A mom and a dad with three young kids in Greece – their 17-year-old son alone in Germany
Morteza B.* (37) from Afghanistan escaped his country after the lives of his family were threatened. He arrived to Greece with his wife and four children shortly before the EU-Turkey ‘Deal’ was implemented at the end of February 2016. After a few months feeling unsafe in a Greek emergency refugee camp near Athens, the family tried to continue their flight through the Balkans.
More than ten times they were intercepted and unlawfully pushed back to Greece. Once they finally reached Serbian soil, they were intercepted again and pushed back arbitrarily to Bulgaria, where they had never been before.
In winter 2016, after a week-long odyssey, they were finally returned from Bulgaria to Greece. Left with no money, they saw no option but to send their eldest son Massoud* (now 17 years old) to Germany, where they thought he would be safe, as he had been the one along with his father threatened most in Afghanistan.
Their family reunification application was never sent by Greek authorities despite repeated promises. Instead after two years in Germany and despite having claimed asylum there, Germany attempted to return the families’ minor son back to Greece. When Greek authorities refused to take him back, he was allowed to continue his asylum procedure in Germany. He finally received a one year national humanitarian status (Abschiebungsverbot). He is a legally resident in Germany and goes to school there ever since. But he is alone.
“Our son was almost kidnapped in Afghanistan. Masked men were waiting for him in front of his school. After this terror, we had to take our kids from school to keep them safe. We fled to Greece. We tried for months to move onward all together through Macedonia and Serbia as we felt unprotected among the hundreds of other Afghans around us.
On our way, we got illegally returned more than a dozen times. We were beaten, pushed by border guards, soldiers and police; our phones got stolen. We were forced to cross through the freezing waters of a river and were kept detained in Bulgaria for two months in miserable conditions and without being able to even go out.
Back in Greece, after our son reached safety in Germany and when we informed the Greek Asylum Service that we wanted to apply for family reunification they just told us they would send it but we had to wait. Every time we renewed our papers, they’d say the same pushing our patience beyond its limits. Until that day I will never forget, when they suddenly said: ‘No! We will not send your family reunification request. You will have your asylum procedure in Greece.’ I felt I was braking.
Me and my wife still try to understand, that we will have our asylum interview in Greece in one year, exactly five years after we reached Europe, when we will have been separated far away from our son for 3 1/2 years already.
We still live in this refugee camp, a container village in an industrial area. My wife is suffering from severe psychological problems for years, she has therapy and takes medicines. Her situation worsened after the violence we faced at Europe’s borders, but her health is devastated since our eldest child is so far from us.
We have a few neighbours that have been with us all the time in the camp – they have created little gardens on the dusty soil. But I cannot think of putting even one plant in this earth, as we cannot build anything like ‘home’ when one of us is missing.
Home is where your family is – together!”
On the other side of the continent, up in the North, the 17-year-old Massoud* is counting the days to see his family again.
“I miss my family. I wish they come here to live with me in a house. When I was in Greece, we lived in a tent. There was no language lessons, no school. I was very scared to go out alone. When my parents decided I had to move to Germany alone, I was only 13. They were scared to let me go and I was scared to travel alone, but I was more scared to stay in Greece.
I speak every day on the phone with my family. I want to give them strength. The good thing about Germany is that I am not afraid to go out and that I can go to school again. In my future I want to become a cook. I learned cooking by myself when I arrived in Germany and I had to take care of myself. My mum often cries when we talk on phone, but she is happy that I learned to cook, because she doesn’t need to worry about me being hungry. She knows I can fill my stomach now with tasty food.”
Ein alleinerziehender Vater ist mit drei minderjährigen Kindern in Griechenland – sein 12-jähriger Sohn alleine in Deutschland
Hassan H.* aus Afghanistan kam im August 2018 mit seinen vier Kindern nach Lesbos, Griechenland. Kurz bevor sie von dort aus dem Iran geflohen sind, starb seine Frau. Als der alleinerziehende Vater ein Jahr später versuchte, Griechenland über den Balkan zu verlassen, ging einer seiner Söhne verloren. Er und seine verbleibenden drei Kinder wurden nach Griechenland zurückgeschoben. Später nahm sein Sohn von Deutschland aus Kontakt mit ihm auf, aber dem Vater wurde von den griechischen Behörden mitgeteilt, dass er unter den gegebenen Umständen keine Familienzusammenführung beantragen könne.
“Wir blieben sieben Monate in einem Zelt in Moria. Es gab eine Menge Kämpfe. Ich liess meine Kinder aus Angst nicht nach draussen. Ich wusste nicht, wie ich sie sonst hätte schützen können. Als wir schließlich im Frühjahr 2019 nach Athen verlegt wurden, war ich zunächst sehr glücklich. Vom Hafen aus wurden wir in das Lager Skaramangas gebracht. Dort angekommen sah ich ein riesiges Dorf aus Containern auf einem Pier in der Nähe des Meeres. In der Mitte standen Dutzende von Zelten. Wieder lebten wir in einem Zelt ohne Strom, inmitten der kalten Dunkelheit – wieder in Unsicherheit.
Eines Nachts fing ein Zelt Feuer. Eine Familie war vom Brand betroffen und wäre fast gestorben. Die Geflüchteten im Lager protestierten daraufhin gegen diese Zustände. Einer meiner Söhne wurde bei den Unruhen von der Bereitschaftspolizei geschlagen. Seit diesem Vorfall, haben meine Kinder jede Nacht Alpträume. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt beschloss ich, dass wir versuchen mussten, Griechenland zu verlassen. Wir waren da nicht sicher.
Ich sammelte etwas Geld von Freunden und wir beschlossen, die Landgrenze zu überqueren. Aber eine Tragödie jagte die nächste: Mein 12-jähriger Sohn war auf halbem Weg verloren gegangen. Ich dachte, er sei gestorben oder entführt worden. Wir hingegen wurden verhaftet und nach Griechenland zurückgeschickt. … Es war ein glücklicher Tag, als mein Sohn mich aus Deutschland kontaktierte. Ich hörte seine Stimme und für einen Moment waren alle meine Sorgen verschwunden.
Ich ging zu den Mitarbeiter*innen des Lagers und fragte, wie wir zu meinen Sohn nach Deutschland gelangen könnten. Diese sagten mir aber lediglich, dass ich zu spät sei und wir sowieso in die Kategorie “separated child” gehören (gemeint sind nach gemeinsamer Ankunft in Griechenland, später getrennte Kinder). Aus diesem Grund könnten wir nicht einmal einen Antrag auf Familienzusammenführung stellen, weil wir uns “freiwillig” getrennt hätten. Ich verstehe bis heute nicht, was sie meinen. Wir treffen unsere Entscheidungen in einem Ausnahmezustand, während wir versuchen, das Beste für unsere Familie zu tun. Dabei sind es nicht nur diese Entscheidungen, die unsere Situation bestimmen, sondern auch unser Schicksal.
Wie kann es für eine Familie zu spät sein, um zusammen zu sein?
Jetzt ist mein kleiner Junge dort. Und wir sind hier. Wir leben mittlerweile in einem Container. Aber es ist kein Leben, wenn man zuerst seine Frau und die Mutter seiner Kinder und danach ein Kind verliert. Ich träume jede Nacht davon, wieder mit ihm zusammen zu sein. Und ich hoffe, dass ich bis zu dem Tag, an dem wir wieder zusammen an einem besseren Ort sein können, alle meine Kinder beschützen kann.
* Name geändert
“KAMPF FÜR DAS RECHT, ZUSAMMEN ZU SEIN!”
Eine Kampagne für die Zusammenführung der zwischen Deutschland und Griechenland getrennten Familien
Alle Kinder haben das fundamentale Recht mit ihren Liebsten zusammen zu sein. Trotzdem ist es in Europa mittlerweile weitläufig akzeptiert, dass Familien Geflüchteter aufgrund der restriktiven Gesetzeslage und ihrer noch restriktiveren Auslegung durch die Mitgliedsstaaten getrennt werden und bleiben. „Das Wohl des Kindes […] [sollte] eine vorrangige Erwägung der Mitgliedsstaaten sein” – so steht es in der Dublin III Verordnung, die das primäre rechtliche Instrument ist, welches die Verteilung von Asylbewerber*innen innerhalb der EU regelt. Trotzdem werden tausende geflüchtete Kinder, die Europa erreichen, von ihren Eltern, Geschwistern oder anderen näheren Verwandten wie Tanten, Onkeln und Großeltern, die sich in anderen EU Staaten befinden, ferngehalten.
Im Rahmen des “langen Sommers der Migration” im Jahr 2015, haben tausende Menschen in Griechenland das erste Mal europäischen Boden betreten, bevor sie nach Nordeuropa weitergezogen sind. Viele Familienmitglieder sind später über die gleiche Route nachgekommen – mit dem Ziel, ihre Reise fortzusetzen, um in Deutschland in der Nähe ihrer Liebsten Schutz zu suchen.
Die letzten vier Jahren sind von der plötzlichen Rückkehr von einem kurzen Trend einer europäischen ‘Willkommens-Politik’ zu dem bekannten fatalen Ansatz der geschlossenen Grenzen geprägt. Diese Kehrtwende ist begleitet von einem Aufschwung rechter Regierungen in den EU-Mitgliedstaaten und setzte die grosse Mehrheit der nach 2016 Angekommenen Geflüchteten in Griechenland fest.
In einer Atmosphäre, die von repressiven, anti-migratorischen Politiken in ganz Europa bestimmt wird, kämpfen Graswurzelinitiativen und -Netzwerke auf dem ganzen Kontinent gegen Abschiebungen, illegale Push-Backs, Polizeigewalt, repressive Asylgesetze, verlorene Menschenleben an den Grenzen, die Kriminalisierung von Solidarität und den Anstieg rassistischer Angriffe. Obwohl tausende Familien auseinandergerissen wurden und weiterhin voneinander getrennt gehalten werden, herrscht eine gefährliche Stille über dieser Verletzung fundamentaler Menschenrechte.
In diesem Kontext möchten wir Geschichten von geflüchteten Familien teilen, die getrennt zwischen Griechenland und Deutschland leben müssen. Es ist nicht hinzunehmen, dass das Verpassen von Fristen, die Trennung einer Familie mit dem Wohl der Kinder als Ziel, das Getrenntwerden durch Grenzpolitiken, wachsende Zäune und intensivierte Frontexeinsätze und -kontrollen, valide Gründe sind, um die Trennung von Familien zu rechtfertigen. In den meisten Fällen können geflüchtete Familien die notwendigen Papiere, die ihre Verwandtschaft bestätigen würden, nicht vorweisen. Sie können keine übersetzten Pässe, Familienbücher und Geburtsurkunden vorzeigen – weil sie Krieg und Konflikten entflohen und aus und unter Umständen der Flucht, in welchen Menschen solche Dokumente eben nicht (mehr) besitzen, oder ihre Papiere verloren haben auf dem gefahrenvollen Pfad in die Sicherheit.
Wir haben uns entschieden, diese Kampagne für die Rechte aller Familien symbolisch am 15.03.2017 zu beginnen, dem Datum der Wiederaufnahme der Dublin-Rückführungen nach Griechenland, die der Empfehlung der Europäischen Kommission folgte, und auf der angeblichen Verbesserung der Bedingungen in Griechenland beruhte. Viele Länder des europäischen Nordens, insbesondere Deutschland, nahmen die Gelegenheit dankbar an, um zu versuchen Menschen zurück nach Griechenland zuschicken. Im Jahr 2017 hat Deutschland 1.887 Überstellungsgesuche an Griechenland gestellt (take-back requests). 2018 waren es 6.827 und im letzten Jahr 9.275 – und das trotz der anhaltenden systemischen Menschenrechtsverletzungen, die von zahlreichen Organisationen dokumentiert wurden und werden.
Schutzsuchende kämpfen an den Außengrenzen und in Griechenland ums Überleben
Heute setzt die rechts-konservative griechische Regierung des vergangenen Sommer gewählten Kyriakos Mitsotakis und seiner Partei, Nea Dimokratia, immer drastischere Methoden ein, um Geflüchtete ohne Rücksicht auf Verluste von den Grenzen fernzuhalten. Die führenden Politiker*innen des Landes bedienen sich nicht nur einer rassistischen anti-migratorischen Rhetorik, sondern propagieren zudem die lächerlichsten Maßnahmen, welche die Grenzen angeblich abriegeln könnten (z.B. schwimmende Zäune).
Die Ankündigung des türkischen Präsidenten Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, die Türkische Grenze nach Europa Ende Februar 2020 zu öffnen, führte zu einem rasanten Anstieg versuchter Grenzübertritte. Der griechischen Regierung schien es in der Folge logisch und gerechtfertigt, mit Gewalt gegen jene Personen vorzugehen, die versuchten, griechisches Territorium zu betreten. Geflüchtete an der Landesgrenze wurden mit Tränengas beschossen, verprügelt, ausgezogen bis auf die Unterwäsche, zurückgedrängt und sogar mit Gummigeschossen beschossen. Auf dem Meer wurden sie attackiert und beschossen, die Motoren der Boote wurden zerstört, Benzin gestohlen und die Fliehenden in Seenot zurückgelassen. In den vergangenen zwei Wochen wurden nachweislich zwei Personen an der Landesgrenze getötet. Ein Kind ist in der Ägäis ertrunken.
Die griechische Regierung empfindet es heute auch legitim, neu ankommende Schutzsuchende nunmehr zu kriminalisieren und droht ihnen mit Haftstrafen von bis zu vier Jahren und Geldstrafen bis zu 10.000 Euro für den bloßen irregulären Grenzübertritt. Gleichzeitig wurde entschieden, dass Menschen in die Türkei zurückgeschickt oder in Herkunftsländer abgeschoben werden können, ohne ein Asylverfahren zuzulassen. Die EU schweigt zu diesen enormen Verletzungen der Grund- und Menschenrechte und bietet der Türkei und Griechenland stattdessen finanzielle Unterstützung an.
Die Ende 2019 neu eingeführten Einwanderungsgesetze hatten bereits zu zahlreichen praktischen Hindernissen bei der Wahrnehmung der Rechte von Schutzsuchenden in Griechenland geführt. Eine steigende Zahl von Asylanträgen wurde willkürlich beendet und auch die Zahlen der Ablehnungsbescheide nimmt unaufhörlich zu. Für Asylbewerber*innen gibt es keine Sozialversicherungsnummer (AMKA) mehr, statt dessen neue Hindernisse bei der Beantragung einer Steuernummer (AFM), keine direkte Arbeitserlaubnis (erst sechs Monate nach der Registrierung), große technische Schwierigkeiten beim Zugang zum Asylverfahren (per Skype), lange Wartezeiten, um Sozialleistungen zu erhalten (Menschen warten mehrere Monate auf ihre ‘Cash-card’), eine Verlängerung der Wartezeit auf Einbürgerung für international Schutzberechtigte (von fünf auf sieben Jahre) und so weiter.
Mitte März 2020 bringt die Bedrohung der durch das Virus Covid-19 ausgelösten Pandemie nicht nur das öffentliche Leben in Griechenland zum Stillstand. Expert*innen warnen vor einem Anstieg der Infektionen im nächsten Monat, welcher die vulnerabelsten Gruppen am heftigsten treffen wird. Griechische Flüchtlingscamps, in welchen hunderte vulnerable Personen in nächster Nähe zusammenleben müssen, ohne dass grundlegende Bedürfnisse erfüllt werden, bergen ein besonders hohes Infektionsrisiko. NGOs rufen zur sofortigen Evakuierung der Camps auf den Inseln auf. Gleichzeitig führen Sicherheitsmaßnahmen für Mitarbeiter*innen zu einer stark eingeschränkten Präsenz der betreibenden Organisationen wie z.B. der Internationalen Organisation für Migration (IOM). Auch Mitarbeiter*innen der NGOs stellen nur noch ein Minimum an Angeboten zur Verfügung. Die nationale Asylbehörde hat ihren öffentlichen Betrieb vorerst eingestellt.
