Letter to the World from Moria (No 12)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Hinrich Schultze

I am mother Earth

I have existed for billions of years. Every century I raised new generations, but I have never been at the same time as proud of myself as I am today and as sad and disappointed as I am today.

Today, I stand tip-top on some incredible advances and discoveries achieved in this world. Yet, it looks like my residents are returning back to old false thoughts, thoughts thousands years old. Thoughts of egoism, thoughts of greed, thoughts that make you fight between each other, that made you built borders in order not to share between your kind or other creatures.

I am mother of you all. I am equally belonging to all people. You can all live on me. So what are these borders for that you created? Why don’t you open your doors to each other? Why don’t you get rid of racism and come together sitting on one table?

We are a family. Didn’t you realise? Is it possible for one child to ask another child to give him back his mother? Is she mother to just one child? Which mother can be happy to see one of her kids happy and wealthy and another poor and miserable? Which family can draw borders between its members? You are all earths people, how can one be more and another less?

You want to conquer other people, other countries, other planets. Have you pleased me, to now think that you will please other planets? Did you look after me so now you think that you can look after other planets?

Today, more than any times in the past, I need protection from you people and people need protection from each other. Instead of looking after me, you want to conquer me, you think that I belong to some few of you. You don’t want to care and to share…

Don’t you need me all in order to survive? I am soil and water for you, and if the goal is to live and not to turn others into slaves, get a piece of land for yourself and give a glas of water to others.

Every day, with your growing greed I fall into more trouble and you loose yourselves. Your attempt to conquer me burns forests into ashes, forests that have grown over thousands of years nurturing us with oxygen. Seas turn red with human blood, and more lands with their thousand years old history, turn into dry sand.

Your pressure on me is ever growing. With every century of your “progress”, I get closer to the end of my life. You want to exploit me, but don’t you realize that you deplete me every day, that you end my days and yours.

Why don’t you content with what you already have? Why don’t you protect the treasures in your hands? Your life would be terribly short if I belonged to one man only, if you were alone. If you continue the same way, you won’t be able to have me for more than 100 years more. I will die. You will die.

So let the people see the grasses also in future, let them touch the lawns, let them smell fresh air, let them climb the mountains and swim in the seas. Don’t force the future generations to spend all their days and lives with masks! My ozone layer is being destroyed. I cannot escape harmful radiations anymore, all because of you! Every day by making more nuclear power, by building more factories, I come closer to the end of my life.

Your egoism and greed is my death. But my death will be your destruction. It will affect all of you. Every day more species of herbs, plants and animals become extinct. More humans lose their lives fighting in front of the borders of your greed and pride.

People were all born with many hopes, but not feeling the joy of life, they lost everything. When I see that in one part of me, people die from hunger and children are threatened by malnutrition, and in another part of me, people go under surgery‘s blades to lose weight, I feel anger.

I am sorry for the countries where people live below the poverty line. I should also say: I am sorry for the residents, of those parts of a country, living under the poverty line, while just next to them others live on top of joviality. I feel pain for those who work in their own territories for other people and give their own natural wealth away for a few cents.

It pains me to think that, millions of years from now, the inhabitants of other planets would call Earth “the planet of the greedy species”, and amazed from the horror, they will look at the destruction caused by atomic wars and missile weapons.

You have closed the borders, when in one of my hemispheres population density is low, while in my other hemisphere it is very high. The rich eat more, the poor face hunger more.

Are not the rich countries of the world responsible for that? The nations, the presidents, the politicians, the businessmen? Have they not taken away all natural resources? Should they not feel shame? They don’t. Instead the rulers, the real thieves, just give “development aid” and present themselves as benefactors to our world. They interfere in politics of other countries, they throw down governments and start wars to “save” others.

In a period when Europe has decreasing birthrates and schools and universities close down because of a lack of students, in Asia and Africa and in most other continents, thousands of schools are destroyed under bombs and students are deprived of education.

In an era when generations should deliberate together to get to know and understand each other, people have raised borders higher and thousands die as a result, including children, pregnant women, old men.

One day from the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea terrible screams will rise — screams to break down the borders. I have never raised borders to hold someone out. Nature has always stretched a friendly hand to all – so hold it tight.

In an era when you still want to visit Mars, I have never constructed a border. You were created as free people and freedom is what you deserve. I need life not borders. No one needs borders.

Come together to find new ways to protect life and dignity. I am getting old and I cannot tolerate fumes of chemical factories, atomic power’s gases, missiles, atomic bombs.

Let one day of life be a gift for yourself and give one day also for all the others.

I turned centuries around the sun to give your life, but, today, when I need you to listen to me, don’t turn your back on me. Earth don’t want no borders. Earth want people united.

One can wander to the East or the West, to the North or the South, but where home is, it is the best.

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (Nr. 11)

Author: A migratory girl

Life of a Transgender

I am in Moria Camp.

Being a transgender means not to be of female or male sex, neither man nor woman – but of transgender sex. In a society like Afghanistan, being a transgender person is like being an extra-terrestrial, landing on earth from outer space. In Afghanistan people think of sex binary: only female and male are considered as “normal” genders.

In Afghanistan I used false names. I am Mina. This name gives an understanding that I am a girl. Yet, every day, during my whole being, my soul screams: “I am not a girl! Don’t cover your self with these clothes.”

I was born, in 1992, in Mazaresharef, the western province of Afghanistan. Being a girl in such a society carries guilt. Being a transgender born as a girl carries double guilt. So when I realised that I was not really a girl, my life became a nightmare. I felt myself separate from everyone, not belonging to any of the dominant sexes. Although I had a female body, I wanted to be with boys, behave like a boy. Playing with them, learning with them, speaking with them was pleasant for me.

While I was little, my family allowed me to do more or less what I wanted. But as soon as my female body developed, they didn’t allow me to be what I wanted to be, as I wanted to be. They were always thinking about their reputation and honour and not about what I wanted. When I became 18, I felt like a prisoner in the jail of my female body and I couldn’t tolerate anymore wearing girl’s clothes. So, I decided to take off my hijab and be what I wanted to be.

I loved one of my classmates and I was all the time with her. She didn’t know everything about me. She just knew my deep feelings for her and she thought that I was like all girls. Sometimes, she felt uncertain and would ask if I was ok. Soon, I decided to speak with her and with my family.

First I told her all my feelings, that I really loved her and wanted to be with her all my life. She was shocked, but she accepted me and wanted me to be what I wanted to be, not what others wanted me to be.

When I then spoke with my family, they told me that they would kill me if I did not do what they wanted. They also told me that there was a suitor asking for me and that he and his family were coming the next day to visit to ask for my hand. I should just dress like a lady and that was it!

I thought ok, I will do what they ask me to do. I will get married, but I won’t have any relation with him. Relations need feelings and I had no such feelings for him or any men. I thought, I will divorce him after two months, I promise!

I did the opposite. I went to a barber and cut off my hair like a boy. Then I wore a t-shirt with a pair of jeans and went home.  

My older sister was shocked to see me like that and told me to change my clothes immediately and wear a scarf. “Otherwise”, she told me, “our father will kill you”.

I put a scarf over my short brown hair and wore a skirt over my jeans.

The guests came and I got married, but I had no relation with him. We were together for two months and then I divorced.

When my father learned that I divorced, he beat me up. My eyes became black and purple.

“What is this,” he shouted. “Do you want me to kill you? What did I do wrong to you that you behave like this? What did you want, that I didn’t give you”, he shouted and continued to beat me.

“You didn’t give me my right,” I answered. “Did you ever ask me what I wanted? Did you ever ask how I felt? Did you ask anytime how I wanted to be? You know nothing about me,” I went on. “You were always thinking about your reputation and honour, not about your child.”

And as I was speaking my voice stopped. I was sobbing. “Your crying won’t change anything,” he cried, “I will decide about you.” He threw me out of the house and that was the last time I saw him.

It’s about six years that I have not had a single contact with my family.

My mother died some years ago and my two sisters got married. I went to them.

I couldn’t stay a lot with my sister. Her husband, my brother in law, was not happy with me and his behaviour towards me became worse and worse. I understood that I could not stay there any longer.

One day, my bother in law called me in the room and told me: “We are taking a decision about you. As you know, our financial situation is not good and we cannot spend money for you. We will tell you our decision tomorrow.”

I felt totally stressed out. I didn’t know what he was going to decide and how it was going to be. That night was like a nightmare for me. I couldn’t sleep. Yet, I was pleased with my new style. I was day-dreaming all night long in front of the mirror, brushing my short hair and changing my parting hair line.

The next day, the sun was shining and I was still day-dreaming. I wanted to become a lawyer to protect the rights of people, make the world a just world. But they burned my dreams, they burned my child and my adult dreams. They burned my hopes.

In the morning my brother in law asked me: “Will you change yourself?”

“No”, I replied.

“Won’t you change your decision?”

“No!!!”, I insisted. “I know who to be and how to be. Everyone has the right to chose.”

“We are not in Europe, never forget it”, he shouted. “I live in society, with many other people. Every day I hear them speak about you. Their words bother me. I don’t have any problem with you working in the municipality, or you going to university, but I cannot tolerate that people speak about you and us.”

I was living with my sister for 3,5 years. But, after this conversation with my brother in law, I decided to leave them and not to make them uncomfortable anymore.

I was sad, hopeless, upset and disturbed. I realized that I was alone. Alone in all respects. Totally alone in the whole world. I didn’t know what to do and where to go. I cried, and cried. I cried continuously.

I went to my classmate who had promised to give me money to escape from Afghanistan and become free — free to spin in the air for all to see me. No need to hide anymore.

I found a family that also wanted to go Germany. So I took the money from my classmate and I went with them to Farah, then to Nemroz, the nearest city to Pakistan’s border. Then we went to Pakistan, to a city of thieves, war and deception. When we were there, I didn’t know that I should dress like a girl and wear a hijab. I thought it would be more tolerant and open-minded than Mazar-e-Sharif. But when we arrived at Nemroz, I understood that I should cover all my body. Even then, however, everyone was looking at us as if we “women” were guilty of a crime. Then I understood that they were looking at us, because our men wore t-shirts and trousers, clothes very different from theirs, since they were all wearing long dresses and Tomban (traditional trousers). So our men changed their style and borrowed a Pirahsn and Tomban for themselves.

We were eight nights at the Pakistan border and this was the most difficult part of our journey. One night three men wanted to invader our tent while we were sleeping, but fortunately our men stopped them and had a fight with them. They left, but, after that, we couldn’t sleep all night.

We reached Iran, a country of racism and hatred, between Shiites and Sunnis, Iranians and Afghans. When we were there, we spent three days in the mountains. The weather was very cold, but no one of the smugglers helped the families that had children. I felt very sorry for the family of that baby who fell from the mountain and died.

Finally we arrived to Turkey.

The UNHCR helped me a lot in every respect. When they learned that I wanted to change my gender, they tried to collect money for the operation. Unfortunately there was no doctor to perform such an operation. They suggested that, I should go to Europe.

I spent two and half years in Turkey. After six months, I got a money card, and every month, I took 7 hundred and fifty Lire from PTT. But as I had to pay for rent, water, gas and electricity that money wasn’t enough for me. So I was peddling everyday at the corners of the streets. I do the same here too, just to earn 5€.

It’s so hard when somebody asks me, how many siblings I have. How can I say 6, when I have not been with them for so long? I share nothing with them.

Isn’t it wrong?

It’s very hard when somebody is looking at me strangely and I sense that he or she wants to ask me who and what I am.

I cannot say anything. I just hide myself, hide my gender, because of my feelings and I hide my feelings, because of others.

I passed the borders not to be hidden!

I risked my life not to be hidden!

I lost everything not to be hidden!

I did all of that in order to live in freedom, and I will continue my struggle until I achieve my freedom. Freedom for ever.

I hope that here I will be free!

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (10)

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Author: A migratory girl

Seeking for protection in a world of war

Where is safety?

In a camp with 14,000 refugees coming from different places of earth living under inhuman conditions one piled upon the other, the authorities can do very little to protect us. In fact, the miserable conditions they force us to live in, the inhuman laws and rules they subject us to create a small world of violence - a form of systematic violence against all of us. If you live this violence day by day, you become part of it. In the end we humans, who are currently refugees in your Europe, must defend ourselves, our tents and our families against a generalised violence from above, but also from all sides. This violence can come come from any side now.

Where is safety?

If you live under conditions not worth for animals, violent conditions, then you can become violent any time yourself even if you share the same pain. 

I feel powerless against this violence. I feel it crawling in our veins. I don't want to become a part of this. I feel shame, when I see anger growing between people who suffer the same pain and shame when I feel anger rising inside me. 

Instead of establishing friendly relations between each other as oppressed people that face the same discrimination, we become part of the reasons of fear.

We escaped war, but it seems we are in war again. There is no way out. This is the war to survive the jungle called Europe.

It is so painful to witness women and children unable to sleep, afraid of violence. Their men must stay awake to guard in front of the tents, to protect their families all night. A pi8ece of nylon, a zipper separates them from any intruder.

Today when, more than ever before, we need each other, we are afraid of each other. We don't know from which side we could be attacked. We don't know who is a friend. We have lost trust in life and people because there is no system to protect us and to make us feel like humans among humans. 

Today instead of curing our wounds hand in hand, we put salt on each other’s wounds.

We are trapped in a desert where no one will help us and no one will ask about our whereabouts.

I am responsible of myself. Within this violence, I have to do the first step to not become part of this. I have to criticise me first and start the change from inside myself, as no help will ever come from outside. We have to start from ourselves, from our families, our communities, to stop the violence and to raise up against this system. 

I don't want to brake. I don't want to feel shame for my actions. I will stand firm against you violence and answer it with raised head and open fists. 

We crossed thousands of kilometres to find a life in safety, but it seems that there is no security here for us. I stopped believing that we will find a place in peace. We have to find peace inside us and withstand the war going on outside.

