The Guardian released two embassy cables provided by the by now well-known wikileaks cablegate that report on the Greek government’s position and strategy on dealing with irregular migration. This article provides a short summary of the contents. Both reports were written shortly after the change of government in October 2009, in December and February respectively. They don’t offer any surprising insight, but sketch some policy lines.
The first embassy cable, Greece tackles migration and asylum issues confirms that asylum and migration are high priority to the new government, both on a domestic as well as on a European level. From the summary:
Today is day 12 of the hunger strike, and some of the strikers sewed their lips to emphasize their determination. While we have not been documenting this struggle, our friends at ‘afghan muhajer’ have done so extensively, so please pay them a visit to find out more.
…last Tuesday (4th of December), a riot broke out, one of the most serious to date, at the detention centre at Fylakion in the Evros region, near the town of Orestiada and the FRONTEX headquarters at the Greco-Turkish border. According to the policemen guarding the centre, the sans papiers immigrants short-circuited the electricity network causing a blackout, blocked the sewer system causing the overflow of waste and caused minor damages to the centre’s building.
Special police forces were called in from Orestiada and the sans papiers welcomed them by throwing chlorine detergent at them. They had been supplied bottles of chlorine so that they keep the prison clean by themselves, since no cleaning service is provided for the 3-year old detention centre, where up to 1000 refugees, including families with small children, are being held in a building designed to temporarily host 350 people at a time – with bad water, few toilets, no showers, and no medical or legal help.
During the riot, four sans papiers are said to have escaped.
picture credit: image of Fylakio detention centre taken from wikipedia
Iranian refugees detained in Evros continue wave of hunger strikes
27th November, Athens, by Infomobile
Four Iranians detained at the border station of Feres in northeastern Greece have sewed their mouths in protest of their prolonged detention. Only one of them, a journalist, managed to apply for asylum. The situation in Feres is critical due to overcrowded cells but also because victims of torture, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups are held for long periods in detention.
In the beginning of October two Iranian refugees started a hunger strike while being in detention in Evros. They stitched their mouths using fibbers from their shoelaces as an act of protest against their deportation and for their right to political asylum. If they wouldn’t had been in a critical medical condition, which led to their transfer to Alexandroupolis hospital, their cases would not have reached the public. They would have been possibly deported back to Iran where they would face imprisonment and execution for political reasons.
Since the early summer of 2010 more and more refugees – mainly coming from Iran – are caught up in the midst of a protection gap. They resorted to hunger strikes as act of political resistance, their last means of struggle, the only way to be heard and helped. Repeatedly they have fought for their right to asylum, some of them succeeded. They also fight for their freedom and basic human rights. Continue reading ‘How the Rabit saved the refugee’
19th September – 22nd October 2009:
After a number of revolts inside the detention centre Pagani on Lesvos island, the prison was finally officially closed and the last refugees left to Athens. Huge numbers of refugees had been imprisoned in the overcrowded prison all over the summer, leading to repeated uprisings. The refugees demanded freedom through hunger strikes, broke the doors of the cells and put the cells on fire. The revolts gained a lot of public attention and media coverage through the noborder action Lesvos 2009.
3rd February 2010:
Refugees detained in Venna put fire on their clothes and mattresses to protest against their prolonged imprisonment and the inhuman detention conditions. Only three days later 42 of them were judged penalties of 4-6 months detention and following deportation without having any access to lawyers and interpreters. Then they were transferred to other prisons in order to isolate them.
In the night of 13th March 2010, 35 detainees set the detention centre of the police station of Patras on fire to protest against their detention and the detention conditions.
124 detained refugees started a hunger strike in the detention centre of Samos protesting against the transfer of 60 refugees from Samos detention centre to a prison close to the Bulgarian border and to protest against their deportation
On Saturday afternoon, 27th of November, a 24 years old afghan refugee, father of three children, was crushed between two trucks during his effort to climb in one of them and leave for Italy. This happened in the national road Patras-Korinthos (in Greece).
According to the Group for solidarity to refugees and immigrants the 24 year old man together with other afghan refugees was trying to enter a truck while it was stopped in front of a traffic light. Behind it there was another truck and its driver tried to push away the refugees by honking and approached the truck in front of him. The afghan man did not manage to escape and was severely injured. He was transferred to the hospital of Patras where he passed away 5 hours later. The police characterized the incident as a slight accident and the driver was released instead of standing trial.
Today (29th of November) in the afternoon there will be a demonstration at the central square of Patras against this decision.
A lot of refugees try to climb and hide in trucks at the port of Patras that are leaving for ports in Italy. Some of the refugees die of suffocation inside the boat, others suffer accidents like the one stated before.
As long as the borders are closed, there will be people dying during their effort to cross them. Dublin regulation must be abolished and European borders must open.
The deployment of European border guard forces at the Greek-Turkish border increases the danger of readmitting refugees to Turkey and from there to their country of origin, where they are put at risk of facing human rights violations. The European Union should meet its obligations and ensure refugees’ protection and well-being.
Greece requested the European Union to send armed so called Frontex Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) to the Greek-Turkish border. This became public on Monday the 25th of October 2010.
Greek government statistics state that irregular migration has been increasing in the Evros-Region where the land broder to Turkey stretches over 12 km. According to the Greek Minister of Citizens’ Protection Christos Papoutsis only during the first October weekend of this year 1,400 refugees have been intercepted in that region.
Immigration: Manganelli wants to expand cooperation to Turkey and Greece | 28th September 2010
According to the Chief of Police Antonio Manganelli, it is possible to block the landing of illegal immigrants at the coast of Salento ‘through the expansion of international cooperation to Turkey and Greece,’ Manganelli said to a journalist on the way to Lecce, where a mass was to be held in honor of St. Michael the Archangel, patron of the State Police. ‘We have worked well with a number of countries in West Africa and with Libya. We have reset landings on Lampedusa. But we have a problem,’ Manganelli admitted, ‘We are still open for those, crossing the routes through Turkey. I was in Greece last month to talk about this problem with them. Rodolfo Ronconi, Central Director of Immigration and Border Police at the Italian Ministry of Interior is going to visit Turkey in the next view days. After Lecce,’ Manganelli said, ‘I will leave for Brussels to meet the heads of the European and African police forces to discuss precisely this issue.’
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!