Monthly Archive for August, 2010

On two of the hunger strikers in Athens [2 Updates]

Update 2: Victory!
Just found the information on the UNHCR website. We wrote:

We were discussing with a lawyer here in Greece, and she said that she would find it highly unlikely if they received political asylum, since the actual asylum system has been suspended. The Ministry of citizen protection itself has pointed out that it cannot brake the law by giving asylum based on a suspended presidential decree and said that only in September, when the new presidential decree would enter into force, asylum could be granted.

The UNHCR says:

Given the imminent threat to the health and lives of Iranian asylum seekers continued hunger strike in front of the Office of the High Commissioner of UNHCR, the Ministry of Civil Protection has decided yesterday to activate the Appeal Board for the accumulated applications provided by Presidential Decree 81/2009, “on humanitarian grounds and very exceptional, […] despite the government’s steadfast position that the current asylum procedure is impractical, ineffective and outdated.

So yes, our doubts were right, and yes, they did indeed get a proper asylum status. That is very good. Congratulations, we are so happy that all went well in the end! Why did our friends have to take such drastic measures in the first place?
#END OF UPDATE 2

Update 1: Victory?
Today, on the 30th of August, there was the announcement that the six of the seven hunger strikers will obtain political asylum, and that the seventh might likely receive it tomorrow. That would be a huge success. The hunger strikers have since been brought to the hospital, and we are very lucky that the hunger strike is concluded.

You notice the question mark in the headline? We were discussing with a lawyer here in Greece, and she said that she would find it highly unlikely if they received political asylum, since the actual asylum system has been suspended. The Ministry of citizen protection itself has pointed out that it cannot brake the law by giving asylum based on a suspended presidential decree and said that only in September, when the new presidential decree would enter into force, asylum could be granted.

So we were wondering if the hunger strikers were granted humanitarian protection rather than asylum? That would leave them in a much more difficult status, since it would not allow them to leave Greece as some hunger strikers have wished, and the access to social support in Greece would also be much more precarious. We really do hope that the hunger strikes did obtain a proper refugee recognition, and we will continue to look for more precise information. If you know something, please post it in the comments.
#END OF UPDATE 1

Since 13 days seven Iranians are on hunger strike in front of the UNHCR office in Athens. Two of them are in their 32nd day, and you can find previous reports here, here and here + video + video.

We went to see the hunger strikers, and this is our account:

One hunger striker, Seid Rouhollah (28) was deported from Germany back to Greece one and a half years ago under the Dublin II system. He came to Greece via Mytiline, Lesvos, in one small boat with 26 persons. He was the only survivor when the Greek coast guard punched a hole in their dinghy. Seid is a good swimmer, so he managed to survive, but since than he is afraid of the sea and in his nightmares he sees black bodies drowning in the sea and he can’t do anything – just save his own life.

Seid managed to leave Greece after three months. He arrives in Germany where he gets caught in the airport. He spends another three months in detention camp and is finally deported to “Grieschenland” (the word for Greece in a particular German accent). And “Tschüüüss” the german word for bye-bye he still remembers as the police said to him at the deportation. They also told him that it would be nice in Greece, because of the fine weather. He says: Maybe for vacation it is nice. They say: Don’t worry, now they will care for you!

He arrives at Athens airport. They keep him imprisoned for 20 days. It is totally overcrowded, 20-30 persons in one cell. Only once a day there is food: ‘Malakas’ they say and they feed us like animals. There is no shower and when he leaves he has scabies.

They issue him a Pink Card. Go, go! they say and he has no shelter and no money. He contacts the Greek Refugee Council, but they say he shoud come again after one week. Since one and a half year now. There are not enough places in the shelters and since Seid is an adult man, he is not considered especially vulnerable. He has slept in a park since then. He says he had been waiting for the chance the hunger strike now gives to him, to finally make his voice heard.

Continue reading ‘On two of the hunger strikers in Athens [2 Updates]’

“Please don’t paint…”

Today, Saturday, was the designated Frontex action day in Samos. We scored our first victory in the morning when all coast guard and Frontex ships withdrew from the port, disappearing somewhere. Up to now, they have not returned. The image below shows where they usually park their ships during the day… it is empty. We demilitarised, de-frontexisised Vathy, at least for a day.

Continue reading ‘“Please don’t paint…”’

First Words from Samos

In the last few days we gradually arrived in Samos and found a totally unexpected situation. The huge detention centre above Vathy is empty, all detainees have been transferred off the island, presumably to Athens, where they are either held in another detention facility or are released with the infamous White Paper.

Currently, there is an Italian Guardia Frontera ship in the harbour representing FRONTEX. The Dutch coast guard is present with a speedboat. From our observations, the latter basically go around and drink coffee at the various beaches. The Greek coast guard has two boats in Vathy, one of them is broken, though. The Italian Frontex ship leaves every night at 10 p.m. and returns in the early morning – but these days they are not very “successful”: According to what they say, they have not caught anybody during the last weeks. Inhabitants told us that still some people arrive on the island but without being caught. But compared to last year, arrivals have dropped dramatically. According to a chatty coast guard officer most refugees now choose the route via the Evros region in the north of Greece. The few people caught on the island are imprisoned in one of three police stations on the island and usually not taken to the detention centre, but sent to Athens straight.

