Further flight through EUrope

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

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

1. Three exemplary moments

Afghans from Bavaria flee Seehofer’s deportation charters to Paris

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

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

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

Pakistanis from Hessen in Northern Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Further flight as resistance against the terror of deportation

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

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

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

3. Connecting Solidarity Cities with one another

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                           no one is illegal hanau / Welcome to Europe

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

* All names changed.


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

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

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

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

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

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

‘FOR THE RIGHT TO A SAFE HOME’

Four refugee squats evicted in Athens

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

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

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

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

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

copyright: Salinia Stroux

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

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

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

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

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

copyright: Azadi Squat

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

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

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

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

copyright: Marios Lolos

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

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Read the announcements of City Plaza Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space

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

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

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

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

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

Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Government and police use refugees as scapegoats (13.04.2019)

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

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

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

Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

copyright: Salinia Stroux

It is about hope…

copyright Border Crossing Greece

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

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

copyright Marios Lolos

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

copyright Angelos Christofilopoulos

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

copyright: Daphne Tolis

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

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

copyright Border Crossing Greece

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

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

Injured photoreporter in Diavata following police violence

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

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

Closed borders, barbarism and despair

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

6 April 2019

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

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

Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

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

Antiracist Initiative Thessaloniki

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

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

11

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

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

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

Ten people with talents, professions, passions and dreams…

Ten people living in Greece for some moments…

Ten people without a shelter…

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

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

 

no home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Reclaim the streets, reclaim the cities!

w2eu – infomobile greece

 

Memorial 24th of April 2018

Foto: Marily Stroux

On 24 of April 2018 one year had passed since 22 people among them two children lost their lives in the boat accident north of Lesvos. Rescue teams managed many hours later to rescue two women alive, one of them pregnant in the 8th month.

Sylvie and Joelle and the little girl Victoria, born in Mitilini just one month later, came again to Lesvos to remember this year. Together with the rescue teams of Refugee Rescue / Mo chara and with the activists from Watch the Med Alarm Phone and Welcome to Europe they returned to the place the rescued women and also the dead bodies had been brought one year ago.

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

Also the spotting teams who still care every night at the beaches to spot boats on the way from the Turkish to the Greek side, Lighthouse relief and The Hope Project, joined the invitation to the three women.

On 22nd of April we travelled with the survivors on the ferry to Lesvos. At the ships restaurant we introduced them and their story to the crew who have been really touched to have survivors on board.

During our dinner officers of the crew came at the entrance of the restaurant obviously to see with their own eyes the survivors. We got very positive wishes from the crew for the future and an appreciation for making a memorial.

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

We all met in the morning of 24th of April in Skala Sikaminias. The rhib of Refugee Rescue, Mo Chara, drove out with a floral wreath to put it in the sea exactly at the place where the women have been found and the dead bodies collected.

In the meantime all people went to the beach and enrolled a 30 metres long list of all known names of people who died in the European borders the last years. 33.305 names, 33.305 stories, 33.305 deaths that should never have happened.

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

The following text was read in Greek and English and then Joelle sang a song of her home-country that she was singing in the sea while trying to keep up the hope to be rescued.

 

Sylvie made a prayer to thank god for giving them a new life.

After we had a minute of silence to remember the 22 dead travellers.

Returning to Skala Sikaminias promising to ourselves not to give up supporting the newcomers and continue rescuing.

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

It is now 8 years ago, that we from Welcome to Europe made the first memorial for dead Afghan people in Korakas, thanking the fishermen for rescuing a baby and her parents that day.

 

Since then many more people arrived on Lesvos and the other islands oft the Aegean. But also many died and never arrived to their dream. In Europe they wish to find peace and a respectful life.

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

The fisherman continue to rescue – but there are also the rescue and spotting teams to support and work together now. As long as the European borders remain closed and militarised, the only option for fleeing people will be to risk their lives and we all have to be there for them.

One week later we returned to Piraeus with the same ferry and hand over in the bord-restaurant the memorial speech from Skala Sikaminias to one of the crew members we know. He thanks and disappears and returns some time later. He says he read it loud in the kitchen and everyone was crying and that they all thank us for doing it. Even he adds the people from the second bord-restaurant called him to read it also to them.

 

Memorial speech Skala Sikaminias

24 April 2018

Today, we come together here in Skala Sikaminias to remember the dead of the European borders.

Foto: Marily Stroux

We come here together with Joelle, Sylvie and Victoria. They survived when their boat sank in the North of this island on 23rd of April 2017. In the many hours that they spent in the sea, before they were rescued, they both asked themselves where the others had disappeared.

22 travelers did not survive that day, among them 2 Syrian children, and were later collected by the authorities’ vessels and the rescue teams.

Only one month later, Joelle gave birth to Victoria here in Mitilini – and this little girl reminds us that life continues.

Foto: Marily Stroux

Still, every year the dying continues due to the Europe’s border regime. And every year we renew the promise to remember those who have died. We will work to ensure safe passage until the deaths at Europe’s borders stop.

 

Because it has not stopped – even though many of us have tried hard. In 2018, to this day, more than 559 people have been killed in the Mediterranean Sea. We have been in touch with many people who have survived shipwrecks – as well as people who have given testimonies of death on the routes, before people even reach the sea.

Today, we are here together with people who still have eyes on the water, spotting. People who are still on the sea, with Search and Rescue boats. People who were fishermen and became rescuers, who had to take the dead bodies from the sea. People who started a hotline for open communication, to try avoid all these deaths. People who held the relatives and friends of the drowned after they discovered the loss. People who shared parts of the way with the survivors.

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

All of us have not shut our eyes. We remember and we won’t forget.
We all feel shame, because these deaths highlight our failure in our attempt to stop this murderous regime and to create a welcoming Europe.

We remember our friends, whose lives were lost after they had managed to escape war, after they risked death when crossing one border after the other clandestinely, and after finally reaching Europe.

Here and today, we want to stop for a moment and create a space for all those who lost their lives. Remembering here means we save the stories of the uncounted who died at the borders of Europe. They died in the sea, they died at the deadly inner-European borders.

Foto: Marily Stroux

They had left their homes to change their lives. Their death is a death in search for freedom. And that concerns us all.

 

There have been, and will be, many more names and many more stories.

We will never forget all of them and today we want to remember especially the friends of Joelle and Sylvie.
We will remember them. All of them have families and friends they left behind – who cannot be here with us, because these borders separate them even now.

So let us speak out their names:

– Maman Nicole – she lives!
– Chochou – she lives!
– Gilaine – she lives!
– Sylvia – she lives!
– Tedy – he lives!
– Fati – he lives!
– Mali – he lives!
– Pider – he lives!
– Peter – he lives!
– Junior – he lives!
– The Syrian family with two children – they live!
– And the unidentified other 8 travellers that lost their lives in that boat – they live!

We will never forget them.
We promise to do our best to tear down the borders that caused their deaths.
We invite you to have a quiet moment in memory of them – and then to move on: to tear down the borders and to build a new, more welcoming Europe.

Refugee Rescue – Lighthouse Relief – The hope project – w2eu – Watch the Med Alarmphone

 

Memorial text in Greek: Μνημόσυνο 24.4. 2018-Greek

Memorial text in French: Memorial speech Skala Sikaminias-français

Video of the memorial ceremony: https://youtu.be/ZPF4bfqFvJc

 

Foto: Marily Stroux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvie

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

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

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

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

Joelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvie

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

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

Joelle

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

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

Sylvia

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

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

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

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

The red bag

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

Joelle

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

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

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

I call my baby girl Victoria-Miracle.

