Daily Routine of injustice

Yesterday morning at 5 o’clock, riot police started to detain people in Camp Moria and in Community centers. They arrested around 50 persons of whom 20 – 25 persons were released later today.

First we assumed that they were hunting for people with two negative asylum decisions but as we found out they also arrested people with papers.

We think this happened for one reason: To raise fear.

Again they want to raise dread of deportation and detention among people, to increase suppression and by doing so, preventing the people to ask for their basic human rights.

We believe this, together with the super unjust court hearings that are going on these days in Mytilini court (we will publish an update about that soon!) are all to create an atmosphere of anxiety on the island.

We wish strength to all the people still detained in the police station and Moria’s section B and other places worldwide to not give up the struggle for freedom.

Another world is possible!

Food for refugees and fighting deportations: No Borders call for support

The No Borders squat in Lesvos was evicted five weeks ago, and it feels like we’re losing more space every day. It’s been a month of harsh police crackdowns on squatting and rough sleeping, vicious and increasingly frequent deportations, and dwindling financial support. The EU is funnelling the thousands of refugees here into Moria detention centre, deporting them to face persecution and death abroad and washing its blood-stained hands of the whole affair.

No Borders Kitchen are still here, still fighting and still providing food, care and legal support to hundreds of refugees, but our work is more difficult than ever before. Here’s how the situation has deteriorated for the roughly 4000 refugees trapped on Lesvos, how No Borders is struggling to respond, and what you can do to help out.

The beautiful prison

As the time refugees are trapped here lengthens, the island grows smaller and smaller. There is little to do each day but trudge to Moria to hear that no progress has been made on your case, fight over cooking oil, and skim stones into the Aegean Sea. People are making increasingly desperate attempts to escape Lesvos – the ‘beautiful prison’, as one refugee recently described it. Earlier this month, one young man attempted suicide in Moria’s Section B detention centre, stabbing himself in the chest with a switchblade. He remains incarcerated.

It is easy to think of time as standing still, but actually it is sliding away: people have been waiting for 9, 12, 18 months as interview dates are bungled, translators cannot be found, and the broken assessment system grinds slowly on. These months are taken off young lives, eating into education and careers among much else, and cannot be bought back at any cost.

There are months and months of nothing, and suddenly there is no time at all. Once an asylum application fails, as over 90 per cent eventually do, refugees have five days to lodge an appeal before deportation. Many are not told they have this right and so are deported when they still stand a chance of securing asylum. Some physically sick refugees and others with the legal right to remain have been pulled off the deportation ferry by lawyers: others are illegally kicked out ahead of time. Friends of ours awaiting deportation in Section B are shivering with sickness, while others are covered in historic torture wounds and recent self-harm scars. If they are not stopped, these deportations will kill.

Deportees are taken from Moria to the port under cover of darkness, but deported under the cover of tourist-trap sunlight. Handcuffed and stripped of their mobile phones, they are muscled onto private ferries, and the holiday-makers around the harbour never realise human rights are being infringed 20 yards from their cocktail bars. Official figures show 129 deportations under the EU-Turkey deal from Lesvos since the start of April. And as the EU is finally clearing its backlog of stranded refugees – by deporting the overwhelming majority – we expect a severe increase in arrests, detention, and associated police violence.

Some deportees attempt a return as soon as they escape detention abroad – “until they die they will never stop coming back,” one Pakistani refugee recently said. Many take the suicidal Libyan route, through waters where an EU-trained coastguard sprays bullets at drowning toddlers and deaths are so common as to seldom make the news.

Giving up any hope of claiming asylum, those opting for so-called ‘voluntary return’ are bribed and coerced into returning to life-threatening danger in their home countries. Following a lengthy jail spell in Athens, they are imprisoned for months in Pakistan or Afghanistan, until a family member can bribe an official to have them released. For families who spent all they had to send one child to the imagined safety of Europe, this is often impossible, while violence, abuse and suicide are of course rampant in these prisons as well.

No space

Every time we walk the long, hot coastal road from the city centre to Moria, we pass the mocking empty space of the old No Borders squat, still daubed with anti-patriarchy graffiti but now ringed with razor wire and under 24-hour security surveillance. Scores of refugees and activists ate, slept and lived together here in shared struggle.

The squat’s eviction closure makes it hard to even meet with our refugee friends, let alone  support them in resisting deportation. For the crime of sheltering in a derelict building, refugees have been hit with heavy legal fees and court cases which will badly affect their asylum claims. Some former squatters now sleep on the beach or in the woods, and some have returned to Moria. Others have opted for voluntary return, preferring an unknown prison sentence to the certitude of sectarian violence in the prison camp.