When violence erupts in Moria, when the police beat us, when people riot or even fight, we cannot count for protection by anyone. We have to find the solution to beat the monster.

Can you imagine yourself living in these conditions, having survived war, facing daily violence... Could you control yourself, stay calm and start peace if after all your fate was unclear for months and years while trapped in Moria?

Living under such anxiety and insecurity, we people are under permanent shock; we experience panic and trauma daily. We inflict injuries to ourselves and others. There are even kids hurting themselves and trying to commit suicide.

Where is safety? 

Clubs, tear-gas, wooden sticks, stones and knives... Fists and kicks.... 

Our shields of protection are naked hands and our dignity. All our wealth is our blankets and our few warm clothes. Fear of losing even these keeps us near our tent 24 hours a day. But even if we decided to move away, where could we go?

During the day, the knowledge that darkness is always near and fear of violence shakes our body.

For how long?

Wolves hunt in the darkness of night and the shepherds look after their flock. But here the wolves are the shepards, the shepards are the sheep and sheep turn into wolves. 

No sleep. No dreams.

Where is safety?

How long are we going to search for safety by holding guns in our hands? These hands, which long for a pen not a gun!

Open your doors for our lives'!

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 9)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Salinia Stroux

I am mother

I am mother of three children and  wife of a sick husband. He has a hernia on his backbone. He cannot walk. Neither should he get tired. So, I must look after my entire family on my own.

I am a woman, softer than flowers, but this life makes me harder than rocks.

Every day, as the sun rises, my mission starts. I wake up at 5am. I spread the blanket over my children. Then I go to get food. I walk 800 meters to the food line.  The line starts at 6:30am., but I want to be up front, the first one among a thousand women.

All this waiting for just 5 cakes and one litter of milk, which I suspect is mixed with water.

My boy has a kidney infection for five years now. He cannot tolerate hunger. I must go back as fast as I can.

When back, I gather all the blankets and spread them on the tent’s floor.

I sweep in front of my tent. With my own hands I made a broom from tree branches. I wet the soil with water to prevent the dust and dirt from coming inside.

I hardly finish and, once again, I must run to the food line for taking lunch. The queue starts at 11:30am although they distribute the food only at 13:00pm. So the whole waiting process, under unbearable conditions, starts for me again. In the line for hours, I do not know what happens to my children: Are they well? Are they safe? Has my son’s pain started?

We have been here for 200 days. And every week, we eat the same food – repetitive, tasteless, with no spices, little salt and oil. Three times a week beans, once meatballs, once chicken and once rice with sausage, which we don’t know for sure if it is Hallal. But I force my children to eat so they won’t stay hungry.

Securing meals is only one of my tasks. I must also wash my family’s clothes. As my children are all the day outside, their clothes get really dirty. Trying to clean the stains my hands get all chapped, the skin cracks. I need to rub them with oil every night.

I hang the clothes and, tiredly, I walk, once more, to the line for dinner—dinner only by name. Dry bread, one tomato and one egg. We must wet the bread to chew it. This is no dinner. When we have nothing to eat, we have to eat onion with bread (it’ s hot for children but we try to eat it cheerfully).

When my day finishes, I am really exhausted. But I do not want my family to notice. I fix my face. It should show no sadness, no fatigue. I hide my chapped hands from my husband and my children.

Sometimes, I don’t make it to the food line, because of the long queues, which I have to stand in to visit the clinic. I go there at 7:00am, but the process is very slow and, usually, every patient takes about 20 minutes inside. Then, the situation of my child gets worse than it normally is, because of his exposure to the sun and the polluted air outside. We need a specific permit to go get some drinking water.

Waiting in queue for four hours, without any toy or game, is very hard for children. It is equally hard for pregnant women like me. I know my husband is not happy when he sees me trying to manage on my own every day. But there is no other way. We don’t have anyone to help. Only ourselves. And he cannot.

I am my family’s strength, their courage, their hope. If I lose hope, who will stand by them? Who will help them? No one.

When the sun sets and darkness spreads, I am filled with fear. I fear also when it becomes cloudy and it rains. I fear the wind, I fear the cold. How will I protect my family? With what will I protect them, when we do not have anything?

When you don’ t have any resources, what are you going to do? I collect the blankets from the floor and spread the cardboards instead. The blankets are our covers at night and the carpets during the day.

I am a mother and wife. My children are the pieces of my heart and my husband is my blood. They are all I have in my life. But who am I for myself?

I don’t have time to even see myself in the mirror. I don’t have time to comb my hair once a day. I don’t have time to brush my teeth in 24 hours.  I can’t take care of my skin. I can’t be a woman .

I am content to sacrifice myself to make a comfortable life for my children and my love, my husband. Because I am a woman. It is my choice to be like this. Life is hard here and there is nowhere good to go.

I was given the documents to go to the mainland. But I canceled my ticket. On the mainland, the authorities will put us in a hotel, far from hospitals or clinics that we depend on. What am I going to do there with my sick child and my husband and myself pregnant? We need (specialised) doctors. We need protection and care. 

I am sorry that I don’ t have time to speak with my family as a mother, as a wife and as a friend. Because I don’ t have more power. I can’ t do more in 24 hours, than bring food, go to clinics, stand in lines.

I have had enough. I can’t continue anymore. Truly, if I didn’t have my children, I would have committed suicide. I live only because it is worth living for them. And now, I am pregnant and I carry one more life in me.

I am one for myself, but four for my family. Soon I will be five…

Parwana

p.s. For all the mothers!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 8)

Author: A migratory girl

My pen won’t brake, but borders will

I didn’t know that in Europe people get divided in the ones with passports and the ones without. I didn’t know that I would be treated as ‘a refugee’, a person without papers, without rights. I thought we escaped from emergencies, but here our arrival is considered an emergency for the locals. I thought our situation in the camp is an emergency, but in Europe the meaning of emergency for people like ‘us’ is to be dead.

Under the conditions we live exposed to heat in summer and rainfalls in winter, in the middle of garbage, dirt and sewage water, unsafe in permanent stress and fear facing the violence of the European Asylum System in this small world of 15,000 people – we are all emergency cases.

In fact in Moria, most arrived already with injuries in their souls and sometimes on their bodies. But here everyone gets ill, also the healthy, and our situation let our sicknesses turn to emergencies very fast.

Consider the story behind life in Moria hotspot: Having spent days, weeks or months walking up and down hills, over rocks and in between trees while living in a forest. Standing in queues for hours. Lost between what we think of as protection and what they create to hinder us reaching it.

In Europe we become like ping pong balls. The authorities shoot us from one office to another, back and forth without ending and without understanding what, where, why – which makes our situation worse and worse. Even the ‘success story’ of receiving finally a residence permit can’t end the discriminating looks we have to live with every day.

We are not another quality of people; another class of humans; another kind. We are different people with thousand different stories. What unites us is just that we had to leave our homes.

So stop treating us different. Stop lying and pretending that people are safe here. Stop saying Europe was a better place, when it is only better for some and not even accessible for others.

We are not treated like being a part of Lesvos’ population, like Greeks, like Europeans. Our destiny depends on a bureaucrats decision, on the economical value of a political decision in favour of migration or not, on the political mood dominant in the continent, on European strategies and plans. It is not build on the foundation of ‘us’ and ‘you’ being one kind.

I am a girl in a tent and I am thinking about this world as the days won’t pass by and I am waiting for the permit to leave this place.

My pen wont brake unless we won’t end this story of inequality and discrimination among human kind. My words will always brake the borders you built.

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 7)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Parwana

For a bread – for life

Life has normally ups and downs, but my life has always been flat. I have been trapped in a deep valley.

I am getting close to my lives’ end. At an age when every old woman needs to rest, I push my heart to work and earn money for my husband who suffers from heart problems and for our son.

Yet, instead of taking care of my husbands sickness, we must first prove his illness, they say. Our words don’t count, but only papers. Do we need to take out his heart to show he is ill?

After many medical tests we undertook with many difficulties, they told us that his illness should be certified by the doctors of the big hospital. The name of his sickness has to be written in words on a paper. They didn’t tell us, who will cove his transportation costs to go to town? Of course no one will!

When my husbands’ heart suffered, I desired my death as I could not help without a Cent in my pocket…

Days passed. I decided to build a tandoor (trad. oven) to bake break and sell it. I thought, I could purchase the necessary ingredients by borrowing some money from one of our relatives, who had a cash card. Just 0,50 euros, that’s all I needed! I touched the fifty cents and my old hands were shaking. Not only because of my old age. Not only because of my worry for my sick husband. They shake at the thought of the thousand year old olive tree that will burn under my tandoor. I tremble with the idea of the axe reaching the old tree. I can feel its crying out. Yet, I must have fire to bake my bread. …

But it is the rule of nature: Eat or be eaten.

How many troubles have I faced in hope of today’s bread to cure my husband. Yet, I need a cure too. My heart burns at the thought of the felled burning trees. But, I must ignore my heart, I must take care of my old husband. I must bake the bread!

With my old hands I shall prepare dough that needs powerful arms, but my arms are weak and shaking. I will do it! I will wake up at 4:00am! First, I will read my prayers. Then I will start the dough. Flour, oil, salt, yeast and water. I will mix them all together. And then. I will let the dough rest. Once raised, I will cut out small shapes and let them rest again. By 7:00am the pieces will be ready for the tandoor.

My son walks far away onto the hills to collect dry wood and start the fire. Oh, how the old trees turn into ashes. My son instead of going to school will go around trying to sell the bread when its ready. From the early morning until the late evening he will call people to buy it. There are a lot of bakeries nowadays in Moria and selling is very difficult.

Hundreds of steps, hundreds of moves, a lot of sweat in respect of life, in respect of the bread and in respect of the trees.

This is our situation and this is how we spend our days. No one knows about it. No one can see. I have always been in the flat valley. No ups in my life. My voice, my cries will never be heard. They are old and weak. My shaking hands will be never held by a stronger hand. In this age, they still have to hold my family.

I want to be a friend of nature, not its enemy. I want to pass my last days with my family in rest, to have some comfort, to sit for days in the shadow of the trees, not to burn them. But life is very ruthless. Sometimes we people are obliged to do things we don’t want to do it. See what life forces us to do…

What if someone in this world would hold my hands, so I could become an ally of nature walking away from the deep valleys, up to the mountains and the sun?

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 6)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Salinia Stroux

I am a volunteer translator

I am the father of two children. I am the husband of a woman full of emotion. And above all, I am a human being. It is only one aspect of my current situation, that I am also a refugee, one among thousands of others.

Every day, I work for hours to help people access services and solve their problems. Every day, exhausted, I run 900m distance to eat lunch in hurry, and quickly come back to continue help more people.           

On these days where I am helping, my wife carries all the housekeeping responsibilities alone: She looks after the children, waits in endless lines to get some food for us all, washes clothes, puts some order in our abode. She does all these things with pleasure, so that I can help translate the troubles of the people standing in the sun for hours, in need for someone to communicate on their behalf.

What happens to our children when she needs to go away from our tent and leaves them in our neighbour’s tent? Are they safe? They will not be bothered by someone? They don’t miss us? Such questions torture me during all the day.

Today, I am sorry that my name is father. I am sorry, that I cannot be the good father – as I want, that I cannot be the good husband – as I want. I try to be a good father, and I try to help all the others who suffer the same conditions like us.

Today, while I was translating for a doctor the symptoms of a patient, when a familiar sound of crying, reached my ears. I did not have the heart to leave my work half done and check of the person belonging to that voice. So patiently, I continued, trying to keep my attention on the words I had to translate. Yet, that familiar sound set off  an explosion in my brain. Finally, when I was needed no more, stressed-out and anxious, I approached the door. 

What I had feared, a few minutes before, was indeed true. That was the sound of my wife’s crying as she tried to come inside to see the doctor. In her arms, there was our daughter, unconscious. The girl had been vomiting a lot in the tent, she explained, and when they started out for the clinic she fainted. The guard advised me that she should have taken our daughter to the Doctors without Borders (MSF). But I wasn‘t able to open my mouth to  utter the words. 

The sight of my wife‘s eyes, now blood-shot, and the sight my listless daughter in her arm left me speechless and my mind blank. I could not even explain that she was my wife. Only, when she started suddenly, to shake, did I come back to myself. So I turned to the nurse and did what I did for all the other patients: I described what had happened. The nurse went to have a look, only to tell us that it would have been better to bring her earlier. How could they have come all that distance faster? Did she not know our difficult living conditions? When she went to examine our child, I, too, went back to my work. I didn’t want people to stay waiting while sick like my child, in that bad weather.             

When my working time finished, we started out for our tent: my wife, my daughter and me. Feeling a bit better, my little girl lifted herself and asked for a juice. But…

However, the UNHCR, the European Union and Greece get thousands of Euros everyday. In spite of that, they do not hire enough translators to help sick people in clinics inside the camp of Moria and in the big hospital. Lack of translators, even in emergencies, is one of the most common problems of people.

To rely on migrant volunteer translators is shameful. Europe should feel shame. When even in its own hospitals nurses speak no English, how can they expect it from people who come from places where many kids have no access to proper education?

Parwana

p.s. Thanks to the father, husband, human being, volunteer translator, who shared his story and happens to be a refugee today!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 5)

Author: A migratory girl

These eyes bother me!

I am young girl full of energy, power and self-confidence. Everyday there are a lot of voices inside me inviting me to let this energy out. BUT I am in Moria, between thousands of unclean eyes, that are looking to my body and not to my soul. These eyes bother me. I can not play volleyball. I can not even just walk straight down one path. My head should be down. When I am crossing the roads it is difficult like passing the borders for me.

200 metres to the toilets. 400 metres to the food queue. Again 400 metres back. Along this distance there are hundreds of eyes looking to me.

Girl-molesting is common, is daily. Even when they disturb us we are not supposed to answer them. We are not supposed to turn around. We can not say: ‘Don’t follow me! Stop bothering me!’

