demanding. The fact that the overwhelming majority of City Plaza residents are in transit made it impossible to hand the operation of the squat completely over to the refugees as most of them, sooner or later, left for Europe. At the same time, the material resources required for a project of such size – for food, hygiene products, medications, building maintenance – became harder to come by, despite the fact that comrades throughout Europe have demonstrated extraordinary commitment.
On the basis of all of the above, shortly before City Plaza celebrated its two-year anniversary, and following calls to collectives and spaces which supported the project from its inception, there opened a difficult and contradictory discussion on how long City Plaza can carry on, or whether and how it should adapt, given that we did not wish to see the project decline. There was a dilemma on whether we would move towards the direction of “normalising/ legalising” the squat or towards completing the project, while also looking for new ways to keep the community it created alive in a different context.
The first option was found to be politically undesirable, as it clashes with City Plaza’s character as a political alternative to NGOisation, and leads to a disconnect between the issues of safe housing and collective struggle and rights demands more generally.
We decided that, despite it being a difficult choice, City Plaza should rightly close the way it began and operated: as a political project, by protecting the central element which turned it into a example, that is organisation from below, safe and dignified living, community of struggle, and addressed to society as a whole.
During the House meeting of 26th May 2018, we jointly decided on this direction – not without contradictions and disagreements – and there was an extensive discussion about how to implement such a decision. Beginning in June 2018, City Plaza did not accept new residents, while there was a collective commitment that the project would not wind down until every resident had found acceptable accommodation. This commitment was not at all simple to implement. The wider circumstances of dealing with the refugee question – both from the point of view of the SYRIZA-ANEL government and from the point of view of NGOs, did not provide an opportunity to provide institutionally guaranteed housing to residents, while other spaces and squats could not house such a large number of refugees, despite positive attempts to support this.
One year on, and while the project was winding down, the expected change in the political landscape, with the imminent re-election of New Democracy, made it imperative to once more address the pace at which the project is progressing towards its close, taking into account the fact that, over the past several months, several refugees had gradually moved to safe housing. Plaza has two pending court orders for its evacuation, while high-ranking New Democracy members made daily references to the “destruction of private property” and the “lawlessness” at City Plaza. In this respect, evacuation could be used as a deterrent, while many refugees, especially those with no fixed legal status, could face disproportionate consequences (deportation, detention, etc.). Even though, for some, an evacuation by New Democracy could be seen as a “heroic exit”, for which few political explanations would need to be given, nevertheless most City Plaza residents would be put in danger, especially in view of their already vulnerable and unstable status.
This reconfirmed the decision to bring City Plaza to a close, on a collective basis and in our own terms. All refugees found safe housing. In the almost eighteen months between the decision to shut down and its implementation, most refugees moved on towards Northern Europe. Out of those who remained at City Plaza, some had the opportunity to rent their own place, as they had since found employment, while others still resorted to collective solutions. Through shared spaces and other housing projects which we have already put in place, along with the impossibly persistent network of all the people who actively participated in the project (refugees and solidarians), the community will continue to exist long after the building has been abandoned.
City Plaza’s closure is linked to the wider movement’s inability to develop effective forms of organization, mobilisation, and discourse on the refugee questions, which match the demands of the time. It is true that many parts of the wider social movement decided on different degrees of involvement, being unable to support the project and/or develop similar ones, which would galvanise our efforts through a new dynamic. This position is not apportioning blame, but highlights the project as part of a wider social and political process, reflecting the ideological-political and organisational crisis within the movement, with which we will have to deal in the next phase.
City Plaza was an invaluable political experience for all who took part, but also a political event far greater than the sum of its parts. Without exaggeration, CP was the pan-European symbol which concentrated resistance to the racist and repressive migration regime of the EU, following the closure of the borders after the EU-Turkey deal was signed. Equally, it served as a strong counter-example at a time of pessimism and demobilisation for the left, and a time of resurgence for the far right.
City Plaza was a great struggle which, like all great struggles, cannot be counted as a clear victory or a clear defeat. It is a chapter in antiracist and migration struggles and, at the same time, an experiment in social movements, an unexpected mix of different needs, sociopolitical, gendered, and class experiences. This meeting, like every mixture, needs some time for the multiple experiences to settle and leave their trace on our individual and collective consciousness.In this milieu, new forms of resistance, struggle, and relationships of cooperation and solidarity will form – in Athens as well as in the dozens of cities at which City Plaza residents will arrive, as well as in the daily struggles against the barbarism or racism and repressive policies.
The City Plaza collective was, from the beginning, aware of its contradictory makeup. The alternative it proposed could not but me incomplete, dependent on the circumstances in which it was born and the subjective capacities of the movement and its people, with their brains, hearts, and bodies. Yet it was also restricted, like every struggle for rights and equal participation, which impinges on the power of capitalist exploitation, the imposition and reproduction of nationalist, racist, and gendered hierarchies and divisions.
City Plaza is a link in a chain of struggles for social emancipation. A peculiar struggle, as it began from the small and the everyday, from how to cook the food and how to clean the building, and extended to resistance to the border regime and to multiple levels of discrimination. For those of us who took part in it, CP was an opportunity to redefine and to reflect on political thought and practice, relations of power, everyday life, cohabitation and its terms, self-organisation and its contradictions. We say goodbye to S(p)iti Plaza with one promise: to transfer this rich experience, to continue to enrich and broaden the ways and the places of common struggle.
Solidarity will win!
The Greek Version can be found in Daily Resistance #6
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.
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’.
Refugees used to live in the former airport throughout 2016 for months suffering under overcrowdedness, filthy insufficient toilettes and showers, inadequate food and without any information or legal aid. While the population has been reduced visible, the camp still is inadequate to host refugees and living conditions remain poor. Many highly vulnerable people still stay there. There are elderly, pregnant women, single mothers, people with mental health problems, people with chronic and
heavy diseases etc. In the meantime, many refugees are living there since one year.
Amongst others, refugees who started the protest complained about the quality of the food, lack of basic needs as for example milk and diapers for babies and toddlers, no hot water, no laundry, lack of translators for sick persons who have to go to hospital and no coverage of their transportation there. It is matter of survival, they state. They do not care about having more clothes or more food. But: food which doesnt’ make sick. Enough food, in order not to be hungry. Heating in order not to freeze.
“There are only a hand full of persons among us who speak English
and who can translate. They have to accompany anyone who gets sick to
the hospital, as the authorities and NGOs do not provide us with
translators for these purposes nor are there translators found in the
hospitals. We don’t even get the transportation costs re-funded for the
public transport used while accompanying some sick person. Some of us
got fined more than 30 times already for using the public transportation
without tickets. We will have severe problems in our asylum procedure,
to get an ID and passport, if recognized, if we have open fines to pay.
And they will increase successively if unpaid.”
Refugees living in Elliniko are suffering also mentally from the living conditions in the camp and their insecure situation in Greece and Europe.