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

Sylvie

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

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

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

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

Joelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvie

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

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

Joelle

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

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

Sylvia

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

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

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

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

The red bag

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

Joelle

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

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

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

I call my baby girl Victoria-Miracle.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Source: Musaferat

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

Copyright: Michalis Bakas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

w2eu

Infomobile 2017-11-01 15:36:40

Today in the afternoon more then 50 people gathered in the harbour of Thermi/Lesvos in commemoration of the dead of the European border regime. Among them were survivors of a shipwreck on 23rd of April of this year in the North of Lesvos as well as people active in rescue. The memorial happens once every year since October 2013 and was initiated by the Welcome to Europe network.

copyright: Marily Stroux

When we started to remember this year, who we have to mourn for, we realized that we are more and more confronted with death even after people have survived the sea. We had to commemorate today also friend who died last winter in the hot-spot of Moria, because they had been left during winter in terrible conditions. We are in close contacts with families that they waited too long to be reunited with their beloved even if they had the right for family reunification and died before. If you really want to mourn the dead of the Sea, you have to respect also the survivors. The only solution to end their suffering is to create safe passages, to give the people their right to move freely – and for those who are stuck here to finally open the islands. This is why every memorial for us is combined with the promise to tear down the borders that killed them and to create another, a welcoming Europe.

This year the memorial plate was renewed and fixed. We thank to: the local club of the fishermen ΝΕΣΕΑΛΘ “ΠΟΣΕΙΔΩΝ“, Stellios from the shipyard in Kontouroudia, metal work Gianis Moisis, Chrisanthos, Alcalica-ALM eV, Simos and Web copy shop.

Memorial speech

25th of October 2017

We came together today here in the harbour of Thermi for remembering the dead of the European border regime.

Today we came here together with Joelle, Sylvie and Victoria. They survived when a boat was sinking in the North of this island on 23rd of April this year. Joelle and Sylvie asked themselves where the others disappeared when they drifted for many hours in the Sea until they where finally rescued. Only one month later Victoria was born here in Mitilini – and she reminds us, that life continues.

copyright: Marily Stroux

Since we started to remember here in Thermi in 2013 every year we had to come back. Every year the death by the border regime continued. Every year we came and we renewed the promise not to give up until the killing stops.

It did not stop – even if many of us tried hard. This year until today more then 2.600 people have been killed in the Mediterranean Sea again. Also this year we have been in touch with many people who survived shipwrecks – as well as people who give us testimonies of death in the deserts even before people reach the sea.

We are here together with people who went again and again to the beaches. Who went with boats at the Sea to rescue. Who started an Alarm Phone hotline for boat people. Who just went to the sea for fishing and became rescuers and who had to take the dead bodies from the sea. Who held the relatives and friends of the drowned after they discovered the loss. Who shared parts of the way with the survivors.

copyright: Marily Stroux

All of us did not close our eyes. We remember and don’t forget.

We all feel ashamed in the moment of these deaths because we failed in our attempt to stop this murderous regime and to create a welcoming Europe.

This year we have to remember not only the death at Sea.

Ever since the closure of the Balkan Corridor on March 8th 2016 and the implementation of the dirty EU-Turkey Deal in March 20th inhuman conditions for refugees in Greece have caused death both in the EU-funded so-called hotspots on the Aegean Islands as well as in the newly established emergency reception sites all over the mainland.

While almost a million refugees had crossed through Greece and over the Balkans in 2015 and not few of them even got a protection status in countries of the European North, their relatives got caught up in limbo trying to survive in tents, without access to doctors, lawyers and under deplorable conditions. Thousands of families with small kids, slept on the mere floor and had no access to sufficient and clean toilettes, showers, warm water or eatable food for months.

When winter came the situation escalated and in January 2017 the tragedy peaked in a dozen of deaths all connected to the harsh weather conditions and the lack of proper heating in the makeshift and provisory housing people in hot-spot Moria or else were forced to stay.

– We remember a 66 years old Kurdish woman and her granddaughter (6 years old). They died on November 24th, 2016 after a portable cooking gas stove exploded inside a tent, setting on fire parts of the Moria hotspot on the island of Lesvos in Greece. The 30-year-old mother of the child, and her other 4-year-old child, (the family are Syrian Kurds) were seriously injured with third degree burns to about 55% of their bodies and were transferred to Athens for medical treatment.

– We remember the 29-year-old refugee who tragically lost his life in Chios after putting fire on himself in March 2017.

– We remember a 22-year-old Egyptian man. He died on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 in a tent at Moria in his sleep. The day after, on January 25th, a 41-year-old Iraqi man was found dead at the Samos hotspot. On January 28th, a 45-year old Syrian father of six children, died in the same tent at Moria where the Egyptian had died four days earlier. On Monday, January 30th, a 20-year-old Pakistani man lost his life, again at Moria, and an Afghan man was transferred to an intensive care unit in a critical condition and remained in a life-threatening condition for several days.

– We remember a 5-year-old child that died in a tent in Moria, she was seriously sick and the last she saw from this world was a hot spot made to detere people.

– We remember also the man who died last Saturday during the riots in Moria after having a heart-stroke.

At the mainland, refugees lost their lives on the highways next to their camps in traffics accidents, they got severe injuries from the makeshift heating they tried to use in order not to freeze in their tents, and dozens lost their lives when the ambulances arrived to late in the marginalized camps.

We remember our friends, whose lives got lost after they had managed to escape war, after they risked death when crossing one border after the other clandestinely, and after finally reaching Europe.

– We remember Ismail from Syria, who died from cancer in Skaramangas camp before being able to join his son in Sweden.

– We remember 2-months-old Noursan from Syria, who passed away on the way from Ritsona camp to the hospital.

– We remember one-year-old Safa from Syria who was enduring in Athens childrens hospital after more than 10 months in Katsikas camp in Northern Greece in order to get the permit to leave the Germany for the so much needed heart transplant. Both German and Greek authorities did not react fast enough to let her join her family. In the end her father and the three other sisters and brothers moved to Germany to her mother and other sisters and brothers leaving her small body back in a graveyard in Athens.

– We remember also the 57-year-old husband of Fatima from Syria, who passed away in Filipiada camp after a heart attack. His wife and daughter were forced to wait seven more months to join their two sons in Germany in order to be able and grief for their father and husband together.

– We remember 7-year-old Nourian from Syria, who drowned in Skaramangas the days his father finally could come from Germany and visit him and his mom after months apart.

copyright: Marily Stroux

Lets not forget also our friends who stayed with us in City Plaza and with whom we shared not only a home and food but also a common struggle for a better world.

– We remember Hamid from Afghanistan, who drowned in Athens while waiting for months to reunite with his daughter in Switzerland. He left his beloved wife Feruza, two daughters and a son back. He stayed for months in Elliniko camp where he would always return even after moving to Plaza in order to visit friends and help cleaning the areal in front of the camp.

– We remember 62-year-old Fatima, the mother of Mustafa and Selah, from Syria, who passed away shortly before they were scheduled to join their family in France through relocation.

copyright: Marily Stroux

Here and today, we want to stop for a moment and create a space for all those who lost their lives. Remembering here means to save the stories of the uncounted who died at the borders of Europe. They died in the desert, in the sea, they died even at the deadly inner-european borders.

