Freedom! Demonstration for freedom of movement and against the EU-Turkey Deal

Today we came together with several hundred of people from different countries to demonstrate for freedom of movement and against the EU-Turkey-Deal. The demonstration was organized by an alliance of refugees from Moria and local solidarity initiatives. Today we demonstrated not only on Lesvos but all over Europe and showed our solidarity with each other and everyone struggeling against Europes deadly borders.

One year has passed since the deal came into effect, one year of people suffering its consequences here on Lesvos.

Since the deal Turkey is assumed to be a „safe country“ and people can be and are continously sent back to Turkey instead of getting asylum in Europe. Of course we all know that turkey is not safe at all. In the past we already wrote about how false the assumption of Turkey as a „safe country“ is. Refugees in Turkey face long imprisonment in so called „removal-centers“ without access to a fair asylum procedure, legal support, medical care or decent living conditions. Instead of getting protection refugees are deported back to their homecountries, where most of them have to face war and persecution.

One year has passed since the implementation of the deal, one year of people being stuck on the island. one year of people suffering the horrible living conditions in the hot-spots. One year of detention, deportation, violence, hopelessness.

It is clear that the deal has to be stopped. Today we were fighting against this deal, against the suffering the EU-borders cause here on Lesvos and everywhere else in Europe and beyond. We will continue fighting here for freedom of movement, for open borders and for the right of everyone to live.

„They made me undress all my clothes [then] they beat me“ Accounts of everyday police violence in Lesbos

Police violence is omnipresent in Lesbos. It happens in the day, in the night, in the street, in the police station, in Moria prison and to people with and without papers.. Every day on this island people are controlled, harassed, humiliated insulted and beaten.

The following text is not a complete report on police violence in Lesbos and doesn’t aim to be one. Rather it attempts to give a glimpse into the everyday violence that happens here on Lesbos. All the citations are part of testimonies we collected during the last 3 month.

People that the police assumes are refugees are repeatedly controlled on the basis of the color of their skin. When they are stopped in the street they are usually asked to show their papers. We know of several people who failing to show identification were taken to the police station and there they were beaten. They were brought to a separate room in the police station that didn’t have cameras and beaten with fists, kicks and sticks. After this they were released again. At least one person was unable to walk after being severely beaten with sticks and another had his arm broken.

People are beaten even while carrying their papers. One person told us that he was arrested in Mytilini. He was not asked to show his papers but instead immediately handcuffed, pushed to the ground and beaten with elbows. Then he was brought to the police station where again he was held down to the ground and again beaten. At no point did the police ask him for his papers or tell him why he was arrested and beaten. After the beating he was released.

Another form of violence the police use is humiliation. People are being insulted and forced to undress in front of the police. A person told us his story which happened in a night in December when the temperatures dropped to zero every night. He said

„the police came with three cars and stopped me. They asked me for my papers. I showed them my papers. After they gave me back my papers. Then they told me to undress. I had to put my jacket, my trouser, all my clothes on the ground. I was only in my underwear. I was very cold. I had to stand there for two or three hours without my clothes. The policemen were looking at me and laughing. Then they told me to dress. Then they beat me. They kicked me with their boots in the back and on the legs.“

The containers where people try to cross to the mainland with are another main point where violence takes place. Most people we know that try this way were either beaten or saw their friends being beaten. Again it is similar stories of people being beaten, kicked, insulted by several police officers.