“There are often fights. No one feels safe. People are in a
miserable state. they don’t know what to do. Many fear to stay forever
in Greece, where even Greek people cannot survive. There are no jobs,
there is no future. We fear European policies, which aim to increase
deportations of Afghans. Some of us have their relatives back in
Afghanistan. They cannot sleep at night, because they left them back in
conflict. There are people staying here who drink and fight. There is no
safety in the camp. There is no survival in Greece and there is no
safety in Afghanistan.”
More than 60% of the refugees in all three Elliniko Sites are women and
Amongst the refugee population in the camp are women with their kids awaiting their transfer to another European state where their husbands are. There are small kids with Asthma, like this 4-year-old girl who has to go to hospital almost every single night. People lock the doors to protect the salon from the cold, so no fresh air can enter. Many people smoke inside, others cook. The sewage water from the toilettes smells. So many get problems to breath. There is also a young man who had so
severe psychological problems, that he had to be transferred into the psychiatric clinic for a month. He was paranoid, thinking at any point someone wanted to kill him. He is taking medicaments now, but he is back in the camp, staying among 700 persons with his family. There is this pregnant lady in her 6th month, who often gets pains and has to visit the hospital again and again. She still lives there. Another woman just gave birth in there one month before. She is also still there.
Now, the refugees are trying to rase their voices to the world. They are already self-organised, having elected five representatives and holding plenaries since months. Now they want to provoke change, as they cannot suffer any longer.
“I am in danger in Afghanistan. I am even in danger in Greece. I was
told to get myself an appointment at the Asylum Service via Skpye, but
Skype isn’t responding.”
A woman holding a speech on the protest today said:
“We left Afghanistan because of the life-threatening situation and
for a future for our children. You closed the borders in front of us.
You locked us up in Greece. Now you are responsible to provide us with
what is needed to survive at least. Our children get sick here, and the
one doctor we have here for a few hours a day doesn’t give them medicine
but tell them to go an drink some water or some juice. We have the right
to have a good doctor, to have medicine. Even a pregnant woman gave
birth here, because the ambulance came so late.”
“There are mice in here. There is so much garbage outside. People
get sick from being here.”
Most adult refugees living in the camp attended the hunger strike today and plan to continue until the authorities, UNHCR and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) who are responsible in the camp listen and react to their demands:
– Open homes! Open the cities! Immediate evacuation of all into
dignified living conditions!
“We need to stay in the city and in our own rooms or flats. We don’t
want to be transferred to just another tent camp or prefab camp at the
margins of society! We want our children to go to school and we want to
go to work and earn our own living by ourselves in order to build up our
lives independently. We want to be free and participate in daily life as
all others do in this country.”
– Give papers and residence to stay to all refugees and allow anyone who
wants to move to another country to relocate legally and to join their
relatives! No discrimination of certain nationalities!
“The relocation program is discriminative. The right of free
movement should be given to all refugees. Many have their mothers,
fathers, brothers or sisters, their children or grandparents abroad.
Everybody has the right to be with his or her families. All people have
the right to live and work, somewhere, where it is possible to survive.
Even Greeks are searching for jobs outside of Greece. They are surviving
by returning to stay with their families. We have no one to help us
here, no one to open his or her house for us or to give us food. If
there is a chance to survive here, to find a job here, then we will
stay. As long as there isn’t, we should be allowed to move on legally.”
– Stop deportations to Turkey! Stop deportations to Greece! Stop
deportations to Afghanistan! Stop deportations to any unsafe countries!
The right to life for all!
“We fight for our rights. We fight for the rights of the others too.
The ones who are on the islands now, should be allowed to come to the
mainland, to seek asylum here, to stay here. Currently, people hardly
arrive to Greece anymore. The Turkish and the Greek Coast Guard,
together with the European Coast Guard fight refugees back on the sea
border. They stop them, from arriving to a place for asylum and
protection. The few who still come should be given a chance to stay.
Some of them who were allowed to move to the mainland arrive to Athens
without a place to stay. They are not permitted in the camps. Others
come to Athens without permit. They even have to return to the island.
We want freedom for all.”
“They want to start returning refugees who have been fingerprinted
here after March 15th of this year, back to Greece. No one can survive
here. We like to be in Greece. There are some nice people here, the
weather is good and the mentality of the Greeks is a little bit like our
own. But there are no jobs and there is no help for us. So how can we
find a home? How can we secure food for our kids? We also liked much
more to be in our homes in Afghanistan. But there is so safety but but
“Europe is talking about the deportation of Afghans. Some countries
started already to return our people back even though their lives are in
danger in Afghanistan. Our president has signed a deal with Europe to
get money in exchange for taking refugees back. But our own politicians
keep their families in Europe for their own safety. European governments
advice their own citizens not to visit our country for safety reasons.
If we go back, we will die. Everybodys’ lives matter!”
‘One step forward, hundreds back…’ seems to be the motto under which EU experts implement refugee policy, as currently also demonstrated in Greece. On 8 December 2015, the European Commission published its fourth recommendation on the resumption of Dublin Returns to Greece, this time stating that they could be gradually re-installed, as according to them, refugee rights would be adequately protected in Greece. At the same time, images of people who fled war and are now staying in tents covered in snow are spreading through the global media. Once more, the EU is using Greece to make a point: Dublin has to survive, not matter what, that’s the plan. But in reality, this failed plan has significant consequences, causing one more massive human tragedy in Europe for thousands of people who are escaping war, conflict, disaster, hunger and poverty.
Refugees are exposed to snow and rain while forced to stay in tents and unheated prefabricated houses, some of which are old and have broken doors and windows. Over the last days awful pictures from the “Hotspot” detention-camp in Moria on Lesvos have travelled around the world. This time, small tents, not even sufficient for a short summer rain, were collapsing under the pressure of snow and the heavy rains. These pictures where taken by the inhabitants themselves, only a few days after the Greek Deputy Minister of Migration Ioannis Mouzalas had proudly announced that now most refugees would not have to live in tents any more. But refugees and solidarity people alike rose in anger immediately posting photos and videos from camps all around Greece on the internet, demonstrating the opposite. The ‘Winterization’ project failed, during a time when the EU is asserting that Greece is now a safe place for refugees, able to offer adequate living conditions and proper access to asylum procedures.
Greece is not a safe country for refugees. Refugees stuck in Greece are suffering in the inhuman and inadequate living conditions in detention centres and mass camps despite the presence of the UNHCR and numerous international and national NGOs. Refugees lack basic legal rights, access to information and legal aid. They have endured months without access to asylum procedures. They have spent months fighting for their right to stay in Greece while the feasibility of their deportation to Turkey is being examined by the EU’s so-called asylum experts. Hundreds were returned without proper access to legal aid for an appeal against the return decision, without a proper examination of their individual persecution in Turkey, without their asylum claim being heard, without a proper examination of their vulnerability, which should exclude them from any deportation procedure. Their lives have been put on hold on the islands of the Aegean and on the mainland by long-lasting procedures of pre-registration and registration. Access to the asylum procedure is yet not secured as the blocked Skype calls to authorities remain the only way to make an appointment, while thousands of families are separated and have to wait to reunite for almost one year.
