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

Refugees call for protests against the limitation of family reunifications from Greece to Germany

After a protest which took place on August 2nd, 2017 in front of the German Embassy, more and more refugee families are uniting to demand their immediate transfer to Germany. On August 7th they continued their struggle with dozens of families in the Himalaya offices, the only travel agency responsible to issue them tickets and tomorrow, on Thursday 10th of August 2017, they will protest again in front of the Greek Asylum Service in Katekhaki.

About 2,400 refugees are awaiting currently their transfer. Many have spent already more than 1 ½ years under inhuman conditions in Greece and more than two years far from their beloved. Within the last year, German authorities have made a sharp u-turn from the “welcome” culture of 2015, harshening not only national asylum policies and suspending the possibility of family reunion for refugees with subsidiary protection for two years, but also imposing stricter visa policies in general and showing more reluctance to accept family reunifications while slowing down abruptly the transfers of already accepted applicants. In a time when German news speak of a revival of Dublin returns to Greece, the desperate families who got separated by escaping war struggle for their human right to be with their family.

Read here the refugees`call:

“Let our families reunite now!”

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 have also their families there and everybody else who wants to join our struggle and stand in solidarity with us, to a peaceful protest on Thursday August 10th at 11 o’clock in front of the offices of the Greek Asylum Service / Dublin Offices near Katekhaki metro station.

We want to express our strong concern and disagreement about the informal agreement between the German and the Greek government, which let to the practice limiting transfers of persons accepted through family reunification to go to Germany to 70 per month.

There are more and more families who have been accepted to go to Germany more than six months ago.
There are grandparents, fathers, mothers and children waiting to join each other after years of separation.
There are elderly, sick, disabled, newborns, victims of torture and other forms of violence or exploitation as well as many other vulnerable persons among us, who are in urgent need of their families.
There are many of us who wait already since more than 1 ½ years under very difficult conditions in Greece.

We have escaped war.
We need our families and a life in peace.

“Let our families reunite now!”

Athens, Greece

See for more information also:

Greek:
huffington post
efymerida twn syndaktwn
cnn
answer from european commission in greek

English:
nrttv
refugee support aegean / pro asyl

German:
pro asyl

Urgent call for solidarity with our dear friend S.

Farewell sister!

We first met S. in December 2015, an 41-year-old woman from Uganda victim of torture in her country. She was waiting in the cold with hundreds of other refugees in the informal tent camp in Idomeni at the border to FYROM, the time when the borders started to gradually close, beginning with refugees who were not from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (non-SIA countries). Along with many others, she had the hope that the Balkan corridor would re-open for all and she could move forward and later re-unite with her family in a better place. We met her while she was cooking in a big casserole for the group of African refugees she was staying with. We remember her tired and sad smile of those days. Full of stress, she asked us what would happen to her and all the other people if the borders would not re-open. Who would help her if she had to stay in Greece, she asked. Who could support her two children, which got separated from their mother and who had at that time remained back alone in Turkey. 

When S. gave up trying to leave Greece and came back to Athens, we offered her a safe place to stay in the Welcome Island, a solidarity flat run by private donations as a grassroots project. She stayed for more than one year in the apartment, co-living first with people from Somalia and later from Afghanistan and Uganda. Sharing a room with women from another culture, who had their own problems and suffering, was not always easy, but S. was a strong, honest and faithful partner in this flat-sharing project and she has never hesitated to help others or to give us a smile. She brought to the flat her friend who was in advanced pregnancy and alone and supported her to stay in the house and get help.

For months she tried hard to find a job in order to support her family. During the whole period of stay S. suffered not only from her very serious health problems and trauma as a victim of torture, but specifically from the separation from her children. She was supported by friends and volunteers, as well as the Greek Refugee Council (GCR), Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), and Babel Day Care Centre until her very last days – even until today.

Tragically, S. finally lost her courageous struggle and died in the early morning of 12th July in a hospital in Athens. Now, we want to say goodbye in dignity and help her on her last journey back to Uganda, where her children have returned to. Her beloved ones, as a last wish for their mother, asked her body to be transferred and buried close to them in Uganda. 

