Archive for the 'greece' Category

30
Oct
09

Escaping from Afghanistan – The story of an afghan refugee Part 1

The following story was experienced and written down by Azadi, a refugee from Afghanistan I met in Greece this summer:

My name is Azadi and I want to tell you my story. I am from the north of Afghanistan. My story starts with my father’s job. My father is a general in the Afghan army. For 15 years he has been working for his country and his people. In fact, that was the most important for him: to support his people. He never worked for some political party. He is an honest general, a normal human. He was one of the only ones who were really interested to support his people and not the government or the Taliban. Every year during the time my father was working as a general, there were different governmental parties.
After 9/11 the USA and the NATO decided to come to Afghanistan to start a new war. Its their way of making money: to kill people, destroy Afghanistan support the drug business. At one point my father wrote a paper to the president of Afghanistan and asked for leaving his job in the army. He said at this point he can not help his people. He said: This war is not for peace or for humanity. And continued: Because I don’t want to be a slave of war I want to ask you to accept my retirement.
After some days we receive a letter of the defence ministry written in English and Farsi and signed by the president of Afghanistan the defence ministre and an American commander. They asked my father in the letter to work with them. They promised him money and power. But my father refused. He explained that he wants to live a life as other Afghans and not the life of a slave like the President.
One week later, the US defence ministry sent another letter to my father asking him again to work with them and that it would be a great chance for him. Again my father thanked them for the offer but rejected.
Some weeks later at 10 o’clock in the morning my father told me he has some work to do. My father still working as a general had bodyguards and I did not much worry. At ten o’clock at night I called him to tell him that the family is waiting for im to eat dinner. He said I shouldn’t worry and that he is coming a little bit later. So we started eating. But at 12 o’clock he was still not there and my mother started worrying. I was worried too. In our village it’s dark as in te forest at night and very dangerous. So I called him again and asked him where he is. At this point he became upset and assured me that he will come soon. In this night my mother couldn’t sleep. I told her not to worry and that he will come in the morning. But I feared the whole time that something had happened because of the presence of the US government in Afghanistan. My mother replied: Allah knows better.
In the morning when I woke up, my mother told me to call him to come home. When I called him this time his mobile was off. This moment was the worst in our life. We knew that our father was waking up every day at eight. So where was he? What happened? I decided to go to the police but they did not let me inside. Instead they said: Go to the Americans, ask them for help. They were the same police men who were always very kind to me during the time my father was still in his position. No they wouldn’t even let me pass. I went to the Defence ministry. But as they also refused to let me inside, I went to the main base of the Americans at the Bagram Military Airport. There they said they don’t know him and that he was not working with them. In the end I called my uncle who had the same job as my father but also working with the government and the US. When he recognized me he said that he has no time and that he does not wan me to call him again. I cried. Nobody helped me. What was I supposed to do now? I had to act since I was the oldest son in the family. But life went on. Bitterly. We cried every day. We got sick. My small brothers and sisters constantly asked for our father. Days were going like years, weeks like a century. After three weeks the defence ministry sent a letter to our house. Inside it was written that we have exactly 24 hour to leave the country. It said: only go with the cloths you wear on your body. Don’t ask for any permission to take something else from your home. My mother decided that we have to go. The army dropped us near the border to Pakistan. “Now you go straight tp Pakistan. There is no way to come back. If you do anyways we put you in prison. When I went to the bank to get some money and close our account the bank manager informed me that the government already closed our accounts and he is not allowed to give us even one cent. Luckily my mother had some little savings. So we went to Pakistan. I stayed there with my family for three months. It was hard because I had to work a lot to support our big family. That’s why I decided to leave for Greece. But since I had no money to pay the trafficking mafia I called a friend of my father. He got very angry when he heard what happened to us. I told him I need 5000 US $ to go to Greece. He is the president of a political party and the leader of the opposition in Afghanistan. He sent me the money and I started the journey. I risked my life on the way but now I am in Greece since over a year. I miss my father and my mother. I know she is very strong. Strong as my god my sisters and brothers.

