The closing of Moria: a colonialist demand

Following the recent news about the Greek government’s intention to transfer all the people trapped on the islands to the mainland and to close the camps on Lesvos (Moria), Chios (Vial) and Samos (Vathi), we want to send you our reflections from NBK. All of us on Lesvos have, on at least some occasion, called for Moria camp to be closed. But this is no moment for celebration.

The announcement suggests that the camps will be replaced by new facilities on the mainland and on the islands [http://tiny.cc/bd6ogz]. These will be closed detention centres, likely in isolated spaces far from public view. Meanwhile, 20,000 among those currently on the islands will be transferred to the mainland.

When we call for the closure of Moria, it is to reaffirm that people are being locked up without crime, without accusation and without trial; and that they are being subjected to enormous violence. There is no victory when Moria’s closure means that the next people who cross these waters will find a new camp model, as the Greek government intends: centres where a prison-like regime will apply, as well as a fast-track administrative process – clearly and surely contrary to international legislation for the protection of asylum seekers – aimed at speeding up deportation processes.

Perhaps the living standards will be better in these detention centres, or for the 20,000 moved to the mainland. A bigger and more beautiful prison, where they can walk through a large courtyard, have more bathrooms and showers, and better food. But to denounce Moria and demand better living standards in new camps is to align yourself with those who are perpetrating this violence. It is to accept the established framework, in which all these people remain “others”. A colonial narrative is maintained, in our collective imagination and in reality, because it makes clear who has the right to human rights and who is the object of decision (and doubt) about their humanity.

NBK reaffirms that all these people, for whom we are here, are survivors of serious crises generated by our way of life and “our policies”. And yet they have been arrested and imprisoned.

We can only ask for the closure of Moria if we demand the immediate freedom of all of those inside. May they be free people to settle wherever they believe that their life can flourish. Their future cannot depend on administrative strategies that have been decided by criteria of who is the ‘enemy’ (of a white, Christian and heterosexual Europe… that does not really exist).

We don’t want all these people to be moved to closed, pre-departure centers, or to larger, more comfortable prisons. We want their right to free movement to be recognised!

Safe Passage!
Immediate closure of all hotspots!
No human being is illegal!
Open The Borders!

Only the People can save the People!

17. November

One year ago the people of Lesvos were given an award: the John McCain Award for Leadership in Public Service; which was presented at the 10th Annual International Safety Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia on November 17th. The people of Lesbos earned it “in recognition of their hospitality to the thousands of refugees and migrants who landed on the island,” said Cindy McCain, wife of the late Senator.

I doubt it’s an honor to be given that award, knowing who the late John S. McCain was!
I doubt that it is an honor when it is given to you in the framework of the Annual International Security Forum!
What I have no doubt about is the people of Greece: the people. The mayor of Lesbos at the time, Spyros Galinos, called the award “international recognition of the sacrifice, courage and real solidarity of the people of Lesbos, who shook the international community for the way they responded to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis of 2015”. And in addition to declaring that he would not come to receive it because it belonged to all the residents of Lesbos, he extended it to all the people of Greece for their attitude towards refugees.

The prize was collected by a group of scouts – always willing to help out: in this case not to embarrass the widow of McCain after the mayor’s refusal to come to the presentation.

NBK agrees with Mr. Galinos, as long as we ignore the thousands of disgusting Nazis and fascists who try to make life impossible for people on the move by harassing, insulting or assaulting them. We agree with the former mayor whenever we remember that, after 2015, Europe forced Greece not to be so kind to the refugees, and the government complied by creating and maintaining camps such as Moria in Lesbos, Vial in Chios, Vathi in Samos, and so on, where Human Rights and the Geneva Convention are empty words; and the bureaucracy around asylum claims is created to be so intricate and incomprehensible that it makes many people despair, desist from their request for help and decide to return to their countries to face death, or attempt suicide here in Greece.
Mr. Galinos was right: the response of the Greek people to the crisis, on both the islands and on the mainland, was exceptional. And it must be valued. Many Greeks received and welcomed all those who were fleeing, as they have done for at least the last 20 years. Even before the current “crisis”, Greece has served as a first entry point for people fleeing violence. This was evident, for example, during the war against the Taliban, during which Greece was an entry zone to Europe in the flight of civilians. The exodus from different countries and realities continued through these lands without posing problems, until Europe decided to close the borders with Greece and let them deal with it alone, in the middle of the deep economic crisis in which it found itself.
But whether it was welcoming them to the islands, creating the first support camps in their transit through the continent, or occupying abandoned buildings in Exarchia – the squats – and preparing them for these people, the people intervened instead of waiting for the crisis to be resolved by the big organizations. People saving people! A model of intervention different from the one we have always seen in the news. A model far removed from that of those large refugee camps where people are treated as if they were stupid and incapable, and where the money remains on the journey between those who give it and those who should receive it. A model far removed from that of stupidity (let me use this word to describe it) of UNHCR and other international bodies.
The Greek people intervened with a model in which these people were not separated from society but were included in it. This made it possible for them to remain as protagonists of their own stories, and not as objects of charitable attention (and study). It made it possible for them, while their transit between flight and the granting of asylum lasted, to maintain their capacities and even acquire others, instead of feeling stupid queuing up for everything while some white Europeans fix their day looking at them from above.