Auf den Ägäis-Inseln bleiben weiter tausende Geflüchtete in Zelten in und um die “Hotspots” eingesperrt. Viele von ihnen haben nicht einmal gesicherten Zugang zu Lebensmitteln, medizinischer Versorgung oder grundlegenden sanitären Einrichtungen. Alle, die nach dem 1. März 2020 angekommen sind, wurden unter unmenschlichen Bedingungen in Außenarealen der Hafenbehörden und auf einem Militärschiff im Hafen von Lesbos über zwei Wochen festgehalten. Nun wurden die Geflüchteten ans Festland gebracht.
Auf den Inseln suchen Schutzsuchende verzweifelt nach rechtlicher Beratung, um Zugang zu Informationen bezüglich ihrer Rechte und dem rechtlichen Ablauf des Asylverfahrens zu erhalten. Die meisten verbleiben ohne jegliche Hilfe und durchlaufen das Asylverfahren unvorbereitet. Das ohnehin schon geschwächte öffentliche Gesundheitssystem bricht zusammen und sowohl medizinische Hilfe als auch der Zugang zur Versorgung mit Medikamenten existiert faktisch nicht mehr. Währenddessen protestieren von Faschist*innen infiltrierte Gruppen von Inselbewohner*innen seit Wochen gegen die Pläne der Regierung, geschlossene Immigrationsgefängnisse neben den bereits jetzt schon bekannten und überfüllten Hotspots auf Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos und Leros zu errichten. Sie haben Geflüchtete, Aktivist*innen und Journalist*innen gleichermaßen attackiert und angegriffen.
Auf dem Festland leben immer mehr Menschen in marginalisierten Lagern, weit entfernt von jeglicher Hilfe und fernab jeglicher Zukunftsperspektiven. Integration unter diesen Umständen ist unmöglich. Die Anzahl der von Obdachlosigkeit betroffenen Personen steigt und mit dem angekündigten Ausschluss der international Schutzberechtigten von staatlich gefördertem Wohnen, werden zum Ende des Monats hunderte weitere auf der Straße landen. Menschen, die über die Landgrenze nach Griechenland gelangen und in die Städte kommen, haben keinen Zugang zum Asylverfahren oder Aufnahmebedingungen. Sie müssen unregistriert in Camps leben und haben monatelang keinen Zugang zu materiellen, sozialen und medizinischen Dienstleistungen, leben in Zelten und überfüllten Gemeinschaftsräumen oder provisorisch in Containern offizieller Bewohner*innen.
Kurz gefasst: Schutzsuchende riskieren ihr Leben um Europäischen Boden zu erreichen und sind nach ihrer Ankunft in Griechenland weiterhin gefährdet.
Seit 2017 verhindert Deutschland aktiv Familienzusammenführungen
Mit der Zunahme der Anträge auf Familienzusammenführung nach der plötzlichen Schließung der “Balkan-Route” und der Implementierung des EU-Türkei-Deals 2016, begannen die Deutschen Behörden eine restriktive Anti-Zusammenführungs-Politik zu verfolgen. Zuerst wurden hunderte bereits akzeptierte Familienzusammenführungen unrechtmäßig verzögert, wodurch Kinder monate- und sogar jahrelang von ihren Familien getrennt blieben. Zum Ende des Jahres 2017 stieg die Anzahl systematischer allgemein formulierter Ablehnungsbescheide zuerst von Deutscher und in der Konsequenz auch von Griechischer Seite, die rein administrative Begründungen verwendeten, um Familien auf unbestimmte Zeit zu trennen. Anstatt das sich die Behörden für die Zusammenführung der geflüchteten Familien einsetzen, liegt die Beweispflicht nun bei den Familien, die belegen sollen weshalb die Zusammenführung zu ihre Wohl sei. Heutzutage ist es eine alltägliche Erfahrungen vieler verzweifelter Kinder, Mütter und Väter, wenn ihnen die griechischen Asylbehörden oder NGOs mitteilen: “Du kannst keinen Antrag auf Familienzusammenführung stellen!” oder “Es ist sehr wahrscheinlich, dass dein Antrag von den Deutschen Behörden abgelehnt wird!”.
In den Jahren 2017 und 2018 gab es einen starken selbstorganisierten Widerstand geflüchteter Familien gegen die verspäteten Transfers nach Deutschland. Heute wird die extrem restriktive Auslegung der Dublin III Verordnung und des deutschen Einwanderungsgesetzes zum Familiennachzug als gegeben und nicht verhandelbar präsentiert – trotz der inhärenten Ungerechtigkeit. Die Stimmen der geflüchteten Familien verhallen ungehört.
Wir möchten diesen Stimmen eine Plattform geben. Wir stellen uns gegen die EU-Politik der geschlossenen Grenzen abzielen, die Kinder extremer Gewalt aussetzen. Wir fordern, dass Familien wieder vereint werden müssen. Grund- und Menschenrechte müssen über dem Einwanderungs- und Asylgesetz stehen. Das Wohlergehen der Kinder muss geschützt und das Kindeswohl aufrechterhalten werden. Behörden aller EU Mitgliedsstaaten müssen aufhören, das Kindeswohl in Gefahr zu bringen und stattdessen die Dublin III Verordnung einhalten, welche explizit besagt:
“Bei der Anwendung dieser Verordnung sollte das Wohl des Kindes im Einklang mit dem Übereinkommen der Vereinten Nationen über die Rechte des Kindes von 1989 und mit der Charta der Grundrechte der Europäischen Union eine vorrangige Erwägung der Mitgliedstaaten sein. Bei der Beurteilung des Wohls des Kindes sollten die Mitgliedstaaten insbesondere das Wohlbefinden und die soziale Entwicklung des Minderjährigen, Erwägungen der Sicherheit und der Gefahrenabwehr und den Willen des Minderjährigen unter Berücksichtigung seines Alters und seiner Reife, einschließlich seines Hintergrunds, berücksichtigen. Darüber hinaus sollten für unbegleitete Minderjährige aufgrund ihrer besonderen Schutzbedürftigkeit spezielle Verfahrensgarantien festgelegt werden.” (Paragraph 13)
„Um die uneingeschränkte Achtung des Grundsatzes der Einheit der Familie und des Wohl des Kindes zu gewährleisten, sollte ein zwischen einem Antragsteller und seinem Kind, einem seiner Geschwister oder einem Elternteil bestehendes Abhängigkeitsverhältnis, das durch Schwangerschaft oder Mutterschaft, durch den Gesundheitszustand oder hohes Alter des Antragstellers begründet ist, als ein verbindliches Zuständigkeitskriterium herangezogen werden. Handelt es sich bei dem Antragsteller um einen unbegleiteten Minderjährigen, der einen Familienangehörigen oder Verwandten in einem anderen Mitgliedstaat hat, der für ihn sorgen kann, so sollte dieser Umstand ebenfalls als ein verbindliches Zuständigkeitskriterium gelten.” (Paragraph 16)
Stoppt die Trennung von Familien!
Gleiche Rechte für alle Kinder und Familien!
Kontaktdaten zu den Familien, deren Geschichten innerhalb dieser Kampagne erzählt werden, genauso wie Details zu anderen getrennten Familien, können nach Absprache mit und in Zustimmung der betroffenen Familien geteilt werden, mit Ziel ihnen rechtliche Unterstützung zukommen zu lassen und sie mit ihren Liebsten zu vereinen. Kontaktiert uns über facebook: www.facebook.com/w2eu.gr oder schickt eine E-mail an: email@example.com
Psychosoziale Auswirkungen von nicht erfolgter Familienzusammenführung
Aus psychologischer Sicht ist es in einer durch die Fluchtumstände getrennten Familie nicht zu vertreten, den betroffenen Kindern die Wiederaufnahme der Beziehung und Bindung zu den Eltern und/oder Geschwistern, oder anderen nächsten Bezugspersonen, welche an Stelle der Eltern getreten sind (Großeltern, Tanten/Onkel) zu verwehren, es sei denn deren Verhalten ist an sich als kindeswohlgefährdend anzusehen.
Das Erleben von Kindern, die gemeinsam mit ihrer Familie eine oft sehr lange dauernde Fluchtgeschichte überstehen, ist geprägt von extremen Formen des Aufeinanderangewiesenseins. Es fehlt der gewohnte soziale Rahmen, der den Kindern ermöglichte, auch außerhalb der Kernfamilie Entwicklungsschritte zu machen. Stattdessen ist die Familie in einer fremden Umgebung auf sich selbst angewiesen. Es werden den Kindern enorme Anpassungsleistungen abverlangt, die sie oft in eine ungesunde Abhängigkeit von ihren Eltern, oder anderen erwachsenen Verwandten, die diese ersetzen, bringen. Auf der anderen Seite leisten die Kinder die Anpassung an die neue Umgebung und Sprache in der Regel schneller als die Erwachsenen, so dass sie aufgrund ihres schnelleren Spracherwerbs oft Übersetzungsleistungen für die Eltern übernehmen müssen. Auch erleben sie ihre erwachsenen Verwandten gegenüber Behörden und PolizistInnen hilflos, gedemütigt und teilweise auch misshandelt. Aus der früheren Kindheit erlebte Sicherheiten gehen so äußerlich wie innerlich verloren.
Wenn nach solchen Erfahrungen die Kinder dann durch die Fluchtumstände von ihren Eltern und/oder Geschwistern, oder anderen nahen Verwandten getrennt werden, verlassen sie den Familienrahmen unter ohnehin belasteten Umständen. Viele Familien haben neben Krieg und Gewalt bereits als Fluchtgründe massive Ausgrenzung erleben müssen. Durch die Flucht und deren traumatisierende Begleitumstände auch in Griechenland geraten die Familien unter zusätzlichen Druck und verlieren teilweise ihre alten Funktionsweisen, sind auf der anderen Seite aber der überlebensnotwendige Bezugsrahmen. Viele Kinder sind plötzlich ohne ihre gewohnte Familienumgebung, müssen sich ohne ihre Hauptbezugspersonen oft ganz alleine an eine weitere fremde Sprache in einer fremden Kultur und Umgebung anpassen. Die Kinder versuchen, sich nun an dem gegebenen Bezugsrahmen zu orientieren, bleiben aber innerlich und durch täglich mehrfache Telefonate mit der getrennten Ursprungsfamilie sehr eng, aber praktisch nicht lebbar, verbunden.
Bei von den Familien getrennten Kindern können unabsehbare Auswirkungen auf die psychische Entwicklung entstehen und insbesondere ihre emotionale Stabilität so stark belastet sein, dass durch die faktische Unmöglichkeit, die Herkunftsfamilie wiederzusehen, eine Kindeswohlgefährdung entsteht. Auch Kinder, die von einzelnen zentralen Bezugspersonen getrennt wurden (Mutter, Vater, Bruder, Schwester etc.) brauchen für ihre weitere Entwicklung den Kontakt zu diesen Personen. Wenn die Familie oder einzelne Familienmitglieder durch behördliche Versäumnisse unerreichbar bleiben, ist es hinreichend wahrscheinlich, dass ein Kind immer tiefer in psycho-somatische Symptomatiken abtaucht und diese quasi zu einer eigenen Welt entwickelt. Diese Kinder versuchen so auf dysfunktionale Weise, in Verbindung mit den getrennten Eltern, Geschwistern oder anderen nahen Verwandten zu bleiben, die diese ersetzen, wissend und spürend, dass es ihnen genauso schlecht geht. 0ft werden depressive und andere Symptome zu einem sich selbst bestätigenden Band, was die zerrissene Familie zusammenhalten soll. Wenn Kinder in der Phase des Bindungsaufbaus (bis 3 Jahre) getrennt werden, ist dies besonders wichtig, da sonst eine Störung der Bindungsmöglichkeiten wahrscheinlich wird.
Durch eine dauerhafte Trennung von der Familie entstehen zunehmende Risiken für die psychische Entwicklung aller betroffenen Kinder und diese gefährden folglich ihr Kindeswohl.
Dipl. Psychologe und Familientherapeut Reimer Dohrn
A single father with three minor kids in Greece – his 12-year-old son alone in Germany
Hassan H.* from Afghanistan arrived to Lesvos, Greece with his four children in August 2018. His wife had died in Iran shortly before they escaped from there. When the single father tried to leave Greece through the Balkans a year later, one of his sons got lost and he and his remaining three kids were pushed back to Greece. Later, his son contacted him from Germany, but the father was told by Greek authorities, that he could not apply for family reunification under the given circumstances.
“We stayed seven months in a tent in Moria. There were a lot of fights. I wouldn’t let my kids go out due to fear. I didn’t know how to protect them otherwise. When we were finally transferred to Athens in spring 2019, I was first very happy. From the port we were brought to Skaramangas camp. Upon arrival there I saw a huge village made of containers on a pier near the sea and in the middle, there were dozens of tents. We ended up again living in a tent without electricity in the cold darkness – again unsafe.
One night a tent caught fire and a family got burned. They nearly died. Refugees in the camp then held protests against the conditions. One of my sons got beaten by riot police in the turmoil. My kids were seeing nightmares every night from then on. That was when I decided we should try to leave Greece, because we weren’t safe at last.
I collected some money from friends and we decided to leave from the land border. One tragedy followed the next. My 12-year-old son got lost half way. I thought he had died or been kidnapped. We were arrested and sent back to Greece. … It was a happy day, when my son contacted me from Germany. I heard his voice and all my worries were gone for a moment. I went to the camp employees to ask how we could join my son in Germany. But they said it was too late and we were anyway a “separated child case” and we could not even apply for family reunification because we separated “voluntarily”. I don’t understand what they mean. Our choices are made in a state of emergency while trying to do the best for our family and our situation has not only been a result of our choices but also of our destiny.
How can it be too late for a family to be together?
Now my little boy is there and we are here. We live in a container now, but it is no life if you first lost your wife and the mother of your children, and then you lose a child. I dream every night of being with him again. And I hope until that day, when we can be together again in a better place, I can keep all my kids safe.”
All children have the fundamental right to be with their loved ones no matter what. Despite this fact it has been broadly accepted in Europe, that refugee families end up separated, due to limitations of laws and an even more restrictive interpretation of these laws by states. The “best interests of the child should be a primary consideration of Member States”, says the Dublin III Regulation, the primary legal tool within the EU to regulate the distribution of asylum seekers. Despite this fact, thousands of refugee children who reach Europe are held far from their parents, siblings or other close relatives such as aunties, uncles or grandparents, residing in other EU countries.
In the dawn of the “long summer of migration” in 2015, thousands reached Northern Europe entering the EU initially through Greece. Many of their family members arrived later through the same route to Greece actually aiming to continue their journey and find protection near their loved ones in Germany or elsewhere. The following four years are marked by a sudden return from a short trend of a ‘welcome refugees’ EU-politics to the states’ deadly ‘closed gates’ approach, which came into force parallel to a right wing upsurge in the governments of different member states and left the vast majority of newcomers after March 2016 blocked in Greece.
In an atmosphere ruled by repressive anti-migratory policies all over the EU, grassroots groups and networks across the continent are struggling against deportations, push-backs, police violence, repressive asylum laws, continuing border deaths, the criminalisation of solidarity and an increase in racist attacks. Silence persists despite the fact that thousands of families are torn apart and kept actively separated by national authorities.
It is in this context that we want to share stories of refugee families split between Greece and Germany. It should not be accepted that failing to meet deadlines, separating with the best interest of children in mind or being separated by border policies, growing fences and intensified Frontex patrols / controls is an acceptable reason to keep families apart. Refugee families can in most cases not submit the necessary documents to prove they are relatives. They cannot supply authorities in many cases with passports, family books, birth certificates – all translated properly, because they escaped war and conflict, they came from situations and escaped under such conditions where most people lack such documentation or lose it on the way to safety.
We chose to start this campaign on 15th March 2017, the date that marked the resumption of Dublin returns to Greece, following the European Commission’s recommendation that conditions had improved there. North European countries, most notably Germany, were keen to take the opportunity to force people back to Greece. Germany sent 1,887 take-back requests to Greece in 2017, 6,827 in 2018 and 9,275 last year, despite the ongoing systemic human rights violations documented by numerous organisations.