„I was trying to get to Athens in a container. […] Then the police came and arrested me. […] They pushed my head down to the ground and beat me on the head and after 10 days I still have pain in my head. They handcuffed my hands behind my back and took me to the police station with a car. They took me to a room inside of the police station. They made me undress all my clothes. I was shivering from cold. Then they started the electricity fan. First they beat me with hands and then they kicked me. Three policemen were holding me down on the ground. Two policemen were beating and kicking me in the back and legs, […] The other two people that were in the container with me were also beaten in the same way.“

While refugees face the severest and most frequent police violence supporters are also targeted. They are controlled and sometimes taken to the police station while simply walking in the street without a reason given. One female supporter was controlled on the way home:

„ They told me I have to come to the police station. […] This time it was three policemen in the car with me. In the car they asked me where I was from. I said Holland. They said they like Dutch girls. They asked me if I fuck with a condom. I didn’t reply. They asked again. Then he asked me if I was lesbian or normal.“

Many people traveling to Europe imagine it is place of justice, peace and freedom guaranteeing the human right to seek refugee. But in fact there is no justice or real human rights for refugees in Europe, and especially not on Lesvos. No one here is receiving the rights they deserve and they were coming to Europe for such as respect, safety, morality, love. Instead refugees on Lesvos are being abused and threatened by police everywhere and every time. They find violence instead of refuge.

The police assume that refugees are defenseless and that they can act with impunity, but refugees are documenting, denouncing, and filing complaints against the police for these illegal actions. We will continue to work together to make visible the everyday institutionalized violence of police towards refugees. So get in touch if you hear accounts of police violence and want to work together on the topic.

Deportations are never voluntary…voluntary returns, bribes and prison

More and more people that we know on Lesbos agreed to so called Voluntary Return in the past weeks. This comes with the pressure of forced deportations as well as the current wave of arrests and imprisonments. People in danger of being deported or imprisoned in the closed area of Moria camp have the “voluntary” deportation as a sometimes last option to presumably escape more time in prison and a forced deportation. Most people are stuck here since months, for some it’s now almost a year. In fact Lesbos is an open air prison.

For some that tried to get asylum and were rejected, that tried to cross to the mainland and failed it is impossible to leave but it is also impossible to stay here. Staying is impossible even if it means going back to a country they escaped for a variety of reasons. Even if it means abandoning a hope they risked their lives for.

Another reason why people choose the “voluntary” deportation is that the IOM (International Organization for Migration) bribes the people if they sign for it. It seems that the conditions for deportation vary according to the migrant´s nationality. At the moment we hear that Pakistanis nationals are promised 500€ at departure and another 1500€ at arrival. We were told by people that agreed to the voluntary return that they only received the 500€ and never saw the additional 1500€ (yet) after they returned to their country of origin. On the other side, Algerians are offered 1000€ if they accept “voluntary departure”. At the moment there is a significant number of Algerian nationals imprisoned in the closed area of the Moria camp waiting for their deportation – some of them since months. Even though the Greek authorities, assisted by IOM, are obviously urging people to register for voluntary deportation, it seems that the administrative and logistic removal system is taking a long time.

To agree to voluntary return means spending time in prison in Greece. Some people sign the papers inside of the prison in Moria to be able to leave it again at some point. They have to stay during the procedure, which can take several weeks or even months. Others sign it outside of prison but have to spend several weeks in a prison on the mainland until taking a flight to their country of origin.

Some people cannot escape the prison even after their return. Many countries see irregular emigration as a strong enough reason to imprison the returned for several months. We keep hearing stories of people that were imprisoned for 3-6 months in their country of origin. The ones that can leave the prison after a few days or escape imprisonment all together can mostly do so because they have enough money to bribe the police. More often than not, the reintegration assistance, so the money the people receive for the voluntary return, directly wanders into the pockets of corrupt police.

Deportations and new prisons…what’s going on on Lesvos?

A few days ago we reported about the police coming to the squats and arresting several people. These arrests have been going on for several weeks now and some of the people arrested are still in jail. Certain nationalities are targeted…at the moment especially people from Pakistan, Algeria, Marocoo and Bangladesh which are the people that are very unlikely to be granted asylum.
These arrests are part of a bigger strategy. Since many months the plan of the EU and the Greek government is to empty the islands, speed up deportations, lock up more people. Therefore the people arrested in the past weeks are either forced to apply for asylum if they didn’t do so yet. If they already had their asyulm rejected they are incarcerated and will most likely be deported. All has been going on for months now but we feel that now its getting more serious, and more fast. The following text wants to  be a summary of what´s going on politically now on Lesvos and tries an analyzis of changes in the coming weeks and months.