The remaining squats are increasingly violent and volatile. Friends of ours have been beaten, robbed of their mobile phones, and extorted for the safe return of sim cards containing their only contacts to their families back home. These squats also face imminent eviction: a derelict white building we called ‘Casablanca’ was forcibly cleared out, and all its occupants detained or charged with squatting, just two days ago.

Pending court cases, combined with the police’s increasingly violent and zero-tolerance approach to squatting, mean we cannot find a new space to live together. While we continue to find shelter for the most vulnerable, we are forced to tell many refugees in desperate need of shelter that we can no longer keep them warm and safe overnight.

Our work

Food is the focus of our practical support. Each week we provide up to 300 refugees with all the ingredients they need to cook for themselves and subsist autonomously, packing up boxes in an abandoned strip club and distributing them in squats and parking lots around the island.

Every month we distribute over 1500kg each of flour and rice, 800kg of potatoes, and hundreds of kilogrammes of fresh fruit and vegetables, lentils and pasta, plus spices, tea, coffee, cooking oil and toiletries. We receive more requests for boxes daily, and are currently forced to turn families away due to a lack of funds. Each day, we provide a hot meal to around 60 refugees, catering for those unable to cook for themselves and creating a small ad-hoc social space, and have recently started meeting for tea, coffee and hot food withrefugees living in Moria. We also feed desperately impoverished Roma families, marginalised and persecuted here since before a single refugee arrived.

Drawing on our network of contacts across the island, in Moria and in detention, we are now offering material support and legal assistance to detained refugees. All deportations are cruel, violent and illegitimate, but many are also illegal, and we are working alongside lawyers and refugee activists to save people from forcible transfer to Turkey. All our work enables us to stand in close, personal solidarity with our refugee friends, particularly those shut out of the asylum system and failed by the big NGOs, and support them in their struggle for asylum and dignity in countless different ways every day.

Our needs

Many more refugees will arrive in Lesvos over the coming summer months, as people-smugglers take advantage of the clear nights and heavy maritime traffic. 16 people recently drowned offshore, while four boats containing hundreds of refugees made land just this weekend. Since the EU-Turkey deal began on 18 March 2016, the number of migrants stranded in Greece has actually increased by 45%. Thousands of new arrivals are currently being dispatched by Turkish smugglers to nearby Chios, and many will be transferred here for detention and deportation.

As the tourism season comes around, Frontex will prevent the ugly sight of refugees washing up on golden beaches by intercepting them in dangerous deep water, and the police will come down even harder on paperless refugees sleeping rough among the olive groves and cobbled streets of Mytilene. The EU is trying to squeeze these refugees out of existence, but we are determined to give them room to breathe, and the best chance possible of continuing onward to a better life.

€20 will feed one refugee for a month

€100 will provide five refugees with phone credit to contact lawyers and loved ones after deportation to turkey

and $2000 per month will provide food boxes for the roughly 100 refugees on our waiting list, currently left hungry because we can’t afford to feed them

If you are able to donate any amount to support our work, please email noborderkitchen(at)riseup.net, message our Facebook page or contact us via telephone or Whatsapp. We also accept credit at local food wholesalers and donations via Just People, a partner organisation based in the Netherlands:

Name: justpeople
IBAN: NL37INGB0007344776
BIC: INGBNL2A
Bank: ING

Payment Reference: LESVOS DONATION

Please also get in touch if you would like to work alongside us in Lesvos. We are particularly looking for longer-term activists who share our political principles, and drivers with cars.

With love, rage and solidarity always

Your No Borders Kitchen crew

“No Yoga in the police station” Evicton of “Old squat” April 28th 2017

Yesterday one of the squats we supported was taken away by the cops and the Alpha Bank and turned from a home into an old abandoned unused building again. All people were arrested and detained for a day and might face charges for trespassing and destroying of property. Now many people are out on the street, with no safe place to go.

What happened yesterday leaves us sad and incredibly angry. What was destroyed by the state and capitalism was not just a building. It was a home. It was a community. It was a place for friendship, for solidarity, for struggling together against this border and this system that creates them.

The squat was not a perfect place. There was always rubbish lying around, the sound of the power factory next door was the lullaby and the toilet was rarely cleaned. But still we loved it.