Ms. Cindy McCain added in announcing the award, that “in awarding this award to the people of Lesbos, we recognize the sacrifices that so many ordinary people have made to bring security, comfort and hope to refugees in desperate need. My sincere hope is that this award will also serve to inspire others, wherever they are in the world, to stand up for what is right”.
We, the NBK activists, join you in your request… and specify it – from our standpoint:
Europe schould not give a single euro for military solutions in the management of migratory flows; hopefully this crisis will be a separate point on how to intervene in the face of humanitarian disasters; hopefully, humanitarian aid and solidarity will no longer be criminalised!

…May history begin to write ‘The People’!

Let us accept diversity, let’s not confront it!
Let us demand other forms of intervention!
Let us call for the demilitarisation of borders, of aid… and of the world!

Only the People save the People!
No human being is illegal!
Open The Borders!

“Sometimes I think drowning in the sea is better than living in Moria”

“Sometimes I think drowning in the sea is better than living in Moria”

This was said by a young man at food distribution, while talking about the situation in Camp Moria this week.

It is no longer new or unusual to write about the abusive conditions and overcrowding in Moria camp, or about the coming winter, which its enforced residents must soon face. It happens every year, and once again Moria has reached new levels of overcrowding. Last winter, around 7400 people were living in the camp – a record high at the time. Now it is double that. The statistics of the “Ministry of Citizen Protection” show that about 14,700 people are currently condemned to live in Moria – over five times its’ official capacity of 2840.

Since there are still a lot of people arriving on the islands, in October alone Moria’s population increased by around 2000 people. Authorities responded by transferring 1700 people to the mainland, but in the same period there were over 3300 new arrivals to the island. It’s clear that the usual policy of transferring people to the mainland and forgetting about them doesn’t work (without even talking about the human rights abuses that occur in these mainland camps). Reform or drastic change is needed to improve the situation on the islands. Without this, it seems likely to be the worst winter we have seen on the island, the latest in a chain of constantly worsening winters. But it is obvious that the European Union not even trying to improve the situation. The EU creates it. The EU creates it on purpose.

Despite all the evidence, all the stories of people on the move, EU authorities still believe these abuses will discourage people from crossing the borders: “Lesvos is a prison, Moria is a hell, so don’t come here, don’t even try.” The conditions here should come as no surprise, they are the direct result of the EU Turkey deal, and the policy aiming to send people back before they reach the mainland or other European countries.

We continue to report on the conditions, knowing that they are created on purpose, to stay informed, and to stay angry. To hold the authorities to account, even in the face of their indifference.

Overcrowding in Moria means conditions are getting even worse. Many people live in simple summer tents, which provide no shelter against the miserable cold rain and wind of the winter. In many cases, people do not even have blankets. People are crammed together in tiny, unliveable spaces – a four-person family reported being given just 4 square meters to sleep and live.

The days in the camp are full of waiting. Waiting for food, toilet, showers, money, doctors, and of course the asylum service. To use the toilet, the wait is up to 30 minutes. To eat something, it can be 3 hours – but even then you are not guaranteed to receive your small ration of food. And if you have an appointment in the town or at the Asylum Office, of course you will have to skip your food that day, because you cannot wait in line. One person now living outside of the camp explained his health problems prevent him from standing in line for that long – so it was impossible for him to stay in the camp, because he could not receive food there.

