2017 just started – and the documentation of our journey back to the borders 2015 is ready.
It is more then one year later now – and what happened in 2015 already became history. When we read now, the texts and the pictures of 2015, we read it also to understand our own history.
A lot has changed since then, especially on Lesvos. After the EU-Turkey-deal and the closure of the Balkanroute, 60.000 people got stuck and are blocked under inhuman conditions in Greece. They are blocked from continuing their journey into another future. Lesvos, the island of solidarity has changed into the island of the trapped. Most deportations to Turkey are carried out via Lesvos. We will soon document what we experienced in October 2016.
Again there is the plan to build new detention centres on the Aegean islands, not much hope for a positive change this year. Even more resistance is needed and the history of the struggle for freedom of movement should be made public.
The border was never open – and it was never closed. Also today, under very difficult conditions, people manage to continue their journey and to arrive. Today, in times where EU-migration-policy again means mainly deterrence and deportation, we need more then ever another, a welcoming Europe, safe places where noone will be asked for a passport, but is just a friend among friends.
OUR EUROPE DOESN’T NEED BORDERS,
INSTEAD IT HAS OPEN DOORS AND PEOPLE CAN ARRIVE ON REGULAR FERRIES, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.
When we returned to Mytilene in October 2016, during the same week the citizens of Lesvos finally did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their courageous support of refugees both at sea and after arriving on their island. Everywhere in the media still reviews of the last year – and not much about the changes and the current situation.
We returned to the place that we had visited only a year earlier, in October 2015, and our memories of that time are still fresh. We want to reflect on the transformations that we witnessed and share some of our impressions.
At the shores, October 2015
What happened in 2015 along the shores of Lesvos was extraordinary. Many of the boats that landed on the beaches in the north and the south-east of the island had to be assisted. They were welcomed not only by the local residents of Lesvos, whose laudable efforts gained attention worldwide, but, latest from August 2015 onwards, also by people from all over the world, who came to Lesvos to help. In summer 2015, more and more initiatives became involved also in rescue operations, including anarchist groups from Athens, life-guards from Spain, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) who cooperated with Greenpeace, a German boat from Sea-Watch, and many others. Activists from Denmark and Spain were later criminalised for their courageous effort to save lives at sea. At that time, push-backs and violence at sea seemed to have disappeared in this part of the Mediterranean. Through the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone we were in contact with more than 1000 boats in the Aegean Sea. In the majority of the cases, we worked in close cooperation with networks composed of Syrian and Iraqi activists, who accompanied thousands of boats via WhatsApp and other digital technologies. At the same time, many people drowned in the waters before the northern coast of Lesvos in October 2015. Without all of these solidarity networks, many more would have lost their lives. While the crossing was still risky, and many suffered severely on the boats, it was clear that once they had overcome the sea, their journeys ahead would be less dangerous. Their movements opened the Balkan route and most of the people we had met last autumn arrived already weeks later in Germany and Sweden. October 2015 was the peak of the ‘long summer of migration’.
At the shores, October 2016
We can still see and feel the remnants of last year. When we went to Korakas in the north of Lesvos, to visit the place of the memorial-plaque which we had erected there in 2010, there still is a watch-post run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in cooperation with volunteers from Lighthouse relief. Inside the lighthouse, there are still remains, left behind during the time of so many arrivals.
In the beginning of 2016, authorities began to pressurise activists and volunteers working at the beaches to get registered with them. Since then, only NGOs who cooperate closely with the coastguards and Frontex are allowed to be present there. Nonetheless, some others remain present, such as the Greek NGO ERCI in the south, and Proactiva Open Arms, the Spanish life-guards, in the north. Boat-arrivals have significantly decreased since the borders to Macedonia were closed and since the EU-Turkey deal forced those arriving on the island to remain there, in unbearable conditions and continuously threatened by deportations back to Turkey. NATO warships patrol the entire coast. While they hardly ever intervene directly, their radars will detect a lot of the movements at sea, and once detected, they alert the Turkish authorities to intercept the boats. Interceptions and transfers back to Turkey occur daily. Those who finally make it across report that they had to attempt to cross the sea several times until they made it. Some of our friends from Izmir, who join us on Lesvos, give us impressions from Basmane/Turkey, where up until the beginning of this year, thousands passed through hotels while waiting to go to Cesme or other places, to then get onto the boats from there. Basmane now is a quiet place. No life jackets are sold in the shops. Today’s crossings are prepared in a completely clandestine fashion. Nothing is visible anymore, which means also that sea crossing are becoming increasingly dangerous.
Moria, October 2015
Exactly one year ago, in October 2015, it was the time of the highest number of arrivals that Lesvos had ever seen. At its peak, 10,000 people reached the island in one day. In October 2015 we spent days mainly near Moria, mainly at night. Back then, the so-called “hot spot” was officially opened, during a time of heavy rainfalls. We were there while the UNHCR and all official NGOs had declared the area too dangerous for their staff. During these nights, only activists and volunteers, mainly women, tried to carry unconscious people out of the mud, covering at least the smallest babies with blankets. The situation last October was described as a humanitarian catastrophe. At the same time, we witnessed then already how EU border regime was trying to re-establish its control. In a common statement between Welcome to Europe and WatchTheMed Alarm Phone, we analysed and described the situation.