Yesterday we were awaken at 7 a.m. as the police kicked our doorsover and over. When we came out of the rooms there were numerous policemen, regular city police and OPKE in the yard. For the three days before we already watched workers turning this home into a jail so the eviction didn’t come as a complete surprise. Each day workers would continue the razor wire around the wall of the squat we supported and lived in while we were trying to decide if there was anyway to resist.

At the time of the evictionwe were were around 35 people in the squat and all were gathered in the yard. The segregation and racism began immediately as people that looked like “refugees” had to gather in one corner of the yard and everyones papers were checked and taken by the cops. Then people they considered “Europeans” or people with passports were also asked to give their passports. Some refugees were handcuffed to each other for no apparent reason. We tried to resist the separation but those who insisted on staying were pushed and dragged away. All people with western passports were taken into an arrest van and brought to the police station. We were made to sit down on a corridor and were given contradictory information whether they were arrested or taken for ID control only. When we were waiting we saw that the refugees were also taken to police station. They were all put into cells while everyone with a western passport was kept in the hallway.

After hours of waiting we were informed that we all are accused of vandalism and trespassing. Everyone of us was taken into an office and we were asked to sign papers written in Greek. Only oral translation into English was provided and we had to ask repeatedly for a complete oral translation of the documents. Also everyone had their fingerprints and pictures taken. At around 7 in the evening the last person was released from the police station. When the police let us go they didn’t inform us if we are charged or not. Still it is unclear what will happen now, if we all will face court or not. We left the police station with relief and happiness to feel the sun warming our skin and to see the faces of all friends that were welcoming us outside. The relief stayed only a short while. The eviction left dozens of people out without shelter, without any safe place to go. What was a home is now an empty building surrounded by NATO wire and guarded by securities.

This eviction didn’t come as a surprise. In the last four months the repression on refugees, especially people without valid papers and from certain nationalities, as well as solidarity movements has become worse each week. The destruction of any autonomous spaces for people to live was expected. Many friends we support living out of the camps have been checked and arrested in the last months. There have been many steps taken in order to clear the streets and the city of refugees and keep as many people as possible within the confines of Moria camp. They were tightening security at Moria, police presence on streets became stronger, many people are and were detained during their asylum procedure, deportations happen on a regular basis and so on.

This time it was Alpha Bank, the owner of the building, that had the power to cause the most damage to us. It was Alpha Bank who pressed charges against us and pushed this eviction. We are sure that the building will not be used. It is very old, in the ugliest spot in Mytilini next to a power electric factory billowing steam and chemicals and air and noise pollution. No one wants this building except those with no other option except the prison that is Moria.

All of this also coincides with the announcement that all NGO and international groups will leave Lesvos by July 31st. As we are one of a handful of groups without government contracts working outside camps, the EU and Greek government would very much like to see No Border disappear from Lesvos.

Unfortunately this eviction is not the end of a series of repression but rather its beginning. We expect evictions of the other remining squats in the next weeks and months. Furthermore we also expect the arrests, imprisonments and deportations to keep going.

But we are not ready to give up. We will stay here, we will continue to support the people in their struggle for freedom of movement and dignity. We will keep fighting.

We send a lot of Love and Rage to all people standing with us and fighting against all borders here on Lesvos and everywhere!

Your Nbk Crew

Update on the eviction yesterday

None of us who were detained yesterday was informed by the police whether we will be charged or not. It looks like at the moment that we will all have a court in approximately 5 months for vandalism and trespassing. What used to be a place full of life is now only an empty building surrounded by NATO wire and guarded by security. We will keep you updated and a longer post about what happened yesterday will follow soon.

Evictions coming up

We expect two squats to be evicted soon. We hope it will take some more time but we have reasons to believe that at least one of the buildings will be invaded by the cops within a few days. Another eviction will leave dozens of people homeless or forced to stay in Moria camp. Also it is likely that the eviction will go along with the (attempted) arrest of as many people with rejected asylum applications and/or from the nationalities the EU assumes has no claim for staying in Europe.

We will keep you updated.

Our solidarity is stronger than their repression!

Hungerstrike in moria

Since yesterday 12 people are on hungerstrike in moria camp. 1 is from Syria and 12 Kurdish from Syria. Three of them await deportation to Turkey, their appeals were rejected which means they have basically no option to get asylum in Europe anymore.  The others had their first interview rejected and are still waiting for their appeal do be decided.

According to our information they didn’t take any food or drinks since yesterday morning. But still they are determined to continue and protest against the situation here in the island and the inhuman EU politics that create it.