They had been on the way to change their lives on their own. Their death is the death in search for freedom. And that concerns all of us.

There would be many more names and many more stories. We will never forget all of them and we will today remember especially the friends of Joelle and Sylvie.

We will remember them because all of them they have families, they have friends they left behind – who cannot be here with us, because these borders even separate them now.

So let us speak out their names:

 

Maman Nicole – she lives!

Chochou – she lives!

Gilaine – she lives!

Sylvia – she lives!

Tedy – he lives!

Fati – he lives!

Mali – he lives!

Pider – he lives!

Peter – he lives!

Junior – he lives!

 

We will never forget them.

We promise to give our best to tear down the borders that killed them.

We invite you to have a rest in memory of them – and then to move on: to tear down the borders and to build another, a welcoming Europe.

 

copyright: Marily Stroux

Reunite us with our families now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refugees from different camps and places in Greece

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

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

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

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

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

Refugees from different camps and places in Greece

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

“Let our families reunite now!”

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full call here

The Greek part of the Balkan route: Pressure & Resistance

September_2017_presentation

…how the creation of the Balkan route is connected to the Greek financial crisis

…what happened when people on the move came across the part of the greek population that (faced with the end of consumerism as we knew it) chose not fascism but humanity and solidarity and what was the reaction of the social movement in Greece

…how a radical/progressive government followed all EU recommendations and directives while at the same time continued standard Greek State politics on migration and kept posing as radical and progressive

…what is the situation today … what are the paths of resistance

Download pdf: September_2017_presentation_web_final


Can’t stop a movement! Impressions from eight years of struggles against inner-European borders, the so called Dublin-deportations

 

 At 15th of January 2011 more than 20 afghan refugees died, when their boat came into distress and capsized, while they continued their flight from Greece to Italy. A 16 years old young man, who was saved, asked us to write down this story not to get forgotten[1]. The most of these dead people would be still alive if the Dublin-III-regulation would not exist. Most of them started their journey again and again after they have been deported back from other European countries. We dedicate this article to commemorate the forgotten dead people of the internal borders of EU. May this injustice – as it happens at the external borders of EU – as soon as possible become history.

 

The struggles against deportations back to Greece, Italy, Hungary or Bulgaria are strongly connected with the fights at the external European borders. The struggle against Dublin was significantly fought out along the Balkan route: first until the temporary deportation stop to Greece in the beginning of 2011 and in a second round mainly in Hungary with the break-through by the march of hope in September 2015.

 

Contested spaces – every centimetre progress tenaciously achieved from a multitude, which stood up individually and collectively to this regulation und still do it until today. Without listening to these manifold stories of resistance it seems to us impossible to understand the political conflict on Dublin. It was and is a social process of erosion and of continuous undermining the border regime, in which the not-granted right to freedom of movement was asserted. It was and is supported by structures, which exist everywhere in Europe in the meanwhile: an underground railroad for freedom of movement.

In February 2014 Eritrean and Somalian refugees announced in a public event the foundation of the selforganised initiative „Lampedusa in Hanau“. They mourned the dead persons and they reported about the bad experiences of their flight through the Sahara, through Libya and through the sea – and about their subsequent homelessness and non-protection in Italy. They wanted to resist against the threats of Dublin-deportations and they were in search of support from civil society: „Who is honestly mourning the death, should protect the survivors.“ A few months later the first church asylums have been established. All friends from Lampedusa in Hanau finally could achieve their right to stay and they formed the base for a sustained cycle of successful resistance against „Dublin“.

 

In reference to Greece and the Balkan route or to the central Mediterranean route and Italy – this article will try to tell the stories of resistance against Dublin-deportations. It`s one of many narratives about struggles for freedom of movement, in manifold fragments and based on moments, in which we (with no one is illegal Hanau and with the network Welcome to Europe) were involved as supporters or testimonies.

 

The Dublin regulation was adopted already in 2003. In general it establishes the rule: the country, which „causes“ the entry of an asylum seeker – because its embassy has issued a visum or because it could not prevent the entry at its borders – should be responsible for the assessment of the asylum application. If a refugee applies for asylum in another country and s/he will be recognized in the fingerprint database EuroDac or because of other proofs, the deportation to this responsible country should be carried out. Obviously such a system cannot function and this regulation mainly should serve to the interests of the central-European governments to keep the refugees in the European border countries. All European countries enforce deportations to the border countries, which are overburdened with logistics and accommodation.

 

Greece:

Lesvos, October 2009

Our storyline starts in October 2009 on the Greek island Lesvos, at the fence of the infamous detention Pagani. Smog is in the air from the last revolts, which will finally wipe the slate clean from this prison at the external borders of EU. A few weeks before protests from inside and outside against the inhuman conditions have created images, which went around the world. At the fence – still before the release – next steps are in preparation. Everybody wants to go on as all know, that the situation in Greece will not offer a better life. They also know about the curse of the fingerprint, which all of them have been forced to provide and which burned in their bodies the risk of deportation back to Greece. Here at the fence they discuss with activists from other European countries, who hand over addresses through the wire, which can be contacted after arrival. The idea of w2eu.info is born in this situation, in the smog of the revolts and by the conviction that freedom of movement is the right for everybody.

 

The web guide w2eu.info

The idea was already developed during the nobordercamp, but these face to face encounters on the fence in Pagani in October 2009 became the final starting point for the web guide w2eu.info[2]. Initially handed over as slips of paper through the wire, quickly it was clear that the need of information and mainly of reliable contacts is huge. In 2010 the web guide went online as an attempt to present a transnational quadrilingual guide for freedom of movement, first of all with contacts in all important European countries of destination and mainly including information about the chances to counter the Dublin-deportations to Greece successfully on a legal level. Step by step the website developed further and the network around have grown up to a more and more stabile structure as a backbone for daily struggles.

 

´Schengendangle`:

On the bottom side of a truck back to Europe, Igoumenitsa, Springtime 2010

When we reached after seven hours bus-tour from Athens in Igoumenitsa, it is cold and the darkness of the mountains gives a feeling of isolation. We see that small groups of people disappear in the hills, the wind carries their voices to us. Igoumenitsa is the second biggest ferry-port of Greece and thus also a starting point for all the invisibles, who try to continue their journey to northern Europe.´Schengendangle` they call it, when they clamp themselves on the bottom side of the trucks, between the tires, to arrive perhaps some day. It is not without risk and we see some people with broken arms and legs. The two prisons in the ferry-port are all the time overcrowded, because the control is strict and every day between 10 and 40 refugees are deported back from Italy. Who was deported might have bad luck. We listen to stories about detention camps at the albanian border, or about refugees, who have been kicked out 100 km away nowhere, and even about clandestine deportations back during the night to Turkey in the region of Evros. After a wave of raids this winter, when many nylon-tents and small belongings were burnt down, most people change the sleeping place every night: from a construction site to the forest and back to the street. Small tents out of nylon-tarps hidden under branches and everyday waiting on a good opportunity: that is the world of the invisibles in Igoumenitsa.