Moria, October 2016
100 cars wait in a line, and all sorts of international NGOs work inside the overcrowded “hot-spot”. They keep it running, in close cooperation with EASO, Frontex and the Greek Police.
The prison became its own world, with its own rules, a machinery of separation. In the ‘inside’ of the inside, all those are detained in this closed part of the camp who newly arrived and wait for registration. Latest after 25 days, they will leave to the ‘outside’ of the inside, to the open part of the camp. The unaccompanied minors are detained in an own section of the prison and longer, for their own ‘protection’, until a place in a youth accommodation is found for them, sometimes months later. Detained are also all those who are “ready to be deported”, and, in another closed section, those who have in desperation signed the agreement to be “voluntarily returned” to Turkey. In every corner of the camp you feel how the management of this self-created crisis has turned into a huge business. While volunteers are still present, everyone who enters, even the open part of the camp, is registered properly with one of the NGOs. It is forbidden to take pictures. It is forbidden to distribute information. Three of us got controlled by the police when distributing the Welcome to Greece guide. The refugees stuck in Moria keep asking desperately about their future – and there are few answers to all their questions. Apart from those who have families in other EU member states, there is no legal way to leave the island. They are fed up with so many NGOs passing by while nothing changes afterwards. Nearly every day there are outbursts of violence – among different ethnic groups, often related to the use of the limited space in the overcrowded camp. Regularly there are also riots. Twice, Moria was burning already – but there seems to be no response, hardly any signs of solidarity, and so these upheavals end with several arrests. What we found particularly depressing this year was witnessing how the suffering of refugees seemed to be produced in such an “ordered” fashion. This technocratic system of dispersed violence becomes ever-more difficult to contest. There still is violence, but it seems more invisible now. NGOs present there create the illusion of assistance and support, but they have become part of a system that covers up the ways in which it administers and reinforces the misery of all those who are denied the possibility to find the protection they so urgently need.
The harbour of Mytilene, October 2015
Over the last years, we took uncountable pictures at the harbour of Mytilene! Farewell pictures of those who left, who were excited to take the next step toward their desired final destination. Welcoming those who are in transit means wishing farewell to them, and hoping to meet soon again, hopefully in a safer place somewhere in Europe. For us, the harbour of Mytilene was a symbol, one crucial leg in the journeys of thousands.
The harbour of Mytilene, October 2016
Fences surrounding the harbour have destroyed this Aegean point of arrival and farewell. It is not a lively space anymore. Police and Frontex are everywhere. There now are strict controls at the entrance leading to the ferries leaving for mainland Greece. Police vans carry prisoners from the mainland to be deported back to Turkey from here. At the end of our journey back to the border, the friends who joined our travelling group from Athens could not board the ferry to return on Saturday morning. Just as all those who have official registration papers which allow them to travel inside of Greece, they were denied the right to board the ferry, simply because the checking of their papers had to wait until Monday – and then again to Tuesday.
Ferries not Frontex acquires another meaning when ferries are used by Frontex to deport.
This was the island of welcome – will it now transform into the island of deportations?
This question concerns to all of us who have been part of welcoming networks.
We wish the residents of Mytilene the strength to resist being eaten out and spat out by the EU’s politics of closure and of denial of protection. The wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have not ended, they keep on raging. Pakistan and Iran are not safe. People from Eritrea and Ethiopia continue to flee from the oppressive regimes. Somalians run from recruitment by Al Shabab. And so many people have to leave their countries of origin because they cannot survive without the ability to find an income.
As long as this suffering continues to exist all over the world, and is created and reinforced by EU policies of exploitation, we cannot be silent when Europe closes its gates.
Uprisings in Moria on 24th October, EASO-containers burned down once again
Already for weeks, tensions on the Aegean islands run high after the Greek government announced to open three more so-called “hot-spots” only for “pre-removals” on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Kos. They are, in fact, deportation prisons. Local residents and municipalities oppose these plans. At the same time, the atmosphere within the camps is boiling over. After months of waiting, the entire time threatened to be deported to Turkey, people have repeatedly protested against the imprisonment in inhumane conditions. It has been announced that, from November onward, weekly deportations to Turkey for 200 persons each time will take place, coordinated by Frontex. This would turn Lesvos into a deportation hub.
Last Monday, the 24th of October: Once again a fire destroyed containers where registrations and asylum-interviews were being conducted by EASO, an agency of the European Union. This agency, composed of about 20 officers sent by the different EU member states, coordinates to “facilitate” the registration procedures in the “hot-spot”. The most recent fire damaged 2 and completely burned down 6 of the 12 EASO containers. In reaction, EASO announced to cease their asylum operations for an unspecified period of time, suggesting that their staff’s safety could otherwise not be guaranteed. On the Friday before Monday’s fire, a ferry had been used again to deport people to Turkey. On Saturday, a Pakistani man who had escaped from the closed part of the detention camp got seriously injured when he was beaten up by police. The unconscious man was brought to a hospital but returned into the camp only one day later. This was probably the last straw and people began to revolt. At the same time, migrant uprisings occur continuously and are signs of desperation and suffering in a state of unfreedom. Being denied the freedom to move, these people have to endure in unbearable conditions, always threatened to be deported.