 

On 8th of December 2016 the European Commission published a report about the « Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement ». The asked to « speed up processing of asylum applications on the Greek islands » and state that « further efforts are needed, […] so that the processing of asylum applications at first instance is expedited and that the number of returns is increased and sustained ». [i]

 

According to this report « In total, 1,187 irregular migrants were returned from Greece to Turkey in the course of 2016 under the EU-Turkey Statement or the Greece-Turkey bilateral readmission protocol. […]Non-Syrian migrants are being returned to Turkey by boat and transferred to a removal centre […] Reportedly, so far 47 persons submitted their applications to the Turkish authorities […] So far, 417 persons, who did not apply for a refugee status in Turkey, have been returned to their countries of origin. »[ii] Among the people deported were also 93 Syrians. According to this report 163 people from the islands persons returned « voluntarily » to their country of origin since 28 September 2016.

 

The greek press [iii]  also wrote about the will of Greek government, enforced by European authorities as Frontex, to  speed up the deportation back to Turkey. According to these report the number of people on the islands will be cut by half until mid April 2017.

 

The greek authorities plan to put people in jail after their interview has been rejected. Even if they appeal a negative decision, they can be incarcerated during the time of their appeal. This concerns especially certain nationailites (see above) that have low chances for asylum recognition. Although detaining people by nationality is illegal in principal, greek authorities can do it until a court pronounces these incarcerations as illegal. For this increase of incarcerations, Authorities are already planning new « pre-removal centers » on the islands[iv]. We are at this moment not sure how these plans will be implemented on Lesvos. While reports speak about a new pre-removal center being planned, there is also the option of Moria turning more and more into a closed camp. In the past weeks,  families and nationalities with chances of asylum in Greece (as Syrians) have been moved out of Moria camp, leaving mostly single men behind.

 

But not only in Greece we will see a worsening of conditions for people and a raise of the incarceration of people based on the sole fact of being « irregular » migrants with low chances of being granted asylum. There are also strong concerns about the conditions of returnees back in Turkey. Reports show [v] that people that are placed in closed camp respectively detention centers have very limited or no acces to legal or medical support. Furthermore the living conditions are very bad and personal belongings including mobile phones (which are essentiel to get in touch with a lawyer) are confiscated by the police. As that would not be enough we also repetedly hear stories of violence and abuse towards asylum-seekers and migrants in these centers. Plus, the Turkish government has been already breaking the Non-refoulment principle, and is sending back people to unsafe countries.

 

Furthermore the European Commission also recommended the re-implementation of deportations from EU-member states back to Greece under the Dublin agreement [vi] in December and thus putting even more pressure on the Greek asylum system. Several countries, including Germany, have announced to start again the deportations. That will concern people that enter Greece after March 15th.

As we wrote before, Lesvos is not anymore a door to Europe that is possible to pass. Lesvos and Europe are more and more turned into a revolving door. Many countries in the north of Europe, for example Germany, are increasing deportations to peoples countries of origin (in the last weeks Germany deported many people to Afghanistan) and will start to send people back to Greece. Greece will raise the number of people being deported to Turkey and Turkey deports people to their country of origin. All completely ignoring human rights, bad living conditions of people and also ignoring the risks of persecution in the peoples country of origins. All this happens on the false assumptions that the countries where people are returned to (be it Greece, Turkey or Afghanistan) are « safe »…an assupmtion thats always very far from the reality that´s people face in these countries after their return.

More repression on the island, several people arrested yesterday

Recently more and more people got controlled by the police in the streets of mitilini and on their way back to the camps. After severlal arrestations in the last days and some repression against activists, the police also came to the squats.

