From the refugee frontline in Greece we present two dispatches – shocking reports. One concerns how refugees are now being made to pay for their own imprisonment; the other is about how the Turkish authorities have been cruelly threatening at least one refugee family whose children have been separated by recent events. In the meantime, while thousands of refugees are being bussed away from the border crossing at Idomeni, elsewhere the myriad of small-scale mutual aid and solidarity operations run by ordinary Greeks at a local level to assist refugees are seeking solidarity. Three weeks back we published an article about two such mutual aid groups in Athens who squatted buildings to function as support centres for refugees. Below is a statement and an urgent appeal for solidarity from another non-state, non-NGO refugee support centre – Cafe Soli on Chios.
UPDATE: Anarchists in Athens have opened up a new refugee centre – formerly the 5th Lyceum – see photo below of refugee children at school inside the squatted building…
A. Turkey’s new tactics
There is a report – uncorroborated – that the parents of two children, who arrived by boat on Rhodes just over a month back and are now at the refugee centre there, have being prevented from re-joining them by the Turkish authorities. The parents – Kurdish refugees – have tried seven times to get to Rhodes, but on each occasion have been forced to turn back by the Turkish coast guard. The parents have since been told by the Turkish authorities that the only way their family will be reunited is if the children are returned to Turkey. The standoff continues.
It is not known how many other families have been threatened in this way by the Turkish authorities.
B. Conditions inside a “hotspot”
As of last Sunday, refugees who arrive on the Greek islands are imprisoned before their deportation. The official name for these prisons is “hotspots”, though police, visitors and inmates all refer to them as prisons. The prisoners (refugees) have a legal right to apply for asylum, but so far have had great difficulty in lodging their requests and local police appear not to know anything about the refugees’ rights.
(See picture, below, of notice issued to them by Greek authorities; also, video above.)
Moreover, it has been revealed by the refugee solidarity group on Chios that these refugees are being made to pay to go to the prisons. The latest group of refugees were brought into the Vial prison on Chios by bus, which they also had to pay for.
The refugees at the prison on Chios are being fed through a fence – see image below – as the food given to them within the prison is either inedible or insufficient.
Independent volunteers on Chios have been harrassed when visiting the “hotspot” to bring food, and have been forbidden from talking with inmates. (Click on links to see vivid description of what has been happening there.)
Statement from Soli Cafe:
The implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, currently happening in Greece and Bulgaria, has gone ahead with scant regard for human rights and dignity. It breaches the Geneva convention for refugees, the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, according to human rights lawyers and charities.
Automatic deportations of immigrants are illegal. Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia director has stated that “Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and migrants, and any return process predicated on its being so will be flawed, illegal and immoral”. Human Rights Watch’s executive director said the EU’s deal with Turkey represents “a disturbing disregard for international law covering the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants”.
Many of us have already witnessed breaches of national and international law, committed against people moving across borders. We’ve been fighting against this for months and years. But now there is a whole new dimension of violations. Even the diplomatic and reticent UNHCR has noticed and partly withdrawn its cooperation with European states.
All of the groups supporting refugees on their flight, especially in Greece, have to decide how to react to these developments. We will do so most effectively by acting together. We have to find a way to keep supporting refugees and to apply pressure on the European governments to break the deal with Turkey and to improve the situation of all people searching for a safe future.
This is an urgent appeal to all refugee-supporting groups, to all independent volunteers, to all media and to every European civilian, to no longer tolerate the breaking of laws and the maltreatment of migrants by European authorities. Do not look away from what is going on.
Fight against it, fight together and fight purposefully.
Martiron 3,Chios 821 00, Greece
Note: Here is a mailing list and announcement page for radical action against borders: https://actionsagainstborders.wordpress.com/mailinglists/
More reports from Vial prison (and Ritsona): http://insurrectionnewsworldwide.com/2016/03/27/greece-beyond-eidomeni-human-warehouses-squalid-conditions-in-chios-ritsona/