Part 2 see below: From Pakistan to Greece – the story of an afghan refugee

15
Sep
09

From Pakistan to Greece – the story of an Afghan refugee part 2

It was the 19th of January, my birthday. It was freezing. We were six persons in a small boat. The ocean water looked very dangerous. At one point, he youngest of us, a 14-year old boy, wanted to change his place in the boat. He slipped and fell down into the water. He couldn’t swim. Somehow we brought him back to the boat. After that happened, I was scared to death. One of my friend said ‘If I arrive in Greece I will kill one cow. The other one said: ‘If I arrive, I kill two cows’. But none of them killed any of the cows so far.

Azadi is laughing and with him the deep wrinkles that highlight his eyes like a corona the sun. Like many other refugees who get stranded on the Greek island Lesvos, Azadi escaped the war in Afghanistan. When he arrived, he was 19. That was one year ago. Because of the ethnic diversity in Afghanistan and his long journey to the fortress Europe, Azadi speaks many languages: Pashtu, Urdu, Farsi, Hindi, Greek, Turkish and English. I asked him about his long journey from Afghanistan to Greece. Because he escaped Afganistan with his mother and little brother several years ago to keep on living in Pakistan, this is where the story, that he is willing to share, starts.

If you cross the border from Pakistan to Iran, it means you risk your life. If the border patrol sees you, they have the permission to shoot you immediately. When the mafia took us in a truck from Pakistan to Teheran, the capital of Iran, we were 60 people in one truck. Sometimes they put 80 people inside. It took 24 hours. There was no food, no water. Nothing. You had to sit the whole time. You can’t stand. You are not allowed to ask for anything. No moving. No toilet. There were kids and women. A two year old child died in the truck. If the police would have caught us, they deport us back to Afghanistan. When we arrived near Teheran, the mafia dropped us. From there we had to walk to the border. The mafia said: ‘Be quick, run!’ First I couldn’t walk because I had to sit the whole time. I tried to, but I fell down. I was walking with other refugees for 40 hours. Some people walk one week. We had a small bottle of water for six people.
In Van, next to the Border, they put us in another truck. This time we were 70 to 80 people. Most of the people die here, on the way from Van, at the Turkish-Iranian border, to Istanbul, because it’s a very hard way. It takes more than 30 hours to arrive in Istanbul. In the big city the mafia releases you, if you can pay. I paid. But there were people who had not enough money. All the time, the mafia asks for money. During the traffic they say, the police is waiting outside, we have to pay them. And you have to because you are in the middle of nowhere, there is no place to go, no water, no food. And also on the borders you have to pay. To come from Pakistan to Greece, it cost me around 5000 US Dollar. But they are not only rich people who flee the country. In general, if people have too many problems, poor or rich, they start selling their lives. They sell whatever they can, they collect money from their families.
The refugees who did not have enough money in Istanbul were beaten up by the mafia who gave a telephone to call their families and to ask if they can send money over. They keep you as long as you can’t pay.

There is almost no tone in his voice left. It sounds as if he would get not enough oxygen. He looks to the ground. He says nothing. Sometimes for minutes. The struggle he fights is visible on his face. It is as if something would pull him back telling me all this. Then unexpectedly, he gathers some strength, continues telling about the last part of his journey. The part they travelled all by themselves. Almost.