Yesterday morning the police was checking the former social center two times and on their second „visit“ they took 14 people from different communities with them. Two people were released in the afternoon yesterday. The situation for the rest of the people is still unclear.  According to the informations we have right now, we cannot confirm if 6 people are going to be released in the next two days. 6 other people didn´t want to apply for asylum, so they are stuck in the prison of Moria for now.

They were frightening people and didn´t even let us talk to them to get their full names for looking for help by the lawyer.

Depending on their papers, some of them where sent to sector B, where people are kept until they can be deported.  Also in the streets people were arrested.

The athmosphere is tense at the moment, people are already afraid of deportations back to Turkey and the police is trying to scare them even more. It is pretty unclear what is happening at the moment.

“It is getting really unconfortable on the island, but we will remain! We fight together!”

Police controlling people at Social Center

Yesterday evening the Social Center got a very unpleasant visit. Around 11 pm three cars of police showed up at the squat. They went to all the rooms and took the people outside to the front of the building. Then the people were made to kneel down with their faces to the wall and their hands behind their heads. Some had no shoes or sweaters and were forced to kneel like this in the cold for around one hour. The cops checked the papers of everyone. When asked why they check the papers and why they treat the people like this they refused an answer. After some time two people were taken to the police station and the others could go to inside the building again. The two people that were taken were luckily released after their papers were checked inside of the station.

After the incident we learned that people escaped the prison in Moria the same night and the police were searching for them. While this is a reason for the control it is no excuse for entering peoples living spaces and treating them in this humiliating and disrespectful way. We are angry about the racism and violence of the cops here on Lesvos (and everywhere else).

What happened yesterday is not a single event. Instead it is one of many, many incidents of humiliation and violence of the Greek police towards refugees. Every week refugees in Lesbos are controlled, arrested and beaten. Most of them without any reason other than them being refugees here on Lesvos. Hopefully the people that escaped prison are hiding well…and find a way to leave the island soon.

Eviction of refugee camps in Turkey

A comrade in Turkey asked us to cross post this text. Its originally from nabermedya…and here it is:

GENDARMERIE INTERVENTION TO REFUGEE CAMPS IN TORBALI

As of February, 8th refugees living in the tents in Torbalı and Bayındır districts are getting evacuated in accordance with the district governorate decisions with the intervention of the gendarmerie and the tent areas are being removed. Thousands of refugees who left their countries because of the civil war in Syria have been struggling to survive as seasonal agricultural workers and living in the tent camps constructed with their own efforts in the rurals of İzmir.

Since wednesday many tent areas have been removed by gendarmerie without any reason. Some tent areas were given time till monday to evacuate the area. Refugees whose residence is not İzmir were told to be expelled and the others wouldn’t be let to stay in tents and they were supposed to rent homes. However for the majority of the refugees who work for very low wages it doesn’t seem possible to earn enough money to move into a house.

In return of showing tent areas and giving jobs “dayıbaşı” (the master of the area) deduct the refugees’ journals, don’t pay regularly or even never pay at all. Since these agricultural workers need to live close to their working areas and don’t know the language they are obliged to the dayıbaşı system. Thus these people getting evacuated from the tents means removing their resources of income.

Refugees who left everything they have in Syria can’t earn income for a long while since the demand for the seasonal workers decreases in winter. They can survive in cold weathers thanks to tents, food, firing, diapers and hygiene products provided by the limited number of volunteers and CSO’s. The tent areas lacking toilets, showers and clean water and getting covered with mud after every rain are being ignored by the authorities.

These conditions affect the children at the utmost. The children get exposed to illnesses and developmental disabilities as a result of poor nutrition and health conditions. Hospitals deny to treat the refugees without the documents. Even the death of the baby Noaf of pneumonia after getting refused from the hospital couldn’t make enough impact on the government’s policy on the refugees that made it hard for refugees to get registered. There are lots of children suffering from pneumonia in the camps. The threat of forced displacement by the gendarmerie just deepen the children’s trauma caused by the civil war and poor living conditions.