With the 90€ every asylum seeker should receive per month, people try to cover the gaps in this broken system, for example by buying additional food or bus tickets. But people now arriving on Lesvos have been told they must wait until April to receive this small cash assistance. So those people who know the structures the least, must somehow cope the whole winter without the urgently needed money.

The situation is worsening, as it worsens every winter. This year we are seeing new levels of overcrowding, new cruelties in the financial assistance program, and the continuation of incompetence and indifference from the authorities.

Moria is hell.

A hell created by the European Union.

A hell created on purpose.

It is not about improving (or pretending to improve) the situation in this hell. It is about closing camps like Moria and enable the freedom of movement. For everyone!

Love and rage,
Your NBK crew

Several protests follow Fire in Moria

On Sunday 30th September this year, a fire broke out in a housing container in Moria camp, due to a short circuit. One or two people were killed as a result. The police attacked spontaneous protests in the camp with teargas, and didn’t hesitate to also shoot teargas in to the quiet living areas of the camp, and the densely populated olive grove.

In response, an antifascist demonstration took place on the next day, with about 200 people taking part. While slightly more than half of the participants were locals, the rest were migrants, among them some of those who have been trapped on the island for years, as it is common practice here. Before the demonstration, police tried to stop people from Moria taking part, by closing the gates of the camp.

The demonstration was held in the streets of Mytilini. The participants demanded the abolition of the camps, freedom of movement for every human being and the destruction of the fascist reality established, mainly, by the member states of the European Union.
After the demonstration a large number of participants gathered to discuss follow up protests.

In response to the police action of closing the camp and making it impossible for people to join the demonstration, a march was organised one week later. The route started at Sappho Square and ended at Moria camp, approximately 8 kilometres away. Under the midday sun, around 200 people took part, carrying the protest up towards the gates of the camp. With chants in Farsi, Greek and English the participants demanded freedom of movement, self-determination, and the abolition of the military-organised detention camps. At first, the police just followed the protest march without interfering. This changed when the demonstration left the busy main road towards Thermi, and turned into the smaller road to the camp. More than one kilometre away from the camp, the road was blocked by police chains which forced the demonstration to stop. It was declared that no further movement in the direction of the camp would be allowed. While calmly discussing how to respond to the cops, the protests blocked the street for about an hour. Afterwards the people decided to return to Mytilini. The march found an end at Ermou (the main shopping street in Mytilini) with a loud rally.

We hope the protests will not be discouraged or frustrated by repression or a lack of visible results, but will continue, and grow into a strong, united struggle.

Another round of show trials to silence resistance:

Last week, once again, a trial based on empty accusations was held in the court of Mytilini. 13 people accused of occupying public spaces and resisting authority have been tried, two years after the events themselves.

In the autumn of 2017, police violently put an end to a six week occupation denouncing terrible conditions in Moria camp. The protestors were charged, in the face of excessive police action against them. Now, twelve have been deservedly acquitted of the charges brought against them by police, and the thirteenth given a three month sentence for resisting authority.

NBK supported the defendants two years ago at the protest, and also these last days with food during the preparation and on the day of the trial.

This trial, against people who protest against the inhumane living conditions and asylum procedure on the Aegean Islands, is no isolated case. Just last May there was a trial against 122 people, arrested on Saphus Square in April 2018, after severe attacks by fascists while police watched.

In both cases, after several hours of testifying in court, the court declared them innocent beyond all doubt. Once again the Greek police, their commanders, and their lines of action were not only left in question, but dragged completely though the mud. There are enough occasions already when their actions have been put into doubt by the courts.

In so many trials, it has been painfully obvious that the prosecutor and the police cannot present any valid evidence, that actually there is no case, that no one should have gone to court, that no one should have spent months in prison for their actions… That instead, the police should examine their actions in the face of these protests, which are protected by the Greek Constitution. That these actions ought to set off alarm bells, for the state and whole society.

We denounce the habitual actions of the police towards these people who protest against their treatment by the authorities. We can recall so much repression against protests in Moria. We do not recall any actions in their favour or even in their defence, only actions against the protesters.

This comes as no surprise, when the police (already a repressive body, defending the interests of the established power and not of the people who suffer from it) are infiltrated by Nazis, which happens not only in Greece, but in many European states now. It follows that this repression, even in the face of peaceful protests, is what people face day to day in Lesvos and in other islands of the Aegean Sea.