From Turkish mainland to Lesvos it took us five hours. At the western coast of Turkey the mafia told us ‘you have to go to the lights that you can see on the other side over there, this is Greece’. When we left with our boat, the Turkish navy saw us on the ocean. One of them called us, he asked: ‘Hey brother where do you go?’ We said ‘We go to Greece!’ and then ‘See you, bye bye’. They just let us go. The next police we saw was not Frontex. It was the Greek navy. They came and said: ‘Hey you, stupid,’ and they used other bad words, ‘where do you go?’ We said: ‘We need help, we want to go to Greece’. And then they said: ‘Go and die, we can not help you, go back to Turkey’. We said: ‘Okay’, and we turned the boat. So we went back and tried it again. The Greek navy came again and said: ‘Why are you here we told you to go back to Turkey’. ‘Yes’, we said, ‘but we want to go to Greece’. This time they took us, called the Pagani detention centre to ask if they have space for six afghan men. Then they took us to the hospital to x-ray and at two o’clock in the night they dropped us in Pagani. We knew about Pagani before. But we thought it’s a refugee camp with the facilities for refugees. We didn’t know it’s a prison. Pagani has to be closed because it is not a welcome centre. It’s a prison. There are no facilities for refugees. Even people who are here legally can’t do nothing.

Released migrants at Pagani waiting for the bus that brings them to the so called freedom

Released migrants at Pagani waiting for the bus that brings them to the so called freedom


The prison gate opens and one by one runs for the bus. note the amount of luggage.

The prison gate opens and one by one runs for the bus. note the amount of luggage.


The big joy - celebrating of released migrants in the bus

The big joy - celebrating of released migrants in the bus

Azadi was kept three weeks in the prison Pagani before he was released to an open camp for minors on the same island. The open camp is a former hospital for mental diseases in the middle of a forest, one hour by bus from Mytilini and one more hour by foot. In contrast to Pagani, the open camp in Aiassos is a paradise. An isolated paradise. The hundred young men who live here are free to leave the house whenever they want. They are on an island anyways. They can’t go nowhere. There are courses in Greek and sometimes in German, depending the volunteer’s countries of origin. Several volunteers, a Greek lawyer, two afghan cooks and a security officer are working there. Interpreters are lacking. There is a computer room. But most of the time the internet is not working. There is also a sports room. But right now it is stuffed with forty bunk beds that were ordered for new refugees who arrived recently in Lesvos. In very rare cases the refugees can work in Aiassos or nearby. Usually during the olive harvest. Most of them hang around in the house or the huge garden. They wait. For something. Azadi stayed one year in the open camp.

You get information about what you can do after prison from your friends. In Azadi you have a lot of free time, you talk. When I got the informations, I realized that this country is really bad for refugees. It is not a safe place for us. No place where you can think about a future. I have a friend from Afghanistan with very good education. He came to Greece to go to university. He got political asylum. But there is no way. He can’t pay his accommodation here. There is nobody who helps him, who shows him around even. They don’t care for you. You have to do everything by yourself. Even the organisations for refugees do not care really. They maybe tell you: Look you have to make it like this or like that but they don’t care in the end. Nobody here provides nothing for refugees. Even migrants who have the possibility to work, like him, who have political asylum, can’t find work. In the end even if you get the citizenship here, they can send you back.

Azadi has not been deported back. Maybe it was because he is able to communicate in many languages. Maybe because he is one of the few who got the political asylum. Maybe because he was lucky in unlucky times. He knows that being lucky is a condition that can vanish like a little boat in the big ocean sometimes does. Some of his friends have been hindered on their way. He knows their stories like his own.

In Greece when they try to deport you back to your country, the Greek police sends you to Alexandroupolis usually, close to the Turkish border. Then the Greek border patrol opens some fire in the night. At this time nobody notices that we are going to be sent back. They are scared of the media, of the Turkish army. With the fire the Turkish border patrol understands something happened. So they come and take us and sent us back with the plane to Afghanistan. But you have to pay your ticket. If you can’t pay, you have to go to a Turkish prison. I know people who had to stay in prison because of that for two years. Because they couldn’t pay their own deportation-ticket.

One year in Lesvos. Has he really been here the whole time? What happened during this one year? Did he try to go on, to reach another European country?

I decided to go to Athens and from there with the plane to Italy. I had faked papers. The police caught me on the airport and I had stay in prison for six days. But believe me, there is no other way than fake papers. You have to risk, even though we know that the police catches us many times and it is possible that they send us back to our country, there is no other chance. Now Greece has a new law that if you get caught at the airport with fake papers, you will stay for three months in prison. But there are certain days were it is easier for migrants to cross borders. Usually the tourist season is good or christmas.