Already a month ago, a large section of the Moria camp had burned down. Regularly revolts and outbursts of tensions take place also on the islands of Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros – at places where people are stuck for months. These islands are being used as prisons, and its inmates are not allowed to leave to continue their journey. More than 15,000 people are now stuck on the Aegean Islands (nearly 6,000 on Lesvos, 4,200 on Chios, 2,000 on Samos, 1,900 on Kos and about 750 on Leros).
The deportations from Friday, the 21st of October were coordinated by the Greek police and Frontex. Frontex has been actively involved in all deportations from the Greek islands, following the EU-Turkey-deal. Initially, they had announced to deport 162 people, but 103 applied for asylum shortly before, so that, in the end, 59 people were deported to Turkey (49 from Iraq, 3 from Afghanistan, 2 from Iran and 5 from Syria). The Syrians were taken as usual by an airplane chartered from Astra Airlines to Adana, after picking up another 13 Syrians from Kos. Another 54 have were picked up from three different prisons on the mainland (15 from Korinthos, 40 from Peloponnese, 2 from Petrou Ralli); only two of them were directly deported from Lesvos, all others were brought by large police vans onto the ferry from Athens to Mytilene and were then pushed in harbour onto one of the ferries that connects Mytilene with Dikili (Turkey). With the announcement to start weekly coordinated deportations from November onward, Lesvos is meant to become a deportation hub for deportations also from the Greek mainland.
Another deportation followed on 27th of October with 41 people being removed to Turkey: 22 of them within the framework of the EU-Turkey deal (13 from Algeria, 4 from Pakistan, 1 from Iraq, 1 from Morocco, 1 from Bangladesh, 1 from Nigeria, 1 from Lebanon, all men). There were 17 negative asylum decisions in second instance, one negative in first instance without appeal and 3 persons resigned from their asylum requests. Another 19 people were deported within the framework of the Greek-Turkish readmission agreement (all of them men from Pakistan, they had not expressed desire for international protection).
Since the EU-Turkey-deal came into effect on the 20th of March, and up until the 27th of October 2016, these are the figures for the deportations that occurred, following different agreements:
– 1158 deportations to Turkey took place under the bilateral agreement between Turkey and Greece.
– 55 people were deported based on the readmission agreement between EU and Turkey.
– 716 deportations were based upon the EU-Turkey-deal.
– Another 716 people “voluntarily” returned to Turkey, facilitated by IOM.
The new announcement of weekly deportations from Lesvos means that there will be transfers of prisoners from the Greek mainland to Lesvos on a daily basis. Lesvos will turn into the main deportation island of Greece. This is happening silently, without any public attention, since local attention is mostly paid to attempts to remove more of the refugees still stuck on the island. At the same time, the Greek coastguard has hindered even tourists who visited the island for a few days, from returning to Athens. Having visited friends or relatives, many people seem to be stuck for days and keep waiting for checks of their papers, while the authorities need days to verify whether their papers are valid. It is a self-inflicted crisis. The negative image of the situation is produced by the authorities and not by the presence of refugees on the island.
For a long time, Lesvos was a place to welcome those newly arriving. This was the case especially last year, when at peak times, 10,000 people arrived daily on the island as part of their journeys to find safety in other European countries. Throughout the world, Lesvos has become known for the openness and hospitality that its inhabitants demonstrated and for their courageous efforts to help those in transit who had stranded on the island. Collectively we should resist EU authorities who try to turn this island into a symbol for Europe’s deterrence policies and stand against these attempts to turn Lesvos into a deportation hub.
Since 2013, Welcome to Europe (w2eu) and Youth Without Borders (JOG) organise journeys for young refugees, to make it possible for them to return to the place where they had first reached Europe: The Island of Lesvos/Greece. This year, the ‘back to the border’ journey turned into a horror trip, especially, for all of us who were without European identity cards. Twice, the police and coast guard didn’t let us take the ferry to Piraeus (Athens) and leave the island as they said they had to re-check the asylum seekers cards for their genuinity – a paper issued by the Greek government itself. We observed dozens of people who were pulled out of the passengers queues at the airport while providing for passports or Greek aliens documents and dozens more who were unsuccessfully trying to leave from the island from the port along with us even though some of them were living and working in Greece for years.
First travel day at the port of Mytilene: Along the heavily fenced entrance to the ferry terminal, travellers get controlled by port police forces and police in uniforms and plain clothes. While we walked towards the ferry the special forces of the coast guard emerged from the dark and came to the entrance of the ferry where first passengers had started entering. The well-trained and big officers wore military clothes and black facemasks while they were equipped with different weapons. We already entered the vessel. Security staff from the ferry asked the non-European looking among us only for their passports. As soon as they saw the asylum seekers cards, they immediately told their holders to step out of the ferry. Special forces of the coast guard told us we had to leave the port and wait for Monday where authorities in the Hot Spot detention centre Moria would work to go and confirm that the documents were real. They informed us only persons whose name is on a list submitted to the port authorities by police authorities in Moria would be allowed to travel. While we were heading out of the port, special forces were checking each truck aiming to travel searching it with 5-6 officers with torches from all sides for stowaways.