Protection seekers struggle to reach ‘safe’ territory and survive in Greece
Today, the right-wing government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Nea Dimokratia elected in Greece last summer is imposing more and more drastic measures to keep refugees out no matter what. Ruling politicians have re-introduced an anti-migratory, mostly racist rhetoric, offensively propagating even the most ridiculous measures that would supposedly seal the borders (i.e. floating fences). After a recent upsurge of attempted border crossings caused by Turkish Primeminister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement that he would open the Turkish border to Europe at the end of February, authorities’ use of violence to stop people from entering Greek territory has been apparently justified. Refugees were teargassed, beaten, stripped naked, pushed-back and even shot with rubber-bullets at the land border. They were attacked and shot in the sea, their engines were broken and petrol stolen and they were left adrift in distress. In these two weeks, two persons were documented dead at the land border and one child drowned in the Aegean Sea. Greek officials have found it legitimate, to start criminalising newcomers in search of protection with prison sentences reaching four years and fines of up to 10,000 Euros for mere ‘irregular entry’. It has also been agreed that people will be returned swiftly back to Turkey or deported to their homelands without even being able to claim asylum. EU authorities have been silent on these breaches of fundamental human rights, instead offering Turkey and Greece more money.
New immigration laws introduced at the end of 2019 already had created numerous practical obstacles to protection seekers in Greece accessing their rights, with an increasing number of asylum claims being ended for arbitrary reasons and the number of rejections to asylum claims growing. No more social insurance number for asylum seekers (AMKA), new obstacles to get a tax number (AFM), no more direct right to enter the job market (only after six months from registration), big technical difficulties to access the asylum procedure through Skype, long waiting periods to receive social benefits for asylum seekers (people waiting for the cash-card for many months), increased periods to naturalize for beneficiaries of international protection (from five to seven years) and so on.
In mid-March 2020, the threat of the Corona virus pandemic has not only bought public life in Greece to a halt, but experts warn that an upsurge in infections is still to come next month and will hit the most vulnerable worst. Greek refugee camps where hundreds of vulnerable persons are living close to each other, usually without their basic needs being met are spaces of high risk of infection. NGOs have called for the immediate evacuation of the camps on the islands. At the same time, emergency measures for employees have limited the presence of site managing organisations such as IOM and NGO employees offering essential services to a minimum level. The Asylum Service has temporary halted its services to the public nationwide.
On the Aegean Islands, thousands of refugees remain trapped in tents in and around the ‘hotspots’, many of which do not even have access to food, medical aid or basic sanitary infrastructure. Those arriving after March 1sthave been held in dire conditions in outside areas of ports and a navy ship in Lesvos Island for many days. After two weeks trapped on the warship they have been transferred to the mainland. On the islands, protection seekers are searching desperately for legal aid, to access information on their rights and procedures. Most remain without any help and go through the asylum process unprepared. The already burdened public health care system is breaking down and medical aid as well as access to medication is in fact not existent. In the meanwhile, locals infiltrated by fascists are protesting since weeks against the government’s plans to build closed immigration prisons next to the already infamous and overcrowded ‘hotspots’ on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros islands. They have attacked refugees, aid workers and journalists alike.
On the mainland, more and more people live in marginalised camps far from any possibility to find help, to integrate or to identify any future prospects for themselves. The number of people homeless is growing and with the announced exclusion of beneficiaries of international protection from state housing, hundreds more will be on the streets by the end of this month. People arriving from the land border to the cities do not have access to the asylum procedure. They cannot access reception conditions and have to stay unregistered inside camps without any social welfare and services for months while living in tents, overcrowded common spaces or other residents’ prefabs.
In short, protection seekers risk their lives to reach European soil and continue to be at risk even upon arrival to Greece.
Germany actively hinders families from being reunited since 2017
With the surge of family reunification applications after the sudden closure of the ‘Balkan Corridor’ and the implementation of the EU-Turkey ‘Deal’, the German authorities started developing a harsh anti-reunification policy. First, hundreds of family reunification cases which had already been accepted were unlawfully delayed, keeping children for months and even years apart from their families. By the end of 2017, systematic and generalised rejections of such applications increased suddenly first from the German side and as a consequence also from the Greek side, using administrative grounds to keep refugee families apart for indefinite periods. Instead of authorities deciding in favour of refugee families being united, the families now have the burden to prove why it is best for them to be together. Today, it is a common story of desperate children, mothers and fathers, that they are told by the Greek Asylum Service and NGOs: ‘You cannot apply for family reunification!’ or ‘It is likely that your application will be rejected by the German authorities!’
Before, there was strong self-organised resistance from refugee families against the delays of transfers to Germany throughout 2017 / 2018. Nowadays, the extremely harsh interpretation of the Dublin III Regulation and German immigration law when it comes to family reunion, is being presented as a given fact and seems non-negotiable, despite the inherent injustice. Refugee families’ voices have remained widely unheard.
We want to platform these voices. We stand against EU-policies that focus on closing borders and subjecting children to extreme violence, we demand families must be reunited. Basic rights are superior to immigration and asylum law. The wellbeing of children has to be protected and their best interest must be upheld. Authorities of all EU member states must stop putting children’s welfare in danger and instead comply with the Dublin III Regulation, which explicitly states:
„(T)he best interests of the child should be a primary consideration of Member States when applying this Regulation. In assessing the best interests of the child, Member States should, in particular, take due account of the minor’s well-being and social development, safety and security considerations and the views of the minor in accordance with his or her age and maturity, including his or her background. In addition, specific procedural guarantees for unaccompanied minors should be laid down on account of their particular vulnerability.“ (paragraph 13)
„In order to ensure full respect for the principle of family unity and for the best interests of the child, the existence of a relationship of dependency between an applicant and his or her child, sibling or parent on account of the applicant’s pregnancy or maternity, state of health or old age, should become a binding responsibility criterion. When the applicant is an unaccompanied minor, the presence of a family member or relative on the territory of another Member State who can take care of him or her should also become a binding responsibility criterion.“ (paragraph 16)
End the separation of families!
Equal rights for all children and families!
Contact details for the families whose stories are included in this campaign as well as other separated families can be shared with the consent of the families in order to support legal efforts to reunite them with their loved ones. Contact us on facebook: www.facebook.com/w2eu.gr or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Psychosocial repercussions of the authorities’ practice of not reuniting families
From a psychological point of view, it is unjustifiable in a family separated by the circumstances of the flight, to deny the affected children to re-establish a relationship and bond with the parents and / or siblings, or other closest caregivers, who have taken the place of the parents (grandparents, aunts / Uncle), unless their behaviour is per se endangering the child’s well-being (‘Kindeswohlgefährdung’).
The experience of children who, together with their family, survive an often very long flight, is characterized by extreme forms of relying on one another. The habitual social framework is missing, which was enabling the children to take development steps outside of the core family. Instead, the family is dependent on itself in an unknown environment. The children are required to perform enormous adaption, which often puts them an unhealthy dependency from their parents or other adult relatives who replace them. On the other hand, children generally adapt to new environments and languages faster than adults, so that because of their faster language acquisition, they often have to carry out translations for their parents. They also experience their adult relatives helpless, humiliated and sometimes ill-treated by the authorities and police officers. Experiences of safety from earlier childhood are lost both externally and internally.
If, after such experiences, the children are separated from their parents and / or siblings or other close relatives, by the circumstances of the flight, they leave the family framework under circumstances that are already stressful. In addition to war and violence as reason for fleeing, many families have already experienced massive exclusion. As a result of the flight and its traumatizing circumstances – also in Greece, the families come under additional pressure and sometimes lose their old functions. On the other hand, they are the reference framework that is necessary for survival. Many children find themselves suddenly without their habitual family environment and often have to adapt to another foreign language in a foreign culture and environment without their main caregivers. The children are now trying to orient themselves on the given reference frame of the current place of residence, but remain very closely connected internally and through multiple phone calls every day to the separated family of origin – a family framework which is not practically liveable.
Children separated from families can have unforeseeable effects on their psychological development. In particular, their emotional stability can be so severely affected that the factual impossibility of seeing the family of origin again endangers the child’s well-being. Also, children who have been separated from individual main caregivers (mother, father, brother, sister, etc.) need contact with these people for their further development. If the family or individual family members remain unreachable due to authorities’ omissions, it is sufficiently likely that a child will dive successively deeper into psycho-somatic symptoms and develop them into a (virtual) world of their own. These children in a dysfunctional way, try to stay in touch with the separated parents, siblings or other close relatives who are replacing them, knowing and feeling that they are in a likewise bad psychological condition. Depression and other symptoms often become a self-affirming bond, which aims to keep the torn family together. This is particularly important if children are separated in the main phase bonding (up to the age of 3 years), as otherwise the bonding possibilities are likely to be disrupted.
A permanent separation from the family creates increasing risks for the psychological development of all affected children and consequently endangers their best interests.
Dipl. Psychologist and Family Therapist Reimer Dohrn
People trying to enter Europe in search of protection face brutal repression in the Aegean region. Although this is not new, we currently see an escalation of violence as Turkey and Greece play a dangerous game with people’s lives. The survival instinct and hope of many for a better future is exploited and manipulated for cynical political stunts. Greece has now declared a state of emergency and to remove people’s right to claim asylum.
On the Greek side the situation is devastating, every day: Overcrowded detention centres and camps where thousands are forced to survive the inhuman conditions. Riot police forces secretly transferred to the Greek islands to crack down on local inhabitants with tear gas and clubs. Riot police forces along with soldiers and anti-terror squads firing tear gas and water cannons at refugees who attempt to enter through the land border. Those who do succeed in reaching Greece face imprisonment merely for crossing the border. Boats attacked by masked men in the Aegean Sea and prevented from disembarking by fascists at Greek harbours.
In Turkey, on the other side of the border, the situation is equally cruel: As a response to the Turkish fatalities in Idlib, President Recep Erdoğan announces the ‘opening’ of borders and thousands of people follow his call and move toward Greece, in the hope of finally finding safety. They enter white busses, reportedly provided by the Turkish government, but end up trapped in the border-zone between Turkey and Greece stopped by armed forces and army vehicles.
Despite this current escalation, it is clear that push-backs and violent excesses along the border are daily phenomena, not exceptions. But commonly, they target smaller groups, not such a large crowd. Usually, civil society is not able to see how these human rights violations unfold, how police and army officials stand in people’s paths, preventing them from stepping on EU soil and exercising their right to ask for asylum.
Europe enacts a ‘closed door’ policy, enforced by the right-wing government in Greece which sends riot police and special forces to deter people escaping war, conflict, and hunger, and aims to temporarily suspend their right to claim asylum and immediately deport them to countries of origin. We have already seen images of NATO war ships patrolling the Aegean Sea along with border guards from all over Europe in Frontex missions.
We will not accept this European war against people who seek protection! We will not remain silent, when repressive anti-migration policies give space to fascism!
We have seen people being violently pushed back to Turkey where they are detained or even deported from to places where they face war and persecution. We have seen people drowning in the Aegean Sea or Maritsa river. We have seen dehydrated, frozen, and unrecognizable bodies of mothers, fathers, children. We have seen also people dying in Europe’s ‘hotspot’ camps due to inhumane conditions – babies dying of dehydration, lack of adequate medical aid and desperation leading to people committing suicide.
But we have also seen people ‘on the move’ claiming their rights and standing in solidarity together with locals against these repressive policies. We have heard their loud voices shouting united for freedom. We have seen people marching across borders against all odds and against the violent European border regime.
We will stand united against this cruelty! We will raise our voices to tell the stories that are not told, show the images that are hidden away from the world! We will not stop denouncing the violent excesses at Europe’s borders and we will not stop struggling for another world of freedom of movement!
Equal rights for all! No one is illegal!
Stop the border deaths! Stop racist policies and fascist violence!
Close detention centres, hotspots and other camps and open homes!
w2eu – infomobile Greece and WatchTheMedAlarm Phone
I am a young man from Syria, detained in Greece. Amygdaleza. I escaped from the war in my country in order to obtain safety, but I was detained in Greece for a long time. I no longer feel safe, reassured and stable that I was looking for here in the camp. There is nothing and they do not offer us any help. We hope for your help. There is someone who tried to commit suicide because of the difficulties he is facing here.
How I wished and how much I looked. I left my homeland and looked for safety. I looked for freedom. I looked for an alternative homeland. I needed help, but no one gave me a hand. No one comforted me. I dreamed a lot of things and big dreams, but dreams were awake, and now I have fallen again. Whoever says to me will realize your dreams that I had built when I arrived in Greece I have said this is the beginning of my career and from here I will fulfill my dreams but unfortunately it was not what I expected but the worst was my dreams were broken in front of me I no longer want to achieve those dreams but rather I want to live in peace and security And stability, I just hope to be a cat that lives in the house with its owners or a dog that lives I have a private house and its owner takes it on a short walk or I am a rose that grows on the balcony of a house and the owner of the rose takes care of it every day, but I found myself flying in a cage and could not fly as I had dreamed, it was only my fault that I was born in my country where the war broke out and because I no longer I can dream, I can no longer think. The sun rises every day to increase my suffering again and every night I say Is this what I was looking for Is this life that I had hoped for but I could not answer my question I started dying from all empty promises I can no longer search for myself I wonder Every day, why does this happen to me? I did nothing but dreams, screaming loudly, I did nothing Why am I here but nobody hears my screams searched among my papers my numbers books but I did not find myself can I dream again or that dreams not present in the human language dictionary searched and did not find myself
I will write but I do not know what to write. Should I write about the war in my country, or the war in my country? I do not know about it except the smell of blood, the screaming of children, the tears of women, the sadness of youth, the loss of young dreams, or write about the war in me, but I will not be able to describe that war and that outrage, or write What I feel, but I no longer feel anything, I no longer feel for myself, I no longer feel the spirit that inhabits my body, I no longer find my thinking, I can no longer think of things that I was thinking about before. Has the stage of thinking ended for me or am I thinking that has become restricted? I did not know about What do I write? Do I write about the freedom I searched for and did not find it or write about the vine My time is no longer human dignity or write about humanity that I did not find her presence Soh with animals I can not find what you should write about Soh meanings experienced by humans do not know what to write and did not promise I want to write something will just read what they write.
What happened Why am I here Why am I in this place that looks like a swamp Why did I become alone in this place What led me here I began to feel tired and I am trying to leave this place I no longer have even a glimmer of hope Will my life end here I no longer dream about a light I have started my life By fading before my eyes, I no longer see anything but sadness. I see with everyone’s eyes. There is only a question, why are you here. I did not realize that I would be every animal placed inside a cage. Unfortunately, the animal has some rights until it has a name, but I only became a number. I am called through that number. What happens to human beings as if they do not see it and avoid hearing our screams? Is this it for man? Why is this life? I don’t think that’s what I was looking for. What happened? Why am I here?
It was raining and strong winds I tried hard to get to my brother’s bedroom. The suffering of reaching it was dark. The darkness prevailed over the atmosphere of the place, and the land of each swamp had a lot of wetness on the road. I was falling from that to another that I got up and completed my career. I reached my brother’s fortune. It was lightening quickly and quickly closed. The door was few, the door was not closed with provisions that were as if all kinds of rain and wind were permitted to enter a worn ship taken by the waves. My worn-out coat was removed from me, my worn out coat and I looked at my brother, he was trembling with the freezing cold. Know how I can comfort myself My brother just stayed silent. He wrapped himself in a blanket that did not protect him from anything from the cold. My brother embraced me in my arms. I was warming him, even a little. I wanted to burn myself to warm my brother. My tears were falling on my cheeks from pain. I want something, just save my brother.
Every mother raises up her baby being proud of it from the first day. When she kisses her baby, her baby kisses her back, and this is the absolute happiness for her. When the child grows, she is watching how it plays with others. She watches it grow and develop. These are the joys of a mother.
I have raised my two children under the hardest conditions of life. I spent everyday praying for them. But while the body of my four year old girl grew, her brain did not follow along. And the same happened to my boy.
I love my children. But society humiliated us for them being different. I will never forget that everybody expected my husband to get married again, because I gave birth to mentally disabled babies.