Almost all people here were imprisoned in Greece more than one time and every second person we meet is a „Dublin-II-case“. Some refugees have been deported back to Greece already several times. J. was deported from Germany in March 2009. He shows us his expulsion order from Greece: ´Since my deportation I was 10 times imprisoned and every time I get another order to leave Greece within 30 days. But where should I go?` S. is coming from Palestine and he is already since six months in Igoumenitsa; ´I forgot to be hungry, I am not thirsty anymore and i do not know, if I am tired.` He wears a jacket, which is five numbers to big for him, on his three pullovers: ´Everybody gets sick here. We try find food in the garbage cans. Warm water is not existing and nowhere a chance to recharge our mobile phones or to keep contact with my family.` When we started to say good bye, a young Somali turned to us: ´Do net let us alone! Do not let us alone!` It sounds as it is not directed to us personally but as a general appeal to the society.[3]

 

Athens, July 2010

Athens is the hub of transmigration in Greece, from the islands as well as from the Evros region. Usually Athens is the next station to organize the further journey. During last years Athens became additionally the hub for Dublin-deportations. From all European countries Dublin-deportees arrive in Athens, where they are imprisoned at the airport in inhumane conditions. Not a few people turn the loop several times and try to leave Greece again and again. And not a few end up in the streets of Athens, when they lost their hope some day and all options to get money. Many refugees in Athens are caught in a trap, often even a voluntary return is not possible anymore. Massive homelessness of refugees is an increasing problem. The precarious support system from NGOs collapsed in the course of the economical crisis. In summer 2010 the most staff of NGOs was not paid for months and subsequently they stopped their work entirely for some periods. Around the Attiki-square, where in the daytime many Afghan refugees stayed, massive racist attacks happened for several months. The situation of minors in Athens is particularly dramatic: countless young people are exposed – beside all other problems – to sexual assaults in the parks. In the same time the protests of refugees increase: 2010 several hunger strikes of refugees took place for their recognition and legalization, often sharpened as the strikers stitch up their mouths.[4]

 

These descriptions from the squares in Athens summarize the situation in summer 2010, the first report of the Infomobile in Greece was a „Dublin-II-deportation-diary“[5], a report full with the voices of the Dublin-deportees from Athens. The documentation of all individual stories is a crucial method in this period. The documented cases have been used as written testimonies to prevent deportations to Greece in front of the courts in other countries and in general to illustrate the situation of Dublin-deportees and to scandalize the inhuman living conditions in the transit countries at the external borders.

 

Deportation stop to Greece in January 2011

In January 2011 the European Court for human rights decided in an individual case, that Greece violated the human rights of a person, who was imprisoned in inhuman conditions and became homeless after his release. This decision also affected Belgium as the deportation to the mentioned conditions in Greece also had violated the human rights there. As a consequence of this decision the deportations to Greece have been suspended in more and more EU-countries as probably hundreds of similar „Greek“ cases might have been decided in the same way. Thus the deportation stop was a court decision of last resort. But this temporary deportation stop, which lasted at least seven years, first of all was the result of the struggles of the refugees themselves and their supporters. After their deportation back to Greece they started again and again to go back to the places they want to stay. They themselves have documented over and over again the unacceptable conditions in Greece and pushed it into the public. Longterm lawsuits in each singular case and mainly the tenacity of the affected persons themselves led to a situation, in which the deportations had to be suspended.

Just now, when we have to develope new strategies to stop again the deportations back to Greece, we should learn from these experiences. Since March 2017 it was announced in the frame of the overall roll back, that Dublin-deportations to Greece will be restarted.

 

Hungary:

In Hungary the human right violations at first have been much less public – not because it was less massive but because it have been more hidden forms of violence. Imprisonment during the asylum procedure was and still is the norm and not an exception in Hungary. When we started to be engaged in the situation in Hungary, we mainly heard about the reports on the unbearable conditions of detention. The circulation of tranquilizer have been standard and many people were released after months of arrest with strong psychological problems and often also with addiction to pharmaceuticals.

 

First notices about the indefensible conditions inside the Hungarian prisons for refugees trailed away without attention. Already in December 2010 first considerations came up to research on the Hungarian situation as we could expect similar serious failings as in the Greek asylum system. First research journeys started and affected refugees have been informed about useful contacts in their destination countries through the web guide w2eu.info, while experiences about Dublin-deportations have been exchanged. Already in this stage many have told their stories.

So one young Afghan man, 17 years old, gave us an interview by phone from inside a detention center.[6] We never saw each other, but a friend of a friend brought us into contact. He felt very bad, he said, but he wanted to give testimony about the situation of refugees deported back to Hungary. He reported that he is arrested since nearly three month as a minor. He hoped, that the deportations to Hungary might end, when the practice of imprisonment becomes public. He said it is too late for himself, but perhaps it will help all others, who afterwards will go the same way, not to experience the same. In this period we made numberless interviews and many used these testimonies, which they had given still in Hungary, in their next attempt of continuous flight for the documentation in court cases and against another deportation to Hungary.

 

Already in 2012 and 2013 bordermonitoring.eu in cooperation with Pro Asyl tried to document in the German-speaking countries the general situation of refugees in Hungary „between homelessness and detention“ and thus to win influence on procedures in various courts.[7] In 2016 another updated report on Hungary was published and got attention in several courts in Germany.[8]

 

Hungary for a long time was known only as place of quick transit. With increasing Dublin deportations many affected refugees could not keep their strength for a second or third attempt and mainly families with children stayed and tried to get organized in Hungary and to struggle for an improvement of their living conditions. From late summer 2012 until early summer 2013 mainly Afghan families went on protests in Budapest and Bicske, supported from the new developed group MigSzol[9]. But all efforts failed and the most families – even with a residence status – could not find any perspective, rather they were confronted with the eviction from the refugee camp and subsequent homelessness. Against this background they decided collectively to leave and more than 70 refugees together boarded a train at 12.06.2013. All of them had a protection-status in Hungary, so they could be controlled at the border, but with their documents they have been entitled to move through Europe and thus they reached their destination. At the train station in Munich they finally decided for the end city: Karlsruhe. There some of them had relatives and one of them got the information, that a chance might be given. In Karlsruhe they went to the first reception center, put all their Hungarian documents on the table and asked for asylum as in Hungary a live in humanity and dignity was not possible.

 

“We, the refugees previously living in the Bicske Reception Centre (Hungary) decided to leave Hungary and apply for asylum in Germany. (…) The fact, that approximately 100 of us left Hungary will not change anything in Bicske. The new people who will be granted the

refugee status by Hungary will face similar problems. We saw no other choice than staying together and seek a common solution abroad. We have seen that the European rules on asylum are not working, there is no common treatment and care for asylum-seekers and refugees in Europe. We will not accept this system. Our political resistance is movement. We have to do that for our Children.”[10]

 

This declaration was published together with a detailed list of all their attempts in Hungary to change and to improve their situation (in negotiations with immigration offices, camp administration, politicians and UNHCR, and by protest-actions in front of the parliament). It was the first collectively organized leave and the families organized common events also later in Germany. Until today nearly all of them still live in Baden-Württemberg (the federal state, in which Karlsruhe is located).

 

Italy – the curse of the fingerprint

 

We are escaping the whole time, you know? Our life is homelessness, we sleep on a big street of hope. We could not see any hope until now. We only live, breathe, sleep. They decided for us, that we have no rights. Thats the meaning of Dublin for us. We should not have other options than to live on the street.

O. from Eritrea, Oberursel (near Frankfurt) in July 2011

 

Without Dublin it would mean that I would be a bird and could fly. I simply would continue my studies, I would marry and live a better life.