Even Greeks are escaping Greece. And so are recognized refugees as there is no welfare system and no labour market, which could offer on the prospect of a dignified life. Even survival is not secured upon receiving the right to stay in Greece as those recognized are excluded even from state housing for refugees and from most of the social support structures offered by NGOs. May we remind you that Greece is suffering for years from a massive economic crisis and all people living here have to cope with the devastating austerity measures forced upon them by the Troika, by our European governments and institutions.
We strongly denounce the EU’s dirty game! The Hotspots are detention centres at the external borders of Europe, meant to select and sort human beings into ‘deportable’ or ‘not-deportable’, ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’, ‘useless’ or ‘useful’, ‘unwanted’ or ‘wanted’. EASO experts are those who carry out the selection. Frontex is not only the key-institution pursuing militarised controls and the deterrence of “refugee flows” at sea, but also responsible for deportations from the Aegean islands back to Turkey. The Dublin Regulation is a mechanism aimed to keep all refugees at the external borders of the EU. Relocation has failed with only 6,212 persons out of 66,400 successfully moving to other EU-states until the beginning of January 2016 – within the first year of a two-year implementation period. ‘Voluntary’ return is for most people the last choice, and a decision followed the suffering of massive deterrence policies, such as enduring for a year a life in a tent at the rims of Greek society. Refugees give up, finally, preferring to “die at once, than every second again and again” – a sentence that is heard over and over again by refugees in the Greek camps. The cruelty of deportations to Afghanistan is obvious, when we see how European citizens are advised not to go there due to concerns for their safety. Nevertheless, and ironically, the life-threatening situation in Afghanistan is swiftly forgotten when it comes to the granting of asylum to Afghan refugees. The EU-Turkey Deal is nothing more than the result of the blackmailing strategies of a dictator, using Europe’s desire to keep refugees out as leverage.
But Dublin will fall again! Deportations to Greece were already once stopped back in 2011 following the decision of the European Human Rights Court in the case ‘MSS v. Greece’ – and as a result of a long struggle during which many, many refugees escaped from Greece, were deported and escaped again. Some had to flee through Europe 5-6 times. But finally it was over, they succeeded often, and stayed.
Dublin Returns to Greece will be strongly contested in national and international courts again now. As we have seen, the Dublin-regulation has been overrun many times before by the struggles for freedom of movement of individuals and groups.
Mouzalas had to correct himself. We politely suggest the European Commission to do the same.
Refugees are no numbers on a tent, no fingerprints, but people with faces, names and stories!
The Dublin Regulation has to be abolished now.
Human rights violations have to end now.
People have to join their families now.
People have to be in safety and in dignified conditions now.
We therefore demand:
Equal rights for all!
Freedom of movement to all refugees in Greece and elsewhere!
The right to stay for all!
No one is illegal!
w2eu – a network born out of the struggle against Dublin returns in 2009
More than 5,000 lives lost in the Mediterranean in 2016
and several Shipwrecks already in 2017 –
Stop the Mass Dying at Europe’s maritime Gates!
WatchTheMed Alarm Phone 2 Month Report
21st November 2016 – 15th January 2017
On the 3rd of January, at 5.21am, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone shift team received the first distress call of 2017, from a boat in the Ionian Sea (an embayment between Greece and Italy). This was the first time that we received a call from this part of the Mediterranean Sea. The 55 people on board undertook the dangerous journey to reach a safe place after having risked already the perilous sea passage from Turkey to Greece. Some of the passengers had joined the boat in Greece, escaping the appalling conditions of the Greek camps. When the travellers called us, they had already spent 30 hours at sea. We alarmed the Italian Coastguard, who eventually rescued the precarious passengers and brought them to Italy. We kept in touch with one of them – a boy, one of 12 children on board, who had travelled all the way from Turkey and who hoped to be reunited with his uncle in Germany. He told us that his uncle had undertaken the same journey as a young man, fleeing from violence in the 1990s. One week later, the boy informed us that he had reached Germany already. While this particular story seems to have found a happy end, it demonstrates how many people, including children, have to continue to risk their lives on dangerous sea journeys to reach EUrope, as safe corridors for them do not exist.
This cruel reality was confirmed once again in the most harrowing of ways in the second week of January. On Friday the 13th of January, our shift team supported a boat in the Western Mediterranean Sea. They were already close to Spain but lost orientation. The Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo searched for them but then, in the evening, decided to not continue their search overnight, which, in our eyes, was a far-reaching mistake. They seemed to problematically assume, without evidence, that the boat was still in Moroccan waters, and that Moroccan authorities were actively searching for them. When they were finally detected, one woman had lost her life on the boat, and two men remain missing. Another boat that had left from Morocco, carrying 12 people and including two small children, remains missing. The hope to find any of them alive is fading, not least as the six corpses that were already found may be from this boat.
A day later, on Saturday the 14th of January, Father Zerai alerted us to a boat carrying more than a hundred people in an emergency situation in the Central Mediterranean Sea. They were in acute distress and the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre sent out Search and Rescue vessels. However, rescue came too late for the vast majority of travellers. The vessel capsized, and only 3 men and 1 woman survived. While it was initially reported that there were about 100 fatalities, the survivors now report of many more, of possibly up to 180 people who were killed by Europe’s borders.
As these cases show, the EUropean strategy of border closure does not work to stop the movements of people, but makes their journeys only lengthier, costlier, and more dangerous. The risk to perish on the way to EUrope has further increased. In 2016, the overall number of sea arrivals via the Mediterranean has dropped to 361,709, compared to about 1 million in 2015. At the same time, while the number of sea arrivals in Greece decreased after the infamous EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, the closure of the Balkan route, and worsening conditions in Greek internment camps, the arrivals from North Africa to Italy increased: more than 181,000 people successfully embarked on the perilous journey via the Central Mediterranean to Italy – even more than in the preceding years. The number of people who died or went missing in the attempt to cross has gone up from 3,771 in 2015 to more than 5,000 in 2016. The real number of EUrope’s border fatalities in the Mediterranean is likely to be even higher, given that many cases are not documented.
The staggering number of sea fatalities resemble those of war zones and should prompt, with great urgency, a radical re-orientation in the ways in which EUrope governs its borders. If there were safe ways to cross, the 5,022+ would still be alive. But what we witness instead are novel draconian measures to stop people from entering EUrope. Deterrence policies are further on the rise, the sea is increasingly militarised and borders are externalised. In line with EU border externalisation strategies, as showcased with the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, the EU is now collaborating with Libyan forces to attempt to undermine unauthorised migrant crossings in the Central Mediterranean.
The rescue and survival of those in distress at sea is obviously not a priority for Europe. Without those who struggle every day to make migrant journeys a little bit less dangerous, who have sent out humanitarian search and rescue vessels or operate, like us, hotlines to support those in distress, 2016 would have been even deadlier. And these are the actors who now face an attack by the European border agency Frontex! Frontex accused humanitarians of colluding with smugglers – a cynical accusation meant to undermine their valuable and desperately needed work and divert attention from the real causes of migrant suffering and death. They do not want civilian actors and activists in the sea monitoring their border enforcement practices. They want the sea to kill. The border agency’s objective is clear: reduce search and rescue activities off the coast of Libya and let even more people drown as a policy of deterrence.