I didn’t even know that I was getting married. I was so small, getting married was for me was like playing with my dolls, and it was the same for all other girls of my very young age.
When I started to learn about life as a couple, I realised that I was pregnant and when I hugged my Mariam* (names changed) for the first time, I became also aware of people’s talk – mostly the nearest persons around me. They called my baby “handicapped”, “abnormal”, and those words aggrieved me.
To find medical help for the growth problems of our child and escape their stigmatisation and the painful talks around our family we decided to escape, first to Iran and after to Turkey.
We tried to find appropriate treatment for our daughter for four years. For the first three years, no one could tell us the reason of her illness. Finally, they found out, that she had a brain damage.
My Mariam … she is full of emotions, full of love and affection, full of innocence. Her world is simple, but pure. Her view on life is different. Even when humiliating hands rest on her shoulders, she feels that they are innocent, hands full of sympathy.
When I see that she goes near flowers, I become happy that maybe she is getting pleasure from her environment, but then she becomes aggressive to them. Observing her in such scenes feels like thorns piercing my eyes.
Every mother wishes to see her baby crawl, but I couldn’t see it, since she was like a dead body in a corner until she became two years old. Every mother wishes to hold her baby’s hand and teach her how to walk, but I touched her weak joints and she whined and cried in pain.
Hey mothers on this earth! Hey you who have children!
I swear that I raised this girl 9 months in my belly. I swear that I desired death while giving birth. I passed a long period after her birth, eating dry bread with water, praying that she becomes better, that she becomes a happiness for us and happy herself.
I have lived with such pain. The Turkish doctors told us that there was no hope to treat Mariam.
And, then, in Turkey, another seed was planted and started growing. I have grown Amir* full of hope. Although looking at Mariam made me cry every day, my husband, cleared away my tears, put his hand on my belly and gave me hope. How many nights didn’t I cry for the health for my kids… but in this inhumane world, my souls screams haven’t been heard.
This mother, after 9 months of carrying her baby and 6 days of labor pains, was told once again the same news: She is having an unhealthy baby.
I passed two years full of hope, telling myself that maybe it was not true, that things may change. The doctors in Turkey told us that he had the same problem as Mariam. His brain will not grow and the muscles of his body will not work well. However, there was a treatment for him, especially because he was smaller that Mariam, but that treatment was not possible in Turkey. For that we needed to move on to a European country.
We had been living as refugees in Turkey for four years. We were beggars on everybody’s door. Every day we visited the doctors. However, we didn’t know their language, and we didn’t have an interpreter. We wandered for hours and days to find the hospitals as we didn’t know the addresses, only to understand, in the end, that we were in Turkey for nothing. We saw that all doors were closed to us. So we gathered everything, held our children’s hands and started our migration towards Europe.
Now we ask ourselves: Is this really Europe? Is this the continent of hope? Where is that bright light that we came here to find for our children?
No! Here our heart’s light didn’t turn on. Europe turned our hopes off and we are trapped in darkness.
For four months now every day we go to the doctors in Mytilene. It seems that our babies are pictures, that can be diagnosed by a quick look. Without having carried out any test, they tell us that our babies don‘t have any problems. It is as if you go to the doctor and tell him that you have a headache and the doctor tells you, “where is your pain, I cannot see it”.
No one answers our questions. We are like ping pong balls for them. They throw us from one hospital to another for nothing.
If you have parents, if you are a father or mother, if you love someone around you, you will understand us. You will understand how hard it is to see a seed of your body, growing to become a human that is just alive but doesn’t live. Every day looking at our children’s situation we wish to die.
We didn’t come here for money or luxuries but for the doctors. For us just having a nest to protect us from the cold and to live with our healthy children would be enough.
In search of just a nest…
p.s. Thanks to my friend who shared her story with me. I wish she will find what she is seeking for!
I have existed for billions of years. Every century I raised new generations, but I have never been at the same time as proud of myself as I am today and as sad and disappointed as I am today.
Today, I stand tip-top on some incredible advances and discoveries achieved in this world. Yet, it looks like my residents are returning back to old false thoughts, thoughts thousands years old. Thoughts of egoism, thoughts of greed, thoughts that make you fight between each other, that made you built borders in order not to share between your kind or other creatures.
I am mother of you all. I am equally belonging to all people. You can all live on me. So what are these borders for that you created? Why don’t you open your doors to each other? Why don’t you get rid of racism and come together sitting on one table?
We are a family. Didn’t you realise? Is it possible for one child to ask another child to give him back his mother? Is she mother to just one child? Which mother can be happy to see one of her kids happy and wealthy and another poor and miserable? Which family can draw borders between its members? You are all earths people, how can one be more and another less?
You want to conquer other people, other countries, other planets. Have you pleased me, to now think that you will please other planets? Did you look after me so now you think that you can look after other planets?
Today, more than any times in the past, I need protection from you people and people need protection from each other. Instead of looking after me, you want to conquer me, you think that I belong to some few of you. You don’t want to care and to share…
Don’t you need me all in order to survive? I am soil and water for you, and if the goal is to live and not to turn others into slaves, get a piece of land for yourself and give a glas of water to others.
Every day, with your growing greed I fall into more trouble and you loose yourselves. Your attempt to conquer me burns forests into ashes, forests that have grown over thousands of years nurturing us with oxygen. Seas turn red with human blood, and more lands with their thousand years old history, turn into dry sand.
Your pressure on me is ever growing. With every century of your “progress”, I get closer to the end of my life. You want to exploit me, but don’t you realize that you deplete me every day, that you end my days and yours.
Why don’t you content with what you already have? Why don’t you protect the treasures in your hands? Your life would be terribly short if I belonged to one man only, if you were alone. If you continue the same way, you won’t be able to have me for more than 100 years more. I will die. You will die.
So let the people see the grasses also in future, let them touch the lawns, let them smell fresh air, let them climb the mountains and swim in the seas. Don’t force the future generations to spend all their days and lives with masks! My ozone layer is being destroyed. I cannot escape harmful radiations anymore, all because of you! Every day by making more nuclear power, by building more factories, I come closer to the end of my life.
Your egoism and greed is my death. But my death will be your destruction. It will affect all of you. Every day more species of herbs, plants and animals become extinct. More humans lose their lives fighting in front of the borders of your greed and pride.
People were all born with many hopes, but not feeling the joy of life, they lost everything. When I see that in one part of me, people die from hunger and children are threatened by malnutrition, and in another part of me, people go under surgery‘s blades to lose weight, I feel anger.
I am sorry for the countries where people live below the poverty line. I should also say: I am sorry for the residents, of those parts of a country, living under the poverty line, while just next to them others live on top of joviality. I feel pain for those who work in their own territories for other people and give their own natural wealth away for a few cents.
It pains me to think that, millions of years from now, the inhabitants of other planets would call Earth “the planet of the greedy species”, and amazed from the horror, they will look at the destruction caused by atomic wars and missile weapons.
You have closed the borders, when in one of my hemispheres population density is low, while in my other hemisphere it is very high. The rich eat more, the poor face hunger more.
Are not the rich countries of the world responsible for that? The nations, the presidents, the politicians, the businessmen? Have they not taken away all natural resources? Should they not feel shame? They don’t. Instead the rulers, the real thieves, just give “development aid” and present themselves as benefactors to our world. They interfere in politics of other countries, they throw down governments and start wars to “save” others.
In a period when Europe has decreasing birthrates and schools and universities close down because of a lack of students, in Asia and Africa and in most other continents, thousands of schools are destroyed under bombs and students are deprived of education.
In an era when generations should deliberate together to get to know and understand each other, people have raised borders higher and thousands die as a result, including children, pregnant women, old men.
One day from the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea terrible screams will rise — screams to break down the borders. I have never raised borders to hold someone out. Nature has always stretched a friendly hand to all – so hold it tight.
In an era when you still want to visit Mars, I have never constructed a border. You were created as free people and freedom is what you deserve. I need life not borders. No one needs borders.
Come together to find new ways to protect life and dignity. I am getting old and I cannot tolerate fumes of chemical factories, atomic power’s gases, missiles, atomic bombs.
Let one day of life be a gift for yourself and give one day also for all the others.
I turned centuries around the sun to give your life, but, today, when I need you to listen to me, don’t turn your back on me. Earth don’t want no borders. Earth want people united.
One can wander to the East or the West, to the North or the South, but where home is, it is the best.
Being a transgender means not to be of female or male sex, neither man nor woman – but of transgender sex. In a society like Afghanistan, being a transgender person is like being an extra-terrestrial, landing on earth from outer space. In Afghanistan people think of sex binary: only female and male are considered as “normal” genders.
In Afghanistan I used false names. I am Mina. This name gives an understanding that I am a girl. Yet, every day, during my whole being, my soul screams: “I am not a girl! Don’t cover your self with these clothes.”
I was born, in 1992, in Mazaresharef, the western province of Afghanistan. Being a girl in such a society carries guilt. Being a transgender born as a girl carries double guilt. So when I realised that I was not really a girl, my life became a nightmare. I felt myself separate from everyone, not belonging to any of the dominant sexes. Although I had a female body, I wanted to be with boys, behave like a boy. Playing with them, learning with them, speaking with them was pleasant for me.
While I was little, my family allowed me to do more or less what I wanted. But as soon as my female body developed, they didn’t allow me to be what I wanted to be, as I wanted to be. They were always thinking about their reputation and honour and not about what I wanted. When I became 18, I felt like a prisoner in the jail of my female body and I couldn’t tolerate anymore wearing girl’s clothes. So, I decided to take off my hijab and be what I wanted to be.
I loved one of my classmates and I was all the time with her. She didn’t know everything about me. She just knew my deep feelings for her and she thought that I was like all girls. Sometimes, she felt uncertain and would ask if I was ok. Soon, I decided to speak with her and with my family.
First I told her all my feelings, that I really loved her and wanted to be with her all my life. She was shocked, but she accepted me and wanted me to be what I wanted to be, not what others wanted me to be.
When I then spoke with my family, they told me that they would kill me if I did not do what they wanted. They also told me that there was a suitor asking for me and that he and his family were coming the next day to visit to ask for my hand. I should just dress like a lady and that was it!
I thought ok, I will do what they ask me to do. I will get married, but I won’t have any relation with him. Relations need feelings and I had no such feelings for him or any men. I thought, I will divorce him after two months, I promise!
I did the opposite. I went to a barber and cut off my hair like a boy. Then I wore a t-shirt with a pair of jeans and went home.
My older sister was shocked to see me like that and told me to change my clothes immediately and wear a scarf. “Otherwise”, she told me, “our father will kill you”.
I put a scarf over my short brown hair and wore a skirt over my jeans.
The guests came and I got married, but I had no relation with him. We were together for two months and then I divorced.
When my father learned that I divorced, he beat me up. My eyes became black and purple.
“What is this,” he shouted. “Do you want me to kill you? What did I do wrong to you that you behave like this? What did you want, that I didn’t give you”, he shouted and continued to beat me.
“You didn’t give me my right,” I answered. “Did you ever ask me what I wanted? Did you ever ask how I felt? Did you ask anytime how I wanted to be? You know nothing about me,” I went on. “You were always thinking about your reputation and honour, not about your child.”
And as I was speaking my voice stopped. I was sobbing. “Your crying won’t change anything,” he cried, “I will decide about you.” He threw me out of the house and that was the last time I saw him.
It’s about six years that I have not had a single contact with my family.
My mother died some years ago and my two sisters got married. I went to them.
I couldn’t stay a lot with my sister. Her husband, my brother in law, was not happy with me and his behaviour towards me became worse and worse. I understood that I could not stay there any longer.
One day, my bother in law called me in the room and told me: “We are taking a decision about you. As you know, our financial situation is not good and we cannot spend money for you. We will tell you our decision tomorrow.”
I felt totally stressed out. I didn’t know what he was going to decide and how it was going to be. That night was like a nightmare for me. I couldn’t sleep. Yet, I was pleased with my new style. I was day-dreaming all night long in front of the mirror, brushing my short hair and changing my parting hair line.
The next day, the sun was shining and I was still day-dreaming. I wanted to become a lawyer to protect the rights of people, make the world a just world. But they burned my dreams, they burned my child and my adult dreams. They burned my hopes.
In the morning my brother in law asked me: “Will you change yourself?”
“No”, I replied.
“Won’t you change your decision?”
“No!!!”, I insisted. “I know who to be and how to be. Everyone has the right to chose.”
“We are not in Europe, never forget it”, he shouted. “I live in society, with many other people. Every day I hear them speak about you. Their words bother me. I don’t have any problem with you working in the municipality, or you going to university, but I cannot tolerate that people speak about you and us.”
I was living with my sister for 3,5 years. But, after this conversation with my brother in law, I decided to leave them and not to make them uncomfortable anymore.
I was sad, hopeless, upset and disturbed. I realized that I was alone. Alone in all respects. Totally alone in the whole world. I didn’t know what to do and where to go. I cried, and cried. I cried continuously.
I went to my classmate who had promised to give me money to escape from Afghanistan and become free — free to spin in the air for all to see me. No need to hide anymore.
I found a family that also wanted to go Germany. So I took the money from my classmate and I went with them to Farah, then to Nemroz, the nearest city to Pakistan’s border. Then we went to Pakistan, to a city of thieves, war and deception. When we were there, I didn’t know that I should dress like a girl and wear a hijab. I thought it would be more tolerant and open-minded than Mazar-e-Sharif. But when we arrived at Nemroz, I understood that I should cover all my body. Even then, however, everyone was looking at us as if we “women” were guilty of a crime. Then I understood that they were looking at us, because our men wore t-shirts and trousers, clothes very different from theirs, since they were all wearing long dresses and Tomban (traditional trousers). So our men changed their style and borrowed a Pirahsn and Tomban for themselves.
We were eight nights at the Pakistan border and this was the most difficult part of our journey. One night three men wanted to invader our tent while we were sleeping, but fortunately our men stopped them and had a fight with them. They left, but, after that, we couldn’t sleep all night.
We reached Iran, a country of racism and hatred, between Shiites and Sunnis, Iranians and Afghans. When we were there, we spent three days in the mountains. The weather was very cold, but no one of the smugglers helped the families that had children. I felt very sorry for the family of that baby who fell from the mountain and died.
Finally we arrived to Turkey.
The UNHCR helped me a lot in every respect. When they learned that I wanted to change my gender, they tried to collect money for the operation. Unfortunately there was no doctor to perform such an operation. They suggested that, I should go to Europe.
I spent two and half years in Turkey. After six months, I got a money card, and every month, I took 7 hundred and fifty Lire from PTT. But as I had to pay for rent, water, gas and electricity that money wasn’t enough for me. So I was peddling everyday at the corners of the streets. I do the same here too, just to earn 5€.
It’s so hard when somebody asks me, how many siblings I have. How can I say 6, when I have not been with them for so long? I share nothing with them.
Isn’t it wrong?
It’s very hard when somebody is looking at me strangely and I sense that he or she wants to ask me who and what I am.
I cannot say anything. I just hide myself, hide my gender, because of my feelings and I hide my feelings, because of others.
I passed the borders not to be hidden!
I risked my life not to be hidden!
I lost everything not to be hidden!
I did all of that in order to live in freedom, and I will continue my struggle until I achieve my freedom. Freedom for ever.
Seeking for protection in a world of warWhere is safety?
In a camp with 14,000 refugees coming from different places of earth living under inhuman conditions one piled upon the other, the authorities can do very little to protect us. In fact, the miserable conditions they force us to live in, the inhuman laws and rules they subject us to create a small world of violence - a form of systematic violence against all of us. If you live this violence day by day, you become part of it. In the end we humans, who are currently refugees in your Europe, must defend ourselves, our tents and our families against a generalised violence from above, but also from all sides. This violence can come come from any side now.
Where is safety?
If you live under conditions not worth for animals, violent conditions, then you can become violent any time yourself even if you share the same pain.
I feel powerless against this violence. I feel it crawling in our veins. I don't want to become a part of this. I feel shame, when I see anger growing between people who suffer the same pain and shame when I feel anger rising inside me.