We do not resign ourselves to accept as everyday the habitual criminalization of protests and solidarity, the persecution of migrants who seek refuge and are protesting for their rights in a dehumanizing context, and the persecution of people in solidarity. We will continue to fight against these actions, and denounce the savage repression.

We know that all this is being ‘normalized’ in the subconsciousness of many people, here and in the whole of Europe. We know that these actions have the protection of the European Union’s rules, regulations and course of action on migration. We know that European right-wing, far-right, fascist and Nazi groups (acting from political parties, military, police, paramilitary and parapolice corps) take advantage of these ideological lines marked in pursuit of security (a security for hetero-patriarchal capitalism, not for us) to attack the different and the dissidents.

We will not stop denouncing this criminalization and shouting to the citizens of Europe, to wake up and rise up against oppression.
To fight to resist current European political lines, to respect all people and protect everyone’s dignity and freedom.

Stop show trials!
Close all hotspots!
No human is illegal!
Open The Borders!

Demonstration in Solidarity with Sea Watch

On 2nd of July evening, an assembly of about 75 people gathered in front of the Frontex vessel Valiant in the port of Mytilini and marching downtown.
With slogans and banners they demonstrated against the arrest of the Sea Watch Captain Carola Rackete and demanded her freedom.

We were relieved when we learned during the demonstration about her release. Still, the criminalization of sea rescue continues. Saving lives is a duty not a crime. The European Union dumps this duty to the so-called Libyan Coast guard, militia groups that either do not react on calls – leaving humans to drown – or brings the people back to a war-torn country where they face maltreatment and imprisonment or are sold on slave markets. In some cases, people returned are eventually killed, as yesterdays events show: At least forty migrants died and about 80 were injured through an airstrike on a detention camp in the outskirts of Tripoli. Since 2003, these detention centres are financially supported by the European Union and provided with material and have even been visited by an EU delegation.

While Carola is for now released from detention, the people who were on board of the Sea Watch 3 are not yet in safety and the Sea Watch 3 is still confiscated. Many other people involved in sea rescue are still facing trials: At the same time, the Juventa crew and captain Pia Klemm is brought before Italian courts for saving thousands of lives.

But it is not only white, European sea rescuers who face persecution. The criminalization and persecution of migrants who have less international visibility is even much worse. On the Greek Islands, people fleeing to Europe are arrested from rubber dinghies on a daily basis for no other reason than driving their own boat or calling for help in case of accidents. After months of pre-trial detention, in a farce of trial most of them are literally convicted for hundreds of years in prison, that they usually have to serve as a 25 or 10 years prison sentences. Their lives are apparently considered worthless, they are criminalized just because they were born in a non-European country.

The release of Carola is a great success against the EU policy of isolation, deliberate left-to-die policies and criminalization of solidarity, but no one is free, until everyone is free.

Stop criminalization of people who save lives!

Stop the criminalization of people saving their lives!

Enable safe passages!

The Border remains deadly

– seven more people have died on the way to Lesvos.

Yesterday was again one of the days on Lesvos, when we don‘t know what to do. How to react to the message, that makes us cry. This morning in front of us, just a few kilometers off shore another shipwreck happened. The tragedy led to the death of seven people. As many others before, they risked their lifes together with 50 other people in a small boat which didn’t make it all the way and sank.

This shipwreck is no accident. The people who died are victims of
Fortress Europe, which still forces migrants to take this dangerous
route. There is no legal alternative to come.

In the same time, when people are dying due to this border, civil rescue teams face
repression, and are blocked and accused of working together with smugglers. With the same people who use the European migration politics to earn money off the desperation of people and don’t hesitate to overload tiny boats with 60 and more people.

Borders kill

love and rage
nbk

Today we are relieved to report the acquittal of 122 people on trial after the fascist attacks of 23rd April 2018. As the criminalisation of protest on Lesvos continues, this is a moment of respite.

The night of the attacks stands in our memories as an example of extreme hatred and violence against peaceful protestors. Stones and firecrackers were thrown at a group of Moria’s residents who had settled in the square to demand better living conditions and freedom of movement. After 8 hours of these attacks, 122 protestors were arrested, 12 of them children, for false, trumped up charges including illegal occupation of public property and revolt with physical force.

These people should never have been arrested and charged. The right to protest belongs to all of us. We celebrate that this particular weight has been lifted from the shoulders of those accused, and we continue to fight for more than the bare minimum.