While washing my clothes I feel ashame, because boys are looking to me. I can’t look back to them, because they will misunderstand. So all sport places are used only by boys, all playgrounds are used only by boys. And we are locked inside.

Even men in the age of my father look to my body. I don’t know where I am. This doesn’t look like Europe here. When I was at school I learned that Europe is the mother of freedom, but I am living in the middle of eye violence. There are everywhere eyes. There is nowhere freedom. I am a prisoner here and this is the jail. I will not be able to forget these memories.

Instead of playing with other girls, I have to stay inside. Instead of walking proudly, I should walk with my eyes turned down. I am forced to feel shame and fear.

See, I am actually like you. I am thirteen years old. I am a young girl. But I have to wear a scarf because the look of my hair is a source of their lust, they say. Why I should cover my head, because they cannot control themselves? Why I should cover my head at all? Why I have to get limited, punished? I am a human being but they are looking to me like animals, like I was their prey. I am afraid of these wolves. I am afraid of losing my honour, the respect and I start feeling bad just because of my gender.

But it’s enough! Stand up girls! Stand up women! We are not their objects of lust! We are not the prey of wolves! We should shout out that we want to be safe! We want our rights! We want to look up!

Parwana

P.S. I am sorry for all of Moria‘s girls who suffer the same, and specially for my sisters.

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 4)

copyright: migratory girl

Author: A migratory girl

A baby with 3 days Diarrhea and vomiting…

Just a mother can understand me. My baby got sick and she started vomiting and having Diarrhea for three day. I was seeing her crying, but I could do nothing. I was seeing her vomiting, but I could do nothing.

This is the third day that I am going to doctor waiting for four hours in the back of the door, but no one cares. In one day I had to bring her about 14 times to the toilette and every time I had to wait 10 minutes in the queue.

After waiting for four hours at the clinic, they gave me just two spoons of syrup and a tablet that didn’t help. Every night I had to stay awake till morning with my daughter and again I had to go to the clinic at 05:00am, even though the clinic opens at 08:00am, but I had to take a number.

I want my daughters’ health back. We are all mothers and we are all human. We want to see our kids smiling. We are living on one planet. While you are designing your daughters’ kids room. I am trying to keep mine warm at a fire.

I had to take by girl to town hospital finally, but even I didn‘t have the 2€ to buy a bus ticket. I had to borrow it.

Now, god gave her health back, but still I cry because when she wants to eat a banana I don’t have money to get it for her. When she see sweets in other children’s hand asking me to have one for her own, I can’t buy it to her. I am unable to satisfy her whishes. I feel I am a very bad mother, because I gave birth to her but now I cant give her anything she wants.

I didn’t choose this situation. I didn’t want to be in this prison in Moria. It is something that fate chose for me.

But you are able to help. You can chose. You can take our hands and stand beside us. God gives to one and takes from another. He tests us. I am sure, I will loose this test, because I have children and I will not be patient when I see their feelings.

Don’t help me! Help my children! Help our children! They are making their first steps in life. Please don’t let them down. Don’t let them feel weak and alone in this huge world.

From a chat with one mother of many in Moria camp…

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 3)

copyright: Maria Schiffer

Author: A migratory girl

I AM A MINOR WITHOUT A GUARDIAN

See what are our problems…

In Moria we have no place to stay. We are without shelter among thousands of adults and strangers. We sleep on the floor, in tents and anywhere we can find until we may get a place in a overcrowded container.

We are alone and there is no love. I feel I am the most lonely person in the world. We have no relative, no family to be with. We have no one to talk to and to protect us or give us advise. It is the main reason why we think of suicide and why many of us end up in addictions.

We have nothing useful to do. Oh, I became tired of life. It is boring to just wait not knowing why. There are no activities for us. There is no variety in our days but always the same rythim. Everyday is same in Moria. There is no difference between yesterday and today. I am a teenager full of energy. I should get rid of this energy like a snake empties its poison. I want to learn things, do things, grow.

This situation destroys me. It is changing my thoughts.

I am thinking to go out of this camp and this island in any way – legal or illegal. I would even climb under a truck to enter the ferry to Athens. I cannot be here anymore.

I am thinking what I should do? I am desperate because I have no money. I start smoking today, maybe I will take drugs tomorrow to not feel hungry, to not feel the time being stopped, to just to be far from this bad world.

I am thinking if I should wait for four months for a medical age test to correct my age or I should just run.

I am feeling hurt, seeing the others who have their mothers next to them and a shoulder to cry, someone to trust.

I become like a lost kid, who doesn’t know what to do, where to go. I need guidance.

I am thinking that every person I find in front of me is a wolf looking for a goat. I am scared.

I am thinking, why is there is no candle on my dark way?

I am bothering girls to make them feel weak and me strong.

I become afraid of losing everything, loosing my believes, loosing myself, loosing my way.

How long am I going to be here in Moria?

How am I going to survive this?

Whom can I trust?

Hundreds of us are in this situation here. We are more than 1.000 on this island, in this hell, I heard. Together we could have the power to build a city, to improve a countries’ economy, to change big things. Instead we don’t even know how to not destroy ourselves. We just need someone to hold our hand and lead us to the wright way, to tell us about good and bad, wright and wrong. To tell us how to use our power in a positive way, a way that will make us proud before ourselves and before our families and the society, someone to remind us who we are.

Parwana

P.S. Special thanks to Yaser. I hope you will find your way my friend!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 2)

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Author: A migratory girl

The way from Afghanistan to Greece; stories of unsafe border crossings

The reasons for my people of escaping their home are different according to their individual stories, their families, jobs and the situation in their villages / towns or origin, but the main factor is the internal and cross-border war – not just for us Afghans but for most of the refugees.

When forced to leave and choosing to come this way, we are risking our lives in order to survive in the end. Even after considering all dangers and the possibility of death, still this is the better choice among only bad alternatives.

All refugees from Afghanistan have to cross several borders to arrive here. Even though some may start with different possibilities, with or without Afghan passports, with or without residence permits from Iran/Paksitan, valid and invalid ones, we all suffer hundred dangers on the way. Some start their escape route in Afghanistan, others have been already living for years as refugees or people without papers in Iran and Pakistan, some were even born as refugees.

We ride on motor-bikes, pick-ups, trucks with too many others driving through stony deserts. We walk many klimoetres over mountains and through rivers. We cross fences and seas. We find ourselves confronted with police, soldiers, smugglers and thieves. We spend nights outside without knowing where we are, without blankets in the cold, rain or snow and without food and water. They shoot on us, we get robbed, kidnapped, threatened, raped. We see dead people along the road. Many of us are kids or minors, many escape with their families, with their grandmothers and grandfathers or sick relatives.

Do you think, this is a simple choice to take this route to freedom?

On the way out of Afghanistan to Europe, there are places controlled by thieves where even the smugglers and soldiers are afraid of. I heard the story of family whom thieves stoped to rob all their belongings. They threatened them, that if they wouldn’t give them what they wanted, they would sexually abuse their women. They survived the attack but were left with nothing but their lives and the clothes on their bodies. İn another case five minors were robbed, beaten and taken hostage for two nights, where they wouldn’t get more than a small piece if dry bread a day. They added that they felt horrible, as there were also two girls in hostage who got both raped and murdered. İn another case a family told me, how they crossed the desert with their four kids and two other families. There was no shadow, no shelter. They were without water and their kids dehydrated. They struggled: Either peace or death.

When we arrive to Iran, we face a country full of racism against Afghan refugees, who build the majority of immigrants there. The country likewise our home, is full of racism against the atheists, ethnic or religious minorities, political opponents. It is a country, where refugees cannot attend formal education or get the nationality even if born there. It is a country where violence against women, strangers and even their own people is often silenced and remains unpunished. A country where you cannot speak freely. A country where citizenship is sold for the price of death as a soldier in war.

After crossing the rocky mountains, we reach Turkey. A family expressed it like this: “We were stuck for two nights on a snowy mountain. When our small baby started crying the polices came and arrested us. They deported us all the way back to Afghanistan. So we had to pass again Pakistan’s border and then İran’s border.

The sea between Turkey and Greece is a black water full of deaths and corpses. People died because the priority in Europe is to control borders and not saving lives.

Do you think these parents are ready to put their children lives in danger?

No one, no one, no one… chooses this without having a bigger danger behind his/her back. These mothers and fathers are afraid in every moment. They decide to risk death just to give their kids the hope of peace.

We refugees walk on a path of fire, from which we try to escape. When we see another way, one without fire, we will chose it without thinking a second, without knowing if there will be other dangers. We have to choose the other way anyway, so that we won’t burn. This other way, the one without fire, is where Europe put barbed wire, where war ships stop us from reaching, where our dreams for peace get lost in the sea and the “lucky” ones end up in the hell of Moria.

Do you really think we arrived here easily?

Parwaneh

Letter to the world from Moria hotspot (No. 1)

Author: A migratory girl

Put yourself in our shoes! We are not safe in Moria. We didn’t escape from our homelands to stay hidden and trapped. We didn’t pass the borders and played with our lifes to live in fear and danger.

Put yourself in our shoes! Can you live in a place , that you can not walk alone even when you just want to go the toilette. Can you live in a place, where there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors that no one can stop attempting suicides. That no one stops them from drinking.

No one can go out after 9:00 pm because the thieves will steal anything you have and if you don’t give them what they want, they will hurt you. We should go to the police? We went alot and they just tell that we should find the thief by ourselves. They say: ‘We can not do anything for you.’ In a camp of 14.000 refugees you won’t see anyone to protect us anywhere even at midnight. Two days ago there was a big fight, but util it finished no one came for help. Many tents burned. When the people went to complain, no one cared and and even the police told us: ‘This is your own problem.’

In this situation the first thing that comes to my mind to tell you is, we didn’t come here to Europe for money, and not for becoming a European citizen. It was just to breathe a day in peace.

Instead, hundreds of minors here became addicted, but no one cares.

Five human beings burned, but no one cares.

Thousands of children didn’t undergo vaccination, but no one cares.

I am writing to you to share and I am hoping for change…”

Parwaneh

Letter to the world from Moria hotspot (No. 1)

Author: A migratory girl

Put yourself in our shoes! We are not safe in Moria. We didn’t escape from our homelands to stay hidden and trapped. We didn’t pass the borders and played with our lifes to live in fear and danger.

Put yourself in our shoes! Can you live in a place , that you can not walk alone even when you just want to go the toilette. Can you live in a place, where there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors that no one can stop attempting suicides. That no one stops them from drinking.

No one can go out after 9:00 pm because the thieves will steal anything you have and if you don’t give them what they want, they will hurt you. We should go to the police? We went alot and they just tell that we should find the thief by ourselves. They say: ‘We can not do anything for you.’ In a camp of 14.000 refugees you won’t see anyone to protect us anywhere even at midnight. Two days ago there was a big fight, but util it finished no one came for help. Many tents burned. When the people went to complain, no one cared and and even the police told us: ‘This is your own problem.’

In this situation the first thing that comes to my mind to tell you is, we didn’t come here to Europe for money, and not for becoming a European citizen. It was just to breathe a day in peace.

Instead, hundreds of minors here became addicted, but no one cares.

Five human beings burned, but no one cares.

Thousands of children didn’t undergo vaccination, but no one cares.

I am writing to you to share and I am hoping for change…”

Parwaneh

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

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

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

 

 

Refugee squats in centre of Athens under attack by new government while thousands housed in state-run camps are dumped in tents and containers under inhuman conditions

NO PASARAN! Against state repression. Solidarity to the squats.

In a wave of sweep-operations against refugees and migrants the new right-wing government of Nea Dimokratia (of July 7th) within the last month has evicted five refugee squats and announced more will follow. Meanwhile, nothing is done to improve reception conditions in the official camps – in contrary things get worse. The state literally denies dignified housing and integration to thousands of refugees and their kids. New camps built; old camps re-opened or expanded; more tents set up… this is how the state deals with protection seekers. Not to mention, the undocumented who are threatened by arrest, detention and deportation. 

“They are trying to bury us but they forget that we are seeds, that we are more than just a number, more than an occupied building, we are a community.”

5th school
copyright: Marios Lolos

On 23 September, 143 refugees and migrants were evicted from 5th school in Exarchia. During the sweep operation Photoreporter Alexandros Stamatiou got arrested for “breach of domestic peace” during his professional news coverage, as the Greek Union of Photoreporters denounced, “a fact that does not remind anymore of a democracy”. The raid in the building housing many families with kids was based on a complaint filed in 2016 by neo-Nazi and former parliamentarian I. Kassidiaris from Golden Dawn, as EFSYN newspaper uncovered.

“It was this that triggered the prosecutor’s intervention and the recent sweep operation during which nothing was found. As it turns out, the “law and order” doctrine even takes advantage of the neo-Nazis’ racist actions.”

EFSYN

The Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (B-ELME) denounced the violent sweep and the arrest of the photoreporter. As they state, many of the 56 kids residing in the 5th school squat had been visiting public schools in the neighbourhood of Exarchia and have now been once again uprooted and out of the educational system since their transfer to distant refugee camps. According to the Federation, the 5th school was closed and left empty for some years by earlier governments, until being turned into a refugee housing space, after the fusion with another school – a procedure which in the year 2013 led to the closure of three schools alone in this area.

“The State must provide decent living conditions within the urban centres for refugees and migrants, the vast majority of whom are victims of imperialist wars, with equal access to health and education. Children – without any exception – have the right to education in public schools. We are opposed to the long-term entrapment of thousands of people who were forced to get uprooted from their countries, through the flagrant EU Turkey “Deal”. We are opposed to the totally unacceptable living conditions in the hot spots on the islands and in the camps in mainland Greece. The “law and order” that the new government is trying to impose on human souls, trampling on labor and trade union rights, is targeting universal human values ​​and achievements.”

Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (B-ELME)

Also the parents association of 35th and 36th primary schools publicly demanded their kid’s school mates back.