30
Aug
09

no border protest in mytilini

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Slowly the no border activists are leaving Lesvos. Officially the camp is ending today.The detention centre Pagani is not closed yet. However many refugees have been released in the last days or transfered to another new open camp next to the Mytilini airport where they can move freely. (Addition by the author: this open camp has been closed down by local authorities around one week later.)

No-border activists in the port of Mytellini (Photo: A. Steinke)

No-border activists in the port of Mytellini (Photo: A. Steinke)

Protest against the practices of the European border Patrol FRONTEX (photo: A. Steinke)

Protest against the practices of the European border Patrol FRONTEX (photo: A. Steinke)

http://www.youtube.com/user/noborderlesvos#play/uploads/0/vVNCKE_DgXI

28
Aug
09

No freedom of movement- The refugee prison of Pagani in Greece

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The borders are invisible for them. If they cross them, they are hidden under trucks, inside the cargo platform, squeezed in little boats or walking over mountain passes. They risk their lifes to live because they can’t in their own countries. They escape from war, torture and starvation. They who are called les “sans-papiers” (the ones without papers) who have not been detected by the european bureaucracy cross borders without legal papers that they might never get, their families pay thousands of Dollars to brokers who organise vehicles and contacts for them. In the trucks they put plastic bags over their heads in order not to get spotted by the control stick that the border patrol puts into the truck to check the oxygen. In the boats they share the little space with dozens of other refugees. Many of them die on their way. Alone in the Aegean Sea 1.100 refugees died in the last 20 years. Others who get caught by the european border patrol like FRONTEX on their long journey to Europe are usually deported back immidiately to their countries of origin where the the journey begins again. The ones who make it to the desired fortress of Europe are stranded in places such as the island Lesbos in the Aegean Sea of Greece. Two kilometres from Mitilini, the island capital female, male and minor refugees are brought to Pagani, the so called “welcome camp”, a detention centre where they are arrested untill they get the “white paper” and are registred in the EURODAC system. Only with this paper, that announces their deportation back to their countries of origin not later than in a month, they are able to leave the island with a ferry that brings them to Athens. There some of the refugees apply for asylum that is given by the greek state in 0,6 percent of all cases. By becoming entangled in bureaucratic processes, two refugees died in the last month in the Alien Department. Although officially the refugees are supposed to get imprisoned one week before the “white paper” is handed out to them, some of them stay several month.

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Physical boundaries (photo: A. Steinke)

Physical boundaries (photo: A. Steinke)

When we arrived in Pagani with around hundred other participants of the no border camp in Lesbos, dozens of minor refugees press themselves against grids of the prison window. They scream for freedom, hold up transparents, wave their hands.

The borders of (neo-)liberalism (Photo: A. Steinke)

The borders of (neo-)liberalism (Photo: A. Steinke)

Against the criminalisation of migration (photo: A. Steinke)

Against the criminalisation of migration (photo: A. Steinke)

The room at the first floor is inhabited by young boys from Afghanistan, Somalia and Palestine, all under 18. The minors are supposed to be in the open camp of Aiassos. But there is no space left there. Some of the minors talk English. We talk to them, look into their room. 160 people are living here. It smells like rotten matrasses, fear and bodies who haven’t been washed with soap for a long while. The bunk beds have five to six stories and dirty sheets. The ones who are sick lying in them like dead bodies. It is very noisy and loud. One of the young boys says his whole family is here, the women are in the third story of the building. There is not enough space for everybody. Some are sleeping on the toilet. They ask us for medicine against headache and throat pain, for clean water, for soap for medics and they scream again and again: Freedom, freedom! They are not allowed to go out of the building. If there is somebody behaving not to the rule, the whole imprisoned community is punished, is not allowed to breathe fresh air in the patio. A former refugee tells us that sometimes they can’t leave their prison for days and if they can they are forced to return to the building after five minutes.

