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:

huffington post
efymerida twn syndaktwn
answer from european commission in greek

refugee support aegean / pro asyl

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!


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!