Instead of establishing friendly relations between each other as oppressed people that face the same discrimination, we become part of the reasons of fear.
We escaped war, but it seems we are in war again. There is no way out. This is the war to survive the jungle called Europe.
It is so painful to witness women and children unable to sleep, afraid of violence. Their men must stay awake to guard in front of the tents, to protect their families all night. A pi8ece of nylon, a zipper separates them from any intruder.
Today when, more than ever before, we need each other, we are afraid of each other. We don't know from which side we could be attacked. We don't know who is a friend. We have lost trust in life and people because there is no system to protect us and to make us feel like humans among humans.
Today instead of curing our wounds hand in hand, we put salt on each other’s wounds.
We are trapped in a desert where no one will help us and no one will ask about our whereabouts.
I am responsible of myself. Within this violence, I have to do the first step to not become part of this. I have to criticise me first and start the change from inside myself, as no help will ever come from outside. We have to start from ourselves, from our families, our communities, to stop the violence and to raise up against this system.
I don't want to brake. I don't want to feel shame for my actions. I will stand firm against you violence and answer it with raised head and open fists.
We crossed thousands of kilometres to find a life in safety, but it seems that there is no security here for us. I stopped believing that we will find a place in peace. We have to find peace inside us and withstand the war going on outside.
When violence erupts in Moria, when the police beat us, when people riot or even fight, we cannot count for protection by anyone. We have to find the solution to beat the monster.
Can you imagine yourself living in these conditions, having survived war, facing daily violence... Could you control yourself, stay calm and start peace if after all your fate was unclear for months and years while trapped in Moria?
Living under such anxiety and insecurity, we people are under permanent shock; we experience panic and trauma daily. We inflict injuries to ourselves and others. There are even kids hurting themselves and trying to commit suicide.
Where is safety?
Clubs, tear-gas, wooden sticks, stones and knives... Fists and kicks....
Our shields of protection are naked hands and our dignity. All our wealth is our blankets and our few warm clothes. Fear of losing even these keeps us near our tent 24 hours a day. But even if we decided to move away, where could we go?
During the day, the knowledge that darkness is always near and fear of violence shakes our body.
For how long?
Wolves hunt in the darkness of night and the shepherds look after their flock. But here the wolves are the shepards, the shepards are the sheep and sheep turn into wolves.
No sleep. No dreams.
Where is safety?
How long are we going to search for safety by holding guns in our hands? These hands, which long for a pen not a gun!
Open your doors for our lives'!Parwana
I am mother of three children and wife of a sick husband. He has a hernia on his backbone. He cannot walk. Neither should he get tired. So, I must look after my entire family on my own.
I am a woman, softer than flowers, but this life makes me harder than rocks.
Every day, as the sun rises, my mission starts. I wake up at 5am. I spread the blanket over my children. Then I go to get food. I walk 800 meters to the food line. The line starts at 6:30am., but I want to be up front, the first one among a thousand women.
All this waiting for just 5 cakes and one litter of milk, which I suspect is mixed with water.
My boy has a kidney infection for five years now. He cannot tolerate hunger. I must go back as fast as I can.
When back, I gather all the blankets and spread them on the tent’s floor.
I sweep in front of my tent. With my own hands I made a broom from tree branches. I wet the soil with water to prevent the dust and dirt from coming inside.
I hardly finish and, once again, I must run to the food line for taking lunch. The queue starts at 11:30am although they distribute the food only at 13:00pm. So the whole waiting process, under unbearable conditions, starts for me again. In the line for hours, I do not know what happens to my children: Are they well? Are they safe? Has my son’s pain started?
We have been here for 200 days. And every week, we eat the same food – repetitive, tasteless, with no spices, little salt and oil. Three times a week beans, once meatballs, once chicken and once rice with sausage, which we don’t know for sure if it is Hallal. But I force my children to eat so they won’t stay hungry.
Securing meals is only one of my tasks. I must also wash my family’s clothes. As my children are all the day outside, their clothes get really dirty. Trying to clean the stains my hands get all chapped, the skin cracks. I need to rub them with oil every night.
I hang the clothes and, tiredly, I walk, once more, to the line for dinner—dinner only by name. Dry bread, one tomato and one egg. We must wet the bread to chew it. This is no dinner. When we have nothing to eat, we have to eat onion with bread (it’ s hot for children but we try to eat it cheerfully).
When my day finishes, I am really exhausted. But I do not want my family to notice. I fix my face. It should show no sadness, no fatigue. I hide my chapped hands from my husband and my children.
Sometimes, I don’t make it to the food line, because of the long queues, which I have to stand in to visit the clinic. I go there at 7:00am, but the process is very slow and, usually, every patient takes about 20 minutes inside. Then, the situation of my child gets worse than it normally is, because of his exposure to the sun and the polluted air outside. We need a specific permit to go get some drinking water.
Waiting in queue for four hours, without any toy or game, is very hard for children. It is equally hard for pregnant women like me. I know my husband is not happy when he sees me trying to manage on my own every day. But there is no other way. We don’t have anyone to help. Only ourselves. And he cannot.
I am my family’s strength, their courage, their hope. If I lose hope, who will stand by them? Who will help them? No one.
When the sun sets and darkness spreads, I am filled with fear. I fear also when it becomes cloudy and it rains. I fear the wind, I fear the cold. How will I protect my family? With what will I protect them, when we do not have anything?
When you don’ t have any resources, what are you going to do? I collect the blankets from the floor and spread the cardboards instead. The blankets are our covers at night and the carpets during the day.
I am a mother and wife. My children are the pieces of my heart and my husband is my blood. They are all I have in my life. But who am I for myself?
I don’t have time to even see myself in the mirror. I don’t have time to comb my hair once a day. I don’t have time to brush my teeth in 24 hours. I can’t take care of my skin. I can’t be a woman .
I am content to sacrifice myself to make a comfortable life for my children and my love, my husband. Because I am a woman. It is my choice to be like this. Life is hard here and there is nowhere good to go.
I was given the documents to go to the mainland. But I canceled my ticket. On the mainland, the authorities will put us in a hotel, far from hospitals or clinics that we depend on. What am I going to do there with my sick child and my husband and myself pregnant? We need (specialised) doctors. We need protection and care.
I am sorry that I don’ t have time to speak with my family as a mother, as a wife and as a friend. Because I don’ t have more power. I can’ t do more in 24 hours, than bring food, go to clinics, stand in lines.
I have had enough. I can’t continue anymore. Truly, if I didn’t have my children, I would have committed suicide. I live only because it is worth living for them. And now, I am pregnant and I carry one more life in me.
I am one for myself, but four for my family. Soon I will be five…
I didn’t know that in Europe people get divided in the ones with passports and the ones without. I didn’t know that I would be treated as ‘a refugee’, a person without papers, without rights. I thought we escaped from emergencies, but here our arrival is considered an emergency for the locals. I thought our situation in the camp is an emergency, but in Europe the meaning of emergency for people like ‘us’ is to be dead.
Under the conditions we live exposed to heat in summer and rainfalls in winter, in the middle of garbage, dirt and sewage water, unsafe in permanent stress and fear facing the violence of the European Asylum System in this small world of 15,000 people – we are all emergency cases.
In fact in Moria, most arrived already with injuries in their souls and sometimes on their bodies. But here everyone gets ill, also the healthy, and our situation let our sicknesses turn to emergencies very fast.
Consider the story behind life in Moria hotspot: Having spent days, weeks or months walking up and down hills, over rocks and in between trees while living in a forest. Standing in queues for hours. Lost between what we think of as protection and what they create to hinder us reaching it.
In Europe we become like ping pong balls. The authorities shoot us from one office to another, back and forth without ending and without understanding what, where, why – which makes our situation worse and worse. Even the ‘success story’ of receiving finally a residence permit can’t end the discriminating looks we have to live with every day.
We are not another quality of people; another class of humans; another kind. We are different people with thousand different stories. What unites us is just that we had to leave our homes.
So stop treating us different. Stop lying and pretending that people are safe here. Stop saying Europe was a better place, when it is only better for some and not even accessible for others.
We are not treated like being a part of Lesvos’ population, like Greeks, like Europeans. Our destiny depends on a bureaucrats decision, on the economical value of a political decision in favour of migration or not, on the political mood dominant in the continent, on European strategies and plans. It is not build on the foundation of ‘us’ and ‘you’ being one kind.
I am a girl in a tent and I am thinking about this world as the days won’t pass by and I am waiting for the permit to leave this place.
My pen wont brake unless we won’t end this story of inequality and discrimination among human kind. My words will always brake the borders you built.
Life has normally ups and downs, but my life has always been flat. I have been trapped in a deep valley.
I am getting close to my lives’ end. At an age when every old woman needs to rest, I push my heart to work and earn money for my husband who suffers from heart problems and for our son.
Yet, instead of taking care of my husbands sickness, we must first prove his illness, they say. Our words don’t count, but only papers. Do we need to take out his heart to show he is ill?
After many medical tests we undertook with many difficulties, they told us that his illness should be certified by the doctors of the big hospital. The name of his sickness has to be written in words on a paper. They didn’t tell us, who will cove his transportation costs to go to town? Of course no one will!
When my husbands’ heart suffered, I desired my death as I could not help without a Cent in my pocket…
Days passed. I decided to build a tandoor (trad. oven) to bake break and sell it. I thought, I could purchase the necessary ingredients by borrowing some money from one of our relatives, who had a cash card. Just 0,50 euros, that’s all I needed! I touched the fifty cents and my old hands were shaking. Not only because of my old age. Not only because of my worry for my sick husband. They shake at the thought of the thousand year old olive tree that will burn under my tandoor. I tremble with the idea of the axe reaching the old tree. I can feel its crying out. Yet, I must have fire to bake my bread. …
But it is the rule of nature: Eat or be eaten.
How many troubles have I faced in hope of today’s bread to cure my husband. Yet, I need a cure too. My heart burns at the thought of the felled burning trees. But, I must ignore my heart, I must take care of my old husband. I must bake the bread!
With my old hands I shall prepare dough that needs powerful arms, but my arms are weak and shaking. I will do it! I will wake up at 4:00am! First, I will read my prayers. Then I will start the dough. Flour, oil, salt, yeast and water. I will mix them all together. And then. I will let the dough rest. Once raised, I will cut out small shapes and let them rest again. By 7:00am the pieces will be ready for the tandoor.
My son walks far away onto the hills to collect dry wood and start the fire. Oh, how the old trees turn into ashes. My son instead of going to school will go around trying to sell the bread when its ready. From the early morning until the late evening he will call people to buy it. There are a lot of bakeries nowadays in Moria and selling is very difficult.
Hundreds of steps, hundreds of moves, a lot of sweat in respect of life, in respect of the bread and in respect of the trees.
This is our situation and this is how we spend our days. No one knows about it. No one can see. I have always been in the flat valley. No ups in my life. My voice, my cries will never be heard. They are old and weak. My shaking hands will be never held by a stronger hand. In this age, they still have to hold my family.
I want to be a friend of nature, not its enemy. I want to pass my last days with my family in rest, to have some comfort, to sit for days in the shadow of the trees, not to burn them. But life is very ruthless. Sometimes we people are obliged to do things we don’t want to do it. See what life forces us to do…
What if someone in this world would hold my hands, so I could become an ally of nature walking away from the deep valleys, up to the mountains and the sun?
I am the father of two children. I am the husband of a woman full of emotion. And above all, I am a human being. It is only one aspect of my current situation, that I am also a refugee, one among thousands of others.
Every day, I work for hours to help people access services and solve their problems. Every day, exhausted, I run 900m distance to eat lunch in hurry, and quickly come back to continue help more people.
On these days where I am helping, my wife carries all the housekeeping responsibilities alone: She looks after the children, waits in endless lines to get some food for us all, washes clothes, puts some order in our abode. She does all these things with pleasure, so that I can help translate the troubles of the people standing in the sun for hours, in need for someone to communicate on their behalf.
What happens to our children when she needs to go away from our tent and leaves them in our neighbour’s tent? Are they safe? They will not be bothered by someone? They don’t miss us? Such questions torture me during all the day.
Today, I am sorry that my name is father. I am sorry, that I cannot be the good father – as I want, that I cannot be the good husband – as I want. I try to be a good father, and I try to help all the others who suffer the same conditions like us.
Today, while I was translating for a doctor the symptoms of a patient, when a familiar sound of crying, reached my ears. I did not have the heart to leave my work half done and check of the person belonging to that voice. So patiently, I continued, trying to keep my attention on the words I had to translate. Yet, that familiar sound set off an explosion in my brain. Finally, when I was needed no more, stressed-out and anxious, I approached the door.
What I had feared, a few minutes before, was indeed true. That was the sound of my wife’s crying as she tried to come inside to see the doctor. In her arms, there was our daughter, unconscious. The girl had been vomiting a lot in the tent, she explained, and when they started out for the clinic she fainted. The guard advised me that she should have taken our daughter to the Doctors without Borders (MSF). But I wasn‘t able to open my mouth to utter the words.
The sight of my wife‘s eyes, now blood-shot, and the sight my listless daughter in her arm left me speechless and my mind blank. I could not even explain that she was my wife. Only, when she started suddenly, to shake, did I come back to myself. So I turned to the nurse and did what I did for all the other patients: I described what had happened. The nurse went to have a look, only to tell us that it would have been better to bring her earlier. How could they have come all that distance faster? Did she not know our difficult living conditions? When she went to examine our child, I, too, went back to my work. I didn’t want people to stay waiting while sick like my child, in that bad weather.
When my working time finished, we started out for our tent: my wife, my daughter and me. Feeling a bit better, my little girl lifted herself and asked for a juice. But…
However, the UNHCR, the European Union and Greece get thousands of Euros everyday. In spite of that, they do not hire enough translators to help sick people in clinics inside the camp of Moria and in the big hospital. Lack of translators, even in emergencies, is one of the most common problems of people.
To rely on migrant volunteer translators is shameful. Europe should feel shame. When even in its own hospitals nurses speak no English, how can they expect it from people who come from places where many kids have no access to proper education?
p.s. Thanks to the father, husband, human being, volunteer translator, who shared his story and happens to be a refugee today!
I am young girl full of energy, power and self-confidence. Everyday there are a lot of voices inside me inviting me to let this energy out. BUT I am in Moria, between thousands of unclean eyes, that are looking to my body and not to my soul. These eyes bother me. I can not play volleyball. I can not even just walk straight down one path. My head should be down. When I am crossing the roads it is difficult like passing the borders for me.
200 metres to the toilets. 400 metres to the food queue. Again 400 metres back. Along this distance there are hundreds of eyes looking to me.
Girl-molesting is common, is daily. Even when they disturb us we are not supposed to answer them. We are not supposed to turn around. We can not say: ‘Don’t follow me! Stop bothering me!’
While washing my clothes I feel ashame, because boys are looking to me. I can’t look back to them, because they will misunderstand. So all sport places are used only by boys, all playgrounds are used only by boys. And we are locked inside.
Even men in the age of my father look to my body. I don’t know where I am. This doesn’t look like Europe here. When I was at school I learned that Europe is the mother of freedom, but I am living in the middle of eye violence. There are everywhere eyes. There is nowhere freedom. I am a prisoner here and this is the jail. I will not be able to forget these memories.
Instead of playing with other girls, I have to stay inside. Instead of walking proudly, I should walk with my eyes turned down. I am forced to feel shame and fear.
See, I am actually like you. I am thirteen years old. I am a young girl. But I have to wear a scarf because the look of my hair is a source of their lust, they say. Why I should cover my head, because they cannot control themselves? Why I should cover my head at all? Why I have to get limited, punished? I am a human being but they are looking to me like animals, like I was their prey. I am afraid of these wolves. I am afraid of losing my honour, the respect and I start feeling bad just because of my gender.
But it’s enough! Stand up girls! Stand up women! We are not their objects of lust! We are not the prey of wolves! We should shout out that we want to be safe! We want our rights! We want to look up!
P.S. I am sorry for all of Moria‘s girls who suffer the same, and specially for my sisters.