See the video that has been recorded inside a room of Pagani @: www.noborderlesvos09.gr/de/node/283

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We climb up their windows, talk to kids who look like adults, about their needs, destinies and families. We record and take pictures. we drum against the gate which unexpectedly all of a sudden opens. Then the police comes, forces us down the road to leave Pagani.

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Two days later we are back with the whole no border camp. Around 300-400 people come to show their solidarity with the refugees. The demonstration is blocked by riot cops who have been brought over from Athens. After around 1,5 hours a delegation group of activists, layers, doctors and photographers is left through the police blockade to see Pagani from inside, to examine ill refugees, to negotiate with the Pagani authorities for releasing the refugees, claim our demands. In the meanwhile we are outside as loud as we can be, hitting stomes against the crash barrier, speak up, fight against borders…

On the road to Pagani

On the road to Pagani

Camouflaged state control on greek soil

Camouflaged state control on greek soil

The delegation group managed to negotiote the release of three sick people who have been brought to the hospital and documented the interiour of the detention camp. Here you see the toilets.

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There were further negotiations about the release of women with small children. However, the authorities refused to free their husbands and fathers also, the women refused to be released without them and remained in Pagani.

The demonstration moved down to Mytilini as the largest demonstration seen in Mytilini for a long time, claiming and shouting again for the closure of Pagani and freedom of movement worldwide. Posters have been put up all over the streets and a visual mark was left in the city in order to break the invisibility of Pagani and to bring the issue to the centre of the city.

General information about Pagani and the no border-camp @: http://www.noborderlesvos09.gr/eng

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27
Aug
09

short information for refugees arriving at Lesvos – a contribution by NO border camp activists

Painter: Victor Gonzáles López 2007

Painter: Victor Gonzáles López 2007

You are in Mytilene on the island of Lesvos in Greece, EU.
For the next steps there are three possible ways:

Way 1: Continue the journey

You might be arrested or you register at the police station on your own. From this point, you become a “Greek case”, all other European countries will deport you to Greece if they catch you. You come to Pagani detention center. There your fingerprints will be taken. Those are stored in a computer and go to most European police stations. If you manage to arrive in another European country, they might deport you to Greece according to Dublin-II-regulations. Your detention could take up to 3 months. When you are released, you get the deportation decision, which says that you have to leave Greece within 30 days. With this you are allowed to travel in Greece, e.g. to Athens, but not Patras and Igoumenitsa and you can’t legally travel to another EU-country. This is not a travel document!

Way 2: Apply for Asylum in Greece
You actually have no chance to obtain political asylum in Greece. But, having submitted the application, you can win some more time to stay legally in Greece. Normally, you have to submit the application at the aliens police in Athens or Thessaloniki. But in a few cases, also other police departments (like Mytilene`s) accept such applications. The decision will be issued in Athens and Thessaloniki respectively.
You might be detained until the decision on your application is judged. Your fingerprints are being taken as well, see above.
If you submitted such application in Greece, you normally cannot do it again in another EU-country because you will be sent back to Greece.

Way 3: Stay illegal

If you have not been registered already, you can try to buy a ticket for the ferry to Athens or Thessaloniki (Samiotis or Zoumboulis, both on Kounturioti str. in Mytilene). To get on the ferry, it is useful to behave western-like, that means to wear jeans and T-Shirt, a travel bag or a backpack, have a fresh hair cut and so on.
From Athens or Thessaloniki, travel on to another country and do way 1 or 2 there without saying that you have been to Greece. At the moment, chances to stay are good in Norway, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, but this can change anytime.
In any case, try to get more information and help from these organizations in Athens:

Net of Immigration and Refugees
Tsamadou 13, Tel: 210-3813928

Lawyers Association of Athens, Akadimias 60, Athens

UNHCR, Taigetou 23, 210-6726462-3

Greek Council for Refugees, Solomou 25, Tel: 210-3814710

Ecumenical Refugee Program Iridanou 4a, Tel: 210-7295926




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