S. from Eritrea, Oberursel in July 2011

 

The Italian islands Lampedusa and Sicily are the places, where the stories cumulate, in which refugees tried to resist from the very beginning against the curse of the fingerprints. Most people know before their arrival in Italy, that the fingerprint – sometimes even taken on the boats of the coastguards – will be a trap. Thus forms of resistance are manifold. If the opportunity is given, they escape directly after the arrival in the ports in Augusta, Pozallo or Catania. Some even could get away from Lampedusa, hidden in a truck in the ferry, to avoid the fingerprinting. Others treated their fingertips with glue before the arrival, or they vitriolized or burned them. Many opposed the taking of fingerprints and experienced massive violence by the Italian police, partly through counter insurgency units against refugees, who just were rescued from boats at sea. As testified people were broken their hands and fingers to force the fingerprint procedure, in several times electric shockers were used to break resistance. Often any food was denied, before people did not give fingerprints.

 

In July 2013 one of the collective protests has been finally successful:

 

In the last couple of weeks new boat people – refugees and migrants mainly from East African and Sub-Saharan countries – are arriving via Libya on the Italian island of Lampedusa. There they are detained in an overcrowded camp and registered before their transfer to Sicily or the Italian mainland, which includes having their fingerprints taken. Many of the persons involved know from friends and family who went through the same procedure, that due to these fingerprints their residence will be bound to Italy, that they may obtain a protected status there, but that socially this is worth nothing. This because in general they will then find themselves homeless and without an income on the street and any continued journey towards North-Western Europe is threatened with immediate deportation back to Italy in accordance with Dublin II.
Against this background impressive protest actions occurred on Lampedusa in mid-July. About 250 refugees, mainly from Eritrea, refused to give their fingerprints and demanded from the responsible authorities their immediate transfer. After protests and controversies with the police in the camp, they held a more than 2-hour demonstration in the streets of the small tourist town on 20 July 2013. “No Fingerprints” was their main slogan, a collective protest against the Dublin II injustice. Then a 24-hour sit-in on the square in front of the church was organized and in selfdetermined negotiations with the local authorities they even could carry through their main demand to leave without fingerprints.[11]

The fingerprint in Italy became also a trap for refugees, who continued their flight after the deportation stop in Greece via Italy as the story of N. demonstrate. It was an almost endless odyssey through the European Dublin-jungle.

 

“My flight from Afghanistan via Iran and Turkey to Greece took me several months. In late November 2011, I crossed the Evros River. But in Greece you can not survive as a refugee. In December 2011, I’ve been hiding in a truck to get onto the ferry to Bari / Italy. When moving out at the port Italian police caught us and deported us directly back to Greece with the same ferry – directly into jail. On the second try, I went by foot across the border to Macedonia and continued via Serbia to Hungary. I was there for six weeks in custody and then deported to Serbia. The Serbian police beat us, took our money away and pushed us illegally back at the Macedonian border. From the Macedonian police we were left in the forest and hunted with threats towards Greece. I went the same way to Hungary a second time – with the same result: imprisonment and illegal refoulement to Greece. The fourth time I went in a small boat with 72 people to Italy. After days at sea I arrived in July 2012 in southern Italy. Via France and Belgium, I tried to go to Germany. In Brussels I was checked by the police and taken to a detention center. Out of fear of deportation to Italy I went on hunger strike. They have silenced me in February 2013 with a sedative injection and four Belgian police officers accompanied me to Rome. After the deportation I did not get any accommodation and had to flee from Italy again. A couple of months I remained in France, without any support, then I tried to come to Germany. After a second deportation from Belgium I was sent back into homelessness at the airport in Rome. I went on a hunger strike in front of the airport in Rome. Eventually I gave up and lived again homeless with other Afghans in a kind of tent.”[12]

N. escaped once more at the end of his odyssey through Europe, this time to Germany. He spent several weeks in a church asylum in Frankfurt until the transfer-deadline to Italy was over and he finally did not risk another deportation anymore. He is living and working today in Hanau.

 

There are people, who became nomads, who go and return in Europe many times and many years to find finally a place to stay. We met a Somalian refugee, who had to give fingerprints in at least nine European countries. From everywhere he was deported back to Italy or he escaped before his deportation to a next country.

 

Also after the arrival in Germany many refugees vitriolize or burn their fingers, mainly in the years 2011 and 2012. But this kind of resistance soon went into space: the asylum procedures have simply been suspended, because of „non-collaboration in the identity verification“. Often the affected persons fall into the Dublin-trap years later, when they were not prepared in another fingerprint procedure. But many make it, they layaway from step to step until – for example – they get married by a friend, who already held a long term residency in Germany.

 

Resistance against Dublin-deportations in air planes

Several refugees defended themselves against deportations to Italy. Between 2011 and 2014 according the official statistics concerning the Frankfurt airport the most deportations have been interrupted by Eritrean refugees, who should have been forced back to Italy.

K., an Eritrean friend in Oberursel near Frankfurt (who achieved after many years of struggle his blue passport and in the meanwhile even a flat), was one of them. After he prevented his deportation on 6.12.2011, he was detained in the prison in Frankfurt-Preungesheim. He said:

„I will not accept another deportation to Italy quietly and secret. If we remain silent, nothing will change. The situation of refugees in Italy is a constant violation of our human rights. I escaped as many other young people because of permanent human rights violation in Eritrea. Here in Europe we experience again, that we have to live in inhuman conditions.“

 

After his deportation to Italy he met there with a journalist from the magazine „Stern“[13], who documented the story of K. at full length and as a representative example for many others.

 

In 2014 S. and two other Eritrean friends resisted against their deportations in scheduled flights even repeatedly. The responsible immigration authorities in Darmstadt decided to make an example of their case to try to discourage the Eritrean community. All of them should know that resistance will be broken by any means necessary and by any costs. The authorities chartered a small plane exclusively for the three Eritreans and they were deported like criminals and accompanied by policemen, one even sedated by an injection from a collaborating medic:

 

„On June 17th 2014 I was woken up at 6 clock in my cell in the deportation prison in Ingelheim. It was the third attempt to deport me back to Italy after I had resisted two times. I said that I did not want to fly to Italy and they then brought more forces. Six men in the whole entered the cell and I screamed for help. They have levered my left hand and kicked me repeatedly against the legs. They have tied up the hands with handcuffs on my back and also gave me leg irons and transported me tied up in the police car. Besides me two more Eritreans were deported. I was the first who was brought onto the plane. I have said already in the police car that the deportation I done against my will. On the stairs was the pilot and I told the police, I want to talk to him. When I was inside they brought the second man. I have only heard him scream from inside: “Uuyuuyuuy” – cries for help. He does not speak English and he would scream in this way for help. They carried him to the plane. The third Eritrean shouted in this way and fought back and they dragged him onto the plane. On the plane, we then cried all three, and the aircraft did not start about 30 minutes. The police squeezed my ear when I cried, I got scared because I should actually have an operation on the ear, which was not done because they have picked me up before for deportation. The police have tried to shield us from each other, so I could not see exactly what happened with the friend behind me. He certainly did get a shock and had foam coming from his mouth. There was a doctor with us in the plane she was very tall and thin. She gave him an injection and then we have not heard from him, he was made quiet by her injection. We started to fly and we continue to scream me and the other friend. The policeman next to me says ´Byebye Germany! Ciao!` And I ask him how he can do in such a situation jokes, if he still has a remnant of humanity.“

 

A few weeks later all three were back in Germany – and after years of struggles and tenacious judicial conflicts S. today has his recognition as refugee.