“In recent days, buildings in downtown Athens have been evacuated where refugees had found shelter, waiting for what law, what government, what bureaucracy will proceed their asylum procedures. Their children were enrolled in the schools of downtown Athens, trying to integrate, learn the language, make their lives a normal one even under these conditions. But while it is the state that should ensure that all children are enrolled and attending school, while having ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is the state that most violently deprives them of their rights, it pushes them to the margins, it does not respect their fundamental rights, it does not respect their existence. Because the school year has begun and children are removed from their schools without any notice, without even registering them and transferring them to other schools.

We want our children’s classmates back. Because it is the obligation of all of us to finally ensure a safe environment for them. Thanks to them many of the city center’s schools were actually not closed. Because political games cannot be played on the backs of children and oppressed people!”

Parents Association of 35th and 36th primary schools

On 19 September already 269 people (46 families) had been evicted from the two refugee squats Jasmin School (also known as 2ndschool) and Acharnon22. These raids followed earlier evictions of Spirou Trikoupi 15 and 17 on 26 August where in total another 143 people had been residing. Following the raids, the former “homes” got sealed up with barbed wire; windows and doors locked with bricks and cement and people taken away from their neighbourhoods.

Mostly families with kids but also many homeless single men fleeing from war and conflict areas to Europe to find safety, have been attacked during these raids and were taken away their homes and communities. Protection seekers already traumatised found themselves in early morning hours waking up by the shouting and threats of armed special forces, the massive police presence invading their temporary “homes” supposingly in order to “combat drug trade and lawlessness” – as government and mainstream media propaganda frame it. Refugees and migrants were transferred first to Petrou Ralli Aliens Police Directorate for hours of control. The ones with papers from Trikoupi Squats were temporarily transferred to an empty building, to Schisto camp and then spread to different camps. In Schisto they stayed outside in small tents for days. In Eleonas eight persons shared one room in a container “piled up like animals in a farm”.  Many rejected a transfer to distant camps such as Katsikas in the Northern Greece or Koutsochero near Larissa (also to Eleonas, Skaramangas, Thiva and Lavrio) and are homeless again today. The ones from Jasmin school and Acharnon22 were brought to the newly established state-run tent camp in Corinth from where they will be reportedly divided likewise the others to other camps all over mainland Greece.

People transferred to Corinth reported of miserable conditions as they were placed on a dusty field with 16 rub halls (big tents). Some already returned back to Athens, as they couldn’t follow their daily lives from such distance, with their kids being subscribed in downtown schools, medical cases being followed by doctors in the capital, people having found jobs there and legal cases being proceeded in Athens asylum service and the diverse embassies located in the city. Also residents of 5thschool residents were brought to Corinth. The undocumented from all squats were arrested and brought to the pre-removal detention centre Amygdaleza. (10 from Trikoupi Squats, 14 from Yasmin and Acharnon 22 while two families and 19 persons from 5th school remained in Petrou Ralli for their papers – information by 24. September) Reportedly, some of the detainees in Amygdaleza started a hunger strike.

„Most of us had to move to places around Thessaloniki, over 400 km from here. We don’t want to do that. They are playing with us. They have evicted us from our house and they have destroyed it, but they will not also take away the life we have managed to create here in Athens. Our children are going to the school in Exarcheia and we refuse to make them leave it and have to adapt to a new place once again. We want to stay here. We answered them that we will not go anywhere against our will. We keep strong.“

Trikoupi 17
Protest against the evictions of squats in Exarchia

“We are scared about our lives and our freedom and some of us have chosen to stay on the streets to avoid being chased and arrested one more time. They have tried to divide and separate us, but we continue to struggle together. They destroyed our home, but the family that we have created in Trikoupi’s community remains united. Against their repression, solidarity is our weapon!“

Trikoupi 17
Ideas cannot be evicted!

The governments attacks against refugee squats have to be understood in the broader frame of a (re-)introduced anti-migratory policy, increasing police repression, institutionalised racism and right wing populism which is used against any from of solidarity.  

With more than 29.000 refugees and migrants trapped in the Aegean Islands, of which 12.000 alone try to survive currently in the hell of hotspot Moria / Lesvos and a 5-year-old boy just lost his life there while playing in a carton box (24. September)…

With 5.000 who could actually officially leave the islands but have nowhere to go…

With more than 88.000 refugees and migrants currently stuck in Greece most of which are dumped in overcrowded camps far from local society and under squalid conditions… 

The focus of the state is to impose “law and order” in a hypocritical fight against “crime and lawlessness” while actually sacrificing what has been hardly achieved: peoples’ freedom, dignity and respect.

We denounce the attacks on refugee squats in Exarchia and elsewhere! No Pasaran! Solidarity will win!

Employ teachers, not police officers! 

Close the camps! Open homes!

For freedom of movement of all and the right to stay! 

NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!

W2eu / infomobile greece

For further information read following statements:

Press Release of the Greek Refugee Council (GCR) (in Greek)

10 YEARS NETWORK WELCOME TO EUROPE

10 years after the noborder camp Lesvos 09

For us it was the most inspiring Noborder camp, which we ever have organized. In Lesvos in late summer 2009 about 400 noborder activists from various countries met together with hundreds of refugees and migrants, who just had arrived from Turkey with small boats on the coasts of this Greek island. Some weeks before already strong protests started in the detention prison „Pagani“, at the margin of the capital city of Mytilene. Ongoing rebellions from inside and demonstrations and scandalization from outside finally led to the closure off this „hell of Dantes Inferno“, an important success against the EU policy of determent. During the noborder camp an info point was established at the port of Mytilene, which became a crucial and vivid meeting point for a week of common fights for freedom of movement.

In the middle of these struggles the idea of Welcome to Europe (w2eu) was born: to build daily structures and to provide useful multilingual information to empower and to support refugees and migrants in transit for their right to move to their desired destination. We tried to build links to the various countries of arrival and destination and within the years the network grew with every friend who arrived somewhere.

In September 2019 it is 10 years ago and we look back to an impressive common history of coming together and projects, of protest and of commemoration, and last not least of innumerable friendships, which spread with and through w2eu all over Europe.

In this brochure we want to highlight some milestones of our network during this decade. We assembled a mixture of chronology and documentation, of personal stories and reports, of quotations and photos. We hope it will offer an interesting and exciting review on the last years.

Against the background of the ongoing roll back of the deathly EU border regime this booklet is also a promise for the future: we will tear down these borders and will go on with our struggle until freedom of movement and equal rights will be reality for everybody.

PDF of the booklet in english

Further flight through EUrope

Afghan refugees from Bavaria in Paris, German speaking Pakistani refugees in Northern Italy, Somali refugees from Norway in Germany. The attempt to develop options for action based on solidarity.

Over the past two years, one round of tightening laws against refugees and migrants has been chased by another. In EUropean countries, the human rights of rejected asylum seekers are being trampled – homelessness and exclusion from social benefits as a means of deterrence. In light of this, more and more of those who are increasingly deprived of their rights decide to continue their flight to other EUropean countries. They are further fleeing from the threat of deportation or from impoverishment. They are also further fleeing, because some have had enough of the endless waiting. These are not always rational decisions, sometimes it would certainly be easier to continue the fight for the right to stay in the original countries of arrival. In most cases, however, the continuation of flight is underpinned by a conscious decision: the decision not to tolerate injustice any longer and to move on. Against stagnancy and for freedom. This text is an attempt to take a closer look at some of these further flight movements – and, above all, the attempt to develop options for solidarity. We do not have to start from zero. We can draw on decades of experience of solidarity with sans-papiers, with illegalised migrants throughout EUrope.

1. Three exemplary moments

Afghans from Bavaria flee Seehofer’s deportation charters to Paris

From Gare de l’Este to our meeting point with our Afghan friends at Porte de la Chapelle, we walk through streets full of migrant shops of all kinds: Indian tailors offering money transfers, Pakistani money transfers besides a Western Union, a Cameroonian hairdresser, a Somali restaurant, an Afghan grocery store, a Sudanese halal bistro… all side by side. A hairdresser offers advice in Bengali on problems with the Foreigners Authority (OPFRA). In these lively streets, Paris shows that all the racist madness of today has, in fact, already lost. At every corner one can feel the informal reality of migration, which creates spaces beyond the legal framework and has a long history here. With two Afghan friends from Bavaria we sit in an Afghan-Indian Hamburger-Fries-Kebab snack bar, where there are enough sockets for mobile phones to recharge and where the newly arrived get a discount on food. Some sit here also with sleeping bags and luggage. Another Afghan friend from Graz in Austria joins us at some point. Together they explain the system to us in some detail and try to underline what might be important for others who will come here, too. They talk about the difficulty of finding accommodation, about the first nights on the street and how difficult it is to find a place to recharge one’s mobile phones when you live on the street. We learn how important a French SIM card is at the beginning, because the first step in Paris is to register with the asylum authorities via a phone call.

Reza*, who has been here the longest, has witnessed the eviction of an informal settlement near Porte de la Chapelle. The residents were then distributed to various gym halls outside of Paris and after a lengthy procedure were given accommodation – for the time being. However, they did not receive any financial support and fear that they would soon be completely excluded from the system due to the Dublin proceedings, meaning that they would have to spend many more months on the street if they want to avoid deportation back to Germany. The two Afghan friends from Bavaria miss their previous place of residence very much. One of them could not bear it after the first week on the street in Paris and went back to Germany once again. But after a friend told him that the police were already there to pick him up for the charter deportation to Kabul, he returned to Paris.

Paris is the last hope for many Afghans who were rejected in Germany. Especially in Bavaria, which pursues the most rigorous deportation measures, it can affect almost anyone who is only legally ‘tolerated’ in Germany. Continuing the flight is a difficult decision. Some decide too early to flee, head over heels, when the foreigners authorities begin to exert pressure.[1] But some flee also too late. An article from July 2018 in the Stern magazine impressively describes in the portrait of a deportee to Afghanistan how he hoped until the end that the already signed vocational training contract would protect him.[2]

Pakistanis from Hessen in Northern Italy

With a protection rate between 70 and over 80% for Afghan refugees, the chance of obtaining a right of residence in France is indeed much better than in other EUropean countries – if the Dublin Regulation did not exist. The probability of a Dublin transfer to Germany is clearly given – absurdly about as many people are transferred from Germany to France (753 persons in 2018) as from France to Germany (978 in 2018).[3] And so, many people only have the option of going underground in France and thereby have to live with an extended Dublin transfer period of 18 months. Once this period has expired, the asylum procedure must be carried out in France. For many, going underground means having to survive two years in homelessness and without any support of the French authorities. They live in slums or somewhere without a roof. They do not speak French but Bavarian German – in Paris they are called “the Germans”. Nevertheless, life on the street is always better than being deported to Kabul – which usually means having to risk once more the dangerous path across the sea.

February 2018, a café in Gorizia, northern Italy. Around the tables men sit for hours with cups of tea, loading their mobile phones and chatting away. As it turns out, almost everyone speaks German as well as Urdu. It is a meeting point for newly arrived Pakistanis from Germany and Austria, who come to northern Italy to reapply for asylum. Unlike Austria and Germany, Italy still does not deport to Pakistan. We drive on, meet a friend from a small town in Hesse/Germany. He carries advertising leaflets and lives in an overcrowded apartment for which he has to spend a large chunk of his salary – simply a for a place with a mattress. But he soon has an appointment for his first Italian residence permit and is happy that he was not at home during the deportation attempt a few weeks earlier in Germany.

Many people, especially men, from Pakistan live in the Rhine-Main area around Frankfurt. About one-third of all Pakistani migrants in Germany live in Hessen. Quite commonly, at some point, they had failed with an asylum claim and lived for years, many since 2015 but more than a few even longer, with only status of ‘toleration’ (“Duldung”) in Germany. Until the beginning of 2017, the Pakistani government did not cooperate in issuing travel documents for deportations. Although many Pakistani migrants were tolerated during this period, deportation was in fact impossible due to the lack of travel documents. Most of them worked, often gastronomy (especially in pizzerias), but also in construction. The situation changed with the first deportation charter flights at the beginning of 2017. Before, there had been a lengthy period during which the Pakistani authorities refused to issue travel documents for deportations despite a readmission agreement between Germany and Pakistan that had existed since 2010 (and in late 2015,the Pakistani Minister of the Interior even announced that he had completely suspended the readmission agreement). Since 2014 there has been an agreement between Germany and Pakistan to allow Germany access to Pakistani databases. It appears that the German authorities have had direct access to the Pakistani database containing biometric data of Pakistani citizens (the so-called “electronic platform”), latest since early 2017.[4] Neither were the details of this “deal”  made public, nor the sum of money the Pakistani government was supposed to receive from the German government in exchange. For all “tolerated” Pakistanis, this created the incalculable risk of deportation. In 2018 alone, 367 people were deported to Pakistan, the majority in a total of 12 collection charter-planes. Almost every month a plane, always coordinated by Frontex, flew from Frankfurt, Berlin or Düsseldorf to Islamabad. While on the one hand we warned against exaggerated panic and gathered information about possibilities of the right to stay beyond the asylum procedure, on the other hand the search for alternatives became important.[5] Many Pakistani with “Duldung” decided to go to northern Italy from 2017 on. In some cities, mainly German-speaking Pakistani refugees from Germany and Austria gathered. While we had tried for a long time to prevent the Dublin deportations from Germany to Italy, it was now the other way round. In fact, Italy, for its part, has hardly implemented the Dublin Regulation to this day. There have been a few transfers from Pakistanis to Austria by bus but we have never noticed any deportations from Italy to Germany in all of this time.

With Salvini’s racist tightening of the law, from June 2018 onward, times became harder for the Pakistani friends also in northern Italy, so that, at the moment, the flight to northern Italy makes less and less sense. Although there still are no deportations from Italy to Pakistan, it is hardly possible anymore to get a right to stay. Even those who have already been temporarily legalised are now threatened with withdrawal of their humanitarian status, which has not been granted since the so-called Security Decree was passed at the end of 2018.[6] And so some of our Pakistani friends think about coming back to Germany. They are again seeking advice as to whether they could try to gain a foothold here once more. When viewed in light of the overall number of tolerated persons, there are only a few who are actually caught and deported in the end. And some are thinking about developing a new “Plan B” and evaluating possibilities in different European countries again, if necessary residing there illegally.