 

 

Deportations, more deportations and arbitray detention…What’s going on on the island

In the last weeks the repression on Lesvos continues. There have been more forced deportations to Turkey and the asylum procedure is still a tangle of bureaucratic nightmares, especially for people from certain nationalities. This situation creates a great hopelessness. Many peoples mental health is getting worse and a lot of people sign for a so called „voluntary return” to their home countries as their only option to get out of this island and not spend months in prison in Turkey.

Trying to get asylum on Lesvos often means long abuse and imprisonment for people already fleeing abuse and imprisonment in their home coutries. Here are two example stories that show the situation for deportations once arriving in Greece.

A. arrived on Lesvos in April 2016. He has been waiting for almost a year in the hot-spot Moria to have his case examined. When they finally do so his asylum is rejected. They pick him up on the street and bring him to prison in Moria. There he is held for 2 months and then transferred to the police station where again he is held for one month. Then he is deported to Turkey. He will spend 6 months in prison there. When his deportation to his homecountry finally happens he is arrested at the airport upon arrival and again taken to prison for 3 month.

B. also arrived in April after being released from a detention center in Turkey where they held him for several months. After a year of waiting on Lesvos he is arrested in the camp when he tries to renew his papers. He is brought to the prison in Moria. There they force him to apply for asylum. After a few days he has his interview. Because independent lawyers have no access to the camp he has no preparation for the interview and his case is rejected. He is tired of Lesvos and wants to get out of prison so he signs up for voluntary deportation. The process takes weeks to many months in Lesvos. Finally he is transferred to Athens into a detention center. He is imprisoned for 2 months. When he arrives at the airport of his homecountry he has to bribe the police not to be taken to prison.

DEPORTATIONS TO TURKEY

In April a total of 70 people were deported from Lesvos to Turkey, for whom we have confirmed information. 49 people were brought from Mytilini to Dikili on April 6th and another 21 persons on April 12th. Most of them have citizenship of Algeria, Pakistan, Marrocco and Bangladesh. Upon their arrival they are held in closed removal centers essentially a prison. According to the people being held there, they are told they will be there for 6 months. We found that there is no maximum period of the detention…anything from a few weeks to several months to a year is possible. The people in the center are asked to pay for their deportation themselves with the promise of being deported faster if they do so.

It is incredibly difficult to keep in contact with people deported to Turkey. Not even lawyers have good access to people in the removal centers. The detainees phones are confiscated with no access to friends, family or a lawyer. Their only option is to use the expensive payphones inside the prisons. If they are out of money they might loose contact to the outer world. Furthermore we have been told repeatedly about the horrible living conditions of no proper food, overcrowded cells, no cigarettes and lots of police abuse.

SO CALLED “VOLUNTARY RETURN”

To avoid being deported to Turkey, many people on Lesvos are signing for their own deportation with IOM (International Organization for Migration.) The IOM returns people to their country of origin. We cannot find official numbers of returns with IOM for the last two months (yet). As we have posted earlier, the so called „voluntary return“ is not as voluntary as IOM claims.

Voluntary returns are forced by the circumstance on this island. The hopelessness, the living condition, the waiting, the fear of being returned to Turkey, the fear of spending months in prison and always the fear of the police.

Voluntary deportees are now being promised 1000€.1

IOM’s website says the “voluntary return“ is for people who do not apply for asylum or have been rejected but it has not been possible for people who appeal a negative asylum decision and were rejected to return with IOM. Instead they are forcefully returned to Turkey. We know of two cases who were returned to Turkey against their will after they signed for a voluntary return with IOM but we believe there are many more.

“The International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed to News That Moves that people hosted on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, who have entered Greece after March 20th, 2016 and whose asylum request has been rejected, have five days to either:

  • Appeal against the rejection decision;

  • Or, ask for assistance from IOM for voluntary return to their home country, if eligible.2

This creates a situation were people have to decide between using their right to appeal the decision and maybe be deported to Turkey to spend months in prison there OR to return before having the chance of having their case examined by a court. Their rights to a fair asylum procedures are undermined by threat of imprisonment and forced deportation.

ARBITRARY DETENTION AND BIASED ASYLUM PROCEDURES

After signing for IOM deportation some people were released from prison. Others signed and remained in the jail for several months in Mytilini before being transferred to a jail in Athens and eventually deported. People never know how long they have to stay in prison. The two weeks some people are told they have to stay by the police sometimes turn into several months.

Prior to their deportation to Turkey people are held for weeks and sometimes months in Mytilini either in the prison inside Moria or the police station in the city. While in the Moria prison they can keep the phones they cannot do so in the police station. Here, just as in the Turkish centers, their only way to have contact is to use the pay phone. Visists are only possible for close familiy members…of which many have none on Lesvos.