Second travel day at the port of Mytilene: We entered the first gate to the parking area of the port and reached to the ticket selling kiosk. Another 30-40 refugees were standing at the gate hoping to travel. They had been transferred from Moria to the port for the purpose to leave the island after their documents had been checked by the aliens police during the day. We asked if the list with the names of our friends, which had been send in the morning during our visit in Moria had arrived, but civil port police and special forces denied. After some minutes of waiting in front of the ticket kiosk, the officers started shouting on the refugees waiting there and pushed them by force out of the port area. After they started also shouting on our friends who were standing aside while we tried to find a solution making some phone calls. We told the officers that we are a travelling group and they are with us. Then a police officer started shouting like crazy we should exit immediately the port area. They escorted us with 5-6 officers until the gate of the port that night – even though we all had official documents and even though we had followed their request completely and had checked the documents by police in Moria.
This year we returned to Lesvos to support the more than 6,000 people who are stuck, since months, in the prison labelled nicely “Hot Spot” in EU-jargon and in Kara Tepe, an open tent camp run and controlled by the local government. These people cannot leave the island due to the dirty EU-Turkey deal and simply because they are humans who do not possess the right papers.
Nowadays, all those travellers who are not white and not European are being subjected to racist controls. Even a member of the European Parliament, who is black was controlled for two hours recently. Lesvos Island was turned into a prison since March 20th and has become as a whole a border with heavy controls and high fences, which is the opposite of a cosy and beautiful tourist attraction.
The youngest member of our group, who is not even for years old asked: “Why don’t they let us go on the ferry?” Despite having a German passport, she demonstrated solidarity and stayed on the island with all those who could not travel. Happily, she didn’t notice when ferry staff upon our final boarding at the third travel day, tried repeatedly to convince us we had to sit in this special corner where later all non-European (documented) travels (who had purchased their tickets) were seated. What would you answer the child, if it asked why?
Freedom of movement for all!
Stop turning Lesvos and Greece into a prison and a depository for the unwanted of Europe!
Mahdi needs to return, back to Germany. Back to his Father and to his smaller brother, he has to take care of. He leaves his mother on Lesvos, waiting for an unkown period of time for finally being together again when their family refunification will be accepted. Behind them a huge picture to advertise for the famous hospitality of the island. The inhabitants of Lesvos have been nominated for the Peace Nobel Price.
Now hospitality is not the en vogue any more. Instead all newly arriving refugees will first be imprisoned and even after their release from the hot spot Moria they are not allowed to leave the island that became a big prison for refugees with this new policy.
6.000 people are waiting, some since many months. Waiting for the EU-policy to change. Waiting to finally manage to go and reach their final destinations.
Mahdis mother belongs into the arms of her son. She should be part of his life that he has built up in Germany. She should not be stuck in here, waiting for months for the burocracy to finish their job and to finally allow her to reunify with her family.
On Tuesday evening we met some social workers, lawyers, teachers and other people who work with minor refugees on the island. We started with an overview about the system in Germany: what happens when the unaccompanied minors arrive in Germany, the situation of the housing, the guardianships and the school system.
The people were very interested, had a lot of questions and we started the discussion. They told us about the problems in Greece and we exchanged about the different possibilities and difficulties in both countries. The situation in Greece, especially on the islands, changed a lot because many people arrived here and cannot move on. But when they left their countries they wanted to live in better conditions, planned to go to other countries for example to join their families and it’s hard for them to see that’s impossible to move on now.
The first reception for the unaccompanied minors is in the prison in Moria. They are only allowed to leave the prison a few hours per week. They have to stay there until a place in a youth shelter is found. But the problem is that there are not enough places for all of them so they are imprisoned often for months.
Also the school situation is very complicated. Most of the minors don’t go to school. In some cases where they tried to send children to school there were also protests from some local parents against it.
The guardianships for all the minors on the island are in the hand of three judges/ prosecutors. The minors never see their guardians and the social workers need to invest a lot of time to get signatures for sport activities, medical treatments and so on. They don’t get a general authorisation which would make the daily work a lot easier.
In the cases where a minor has for example an uncle in Athens either the prosecutor has to agree or the uncle has to pay a fee of 200 Euro to get the private guardianship. Due to the high amount of guardianships one prosecutor has, it’s not so easy to get the agreement.
Naturally we also talked about family reunification and exchanged about the experiences.
Because to the lack of information a lot of people in Germany are afraid of bad consequences in their asylum procedure if they do family reunification. The communication with the lawyers, social workers and family members in Germany is also often complicated.
We all could profit a lot from this meeting. We are planning to keep in contact with the common wish to support the minors in their arrival in Europe.
On Tuesday we finally got the guide! We were really happy and started to hand out them at the same day. We went to Moria and Kara Tepe and gave it to the people we met. This year it is much more difficult, we are not allowed to enter the camps and we can only reach some refugees. If we can speak with them they are happy to get informations – like we know it from the last years. In the last time there have been organisations which tried to hand out bibles and religious things. Because of that there is a big mistrust against everybody who is handing out paper. In Kara Tepe we have not been allowed to hand out the guides between the cantinas which are in front of the camp and where the people are sitting. We had to stand close to the dangerous road – outside the ground which belongs to the camp. In Moria they check identities of two of us – the cantinas are on the other side of the road, so that we could stay there and continue.
When we started to hand out the guides we realised that this year the French version is missing because there are many more people from (western) Africa here in Lesvos. Many of them are French speakers. We will try to speed up the French translation to at least have an online version.
What is really clear this year: everything is controlled very much. Many big NGOs are working in the camps, networks like us are not welcome and they don‘t let us in. This was really frustrating, although we met people, spoke with them and spread the guides.
