Monthly Archive for July, 2010

Samos

Samos is one of the Greek island off the Turkish coast. At the closest point, you have the feeling you can easily touch the other side if you stretch your arm a little. Not surprisingly, many refugees and migrants attempt to cross the border to the European Union here with small boats.

In 2007, a new detention centre was opened on the hills above the island’s capitol Vathy. Before, migrants were detained right in the city centre, behind the main church and the city hall, in the first floor of an old, run-down building. All those that passed this jail said that the conditions were unimaginable and made many people sick. With funding from the European Union, the new detention centre is nothing like that. It consists of 14 buildings made from metal, most of them are used for the detainees while some are administrative buildings. The whole camp is surrounded by a double barb-wired fence, CCTV cameras as well as loudspeakers are everywhere: bidirectional communication to the advantage of the guards. The camp even has a children’s playground as well as a basketball court. Too bad that there are no basketballs available, so the court is mainly used in summer, when the capacity of the camp does not suffice and newly detained migrants have to sleep there, on the bare ground (like in 2009).

Continue reading ‘Samos’

w2eu all new

Summer is coming, we are again going to Greece, you might want to join us. In the meanwhile, we updated this blog and put more information and analysis into it. With this post, we will provide a short overview (Blogs are so messy…)

Swarming Noborder: From the 27th of August to the 11th of September 2010, the Network Welcome to Europe will once again travel to Greece. Join us, come along, be part of it, or simply follow our activities and findings in this blog. If you want to know more, read all details of the Swarming Noborder Greece 2010. And of course, you can follow all our activities on this site.

Screening Centres: Apart from establishing an asylum agency, the Greek state also plans to introduce so called screening centres in the quest to reform and modernize the system of migration control. In this analysis, we look into the proposal.

Frontex in the Aegean: The Europe of Schengen strikes back. If Greece cannot stop the migration flow, the European Union has a dedicated agency most happy to step in: Frontex, the European border agency. What are doing, what are they up to? Find out in our analysis.

Interviews: Milad, a friend of ours from last year’s noborder tells us how his situation is in Sweden, how Dublin II pushed people all over Europe and continues to do so, and what he thinks needs to happen. In another interview, we talk to M., a 17-year-old Palestinian youth that was framed by Frontex in Samos. They had taken a picture of the boat he was using to cross over from Turkey and boldly claimed that he was the driver and hence smuggler. A court saw this differently.

Pagani – Villa Azadi – Dikili: Many questions reached us concerning the state of Pagani and other things that are going on in Lesvos. We put together a short update. Another update gives a longer report about what is going on in Lesvos these days.

Samos: w2eu will take to Samos. Why? What is happening there? What is the significance of the new detention centre there, and what is Frontex doing on the island? Find out!

Discourse Space: Amnesty International released a report about the detention of migrants and refugees in Greece, and it sheds not good light on the state of affairs. The European Court of Human Rights condemned Greece for the detention and maltreatment of a Palestinian refugee, while Greece itself calls for a suspension of Dublin II.

w2eu.info: This is the other website of the network welcome to europe, providing information about the state of Dublin II, Asylum, Migration in the different countries of the European Union and beyond. It is meant as a direct resource for all border-crossers out there that need to know where to go best, and what to do there.

Meanwhile in the discourse space…

new report on detention in Greece by amnesty international +++ European Court of Human Rights +++ Greece calls for a suspension of Dublin II

Amnesty International published an new report about the detention of migrants and refugees in Greece on the 27th of July. The full text can be downloaded here, it contains some 60 pages and contains descriptions of many detention centres in Greece.

The introduction is rather outspoken about the need for a decisive and immediate change in Greek migration policy.

Continue reading ‘Meanwhile in the discourse space…’

Screening, Detention, Centres

In October 2009, the Initial Reception Centre in Pagani on the island of Lesvos was officially closed, after a wave of revolts of the detained migrants and a worldwide scandalisation of the conditions inside the jail. Despite announcements of the government to build a new detention centre in Lesvos, Pagani is still the only detention infrastructure on the island. The former goods warehouse is used for the interim detention of newly arrived refugees and migrants. Unlike before, when hundreds of migrants where kept for months in closed cells, fewer people stay there for some days only until they are transferred to the reception centre on the closely located island Chios. However, since the closure of Pagani it has become clear that the old system of detention under horrible conditions cannot be continued and will be replaced by a more human rights compatible system of detention in line with the existing models in the European detention landscape.

Indicative of this change in policy, which also stems from the change of the Greek government in October 2009, is the statement of the then newly instated Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Spyros Vougias during his visit of Pagani in October 2009, shortly before the actual closing of the detention centre by his ministery. He promised “to upgrade infrastructure and curb bureaucracy so that the migrants are detained for shorter periods of time and with more dignity”.