GCR made a solidarity call to collect the amount of 2,100 Euro for the purpose of the transfer of the corpse back home to Uganda. We would like to call for solidarity also from our side and ask you to support the family of S. on these last steps. She never reached her destiny; she could not fulfill her dreams. We want her to be in the arms of her family finally, that this personal fight against the monster Fortress Europe ended for her in Greece. 

Stand by the side of this family now so that S. can reach her children and they can say a last goodbye. Her corpse needs to be transferred soon, so any solidarity is urgent.

Dear S.,

You will be our good friend always and in our hearts forever!

With all our love,

Your room-mates and your support family from infomobile / w2eu

For solidarity donations please use the following GCR account:

National Bank of Greece: GR5301101160000011629606464
Piraeus Bank: GR8001720320005032016706911

Welcome Islands Report 2016/2017

The story of the welcome islands…

Since 2011 a small group of activists from Welcome to Europe (http:w2eu.info) who are involved in the Infomobile
Greece grassroots project, and some refugee friends recognized an urgent need to create solidarity shelters for
emergency housing of refugees who were not covered by the official shelters. At the time, the number of places in
state-founded refugee accommodation was nearly non-existing and did not reach 1,000 in total – half of which were
used specifically to house unaccompanied minors….

Welcome Islands 2016/2017. Read the whole story here!

Freedom for Gabriele del Grande!

Our dear friend Gabriele del Grande, human rights activist, journalist and documentary filmmaker, was arrested on April 10, in Hatay / Turkey. He was doing a research for his new book-project about Syrian refugees. Since four days now, he is on a hunger strike, struggling for his freedom.

Photo: Jacques Berset

Gabriele has been active since years, monitoring deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean, on his blog ‘Fortress Europe’ and later focussing on the complexities of the war in Syria and its effects on the Syrian civil society and the refugees in Europe. All of us loved his documentary “On the bride’s side” in which he combined documentary filming with activism in his own way, struggling for another world.

Like other 150 journalists and thousands of political prisoners in Turkey, Gabriele is being denied his freedom, without being charged of any offence. Since July 2016, the Turkish prisons have been filled with activists arbitrarily arrested – a common way the Turkish regime tries to silence criticism and protest.

Gabriele is in solitary confinement and he’s on a hunger strike. On April 18, when he was finally allowed to contact his family, informed them that:

»My documents are okay, but they don’t allow me to appoint a lawyer, nor do they tell me when they are going to release me. […] I am not allowed to use the phone, my phone and my personal belongings were confiscated, even though I’m not officially charged of any crime. . […] From tonight on I will go on a hunger strike and I ask everyone to support me, so that my rights are respected.«

Gabriele’s appeal found thousands of supporters who demand for his immediate release. A petition was already signed by more then 50.000 people and under the Hashtag #iostocongabriele many express their solidarity.

We stand in solidarity with Gabriele and demand his immediate release from prison!

Freedom for Gabriele and freedom for all other prisoners who were arrested for opposing the Turkish regime!

We demand from all governments involved, to immediately stop the dirty refugee-deal the EU made with Turkey. Freedom of movement for everyone!

welcome to europe – watchthemed alarmphone – infomobile greece

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

More information on Gabriele del Grande you may find on his Blog fortresseurope.blogspot.de as well as on his Twitter-Account @AbuNefeli. Facebook-page “On the brides side”: https://www.facebook.com/IO-STO-CON-LA-SPOSA-614167855342727/

A petition for Gabrieles release can be signed here: https://www.change.org/p/angealfa-per-il-ritorno-a-casa-di-gabriele-del-grande

Happy Birthday City Plaza!

On April 22, 2017 we celebrate together one year of solidarity with our CP-family

City Plaza today is everywhere:
In Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Serbia, Sweden … !
It is not just a building, but a home defined by its people. From here solidarity is spread like seeds we carry in our small luggage to continue the struggle for equal rights everywhere we’ll go.

Former residents now living in other countries have collected songs and wishes as a present for City Plazas birthday. Their thoughts were brought together once more in a small booklet. It is dedicated to the ones who are still on their journey, as well as to the ones that are struggling to arrive and the ones who stand with them. It is dedicated also to the ones we lost on this road but who will be in our hearts forever!