Shortly after his selforganised return he held a speech during a demonstration against deportations in Darmstadt. Exactly in front of the building of the administration, who chartered his extra-flight and executed his deportation, he accused the responsible authorities for human right violation

K. and S. both were arrested for several weeks in detention after they successfully resisted against their deportation in the air planes. But shortly after the deportation charter in June 2014 it became much more difficult for authorities to detain asylum seekers. After successful legal interventions it was forbidden to keep asylum seekers in the same prisons as criminals and most federal states had no capacities anymore. And longterm juridical efforts by lawyers could achieve decisions from higher courts, that particularly Dublin-refugees should not be detained anymore.

 

Mainly at the Frankfurt airport, the biggest deportation airport in Germany, but also at other airports support-groups developed to prevent deportations. They tried to intervene – by sensibilization of travellers and staff of air lines, but also by protests against deportation air lines. In March 2012 simultaneous actions took place at the five biggest german deportation air ports. In the common call it was written:

„Let us support this resistance! Lets take a look into the flights to Rome, Budapest or Valetta! Lets stand up against deportations! In its literal sense: because as passengers on board we can prevent deportations, when we refuse to belt on but stand up and bring our complaints to the pilot. The Dublin.II-system has to be abolished immediately! No deportations into the social misery at the margins of Europe! Asylum seekers should have the right to search for protection, where they want to do! For an Europe of welcome.“[14]

 

In several cities (the protests were different according to the different practices of authorities in different federal states and districts) groups developed blockades in front of refugee camps to stop deportations, which have been announced in advance. Mainly Göttingen and Osnabrück became stronghold to prevent deportations from outside – until the authorities decided: deportations should not be pre-announced anymore.

 

Germany and the places of struggle to stay

 

Never before was the resistance against the restrictions of the freedom of movement for refugees and migrants and especially against deportations within Europe so loud and convinced. In Germany and all over Europe, initiatives call for self-organized resistance such as the „Lampedusa Groups“. European borders have never been more contested. Almost everyweek migrants collectively pass the borders in Ceuta and Melilla, thousands arrive on the shores of Sicily. On Lampedusa, hundreds of people reject their registration and in the Aegean Sea boats arrive daily on the Greek islands.“

Time to Act. Dublin has to be abolished! – Call in June 2014[15]

 

Lampedusa in Hamburg is the first group, which was founded in explicit reference to the first place of arrival. In difference to many following self organized groups is Lampedusa in Hamburg composed by people, who already got documents in Italy and who now try to find a living and mainly a work in Hamburg.

 

„In Lampedusa we were 7000 persons in a camp, which was build for 900. Nevertheless the people there tried their best, but they did not get support from the EU. The Dublin-II-system – you have to stay in the country of first arrival – is violating our human rights. It forces us to live and die on the streets. After the recognition of our refugee status Italy kicked us on the street in winter 2012. They asked us to leave Italy. They said: the EU is big, go and find your way. Here is nothing for you. And so it happened and with nothing in snow and ice we set off to France, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany. We are recognized refugees from a war, in which the european states have participated, but they ignore our existence. When we show up and when we make our conditions visible, they want to deport us. In Italy we can beg, starve, steel, become guttersnipes or simply die. The main issue remains to keep the Dublin-II-system implemented. It is painful, after we could stabilize our life in Libya, that we once again have to struggle to survive – in countries, which name themselves as big democracies.“[16]

 

Lampedusa in Hanau was founded in March 2014, after more and more Somalian and Eritrean refugees in Hanau and the district around were threatened by deportations back to Italy:

 

„We escaped from a dictatorship with forced recruitment and political persecution in Eritrea and from a 23 years long civil war with forced recruitment and raping of women in Somalia.

We survived to cross the desert with little food and too less water and we faced kidnappings for blackmailing our relatives or even to misuse our bodies for trade with organs. Arriving in Libya we experienced strong racism on the streets and systematic imprisonment, partly for years. Crossing the Mediterranean Sea we again had to risk our lives in overcrowded boats. Some of us experienced shipwrecks and the death of relatives or friends on sea, before we arrived on the coasts of Lampedusa, Sicily or Malta. Most of us were forced to give our fingerprints in Italy or Malta, although we never want to stay in these countries. (…) In Italy we went through overcrowded camps with inhuman conditions and internal fights. We experienced homelessness and racist violence and sexual harassment on the street, we were without any income, perhaps one time per day food by caritas and without medical provision. Against this background we travelled to Germany to ask for asylum and protection. But here we face again insecurity and threat of deportation

back to Italy and Malta. German authorities refuse to allow us the access to a fair asylum procedure. (…) We know that many of our friends and relatives from Hamburg to Frankfurt

are in similar situations. (…)The system of Dublin cannot grant us the protection and safety we need. It stops us from building a future after all this hardship we had to go through. We are in solidarity against deportations and exclusion and for the rights of refugees and migrants in Germany and Europe. We need the freedom to choose the place to stay. We ask to delete our fingerprints from the European Data-System because these fingerprints are like a prison to us. No Fingerprints – no Dublin II and III. We are here to stay!“[17]

 

Lampedusa in Hanau consisted mainly in a mutual promise: no one will be left alone with the fear of deportation. And even if we cannot prevent all deportations, we know: from Italy a quick travelling back to Germany is possible. In Frankfurt simultaneously the group Refugees for Change was founded. During manifestations against deportations affected refugees confirmed to each other in speeches: after they deport us, we will come back again.

Parallel the active refugees approached church communities and tried to get their direct support. Church asylum is one successful option against Dublin-deportation and many use it to overcome the transfer-deadlines. According the Dublin regulation the German authorities are obliged to deport the people back within six months (after the Dublin country got responsible). As soon as this deadline is over, Germany get responsible for the asylum procedure and the refugees can stay. Only if people disappear and go underground, the transfer-deadline can be prolonged to 18 months. But in church asylum the authorities are informed about the address of the refugees under protection, theoretically an access by police is possible and the people are not disappeared. But it is a political decision, if deportations will be executed against refugees under church groups protection and usually church asylum is respected by authorities in Germany. The few times, when church asylums have been broken by police, it brought even a boomerang effect. In the case of a Chechnyan family in Augsburg, who was hauled off by police from a church asylum, it led to a big scandal and even more churches offered their protected spaces afterwards. The established regional church was in full support of the local church group and finally even the interior minister of Bavaria had to row back.

 

Even if several hundred refugees – mainly against Dublin-deportations and to overcome the transfer-deadline – are in church asylum in Germany every year, these are still individual cases and not so many in comparison to the general numbers of Dublin-cases. Nevertheless the hardliner in the ministries and in the authorities try to push a debate, that church asylum should be classified as disappearance and thus to prolong automatically the transfer-deadline on 18 months in future. It is still and again a contested field.

In most other European countries the practice of church asylum to overcome the six months did not work, probably because the churches did not have enough negotiation power. In Sweden church communities support again and again refugees, but they have to hide for 18 months, before their procedure will be conducted in Sweden.