Continue reading ‘Screening, Detention, Centres’

Frontex in the Aegean

In 2009, 150.000 irregular migrants were intercepted in Greece, which amounts for 75% of all interceptions in the EU. Even though in 2010, this number is likely to drop again, it is clear that the closure of other routes to Europe (West Africa to Spain, Libya to Italy/Malta) has made Greece the presently last remaining gateway to the EU, turning it into a embattled ground where the EU is intervening decisively.

There are three tested responses to irregular migration, and the operations of Frontex in Greece and the Aegean have elements of all of them. The first would be to integrate Turkey into the border regime (similar to the case of Libya). On an institutional level, Frontex is trying to connect with the Turkish coast guard and to involve them in joint maneuvers and also seeks a working agreement with the Turkish border authority. But also Greece and the EU are trying to improve their cooperation with Turkey on migration matters: While Greece and Turkey have a readmission agreement (which Greece would like to extend, since practically, its functioning is questionable), the EU has been negotiating such an agreement for many years with Turkey, albeit without success so far. Functional readmission agreements would force Turkey to readmit not only nationals, but all irregular migrants who can be proved to have entered Greece and the EU via Turkey. This would shift the responsibility for securing borders and inhibiting the movements of migration to Turkey.

Continue reading ‘Frontex in the Aegean’

Swarming Noborder in Greece

Last year a noborder camp took place in Lesvos, one of the main arrival islands in the Aegean Sea. The pictures of the totally overcrowded island prison Pagani and the deeply inhuman internment practices have not been forgotten. However, the revolts and campaigns that led to the closing of Pagani prison, were just as impressive, and in many refugee camps in the whole of Europe the stories of ‘noborder’ is still being told.

Europe is intervening. As if to quickly patch the situation, Frontex, the European border agency is involved in establishing a system of selection and deportation, which is equivalent to European ‘standards’. ‘Screening centres’ will be the new name for the detention centres in Greece. They target what has been possible despite all the repression and chaos in Greece: freedom of movement, the ability to continue the journey to the countries in the centre of Europe.

From the 27th of August to the 11th of September 2010, the Network Welcome to Europe will once again travel to Greece. Join us, come along, be part of it, or simply follow our activities and findings in this blog. If you want to know more, read all details of the Swarming Noborder Greece 2010.

Interview with Milad in Sweden

Milad, 17, is from Afghanistan. We met the first time in summer 2009 in front of the Infopoint, a circus tent in Mytiline at the island of Lesvos. It was the time of Noborder, when Milad had just done his first step on European ground. His shoes were still salty from the trip with the small boat. Some days later he was captured in the harbour when he tried to save his fingerprints and to escape unregistered from the island. They brought him and his friends to Pagani, the big detention centre. He was part of the revolts that gave the last kick to shut down this place and was released after their cell got burnt down, after 2 months of prison. His narration on Noborder and the revolts in Pagani have been published.

Dublin II means they play football with us, shooting us from one country to another, playing with us and wasting our time.

Four days after this talk, he was deported back to Greece from Italy. He even did not have the chance to leave the ship. He was then imprisoned in Arta/Greece for another 10 weeks. He was still on his way to Norway and so he went directly into the next truck after his release. One day later he was imprisoned again. This time in Macedonia. He hurt himself very badly to get out of there after another 10 weeks of prison. He was captured again in Hungary in a very cold night in February. It was in Hungary when he said the first time that he feels a little bit tired of all this. It was the first time that his trust to reach Norway and to be safe there was shattered. He had applied for asylum in Hungary. He said he felt too powerless and too tired to stand the prison for another unknown period of time, although he feared now that his deportation to Hungary was even more risky than to Greece. He felt the Dublin II trap for the first time. He was not able to stay in Hungary, where as he says: The conditions to have less than nothing drives the people to rob the one besides him. He finally reached Norway some months ago. When he got to know that he would be deported to Hungary he fled to Sweden. The interview was made via telephone in June 2010.

w2eu: Hey Milad, how are you? And: where are you?

Milad: I’m in Sweden now. Near to Orebro in a camp for refugees. It is a very small camp for minors and the people here are kind. Nice place, television and everything. We are only 10-11 guys here, all of them underage. It is really nice for one week, two weeks. But actually we are wasting our time here. And it is very far from the city – far from society. We are not in fact imprisoned. We can go to the city. But it is 20-30 kilometre far. Too far to walk every day.

Continue reading ‘Interview with Milad in Sweden’

Frontex frames innocent youth in Samos

M., a 17-year-old Palestinian youth was accused of “trafficking” in Samos. Four months ago, M. was arrested by the police, when he arrived in a boat together with another 55 people. The police claimed to have him identified as the driver of the boat. The accusation was based on a photo made from a helicopter that was stationed in Samos as part of the Frontex operation Poseidon. Despite being a minor, he was imprisoned, awaiting his trial. The Samos solidarity group heard about his case and organised a lawyer. He was in front of a court, but finally acquitted and set free.

