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 []. 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