Just a mother can understand me. My baby got sick and she started vomiting and having Diarrhea for three day. I was seeing her crying, but I could do nothing. I was seeing her vomiting, but I could do nothing.
This is the third day that I am going to doctor waiting for four hours in the back of the door, but no one cares. In one day I had to bring her about 14 times to the toilette and every time I had to wait 10 minutes in the queue.
After waiting for four hours at the clinic, they gave me just two spoons of syrup and a tablet that didn’t help. Every night I had to stay awake till morning with my daughter and again I had to go to the clinic at 05:00am, even though the clinic opens at 08:00am, but I had to take a number.
I want my daughters’ health back. We are all mothers and we are all human. We want to see our kids smiling. We are living on one planet. While you are designing your daughters’ kids room. I am trying to keep mine warm at a fire.
I had to take by girl to town hospital finally, but even I didn‘t have the 2€ to buy a bus ticket. I had to borrow it.
Now, god gave her health back, but still I cry because when she wants to eat a banana I don’t have money to get it for her. When she see sweets in other children’s hand asking me to have one for her own, I can’t buy it to her. I am unable to satisfy her whishes. I feel I am a very bad mother, because I gave birth to her but now I cant give her anything she wants.
I didn’t choose this situation. I didn’t want to be in this prison in Moria. It is something that fate chose for me.
But you are able to help. You can chose. You can take our hands and stand beside us. God gives to one and takes from another. He tests us. I am sure, I will loose this test, because I have children and I will not be patient when I see their feelings.
Don’t help me! Help my children! Help our children! They are making their first steps in life. Please don’t let them down. Don’t let them feel weak and alone in this huge world.
From a chat with one mother of many in Moria camp…
In Moria we have no place to stay. We are without shelter among thousands of adults and strangers. We sleep on the floor, in tents and anywhere we can find until we may get a place in a overcrowded container.
We are alone and there is no love. I feel I am the most lonely person in the world. We have no relative, no family to be with. We have no one to talk to and to protect us or give us advise. It is the main reason why we think of suicide and why many of us end up in addictions.
We have nothing useful to do. Oh, I became tired of life. It is boring to just wait not knowing why. There are no activities for us. There is no variety in our days but always the same rythim. Everyday is same in Moria. There is no difference between yesterday and today. I am a teenager full of energy. I should get rid of this energy like a snake empties its poison. I want to learn things, do things, grow.
This situation destroys me. It is changing my thoughts.
I am thinking to go out of this camp and this island in any way – legal or illegal. I would even climb under a truck to enter the ferry to Athens. I cannot be here anymore.
I am thinking what I should do? I am desperate because I have no money. I start smoking today, maybe I will take drugs tomorrow to not feel hungry, to not feel the time being stopped, to just to be far from this bad world.
I am thinking if I should wait for four months for a medical age test to correct my age or I should just run.
I am feeling hurt, seeing the others who have their mothers next to them and a shoulder to cry, someone to trust.
I become like a lost kid, who doesn’t know what to do, where to go. I need guidance.
I am thinking that every person I find in front of me is a wolf looking for a goat. I am scared.
I am thinking, why is there is no candle on my dark way?
I am bothering girls to make them feel weak and me strong.
I become afraid of losing everything, loosing my believes, loosing myself, loosing my way.
How long am I going to be here in Moria?
How am I going to survive this?
Whom can I trust?
Hundreds of us are in this situation here. We are more than 1.000 on this island, in this hell, I heard. Together we could have the power to build a city, to improve a countries’ economy, to change big things. Instead we don’t even know how to not destroy ourselves. We just need someone to hold our hand and lead us to the wright way, to tell us about good and bad, wright and wrong. To tell us how to use our power in a positive way, a way that will make us proud before ourselves and before our families and the society, someone to remind us who we are.
P.S. Special thanks to Yaser. I hope you will find your way my friend!
The way from Afghanistan to Greece; stories of unsafe border crossings
The reasons for my people of escaping their home are different according to their individual stories, their families, jobs and the situation in their villages / towns or origin, but the main factor is the internal and cross-border war – not just for us Afghans but for most of the refugees.
When forced to leave and choosing to come this way, we are risking our lives in order to survive in the end. Even after considering all dangers and the possibility of death, still this is the better choice among only bad alternatives.
All refugees from Afghanistan have to cross several borders to arrive here. Even though some may start with different possibilities, with or without Afghan passports, with or without residence permits from Iran/Paksitan, valid and invalid ones, we all suffer hundred dangers on the way. Some start their escape route in Afghanistan, others have been already living for years as refugees or people without papers in Iran and Pakistan, some were even born as refugees.
We ride on motor-bikes, pick-ups, trucks with too many others driving through stony deserts. We walk many klimoetres over mountains and through rivers. We cross fences and seas. We find ourselves confronted with police, soldiers, smugglers and thieves. We spend nights outside without knowing where we are, without blankets in the cold, rain or snow and without food and water. They shoot on us, we get robbed, kidnapped, threatened, raped. We see dead people along the road. Many of us are kids or minors, many escape with their families, with their grandmothers and grandfathers or sick relatives.
Do you think, this is a simple choice to take this route to freedom?
On the way out of Afghanistan to Europe, there are places controlled by thieves where even the smugglers and soldiers are afraid of. I heard the story of family whom thieves stoped to rob all their belongings. They threatened them, that if they wouldn’t give them what they wanted, they would sexually abuse their women. They survived the attack but were left with nothing but their lives and the clothes on their bodies. İn another case five minors were robbed, beaten and taken hostage for two nights, where they wouldn’t get more than a small piece if dry bread a day. They added that they felt horrible, as there were also two girls in hostage who got both raped and murdered. İn another case a family told me, how they crossed the desert with their four kids and two other families. There was no shadow, no shelter. They were without water and their kids dehydrated. They struggled: Either peace or death.
When we arrive to Iran, we face a country full of racism against Afghan refugees, who build the majority of immigrants there. The country likewise our home, is full of racism against the atheists, ethnic or religious minorities, political opponents. It is a country, where refugees cannot attend formal education or get the nationality even if born there. It is a country where violence against women, strangers and even their own people is often silenced and remains unpunished. A country where you cannot speak freely. A country where citizenship is sold for the price of death as a soldier in war.
After crossing the rocky mountains, we reach Turkey. A family expressed it like this: “We were stuck for two nights on a snowy mountain. When our small baby started crying the polices came and arrested us. They deported us all the way back to Afghanistan. So we had to pass again Pakistan’s border and then İran’s border.
The sea between Turkey and Greece is a black water full of deaths and corpses. People died because the priority in Europe is to control borders and not saving lives.
Do you think these parents are ready to put their children lives in danger?
No one, no one, no one… chooses this without having a bigger danger behind his/her back. These mothers and fathers are afraid in every moment. They decide to risk death just to give their kids the hope of peace.
We refugees walk on a path of fire, from which we try to escape. When we see another way, one without fire, we will chose it without thinking a second, without knowing if there will be other dangers. We have to choose the other way anyway, so that we won’t burn. This other way, the one without fire, is where Europe put barbed wire, where war ships stop us from reaching, where our dreams for peace get lost in the sea and the “lucky” ones end up in the hell of Moria.
“Put yourself in our shoes! We are not safe in Moria. We didn’t escape from our homelands to stay hidden and trapped. We didn’t pass the borders and played with our lifes to live in fear and danger.
Put yourself in our shoes! Can you live in a place , that you can not walk alone even when you just want to go the toilette. Can you live in a place, where there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors that no one can stop attempting suicides. That no one stops them from drinking.
No one can go out after 9:00 pm because the thieves will steal anything you have and if you don’t give them what they want, they will hurt you. We should go to the police? We went alot and they just tell that we should find the thief by ourselves. They say: ‘We can not do anything for you.’ In a camp of 14.000 refugees you won’t see anyone to protect us anywhere even at midnight. Two days ago there was a big fight, but util it finished no one came for help. Many tents burned. When the people went to complain, no one cared and and even the police told us: ‘This is your own problem.’
In this situation the first thing that comes to my mind to tell you is, we didn’t come here to Europe for money, and not for becoming a European citizen. It was just to breathe a day in peace.
Instead, hundreds of minors here became addicted, but no one cares.
Five human beings burned, but no one cares.
Thousands of children didn’t undergo vaccination, but no one cares.
I am writing to you to share and I am hoping for change…”
“Put yourself in our shoes! We are not safe in Moria. We didn’t escape from our homelands to stay hidden and trapped. We didn’t pass the borders and played with our lifes to live in fear and danger.
Put yourself in our shoes! Can you live in a place , that you can not walk alone even when you just want to go the toilette. Can you live in a place, where there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors that no one can stop attempting suicides. That no one stops them from drinking.
No one can go out after 9:00 pm because the thieves will steal anything you have and if you don’t give them what they want, they will hurt you. We should go to the police? We went alot and they just tell that we should find the thief by ourselves. They say: ‘We can not do anything for you.’ In a camp of 14.000 refugees you won’t see anyone to protect us anywhere even at midnight. Two days ago there was a big fight, but util it finished no one came for help. Many tents burned. When the people went to complain, no one cared and and even the police told us: ‘This is your own problem.’
In this situation the first thing that comes to my mind to tell you is, we didn’t come here to Europe for money, and not for becoming a European citizen. It was just to breathe a day in peace.
Instead, hundreds of minors here became addicted, but no one cares.
Five human beings burned, but no one cares.
Thousands of children didn’t undergo vaccination, but no one cares.
I am writing to you to share and I am hoping for change…”
Refugee residents from Katsikas refugee camp, managed by Arbeiter Samariter Bund (ASB), call for solidarity as officials try to place newcomers from the Aegean Islands in the already overcrowded camp. About 100-200 refugees are protesting right now. Riot police has been called to assist the camp management. Residents report of scared kids and tear-gas. They say conditions have been already squalid before while no one is listening to their problems.
“We are already around 1,500 people living here. The officials say we are only 1,000, but thats not true. There is no assistance to us. Now they want to put 2-3 families in one container; about 10-12 people. They say to us: `Here is Greece. You don’t have a right to speak. You are migrants. You have to listen to us.` There is no security, no rules here, no doctor… We have many problems. Yesterday they brought new people here from Kos. Today they want to bring more from Lesvos. They come with the police to knock the doors and put more people inside. The kids get scared, the families get scared. They want to force us to accept whatever they decide. Now the riot police entered the camp and they shot tear-gas on our kids. People are asking why Greece is doing that to them? Why nobody listens to our voices? We are human beings! We want to be respected! It is no solution to transfer the problems of inhuman living conditions from the islands to the mainland. We demand a life in dignity inside the cities and not in isolated and overcrowded camps! We demand freedom for all!”
In a wave of sweep-operations against refugees and migrants the new right-wing government of Nea Dimokratia (of July 7th) within the last month has evicted five refugee squats and announced more will follow. Meanwhile, nothing is done to improve reception conditions in the official camps – in contrary things get worse. The state literally denies dignified housing and integration to thousands of refugees and their kids. New camps built; old camps re-opened or expanded; more tents set up… this is how the state deals with protection seekers. Not to mention, the undocumented who are threatened by arrest, detention and deportation.
“They are trying to bury us but they forget that we are seeds, that we are more than just a number, more than an occupied building, we are a community.”
On 23 September, 143 refugees and migrants were evicted from 5th school in Exarchia. During the sweep operation Photoreporter Alexandros Stamatiou got arrested for “breach of domestic peace” during his professional news coverage, as the Greek Union of Photoreporters denounced, “a fact that does not remind anymore of a democracy”. The raid in the building housing many families with kids was based on a complaint filed in 2016 by neo-Nazi and former parliamentarian I. Kassidiaris from Golden Dawn, as EFSYN newspaper uncovered.
“It was this that triggered the prosecutor’s intervention and the recent sweep operation during which nothing was found. As it turns out, the “law and order” doctrine even takes advantage of the neo-Nazis’ racist actions.”
The Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (B-ELME) denounced the violent sweep and the arrest of the photoreporter. As they state, many of the 56 kids residing in the 5th school squat had been visiting public schools in the neighbourhood of Exarchia and have now been once again uprooted and out of the educational system since their transfer to distant refugee camps. According to the Federation, the 5th school was closed and left empty for some years by earlier governments, until being turned into a refugee housing space, after the fusion with another school – a procedure which in the year 2013 led to the closure of three schools alone in this area.
“The State must provide decent living conditions within the urban centres for refugees and migrants, the vast majority of whom are victims of imperialist wars, with equal access to health and education. Children – without any exception – have the right to education in public schools. We are opposed to the long-term entrapment of thousands of people who were forced to get uprooted from their countries, through the flagrant EU Turkey “Deal”. We are opposed to the totally unacceptable living conditions in the hot spots on the islands and in the camps in mainland Greece. The “law and order” that the new government is trying to impose on human souls, trampling on labor and trade union rights, is targeting universal human values and achievements.”
Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (B-ELME)
Also the parents association of 35th and 36th primary schools publicly demanded their kid’s school mates back.
“In recent days, buildings in downtown Athens have been evacuated where refugees had found shelter, waiting for what law, what government, what bureaucracy will proceed their asylum procedures. Their children were enrolled in the schools of downtown Athens, trying to integrate, learn the language, make their lives a normal one even under these conditions. But while it is the state that should ensure that all children are enrolled and attending school, while having ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is the state that most violently deprives them of their rights, it pushes them to the margins, it does not respect their fundamental rights, it does not respect their existence. Because the school year has begun and children are removed from their schools without any notice, without even registering them and transferring them to other schools.
We want our children’s classmates back. Because it is the obligation of all of us to finally ensure a safe environment for them. Thanks to them many of the city center’s schools were actually not closed. Because political games cannot be played on the backs of children and oppressed people!”
Parents Association of 35th and 36th primary schools
On 19 September already 269 people (46 families) had been evicted from the two refugee squats Jasmin School (also known as 2ndschool) and Acharnon22. These raids followed earlier evictions of Spirou Trikoupi 15 and 17 on 26 August where in total another 143 people had been residing. Following the raids, the former “homes” got sealed up with barbed wire; windows and doors locked with bricks and cement and people taken away from their neighbourhoods.
Mostly families with kids but also many homeless single men fleeing from war and conflict areas to Europe to find safety, have been attacked during these raids and were taken away their homes and communities. Protection seekers already traumatised found themselves in early morning hours waking up by the shouting and threats of armed special forces, the massive police presence invading their temporary “homes” supposingly in order to “combat drug trade and lawlessness” – as government and mainstream media propaganda frame it. Refugees and migrants were transferred first to Petrou Ralli Aliens Police Directorate for hours of control. The ones with papers from Trikoupi Squats were temporarily transferred to an empty building, to Schisto camp and then spread to different camps. In Schisto they stayed outside in small tents for days. In Eleonas eight persons shared one room in a container “piled up like animals in a farm”. Many rejected a transfer to distant camps such as Katsikas in the Northern Greece or Koutsochero near Larissa (also to Eleonas, Skaramangas, Thiva and Lavrio) and are homeless again today. The ones from Jasmin school and Acharnon22 were brought to the newly established state-run tent camp in Corinth from where they will be reportedly divided likewise the others to other camps all over mainland Greece.
People transferred to Corinth reported of miserable conditions as they were placed on a dusty field with 16 rub halls (big tents). Some already returned back to Athens, as they couldn’t follow their daily lives from such distance, with their kids being subscribed in downtown schools, medical cases being followed by doctors in the capital, people having found jobs there and legal cases being proceeded in Athens asylum service and the diverse embassies located in the city. Also residents of 5thschool residents were brought to Corinth. The undocumented from all squats were arrested and brought to the pre-removal detention centre Amygdaleza. (10 from Trikoupi Squats, 14 from Yasmin and Acharnon 22 while two families and 19 persons from 5th school remained in Petrou Ralli for their papers – information by 24. September) Reportedly, some of the detainees in Amygdaleza started a hunger strike.