 

The Dublin-system collapsed in Hungary – in the summer of migration 2015

 

16.09.2015 Hanau – Welcome to trains of hope: in seven days from Izmir to Hanau

Still in August we countless times answered the question in Lesvos, what will happen with our fingerprints in Hungary, and now – only one month later – nobody is asking anymore. We said to the people: ´Go on, you will arrive. The route is hard, but never refugees and migrants have been quicker than today.` We have waved at the extra-ferries, about 2500 people in departure in direction to the macedonian border. They were as quick as never before. Record time was seven days from Izmir to Hanau. Ten days from Homs.

Now we stay in Hanau at the train station during nights and say welcome on a stage of the journey, together with many others from various communities and their associations. Many just want to say hello. Here in the emergency accomodation, in gyms and tents still for many refugees it is open, where the traveling will end. Also here is still not a serious registration, at least for some moments the old rules and restrictions have been suspended. Many will continue, to the aunt to Schwerte, to Leipzig to the bride-to-be or to Hamburg, because there are living more Afghans. Or from there to further north, some want to reach Sweden, Norway or Finland. After some days several people decide to stay, because they met friendly people, because the city is in the middle of Germany or because they are simply tired and finally want to arrive somewhere. Welcome!

 

About the break-through on the Balkan route, which led to such scenes in September 2015, a lot of other texts are published.[18] It was not a sophisticated strategy, which pushed the Dublin-system into a temporary collapse. It was a vote by feet in its literal sense. It was courage of despair mixed up with experiences of resistance in the Syrian uprising combined with the right moment, that the decision had to be made to open the borders. It seems to us important to remember it, when today we want to counter the ongoing roll back.

 

Roll Back

Since the break-through in September 2015 we followed the attempts on all levels to win back control as we all know: The closure of the formalized corridor along the Balkan route, the EU-Turkey deal, the mass-internment on the Aegean islands, the increase of push backs between all the Balkan states.

Simultaneously the debate went on to reorganize the Dublin-regulation. Dublin IV will even include the abolition of the transfer-deadlines. It is not a surprise as the overcoming of these timelimits of deportations have been the main method for thousands of refugees to escape from the Dublin-trap.

Even the re-installation of Dublin-deportations to Greece is coming back now:

 

One step forward, hundreds back…’ seems to be the motto under which EU experts implement refugee policy, as currently also demonstrated in Greece. On 8 December 2015, the European Commission published its fourth recommendation on the resumption of Dublin Returns to Greece, this time stating that they could be gradually re-installed, as according to them, refugee rights would be adequately protected in Greece. At the same time, images of people who fled war and are now staying in tents covered in snow are spreading through the global media. Once more, the EU is using Greece to make a point: Dublin has to survive, not matter what, thats the plan. But in reality, this failed plan has significant consequences, causing one more massive human tragedy in Europe for thousands of people who are escaping war, conflict, disaster, hunger and poverty.[19]

 

Just before its starting the information circulate already in Greek refugee camps, in which way to deal and to respond against these new threads of deportation. Welcome to Europe published a detailed info sheet.[20]

 

Outlooks:

Relatively simply to anticipate: Despite and against the reorganization of Dublin-deportation Greece will experience another vote by feet:

 

But Dublin will fall again! Deportations to Greece were already once stopped back in 2011 following the decision of the European Human Rights Court in the case ‘MSS v. Greece’ – and as a result of a long struggle during which many, many refugees escaped from Greece, were deported and escaped again. Some had to flee through Europe 5-6 times. But finally it was over, they succeeded often, and stayed.
Dublin Returns to Greece will be strongly contested in national and international courts again now. As we have seen, the Dublin-regulation has been overrun many times before by the struggles for freedom of movement of individuals and groups.
Mouzalas had to correct himself. We politely suggest the European Commission to do the same.

Refugees are no numbers on a tent, no fingerprints, but people with faces, names and stories!

The Dublin Regulation has to be abolished now.
Human rights violations have to end now.
People have to join their families now.
People have to be in safety and in dignified conditions now.

We therefore demand:

Equal rights for all!
Freedom of movement to all refugees in Greece and elsewhere!
The right to stay for all!
Stop deportations!

No one is illegal!

w2eu – a network born out of the struggle against Dublin returns in 2009[21]

 

The struggles against deportations developed further all the time. Since in Osnabrück the deportations are not pre-announced anymore and it is not possible to stop it from outside mobilization of supporters, refugees inside the camps got self organized and took the prevention of deportations in their own hands. They patrol during the night at the entrance of the camp and with whistles the whole camp will be waked up as soon as police try to execute early morning deportations. Then hundred and more refugees approach the police cars – peacefully and whistling – and the police has to leave without having achieved anything.

 

The example from Osnabrück demonstrates a process of vivid learning and adapting to new challenges. It is impressive, what is possible, when people talk with each other and develope collective strategies. The whistle became already the new symbol for the resistance against Dublin-deportations. We created now a huge version – a two meters big whistle, which will be presented during the We`ll Come United parade at 16th of September in Berlin in front of the interior ministry. Then it will be carried further on to Oranienplatz and other places, where affected refugees will meet and gather, who are not willing to get arrested and to accept this injustice. A symbol to tell the (hi)story of resistance, that it will be retold and new ideas appear. That the right for freedom of movement and the right to stay will finally win through!

 

[1] Dublin-Deaths between Kerkyra/Greece and Bari/Italy (15th of January 2011), http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2011/07/28/dublin-deaths-between-kerkyragreece-and-bariitaly-15th-of-january-2011/

[2] http://w2eu.info/

[3] Excerpts of a report by Salinia Stroux and Regina Mantanika, February 2010: „Schengendangle – Undocumented Refugees in the City of Igoumenitsa“, http://infomobile.w2eu.net/files/2010/03/schengendangle_small.pdf

[4] Infomobile report 2010 (in German language): http://infomobile.w2eu.net/files/2011/03/Infomobil-Bericht-2010.pdf

[5] http://infomobile.w2eu.net/files/2011/03/deportation-diary.pdf (englisch)

http://infomobile.w2eu.net/files/2011/03/athenbericht_dt_web.pdf (deutsch)

[6] http://w2eu.net/2010/10/26/hungary-imprisons-minors-after-dublin2-deportation/

[7] http://bordermonitoring.eu/berichte/2013-ungarn/

[8] Gänzlich unerwünscht, Oktober 2016, http://bordermonitoring.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Web_Ungarn_Bericht-2016.pdf

[9] http://www.migszol.com/who-we-are.html

[10] http://www.migszol.com/blog/-statement-of-the-refugees-who-left-hungary

[11] Kompass Antira Newsletter August 2013,

More reports can be found here: http://siciliamigrants.blogspot.it/search/label/Lampedusa-de

Short Video: https://vimeo.com/70781121

Italian YouTube-Clip:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JFu0h8CYfUM&list=UUDsP5wVi6kSQUs5SzvlCkww&feature=share&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DJFu0h8CYfUM%26feature%3Dshare%26list%3DUUDsP5wVi6kSQUs5SzvlCkww

[12] Exhibition of the group Lampedusa in Hanau, http://lampedusa-in-hanau.antira.info/austellung-2/

[13] Der Fluch des Fingerabdrucks, stern Nr. 43, 18.10.2012.