Somali women from Scandinavia and Eritrean women from Swiss bunkers continue to flee to Germany

3pm on a completely normal Monday: the refugee-café in a small occupied house in Hanau becomes alive. It is difficult to move through the strollers, table football is being played and conversations takes place while two women pray on the stage in the concert room. Still in 2013, when “Lampedusa in Hanau”, a self-organised group of East African refugees was created here, the issue at hand were almost exclusively Dublin proceedings to Italy. By 2017, at the latest, the issues had widened, and we started to face threats of deportation to almost all European countries. An Iranian with fingerprints in France, an Iraqi woman with a toddler who went through an unsuccessful asylum procedure in the Netherlands, a Somali man who had lived on the streets in Belgium after his rejection, Eritrean refugees from Switzerland who had had to live in bunkers. And, again and again Scandinavia – Afghans who fled being deported from Sweden, Somali women who faced the same threat in Norway. All of them had good reasons to flee – and a new fight for the right to stay began for all of them, which will continue for several years to come. Even if they do manage to prevent the Dublin deportation, they usually have a lengthy legal process ahead of them, because asylum applications in Germany are often rejected as confirmatory applications. If an asylum procedure in a EUropean country has already been negatively concluded, then the procedure here is assessed as a follow-up application in which only new reasons count. Within a few hours, the gruelling consequences of EUropean asylum policy can be experienced here – and always also the persistence of the people to get through them. It is true that it gets very noisy in this refugee-café in Hanau, there or sometimes larger crowds and it gets hectic, but most of the people are also very concerned about the others and there are always small groups sitting together in which those who have already survived the problem can share their experiences.

At the EU summit in Brussels in June 2018, the prevention of migration to EUrope was again negotiated. All horror scenarios of a failed EUropean asylum policy from satellite camps to hotspots were discussed at length and in great detail. The German Federal Government raised the issue of secondary migration within the EU as an important issue – not least because the phenomenon of secondary migration accounted for a significant proportion of the number of asylum applications filed in Germany in 2018. A similar phenomenon can also be seen in France. Over some months of the past years, the number of asylum applications in Germany was higher than arrivals by sea on all three routes to Europe. This was mainly due to the increasingly restrictive migration policy throughout EUrope. However, instead of discussing legalisation, the issue here was again isolation. While the Dublin Regulation was originally intended to prevent the phenomenon of secondary migration and flight, in today’s reality it accounts for a large proportion of flight in EUrope.

Fadumo* is 18 years old. She fled Somalia as a minor. Her parents died when Fadumo was two years old. She grew up with her uncle’s family, in which she experienced a lot of violence. She was subjected to genital mutilation as a child and still suffers from the physical consequences today. In 2015 she fled due to increasing problems with the Al Shabaab militia in her neighbourhood via Turkey and Greece and then on to Norway. In Norway, she was first accommodated in a shelter for minors. On her 18th birthday, she received a threat of deportation to Somalia following the rejection of her asylum application.

Fadumo therefore fled to Germany in January 2018, as she saw no perspective in Norway and noticed how other Somali refugees were deported to Somalia. In fact, after returning to Norway, she would be threatened with deportation to Somalia. In October 2017, a 36-year-old Somali woman had been deported from Darmstadt in Hesse to Norway. There she was arrested at the airport in Oslo, then detained for three weeks and deported directly from prison to Mogadishu.

In Somalia, Fadumo would not only have to fear further persecution from her family. Even as a single young woman, she would have little chance of securing a livelihood. Fadumo was therefore taken into church asylum in a parish in Hesse and was thus able to overcome the Dublin proceedings. She is currently in the process of filing a complaint, as her asylum application was then rejected as a secondary application. She does not give up and is certain that she will finally have a future here – because she has found a network that supports her, not least in a growing East African community. Fadumo’s story is that of many and she is not alone.

2. Further flight as resistance against the terror of deportation

These further flights are not only desperate forms of flight, they are active forms of resistance against the machinery and industry of deportation. At a time when EUropean interior ministers are outbidding each other with plans on how to make such machinery even more merciless and effective, these people are opposing it by ‘voting’ with their feet. They are building on the informal migrant structures that we experienced in Paris and described in the first part of this text. In them they find paths that are usually very stony, but which they prefer over being forcibly returned. In their search for a life without a constant fear, they set off again from countries within EUrope that they originally thought were the destination of their journeys.

Like many of their Pakistani friends in northern Italy, they are often exposed to massive forms of exploitation – often enough also within migrant communities, which are at the same time often the only sources of protection and the necessary, albeit often very precarious, infrastructure they need. Refugees who flee for the second, or third, time are often particularly vulnerable. Especially for women on the run, further flight and renewed illegalisation increase the danger of sexualised violence.

Many have already fought for years for the prospect of staying and are accordingly more exhausted than before. Quite a few are worn down by years of insecurity. As they continue to flee, they often face homelessness once more, and are therefore more at risk of suffering drastic health problems. In France (and in many other countries, too), living conditions during the Dublin procedure are a major problem: many of those affected receive accommodation only after long waiting periods (if at all), which they lose again as soon as they fail to report to local police stations during the Dublin procedure. Since the evacuation of the “jungles” in Calais, new informal settlements have emerged, initially in Paris and now in many places in France. It seems to be in the political interest to evict these settlements again and again, though they are also used as a deterrence strategy. A social worker from an aid organisation in Paris impressively described to us the danger of re-traumatisation and eventually impoverishment in homelessness, as many young adolescents get lost on the street and often end up addicted to drugs.

3. Connecting Solidarity Cities with one another

“From the sea to the cities”, a network of solidarity structures has formed in recent years, which has its origins in the support of refugees rescued from distress at sea. Here, sea rescue NGOs meet with representatives from municipalities in EUrope that adopt a different, solidarity-based attitude towards migrant travellers. They make connections with activist movements such as the “Seebrücke” networks in Germany. These often-informal networks can be important to maintain connections and strengthen migrant communities in EUrope by giving them additional support for their daily work and struggles.

What is still needed is a well networked “Underground Railroad” for freedom of movement, a structure that also supports the often-necessary instances of further flight. In times when there is no place of freedom, the movements can take place in all directions, not only from the port cities of the Mediterranean Sea towards the metropolises, but sometimes also from north to south. Along these routes that mark the shifts in miserable conditions within EUrope, also a map of solidarity can emerge.

Spaces of contact and connection are crucial to create this map of solidarity. Like the fast food bistros in Paris, which serve as recharging stations for mobile phones and where newcomers can drink tea and exchange ideas without being forced to consume, such spaces emerge from the solidarity of individuals. They are just as important as squatted houses and social centres, which serve not least as collectively created spaces for contact and exchange. In Athens, the occupied seven-storey-tall City Plaza Hotel gave a temporary home for up to 400 refugees at the same time. It also has the function of providing information about other solidarity structures with which fleeing people can connect.

Last but not least, City Plaza has also taken up the permanent challenge of how the struggles of women can take place in these spaces and how solidarity-based spaces can be created in such a way that they offer as little room as possible for exploitation and structural violence and where experiences of sexism and racism can be discussed openly. To do justice to the many experiences made here it would need a separate article but it is crucial to allude to them as they are central challenges when it comes to developing everyday structures of solidarity. The City Plaza Squat is a “lighthouse” and is certainly unique in its size and continuity for over 3 years. Nevertheless, it is representative of many other places that are less public and have formed information hubs of solidarity in a more quiet way but similarly producing rich experiences and developing further.

If transit no longer remains at the EUropes’ external border, but shifts to its centre with the increase in diverse forms of further flight and increasing illegalisation, then we need the experience gained from transit also for the metropolises at the heart of the EU. We need more of these places of solidarity, we need closer forms of networking with community structures and, not least, we need learning processes from successful practices.

This all sounds like a major task ahead. Nevertheless, as in all social struggles, every first attempt counts. It is possible to start small. If a circle of supporters from a small Bavarian town refuses to let the contact to an Afghan friend break off and continues to support him by providing the rent for a sleeping place in Paris and also visits him there every few months, three things are created: First of all, there is a very material form of solidarity, which in this concrete case may prevent a young man from becoming re-traumatised during his further flight. Second, a point of contact has been made, a contact in Paris, a person there who knows how it works when the next ones have to leave. And finally – as we know from experience – a story has been created that will live on both in the small Bavarian town and in Paris. This story will live on and will be told ten years from now, showing under which hard conditions and tough efforts, carried by solidarity, a right to stay was struggled for and realised.

We can create welcome islands and rent apartments in which friends can rest and develop a perspective. There are many models of welcome islands in Athens, rest houses in Rabat and shelters for ‘illegal’ immigrants from the past. We can also build on the structures of previous struggles when it comes to medical care: since the end of the 1990s at the latest, with medical aid provided to refugees in Germany, structures have been built up that in some cities have also been able to fight for communal medical care for illegalised and uninsured people today.

Cities in Germany are also stations of transit. The extended transfer periods in the Dublin proceedings, which force more and more people to survive up to 18 months, while completely deprived of their rights, are also here regarded as ways to generate deterrent effects in the long term. More and more people spend long periods of time illegally in the cities in order to survive their Dublin deadlines. Here we need more structures and networks of support.

So, we need more solidarity rooms and apartments. We also need more contact points for those who are completely deprived of their rights, where it is possible to develop perspectives for each individual beyond the increasingly narrow legal requirements. And above all, we need to strengthen the community structures that are based on solidarity and find ways of connecting them with one another. This is not so difficult, because much of it already exists. We need a long-lasting power and energy to overcome this migration regime – and we need the courage to enforce equal rights for all every day. In all cities, we need to contest these outdated ideas of national legislation. . In Italy, the port cities with their solidarity with the newcomers are already showing us the way.

                                                           no one is illegal hanau / Welcome to Europe

************************

* All names changed.


[1] With regards to deportation threats from those residing in Germany back to Afghanistan, Welcome to Europe provides information online about the different ways of securing a right to stay even after the asylum procedure has been completely negative through its information guide “Information against the fear” : https://w2eu.info/germany.en/articles/germany-deportation-afghanistan.en.html

[2] https://www.stern.de/politik/deutschland/nach-afghanistan-abgeschoben–wer-sind-die-69-betroffenen–8187742.html

[3] https://www.24matins.de/topnews/pol/2018-sechs-dublin-ueberstellungen-von-deutschland-nach-griechenland-161278

[4] See: https://www.aktionbleiberecht.de/?p=13879

[5] Information Against the Fear, Deportations from Germany to Pakistan, w2eu, April 2018, online: https://w2eu.info/germany.en/articles/germany-deportation-pakistan.html.

[6] In the first three months of this year, the number of Nigerian asylum seekers in Germany rose sharply for the same reason. They call themselves Salvini-refugees. After years of residence in Italy, most of them have started to flee because their living conditions have become unbearable, not least because of the increasing racist agitation in the media, and because they cannot develop a perspective on the right to stay in Italy.

‘FOR THE RIGHT TO A SAFE HOME’

Four refugee squats evicted in Athens

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

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

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

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

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

copyright: Salinia Stroux

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

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

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

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

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

copyright: Azadi Squat

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

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

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

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

copyright: Marios Lolos

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

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Read the announcements of City Plaza Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space

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

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

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

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

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

Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Government and police use refugees as scapegoats (13.04.2019)

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

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

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

Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

It is about hope…

copyright Border Crossing Greece

Hundreds of refugees residing in Greece left in the last four days the infamous hotspots, mainlands’ camps, IOM-hotels and ESTIA flats, the refugees squats and other places they were temporarily staying, taking down to the streets in what they called ‘march of hope’. They headed to the North of Greece, first towards Ioannena and then in the direction of Thessaloniki using busses, trains or even walking with the aim to leave Greece, finally. They reported of feeling entrapped in a hopeless situation with asylum interviews dated up to 2024 and with no future prospects, while many kids were not even able to go to school and they were facing difficult and provisory living conditions.

In the last three days, bigger groups from different places tried to move to the border aiming to reach it at the dates announced by social media of 4 and 5 of April. Until that point mainstream media had not followed-up on the movement. Meanwhile, UNHCR and IOM have been since weeks, when the idea spread in social media, warning refugees to not follow the false rumors about an opening of the borders on these dates. Only recently, the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy also declared that borders would remain closed and that there was a fake news spreading.

copyright Marios Lolos

Despite the warnings by the authorities, IGOs and NGOs, refugees from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan mainly continued following their hope and reached Diavata camp at the outskirts of Thessaloniki – among them are also families with kids. Many others were blocked by police, their busses were stopped and trains halted and they had to return back. Hundreds of refugees, awaiting the train to Thessaloniki on Thursday night, were forced to leave the Athens railway station the next day.

copyright Angelos Christofilopoulos

Around 1.000 refugees are camping now since three days on a field outside of Diavata and have not been allowed to continue their journey towards the border. Repeated attempts to move beyond the police blockade got forcibly stopped and small clashes have erupted again and again for a third day in row. Not willing to give up, they decided to spend one more night in their little summer tents, despite rainfalls, cold, hunger and thirst.

copyright: Daphne Tolis

In the morning hours the regional coordinator for Northern Greece and Epirus of the Migration Policy Ministry, Nikos Rangos, tried to talk people into the busses organised by IOM, saying that he didn’t want them to loose their rights in this dead end situation that might end in violence but surely not in the opening of the borders. One of the women who had a day earlier tried to brake the riot police blockade with their mere hands, replied: “We have nowhere to go back!”