Doctors without Borders have powerfully responded to these allegations, stating: “Smugglers may indeed ‘profit from our presence’, as they will profit from the EU naval forces that work beside us and profit altogether much more from war and poverty across the world and the desperate people who look for an escape route which the EU still refuses to provide. Search and rescue is not a solution, it’s a band aid that will never prevent people from dying at sea. With more than 4,800 people drowned, suffocated, burned to death or missing in 2016 alone, we are effectively patrolling a graveyard in the Mediterranean Sea. […] MSF did not create smugglers, just like MSF did not create the conflicts and deep inequality many of those we rescue flee. Until politicians reverse this absurd situation in which we find ourselves, MSF will continue to try and save the maximum number of lives as possible, both on land and on sea.”
In 2017, we will continue to support the disobedient movements that continue despite the increasing militarization, externalization of borders, and anti-search and rescue missions.
Just like in the Central Mediterranean, crossings in the Western Mediterranean have increased in 2016 – both to mainland Spain and the Spanish enclaves. On the 9th of December 2016, 438 people managed to climb the fences to the Spanish colony of Ceuta; the biggest group in a decade to enter Ceuta. In the very beginning of 2017, on the 1st of January, 1100 people tried to enter Ceuta. This led to clashes with Moroccan and Spanish police forces, and out of the 1100 people only 2 made it to Ceuta. The others were either stopped before they could reach the fences, or immediately pushed back to Moroccan territory. Only a few days later, on the 5th of January, hundreds of Moroccan police officers attacked all the camps in the forests around Nador, where they burned down the camps and arrested many. This massive attack came just weeks after it was announced that Morocco would restart their regularisation campaign. This shows clearly the massive gap between Morocco’s official human rights discourse and the de facto treatment of migrants in Morocco. While many people try to jump the fences to Ceuta and Melilla, others continue to attempt to cross the rough sea in winter. One of the reasons for their crossings is the high level of repression they face in Morocco.
For the year to come, we promise to struggle on to make sea crossings a little less dangerous, as we have done in the past two years when we supported more than 1,775 boats in distress. In 2016 alone we did so in 500 cases. We are determined to speak up against those who show hostility towards the newcomers, who preach hatred and seek to divide us. We will welcome those who had to risk their lives to find protection in a new community, a trans-border community that is inclusive and open, based upon the principles of global justice and the freedom of movement for all. We believe that a world without borders is possible, in which both Frontex and the smugglers would then have disappeared.
Summaries of Alarm Phone Distress Cases
In the past two months, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was alerted to situations of distress in all three regions of the Mediterranean Sea. We were engaged in 18 distress cases, of which 9 took place in the Central Mediterranean (including the case in the Ionian Sea), 6 in the Western Mediterranean and 3 in the Aegean Sea. You can find links to the individual reports of the past 6 weeks below.
Central Mediterranean Sea
On Tuesday the 22nd of November 2016 at about noon, Father Mussie Zerai alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea and forwarded a Thuraya satellite phone number to us. We immediately recharged the credit of the phone and tried to call the travellers, but did not reach them. At 1.45pm, we informed the Italian MRCC about the boat in distress and forwarded its satellite phone number. At 6pm, the coastguard confirmed to us that the boat was found and that all travellers had been rescued. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/602
On Sunday the 27th of November 2016 at 9.20am, Father Mussie Zerai informed the Alarm Phone about a rubber boat in distress with 110 travellers on board, including 30 women and many children and babies. He forwarded their GPS position and Thuraya satellite phone number to us and we tried to call the phone, but without success. At 9.50am, he informed us about a second boat, the first one had started together with, but has lost sight of. At 10.15am, we called the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome and forwarded all information we had received so far. At 4.20pm the MRCC confirmed to us that the first boat had successfully been rescued, and at 5.20pm the confirmation of the rescue of the second boat followed. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/603
On Tuesday the 29th of November 2016, at 7.40am, we received a distress call from travellers near Tanger Med, Marocco. We could not get more information, because the phone connection broke off and we did not manage to get in touch with the travellers after the first contact. At 1:15pm, we eventually decided to call the Spanish search and rescue agency Salvamento Maritimo. They told us that they had not rescued any boats today, but that the Moroccan Marine had intercepted the boat we had been in touch with and another one. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/594
On Monday, the 5th of December 2016 at 5.35am, a contact person alerted us to a boat north of Sabratha carrying 70 travellers, amongst them families and five children. At 6.55am we decided to pass on the information we had about time and place of departure to the Italian coast guard. For the rest of the day both we and the contact person kept trying to reach the travellers, but without success. At 3am the following morning we got a confirmation that the travellers had been rescued to Catania, Italy. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/597
On Tuesday, the 6th of December 2016, we were alerted, via Father Mussie Zerai, to two boats in distress. In both cases Father Mussie Zerai had already informed the Italian coast guard. At 3.54am we learned about the first vessel, carrying 156 people, and we were forwarded their satellite phone number and their position, showing that they were north east of Tripoli. At 4.55am we informed the Italian coast guard about the vessel. At 5.20am we reached the travellers for the first time, and they gave us a new position. From around 9.30am we could no longer reach the travellers, and by monitoring their credit we could see that they were also not in contact with others. At 11.25 Father Mussie Zerai alerted us to a second vessel in distress. He didn’t know their exact position, but forwarded their satellite phone number. At 11.36am we reached the travellers, but communication was almost impossible. At 12.28am we reached the boat again, and this time we learned that they were a group of around 100 travellers, amongst them women and children. We also managed to get their position. After this call we called the Italian coast guard and passed on the coordinates of the vessel. From around 2.30pm it was no longer possible to reach the travellers. In the evening we found a newspaper article stating that 473 travellers had been rescued by the Italian coast guard today in five different rescue operations. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/598
On Saturday, the 10th of December 2016 at 7.10am, Father Mussi Zerai alerted us to a group of 150 travellers in distress on their way from Libya to Italy, forwarding us their satellite phone number. At 7.40am we managed to reach the boat, but the connection was bad, and it was not possible to get any information. At 8.00am we reached the boat again, and this time we managed to get their position, which we passed on to the Italian coast guard. At 11.20pm we got a confirmation from the Italian coast guard that the vessel had been rescued and that all the travellers were safe. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/599
On Tuesday, the 3rd of January 2017 at 5.21am the Alarm Phone was called by a group of 53 travellers in distress on their way from Greece to Italy. We later managed to re-establish contact to the boat, and were informed that they had been travelling for more than 30 hours, and that amongst the 53 people were 12 children. We called the Italian coast guard and passed on the information and position. At 6.20am we received a confirmation from the travellers that the rescue vessel had arrived. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/600
On Friday the 13th of January 2017, our shift team was alerted to a boat in distress in the Central Mediterranean, carrying about 90 people. At 5.10pm we were able to speak to the travellers. We spoke to the Italian MRCC in Rome at 5.20pm and passed on the information we had. At 6.30pm we spoke to the travellers again and instructed them how to find their GPS position. They also informed us that they could see a big vessel nearby which, however, was not reacting to their calls for help. At 6.50pm they finally passed on their GPS position to us which we passed on to MRCC Rome. At 7.37pm, MRCC Rome thanked us for the provided information and told us that rescue operations were ongoing. At 10pm, MRCC Rome confirmed that the boat had been rescued and all people on board were safe. On the day, about 550 people were rescued in the Central Mediterranean Sea, and two dead bodies were recovered. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/607