In October we, Welcome to Europe (W2EU) and Youth Without Borders, return again to Lesvos to the place of our first encounters, our first arrivals to Europe, the place that reflects the current EU border regime like no other. Many things have changed since our last “Journey back to the Border”: the infamous EU-Turkey deal has “helped” to decrease the numbers of arrivals of boats drastically compared to “the long summer of migration 2015”. Moria has been transformed into a “hotspot” with an immense number of NGOs providing their visions of humanitarian and financial aid.
The next week we want to inform on this blog about our actions on the island. It is especially for all those from our group who were not able to join the “Journey back to the Border” of this year.
You are here with us in our thoughts!!
19th of October
After days of preparation we started on Wednesday with visiting our Memorial in Thermi that we set up in 2013. The memorial commemorates 27 people that drowned in 2012 representing all the people that lost their lives at the border of Fortress Europe. We wanted to renew the stone to resist the harsh weather conditions of the Sea. First, we cleaned the place and met with local people to discuss the materials, design and ways how to maintain this place in the future. Then, we planned a ceremony that we want to hold on Monday to commemorate the ongoing death in the Mediterranean.
After Thermi we went to Moria to see how the place has changed. Approaching the prison we couldn’t believe our eyes: It was hard to find a parking space with very long lines of parked cars around the entrance. Mostly they had signs of car rentals or NGOs. It was very clear that the owners of the cars are somehow working inside the prison – as you can’t enter without a permit.
Moria has been further “fortified” with fences and barbed wire, more containers have been built to increase the number of detainees. It looks like, it sounds like, it tastes like a prison even though some people can partly go out after being registered. There was no sign of the recent fire. The flames have been extinguished with daily business taking over.
Around the entrance little businesses have emerged, a taxi line waiting to bring people to the city and a handful of canteens where you can buy food or drinks with the jolly company of civil cops or other mysterious figures… Not a good place to get in contact with people.
Then, we went to Kara Tepe, the former open camp for Syrians and Iraqis. It is now for people of mixed nationalities. We had the impression that there are more families and women than in Moria. Again, this place was full of NGOs that were going in and out.
We sat with Mahdi, his mother Fatima and her friends outside. Mahdi is a friend who lived for many years in Villa Azadi in Agiassos on Lesvos as a minor. He has arrived to Germany (six years ago), learned the “Hessen” accent of German and would like to marry his girlfriend there. For this he wants his mother living at his side – which is why he came to Mytilini to organize and speed up the family reunification procedure. It is a scandal that Fatima is in Kara Tepe since four months being sick while her whole family is in Germany waiting for her. She is one of thousands of refugees who are stuck in Greece due to policies following the EU-Turkey deal.
After this we went down to the beach where the No Border Kitchen is currently located after having been evicted several times and have again an ultimatum until the 1st November to leave their “social centre”.
Slowly people from our group arrived this day and dropped in. Also there arrived Hassanjan to visit his small brother whom he hadn’t seen for four years.
Among us there are two people here to speed up their family reunification. It shows again that we can make things short while administration takes way too long!!
In the evening we all sat down and ate in a Taverna to celebrate that we are together again even though we miss all those who were not able to come this year.
In the night we went to visit people from ERCI (European Rescue Committee International) on their night shifts. Next to the airport we found two volunteers sitting and watching the sea for new arriving boats. We made a bonfire and talked about their and our work also with Watch the Med Alarm Phone. ERCI has two boats to assist in rescue operations, they work in close cooperation with the Greek Coastguard and Frontex.
20th of October
On Thursday we went in the morning to accompany Siniparxis on their excursion with unaccompanied minors from Moria. Siniparxis is a long-existing local solidarity network. They organise this kind of excursion since half a year every week to give the imprisoned youth the chance to get away from prison for a few hours. As it was an excursion from prison there were also “social workers”/ guards with us. This was strange for us.
This week it was the turn of the Afghan minors. Two of us went to take the young guys from prison and the others later joined in at the end of the harbour where there is a “Luna Park”. Here, there is a place for bumper cars (“Autoscooter”) which specially opened for the visit in the morning. It was a surreal scenery as we watched them singing, dancing, shouting and crashing into each other with the bumper cars being decorated with all kind of national flags. Of course the car with the EU flag was the only that didn’t work…
They were having a lot of fun even though there were still in a context of prison. As the place was directly at the seaside you could see Turkey in a clear view which made the whole situation even more absurd.
From the “Luna Park” the youngsters were transferred to a place where they could watch a local master of handmade pottery doing his job. In the end we went to a café in Kagianni, a village with a splendid view over Mytilini and on the side towards Turkey where everyone took a lot of obligatory selfies.
The last two weeks we talked with the young people about their dreams and wishes for their future professions. They made drawings out of this which we aim to make an exhibition out of them.
In the end, we shared our thoughts that we understand that now it is very difficult to think about their future but the situation they are in will not last forever. For this it was very good that Hassanjan was there, too and who has been in their situation some years ago and lives in Germany now. It was cool when everyone realized that they knew Hassanjan’s little brother. Finally, everyone departed back to prison and left us behind with mixed feelings.
After this we welcomed Reimer and Ömer, a Alarmphone member from Izmir (Turkey), and had a plannery in Café Pi. In the evening we ate together and went to dance in Bobiras to the DJ-music of our friend Leonidas from the band Alcalica.