With the conditions outside of Diavata getting harder throughout the days, and after todays extensive tear-gas use, which also newborns, many bigger kids but also adults suffered from, at least 300 refugees today decided to return to their shelters. “The alternative solution we can offer from the Ministry,” Mr. Rangos stated to a Kurdish TV Channel, “is to return back to their containers, to their camps or hotels and let their Cash-Cards get recharged”.

copyright Border Crossing Greece

What gets forgotten in the whole discussion around “fake news” or “false rumors” and the search for the organizers of the march, is that, hundreds of refugees took a decision to participate in this and try to get out of Greece, however initiated, in order to flee the misery and improve their families’ situation. The containment policy Greece is upholding by any means and under the pressure of the EU, paired with a mere emergency approach to reception and an overloaded asylum system inspired fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers to find a better solution for their kids, to seek for more than “being kept alive”, to follow their hope…

Update 07.04.2019: Busses have been taking people from the informal tent camp outside of Diavata back to their official shelters all through the night. 874 persons had left at 5am already with another approx. 50 remaining in the small tents. Mr. Rangos told media outlets, that until Monday the informal tent camp will have disappeared.

Injured photoreporter in Diavata following police violence

Update 08.04.2019: The last refugees left Diavata. Meanwhile, the Greek Union of Photojournalists denounces the beating of one of their members by police officers. Various Greek reporters who had been present during the last weekend in the field next to Diavata – among them the injured photoreporter, who were witnessing the developments from within the field, stated, that without their presence the police would have taken more excessive measures against the refugees and they would have used more violence. They also denounced the absence of any humanitarian organization, when the officials inside Diavata had cut off non-resident refugees from the access to the sanitary infrastructure, water and food. The “spring” we disappointed, one of the Greek comments titled….

Three refugees arrested during the events of Saturday (A 28-year-old Palaistinian, a 32-year old Syrian and a 28-year old Iraqi) got today trialled by the Three-member Misdemeanors Court of Thessaloniki to 12 months detention for resisting the authorities, but they were released upon appeal against the sentence.

Closed borders, barbarism and despair

A statement by City Plaza Refugee Squat about the March of Hope 2019

6 April 2019

The anti-migration policy of the European Union and the Greek government is a machine that constantly produces barbarism, misery and despair. The closed borders, the shameful hotspots in the islands, the very difficult living conditions on the mainland and, in particular, the lack of options, lead refugees to an impasse. Any kind of “rumors” can catalyze a person who has now reached the limit. The refugee protests in Diavata and Larissa station are in fact instigated by the continued containment of refugees in Greece. The request of refugees to open the borders and to continue their journey into Europe is not just fair and right but also perfectly reasonable. The policies followed with regard to refugees are irrational and inhumane. 

We declare our solidarity with the refugees -We call on the government to stop the violence and the repression against them. 
Open the borders now – Stop racism 

Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

There are many holes and gaps in this “reception” system and they can not be hidden behind the violence and chasing downs in Diavata and the highway. Let the government and stakeholders see the core and the root causes of this mobilization instead of hiding (again) the problems of a permanent “emergency” state, which it has chosen as a method to manage the issue, behind an orgy of repression, criminalization and vengeance.

Antiracist Initiative Thessaloniki

https://www.efsyn.gr/node/190195?fbclid=IwAR39vpv7wZ0cgTumpbruJm-PiV2zCq9LTvW2aRCVNOWuucDQn-qMPXRdHTc

Destroying the memorial cannot erase the memory!

Foto: Marily Stroux

On Friday, 11th of August 2018 some vandals completely destroyed the memorial for the dead at the European borders on Lesvos.

It was standing since October 2013 in Thermi next to the fishermens club. Reminding the death of people fleeing war and trying to reach safety in Europe. The memorial was set up also to thank the fishermen who risk their lives in saving people in the sea and collecting dead bodies. We went there once a year since then, together with survivors and friends.

We are disgusted by the brutality of those destroying the memorial now for the third time and their missing respect to dead humans and the fishermen.

We will reinstall the names and dates in this place. It is not possible through acts of violence to erase the facts and the memory to the dead.

We will continue welcoming people who arrive seeking safety. We will continue to finally tear down the borders and to build another, a welcoming Europe.

W2eu

Memorial October 2017 in Thermi:

In English

In Greek

Memorial in April 2018 in Skala Sikaminias:

http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2018/05/02/memorial-24th-of-april-2018/

Η καταστροφή του μνημείου δεν μπορεί να διαγράψει τη μνήμη!

Foto: Marily Stroux

Την Παρασκευή 11 Αυγούστου 2018 ορισμένοι βάνδαλοι κατέστρεψαν το μνημείο για τους νεκρούς στα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα στη Λέσβο.

Το μνημείο αυτό βρίσκονταν από τον Οκτώβριο του 2013 στη Θερμή, δίπλα στο στέκι των ψαράδων, υπενθυμίζοντας το θάνατο των ανθρώπων που φεύγουν από τον πόλεμο και προσπαθούν να φτάσουν στην ασφάλεια της Ευρώπης. Το μνημείο δημιουργήθηκε επίσης για να ευχαριστήσει τους ψαράδες που διακινδυνεύουν τη ζωή τους για να σώσουν τους ανθρώπους στη θάλασσα και να συλλέξουν νεκρά σώματα. Μια φορά το χρόνο από τότε, συναντιόμασταν μαζί εκεί με επιζώντες και φίλους.

Είμαστε αηδιασμένοι από τη βιαιότητα αυτών που καταστρέφουν το μνημείο για τρίτη φορά και από την έλλειψη σεβασμού στους νεκρούς ανθρώπους και τους ψαράδες.

Θα επανεγκαταστήσουμε τα ονόματα και τις ημερομηνίες σε αυτό το μέρος. Δεν είναι δυνατόν, μέσω πράξεων βίας, να διαγραφούν τα γεγονότα και η μνήμη των νεκρών.

Θα συνεχίσουμε να καλωσορίζουμε ανθρώπους που φθάνουν αναζητώντας ασφάλεια. Θα συνεχίσουμε να προσπαθούμε να γκρεμίσουμε τα σύνορα και να οικοδομήσουμε μια άλλη, μια φιλόξενη Ευρώπη.

Το μνημείο τον Οκτώβριο του 2017 στην Θερμή:
Στα αγγλικά
Στα ελληνικά

Μνημείο τον Απρίλιο του 2018 στην Σκάλα Συκαμιάς
http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2018/05/02/memorial-24th-of-april-2018/

Searching Home – Homes Lost: A booklet about the meaning of “home” and “homelessness” in Greece

11

Ten people who lost what was their home to war, conflict, and other life-threatening conditions…

Ten people who were forced to escape and who decided to try to search and create another home somewhere else in safety and peace…

Ten people, who are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of someone…

Ten people with talents, professions, passions and dreams…

Ten people living in Greece for some moments…

Ten people without a shelter…

and one person, who lost his home during the economic crisis in Greece.

searching home – homes lost (download here the pdf in english)

 

no home

The loss of ‘home‘ in one country combined with the current lack of a ‘home’ in the broader sense in Greece but also in its simple meaning as a shelter, for displaced people have multiple implications on their daily life, their wellbeing and the transformation of their identities.

Repressive migration policies as implemented at the external borders of Europe, may destroy even the last sense of what each understands as being somewhere at home. But the images and feelings connected to the home left behind or the imaginary, the idealised or even utopian home that may never have existed, while it may be found in future, are being kept alive in peoples hearts with extraordinary care and cannot be taken away.

While millions of aid, have been flowing into Greece amongst others for the accommodation of the people arriving at the European shores, both Greece and indirectly the EU are not able to offer a dignified shelter.

At the same time uprooted and en route, while searching safety, peace and a spark of future, most refugees in Greece face displacement and inhuman living conditions from the very first moment they put their steps on what some with false pride call European territory. Many times this corresponds de facto to the lack of a dignified and safe shelter for weeks if not months. Sometimes, it even means sleeping rough and without anything while being exposed to all kinds of dangers, like violence and exploitation.

In the beginning of 2018, still hundreds of refugees – among them many children, pregnant ladies, elderly, disabled, sick and other vulnerable persons – are living in summer tents in the so-called hotspots on the Aegean Islands while it is winter. It is unknown how many live unofficially in the mass container camps on the mainland lacking access to any support services, social benefits and even food and how many try to survive the cold in abandoned construction sites, fabrics and old ruins; or simply, on the streets and in public parks and squares.

‘Without a home’ feel not only the ones who are dumped in dehumanizing precarious conditions in camps far from the local society, but also the ones completely excluded, the clandestines, who take other paths and are not yet identified and registered, who have not yet the permit to move.

The ruling system tries to impose a regime of control, containment, the selection of people in the ‘wanted’ and the ‘unwanted’ and finally the deportation of the latter. It punishes the ones who don’t obey the rules of the state with further exclusion, pushing them at the margins of the urban societies; creating borders in the cities.

A host country, which cannot host; torn apart by the struggle to survive the harsh austerity measures imposed by the Troikas since the beginning of the economic crisis, Greece in reality remains a transit for most displaced people. In fact, in these times also more and more Greeks are ending up on the streets without a shelter. There are no funds for these people – the ones who were kicked out of the ruling system. In this light, it is no wonder, that the lack of future prospects and of any kind of support – such as a shelter – for people who finally get the right to stay, pushes them also out and to the North of the continent and along with them, many Greeks leave too.

It is in the cities, where all these people try to develop alternative strategies to survive for the moment for example in squats or solidarity houses, where they continue their struggles for the right to stay and freedom of movement at the same time. Where workers struggle for equal opportunities against any form of discrimination.

 

Let’s stand together! Let’s eat together! Let’s live together!

Reclaim the streets, reclaim the cities!

w2eu – infomobile greece

 

Protest of refugee families for delayed transfers to their beloved ones in Germany

Today again dozens of refugee families gathered in Athens in front of the Asylum Service at Katekhaki to demand their immediate transfer to Germany. At the same time, some others gathered for a protest in Heraklion, Crete Island.

“We escaped the war in Syria as a family. On our way to Europe we got separated from our small daughter, when the smugglers split us in groups by force. We didn’t know if she is alive for months and we haven’t seen her for more than three years. We got stuck in Greece before two years but got the acceptance to go to Germany already back in March 2017,” says the father F. His wife cannot talk anymore without crying. “I just miss my daughter,” she says with tears in her eyes.

The mothers and children in front of the Asylum Service pound on the metal fence around the Asylum Services gate shouting loudly: “We want to go! We want to go!”

“We even did a 14-day hunger strike in the beginning of November 2017, but we are still here and my child is alone in Germany,” says H. a single mother of six who got her acceptance in April 2017. “We are now on the latest list for the ones who should be issued tickets, but since the change of the responsible travel agency, the issuance of tickets is blocked again and again for different reasons. One time they say they have bureaucratic problems; one time they say there is no money. In the Asylum Service they told us today we should wait another 7-10 days to see if they can solve their problems. We are protesting for the delays of our transfer since spring 2017 and we don’t hear nothing else than ‘give us some time to solve the problems’. For the employees of the Greek and German Asylum Services and the Zorpidis Travel Agency it is “just” some more weeks or months. For us every second far from our kids, husbands or wives is a world of pain!”

Until today, more than 4,000 refugees in Greece have the acceptance to move to Germany through family reunification based on Dublin III Regulation, but no ticket to go. Without the permit of the Asylum Services of both countries, they have to wait and waiting times have now reached two years since their arrival in Greece. Currently, people with acceptances from April 2017 are scheduled for the issuance of tickets but they still don’t know when they will actually fly.

“We demanded the immediate transfer to Germany of all accepted family reunification applicants during the hunger strike and the free of charge traveling for all. The governments of Greece and Germany thereafter slightly increased the transfers, but the number of people waiting to join their beloved remained the same high. By the beginning of this year we were glad to hear that at least tickets would be covered finally by the government, as it is foreseen by law. But now we end up begging the Asylum Service to pay them again by ourselves in order to finally fly,” F. continues to explain.

According to Dublin III family reunification applicants who got accepted to go, should be transferred within a six-months-deadline to the country in charge. The mothers, fathers and children protesting today are waiting already since 11 months and have lost all sympathy with the authorities of both countries and their excuses.

“We ask you to just respect your own laws and us as families,” says A. a single mother from Syria. “I am suffering. I wait to go to my husband. My relatives in Syria die one after, while I am stuck here in Greece alone with the kids.”

In the meanwhile, the newly refugees arriving in Greece newly fear the long procedures of family reunification that may last for two years or longer and try to continue their journeys clandestinely, risking their lives one more time due to the illegal and inhuman EU-Turkey Deal and repressive migration policies that build walls instead of bridges.

SYLVIE AND JOELLE: Survivors of the shipwreck of 24 April 2017 between Turkey and Greece

Sylvie

I start from the moment we were in Turkey. I am Sylvie and I am 42 years old. I left Turkey on the 20 April 2017, I was only 3 days in Izmir. Joelle and me didn’t know one another. We met in the dinghy. To start with: I could not enter, I just wanted to escape. We were 24 people. I all the time went back, giving space for others to enter first. I entered the boat last because I was scared. While trying to get inside, my bag was creating obstacles, so I passed it over to Joelle and told her: „Please help me“. She took my bag. I then entered the dinghy and told her to hand me the bag back. She answered: „You gave me the bag, let it be with me. I will give it to you when we arrive. No problem.“
„Ok, no problem,” I replied.

We were uncomfortable there, too many people. We were suffocating. I preferred to give her the bag. The time was 21 o’clock. We had started.

All of a sudden in the middle of the sea the fuel finished. I wanted to take my bag from Joelle to take out my phone. All telephones were switched off. We had asked a boy to turn on his phone and call for help, but he did not. So, I asked Joelle for my phone that was in the bag. She opened my bag, gave me my phone. The time I wanted to call, a wave came and took the phone in the sea.

That’s how the worst nightmare started. The dinghy started sinking in the water. (She stops talking)
I cannot continue … can you Joelle?