We will stand always together and we shall never give up!

OPEN HOUSES! SMASH BORDERS!
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR ALL!

download the booklet here

Detained refugees and migrants in pre-removal centres in mainland Greece left to survive

The situation in the pre-removal centers in Greece is becoming more and more tragic. While the big NGOs focus on helping refugees in the open camps, about 2,000 other refugees – most of which are asylum seekers – are suffering inhuman conditions in silence as they do not receive sufficient aid and have to endure inhuman and degrading detention conditions. Recent photos from sick persons lacking proper treatment inside the pre-removal center of Corinth are shocking.

Corinth pre-removal detention centre is a 1 ½ hour drive from Athens an has a capacity of 768. While it had been used extensively in the past and was considered by the new SYRIZA-led government in beginning of 2015 as closed for a while, it was “re-opened” in December 2015 with the re-use and transfer of more than 150 Morroccans planned to be deported. On the background of a closing Balkan corridor, the government at that time chose return to all infamous policies of systematic detention starting with the Maghreb nationalities who as a total were not considered to belong to the classical refugee producing nations, but are generally seen as migrants.

Detainees complained that access to medical services was particularly limited. Medical services are provided “on a voluntary basis” by the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO), according to a AIDA report written by Greek Refugee Council (GCR). The Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection had hired doctors and nurses of the KEELPNO on temporary work contract for the medical care in pre-removal centres until the beginning of 2017. In December 2016 GCR had found that in Corinth pre-removal centre, where a number of about 650-700 persons were detained at that time, doctors were visiting the centre only three times per week. During a SYRIZA visit in beginning of March 2017, doctors were only visiting twice a week and there were even in those times no sufficient number of doctors available for all the sick. Also they noticed the very filthy state of the detention centre due to a funding gap for a cleaning company and insufficient and inadequate nutrition of the detainees. Respectively, and as the Unionist Movement “Overturning”, a faction of the Federation of Hospital Doctors in Greece (OENGE) resulted in a Press Release in March 2017, in Petrou Ralli detention centre was only one doctor for 200 detainees in a morning shift during the week and one other in Amygdaleza for 300 detainees (which is also visited twice a week by a psychologist).

Dozens of detainees, most of them belonging to the supposingly “non-refugee” and thus “unwanted nationalities”, like Pakistanis or Moroccans, are enduring scabbies and bacterial infections without proper treatment and while remaining in an inadequate environment where healing is almost impossible and the risk of re-infection ist high. They claim that they haven’t receive enough treatment and that they are left in the dark regarding their rights. “There is not enough medical staff. There is no access to lawyers without payment. We have no information about what will happen to us, how long we will stay in this prison.”, says one of them in a phone conversation.

Only last October 28, 2016, the detained refugees had put fire in the center, protesting against the extension of their detention decisions. People who transported there, from all other Greece, i.e. newcomers from Mytilene or Crete, are trying to find help for appealing their detention and for receiving asylum. Some of them are more than six months there. Even after a recent shipwreck in the Ioanian Sea near Patras, many of the 113 survivors got transferred to Corinth detention centre.

While administrative detention should be the exception, it is used regularly and without individual assessment and reasoning.

According to law ground for detention are:
– in order to determine his or her identity or nationality;
– in order to determine those elements on which the application for international protection is based which could not be obtained otherwise, in particular when there is a risk of absconding of the applicant;
– if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant is making the application for international protection merely in order to delay or frustrate the enforcement of a return decision, if it is probable that the enforcement of such a measure can be effected;
– when he or she constitutes a danger for national security or public order;
– when there is a serious risk of absconding of the applicant, in order to ensure the enforcement of a transfer decision according to the Dublin III Regulation.

