This is a first interim report of this year’s Swarming No Border activities in Greece. The first stop was Samos, an island in the Aegean sea, close to the Turkish mainland. The proximity to Turkey is why many migrants arrive here and consequently Frontex is stationed here too. Together with activists from Samos, we organised an anti-racist weekend during our stay there.
Immediately after arriving on the island, we realised how militarised the port is. Besides the Frontex ships, there are several navy ships moored and there is military all over the island. The Frontex ship in the small harbour of Samos (the capital of the island) can’t be missed. It is moored directly opposite the Hotel Samos, where the 30 Frontex staff are accommodated and where they spend a lot of time eating and drinking. The local coast guard staff, on the other hand, have to rent their own apartments, which leads to tensions between Frontex and coast guard staff.
There is also a detention centre in Samos/Vathy, which is similar to the jail in Pagani on Lesvos. Until recently, the jail was used to imprison all refugees that were caught by the police arriving on the island. Although currently not in use, the jail doesn’t look as if it is closed permanently. In the last few days, workers were busy cleaning the place up, which seems to indicate that it might be put to use again soon. Also, Frontex claim that currently no refugees are arriving in Samos. This is definitely not true, but the numbers are down. This was confirmed by migrants from Karlovassi, the university city of Samos. Many of these migrants have been living on the island for a long time and find work in the harvest. Originally, there were plans for a Frontex office on Samos but it was never built. Instead, they have a shipping container, placed directly in front of the police station, where they conduct interviews with migrants. It is interesting to take a look at the image which Frontex and the coast guard, who work together, have of the migrants. Mostly the migrants are ‘murderers and thieves’ and Athens is full already, therefore their work is very important. By the way, the
Frontex ship regularly leaves from 10pm to 6am to look for boats. If they find any, they call the coast guard for assistance. However, one of the coast guard ships can’t go out any more because of engine problems. Every night they cruise the area between Vathy and Psili Ammos. A helicopter is also part of the nightly operations. It searches the beaches with a search light. In addition, some beaches are under camera surveillance from a van. During the day, a small Lithuanian ship cruises around and searches. All these measures are not only a brutal threat to the lives of many refugees. They also impose restrictions on the lives of the local population. Fishermen can’t go out and fish whenever they want and are subject to frequent searches. The noise from the helicopter keeps people awake at night. This affects the tourism and has led to protests from tourists. There is an amazing variety of wildlife on the island, e.g. chameleons, which no doubt also suffer.
During the days of action against this inhumane EU migration policy there was a rally on the central square in Karlovassi on Thursday. Flyers where handed out and banners were made for the demonstration on Saturday. Many people became interested and participated, including many migrants.
On Saturday, there was a demonstration in Vathy/Samos, which was planned as a farewell parade for Frontex. Interestingly, Frontex got scared, so in the morning they moved their ships to another harbour. During the demo, the Frontex wharf as well as their container was beautified. Then there was an information evening about Frontex held in the central square in Vathy/Samos. Even a Frontex worker came along. On Sunday, the same event was held in Karlovassi. We also found some ‘For Sale’ and ‘For Lease’ signs advertising the Frontex ships and the helicopter.
Complaints should be directed at the Frontex office in Warsaw:
Rondo ONZ 1, 00-124 Warsaw, Poland, Tel.: (4822) 544 9500.