On Saturday the 14th of January 2017, our shift team was alerted by Father Zerai at 5.43am to a vessel in distress in the Central Mediterranean, carrying over a hundred people. In the following hours, we tried to reach the travellers repeatedly on their Thuraya satellite phone, but we could not get through. The MRCC Rome informed us at 12.22pm that they were searching for the boat but they were unwilling to pass on any further information. Then the news broke in the media about a tragedy in the Central Mediterranean. MRCC Rome still refused to provide further information. Father Zerai then confirmed to us the day after what we had already feared: the boat had capsized. There were more than 100 people on the boat, and only a few survived. At 11.45am, MRCC Rome also confirmed that the boat had capsized, with only 3 men and 1 woman surviving. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/608
Western Mediterranean Sea
On Monday the 21st of November 2016 at 5pm, a contact person called the Alarm Phone, informing us about 8 travellers who had departed from Tanger/Morocco in the direction of Tarifa/Spain on a rubber boat on the morning of that day. He forwarded their phone number to us and asked us to alert the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo (S.M.). We did so and stayed in contact with both S.M. and the contact person during the following hours, but the travellers could not be found. On the next day at 2pm, the contact person informed us that the travellers had been rescued by fishermen and had been brought back to Morocco. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/592
On Thursday the 24th of November 2016 at 7.35am, the Alarm Phone was called by a contact person from Morocco and informed about a rubber boat that had left Tanger/Morocco at 5am, with 10 men and one woman on board. We were provided with the travellers’ phone number and were able to talk to the travellers at 8am. We alerted the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo (S.M.) at 8.15am. At 9.56am, the Spanish MRCC in Madrid called us and confirmed to us that the 11 travellers had been rescued by S.M. and were brought to Tarifa/Spain. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/593
On Tuesday the 6th of December 2016, at 9.03am, the we received a call from 11 people, including two women, in distress on their way from Morocco to Spain. They had already been on their way for around 6 hours, and the boat was starting to lose air. At 9.22am we alerted the Spanish rescue organisation, Salvamento Maritimo (S.M.), to the case. At 11.23 we got a confirmation that the boat had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/595
On Saturday the 10th of December 2016, at 9.00am, a contact person alerted us to a boat on its way to Tarifa, forwarding us the phone number. We managed to reach the travellers who informed us that they were a group of 10 people, including one woman, and that they had left six hours earlier. At 9.25 we called the Spanish rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (S.M.) who told us that they working on coordinating the rescue. At 11.44am we called S.M. again, and they confirmed that the travellers had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/596
On Tuesday, the 3rd of January 2017 at 12.05am, we were alerted by a contact person to a group of 33 travellers, amongst them four women, on their way to Spain. They had left Morocco at 4am from a beach close to Nador. Communication with the boat was very difficult. At 2.45pm we passed on the information about the vessel to the Spanish search and rescue organisation, Salvamento Maritimo (SM), in Almeria. We later spoke to the travellers who told us that water was leaking into the boat, and that they could see the aircraft of SM above them. At 7.30pm we got a confirmation that the boat had been rescued and all the travellers were safe. They were all taken back to Nador. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/601
On Friday the 13th of January 2017, our shift team was contacted by travellers on a vessel in the Western Mediterranean. In several phone conversations with the boat-people, we learned that there were 10 people on a black rubber boat that had left from Tangier/Morocco about 2am. They could not specify the exact location of their departure and were also not able to pass on their current GPS position. We reached out to Salvamento at 8.38am and passed on all the acquire information. They informed us that they were engaged in another Search and Rescue operation and wondered whether this was the boat in question. […] At 9.44am, Salvamento told us that they were in contact with the boat but not yet able to find them. As of 10.44am, we were unable to reach the boat-people any longer. […] The next day we learned that Caminando Fronteras knew of 21 people who had disappeared the day before, with two bodies already found on the beaches of Tarifa. […] The following days we received further information about the shipwrecks. […] By the time Salvamento found the boat, one woman had died on board and two men had gone missing. The survivors, 5 men and 2 women were brought to Ceuta. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/609
On Thursday the 24th of November 2016 at 6.45pm, a contact person informed the Alarm Phone about eight travellers who had stranded on the Greek island of Samos and forwarded a phone number to us. At 7.20pm we reached them and learned that they were seven men and one woman. They were walking in a forest but had lost orientation, even not knowing on which island they had arrived. We explained to them how to find out their position and asked them to walk on in order to find a road or even to reach a village. On the afternoon of the next day we received confirmation from the contact person that they had been picked up by the police on Samos island and had been brought to the refugee registration centre. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/604
On Friday the 25th of November 2016 at 10pm, the Alarm Phone was directly called by a woman who informed us about a friend of her, who was stuck in a forest close to the river Evros at the Turkish-Greek border for two days. She had lost contact to him 8 hours ago and was afraid that he was injured or had lost consciousness. She forwarded his last known GPS position to us, which was on the Greek side of the border, close to the village of Souflion. In the following hours we tried to reach various numbers of the Greek police and other organizations in this area, all without success. At 1.15am, we reached the Hellenic Rescue Team and convinced them to call the local emergency number 112 and to forward the GPS position of the man. At 7.40am we learned from the Greek police that they had searched at the given position and in the surrounding, but did not find anybody. In the evening of this day, the contact woman confirmed to us that a friend of her had found the missing person. He was in need of a doctor but had survived and reached Greece. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/605
On Friday the 13th of January 2017, our WatchTheMed Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a vessel in distress in the Aegean Sea. Shortly after midnight, our contact person informed us via Facebook about an inflatable boat near Demircili, in Turkey, seeking to reach Samos/Greece. The boat had departed about an hour earlier but now had problems with the engine. We tried to reach the travellers repeatedly, but were unable to get through. At 2.26am, the Turkish coastguard confirmed to us that the group had safely returned to land. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/606
Up to 30.000 refugees started heading to Turkey during the last 48 hours, Spiegel Online reports based on the information provided by the volunteers. This follows several attacks by IS at refugee camps in Northern Syria. However, Turkey refuses to let them to cross the border. As already known, Turkey is building a 911km long cement wall along the border which is said to resist missile attacks. According to Human Rights Watch, one third of it has been finished.
IMPORTANT – today we came into possession of a document issued by the Greek authorities (Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos) stating the inadmissibility for international protection to an individual’s claim based on presumption of Turkey as a Safe Third Country. If this continues as a practice, the principle of non-refoulement mentioned in the EU-Turkey agreement will be most certainly breached. The document states:
„(…) the application that she lodged is rejected as inadmissible, because Turkey is considered to be a safe third country for her.