Many of the detainees in pre-removal centres got detained already on the islands of the Aegean soon upon arrival to Greece as it was considered they applied merely in order to delay or frustrate return or on “law-breaking conduct” grounds. Additionally, on 18 June 2016 a new Police Circular introduced a practice according to which third-country nationals residing on the islands with “law-breaking conduct” (παραβατική συμπεριφορά), would be transferred, on the basis of a decision of the local Director of the Police, approved by the Directorate of the Police, to pre-removal detention centers in the mainland where they would remain detained. Others while not having applied for asylum from within detention despite this fact got arrested after registering their claim and were detained while law prescribes that such kind of automaticity and lack of individual examination should not be carried out and asylum seekers should not be generally deprived of their liberty. Among the detainees in pre-removal centres there are not only many asylum seekers but also vulnerable persons. Reportedly there are detainees in Corinth how are held already more than 6 months.

No re-instalation of Dublin returns to Greece! Solidarity to all squats!

One year after the closure of the Balkan Route – One year after the EU-Turkey Deal – Six years after the halt of Dublin returns to Greece: 62,000 and more refugees are stuck in limbo in Greece merely able to survive

copyright: noborder

Two days ago, two squats in Athens got attacked and raided by Greek police on March 13, 2017. In one of the squats 127 refugees were hosted. This repressive measure comes one year after the closure of the Balkan Route when more than 57,000 refugees got trapped in Greece and were transferred in provisory tent camps without any assistance, which were set up ad hoc over the night were run in the majority of cases by the army. It is a period where still 23,000-30,000 refugees have no adequate housing but stay under inhuman conditions in state run camps – some of which still are in tents! Among them are hundreds of highly vulnerable people placed at the margins of Greek society without adequate support and any survival perspective on the long run.

On March 13th, the Athens police raided in the early morning hours two squats in the capital one of which in Alkiviadou Street (near Aharnon) was hosting more than 120 refugees since February, who all got apprehended. The other squat which got raided was “Villa Zografou”, an alternative social space and one of the oldest squats in Athens. More then 120 persons were arrested in Alkiviadou Squat and eight persons in Villa Zografou. After one day detention at the Central Aliens Police Departement Petrou Ralli only 31 got transferred to Skaramangas Camp. All the rest of the arrested refugees were left in the middle of the nights on the streets with anywhere to go, while the activists had been released quickly after the apprehension. Many of them are families and people with medical problems from Syria (according to activists there were two people diagnosed with diabetes, one pregnant woman, a man in a wheelchair and one woman who had recently had surgery on her back with severe pain). They finally found emergency housing in other squats and through volunteers. People who were arrested in the squats and who did not have papers, were taken to detention in Amygdaleza pre-removal detention centre where they will stay until their registration. In the meantime more than 1,500 people protested in the evening against the eviction of the two squats. The next day the refugees tried to pick up their belongings from piles outside of the evicted building in Alkiviadou but they were soon stopped by the police and their belongings got thrown in the garbage. Even documents or other important things like medicines got lost this way. The building which was squatted belongs to the Red Cross, which announced that they had planned to open a reception centre for unaccompanied minors there.

copyright: Khora

Around 3,000 refugees live currently in squats in respectable conditions in the centre of Athens. The government estimated that more than 7,000 refugees are self-sheltered in general – which is more than 12% of the refugee population in Greece. The refugee squats along with other forms of self-funded solidarity housing have saved hundreds of vulnerable people since the closure of the Balkan Route in March 3, 2016, who had been cramped in the state’s mass tent camps, without any support for months. People with life threatening diseases like cancer, elderly, disabled persons, pregnant women and mothers of newborns, people with severe psychological trauma, victims of shipwrecks or fascist attacks and other forms of violence and abuse… all found refuge in the squats when no help was offered to them by the state. Only run with private donations and the solidarity of the civil society – people from crisis stricken Greece and all over the world – these squats have shown how we can live together despite differences and how we can stand side by side in solidarity to create another world especially in difficult times.

The EU-Turkey Statement from 18. March 2016 was only one crucial step towards the increased militarization of the EU’s external and internal borders throughout 2015/2016 that hit the essence of human rights in general and refugee rights specifically. The inauguration of Hot Spots on the Aegean Islands (October 2015 – March 2016), the arrival of NATO boats in the Aegean (11. February 2016), the closure of the Balkan Corridor (8. March 2016), the raid and evacuation of Idomeni informal camp (24/25. May 2016), the pre-registration excercize (9. June- 30. July 2016), the amendment of Presidential Decree 144/2010 which gave way to the new independent asylum committees (24. June 2016), the raids in two squats in Thessaloniki and the evacuation of Piraeus informal camp (27. July 2016), the transformation of Frontex to the European Border- and Coast Guard and the expanding of their operational framework (6. October 2016) and the changes brought with the Joint Action Plan of the European Commissioner for the Implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal (8. December 2016) were all steps towards an even darker future for refugees in Greece. In 2016 borders were closed and deportations increased, leading to death and despair instead of protection and security.

