Archive for the 'Deportation' Category

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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[…] despite the government’s steadfast position that the current asylum procedure is impractical, ineffective and outdated.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]’

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’

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’

Samos

Samos is one of the Greek island off the Turkish coast. At the closest point, you have the feeling you can easily touch the other side if you stretch your arm a little. Not surprisingly, many refugees and migrants attempt to cross the border to the European Union here with small boats.

In 2007, a new detention centre was opened on the hills above the island’s capitol Vathy. Before, migrants were detained right in the city centre, behind the main church and the city hall, in the first floor of an old, run-down building. All those that passed this jail said that the conditions were unimaginable and made many people sick. With funding from the European Union, the new detention centre is nothing like that. It consists of 14 buildings made from metal, most of them are used for the detainees while some are administrative buildings. The whole camp is surrounded by a double barb-wired fence, CCTV cameras as well as loudspeakers are everywhere: bidirectional communication to the advantage of the guards. The camp even has a children’s playground as well as a basketball court. Too bad that there are no basketballs available, so the court is mainly used in summer, when the capacity of the camp does not suffice and newly detained migrants have to sleep there, on the bare ground (like in 2009).

Continue reading ‘Samos’

Another hunger strike in Samos

Our friends from clandestina alert us to the news that

[a]ccording to ANA-MPA, 170 migrants detained in the Samos detention camp started a collective hunger strike. trying to stop their deportation.
They demand an end to the transfers to detention centres close to the greek-bulgarian land border in the north. Such transfers happen between two and three times a month in Samos, the last one happened last week, when 50 migrants were taken.

Check also here.

That would the the second confirmed hunger strike in Samos. We already reported about the one in April (statement | video).

It is no surprise that all this happens in Samos, since there, the Greek state as well as the European Union through its border agency Frontex are experimenting with new ways of intercepting and deporting migrants.

Pagani – Villa Azadi – Dikili

As you can see, this our blog is picking up speed again, and we intend to maintain that speed: A lot of things are happening, and of course we will make a lot of things happen this year again, too. But one after the other. We receive a lot of questions concerning various developments, so we try to follow up. We start with these sites.

Pagani, detention centre/prison
Is Pagani closed or not? This is the question most often asked, and subject of heated debate. We have always stated that Pagani is closed (as not-functioning as a detention centre) and open (as in rather open reception centre). This is not entirely true anymore.

To be very clear: The situation in Pagani is far from what it was last year, and this is still a major success. To date, not more than 30 refugees are detained in Pagani, but at most for a couple of days, until they are being transferred to Xios or Athens. We still need to verify what is happening to them there (white paper? detention? deportation?), so bear with us for the time being. The cells however are never closed, a lot of people sleep in the yard, which however is locked and guarded by the local police. The visible difference is that Frontex has become active in the camp, interrogating detainees (like what is happening in Samos).

What to make of this news? The Greek state clearly has not managed to reverse the situation that was created during and after noborder last year. There are no real detention capacities, a new, human-rights-compatible detention centre has not been built (also due to local popular resistance), it is only the european side of things that is moving forward, intervening, forging ahead.

Villa Azadi, open reception centre for under-age refugees
Some of you might be familiar with Villa Azadi, the open reception centre for under-age refugees near the village Agiassos on Lesvos. It was one of the few efforts on behalf of the greek state to house migrants in need of protection in a good and safe environment.

Villa Azadi is not functioning anymore as of this month. There is no more money, hence no paid staff.

Dikili, Turkish port opposite Lesvos, to become deportation port
The newspaper Ethnos reported on the 5th of July that

[d]uring last week’s meeting of Greek and Turkish officials on irregular migration in Athens, the Turkish side agreed to set out the port of Dikili, about 15 miles off Lesvos island, to serve the readmission of irregular migrants in Turkey. Turkish authorities estimate that the port will start operating within the present month of July.

In May, during a joint cabinet session of the Greek and Turkish governments, an agreement was reached to reinforce the Greek-Turkish Readmission Protocol. Apart from agreeing to process 1.000 readmission requests per year, the Turkish side also agreed to open a port for direct deportations. So far, deportations from Greece to Turkey had to pass the land border at the river Evros/Meriç. So in the case of the islands, all intercepted and to-be-deported migrants had to be transferred to Athens, then on to Thrace, and over the land border. This might change now.

Conclusions
The developments in the Agean are severely lopsided. While Greece and Europe are strengthening their deportation capabilities (Frontex patrols, Frontex interrogators, deportations via sea, the continued use of Pagani), the reform (read: creation) of an asylum system vaguely reminiscent of protection is not moving forward at all, and the few gems like Villa Azadi are being shut down.