Furthermore, I informed the applicant with the assistance of the interpreter that he has the right to appeal this decision before the Appeals Committees within 5 calendar days starting tomorrow and that the appeal has automatic suspensive effect. In case the decision is not appealed against within the above time limit, the applicant will be removed from the country. “
According to the UNHCR, there were 106 reported arrivals yesterday to the Greek islands, and 36 departures to the mainland. According to their numbers, which are based on the Government data, today there were 46,450 people on sites in the Mainland and 7,216 people in the islands. According to these numbers, today there were 4142 people at #Lesvos, 1823 at #Chios, 772 at #Samos, 316 at #Leros, 12 at #Kalymnos, 44 at #Kos, 77 at #Rhodes, and 30 at #Megisti.
There were 3770 refugees in #Athens #Piraeus, 4358 in 3 sites of #Elliniko, 1502 in #Eleonas, and 1939 in #Schisto.
Besides Northern Greece, large numbers of refugees are accomodated in the following camps accross the rest of the country – 1021 in #Katsika, 578 in #Filipiada, 809 in #Larisa (Koutsochero), 2009 in #Pieria (5 locations), 1060 in #Skaramagas, 717 in #Ritsona, 1100 in #Malakasa, and 882 in #Lavrio (2 locations).
In the Northern Greece UNHCR reports the presence of 10392 refugees in #Idomeni, 1237 at the Polykastro Station, 3963 at #NeaKavala, 3983 in #Cherso, 780 in #Giannitsa, 816 in #Alexandreia, 2281 in #Diavata, 382 in #Thessaloniki Port.
Volunteers in #Lesvos report no boat arrivals today to the Northern coast, while no information is available for the South.
Preparations to clean up a refugee camp turned detention center in Moria in advance of the Pope’s visit tomorrow do nothing to address the deteriorating conditions in the center, where 2,900 people are locked up in a facility meant to hold 2,000, reports The Independent. Save the Children reports conditions for children in the center are appalling. Volunteers report that the more than half of the refugees have been moved to #KaraTepe where at least volunteers are able to access them and assist with better food and clothing, as a part of the preparations for Pope’s visit. Those who are still in #Moria have been given much better shelter, tables and chairs to sit at to eat meals and a much cleaned, repaired and painted environment. All graffiti outside suggesting that borders should be opened has been covered with whitewash.
On his visit to Lesbos this Saturday, Pope Francis should visit the Lesvos Solidarity Camp #Pikpa, a volunteer-run camp that since 2012 has given shelter, care, and comfort to thousands of the most vulnerable asylum seekers who have reached the Greek island of Lesbos by boat, says HRW. Now the island’s mayor wants to convert this haven into a holiday resort. Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, Pikpa has become a sanctuary of refuge. The situation is worse now, since the EU and Turkey agreed to a deeply flawed migration deal last month, by which everyone arriving by boat from Turkey is automatically detained. Moria is now a detention center where people will not have adequate access to health or psychosocial care or services for young children and persons with disabilities. Efforts to stop Pikpa’s closure are underway. The advocacy group Avaaz has started a petition; open for signatures, calling on the government of Greece and the mayor of Lesbos to keep Pikpa’s doors open. A visit by Pope Francis could also help save PIKPA and its vital efforts to alleviate suffering, HRW reports. The petition is available through the following link http://bit.ly/1TVEZ6F
Volunteers in #Kastellorizo were told that the 30 refugees who remained at the island will be taken to the hot spot in #Leros on Monday. Volunteers there report no new arrivals for nearly 2 weeks. The ferry companies who run from to Kastellerizo are building up to their summer schedule so it is much easier to get volunteers over there at short notice now.
28 refugees are detained at #Kos right now. 51 imprisoned refugees were brought to Lesvos and back to Turkey last week. Flying Help and Kos Solidarity are still providing additional food and clothes for the detained people, whenever the police allow them to. The planned hot spot is still not ready, even if it was planned to open today. A new date for its opening is not set yet. Volunteers report no new arrivals to the island for already a week.
Volunteers in Pireaus report on the case of a family whose child needed a surgery and who were taken to the public hospital where there was no room. Since there was no room in any of the hospitals or camps, the family was left to sleep in the street overnight, since they could not afford an accommodation.
Donations are needed in Camp Petra Olympou in Northern Greece. There are about 1000 Eazidi refugees from Syria and Iraq accommodated, mostly from Idomeni. 480 of them are children. It is a military camp with decent tents but meals are military rations (bread, small box of something like egg/potato pie) and a bottle of water, as reported by volunteers. There is running water at the camp, but camp managers have told people it is not safe to drink. People complain that there is not enough drinking water. Also there is no camp staff other than military, so the sanitary conditions are unsatisfactory. There is no light around the camp as it is dark at night. There is no electricity in the tent areas. People are asking for charging stations for mobile phones. Volunteer help is needed, too.
They need – food, medical supplies, milk for children, blankets, clothes. The contact number is +30 698 641 5751 (Tariq who speaks English, Kurdish and Arabic).
Volunteers report on the #Alexandria Camp, which is a camp open for only 11 days, it is military run, but there is a strong cooperation with the established volunteer group. On that site, the army prepares the food, but the volunteers have to buy baby food. There is a measles outbreak and the camp is in need of nurses and doctors. Refugees in general report that the present medics are very busy. Volunteer group has secured funding to renovate the abandoned buildings on site, and there is a plan for refugees-run shops and a communal kitchen. Everyone is registered and has a ration card, so there are lists to ensure that everyone gets the right amount of food. The army prints the lists with the size of shoes and clothes for volunteers so the refugees can get exactly what is required. The nearest hospital is 45km. It is not allowed to make fires in camp so no one can cook. Inside the tents people seem to mostly sleep in camp beds. UNHCR is present on site apparently 3 times per week; however the refugees do not know anything about asylum rights. There are snakes, as everywhere.
However, at the #NeaChrani location, at 40 minutes distance from Alexandria camp, there is no medical coverage now. Allegedly, they had volunteer doctors who started demanding money. So, there is a need for doctors and nurses in Nea Chrani that can stay 2 weeks or more – please help if you can.