21th of October
On Friday some of us went with the second group of minors from Moria to do the trip like on Thursday.
Afterwards we had planned a farewell party in Panagiouda for Mahdi and his mother Fatima.
Because of the extremely slow Greek bureaucracy, Fatima has already waited about two months to get an appointment to apply for family reunification even though her whole family is in Germany. Mahdi, her truly awesome son, had come from Hessen (Germany) to visit her for two weeks and to help organizing the legal process for family reunification. In Kara Tepe Fatima has met other Afghan women and appears to be very warm-heartingly socializing.
With about 10 afghan women and their children who left their husbands at the gate of Kara Tepe we went to eat fish in Panagiouda. We sang, played guitar, danced with the children and made a nice farewell party for Mahdi and his mother.
To their future reunification in Germany, so they can be together for the future marriage of Mahdi!!
We all exchanged contacts and talked how to be in touch to speed up the legal procedures. It was hard to say goodbye but the evening left us with hope that we all could meet in a better situation in Germany or elsewhere.
22th of October
On Saturday we went to the beach to swim as we were brave enough to resist the cold water.
In the evening we joined the weekly demonstration against the current EU policies and especially the situation in Moria (every Saturday evening at 6 pm) supported by people from the No Border Kitchen. Approximately a hundred people crossed the harbour of Mytilini two times, shouting and demanding the end of the EU-Turkey deal and open borders.
Later we cooked different dishes with pumpkin and sat together to eat. Irem and Valerio who had joined us from Izmir (Turkey) talked to us about the current complex and hard situation in Turkey after the EU-Turkey deal. It was a warm evening and it was very nice to exchange while sitting together.
Skala Sikamineas has always been a special place. Now, it has two Nobel Peace Prize nominees from the village.
This little fishing village by the sea, looking out on Turkey, has given so much support to the arriving refugees in need. Years and years before the volunteers came. Most of the local residents in Skala are the descendants of people forced to leave their homes in Turkey in the 1920’s, starting a new life in Greece, and they connect their own backgrounds to what the refugees now have to go through.
83 year old grandmother Emilia Kamvisi and Stratos Valiamos, one of the fishermen in Skala Sikamineas who have been rescuing refugees at sea, are now said to have been picked to represent the helpers on the Greek islands in a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In December, we posted this interview with Stratos. After spending months helping each other out in welcoming people arriving on Lesvos, taking us out on beach cleanings and chatting in the cafés, our humble friend told us more …read more
The greek goverment with a new parliament decision, anounced that it
will be the greek military and the ministery of it, that has the
responsability for the hotspots .A new coordination comittee in the
ministery of the Aegean and Island Politics, will make the acreditation
and registration of NGOS and volunteers .
Lets see how the great volunteer work done by thousands people from all
over the world on their own expences and suporting also the local
economy, all this months, in the greek islands, will be kicked off in a
Which means no eyes that can witness. Now more than ever: dont live the
refugees alone .
++Refugees left to survive in Moria under inhuman conditions++Vulnerable groups unprotected for days in war zone like areal++
2,500 persons can be registered daily in Moria according to local media, while more than 10,000 arrived within the last 24 hours. Refugees are queueing kilometers in and outside the registration camp that was originally constructed as a prison. At the same time the registration camp lacks any form of a functioning queuing system as well as dignified infrastructures and basic needs provision. Refugees are sitting and sleeping for hours between mud and garbage, being pushed by the crowd, insulted and beaten by police forces and sometimes even thrown tear gas. They get sick and injured under the life threatening living conditions in Moria.
“I am queueing since 10 days!,” a Syrian man says. “I am single, but my family is left in Syria and I have to get them out to save their lives. I am very anxious. In this camp the is no human rights. It is zero zero.”
Next to him stands a young compatriot holding a 6 …read more
Welcome to Europe and AlarmPhone Statement about the Situation on Lesvos Island / Greece
Refugees who survive the journey and succeed to cross the maritime border between Turkey and Greece in small and overcrowded plastic boats are subjected to the so-called EU ‘hotspot approach’ since its launch on Friday 16th of October 2015. As part of the European Agenda on Migration, hotspots are now being deployed by mobile teams of the European border agency Frontex to support so-called ‘frontline EU states’ in systematically identifying and screening travelers who ‘illegally’ entered EU territory. One of Frontex’ main tasks is to speed up the ‘return process’, thus the deportation of those who Frontex ‘identifies’ as not coming from a country of war and/or as not having valid grounds for asylum in Europe.
Since Frontex has entered the scene, registration processes were dramatically slowed down. Frontex procedures of ‘screening’ individuals takes a long time which has caused great delays and thus created a situation of humanitarian emergency for the hundreds of people waiting outside. The official opening of this hotspot on Lesvos coincided with increased numbers of new arrivals and deteriorating weather conditions. While it rained non-stop in the …read more
There have been several articles in different in Greek and English language media about the “Welcome to Greece!” guide of our network. Most of them up to now have been denouncing and/or misinforming though. Mostly, journalists obviously didn’t even read the guide before writing about it. To avoid further misunderstandings leading to the defamation of the guide here are some explanations:
Some basic information: The guide „Welcome to Greece!“ (see: http://lesvos.w2eu.net/info-for-refugees/welcome-to-greece-guide/) exists in four languages, English, Arabic, Farsi, French. The first version was published in August 2014, an updated version in July 2015. It is produced by the network Welcome to Europe and it was mainly distributed during what we call the “Journeys back to the border”, when refugees who arrived via Greece in Europe go back every year to welcome those who arrive newly.