In the last May before the harvest, tent areas providing a space to live nearly two thousand people were removed by the district governorate. Now it is thought-provoking that the same incident happens before seed-time when the demand for seasonal workers increase. Yet it had been speculated for three years now that the district governorate and municipality had plans to move the tent areas to one center to improve the living conditions of agricultural worker refugees.

New kitchen, cleaning up and deportations…the last days on Lesvos

A few days ago we finally found a place for our kitchen! We moved around a lot in the last two weeks and are super happy to have a stable place again for cooking. After the conflicts in the days before that we had a lot of meetings and discussions. Finally it was decided to separate the kitchen from the Social Center building. Also we were asked to support the people more in cooking for themselves instead of serving ready food. So now its food boxes for cooking instead of cups of ready food.

We are cooking everyday now in the new kitchen and distributing the bigger part on Tsamakia beach and a smaller part we bring to the people in the squats around the old Social Center.

Apart from all the moving and cleaning of the new place we had nice, quiet and sunny days.

Check out our new kitchen:

Also a NGO called swisscross started cleaning up in the squats, getting rid of all the junk that the owners of the old warehouse left inside when leaving the place and therefore making the place more liveable.

But as always there is also shit going on here…in the last days the police was rounding up people from Pakistan and Bangladesh. A lot of people were picked up by the cops in the street, taken to Moria and the people that didn’t do it before were forced to give their fingerprints and apply for asylum. Most of their cases will be rejected quickly and then they will be deported back to Turkey. Already today morning around 60-70 people were deported to Turkey, as far as we know mostly from Pakistan and Bangladesh. We are angry and sad about this and fear for the safety of our friends and comrades from this two countries here on the island.

We said it many times before but it seems that it cannot be said often enough: Turkey is not safe. It’s not safe for any asylum seeker. In Turkey there is on the one hand no proper support of asylum seekers or even access to a asylum system. All non-syrian asylum seekeres are detained in so called “repatriation-centers” without access to medical care, education or legal assistance. Most non-syrian will be deported back to their countries, where many face persecution. Syrians might be given some kind of protective status but then are still without access to basic support like medical care and often forced to work in exploitative conditions. On the other hand we also continue to hear stories from brutal violence against refugees and migrants in Turkey by the hand of the police.

As always we will still stay here, we will support our friends in the squats and camps and we will now and forever say

Stop deportations!

No one is illegal!

Difficult days and restructuring of No Border Social Center

Dear friends and supporters of NBK-Lesvos,

We have some very intense, sad and busy days behind us that we want to share with you.

In the past weeks there have been repeated violent conflicts in the Social Center and the surrounding squats. After an escalation a few days ago we reluctantly and with sadness decided to close the Social Center for the time being.

We will not and cannot go on like this.

A few days ago we witnessed an attack on friends in the Social Center because of their nationality. Unfortunately it was not the first attack of this kind in the Social Center. We see this as directly in contradiction to what we are trying to create at NoBorder and we don’t know how we can continue working with the people who were the perpetrators of these aggressions. The bigger part of NBK left the building, but many of our friends still live in the Social Center and surrounding squats who had nothing to do with the attacks. Some of us still live in these squats and a few supporters have decided to remain in the Social Center.

On thing is clear for most of us: we have to restructure and reorganize.

Our Social Center is supposed to be a safe space. Its is meant to be a place without the violence that people face in Moria on a daily basis. To create such a place we have to work together on it, now more than ever. We want a social Center where we meet each other with respect.

In the moment we are discussing and working a lot and we do not know how exactly NoBorderKitchen and the NoBorderSocialCenter will evolve in the next weeks.

So much is clear though:

We stay!

We cook!

We support the people in the squats!

We continue our political work!

Still we are cooking several hundred portions a day for Tsamakia Beach and still we support the people in the squat with all the essential things.

Please understand if we need some time at the moment and cannot react to requests that fast.

We are still active and we still need your solidarity.