14 groups of independent volunteers in #Idomeni have shared their General Statement today. They respond to the accusations by the media and the politicians for inciting violence or spreading false information among the refugees. They say: „We believe that spreading false information amongst a vulnerable population is immoral, gives false hope and only causes more harm. These false accusations have only resulted in the increase of police activity and the unjustified arrest and detention of at least 25 volunteers in recent days. These actions only reduce the already limited access the refugees in Greece have to basic needs such as; food, hygiene, medical care, shelter and education.“
News that Moves reports that a group of volunteers have set up an informal school for refugee children at the Idomeni camp. According to the Greek news agency ANA-MPA, at the makeshift ‘Idomeni cultural centre’ daily classes includes math, Kurdish and Arabic language. Courses for adults are also held. Refugees who have studied math, science or languages are teaching in the school. Volunteers are giving children English and German language classes
Migszol volunteers asked the Serbian and Hungarian Authorities and UNHCR on both sides to facilitate access for NGO’s and Volunteer groups to the stranded people in #Kelebija and #Horgos. Between 60 to 200 people are waiting in front of the two official Tranzit Zones on the Hungarian-Serbian border for days, some of them for weeks. The Hungarian authorities reduced the number of accepted entrances from 30 to 20 recently and often they accept only 12 or 15 people. Usually they chose one or two families, take them in and close the doors for another day, volunteers report. During the last few days, the practice was that they let only Syrian or Iraqi families in. The Afghan, Pakistani, Iranian, Somali families are left waiting, and eventually return exhausted to Belgrade. One Afghan family is stranded there for 4 days and nights with several small children. The mother is pregnant. They have been talking to UNHCR on both the Serbian and the Hungarian side with no success. So far only MSF and UNHCR get access to the people stranded on the Serbian side of the Hungarian transit zone. No other support structures are in place. Nobody is allowed to hand out tents, which means that people are exposed to all weather conditions. There are no sanitary facilities at all. The situation is deteriorating daily.
In #Belgrade Migszol witnessed 200-300 new arrivals daily during the last week -numbers are increasing, not decreasing, volunteers say. Most of the newly arriving people come through Bulgaria, where they have been jailed and tortured, chased through forests, walked for many hours and lacked food and water. Nevertheless, NGO’s are planning to withdraw in many places, closing their missions, while numbers show that the need for support is increasing.
Serbian media B92 reports that on Friday morning police officers forced their way into a house in Sinjska Street in Belgrade where a group of migrants had previously barricaded themselves. They were searching the house and talking with the people in the yard, before taking 16 of them to a police station where they were interviewed. No incidents occurred during the intervention. B92 learned that 16 migrants lived there for months, with the number sometimes reaching 50 people, and that they have no documents. Women and children are among the group. According to unofficial information, the owner of the house lives in Germany, while “his son occasionally visits the house.”
On April 15th, the Croatian transit camp #Slavonski Brod was closed. This camp, that was officially able to host around 5000people was intended to be transit camp, but since the push-backs at the Route and since the Route’s closing, it became a sort of a detention center for over 300 refugees stranded there, among whom there were minors. During the last couple of weeks, many of them applied for asylum in Croatia – they were transferred during the last couple of days to the asylum seeker center in Zagreb (Porin Hotel), asylum center in the town of Kutina and asylum center Ježevo (single men). Croatian authorities have closed the refugee camp, due to its inadequacy for the long-term stay of the refugees. The last 62 refugees accommodated at the camp did not seek asylum in Croatia were transferred yesterday to Porin Hotel in Zagreb (corr. 16/4). Are You Syrious? and Welcome Initiative volunteers are in touch with the people in these centers.
Volunteers report that a family from Afghanistan was deported from Austria to Croatia today. They were in Austria for 6 months.
Austrian media report that the Austrian police rescued 27 refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, including 16 children and a teenager, out of a truck cargo bay in #Rohrbach in Upper Austria about 20 kilometers from German border on Monday. The smuggler was arrested.
Austrian media also report that trafficking has strongly increased in the Eastern Austria during last weeks, according to Federal police. In April this year 44 cases of smuggling have been reported only in the Upper Austria. Police suspects that the small groups of people (usually 8 to 10 persons) are brought to Austria in small trucks or transporters from Hungary. The desired destination is Germany. On Thursday night 43 refugees have been brought to Burgenland. The authorities expect a massive increase of smugglers in the following period.
Austrian government wants to transfer 160 million Euro to the World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA) during the next nine years, starting from 2017, which makes about 15 million Euro per year. Several media report that this money is meant for refugee relief in the Middle East. The Austrian council of Ministers is supposed to accept this proposal next week. (source: Tiroler Tageszeitung)
According to Huffington Post, Austrian President Fischer declared: “Rumors about a border’s closure between Italy and Austria are false and misleading. ” Fischer claims that without an adequate protection of the European external borders the situation forces Austria to adopt further measures to stop people, whose identity and motivations are unknown, coming in unlimited numbers from non-EU countries. EU commissary for internal affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos disagrees on Austria’s intentions. He argues that these initiatives put Schengen’s agreements at risk. He formally demands to Austrian ministry Mikl-Leitner an adequate report stating what is going on at the border and why. According to Avramopoulos, verifications on identity are “total”, and no hints suggest that massive migrants’ flows are shifting from Greece to Italy.
Italian regional journal, Messaggero Veneto reports that thirty-four associations for the rights and assistance to migrants wrote an open letter against the responsible people for the decision of closing an underground passage, currently used as shelter by refugees. The signatures of citizens are currently being collected. President of the border region Friuli Venezia-Giulia and the associations accuse Austria for the decision of a wall, and they blame Italy for not supporting refugees, as they had previously requested.
According to the Italian RAI, the Italian Prime Minister Renzi submitted a letter to the EU Parliament where he argues that the management of the migrants’ flow is unsustainable, without a thorough and participatory cooperation with the departure countries. Substantially, Italy urges the EU Parliament to speed up the process of liaising with countries such as Libya, in order to avoid massive migration. He proposes to deliver financial resources to the transit countries, to block illegal migration, to manage an extraordinary plan of repatriation, and to support legally, logistically, financially and structurally the partner countries in screening migrants (distinguishing refugees and economic migrants).
Volunteers report that there were lot of arrivals in the last three days – more than 2.000 people arrived to Sicily. Southern Italian hotspots are already full, it seems that the people are stuck there, however the volunteers do have the information about the people who were able to escape. They also report very difficult conditions for volunteering in the island of #Lampedusa at the very South of Italy, due to the large number of soldiers in the harbor. According to the volunteers, a lot of people use Bozen/Bolzano as a transit zone to arrive to Munich from Sicily and the rest of the Southern Italy. Volunteers report that currently there are no people in transit, but that they are all stopped in Southern Italy.
Nearly 70,000 unaccompanied minor refugees are currently in Germany – more than twice as many in comparison to the last year. Since they are considered to be particularly vulnerable, intensive supervision is supposed to be provided by the social workers for minors. The reality is rather different. Because of the sharp rise in numbers, the staff is inadequate in many areas. “In certain cases, a guardian looks after 100 minors” Around 6,000 children and young people are still missing, reports Huffington Post.
Volunteers in #Paris report that the refugees there urgently need food. They say that the situation is critical and that many of these people have not eaten in days. Food delivery is dependent on local volunteers and it is scarce, which is causing conflicts among the people – volunteers report that last night the police tear gassed the refugees after one such conflict occurred. If you can help, please contact volunteer Ruhi Loren Akhtar.
According to Norwegian newspapers Aftenposten, Norway has signed an agreement with Italy and Greece to bring out 1,500 asylum seekers over two years. It is part of the EU program to remedy the situation in the two countries. EU’s own member states have failed their efforts and has only accepted a small number of refugees: 160,000 should be moved from Greece and Italy over two years. To date, only 1,145 people has been able to travel to another EU country. Also Norway has promised the EU to take refugees. Vice-secretary Berger Røsland confirms that the agreement for the relocation of asylum seekers to Norway is signed – 1500 refugees who have come to Greece and Italy are to be moved to Norway.