The guide is distributed for free and it can be downloaded on the website w2eu.info for free as well. We invite again all solidarity groups and structures to download it and reprint it. Many solidarity groups acting in Greece have already asked us to print and spread the guide or get already printed version for distribution as there is an immanent lack of information leading to …read more
The new Minister for Immigration G.Mouzalas visited yesterday the Island of Lesvos.
inspecting the camps with thousands of people that are not yet registered.
After his visit he announced following changes:
After 2 weeks there will be 60 new people andnew computers working for the registration procedure.
Registration will take place in Kara Tepe and in Moria
The Ferry Eleftherios Venizelos will be coming only to Mitilini and will
be leaving as soon as all tickets are sold.
(yesterday people having tikets were stuck outside the Port and could
not enter the boat that was waiting to get full to leave.)
more MAT special police forces for Lesvos.
(there is money for police special forces but not money for enough
translators in Farsi and Arabic to communicate with the people so that
they are informed about what they are to expect )
the army will bake daily 1.500 breads to distribute and is willing to
give cars for transport.
the military spaces that are empty like in KLEIOU village will be opened
for newly arrived Refugees.
new registration place in another military space KOURTZI in the north of Mitilini.
in the meantime the streets are again full of newly arrived refugees, walking from the north of the island 70 km since the authorities have blocked the bus transports …read more
Around 20 000 Refugees are currently stuck on the Island of Lesvos.
Since one week, registration for new arriving refugees in Lesvos has become an obstacle to continue the procedures and leave the Island. Since Friday the situation in the Port of Mytilini has escalated.
Hundreds if not thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are caught in limbo. Every day they try to fight for a registration number in the port. Most of them try up to 10 days to get a registration number with no success, they are forced to camp around the port, the city or sleep rough. Their money has finished and they suffer from hunger and thirst. Desperate, if not in rage due to lacking infrastructures and the absence of any system, they break out in daily protest and not seldom fights. The state shows its presence in form of riot police, beating down men, women and children alike.
Do you want to help? You have space in your home or in your hotel?
Contact us from the “Village of all together”: email@example.com.
We will connect you with a family or a single person, vulnerable case needing a
short stay in freindly welcoming home.
Θέλεις να βοηθήσεις?
Αν ενδιαφέρεσαι να βοηθήσεις τους πρόσφυγες που κατά χιλιάδες φτάνουν
στο νησί μας
μπορείς να το κάνεις. Έχεις ελεύθερο χώρο στο σπίτι σου για φιλοξενία
Έχεις ελεύθερο χώρο στο ξενοδοχείο σου για φιλοξενία μικρής διάρκειας?
να δηλώσεις τον χώρο που διαθέτεις και το χωριό του όλοι μαζί θα έρθει
μαζί σου να σου προτείνει τους ανθρώπους που θα μπορούσες να
προηγηθούν άτομα ευάλωτα οικογένειες με παιδιά πχ…
Σαν χωριό του όλοι μαζί είμαστε πεπεισμένοι ότι οι πρόσφυγες πρέπει να
υποδοχή ζεστή και φιλική. Άνθρωποι που φτάνουν ταλαιπωρημένοι στο νησί
μας, το οποιο
αποτελεί το μέσον του δύσκολου ταξιδιού τους. Η ανακούφιση που θα
προσφέρει το σπίτι
Yesterday, 09/01/15, one somalien refugee died because of insuficient medical care in the madeshift refugee Camp outside the Detention Cemtet of Moria. Another one was bitten by snake. Please if anyone can help:
Dama, a refugee from Somalia, in the refugee Camp Moria, in Lesvos, contacted the Network w2eu to ask for help, weeping dramatically. His aunt, 47 years old, died last night due to cardiac problem. He was crying and shouting that his aunt did not have to die. She had a chronic heart problem, because of the inhuman living and medival conditions in the camp, she couldn’t survive.
Dama is in a very bad psychological condition, saying tht he can not stand this any more and will commit suicide. He needs immediate psychological support and care.
Αt the same time another girl from somalia wad bitten by a snake at the entrance of the camp. Fortunately she was transferred to the hospital and is well now.
The Situation for Refugees in the madeshift cps in Lesvos and al other entrance, transit and exit points is no longer sustainable. Enough is Enough. We need open borders and save entry routes for Refugees coming to Europe. Freedom of movement!! Refugees welcome!!
Just before I went on my trip to Mytilene I saw in Germany the news about refugees in Greece. On TV it was reported on how aggressive and angry the refugees were in Greece (Mytilene). After I saw these news in Germany about the refugees I started to think and worry a bit. Would it all go alright? Would it be right to travel to Mytilene and help the people who require support? Would I endanger myself or not? These questions formed in my mind. I travelled nonetheless as I had already booked my ticket and had promised the group that I would come and participate.
When our ship dropped the anchor in the harbour of Mytilene, I saw from above used rubber vessels and many people (men, women, and children) who did not look well and who had to wait in the heat for their registration. When we went to our camping site (Charamida), somewhere far away from the harbour and the city, we saw families and men, who were lying on the street as they could not walk anymore and were tired. We stopped and gave them water and information. We then quickly went to our camp and unloaded …read more
During our journey back to the borders we witnessed for two weeks the situation for new arrived refugees in Lesvos getting worse day by day.