Joelle

I left Turkey because I was pregnant and as a single woman I felt so badly unsafe there. I was looking for somewhere where me and my baby could be safe.

To finally arrive here to Greece we had first to cross the border from turkey. We stayed in the woods until at the coast one night and then we started.

I entered the dinghy after all others and together with Sylvie. When we started, I don’t know why, but I had a bad feeling… I started crying. Just like this.

Because I am Christian I started praying. I prayed to God that he gives grace to me and let me arrive safely at our destination. I was crying. One of my Congolese sisters, Guilaine, asked me: „Why are you crying?“ I told her: “I don’t know, why I cry but I have such a strange feeling.“ „No”, she said, „you cry because you pray to God to bless you, but when you pray you should not cry.“ So, I told her: „Ok I will stop.“

There where two children with us, who started crying too. They were crying all the time as if something would happen and they felt it. They cried. We were too many people inside the boat and it was too small for us all.

The driver said to me: „Tell your brothers and sisters not to smoke, there is fuel on board and the boat will explode.“

After five minutes, I felt the water coming inside the boat and my feet getting wet. I myself had nothing with me. I asked the others to throw their bags in the water to reduce the overweight. I was begging them. I had only the blue bible with me, a soap to wash myself and the clothes I was wearing… nothing more.


The people said: „Now we are safe, they will come to save us.“ When the motor stopped, I asked one guy: „Call the rescuers “, but he didn’t want. He said: „I can’t open my phone because if I open it the police will come and catch us and return us back.“ I said: „I prefer to be caught, than to die.” Sylvie understood and said: „Give me my phone from my bag, I will call.“ The short time until I gave it to her, we already started sinking. It went very fast.

I was pregnant in the 8 month. My belly was so big that I thought I will give birth to a baby of 4 kilos. The rescue jacket did not close. A man from Mali took some strings and attached it around me to tie my life-vest. We were sinking and the waves slowly carried away each of us to another direction.

I was drifting with Guilaine, and then we saw also Teddy. I felt suddenly a strong feeling of power in me. I don’t even know where this came from.

Where we fell in the sea there was nothing, no boats no fishermen, no police no one. We stayed there all night in the sea. When the morning came, I said to Guilaine: „Don’t cry, they will come and rescue us.“ Guliaine said: „No. You see the whole night no one came.” I told her: „Ok at night they didn’t appear because it was so dark and cold. I believe they will rescue us now.“ I believed in that, because the daylight came. Gulialine said: „Ok no problem.“ But I know she was doubting.

Teddy told us we had to stay awake and we should not fall asleep in the sea. Gulaine said: „I am tired, I can’t anymore, I really can’t anymore.“ She asked for help. „You know my situation,” I replied, “I don’t have a way to help you, I cannot even help myself.“ It was horrible. After two hours, a wave separated us. I stayed all alone. Completely on my own in the sea.

I was crying but inside me a voice was telling me: „Don’t cry. Who tells you that you won’t get rescued or that you will die?“ I spoke to God: „Ok. Your will will happen. Because I cannot do anything anymore. I am in your hands.“ I was so tired and exhausted. I slept and while sleeping I was fighting to change my position. I was thinking: „God, if you help me to get out of this sea I will be grateful forever.“

Suddenly, I saw a huge boat coming towards me, but it turned away. I asked myself why? Then I saw another boat, like the ones people use to cross the border but it was bigger and of orange color. It was not still far of me, when I saw a white person jump in the sea to rescue me. “She is pregnant,” I heard her scream.

They took me, gave me medicine and brought me to the land. They asked me: „how many are you?“ I said we were 26. I didn’t know where the others were. I don’t know what happened then. They left me. I believe they went to find the others. Then I saw Sylvie. „Where are the others? Let’s hope they bring them even if they are not alive.“ But in the end no one else could ever join us again of our group.

Until they brought us to hospital we heard nothing. The same evening I saw a psychologist with his assistant and I asked them: „Where are my brothers and sisters?“ They didn’t answer.

Then the police came to interrogate me. I asked again: „Where are my friends?” They didn’t answer.

I said: „Ok, don’t tell that a whole day and a whole night the people are still in the sea and they are alive? Tell me if they are dead or alive.“ Then, I understood that none was alive, only Sylvie and me.

I was pregnant in the 8th month, so we stayed alive, me, Sylvie and Victoria. God’s grace was with us that day. Far away from our families, far away from friends, life is difficult. We always have to fight for a tomorrow, because god allowed us to survive. I know marvellous things will still happen to us.

The first person I met after the shipwreck were the rescuers Giannis and Nicola. I want to use the opportunity to thank them because it was thanks to God and them, that we are still alive. Today, I have a beautiful small girl. Her name is Victoria-Miracle and that’s why I want to say thank you to our rescuers. Because they do an incredible job. To rescue people, you have to have a big heart. We are alive because of them. Thank you and God should give you grace and a long life so that you can rescue many other people who get in desperate situations. And thanks to Iliaktida, to my social worker Victoria, and to the UNHCR. Thank you all!

Sylvie

When the dinghy was sinking, we sank too. We were four people holding hands. We were talking to one another giving each other courage.

In the beginning, we were 24 people on the boat: 19 blacks and 5 white. Among us were also two kids and their mother and father. Syrians. The Syrian man was pulling my hair so I could see. I had the hair in my face in the water. I don’t know what separated me from them. A wave… and then I was alone.

Joelle

I was still with Sylvia, when she was telling me: „Stay strong.“ I told her to stay strong too. But all of a sudden, when I called the next time her name, I heard nothing. No voice in the sea. We all were shouting loud but I heard nothing. I was scared and thought maybe they will leave me back, abandoned me. I was afraid rescuers would come but not find me. I started screaming: „Save me, save me!“

Nothing. The day came. The waves. I had to go with the rhythm of the waves. When a wave came, I turned away my head. I should not sleep. Because if you sleep… I had a strong faith in me. I knew someone will come and rescue me, that gave me comfort. If I had lost this faith I wouldn’t be alive now.

Sylvia

In the sea, I saw a big boat, like Joelle did. It was coming to me. I screamed: „I am here. I am here!“ Nothing, they passed by. The waves where huge. Huge!

Around 14-15 hours I still had faith although I was so long in the sea. I had prayed to all gods in that time: the gods of Greece, the gods of Turkey all gods. I said to them: come to save us, take care of us. Even when a bird passed by near me I asked it for help. Even the fly that came near to me I asked for help. I talked with the waves and the wind and with the animals.

When I saw the boats, it was as if I was asleep and walk up and saw it pass by and screamed:
“I am here!“ They threw a rope and I tried to hold it but I was to tired, I could not. Someone jumped in the sea and hold me. They put me on the boat and covered me with plastic to make my body warm. The sea salt had burned my eyes, I could not see. I was blind.

They brought me to Joelle. I heard her voice. Me and Joelle were taken by the ambulance to hospital. God is the god of goodness, forgiveness and miracles. When you don’t expect it, then he appears and intervenes. I will pray to him all my life. If he sends me back to earth it is because I haven’t finished my mission and I promise him I will complete it. Until the very last day of my life.

The red bag

We were holding this red bag together. I don’t know if it is this red bag that kept us alive and together until today. Or if it was Victoria in the belly together with the bag. Joelle was holding all the time the bag in the sea. When we were saved and brought away the ambulance, she returned it back to me. And the crazy thing is, she even had one more bag on her back all the time that did not belong to us. She had it on her back all the hours in the sea and in the hospital she gave it away because it actually didn’t belong to us.

Joelle

I didn’t know what was in the bag. I just believed we will get rescued. My friend had trusted me to take care of something that I could actually not take care of. If someone gives you something you have to take care because sometimes thieves come and steel from you something that is not yours. I took it serious that responsibility, it is normal.

I thought: „Maybe she has all her money inside. I can’t abandon the bag.“ In total I had two bags. The big one I didn’t know to whom it belonged. I thought the person will need it. They rescued me with this strangers bag and Sylvies bag. And when I came out of the sea I gave both back. The red one I gave it to Sylvie. I had spent all time in the sea with these two bags. So now we are here and the bags too and it’s an incredible joy that we are still alive.

When I came to hospital I was scared for my baby. I was afraid, that she might have health problems, but they made an echography and said: „No, the baby is ok.“ She is my angel. She is my joy and my power. I believe, I would have died if she was not in me. God really pitied us. It’s really a miracle.

I call my baby girl Victoria-Miracle.

SYLVIE AND JOELLE: Survivors of the shipwreck of 24 April 2017 between Turkey and Greece

Sylvie

I start from the moment we were in Turkey. I am Sylvie and I am 42 years old. I left Turkey on the 20 April 2017, I was only 3 days in Izmir. Joelle and me didn’t know one another. We met in the dinghy. To start with: I could not enter, I just wanted to escape. We were 24 people. I all the time went back, giving space for others to enter first. I entered the boat last because I was scared. While trying to get inside, my bag was creating obstacles, so I passed it over to Joelle and told her: „Please help me“. She took my bag. I then entered the dinghy and told her to hand me the bag back. She answered: „You gave me the bag, let it be with me. I will give it to you when we arrive. No problem.“
„Ok, no problem,” I replied.

We were uncomfortable there, too many people. We were suffocating. I preferred to give her the bag. The time was 21 o’clock. We had started.

All of a sudden in the middle of the sea the fuel finished. I wanted to take my bag from Joelle to take out my phone. All telephones were switched off. We had asked a boy to turn on his phone and call for help, but he did not. So, I asked Joelle for my phone that was in the bag. She opened my bag, gave me my phone. The time I wanted to call, a wave came and took the phone in the sea.

That’s how the worst nightmare started. The dinghy started sinking in the water. (She stops talking)
I cannot continue … can you Joelle?

Joelle

I left Turkey because I was pregnant and as a single woman I felt so badly unsafe there. I was looking for somewhere where me and my baby could be safe.

To finally arrive here to Greece we had first to cross the border from turkey. We stayed in the woods until at the coast one night and then we started.

I entered the dinghy after all others and together with Sylvie. When we started, I don’t know why, but I had a bad feeling… I started crying. Just like this.

Because I am Christian I started praying. I prayed to God that he gives grace to me and let me arrive safely at our destination. I was crying. One of my Congolese sisters, Guilaine, asked me: „Why are you crying?“ I told her: “I don’t know, why I cry but I have such a strange feeling.“ „No”, she said, „you cry because you pray to God to bless you, but when you pray you should not cry.“ So, I told her: „Ok I will stop.“

There where two children with us, who started crying too. They were crying all the time as if something would happen and they felt it. They cried. We were too many people inside the boat and it was too small for us all.

The driver said to me: „Tell your brothers and sisters not to smoke, there is fuel on board and the boat will explode.“

After five minutes, I felt the water coming inside the boat and my feet getting wet. I myself had nothing with me. I asked the others to throw their bags in the water to reduce the overweight. I was begging them. I had only the blue bible with me, a soap to wash myself and the clothes I was wearing… nothing more.


The people said: „Now we are safe, they will come to save us.“ When the motor stopped, I asked one guy: „Call the rescuers “, but he didn’t want. He said: „I can’t open my phone because if I open it the police will come and catch us and return us back.“ I said: „I prefer to be caught, than to die.” Sylvie understood and said: „Give me my phone from my bag, I will call.“ The short time until I gave it to her, we already started sinking. It went very fast.

I was pregnant in the 8 month. My belly was so big that I thought I will give birth to a baby of 4 kilos. The rescue jacket did not close. A man from Mali took some strings and attached it around me to tie my life-vest. We were sinking and the waves slowly carried away each of us to another direction.

I was drifting with Guilaine, and then we saw also Teddy. I felt suddenly a strong feeling of power in me. I don’t even know where this came from.

Where we fell in the sea there was nothing, no boats no fishermen, no police no one. We stayed there all night in the sea. When the morning came, I said to Guilaine: „Don’t cry, they will come and rescue us.“ Guliaine said: „No. You see the whole night no one came.” I told her: „Ok at night they didn’t appear because it was so dark and cold. I believe they will rescue us now.“ I believed in that, because the daylight came. Gulialine said: „Ok no problem.“ But I know she was doubting.

Teddy told us we had to stay awake and we should not fall asleep in the sea. Gulaine said: „I am tired, I can’t anymore, I really can’t anymore.“ She asked for help. „You know my situation,” I replied, “I don’t have a way to help you, I cannot even help myself.“ It was horrible. After two hours, a wave separated us. I stayed all alone. Completely on my own in the sea.

I was crying but inside me a voice was telling me: „Don’t cry. Who tells you that you won’t get rescued or that you will die?“ I spoke to God: „Ok. Your will will happen. Because I cannot do anything anymore. I am in your hands.“ I was so tired and exhausted. I slept and while sleeping I was fighting to change my position. I was thinking: „God, if you help me to get out of this sea I will be grateful forever.“

Suddenly, I saw a huge boat coming towards me, but it turned away. I asked myself why? Then I saw another boat, like the ones people use to cross the border but it was bigger and of orange color. It was not still far of me, when I saw a white person jump in the sea to rescue me. “She is pregnant,” I heard her scream.

They took me, gave me medicine and brought me to the land. They asked me: „how many are you?“ I said we were 26. I didn’t know where the others were. I don’t know what happened then. They left me. I believe they went to find the others. Then I saw Sylvie. „Where are the others? Let’s hope they bring them even if they are not alive.“ But in the end no one else could ever join us again of our group.

Until they brought us to hospital we heard nothing. The same evening I saw a psychologist with his assistant and I asked them: „Where are my brothers and sisters?“ They didn’t answer.

Then the police came to interrogate me. I asked again: „Where are my friends?” They didn’t answer.

I said: „Ok, don’t tell that a whole day and a whole night the people are still in the sea and they are alive? Tell me if they are dead or alive.“ Then, I understood that none was alive, only Sylvie and me.