Photo credit: Volunteer to AYS – The document issued by the Greek authorities (Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos) stating the inadmissibility for international protection to an individual’s claim based on presuming Turkey is a Safe Third Country.
This is a petition made by the people in Idomeni camp. They are forced by Greece government to apply for asylum through a skype call. They have to call a skype number, which is never available. they write:
n Idomeni camp, living in tents in the mud, rain and sun for over forty days, life is becoming a normal hell, frustrations are rising as we lose hope.
Our emotions cycle between apathy, frustration and decreasing hope as our lives are reduced to a routine of sleeping and waiting. Waiting in line for food, for tea, and to charge our phones, and waiting on hold for a Skype call that is never picked up.
Our lives are stuck in limbo.
And even though you know we are here, you force your eyes to look away.
The current system for us to apply for asylum or relocation – to continue our lives beyond camps in Greece – can only begin with an appointment made by a Skype call with very limited capacity.
See the following link for more info
Skype is frustrating at the best of times, but when your future depends on the call?
For people living in camps with limited access to electricity, smart phones, computers, or internet, this is a cruel and senseless procedure.
After we make our applications for asylum or relocation we may will still have to wait months – or even years – for decisions about our future to be made. But at the very least let us begin the wait now with some certainty – that we won´t be in this camp forever.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, Panagiotis Kouroumplis, Ioannis Mouzalas and Maria Stavropoulou
- We want you to change the current hugely inadequate system of only being able to make asylum appointments to the Greek Asylum office by making a Skype call that is never picked up.
- We want you to replace Skype with a face-to-face service in the refugee camps here in Greece.
- We want you to increase the resources spent on this crucial service, to ensure that those of us who ran from war, who for weeks upon weeks have been living in a hopeless Limbo since the borders closed, are given a sense of hope that our lives can continue.
Please help us leave this limbo
Please change this system
Please let us apply for asylum or relocation in person in the camps
Please sign the petition
لقد اصبحت الحياة في مخيم ايدوميني كجحيم تغزوه خيمٌ في الطين و المطر و الحر لأربعين يوماًو الاحباط يعلو وجوهنا مع خسارة الأمل ، حيث يموت الناس هنا ببطيء يوماً بعد يوم، ويتناوبالأمل و الإحباط و اللامبالة مؤثراً على مشاعرنا ونحن نرى حياتنا تنحصر في روتينٍ من النوم والانتظار في طوابيرٍ للطعام والملابس وشرب الشاي كطريقة عصرية مبتكرة تهدف لإعدامنا . إن حياتنا تدور في المجهول، حيث أننا محصورون بعنق زجاجةٍ تحجزنا وعنق الزجاجة هذه ليست بأكبر من رأس الإبرة، وبالرغم من معرفة الجميع بحالنا هذه يرغمون أعينهم على النظر بعيداً عنا.
إن النظام الحالي للتقدم للجوء او لإعادة التوطين لإستكمال حياتنا خارج هذه المخيمات في اليونان لا تبدأ ألا بموعدٍ من خلال الإتصال ببرنامج السكايب ضمن إمكانيات محدودة لإجراء هذا الإتصال.
إن برنامج السكايب محبطٌ في أفضل أحواله، فكيف اذا كان مستقبلك يعتمد على مكالمةٍ بإستخدامه ؟
لأشخاص يعيشون بمخيمات بالكاد تتوفر فيها الكمبيوترات و الهواتف الذكية و الإنترنت و حتىالكهرباء، فإن هذه العملية فعلاً لقاسيةٌ وعديمة الرحمة، و حتى بعد تقديم طلباتنا للجوء أو لإعادة التوطين سيتوجب علينا الانتظار لأشهر أو حتى لسنوات لقرارات ستحدد مستقبلنا، على الاقل دعونا نبدأ مرحلة الإنتظار هذه الآن باعطائنا أمل بأننا لن نضيع مستقبلنا في المخيم و نبقى به للابد. – نريد منكم أن تغيرو هذا النظام الحالي الغير ملائمٍ إطلاقاً بأن لا يوجد خيار غير حجز موعدٍ للجوء في مكتب اللجوء اليوناني عن طريق إجراء مكالمة باستخدام السكايب الذي لا يجيب اطلاقاً.- نريد منكم إستبدال طريقة الحجز عن طريق السكايب بمقابلاتٍ وجه لوجه بالمخيمات .
– نريد منكم زيادة النفقات المسخرة لهذه الإجرائية المصيرية للذين هربو من الحرب وعاشوا أسابيع و أسابيع في مكانٍ عديم الامل منذ إغلاق الحدود لإعطائهم شعوراً بلأمل باستمرارية حياتهم
– رجاءً غيروا هذا النظام.- من فضلكم دعونا نقدم للجوء أو إعادة التوطين في المخيمات.
– ساعدونا على مغادرة المجهول.- رجاء وقعوا على هذه العريضة .
*Arabic ** English below *** Francais en bas
Stop deportations – There is enough space for everyone!
Aufruf zur Demo am Freitag den 15.04.2016 um 16Uhr am Alexanderplatz gegen die Abschiebungen in die Türkei und für die Aufnahme von Geflüchteten.
Seit Montag werden Flüchtende von Griechenland in die Türkei abgeschoben. In die Türkei, in der gerade munter jegliche Freiheitsrechte eingeschränkt werden und ein Krieg gegen die Kurd*innen läuft. In die Türkei, zu der Amensty International berrichtet, das von dort Menschen zurück nach Syrien geschoben werden. Mitten ins Kriegsgebiet.
Zeitgleich sitzen Zehntausende Flüchtende an der griechisch-mazedonischen Grenze in Idomeni und in den Inhaftierungslagern auf den griechischen Inseln fest. Knapp die Hälfte der Menschen dort sind Kinder, bei denen diese Lebensumstände lebenslange gesundheitliche und psychische Folgen haben können. Viele der Menschen habe enge Familie in anderen europäischen Ländern. Familienzusammenführung funktioniert jedoch nicht. In der Türkei beträgt die durchschnittliche Wartezeit für einen Termin zur Vorsprache für Familienzusammenführung 14 Monate. In Idomeni können Termine nur über Skype gemacht werden. Die Nummer ist ständig blockiert.
Wir fragen uns wo bei diesen Deals und Gesetzgebungen die so viel beschworenen Menschenrechte bleiben. Es scheint das Bewusstsein zu fehlen, dass es Menschen sind wie wir, die dort an den Grenzen misshandelt werden. Wir möchten uns solidarisch zeigen mit den Forderungen der Menschen an den europäischen Außengrenzen: Öffnet die Grenzen! Stoppt die Abschiebungen in die Türkei und in andere Länder!
Kommt zu unserer Demo am Freitag den 15.4. ! Zeigt eure Ablehnung gegen den Deal mit der Türkei ! Macht deutlich, dass hier noch Platz ist für Geflüchtete ! Zeigt euch solidarisch mit den Menschen an den europäischen Außengrenzen !