„Most of us had to move to places around Thessaloniki, over 400 km from here. We don’t want to do that. They are playing with us. They have evicted us from our house and they have destroyed it, but they will not also take away the life we have managed to create here in Athens. Our children are going to the school in Exarcheia and we refuse to make them leave it and have to adapt to a new place once again. We want to stay here. We answered them that we will not go anywhere against our will. We keep strong.“
“We are scared about our lives and our freedom and some of us have chosen to stay on the streets to avoid being chased and arrested one more time. They have tried to divide and separate us, but we continue to struggle together. They destroyed our home, but the family that we have created in Trikoupi’s community remains united. Against their repression, solidarity is our weapon!“
The governments attacks against refugee squats have to be understood in the broader frame of a (re-)introduced anti-migratory policy, increasing police repression, institutionalised racism and right wing populism which is used against any from of solidarity.
With more than 29.000 refugees and migrants trapped in the Aegean Islands, of which 12.000 alone try to survive currently in the hell of hotspot Moria / Lesvos and a 5-year-old boy just lost his life there while playing in a carton box (24. September)…
With 5.000 who could actually officially leave the islands but have nowhere to go…
With more than 88.000 refugees and migrants currently stuck in Greece most of which are dumped in overcrowded camps far from local society and under squalid conditions…
The focus of the state is to impose “law and order” in a hypocritical fight against “crime and lawlessness” while actually sacrificing what has been hardly achieved: peoples’ freedom, dignity and respect.
We denounce the attacks on refugee squats in Exarchia and elsewhere! No Pasaran!Solidarity will win!
Employ teachers, not police officers!
Close the camps! Open homes!
For freedom of movement of all and the right to stay!
NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!
W2eu / infomobile greece
For further information read following statements:
Clandestina is participating in Bulletin, a group of local and migrant activists publishing the magazine under the same name aiming to help break the barriers of communication and unite our struggles in both the cities and the migrants’ camps. Bulletin is a multilingual magazine published in Arabic, English, French, Albanian, Farsi…
For us it was the most inspiring Noborder camp, which we ever have organized. In Lesvos in late summer 2009 about 400 noborder activists from various countries met together with hundreds of refugees and migrants, who just had arrived from Turkey with small boats on the coasts of this Greek island. Some weeks before already strong protests started in the detention prison „Pagani“, at the margin of the capital city of Mytilene. Ongoing rebellions from inside and demonstrations and scandalization from outside finally led to the closure off this „hell of Dantes Inferno“, an important success against the EU policy of determent. During the noborder camp an info point was established at the port of Mytilene, which became a crucial and vivid meeting point for a week of common fights for freedom of movement.
middle of these struggles the idea of Welcome to Europe
(w2eu) was born: to build daily structures and to provide useful multilingual
information to empower and to support refugees and migrants in transit for
their right to move to their desired destination. We tried to build links to
the various countries of arrival and destination and within the years the
network grew with every friend who arrived somewhere.
September 2019 it is 10 years ago and we look back to an impressive common
history of coming together and projects, of protest and of commemoration, and
last not least of innumerable friendships, which spread with and through w2eu
all over Europe.
brochure we want to highlight some milestones of our network during this
decade. We assembled a mixture of chronology and documentation, of personal
stories and reports, of quotations and photos. We hope it will offer an
interesting and exciting review on the last years.
background of the ongoing roll back of the deathly EU border regime this
booklet is also a promise for the future: we will tear down these borders and
will go on with our struggle until freedom of movement and equal rights will be
reality for everybody.
refugees from Bavaria in Paris, German speaking Pakistani refugees in Northern
Italy, Somali refugees from Norway
The attempt to develop options for action based on solidarity.
Over the past two years, one round of tightening laws against refugees and migrants has been chased by another. In EUropean countries, the human rights of rejected asylum seekers are being trampled – homelessness and exclusion from social benefits as a means of deterrence. In light of this, more and more of those who are increasingly deprived of their rights decide to continue their flight to other EUropean countries. They are further fleeing from the threat of deportation or from impoverishment. They are also further fleeing, because some have had enough of the endless waiting. These are not always rational decisions, sometimes it would certainly be easier to continue the fight for the right to stay in the original countries of arrival. In most cases, however, the continuation of flight is underpinned by a conscious decision: the decision not to tolerate injustice any longer and to move on. Against stagnancy and for freedom. This text is an attempt to take a closer look at some of these further flight movements – and, above all, the attempt to develop options for solidarity. We do not have to start from zero. We can draw on decades of experience of solidarity with sans-papiers, with illegalised migrants throughout EUrope.
from Bavaria flee Seehofer’s deportation
charters to Paris
From Gare de l’Este to our meeting point with our Afghan friends at Porte de la Chapelle, we walk through streets full of migrant shops of all kinds: Indian tailors offering money transfers, Pakistani money transfers besides a Western Union, a Cameroonian hairdresser, a Somali restaurant, an Afghan grocery store, a Sudanese halal bistro… all side by side. A hairdresser offers advice in Bengali on problems with the Foreigners Authority (OPFRA). In these lively streets, Paris shows that all the racist madness of today has, in fact, already lost. At every corner one can feel the informal reality of migration, which creates spaces beyond the legal framework and has a long history here. With two Afghan friends from Bavaria we sit in an Afghan-Indian Hamburger-Fries-Kebab snack bar, where there are enough sockets for mobile phones to recharge and where the newly arrived get a discount on food. Some sit here also with sleeping bags and luggage. Another Afghan friend from Graz in Austria joins us at some point. Together they explain the system to us in some detail and try to underline what might be important for others who will come here, too. They talk about the difficulty of finding accommodation, about the first nights on the street and how difficult it is to find a place to recharge one’s mobile phones when you live on the street. We learn how important a French SIM card is at the beginning, because the first step in Paris is to register with the asylum authorities via a phone call.
Reza*, who has been here the longest, has witnessed the eviction of an informal settlement near Porte de la Chapelle. The residents were then distributed to various gym halls outside of Paris and after a lengthy procedure were given accommodation – for the time being. However, they did not receive any financial support and fear that they would soon be completely excluded from the system due to the Dublin proceedings, meaning that they would have to spend many more months on the street if they want to avoid deportation back to Germany. The two Afghan friends from Bavaria miss their previous place of residence very much. One of them could not bear it after the first week on the street in Paris and went back to Germany once again. But after a friend told him that the police were already there to pick him up for the charter deportation to Kabul, he returned to Paris.
is the last hope for many Afghans who were rejected in Germany. Especially in Bavaria, which pursues the most rigorous deportation measures,
it can affect almost anyone who is only legally ‘tolerated’ in Germany.
Continuing the flight is a difficult decision. Some decide too early to flee,
head over heels, when the foreigners authorities begin to exert pressure.
But some flee also too late. An article from July 2018 in the Stern magazine
impressively describes in the portrait of a deportee to Afghanistan how
he hoped until the end that the already signed vocational training contract
would protect him.
from Hessen in Northern Italy
protection rate between 70 and over 80% for Afghan refugees, the chance of
obtaining a right of residence in France is indeed much better than
in other EUropean countries – if the Dublin Regulation did not exist. The
probability of a Dublin transfer to Germany is clearly given – absurdly about as
many people are transferred from Germany
to France (753 persons in
2018) as from France to Germany
(978 in 2018). And so, many people only
have the option of going underground in France
and thereby have to live with an extended Dublin
transfer period of 18 months. Once this period has expired, the asylum
procedure must be carried out in France. For many, going underground
means having to survive two years in homelessness and without any support of
the French authorities. They live in slums or somewhere without a roof. They do
not speak French but Bavarian German – in Paris
they are called “the Germans”. Nevertheless, life on the street is
always better than being deported to Kabul
– which usually means having to risk once more the dangerous path across the
a café in Gorizia, northern Italy.
Around the tables men sit for hours with cups of tea, loading their mobile
phones and chatting away. As it turns out, almost everyone speaks German as
well as Urdu. It is a meeting point for newly arrived Pakistanis from Germany and Austria,
who come to northern Italy
to reapply for asylum. Unlike Austria
and Germany, Italy still does not deport to Pakistan. We drive on, meet a
friend from a small town in Hesse/Germany. He carries advertising leaflets and
lives in an overcrowded apartment for which he has to spend a large chunk of
his salary – simply a for a place with a mattress. But he soon has an appointment
for his first Italian residence permit and is happy that he was not at home
during the deportation attempt a few weeks earlier in Germany.
people, especially men, from Pakistan
live in the Rhine-Main area around Frankfurt.
About one-third of all Pakistani migrants in Germany live in Hessen. Quite
commonly, at some point, they had failed with an asylum claim and lived for
years, many since 2015 but more than a few even longer, with only status of ‘toleration’
(“Duldung”) in Germany.
Until the beginning of 2017, the Pakistani government did not cooperate in
issuing travel documents for deportations. Although many Pakistani migrants
were tolerated during this period, deportation was in fact impossible due to
the lack of travel documents. Most of them worked, often gastronomy (especially
in pizzerias), but also in construction. The situation changed with the first
deportation charter flights at the beginning of 2017. Before, there had been a
lengthy period during which the Pakistani authorities refused to issue travel
documents for deportations despite a readmission agreement between Germany and
Pakistan that had existed since 2010 (and in late 2015,the Pakistani Minister
of the Interior even announced that he had completely suspended the readmission
agreement). Since 2014 there has been an agreement between Germany and Pakistan
to allow Germany
access to Pakistani databases. It appears that the German authorities have had
direct access to the Pakistani database containing biometric data of Pakistani
citizens (the so-called “electronic platform”), latest since early
Neither were the details of this “deal” made public, nor the sum of money the
Pakistani government was supposed to receive from the German government in exchange.
For all “tolerated” Pakistanis, this created the incalculable risk of
deportation. In 2018 alone, 367 people were deported to Pakistan, the majority in a total
of 12 collection charter-planes. Almost every month a plane, always coordinated
by Frontex, flew from Frankfurt, Berlin or Düsseldorf to Islamabad. While on the one hand we warned
against exaggerated panic and gathered information about possibilities of the
right to stay beyond the asylum procedure, on the other hand the search for
alternatives became important.
Many Pakistani with “Duldung” decided to go to northern Italy from 2017 on. In some cities,
mainly German-speaking Pakistani refugees from Germany
gathered. While we had tried for a long time to prevent the Dublin
deportations from Germany to
it was now the other way round. In fact, Italy, for its part, has hardly
implemented the Dublin Regulation to this day. There have been a few transfers
from Pakistanis to Austria
by bus but we have never noticed any deportations from Italy to Germany in all of this time.
Salvini’s racist tightening of the law, from June 2018 onward, times became
harder for the Pakistani friends also in northern Italy, so that, at the moment,
the flight to northern Italy makes less and less sense. Although there still are
no deportations from Italy
it is hardly possible anymore to get a right to stay. Even those who have
already been temporarily legalised are now threatened with withdrawal of their
humanitarian status, which has not been granted since the so-called Security
Decree was passed at the end of 2018.
And so some of our Pakistani friends think about coming back to Germany.
They are again seeking advice as to whether they could try to gain a foothold
here once more. When viewed in light of the overall number of tolerated
persons, there are only a few who are actually caught and deported in the end.
And some are thinking about developing a new “Plan B” and evaluating possibilities
in different European countries again, if necessary residing there illegally.
women from Scandinavia and Eritrean women from Swiss bunkers continue to flee
3pm on a
completely normal Monday: the refugee-café in a small occupied house in Hanau becomes alive. It is
difficult to move through the strollers, table football is being played and
conversations takes place while two women pray on the stage in the concert
room. Still in 2013, when “Lampedusa in Hanau”,
a self-organised group of East African refugees was created here, the issue at
hand were almost exclusively Dublin proceedings
By 2017, at the latest, the issues had widened, and we started to face threats
of deportation to almost all European countries. An Iranian with fingerprints
in France, an Iraqi woman with a toddler who went through an unsuccessful asylum
procedure in the Netherlands, a Somali man who had lived on the streets in
Belgium after his rejection, Eritrean refugees from Switzerland who had had to
live in bunkers. And, again and again Scandinavia – Afghans who fled being
deported from Sweden, Somali
women who faced the same threat in Norway. All of them had good
reasons to flee – and a new fight for the right to stay began for all of them,
which will continue for several years to come. Even if they do manage to
prevent the Dublin deportation, they usually
have a lengthy legal process ahead of them, because asylum applications in Germany are
often rejected as confirmatory applications. If an asylum procedure in a EUropean
country has already been negatively concluded, then the procedure here is
assessed as a follow-up application in which only new reasons count. Within a
few hours, the gruelling consequences of EUropean asylum policy can be
experienced here – and always also the persistence of the people to get through
them. It is true that it gets very noisy in this refugee-café in Hanau, there or sometimes
larger crowds and it gets hectic, but most of the people are also very
concerned about the others and there are always small groups sitting together
in which those who have already survived the problem can share their
At the EU
summit in Brussels in June 2018, the prevention
of migration to EUrope was again negotiated.
All horror scenarios of a failed EUropean asylum policy from satellite camps to
hotspots were discussed at length and in great detail. The German Federal
Government raised the issue of secondary migration within the EU as an
important issue – not least because the phenomenon of secondary migration
accounted for a significant proportion of the number of asylum applications
filed in Germany
in 2018. A similar phenomenon can also be seen in France. Over some months of the past
years, the number of asylum applications in Germany
was higher than arrivals by sea on all three routes to Europe.
This was mainly due to the increasingly restrictive migration policy throughout
EUrope. However, instead of discussing
legalisation, the issue here was again isolation. While the Dublin Regulation
was originally intended to prevent the phenomenon of secondary migration and
flight, in today’s reality it accounts for a large proportion of flight in EUrope.
18 years old. She fled Somalia
as a minor. Her parents died when Fadumo was two years old. She grew up with
her uncle’s family, in which she experienced a lot of violence. She was
subjected to genital mutilation as a child and still suffers from the physical
consequences today. In 2015 she fled due to increasing problems with the Al
Shabaab militia in her neighbourhood via Turkey
and Greece and then on to Norway.
she was first accommodated in a shelter for minors. On her 18th birthday, she
received a threat of deportation to Somalia following the rejection of
her asylum application.
therefore fled to Germany in
January 2018, as she saw no perspective in Norway
and noticed how other Somali refugees were deported to Somalia. In fact, after returning
to Norway, she would be threatened
with deportation to Somalia.
In October 2017, a 36-year-old Somali woman had been deported from Darmstadt in Hesse to Norway. There she was arrested at
the airport in Oslo, then detained for three
weeks and deported directly from prison to Mogadishu.
Fadumo would not only have to fear further persecution from her family. Even as
a single young woman, she would have little chance of securing a livelihood.
Fadumo was therefore taken into church asylum in a parish in Hesse and was thus
able to overcome the Dublin
proceedings. She is currently in the process of filing a complaint, as her
asylum application was then rejected as a secondary application. She does not
give up and is certain that she will finally have a future here – because she
has found a network that supports her, not least in a growing East African
community. Fadumo’s story is that of many and she is not alone.
flight as resistance against the terror of deportation
further flights are not only desperate forms of flight, they are active forms
of resistance against the machinery and industry of deportation. At a time when
EUropean interior ministers are outbidding each other with plans on how to make
such machinery even more merciless and effective, these people are opposing it by
‘voting’ with their feet. They are building on the informal migrant structures
that we experienced in Paris
and described in the first part of this text. In them they find paths that are
usually very stony, but which they prefer over being forcibly returned. In
their search for a life without a constant fear, they set off again from
countries within EUrope that they originally
thought were the destination of their journeys.
of their Pakistani friends in northern Italy, they are often exposed to
massive forms of exploitation – often enough also within migrant communities,
which are at the same time often the only sources of protection and the necessary,
albeit often very precarious, infrastructure they need. Refugees who flee for the
second, or third, time are often particularly vulnerable. Especially for women
on the run, further flight and renewed illegalisation increase the danger of sexualised
already fought for years for the prospect of staying and are accordingly more
exhausted than before. Quite a few are worn down by years of insecurity. As
they continue to flee, they often face homelessness once more, and are
therefore more at risk of suffering drastic health problems. In France (and in many other countries, too),
living conditions during the Dublin procedure
are a major problem: many of those affected receive accommodation only after
long waiting periods (if at all), which they lose again as soon as they fail to
report to local police stations during the Dublin procedure. Since the evacuation of the
“jungles” in Calais, new informal
settlements have emerged, initially in Paris and
now in many places in France.