As always with a lot of Love and Rage,

your NBK-Crew

Rainy days, deportations coming and chapatti baking- Update on our situation on the island

Despite the pouring rain of the last days we are still here, still working together to create somehow livable conditions.

Since November we have not only the social center but also support several squats. More and more people escape the conditions in Moria and choose to live in the squats. Unfortunately even living in a smoky old warehouse is better than living in Moria. At the moment around 200 people live in the squats. All of them we provide with food and/or the means to cook for themselves. People created communities where we live, eat and sometimes celebrate together.

Although people choose to live in the squats instead of the official camps it’s not an easy live on the island. We still struggle for daily survival. As the number of people living with us has been rising constantly since No Border Kitchen started the first Social Centre in July 2016 we also need more and more support. Furthermore we continue to offer warm food for everyone two times daily. At the moment we cook around 800 meals per day. The Social Centre also offers changing activities for people…the latest being the new Kindergarden.

The squats are not only a place with better food than the official camps but most importantly a place outside of the control of the state. They don’t have barbed wire fence, they don’t have military patrolling and nobody asks for peoples papers. They want to be a safer place for everyone- not only for those being considered eligible asylum seekers by the Greek and European authorities. That makes them unique and thats why we will continue to support and feed all the people that need it.

 

In the last days very worrying news reached us. One is that the Dublin deportations to Greece from other EU-countries will be reinstated from March 15th. In the last years there was no Dublin deportations to Greece because the situation here was considered too bad. The situation got no inch better and still the European Commission recommended that the deportations should start again in March. At the moment there are thousands of people stuck in Greece, on the islands as well as on the mainland, without having met their basic needs like proper shelter, food or access to medical care. Also the asylum procedures are a mess…waiting times are long and information for people about their rights as well as legal support are rare. Returning people back to Greece will make the situation worse for everyone…not only the people that will be forced to return and stay in Greece but also for the people already suffering from overcrowded camps and slow asylum procedures.

The other news is that Frontex will charter new ships to increase the numbers of deportations from the islands back to Turkey. With the EU-Turkey agreement the EU assumes that Turkey is a safe place for asylum seekers. Of course everyone that has been in Turkey or followed the news about the situation there knows that its no safe place at all.

The plan from this Europe dominated by the economically and politically powerful Northern countries seems clear…people will be forced back to mainland Greece from the North, from the mainland to the island and from the island to Turkey and to peoples country of origin.

We are worried about this development. We are worried about the safety of our friends in in all Europe endangered to be kicked out again of the place they hoped to find peace and safety.

Thirdly we got the information that the government plans to give the people money instead of providing them with food. In theory this is great…people can cook food they actually like instead of being forced to eat the crap they are served in the camps. What’s worrying about is that one the amount of money will most probably be insufficient. We fear that we will have to provide much more meals at the end of the month if this system will come into place. Also we are not sure how the camp managments will ensure safe and clean means of cooking for everyone, remembering still their complete failures to provide infrastructure for winter and the gas explosion in Moria camp a few weeks back.  But at the moment we will wait, see what happens and hoping for the best.

Despite all of this we have a lot of moment of happiness when we warm ourselves on a common fire, make chapatti together or dance together to music from the shitty speakers of a mobile phone. All the time we need support to make these moments happen.

If you consider coming to Lesvos don’t hesiate to write us a mail to noborderkitchen@riseup.net. There’s always work to be done, especially if you think about coming for a longer period of time. Also we still have financial difficulties…any amount of donations we can get is needed and appreciated here. If you can donate or organize money by a fundraising event you can send it to

Rote Hilfe OG Salzwedel
IBAN: DE93 4306 0967 4007 2383 12
BIC: GENODEM1GLS
Comment: NBK Lesvos

At this point we also want to thank everyone that supported us in the last weeks! We only are able to do the work we do because of your solidarity. So thank you for everyone that send us money, send us food or showed their solidarity otherwise with us!

As always with a lot of Love and Rage,

your Nbk crew