Welcome To Europe made an interview with M. in June 2010, after the trial was over. His friend A. acted as a translator.

w2eu: Please tell us what happened.

M.: The police works in the sea, looking for people coming and they look with goggles. I was afraid because i was the youngest person in the boat, so I stayed near the engine. But I didn’t drive, because the big one drives, because he knows Samos, he knows the sea, he knows everything. In my country there is no sea. So I am absolutely no driver. The helicopter is coming with a big light and after that the police take me. I asked them why me? They say because the police saw me in the boat near the engine. But the photo is not very good because you can’t see in the sea if you drive or not, because the driver is clever, he stays behind and he puts his hand in the engine and he drives from far away.

Continue reading ‘Frontex frames innocent youth in Samos’

Another hunger strike in Samos

Our friends from clandestina alert us to the news that

[a]ccording to ANA-MPA, 170 migrants detained in the Samos detention camp started a collective hunger strike. trying to stop their deportation.
They demand an end to the transfers to detention centres close to the greek-bulgarian land border in the north. Such transfers happen between two and three times a month in Samos, the last one happened last week, when 50 migrants were taken.

Check also here.

That would the the second confirmed hunger strike in Samos. We already reported about the one in April (statement | video).

It is no surprise that all this happens in Samos, since there, the Greek state as well as the European Union through its border agency Frontex are experimenting with new ways of intercepting and deporting migrants.

Pagani – Villa Azadi – Dikili

As you can see, this our blog is picking up speed again, and we intend to maintain that speed: A lot of things are happening, and of course we will make a lot of things happen this year again, too. But one after the other. We receive a lot of questions concerning various developments, so we try to follow up. We start with these sites.

Pagani, detention centre/prison
Is Pagani closed or not? This is the question most often asked, and subject of heated debate. We have always stated that Pagani is closed (as not-functioning as a detention centre) and open (as in rather open reception centre). This is not entirely true anymore.

To be very clear: The situation in Pagani is far from what it was last year, and this is still a major success. To date, not more than 30 refugees are detained in Pagani, but at most for a couple of days, until they are being transferred to Xios or Athens. We still need to verify what is happening to them there (white paper? detention? deportation?), so bear with us for the time being. The cells however are never closed, a lot of people sleep in the yard, which however is locked and guarded by the local police. The visible difference is that Frontex has become active in the camp, interrogating detainees (like what is happening in Samos).

What to make of this news? The Greek state clearly has not managed to reverse the situation that was created during and after noborder last year. There are no real detention capacities, a new, human-rights-compatible detention centre has not been built (also due to local popular resistance), it is only the european side of things that is moving forward, intervening, forging ahead.

Villa Azadi, open reception centre for under-age refugees
Some of you might be familiar with Villa Azadi, the open reception centre for under-age refugees near the village Agiassos on Lesvos. It was one of the few efforts on behalf of the greek state to house migrants in need of protection in a good and safe environment.

Villa Azadi is not functioning anymore as of this month. There is no more money, hence no paid staff.

Dikili, Turkish port opposite Lesvos, to become deportation port
The newspaper Ethnos reported on the 5th of July that

[d]uring last week’s meeting of Greek and Turkish officials on irregular migration in Athens, the Turkish side agreed to set out the port of Dikili, about 15 miles off Lesvos island, to serve the readmission of irregular migrants in Turkey. Turkish authorities estimate that the port will start operating within the present month of July.

In May, during a joint cabinet session of the Greek and Turkish governments, an agreement was reached to reinforce the Greek-Turkish Readmission Protocol. Apart from agreeing to process 1.000 readmission requests per year, the Turkish side also agreed to open a port for direct deportations. So far, deportations from Greece to Turkey had to pass the land border at the river Evros/Meriç. So in the case of the islands, all intercepted and to-be-deported migrants had to be transferred to Athens, then on to Thrace, and over the land border. This might change now.

Conclusions
The developments in the Agean are severely lopsided. While Greece and Europe are strengthening their deportation capabilities (Frontex patrols, Frontex interrogators, deportations via sea, the continued use of Pagani), the reform (read: creation) of an asylum system vaguely reminiscent of protection is not moving forward at all, and the few gems like Villa Azadi are being shut down.

About w2eu

This is the blog of the antiracist network Welcome to Europe. It was formerly known as lesvos09.antira.info.

 

The name Welcome to Europe expresses the discontent and anger we feel when looking at the fatal realities of the European external border: the long documented deaths and suffering have continued for years, and no end is in sight. We stand for a grassroots movement that embraces migration and wants to create a Europe of hospitality.

 

We maintain our focus on the European external border in Greece, but will not limit ourselves to that geographical area. The right of freely roaming the globe has to be fought for everywhere. Join us!

 

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Voices from the Inside of Pagani (2009)

Watch the video