Ever since, the Aegean Islands were turned into open air prisons. Now, European member states plan to re-instal also Dublin returns to Greece for the first time after six years. On 8th of December 2016 the European Commission had suggested this step backward in terms of refugee rights to be implemented from March 2017 onwards gradually. Germany for its part, along with Belgium and Austria, already gave a hint that it agrees that Greece has improved the conditions for refugees in such a sufficient way, that it plans to re-start the returns from 15th of March.

We have been fighting against Dublin returns already eight years ago. We strongly oppose this step backwards that reduces again freedom of movement. It will make more people loose years of their lives escaping from unbearable living-conditions, being deported back and need to escape again. We have been whitnessing it already years ago, in summer 2010, when we reported about those refugees who had escaped from Greece 1-2-3-4 times being again and again deported back, without another chance to try it another time. Fortunately and as a result of consistent struggles, in 2011 this tragedy could be stopped. The unbearable conditions for refugees in Greece were obvious but needed to be documented by different human rights organizations in order to show results. In the case of MSS vs. Greece and Belgium the European Court of Human Rights decided to temporarily halt the returns after years of protests by refugees being detained and deported back and forth all over Europe. Ever since many things changed in Greece but only few to the better. What we see today is only a “lifting” of the ugly face Greece had many years. Behind the curtain there is still only suffering.

The re-instalation of Dublin returns to Greece has to stop now!

– Today more refugees than ever are dying at the European borders. In 2016 5,022 persons died or were reported missing in the Meditarranean Sea (compared to 3,771 in 2015). The number of dead refugees per 1,000 new arrivals in the same period rose from 0,9 to 2,5 (absolute number 2015: 799; 2016: 441).
– 58,000 refugees have been blocked from finding security in Greece and the European Commission is putting pressure on Greece to detain and to return more refugees (37,000 arrests in Turkey at the border to Greece, 2,000 readmissions to Turkey from Greece, 19,000 deportations and voluntary returns from Greece to the countries of origin in 2016).
– More refugees than ever are suffering from the severe deterioration of their mental health in Greece. The number of committed suicide attempts is on the rise also among children and youngsters.
– Hundreds of vulnerable refugees are left alone in camps or other housing forms with no or inadequate support. More than 85% of refugees in Greece come from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 35% of them are children.
– Adequate access to the asylum procedure is not secured. The independence of the asylum committees is in danger with recent amendments to law, the new independent asylum committees and the role of EASO in the decision-making process. Procedural safeguards are successively shrinking due to pressure form the EU to effectively implement the EU-Turkey Deal and respective returns of refugees.
– The mismanagement of aid and the dysfunctional system of big INGOs and NGOs have left refugees until January 2017 in unsafe and appalling conditions with the “winterization” of accommodation been too late to save the lives of seven people dying in Moria and Samos Hot Spot, while staying in the cold and trying to warm themselves with kerosine heaters.
– Newcomers who arrived after 20. March 2016 are excluded from relocation. Almost half of the refugees in all of Greece are excluded only by belonging to nationalities that do not correspond to the criteria (over 75% of recognition rate in Europe) – among them are Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Somalis and many others. Only 9,632 persons have been relocated so far from Greece (as of March 3rd) corresponding to 14% of the aimed 66,400.
– More than 2,000 refugees are currently in administrative detention under devastating conditions in the six pre-removal detention centres. Another five pre-removal centres are planned to open soon on the Aegean Islands.
– Recognized refugees merely survive in Greece as they lack access to their social rights in the majority of cases.

Smash the borders, open houses!
Freedom of movement is everybodies right!
No one is illegal!
Safe passage!

INFOMOBILE GREECE – W2EU