I was pregnant in the 8th month, so we stayed alive, me, Sylvie and Victoria. God’s grace was with us that day. Far away from our families, far away from friends, life is difficult. We always have to fight for a tomorrow, because god allowed us to survive. I know marvellous things will still happen to us.

The first person I met after the shipwreck were the rescuers Giannis and Nicola. I want to use the opportunity to thank them because it was thanks to God and them, that we are still alive. Today, I have a beautiful small girl. Her name is Victoria-Miracle and that’s why I want to say thank you to our rescuers. Because they do an incredible job. To rescue people, you have to have a big heart. We are alive because of them. Thank you and God should give you grace and a long life so that you can rescue many other people who get in desperate situations. And thanks to Iliaktida, to my social worker Victoria, and to the UNHCR. Thank you all!

Sylvie

When the dinghy was sinking, we sank too. We were four people holding hands. We were talking to one another giving each other courage.

In the beginning, we were 24 people on the boat: 19 blacks and 5 white. Among us were also two kids and their mother and father. Syrians. The Syrian man was pulling my hair so I could see. I had the hair in my face in the water. I don’t know what separated me from them. A wave… and then I was alone.

Joelle

I was still with Sylvia, when she was telling me: „Stay strong.“ I told her to stay strong too. But all of a sudden, when I called the next time her name, I heard nothing. No voice in the sea. We all were shouting loud but I heard nothing. I was scared and thought maybe they will leave me back, abandoned me. I was afraid rescuers would come but not find me. I started screaming: „Save me, save me!“

Nothing. The day came. The waves. I had to go with the rhythm of the waves. When a wave came, I turned away my head. I should not sleep. Because if you sleep… I had a strong faith in me. I knew someone will come and rescue me, that gave me comfort. If I had lost this faith I wouldn’t be alive now.

Sylvia

In the sea, I saw a big boat, like Joelle did. It was coming to me. I screamed: „I am here. I am here!“ Nothing, they passed by. The waves where huge. Huge!

Around 14-15 hours I still had faith although I was so long in the sea. I had prayed to all gods in that time: the gods of Greece, the gods of Turkey all gods. I said to them: come to save us, take care of us. Even when a bird passed by near me I asked it for help. Even the fly that came near to me I asked for help. I talked with the waves and the wind and with the animals.

When I saw the boats, it was as if I was asleep and walk up and saw it pass by and screamed:
“I am here!“ They threw a rope and I tried to hold it but I was to tired, I could not. Someone jumped in the sea and hold me. They put me on the boat and covered me with plastic to make my body warm. The sea salt had burned my eyes, I could not see. I was blind.

They brought me to Joelle. I heard her voice. Me and Joelle were taken by the ambulance to hospital. God is the god of goodness, forgiveness and miracles. When you don’t expect it, then he appears and intervenes. I will pray to him all my life. If he sends me back to earth it is because I haven’t finished my mission and I promise him I will complete it. Until the very last day of my life.

The red bag

We were holding this red bag together. I don’t know if it is this red bag that kept us alive and together until today. Or if it was Victoria in the belly together with the bag. Joelle was holding all the time the bag in the sea. When we were saved and brought away the ambulance, she returned it back to me. And the crazy thing is, she even had one more bag on her back all the time that did not belong to us. She had it on her back all the hours in the sea and in the hospital she gave it away because it actually didn’t belong to us.

Joelle

I didn’t know what was in the bag. I just believed we will get rescued. My friend had trusted me to take care of something that I could actually not take care of. If someone gives you something you have to take care because sometimes thieves come and steel from you something that is not yours. I took it serious that responsibility, it is normal.

I thought: „Maybe she has all her money inside. I can’t abandon the bag.“ In total I had two bags. The big one I didn’t know to whom it belonged. I thought the person will need it. They rescued me with this strangers bag and Sylvies bag. And when I came out of the sea I gave both back. The red one I gave it to Sylvie. I had spent all time in the sea with these two bags. So now we are here and the bags too and it’s an incredible joy that we are still alive.

When I came to hospital I was scared for my baby. I was afraid, that she might have health problems, but they made an echography and said: „No, the baby is ok.“ She is my angel. She is my joy and my power. I believe, I would have died if she was not in me. God really pitied us. It’s really a miracle.

I call my baby girl Victoria-Miracle.

Statement by 5 of the Persecuted Migrants of the Moria 35 Tuesday March 13th, 2018

On the 20 April, we are scheduled to attend trial in Chios after waiting
nine months, trapped on Lesvos, while 30 of our brothers unjustly have
waited in prison for this same time period.  Our humanity has been
denied since we stepped foot in Europe, the supposed cradle of democracy
and human rights.  Since we arrived we have been forced to live in
horrible conditions, our asylum cases are not taken seriously, and most
Africans are denied residency in Europe and face deportation.  We are
treated like criminals, simply for crossing a border that Europeans can
freely cross.

Now 35 of us have been accused of rioting, destroying property, and
violence, however, it was actually the police who have attacked us in a
violent and racist raid on the African section of Moria Detention Centre
on the 18 July 2017, the day we were arrested. On the 18 July, a group
of migrants of many different nationalities and races gathered to
protest that we are being kept prisoners on Lesvos island in inhumane
conditions. To break up the protest, the police shot tear gas canisters
into the group of migrants who were protesting outside the main gate of
Moria Detention Centre. It was the police in full riot gear who attacked
unarmed migrants with stones, batons, and tear gas. More than an hour
after the clashes ended the police surrounded only the African section
of Moria Detention Centre. It was the police who damaged property by
braking the windows and doors of the containers where we were living.
Without concern for people who were inside they threw tear gas into the
closed containers. They dragged people by their hair out of the
containers. They beat anyone they found with batons, their boots, their
fists, including a pregnant woman. It seems we were targeted only
because of our skin colour – because we are black. It was in this
violent and racist attack that we were also beaten and arrested. The
police continued to beat us inside the police station, while we were in
handcuffs, and they denied us medical attention for days afterwards.

The week after we were violently arrested, the police returned and again
raided Moria Detention Centre, arresting many Africans who were notified
that their appeals had been rejected, and who were then deported to
Turkey. We believe that this raid was in order to continue to terrorize
migrants and silence any resistance. With coordination of UNHCR and the
Greek Asylum Service, the pregnant woman who had been beaten was
transferred to Athens in the days after the police attack on our
community. We believe that her transfer to Athens and the deportation of
several Africans was also in order to get rid of any witnesses to the
police´s attack against us.

However, the authorities can not stop the truth from coming out about
how Greece and Europe treat migrants in Lesvos. It is the violent attack
by the police against African migrants which must be investigated. It is
the police who must be brought to justice. We and our 30 brothers in
prison must be freed.  We do not trust that the authorities who have
treated us as less than human will treat us fairly in this case and we
know that we will only achieve justice in this case through solidarity
from Greeks, Europeans and other people who see us as their equals.

 

Source: Musaferat

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

Copyright: Michalis Bakas

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

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

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

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

Ramazan Jomali, who was 19 years old when he died, was awaited by his brother in Greece, who had come from Paris to meet him.

Every year we organise a ceremony in the presence of family members of the dead. In October 2017, we had the ceremony together with the two female survivors of the 24th of April 2017 shipwreck, when 22 people died at sea. Among the dead were their friends and we added their names to the memorial.

Mama Nicole, Chouchou, Gilaine; Sylva; Tedy, Fati, Pider; Peter, Junior

The two women survived after being at sea for 15 hours thanks to the rescuers who would not give up the hope to still find them alive.

Joelle was pregnant in the 8th month and gave birth to small Victoria who was also present at the ceremony.

For us, it remains important to remind ourselves ever year, how these are people who had searched for safety in Europe, and who lost their lives before they arrived.

The fact that the memorial was vandalised with black paint at night makes us both sad and angry. But it also gives us all the more the certainty that we need to continue even more passionately in our struggle to support people who have fled their homes and who, due to a politics of closed borders, have to risk their lives to secure a better future for them and their loved ones.

In the coming days, the names of the dead will be put up again on the memorial – they are a reminder to all of us that we need safe ways for refugees to come to Europe, not deadly paths.

We dream of an Aegean that becomes a sea of peace and we will do what we can to make this dream come true.

We thank all of you, who the last days showed that this memorial belongs to all those who respect human lives, regardless of nationalities, religions, and papers.

w2eu

Reunite us with our families now!”

Call for refugee protest on Syndagma Square
Wednesday 1st November 2017 at 11am

We are more than 4,000 refugees awaiting our transfer to Germany – most of which are families who are waiting already more than 18 months in Greece under deplorable conditions.

We escaped from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to find security and peace near our beloved.

Many of us have received the acceptance from Germany since more than 6 months, passing the maximum deadline for the transfer defined by European law due an unofficial and illegal deal between Germany and Greece.

Our waiting period has reached now in average nine months from the date of acceptance. Currently, people who get tickets issued have received their acceptance in January 2017. Everybody has to still pay his/her ticket by him/herself.

– We have been promised many things.
– We have heard these promises many times.
– We are tired to listen, tired to wait, tired to hope.
– We have not received at any point of time a clear answer on who is deciding how many people can leave in one month or who is putting numeral limits on transfers.
– We have not received at any point a clear answer on who is deciding which persons are considered vulnerable and can travel faster and based on which criteria this is decided.
– We just want to know now when we will go to our families. And we want to be treated all equally without any discrimination.

We therefore demand:
· from the Greek and the German government to respect the legal limit of six months to reunify our families from the date of acceptance.
· from the German and Greek authorities to immediately charter flights for all the refugees that have already been waiting more than six months.
· from the Greek authorities that the money for our tickets will be paid by the state as provided by law. The tickets are one more obstacle for our family reunifications.

For all these reasons, our struggle goes on Wednesday 1st November 2017 at 11am at Syndagma Square. Join us and raise your voices with ours!

We are protesting since four months against the limitation of transfers to Germany for family reunifications. We want to shout out against the cruel migration policy of deterrence that Europe imposes on us and our families; a system that is aimed to unnerve us and let us give up. But we will stand upright. We want to tear down the walls that stop us from being with our fathers, mothers and children. We will continue our struggle until we succeed.

No more discrimination!
We demand our right on family unity and a dignified life in peace now!
The right to stay and freedom of movement for all.

Refugees from different camps and places in Greece

Update: Refugee protest against the delays in Dublin transfers of family reunifications from Greece to Germany Athens, 11.10.2017

We are more than 4,000 persons awaiting our transfer to Germany. Most of us are families who are waiting already more than 18 months in Greece under deplorable conditions. We escaped from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to find security and peace near our beloved. We applied for family reunification. Many of us have received the acceptance from Germany already since more than 6 months, passing the maximum deadline for the transfer as prescribed by law. The waiting period nowadays has reached nine months from the date of acceptance. Currently, people who get tickets issued have received their acceptance in January 2017. Everybody has to pay his/her ticket by him/herself.

We are protesting since more than three months against the limitation of transfers to Germany for family reunifications and we will continue our struggle until we succeed. As it was agreed on 17th of September during the last protest we held in front of the Athens Asylum Service near Katekhaki metro station, a refugee delegation consisting of four representatives visited the offices on October 5, 2017 in order to get the promised update on promised improvements from the responsible authorities. During the visit, representatives of the asylum service and the Dublin Unit specifically, informed us that the number of transfers had increased to over 70 persons per month since July and had reached approx. 300 in September. According to them, the Greek authorities had the will to further increase transfers to 600 per month. In the meantime, the Dublin office has reportedly employed three additional officers in order to fasten up procedures. Furthermore, they acknowledged the problem of the expenses forced upon us for the airplane tickets and expressed their will to improve the situation by hiring a number of charters only for family reunification transfers. Finally, and answering our demand on transparency, the exact numbers of transfers will be issued on the internet-page of the asylum service.

– We have been promised many things.
– We have heard these promises many times.
– We are tired to listen, tired to wait, tired to hope.
– We have not received at any point of time a clear answer on who is deciding how many people can leave in one month or who is putting numeral limits on transfers.
– We have not received at any point a clear answer on who is deciding which persons are considered vulnerable and can travel faster and based on which criteria this is decided.
– We just want to know now when we will go to our families. And we want to be treated all equally without any discrimination and according to law.

On Monday 16th of October 2017 we will meet the authorities again, as they promised us that until then they will be able to show us results of their promises. We are in expectation of a quick positive change with prompt transfers to destination countries for all separated families. Otherwise we will have to escalate our struggle for our fair demands.

Refugees from different camps and places in Greece

Let our families reunite now! – Refugee protest tomorrow at Greek Asylum Service in Athens

“Let our families reunite now!”

Refugee protest on Tuesday, September 19th at 11am in front of the offices of the Greek Asylum Service / Dublin Offices near Katekhaki metro station.

We, the Syrian families from different camps in Greece (i.e. Elaionas, Koutsochero, Ritsona and Skaramangas), who have our beloved relatives in Germany are inviting all refugees who are separated from their relatives and everybody else who wants to join our struggle for justice and human rights, to a peaceful protest on Tuesday September 19th at 11 o’clock in front of the offices of the Greek Asylum Service / Dublin Offices near Katekhaki metro station.

We want to express for one more time our strong concern and disagreement about the informal agreement between the German and the Greek government, which in practice limited radically the transfers of persons accepted through family reunification to 70 per month.

Refugees receiving tickets nowadays in order to fly in October and later have received their decisions from Germany from January 2017 and onwards. More than 4,600 have received a positive answer from Germany since the beginning of the year of which until mid-August only 221 had left Greece. This results in more than 4,300 persons awaiting their tickets to go to Germany in Greece more than half of which are children. The vast majority of us come from war torn Syria, but there are also many refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq waiting to join their relatives as well as from other countries.

Don‘t separate us but respect our fundamental right on family life!
Freedom of movement for all – Stop deportations!
Close the camps; stop the isolation and ghettoization of refugees!
Open houses and provide for human living standards inside the cities!
Access to social rights for all!
Access for all protection seekers to a prompt and fair asylum procedure!

Read the full call here