Samos: preparations for the deportation of 50 refugees

From Samos, the Movement for the Human Rights Solidarity to the Refugees sends a press release, denouncing the pending deportation of 50 refugees from the island. In a presse release, they write:

For one more time on thursday 1/7/2010 50 refugees where transported from the detention center of samos to be deported. They where transferred to the center of Aspropyrgos (detention centre near Athens) without having been informed that they will be transferred or the reasons without lawyers and without translators. For one more time the police, the coast guard and Frontex coordinate their actions and transferred illegaly also a minor of 15 years with health problems.

Who gives the permission to frontex to be inside the detention centers and to collect information from the refugees and decides about their nationalities and their deportation?

In the same way like the Greek Government accepts that the European Union and the International money fonds take decisions against the working greeks in the same way the greek Goverment has let the decisions about the future of the refugees to Frontex forgetting everything about constitution and conventions on human rights.

We are denouncing this practices and unite our voices with all humans beings who act against this violations of human rights.

We are in solidarity with this people who where forced to abandon their countries and flee because of wars, poverty and desertation that causes the imperialist atrocity.

Those who produce refugees, face the refugees as criminals, without rights, without voice, without future.
Solidarity is our weapon.

Movement for the Human Rights Solidarity to the Refugees – Samos (4th of June)

Hunger strike in Samos detention centre

On April 12, 2010, 126 migrants detained in the samos detention camp started a collective hunger strike. Their demands are

  • Freedom, immediate release with the “white paper” (allowing them to travel within Greece for thirty days)
  • An end to the transfers to detention centres close to the greek-turkish land border in the north, where numerous illegal deportation to Turkey are taking place. Such transfers happen between two and three times a month in Samos, the last one happened on April 9, when 40 migrants were taken.
  • Transparency about the work of so-called translators in the camp. As it turns out, these often are officiers employed by Frontex, who offer their translation services, but abuse the trust of the refugees and use the access to the refugees to determine their identity and prepare their deportation. There is a particular problem with the Frontex officers who in the process of identification often change the country of origin of the migrants on paper.

In the last days, as many as 14 Frontex officers were in the detention centre. There is also talk about migrants being beaten up, some cell phones were taken, while the phones in the camp also don’t work, making it hard to communicate with the hunger strikers. No laywers seem to be present at the time.

Final party in Pagani

It was the last night of Pagani when a group of imprisoned refugees started singing again.

The conditions inside had changed within the last days. Police had slowly given up to control the situation, they just locked the people inside and stayed outside. Since the doors were broken the refugees could move inside the yard and to all the cells. Some of the cells were burned, each revolt inside had left it’s signs on the building. It looked as if the building was breathing its final breath. Burned mattress were just thrown in front of the door. The yard was used to play football in these last days. And there was the singing in the night.
freedom for all! empty pagani!
The final night in Pagani on Friday turned into a real party-night. It began with question that would not sound crazy in any other place: “Do you need anything? I will just go, shopping.” Although he
didn’t belief it, our friend who was narrating about the party gave five Euro (“because it sounded crazy enough for me”). The guy jumped over the fence and came back with cigarettes, whiskey and beer.
in and out They started drinking and telling each other their stories of migration and what they are missing and about their life. “When I told my story it was so and I started crying myself about it.” When the beer was finished they wanted some more and so the guy jumped again. The police came to him and said he can not leave. “But I have to go shopping!” he said to them. “If you don’t want me to go I can make a list with our needs and you go get it for us.” Obviously the policemen didn’t want to go and said to him: “Okay go, but you have to return, you know!” He went himself and returned again with more beers. A real party started with a lot of songs in various languages. A lot of sad songs about the things people left behind – but also dancing and the hope to go further.
In the next morning there the first deportation from newcomers to Xios took place. It happened silent. They brought one bus with families a second one with men and boys and in the last minute a smaller one to the harbour of Mytilini. All in all about 50 people were brought to the detention camp in Xios.
A lot of things to be done to stop these deportations to another prison, to prevent the old Pagani-building to be renewed and reopened — and to fight for open centres and of course papers for everyone!!!.
Maybe, Pagani could be used as a memorial place.
bad weather
The ferry that was supposed to leave Mytilini on Sunday at 6:00 pm could not go because of the weather. Today, three days and two nights later, the ship with the released people has left the harbour of Mytilini.
Pagani is abandoned – looking ancient already.

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:

Continue reading ‘The bigger picture’

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