As reported also by a pro asyl report arbitrary detention of asylum seeker is common on the islands and new closed detention centers are already being established on the other islands. New laws are being established that basically make it possible to detain any asylum seeker on the islands.

“The legal framework defining the grounds for detention of refugees and migrant, leaves many options for arbitrary detention, i.e. under the general grounds that persons who are alleged of “law-breaking conduct” or “considered to apply merely in order to delay or frustrate return“ can be detained. These prerequisites open up the possibility to arbitrarily detain almost every protection seeker on the islands. “3

In December the EU states made a Joint Action plan for the implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement. Among others things it stated that detention capacities on the islands should be increased. On Lesvos people are detained based on their nationality, especially people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Marrocco and Algeria are held during their asylum procedure. Therefore the people of these nationalities have very little access to a fair asylum process. In prison it is hard for them to access independent legal aid prior to their interviews. Furthermore the asylum process is negatively biased towards the people with the citizenships above. Many of the people that are in prison during their procedure are or will be in fact deported back to either Turkey or their home countries.

Even for the people that have chances of getting asylum the situation is not good. The waiting time for the interviews are very long. Some people have waited for many month only for their first interview. Often when their interview date comes and they go to Moria they are told to come back again in a few days or weeks. Some people had their interview date delayed for five or six times before they finally could do it. There are also other faults in the system, like a lack of skilled translators and interviewers that are sensible towards gender based violence as a reason for women fleeing their home countries. Furthermore the EASO is loosing interviews and therefore forcing people to go through the process a second time.

People that are granted asylum in Greece are left with nothing. They receive papers that allow them to stay in Greece but get no support whatsoever in order to survive and build a life for themselves here. Of course the responsibility for this does not lay only with Greece but rather with the EU politics of forcing people to apply in the first country they enter Europe and therefore forcing people to stay in the poorer southern European countries.

A conclusion of all of this? Everything on this island is totally fucked up and we don’t see where all of this is leading except to even more repression and more suffering.

1https://greece.iom.int/en/assisted-voluntary-return-and-reintegration-programs-avrr

2https://newsthatmoves.org/en/rumour-five-days-before-deportation/

Building Solidarity and Confronting Conflict (plus destroying fascism)

As most of you know it has been a difficult and changing time for No Border Kitchen in the last months. There has been violence and conflicts within the group as well as a a split between members of No Border Kitchen. As a result of the on-going conflict and as an attempt to move forward we have decided to ask one member of No Border Kitchen to leave the group and all organizing structures.

We define our group with anti-authoritarian, anti-sexist, anti-fascist principles and acts. This has been hindered by a member who continues to act with violent, sexist, patriarchal and hierarchical behaviour.

The decision was not made lightly. It has been a very difficult process and this process will continue as excluding one person does not solve all structural problems we are facing while working in No Border Kitchen.

We feel it is important to communicate this information because we know that many groups struggle with conflict between members and often have to ask an individual to leave. We want to be honest about these problems and how we are finding solution for them.

In the last months we were not able to have a group process and come to a decision because there were too many urgent concerns that took priority. We have learned now that if we are in conflict with the police and the Greek government and the borders we cannot be wasting time fighting our comrades. We will now be able support others better if we have solidarity and common principles within our group.

To all the people who have been or are currently involved in NBK from outside Lesvos, please contact us with any questions.

Love and Rage

Your NBK crew

Many arrests at squats today

Police was coming today early in the morning to the squats. They came to the different squats one after the other with 3 cars and two arrest vans. In total 17 people were arrested, sixteen refugees and one person with European passport.

In the squat where they went first two person were arrested. After they went to the other squat. There they arrested one European person and also kicked her during the arrest. Then they went through one of the building taking all the people from their rooms. All papers were checked and then the police took pictures of each person.

At the same time other cops started to go to another building and to the beach were some people were sleeping. When one person tried to run he was severely beaten. He had to be transferred to the hospital for treatment.

In the other buildings also people were arrested.

All people were taken to Moria. 11 of them are still in the prison inside Moria. 5 people were released again today, 4 of the arrested refugees and the person with European passport. 

Some of the people that are now in Moria prison will be deported.

We are incredibly sad and angry. Once again today our friends and comrades were imprisoned and beaten for no other reason than being in Europe without having the “right” passport. Now many face weeks or month in prison and after that deportation…for nothing. Only for looking for a safe place to live.