Report about Eidomeni (24th of December 2015)
On 24th of December we arrived at Thessaloniki. We stayed at the Nikis Squat of the antiauthoritarian platform Alpha Kappa (Αντιεξουσιαστική κίνηση, Antieksousiastiki Kinisi, Antiauthoritarian Movement) and instantly met three people of the Dresden Balkan Konvoi. They told us, that they had been given a storage place for the aid supplies in the occupied factory Vio.Me. After a short break we went to the Greek – Macedonian border at Eidomeni, to get an impression aboutthe situation. Some of our group were on site in the summer already.
The european “machine of selection”
Since december 2014 there is a special border crossing / checkpoint for people take flight. Over the last 3 months an infrastrucutre has been established through repression, to select refugees and illegalize unwanted movements of migration. The camp of “unwanted nations” was therefore torn down. The single tents and the infrastructure were completely destroyed and the inhabitants were deported back to Athens. Whoever wanted to carry refugees with their car, was arrested. It was nearly impossible for the press to get access to the scene of events. Today only a plain, dead area reminds of the hundrets of tents, build by the people rejected from europe. If you want to know more about the things happened in the past you can find an overview here.
To line up and flight-economy – instead of freedom of movement and flight with dignity
At the moment the situation is like this: people are carried in busses mostly from Mitellini and Athensto Eidomeni. Here they have to wait sometimes up to a day, to cross the border. There are no places to sleep, so they sleep either in the busses or outside. When we arrived in Eidomeni there were always 5 or 6 busses standing in front of the railroad crossing, which leads to the border crossing point. At this time people could cross the border quick, compared to the situation in the summer. But quick is relative in this context. Most of the time it means waiting for hours during minus degrees. The border police is always closing the border randomly for 20 or 30 minutes without any reasons. Some of the volunters told us, that the border is closed because there was a blockade of Taxis on the railway on the Macedonian side. The railway is going from Gevgelia (the Macedonian side of the border) to Serbia. Multiple reasons for the blockade have been told. Probably the most likely reason is, that the taxi driver want to get some money out of the flight of the people. Besides doign buisness with flight, one should not forget the desolate social and economical situation of the people living in Greece and Macedonia. This should not be seen as an excuse, but it eventually explains why the informal sector of “flight economy” is shooting in these areas. But nevertheless there are still counter examples of costless help for the people. Especially in the summer, before the NGOs started to maintain the place, there was a lot of self organized engagement. The local people from Polycastro build a soup kitchen and anarchists from Kilikis and Thessaloniki were bringing supplys. Despite the presence ofthe UNHCR, it took over half a year until the place got the firsttoilets and a water supply. Besides there are always two busses ofthe MAT ( Monada Apokatastasis Taxis, the unit to restore order) on site. The information situation about the events and the situation on the Macedonian side of the border is still very bad. Thats why we aregoing there to keep you up to date and trying to connectwith the people of “Open Borders Osnabrück” that are in Macedonia right now. We suggest to read their call for solidarity.
Crossing the border to Macedonia is only allowed for people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. But even belonging to one of those “previleged groups” , it does not mean that a flight with dignity is possible. A group of young Yazidis, from the Sinjar mountains (kurdish: Shingal mountains) between Syria and Iraq, told us that after their arrival in Mitellini they had to sleep aground. With freezing temperatures, sleeping like this means to die of exposure. They also told us they haven’t sleept for three days before the busride from Mitellini to Eidomeni, for which they had to pay 85 €. The women are often carrying a double burden because they have to take care of the children. The children would vomit because of the stress and are therefore in danger of dehydrating. We also repeativly have been asked for medical consulting. Medical care is very rare and is just granted in really urgent cases, which does not mean the doctors are doing bad work, but there are simply not enough doctors.