More and more children, mothers, fathers and grandparents are risking their lives by crossing the Aegean sea.
After arriving and being thankful for surviving they are faced with the unbearable situation in Lesvos.
Walking in the sun for 2 – 68 km, waiting in dirty parking lots, at the port, in makeshift refugee camps like Kara Tepe and outside and inside the Detention center of Moria and elsewhere.
The Situation at other European arrival and transit points like Kos or Idomeni is not better.
It is time for the competent authorities of the European Union to provide for Ferries transporting refugees to Europe in a respectful and save way. Freedom of Movement for everybody!
It was a great journey back to the border 2015. And I got a lot of experience and we did so much together.
It was my dream to help those people that they don’t have any support and are leaving their country because of some problem. All of my us supported each other so we could do the best job possible.
We’re strong together and able to climb every high wall or fence.
Greece Balcans Dublin Guide
An info-guide for refugees and migrants in english, dari, arabic about having Fingerprints in the Balkans and what to do when you arrive in your Destination (like Germany, Sweden …)-
Last night w2eu and JOG hosted a welcome party in the selforganized space PIKPA to welcome and exchange with the refugees staying there. Over the last three year this became a PIKPA – w2eu – JOG Tradition.
The musicians Leon, Leo and Max traveled from Berlin and Istanbul to be part of the JOURNEY BACK TO THE BORDER and managed again for everybody to forget their sorrows for a few hours by singing and dancing.
There was good connection between all the group’s (w2eu, JOG and cristian peacemakers —)and the refugee’s and specially the children. Together with them we played, painted and in the night we all dance together. After we had some Music we had an open Mike for everyone to contribute. One of the Syrian boy’s, maybe 12 years old, made hip-hop music about his country, his Journey through Turkey and Greece. He also sang also about being a 12 year old boy living with his parents and all the problems, for example putting the stereo too loud or not cleaning his own room.
Articel in greek about arivals in Lesvos.
More than 33.000 refugees arrived on Lesvos in August 2015.
Currently there are around 9.500 refugees on the island. They stay in the overcrowded
Moria detention center, in a provisional camp outside the Moria detention center, in the arival points Molivos, Sikaminia,
Klio and Kaloni. Solidarity groups take care of them.
An industry using the situation of the recently arriving refugees has grown,
selling them everything they need overpriced: water for the double,
taxis taking 50€ for every distance, hotels refusing them except if they pay triple the price.
i dont now how to start but i will try, when i arrived in Mitilini the first time to support the refugees and migrants it just felt like i saw my self 6 years ago when i was a migrants myself and left my home,family and friends for a good future.
it was so heart breaking to see people in that situation and i could not help them as much as i want because i know the feeling of being in that situation and feeling helpless and the only thing you want is peace and having a chance for a good future and make your family proud of you.
Today I am happy that i left everything and went to Europe because it was a dream for some years ago. Now i am here at the same place, supporting the people who are fleeing from war and wanting the same thing that i wanted some years ago.
The most important Moment for me in this journey was when I saw the Situation of the refugees at the port. Especially the sick children eating only bread at the port.
it was a hard way to Sweden but im happy now and i living a life …read more
please take refugees in your cars to bring them to the registrazion point in the PORT.
It is now by law aloud !
You have to call the number “100” to register with the police that you are about to transport new arrived refugees to the port!!!!
And dont forget to have always small water bottels in your car.
Thank you and have a good day!
The other day I went inside a Kiosk in the Port of Mytilini, Lesvos to buy some stuff. A men asked what i want here, why i am here, where I come from and then he requested my passport. He spoke English and Greek with me so I couldn’t really understand him. He was very aggressive and didn’t speak friendly to me at all. He laughed about me and through me out of the shop.I didn’t understood who he is and what he want from me.
Another men came with a women, both of them belonged to the other men. They took a picture of my Passport and wanted to take my bag. I said that i am here with a Group and that i want to all them.I wanted to explain to them but they didn’t listen to me. Then one of the men took my phone. I felt really uncomfortable and i was afraid. Finally i saw one of my friends and i wanted to ask him for help but the people hold me back. But my friend recognized that I was in Trouble and he went to get Help. My friends come and they translate me that it …read more
There are so many babies and children on there way to a better future too!!
After a lot of conversations with adults we made a drawing action for
They shared their experiences with us and draw them on paper. In their
pictures we could see escape and the wish for a calm life, with the hope of a fast arriving.
When they asked us if we come back we answered them:
Yes we are going
to be here tomorrow again. But you will already have to travel further on
For sure we will see each user again and hopefully in a better situation.
in the streets, in the port, in the car, at the beach
– Its the song we
dance to everywhere, so it became our soundtrack and we didn’t want to
keep it from you!
So we shake our body and want to tell the politicians that they should
maybe shake their heads to realise that the system of border is not
really working like they want it to. So lets start to say a real welcome
to the new-arriving, take them serious and treat them like human beings
who have the right to move wherever and whenever they want!
Here is the song:
Arash: tekoon bede (Shake)
And for those who are interested the lyrics you find them here.
And we also wanted to share a picture from one of our concerts in the
harbour. The Band you see is “Renovatio” and was with us until yesterday
and gave us and the new-arriving some good music from Renovatio