Update on the Jungle of Athens

This update dates back to 14th of October 2010.

It is around 9.30 in the morning, outside the basketball court newcomers are lying on the benches; one more family with three children, two of them small babies. They just arrived this morning, they look for a place to stay… for a room…

We were walking around the whole night, we couldn’t sleep because of the rain… some of the babies with their mothers went to sleep near the church of Ag. Panteleimonas, says a young Afghan men who was deported from Slovakia. Having no other shelter they risk to be attacked in one of the most “highly protected” areas of Athens. It is the emblem of the victorious “cleaning ups and evacuations” that racist committees of residents together with fascist groups have started against the refugees; a square constantly patrolled by different groups of residents.

Back to the park: Reza, a 14 year old boy, was registered in Evros as 18 years old. He has severe health problems with his eye. Yesterday he was arrested by the police while hanging around at Victoria Park. He had a packet of tablets for his eye in his pocket that “the church” had given to him because of which the police accused him for carrying drugs. They put him inside the car for detainees for some hours and then released him because he was evidently underage. “They put me handcuffs,” he says laughing and showing the marks on his hands. It is not the first time that he was arrested. He stayed in prison at the Evros borders four days. For him as for the others these experiences turn more and more into mere banalities.

Another Afghan boy is passing by. Together with his family they are staying in one of the reception centres for refugees in Athens. They have the exceptional right to stay there for one month as they don’t have fulfilled the precondition of claiming asylum in Greece and then getting the so-called Red Card for asylum seekers. It is an unwritten law in Greece that refugees only find housing opportunities when they apply for asylum and when they belong to specific extra-vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors, single mother families etc. “We want to leave Greece, they give no asylum here,” says the youngster. Another anecdote of the disastrous “Greece of refugees” is the topic of a new announcement made by the Athens Bar Association at the 14th of October. They are protesting against the closure of the Attica Aliens Police department and the (repeated) resulting suspension of foreigners’ claims for international protection:

Under the pretext of waiting for the new Transitional Presidential Decree for Asylum, whose entry into force is been delayed, the Attica Aliens Department of Police is illegally keeping the asylum service “closed”. That way claims for international protection cannot practically be lodged circumventing subsequently international treaties…

The young boys’ mother has serious health problem. She is diabetic. During the last days she had a series of a crises and the doctors after treating her in the emergency room sent her to one of the hospitals of Athens for further treatment. “They did nothing there,” R says. “They just gave her injections, but no further treatment, no exams, no papers that show what she has and no prescription for insulin. My mother needs to take insulin every day. Without a prescription she cannot take the appropriate dosage.” Apart from his mums’ health condition the young boy also worries all the time about the other homeless families. “You know, one room in the guest house that we are living is now empty; probably one of the families could come there?”

It is about 12 o’clock at the Attica Square, a little further from the park and the patrols go on. At the bottom of the square some policemen are controlling the papers of two immigrants. The square is empty; the fascist residents are sitting around the square fulfilling their self-proclaimed “duty”. At that time of the day the “square keepers” are mostly pensioners, men and women that found their personal meaning of life in chasing the refugees out of “their” square; fighting for the “cleanness” of “their neighbourhood” and “their nation”!

Unexpectedly a “new guy” – a refugee is walking thoughtlessly through the middle of the square when suddenly one of the female “square keepers” springs up, starts whistling, approaches him and while pushing him out of the square she is screaming in Greek: “Not here. Out, get out of here! Get the hell out of here!”

Two days later, between 19.30 and 3 o’clock in the morning. A group of the so called “indigenous” citizens attacks a mini market near the Attica Square, which belongs to a Bangladeshi immigrant:
“During the attack the Imam of the region together with another immigrant were injured. The conflict became widespread and as a result many were those injured; immigrants and Greeks. Immigrants on their attempt to escape the rage of the “citizens” found refuge in the nearby underground mosque that had been burned a half a year ago; when one policeman tried to tear the Koran that an immigrant was carrying. The “Indignant” residents blocked the entrance to the mosque and they afterwards started breaking the outer glass of the windows by throwing sticks and stones. 5 of the immigrants hidden inside the mosque have been injured. The people inside the mosque had to go out therefore and defend themselves with whatever found in the trash. When police arrived immigrants returned to the mosque, where they remained trapped for more than 1.5 hours. The “indignant” residents remained at the entrance of the mosque, shouting abusive slogans against immigrants and asking from the police to evict them. This was followed by conflicts at the nearby Attica square, where about 80 people were beating immigrants that were passing by.”

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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.

 

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