If someone does not have a registration card, on which one of the three mentioned nations is written, he or she is being given from the Macedonian to the Greek cops. They bring the people to deportation busses, which are going back to Athens. Cops and busdrivers seem to earn both by charging the people 10 to 20 € for the ride. In the next days we are trying to find out what is happening during the trip and what is happening in Athens. We got three phone numbers of people from Tunesia and are going to call them. Some people told us they were homeless and the bus is not going to an abandoned open air taekwando stadion, like it was promised, but instead just kicking the people out in the streets of Athens. Many people have to sleep on the streets during the cold nights. One of the cops cynical yelled: “Pay for the bus. 20€ per person. A place to sleep and free food included.” We have been told thatthe stadion is the “living hell”, specially for injuredpeople. The selection of the nationalities is forcing the people totake other illegalized escape routes. If they get caught by thepolice they often severly abused. As we saw it, the refugees arebeeing set under pressure by the police and a supposed “civil cop” to pay the repatriaton to Athens. The mentioned “civil cop” was creeping around the whole place, talking to people who were forced togo back to Athens, as well as he talked to the cops. It lead to strange scenes were he is guiding a family to the border, holding the hand of a children. We do not know who this guy is or what exactly his function is. When we took photos of him and made audio records, he get nervous, talked to the police more often and started flashing his lights into a bus with relief supplies from dresden. If refugees are not able or willing to pay the price for the bus ticket they are transported to a sperate prisoners transport of the police, which there upon drives away for half an hour and is returning empty. We still could not find out what is happening with the people and where they have been brought. An Irish journalist told us how he could hear a talk between refugees and the cops, in which the cops threatened the people without money they would get in “really big trouble” in case the police finds money on anyone of them durig the search. The aim is to get even the last money out of the people. Generally people on flight are massivley used as a source for profit. Espacially taxi drivers are ganing from overpriced carrying charges. People told us in summer they would have even been paying 1or 2 euro to charge their phones. The nearby hotel even rent tents on their property to horrific prices. Even tod refugees told us that everything costs money.
The role of the NGOs
The place is administered by different NGOs such as UNHCR, Médecinssans Frontières or Praksis (NGO from Thessaloniki) and even some few volunteers. The supply tents are pitched in a way, that the people pass them on the short way between the busses and theborder crossing. Then food and clothing is dstributed amongst otherthings. A lot of refgees have not enough clothes to protectthemselves against the cold. There were infants without shoes orsocks. The clothing donation are improving the situation a little atleast. There is no money coming from official site. The volunteers told us about private donations. Fitting winter clothing like shoes, gloves, socks and hats are espacially needed.
The NGOs are working together with the border police and the cops. Even if they are actually non-governmental –rganizations working in Eidomeni, the cops are telling them how the work should be done. So it is prescribed if the people in the busses to Athens are getting food packages or not. Our impression is that the NGOs try to avoid conflict with the officials to, as they say, not beeing expelled from the area. Also the raw and paternalizing tone and way of behaving of some NGO workers and volunteers attracted our attention negativly. Refugees without hats, who were waiting in line, were beeing putted hats on without asking them. For us it looked really patronizing. It is for sure not a dream of people to wait in line for commodity contributions and not having a choice. The mentioned example doesn´t make it better. We have to stress, that we do not want to deny the often weeklong engagement of people and we appreciate it, but the tendency to depersonalize refugees and not seeing them as full valued people has to be reflected by the people that are helping. Also we could determine that there is an awareness of the injustice of the selection by nationalities, but the factal constraint was always pleaded to justify the own activity and collaboration with the cops.
Of course we are aware that we were on site just a few days and in different times and we therefore are not able to give a conclusive assassement of the situation and we do not intend to do so. As visitors we are also unable to comprehend what all these repressions means to people take flight. But we want to stress that in our perception the european “selection machine” is partly visible in Eidomeni, which is structually, racially and planned degrading refugees and taking their freedom. The work of theNGOs is unfortunately part of the whole thing. It has to be asked if the engagement and the cooperation with the border police is legitimizing the whole selection process. We understand arguments of fast and direct help to protect people from the cold or to offer supplies. The border between charity and political solidarity is fluid. We are aware of the open contradiction between the engagement of the helpers and the active support of the selection process. Without the donations and the voluntary engagement the “selectionmachine” would not work properly, but more people would suffer. We do not have a solution to this problem, but we have some fragments.
Questions we should ask ourselves:
Do I really criticize the europeanborder regime?
How is this critique realizable onmy own door step?
In Eidomeni we practically failed to support the revolt against the european borders. We have to learn from that. If the misery of the fleeing people really has to stop, there has to be political pressue from the streets everywhere in order to open the borders for everybody and to make save and legal escape routes possible. “Political pressure from the streets” means organizing protests, direct actions, civil disobediance and the creation of places of solidarity, organization and of the finding of same ways of expression.
Solidarity has to become political!
In the next days