[14] Aus dem Aufruf von März 2012: Aktionstage an den 5 größten deutschen Abschiebeflughäfen: http://dublin2.info/2012/04/459/

[15] http://dublin2.info/files/2014/06/dublin-call-2014.de_.pdf

http://dublin2.info/files/2014/06/dublin-call-2014.en_.pdf

 

[16] http://lampedusa-hamburg.info/de/informationen/hintergrund/

[17] Declaration of Lampedusa in Hanau, http://lampedusa-in-hanau.antira.info/uber-uns-about-us/

[18] Especially we refer to a report by bordermonitoring.eu that follows the existance of the formalised corridor along the Balkanroute (unfortunately only in German language): http://bordermonitoring.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/report-2017-balkan_web.pdf.

[19] w2eu Statement 22.01.2017: No Dublin Returns to Greece!, http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2017/01/22/no-dublin-returns-to-greece/

[20] w2eu.info on Dublin > Greece, März 2017, http://w2eu.info/greece.en/articles/greece-dublin2.en.html

[21] w2eu Statement 22.01.2017: No Dublin Returns to Greece!, http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2017/01/22/no-dublin-returns-to-greece/.

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

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

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

Read here the refugees`call:

“Let our families reunite now!”

We, the Syrian families from different camps in Greece (i.e. Elaionas, Koutsochero, Ritsona and Skaramangas), who have our beloved relatives in Germany are inviting all refugees who have also their families there and everybody else who wants to join our struggle and stand in solidarity with us, to a peaceful protest on Thursday August 10th at 11 o’clock in front of the offices of the Greek Asylum Service / Dublin Offices near Katekhaki metro station.

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

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

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

“Let our families reunite now!”

Athens, Greece

See for more information also:

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

English:
nrttv
refugee support aegean / pro asyl

German:
pro asyl

Still strangers in a bosses’ world

Clandestina is now focused in practical solidarity and analysis.
For daily news on migrants struggles you can check the Thessaloniki No Border Camp facebook page:
https://web.facebook.com/NoBorderCampThessaloniki2016/

In the summer of 2016, the Refugee to Refugee Call Center (R2R) was established in Thessaloniki:

http://www.callcenter.coop

https://web.facebook.com/Refugees-to-Refugees-R2R-Solidarity-Call-Center-1039101139520127/

You can read more about the trials of the 100 people arrested after the Thessaloniki No Border Camp (and about other similar cases) in the webpage “You can’t evict solidarity” that was created in the autumn of 2016:

https://cantevictsolidarity.noblogs.org/

You can find a collection of texts presented at the Thessaloniki No Border Camp here:

http://noborder2016.espivblogs.net/2017/08/02/a-collection-of-texts-presented-at-the-thessaloniki-no-border-camp-july-15-24-2016-updated-by-their-authors/


Urgent call for solidarity with our dear friend S.

Farewell sister!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear S.,

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

With all our love,

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

For solidarity donations please use the following GCR account:

National Bank of Greece: GR5301101160000011629606464
Piraeus Bank: GR8001720320005032016706911

Welcome Islands Report 2016/2017

The story of the welcome islands…

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

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

Freedom for Gabriele del Grande!

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

Photo: Jacques Berset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

welcome to europe – watchthemed alarmphone – infomobile greece

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

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

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

Happy Birthday City Plaza!

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

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

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

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

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

download the booklet here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

copyright: noborder

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

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

copyright: Khora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INFOMOBILE GREECE – W2EU

City Plaza Hotel Athens (Greece)

By riva

cityplaza14

A refugee-housing squat as an example of how to fight social struggles together on a daily level and for another tomorrow

„The City Plaza squat at 78 Acharnon celebrates its first month. The hotel now houses refugee families totalling 385 people, including 180 children. These include 22 single parent families, as well as people with disabilities. The nationalities that make up City Plaza include Afghans, Kurds, Syrians, Palestinians, Iranians, Iraqis and Pakistanis. The families being housed at City Plaza were selected on the basis of their previous “housing” arrangement as well as on the particular problems being faced by each one. Each family lives in a separate room of the hotel, while all inhabitants are provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as with hygiene products and other essentials. Nearly all are covered through solidarity offerings, while the few purchases that need to be made are financed through donations sourced from within Greece and from abroad.

In a framework of self- organization and coexistence, there are teams for cleaning, cooking, security, education and childcare, medical care, communications, reception, as well as regular assemblies of refugees and solidarians. Initiatives such as that of City Plaza, apart from granting obvious rights and …read more

From:: infomobile greece

Idomeni: eviction has started

By riva

idomeni-eviction-I

Since the early morning hours of today, Greek riot police started to evict Idomeni. Idomeni became a symbol since the closure of the Greek-Macedonian border. It became a symbol of Europe at a crossroad. It became a symbol of a militarized and repressive borderregime violently gaining back force. And even more then this it became a symbol of hope and of the strong commitment of thousands of families, women, men and children in their daily struggle for freedom of movement and open borders.

Maybe Idomeni will be emptied. Maybe all will be forced into isolated camps all over Greece. But not only is the soil of Idomeni now full of the stories of resistance.

It is the travellers who will keep this struggle alive and tell the stories to those who will follow. A friend in a very similar situation, stuck in Greece many years before said:

Noone can stop the rain.

For updates on the eviction, follow the Live-Ticker of Moving Europe:

http://moving-europe.org/24-5-2016-updates-from-the-eviction-in-idomeni/

Already yesterday Moving Europe published an article on the upcoming eviction:

Source: http://moving-europe.org/idomeni-eviction-on-early-tuesday-morning/

Since heavy clashes between the Greek police and inhabitants of the makeshift camp of …read more

From:: infomobile greece

Voices from Inside VIAL / Chios: Unaccompanied minor detained since 49 days

By momo

On the March 19, 2016, one day before the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, Hamid* and his three friends arrived in a boat with 46 people on the shores of Chios. They where transferred to detention in VIAL. From that day on they suffer mostly from the lack of freedom and protection. They have expressed fear and anxiety due to a lack of information on their rights and growing tensions among inmates. According to the teenager many refugees in VIAL suffer severe psychological problems due to the detention conditions, the violence (also by law-enforcement officers) and the fear to be the next returned to Turkey.

„If every one gets to know about our problems in VIAL it will be good. I don’t have any one in this world. I swear. There is no one but God I can rely on.

The frist day I arrived to Turkey a taxi driver picked me up at the airport and took me to Taksim. In the car he told me to give him all my money or he would hurt me and tell the police that I am going to rub him. I was afraid, so I gave him everything I had. He …read more

From:: infomobile greece

Report: Infomobile Greece 2015

By riva

Nobody could have foreseen how quickly the situation in the Aegean changed in 2015, due to unpredictable migration movements. More than 7.000 people arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos on a single day in late October 2015 and more than 56.000 people arrived on the island in the last week of October. When we stood on the beaches of northern Lesvos and experienced how one boat after another arrived there, while volunteers from all over Europe welcomed the newly arrived, one could have thought that this border had long been overrun and become a fact of the past. But, at the same time, we became witnesses of the loss of hundreds of people who drowned in the Aegean Sea. Even the mayor of Mytilene demanded ferries that would transport people from Turkey to Greece so long as no safe paths to Europe existed. 2015 was an incredible year. Since we have followed the refugee situation in the Aegean for a long time, we detected major developments here: in 2015 and still today, more and more women and children, as well as old people, those injured through war, and the sick were now travelling. And while the first groups of …read more

From:: infomobile greece