Archive for the 'Insight' Category

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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bringing you…the infopoint brochure


Long promised, hard worked on, full of fascinating stories: We bring you the brochure about the infopoint that we set up during the noborder camp 2009 in Lesvos. Tons of stories, experiences, insights and a strong example of the difference one can make with a little determination and collectivity.

  • Editorial
  • Circus Tent towards a Welcome Island: Reflections on the Infopoint in Mitilini / Lesvos in Summer 2009
  • Unbelievable Days: Interview with Azadi – Translator & Activist at the Infopoint
  • Eden: Interview with Eden
  • I just Wanted to Say, that I Arrived fine: Refugee women from Eritrea in the Greek Transit
  • We are on the Move to Stay: Impressions from the ›Farewell Parade‹
  • We are Walking until Noborders: Interview with Mr. X
  • We Saw Things can be possible! The Story of two Afghan Families who Resisted Detention
  • Help yourself! Insights of the Infopoint
  • Medical Advice
  • We really didn’t Feel like Refugees! Reflections on Lesvos two Months after Noborder
  • Last Days of Pagani in October 2009
  • No to Pagani and no to any Prison
  • The End, and the Beginning: A Flight from Greece to Germany
  • I would like to Follow a Star. But there is no Star to Follow: birdsofimmigrants.jogspace.net – A Blog by underaged Refugees
  • Hartino Karavi – A Paperboat: Permanent Info- and Welcomepoint for Refugees in Mitilini
  • Useful Links & Information

Download the infopoint-brochure as pdf (7.9 MB)

Of course, the brochure will also be printed. Information, where to obtain it can be asked at transact [at] so36 [dot] net via email.

You might also want to check out schengendangle, another blog by young migrants trying to skip from Greece. And those speaking German, we have a campaign-site for the upcoming Dublin II-Campaign at dublin2.info.

Birds of immigrants

We are reporting on this blog since several month about the no border actions and the situation for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesvos. There is a blog written by under-age refugees on their way to Europe. It is a good opportunity to read about this topic written in a different perspective, the on from the refuges themselves.
Birds of immigrants

“We really didn’t feel like refugees!”

Athens, 25th of October 2009 | Reflections on Lesvos two months after Noborder:

Hello, my name is Milad. I am 17 years old. I was for 23 days imprisoned in Pagani in Mitilini and first I want to define how was the situation inside this prison and how was the behaviour of police and doctors with us.

Some guys were sick for weeks, they were calling for a doctor, but nobody was ready to listen to our voices. There was no treatment for sick persons and the drinking water had a bad smell. If we asked for a doctor, for clean water or anything, mostly nobody was even listening.

They also did not have a good behaviour to the families with the small kids. One day I saw the kids had their ten minutes time to go out. They were playing football and one policeman was beating a small kid, he was about 8 years old, his mother was crying.
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The bigger picture

With the revolts going on in Pagani, what is the bigger picture? A friend wrote to let us know:

The minister of “citizen’s protection” (sic!, former ministry of public order) of the new socialist party government announced the liberation of 1.200 migrants from detention centers and police departments (from the total of 5.500 migrants who are kept in detention for illegal entry).

He presented this as a humanitarian move, but for sure this was necessary for the whole detention system, which was completely stuck after a summer with large police operations and arrests and the new arrivals. The released migrants will get the famous white paper (deportation decision with 30 days of tollerance to leave the country).

He also announced large scale repatriation with IOM’s help and with european funding and once again declared “zero tolerance to illegal migrants”.

You can also read an article in Kathimerini. So much for the new government (war is peace, citizen’s protection is repression, George is Orwell, etc). There was one incident in Athens were the police torture-killed a migrant. Occupied London has a report, and there was a demonstration afterwards which got attacked by the police. Another friend from Greece summarises the situation as follows:

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Brief report from the field: Pagani emergency

The European elections, that took place during June 2009, brought the ultra right wing party “LAOS” to the fourth place for the first time in the recent Greek history. “LAOS” made a very open anti-migrant campaign based on the national security and immigration control. The support of this movement by the Greek media was and still is very obvious and, consequently, after the elections, the agenda that “LAOS” has set, has been adopted by several institutions and politicians across the political spectrum and mostly from the governmental parties, called “New Democracy” and “PASOK” (Greek Socialist Party).

One of the outcomes of the above mentioned conservative and xenophobic campaign was the very recent presidential decree 81/09, which assigns the examination of asylum claims exclusively to police directors. It further deprives asylum seekers of the right to have their asylum claim examined at second instance, in violation of European standards.

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Frontex in the Mediterranean

This article about the practices and strategies of Frontex concerning the European sea borders was published in the brochure Frontex – Widersprüche im erweiterten Grenzraum by the “Informationsstelle Militarisierung” in German. Here is a translated version without the references included in the original article.

Frontex in the Mediterranean – Of Grey areas and legalisations of a different kind

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Greece: Immigrant Repression

Yet another longer article on the situation in Greece.

It has been around a year and a half now since the first attempt of the state to demolish the self-made Afghani refugee camp in Patras, which was prevented due to a vast and eminent solidarity movement. Nevertheless, the public authorities struck back and eventually succeeded to fulfil their initial plan on the dawn of Sunday 12th of July. This action can be only described as part of a major concrete plan of “zero tolerance” designed and declared by Markoyannakis, the Minister of Public Order of Greece.

The operation was initially planned to take place the night before, yet it was decided to postpone for a day in order for riot police reinforcements to arrive from Athens. At around 3.30 a.m. on Sunday numerous riot police forces swamped the whole area surrounding the refugee camp. By 5 a.m. they had already blocked every street leading to the camp inducing a climate of terror in the area. Only 150 immigrants were still there, by that point knowingly unable to defend themselves and their vestige shelter after weeks of continuous repression, arrests and terror deriving from the state. Some managed to flee the camp only moments before getting arrested and the rest were indulged to the hands of the authorities. The camp was unreachable for the protestors outside and the few who were already inside in solidarity got arrested and were released only after the operation was complete. The obvious reason for these arrests was to have no witnesses of the imminent villainous scenes of state-induced horror.

read the whole article.

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