Continue reading ‘First Words from Samos’

Hunger strike of Iranian refugees in Athens at UNHCR

We were a bit slow to pick this news up, and there has already been extensive writing about the hunger strike, so all we want to do is to turn your attention to this ongoing struggle and urge you to support it in any way possible. You can start reading with this post of Devious Diva (true blog slogan!), and perhaps this search query which should take you further. All the best to the hunger strikers, we fear for your lifes!

A Dublin II Deportation Diary


Why did you want me back in Greece?, ask the refugees being returned due to the Dublin II regulation from different other European countries. The deportation diary carrying the same name evolved out of a short visit in Athens, where activists from the newly founded infomobile project conducted interviews with refugees affected by this European regulation.

The findings, based on interviews with the people affected, are shocking and deeply disturbing. For although every story of flight to and within Europe is different, if we were to summarise, there are two main conclusions that need to be drawn.

Continue reading ‘A Dublin II Deportation Diary’

Frontex office delayed?

Well, well, nothing is ever moving as fast as said. A new article in The Economist brings the news that apparently, the opening of Frontex’ Branch Office in the port of Piraeus will be delayed until October, after it was supposed to first open in spring, then in August.

There are two more aspects in the article that are worth noting, summarised in this paragraph:

So Brussels is sending in the cavalry. Frontex, a Warsaw-based agency created in 2004 to manage the EU’s external borders, will open a pilot office in the Greek port of Piraeus in October. Earlier this month its executive director, Ilkka Laitinen, went to Athens to finalise the plan with Greece’s home-affairs minister, Michalis Chrisochoidis. There was much talk of “milestones” and “adding value”. But there were hints of frustration behind the smiles. Mr Chrisochoidis welcomed the symbolism of the move but says in practical terms it will be “a drop in the ocean”. As for Frontex, squeezed by budgetary and personnel constraints, Mr Laitinen politely describes its job as “a challenge”.

Well, the Economist might have it the wrong way, since it also credits to job of managing the EU’s external borders to Frontex, which is not really true. However, the image of the cavalry is interesting, as it might still be sufficiently describing the role of Frontex in Greece: They don’t come to support, they don’t come to coordinate, they come to get the job done, and that by any means necessary. We have already described what that means: Maximising border “security” by all means, minimising the respect for human rights and international law. Or is this again a misconception, citing the drop in the ocean? We will be in Greece to find out.

Patras & Frontex

Just to keep you updated on the activities of Frontex in the Aegean, we dug out this recent article from a local newspaper, reporting about Frontex in Patras. Is the advertisement next to it not great? Yes, the Mediterranean used to be an area of travel, exchange and commerce, why did we turn it into a mass grave?

Our friendly translator says:

4 coastguards of Patras Central Post Authority are following a special training program and will be the Frontex “branch” in Patras. They will report on the current situation for the implementation of the appropriate interventions.
[…]
Training consists of 3 levels and we completed two of them. Seminars are taking place in several countries. Me, for example, I have been trained in Spain and Italy. We will try to help the Frontex specialists group which will visit us, by providing crucial information, Evangelos Agelis, vice-president of Patras coastguards and one of the 4 coastguards in special training program, said.
[…]
In Patras port 2 german and 1 italian policemen are taking part in passport controls in order to reduce illegall migration.

This year, the Schengen Agreements turn 25 years, supposedly providing for passport-check-free travel in Schengenland. So how are those three border guards mentioned in the last paragraph controlling?

Open Letter from the Infomobil

Answer to the vice Prefekt in Evros region Mr.Papaioanou.

On the 12.08.2010, we heard you on Thraki T.V , Mr.Papaioannou saying that this mass grave we have seen with our own eyes, doesn’t exist. You said: It was only some friends who buried their friends there and that the people who put this information on a blog are liars.

Since we, the ‘INFOMOBIL welcome to europe network’, are the ones who went to Evros region, in a group of 8 people from different european countries – among us journalists and fotojournalists – trying to find out if the afghan husband of a woman we know, who was lost in the river Evros on the 25 june 2010 (together with 2 other afghan men) to find out if he is alive…

We visited 16 places in Evros, mainly detention prisons but also hospitals, to try to find out.

Continue reading ‘Open Letter from the Infomobil’

Mass grave of refugees in Evros uncovered (1 Update)

During the first seven months of the year 2010, 38 human beings died while attempting to cross the heavily guarded Turkish-Greek border. The corpses of the dead are being transferred to the department of forensic medicine of the university clinic of Alexandroupoulis. Since they can often not be identified, only a DNA-test is being carried out so that relatives can still gain certainty.

Mass grave in the Evros region

On 25th of June 2010 19 people drowned in the river Evros/Meriç. 14 corpses washed ashore on the Greek side and were brought to the university clinic by an undertaker from Orestiada. After the dead had been examined and registered, the undertaker brought them to a village of the Turkish minority on the mountains above Souflí for them to be buried on muslim cemetery.

cemetery of the illegal immigrants - muftia evros

cemetery of the illegal immigrants - muftia evros

Continue reading ‘Mass grave of refugees in Evros uncovered (1 Update)’

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)

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