It seems to be in the political interest to evict these settlements again and
again, though they are also used as a deterrence strategy. A social worker from
an aid organisation in Paris
impressively described to us the danger of re-traumatisation and eventually impoverishment
in homelessness, as many young adolescents get lost on the street and often end
up addicted to drugs.
Solidarity Cities with one another
the sea to the cities”, a network of solidarity structures has formed in
recent years, which has its origins in the support of refugees rescued from distress
at sea. Here, sea rescue NGOs meet with representatives from municipalities in EUrope that adopt a different, solidarity-based attitude
towards migrant travellers. They make connections with activist movements such
as the “Seebrücke” networks in Germany.
These often-informal networks can be important to maintain connections and strengthen
migrant communities in EUrope by giving them additional
support for their daily work and struggles.
still needed is a well networked “Underground Railroad” for freedom
of movement, a structure that also supports the often-necessary instances of
further flight. In times when there is no place of freedom, the movements can
take place in all directions, not only from the port cities of the
Mediterranean Sea towards the metropolises, but sometimes also from north to
south. Along these routes that mark the shifts in miserable conditions within EUrope, also a map of solidarity can emerge.
contact and connection are crucial to create this map of solidarity. Like the
fast food bistros in Paris, which serve as recharging stations for mobile
phones and where newcomers can drink tea and exchange ideas without being
forced to consume, such spaces emerge from the solidarity of individuals. They
are just as important as squatted houses and social centres, which serve not least
as collectively created spaces for contact and exchange. In Athens, the occupied seven-storey-tall City
Plaza Hotel gave a temporary home for up to 400 refugees at the same time. It
also has the function of providing information about other solidarity
structures with which fleeing people can connect.
not least, City Plaza has also taken up the permanent challenge of how the
struggles of women can take place in these spaces and how solidarity-based spaces
can be created in such a way that they offer as little room as possible for
exploitation and structural violence and where experiences of sexism and racism
can be discussed openly. To do justice to the many experiences made here it
would need a separate article but it is crucial to allude to them as they are
central challenges when it comes to developing everyday structures of
solidarity. The City Plaza Squat is a “lighthouse” and is certainly
unique in its size and continuity for over 3 years. Nevertheless, it is
representative of many other places that are less public and have formed information
hubs of solidarity in a more quiet way but similarly producing rich experiences
and developing further.
no longer remains at the EUropes’ external border, but shifts to its centre
with the increase in diverse forms of further flight and increasing
illegalisation, then we need the experience gained from transit also for the
metropolises at the heart of the EU. We need more of these places of
solidarity, we need closer forms of networking with community structures and,
not least, we need learning processes from successful practices.
This all sounds
like a major task ahead. Nevertheless, as in all social struggles, every first
attempt counts. It is possible to start small. If a circle of supporters from a
small Bavarian town refuses to let the contact to an Afghan friend break off
and continues to support him by providing the rent for a sleeping place in
Paris and also visits him there every few months, three things are created: First
of all, there is a very material form of solidarity, which in this concrete
case may prevent a young man from becoming re-traumatised during his further
flight. Second, a point of contact has been made, a contact in Paris, a person there who
knows how it works when the next ones have to leave. And finally – as we know
from experience – a story has been created that will live on both in the small
Bavarian town and in Paris.
This story will live on and will be told ten years from now, showing under
which hard conditions and tough efforts, carried by solidarity, a right to stay
was struggled for and realised.
create welcome islands and rent apartments in which friends can rest and
develop a perspective. There are many models of welcome islands in Athens, rest houses in Rabat and shelters for ‘illegal’ immigrants
from the past. We can also build on the structures of previous struggles when
it comes to medical care: since the end of the 1990s at the latest, with medical
aid provided to refugees in Germany,
structures have been built up that in some cities have also been able to fight
for communal medical care for illegalised and uninsured people today.
Cities in Germany
are also stations of transit. The extended transfer periods in the Dublin proceedings, which
force more and more people to survive up to 18 months, while completely deprived
of their rights, are also here regarded as ways to generate deterrent effects in
the long term. More and more people spend long periods of time illegally in the
cities in order to survive their Dublin
deadlines. Here we need more structures and networks of support.
So, we need
more solidarity rooms and apartments. We also need more contact points for
those who are completely deprived of their rights, where it is possible to
develop perspectives for each individual beyond the increasingly narrow legal
requirements. And above all, we need to strengthen the community structures
that are based on solidarity and find ways of connecting them with one another.
This is not so difficult, because much of it already exists. We need a long-lasting
power and energy to overcome this migration regime – and we need the courage to
enforce equal rights for all every day. In all cities, we need to contest these
outdated ideas of national legislation. . In Italy, the port cities with their
solidarity with the newcomers are already showing us the way.
 In the first three months of this year, the
number of Nigerian asylum seekers in Germany rose sharply for the same
reason. They call themselves Salvini-refugees. After years of residence in Italy, most of them have started to flee because
their living conditions have become unbearable, not least because of the increasing
racist agitation in the media, and because they cannot develop a perspective on
the right to stay in Italy.
Within just one week Greek police forces in April 2019 have evicted four refugee squats in Athens all located in Exarchia area leaving around 200-300 refugees homeless. While authorities are politically framing the operation as ‘a step forward in an anti-drug campaign’ in the area, their efforts have hit the ones in need of protection instead and criminalize the refuee squats. Refugee families, many with kids, are left ever since on the streets. They are now not only again unprotected and with empty hands but also (re–)traumatized. Around 60 refugees are protesting since two days at Syndaghma Square.
On 18 April 2019 two refugee squats in Exarchia (Athens) got raided in the early morning hours around 5am. People residing respectively in Clandestina and Cyclopi squats got evicted with a massive police presence. In total 68 refugees (among them 25 kids) were arrested and after more than 4 hours released to the streets of Athens. Among the homeless are refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Eritrea amongst others. There are many families, single mothers and small children. A pregnant lady had to be transferred to the hospital after the terror of the eviction. She is in danger to suffer a miscarriage. Sick refugees lost track of their medicines, prescriptions and attestations.
Everything I had is in that locked building now: My tax number, by social insurance documents, medical papers… I am at zero again. They didn’t let us take anything.
A young refugee former resident of Clandestina squat
In the early afternoon of the same day mothers, fathers and children from different countries started together a protest in Syndaghma Square in the centre of Athens demanding dignified housing and safety from the Greek state. Despite the strong cold, they remained over night in a dozen tents set up in opposite side to the Greek parliament. The only ‘offer’ by the police until now was to find ‘shelter’ in the pre-removal detention centre in Amygdaleza, which refugees denied to accept.
I suffer from psychological problems. My doctor instructed me to not stress myself. Yesterday in the morning we woke up by the sound of shouting and suddenly a lot of police entered the place we were sleeping in. Some of us got pushed. I had two panic attacks the last two days. Half of my body got paralysed from the fear. I am still under shock. Where should we go now?
A refugee lady former resident of Clandestina squatI
I was sleeping with my children, when I suddenly woke up with guns being held in front of my eyes. There was police everywhere. I tried to collect our most important belongings. The police was shouting: ‘Fast, fast!’ Two of my kids have heart problems. One of them has Asthma. … It is six months I am trying to call the asylum service from Skype without success. Without the asylum seeker card, I can not apply for housing.
A refugee mother of three minors former resident of Clandestina squat
Only a few days earlier, on 11 April 2019 Azadi squat and neighboring Babylon had also been raided by the police. Around 200 cops were reported on site that day. Refugees stated, that the police forces evaded the place suddenly at dawn. Approx. 90 persons got arrested and transferred to Amygdaleza pre-removal detention centre. The buildings were locked while their personal belongings were thrown on the street.
On 19 April the evicted families are remaining in Syndaghma square. They prepare to sleep one more night in the cold lacking any alternative. Authorities still have not found any solution for their accommodation. The protesting refugee stated, there were 20 kids among them and they would stay until there was a real solution found for them all.
We just demand a safe place for us and our kids!
A refugee mother of two toddlers with severe health problems and former resident of Clandestina squat
Meanwhile, more than 70,000 refugees are estimated to live in Greece currently. Approx. 23,000 are sheltered in flats by UNHCRs’ ESTIA program (March 2019), another 28,000 are being provisory placed under deplorable conditions in temporary accommodation sites in mainland Greece (15,000) or the six infamous ‘hotspots’ on the Aegean Islands and in Fylakio (in Evros region) (13,000) and 6,000 stay in short-term housing provided by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) in 54 hotels all over Greece.
At the same time, an unknown number of protection seekers remains without an official shelter sleeping rough in public spaces or staying unofficially in the states’ refugee camps. They remain without access to the monthly allowances provided for by the Cash-Card system of ESTIA housing scheme or the Social Solidarity Fund (KEA), which people with refugee status can apply for along with Greek citizens. Without a roof over their head, without money to buy food or medicines, they would be exposed to life-threatening conditions, if not their self-organisation in around 12 refugee squats in Athens and other solidarity spaces would create the ‘welcoming and protective spaces’ that the state fails to secure.
Read the announcements of City Plaza Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space
The ” Montmartre” of politicking, riot police and racism (18.04.2019)
Two days ago we experienced the second act of operation “target refugees to harvest votes”. Heavily armed squadrons of MAT and EKAM riot police units invaded two refugee squats in the neighborhood of Exarchia. As with the previous police operations, no links were found between the refugee squats and the local mafias. In addition, no refugee was arrested for any criminal act. Drugs displayed by the police were found in another irrelevant apartment.
But the government’s goal was achieved. That is to say, a large quantity of “law and order” style TV show material was produced. Refugees were once again targeted as criminals. SYRIZA sent out the message that there is no need to vote for New Democracy since they too can act out the role of a police state.
The fact that some dozens of refugees have nowhere to sleep is a minor detail which politicians and the media couldn’t show any less interest for.
Mrs. Papakosta’s “Montmartre” consists of repression, politicking and racism but no rights and solidarity.
Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza
Government and police use refugees as scapegoats (13.04.2019)
The police operation that took place 2 days ago in Exarchia, against the two refugee squats was not directed against the mafia in the neighbourhood. Despite the propaganda, they did not find anything in the squats to link them with mafia. The goal of the government and the police was a show of power. Refugees have been turned into scapegoats for pre-election purposes. Refugee targeting does not harm mafia, but it strengthens the racist stereotype of identifying “foreigners/refugees” with criminal activity and of course, opens the way to fascist violence.
We remind them that the squats are the voices against the failed policies of the state on “migration management”. The housing problem is more acute than ever, for both refugees and locals. Instead of finding solutions for the housing problems, government and the oppositions are turning against those who have no shelter and hope. The recipe is classic: Instead of limiting poverty, targeting and criminalising poverty.
Do not let them impose the policy of fear and hatred.
Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza
Hundreds of refugees residing in Greece left in the last four days the infamous hotspots, mainlands’ camps, IOM-hotels and ESTIA flats, the refugees squats and other places they were temporarily staying, taking down to the streets in what they called ‘march of hope’. They headed to the North of Greece, first towards Ioannena and then in the direction of Thessaloniki using busses, trains or even walking with the aim to leave Greece, finally. They reported of feeling entrapped in a hopeless situation with asylum interviews dated up to 2024 and with no future prospects, while many kids were not even able to go to school and they were facing difficult and provisory living conditions.
In the last three days, bigger groups from different places tried to move to the border aiming to reach it at the dates announced by social media of 4 and 5 of April. Until that point mainstream media had not followed-up on the movement. Meanwhile, UNHCR and IOM have been since weeks, when the idea spread in social media, warning refugees to not follow the false rumors about an opening of the borders on these dates. Only recently, the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy also declared that borders would remain closed and that there was a fake news spreading.
Despite the warnings by the authorities, IGOs and NGOs, refugees from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan mainly continued following their hope and reached Diavata camp at the outskirts of Thessaloniki – among them are also families with kids. Many others were blocked by police, their busses were stopped and trains halted and they had to return back. Hundreds of refugees, awaiting the train to Thessaloniki on Thursday night, were forced to leave the Athens railway station the next day.
Around 1.000 refugees are camping now since three days on a field outside of Diavata and have not been allowed to continue their journey towards the border. Repeated attempts to move beyond the police blockade got forcibly stopped and small clashes have erupted again and again for a third day in row. Not willing to give up, they decided to spend one more night in their little summer tents, despite rainfalls, cold, hunger and thirst.
In the morning hours the regional coordinator for Northern Greece and Epirus of the Migration Policy Ministry, Nikos Rangos, tried to talk people into the busses organised by IOM, saying that he didn’t want them to loose their rights in this dead end situation that might end in violence but surely not in the opening of the borders. One of the women who had a day earlier tried to brake the riot police blockade with their mere hands, replied: “We have nowhere to go back!”
With the conditions outside of Diavata getting harder throughout the days, and after todays extensive tear-gas use, which also newborns, many bigger kids but also adults suffered from, at least 300 refugees today decided to return to their shelters. “The alternative solution we can offer from the Ministry,” Mr. Rangos stated to a Kurdish TV Channel, “is to return back to their containers, to their camps or hotels and let their Cash-Cards get recharged”.
What gets forgotten in the whole discussion around “fake news” or “false rumors” and the search for the organizers of the march, is that, hundreds of refugees took a decision to participate in this and try to get out of Greece, however initiated, in order to flee the misery and improve their families’ situation. The containment policy Greece is upholding by any means and under the pressure of the EU, paired with a mere emergency approach to reception and an overloaded asylum system inspired fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers to find a better solution for their kids, to seek for more than “being kept alive”, to follow their hope…
Update 07.04.2019: Busses have been taking people from the informal tent camp outside of Diavata back to their official shelters all through the night. 874 persons had left at 5am already with another approx. 50 remaining in the small tents. Mr. Rangos told media outlets, that until Monday the informal tent camp will have disappeared.
Update 08.04.2019: The last refugees left Diavata. Meanwhile, the Greek Union of Photojournalists denounces the beating of one of their members by police officers. Various Greek reporters who had been present during the last weekend in the field next to Diavata – among them the injured photoreporter, who were witnessing the developments from within the field, stated, that without their presence the police would have taken more excessive measures against the refugees and they would have used more violence. They also denounced the absence of any humanitarian organization, when the officials inside Diavata had cut off non-resident refugees from the access to the sanitary infrastructure, water and food. The “spring” we disappointed, one of the Greek comments titled….
Three refugees arrested during the events of Saturday (A 28-year-old Palaistinian, a 32-year old Syrian and a 28-year old Iraqi) got today trialled by the Three-member Misdemeanors Court of Thessaloniki to 12 months detention for resisting the authorities, but they were released upon appeal against the sentence.
Closed borders, barbarism and despair
A statement by City Plaza Refugee Squat about the March of Hope 2019
6 April 2019
The anti-migration policy of the European Union and the Greek government is a machine that constantly produces barbarism, misery and despair. The closed borders, the shameful hotspots in the islands, the very difficult living conditions on the mainland and, in particular, the lack of options, lead refugees to an impasse. Any kind of “rumors” can catalyze a person who has now reached the limit. The refugee protests in Diavata and Larissa station are in fact instigated by the continued containment of refugees in Greece. The request of refugees to open the borders and to continue their journey into Europe is not just fair and right but also perfectly reasonable. The policies followed with regard to refugees are irrational and inhumane.
We declare our solidarity with the refugees -We call on the government to stop the violence and the repression against them. Open the borders now – Stop racism
Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza
There are many holes and gaps in this “reception” system and they can not be hidden behind the violence and chasing downs in Diavata and the highway. Let the government and stakeholders see the core and the root causes of this mobilization instead of hiding (again) the problems of a permanent “emergency” state, which it has chosen as a method to manage the issue, behind an orgy of repression, criminalization and vengeance.
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!