Love and rage always,
Your NBK crew

Fascists set up anti-migrant cross at Lesvos shore

During the night of March 3rd 2019, a mob of around fifty fascists, led by a
Chios fascist, erected a 10m high metallic cross on the rocks of Apelli, Mytilene.
The atmosphere was heated and hostile, and the fascists were pushing each
other with enraged screams.
Immediately after the installation of the cross, thirty-six of them were arrested
and charged with ‘arbitrary occupation of public property and erecting an
illegal constructionʼ.
This illegal construction is a provocation. The cross is set at the shore, in an
area protected for archaeological reasons. Boasts arriving in the harbour will
have an immediate view of it.
Apelli is a spot prevalent in the history of Lesvos, being associated with the
executions of Greek civilians by the German Nazis during WWII. Fascists setting
up a sign at the exact spot is simply disgusting. The fascist act of “marking
oneʼs territory” is also just one peak of a series of racist and anti-migrant
events.
In the last years, Apelli became an area where migrants who are stuck on
Lesvos used to spend time and swim regularly. Local fascists were fighting
them away often, and even removed seating facilities to make the space less
comfortable. Simultaneously, paintings of white crosses appeared on several
public places frequented by migrants. They were used to mark the areas as
white and Christian territory.
In the summer of 2018, local fascists set up a 2m high cement cross on the
rocks of Apelli. Thirty-two fascists were subsequently arrested and charged. A
discussion broke out, in which many people and an NGO demanded the
structure be removed by the authorities as it offended migrants and abused a
Christian symbol.
Just one month later, the cross was found destroyed.
The discussion shifted, now focusing on the legitimisation of the destruction of
a Christian symbol. Fascists and conservative Christians aligned. The original
reasons for the erection were pushed out of focus.
On 3rd March 2019, the fascists set up the new, larger cross at the same
location. This time, there has been no public outrage and only brief medial
coverage.
Since then, fascists patrol Apelli day and night. A group of them constantly
guard the cross in fear of another destruction, and new ornamentation,decoration and blessings are constantly added to the cross, now including two
flag poles, a plaque, and various forms of art.
The fascistsʼ actions are accompanied by a public discourse that turns more
and more right wing, spreading hostility against the migrant population.
Fascists succeed in more collusion with the conservative Christian community,
instrumentalising the Christian religion and its various symbols. They
hallucinate that their culture is endangered by migrants coming to the island
across the Aegean. Successfully they distorted and warped the original
discussion of the erection of a fascist symbol with the intention to intimidate
and deter migrants, to a discussion about disrespect in relation to Christianity
and its religious iconography. Apparently, even the illegal construction and
installation of a 10m high structure at an archaeologically protected site is
tolerated by authorities.
Another example is a weekly military circus that happens at Sappho Square. For
years, every Sunday, the military have a celebration, raising the Greek national
flag. Recently, fascists invented a story that migrants were trying to attack the
event. This simply is a lie. It never had any true source or foundation of reality.
But it worked. Since the fake news spread, significantly more conservative
Greeks and fascists are attending the weekly celebration in order to protect
their event, and at the same time “their culture”. This is a dangerous
development, especially considering that at the same time migrants are
constantly threatened and attacked by fascists, and that these events do not
get sufficient public attention. A celebration of Nowruz (Persian New Year) on
21st March 2019, which was planned on a beach near to Apelli, could not take
place, for fear of fascist attacks.
Last year in April, migrants protested in Mytilene city centre after an Afghani
died due to lack of medical treatment in Moria Camp [https://noborderkitchenlesvos.noblogs.org/post/2018/04/28/pogrom-night-in-mytilini/]. The
people, among them children, were attacked by two-hundred fascists, who
threw bottles, stones, and fireworks, whilst screaming “burn them alive”.
Several people were injured and had to be treated in hospital.
Fascists parade themselves as victims, disguising the fact that they are in fact
the perpetuators. Their lies curry favour with the conservative Greek
population, strengthening and encouraging racists beliefs and attitudes.
We as No Border Kitchen stand in solidarity with the migrants and the anti-
fascists on Lesvos island. With concern, we observe the reinforcing fascist and
anti-migrant atmosphere. With rage, we take to the streets with shouts and chants. With passion, we maintain the work we do, establishing gestures of
solidarity and practically supporting the people on the move.

Fight borders. Fight nations.