Δευτέρα, 31 Αυγούστου 2009

Photographs from activists demonstration in the port.

Article & photos: Afrodite Al Salech
The translation belongs to Teacher Dude


The operation was excellently organised with 40 dinghies launched into the waters of the harbour manned by the German rowers who sped towards the open sea.


The port authorities rushed to stop them as a ferry was departing at the time.

As if part of a performance, the port authorities started to repel boarders in exactly the same way they do when they want to prevent rubber boats entering national waters, though more mildly, perhaps.

Afterwards, the sailing demonstrators managed to form the slogan, “Frontex Kills” using letters mounted on their boats.


Demonstrators on the seafront along with passers - by from Mytilini clapped and shouted slogans as well.


They were claims that the port authorities punctured one of the rubber dinghies but as I did not see this with my own eyes I am keeping an open mind on that.



After reaching the harbour the sailing protesters continued their demonstration march with their dinghies slung on their backs.


It was an excellent operation with both symbolism and humour, but the cost of buying 40 rubber boats meant that it was expensive.



***

At the same time a group of lawyers, (with Kourtovik, Tzeferakou and Strahini amongst them) managed to free 150-200 inmates from the Pagani detention centre after many hours of negotiations with the police and the municipality.

Παρασκευή, 21 Αυγούστου 2009

Pagani, Mitilini island , Greece

Article & photos: Afrodite Al Salech
The translation belongs to Christina Melidou

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In an old warehouse in the outskirts of the city of Mytilini, in Pagani, the Special Center for the Detention of Foreigners has been established.
It is built to accommodate 250 people.


Today there are 900 people held there. 300 of them are children aged 7, 9, 11, 12, 13 years old who are not accompanied by their parents.I have visited other detention centers. Everyday I face the harsh reality of human shadows walking around the historic center of Athens. I thought I had seen it all. But what I witnessed today in Pagani is overwhelming.

Hundreds of children stand by the windows, begging you to take their photo in the hope that people, kind people, will learn of their sufferings, will feel compassion and perhaps even help them…
Begging for help and handing us pieces of paper with the word FREEDOM written on them.

Many of these children have been held there for 2-3 months. They can’t go out in the courtyard, not because they are forbidden to but because there’s simply not enough room.

Several children aged 7, 9, 12, 14 started a hunger strike yesterday.
One of them fainted and was taken to hospital today.

It is not just a sence of humanity and duty, it is not a feeling of love towards Iranians, Afgans or any other human being.
It is something else that makes me write this : a deep sense of patriotism. Yes.
It is not just a question of what will happen to little Mohamed, Asman or Ali but also what will happen to little Katerina, Christina or Kostas – our own children. What kind of a country will they grow up in? What will we reply to their questions? What kind of role models will we provide them with?



And I want to ask our politicians and each one of us separately: Do we intend to go down in history as the first country to reinstate concentration camps after the end of WWII?

Σάββατο, 15 Αυγούστου 2009

The Greek Guantanamo and the right to pee

By Afrodite Al Salech
Photos: Iakovos Hatzistavrou
The translation belongs to Teacher Dude

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On Sunday 9th August, 30 foreigners, the majority of them asylum seekers where force to board a ferry and taken in secret from the island of Chios to an unknown destination. This happened as part of a series of “curious” transfers that have taken place lately, as August offers the perfect conditions for such moves(1).

The NGO LATHRA (http://www.lathra.gr) has informed us that 16 of those who sailed from Chios are being held in the Petrou Ralli police station (2), Athens. Other have been sent to Lamia, while some have gone missing.

Those recently brought to Petrou ralli have been kept on the rooftop of the building which is open to the elements. They have been kept out in the open without any form oif protection from the August sun or the sudden downpours. The have only minimal amount of food, no beds nor any toilet facilities.

We have been informed that the tensions which have understandably built up given the conditions were “neutralised” in the usual manner when two police officers armed with batons beat people protesting. The reason for the complaints was the request that the people on the rooftop be allowed to use the building’s toilets instead of having to relieve themselves in front of every one else.

It is definite that those being held on the roof will not remain there for long. The question however, remains where they will be taken next and to which country?

August and especially on the eve of the day of the Madonna(3) offers the ideal cover for every kind of barbarity and the swift “solution” to many problems. I call upon everyone who hasn’t decided to go on holiday to spread the news of these events.

If you wish to join us we will be outside Petrou Ralli police station tomorrow.

Thank you.
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1 - Traditionally, August is the time when most Greek employees take their summer vacations. This means that many state organisation remain closed.

2 - The police station houses the Athens Aliens Bureau.

3 - A public holiday.

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Note: I am informed that the authorities have freed the 16 foreigners. The main problem is that they will be absolutely destitute, sleeping at abandon edifice at the center of Athens, without papers and without any way to survive. That means more workers for the black market.
Profoundly that has nothing to do with migration policy and is totally against not only the human rights but also the Greek state itself.

Attiki Square

By Afrodite Al Salech
Photos: Iakovos Hatzistavrou
The translation belongs to Christina Melidou
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Contrary to what has happened in Agios Panteleimonas, where closing down the playground has driven all the children-local and foreign alike-away, a few blocks away, Attiki Square, is full of life. Dozens of children, mainly from Afghanistan, play around the fountain while their mothers sit on one side of the square and their fathers on the other. A few metres down the road there are two cafés and a kebab shop. People who hang around these establishments do not approach the square but they discuss the immigration matter a lot. Some other Greeks, either more brave or more tolerant, share park benches with Afghan residents.


Most Afghan residents of Attiki Square are different to the immigrants one is accustomed to in the center of Athens. We spoke to them.


Family people

Most of Attiki Square’s Afghan residents are family people and in fact some are quite elderly. This however does not affect the way they are being treated by Greek authorities, as they remain hostages.

They have all been handed a deportation document but the road to other E.U. countries and the road home are both closed. Their first choice was Iran, where they seeked political asylum. Iran sent them to Turkey and Turkey sent them to Greece. It’s hard to believe that these people left their home in search of a better quality of life. Who would abandon home at such an age if his life was not endangered? These people are without doubt refugees.


Dublin II Regulation

Some of the people who reside in the square come from Patras. They arrived here having been forced to leave Patras port. All they want is to leave for another E.U. country. This is very difficult considering that other E.U. countries will arrest them at the border and take them back to Greece , as ordered by the Dublin II Regulation. Of course, other E.U. countries don’t just send to Greece only those who have seeked asylum in Greece. Often they also send those who they deem undesirable in the sence of selective migration which was proclaimed in the European Declaration for Immigration and Asylum.


Take for example Asaf. Asaf had applied for political asylum in the U.K. in 2001. He remained there legally for five years. He then returned home to marry and stayed in Afghanistan for three years but eventually had to return to the U.K.. This time authorities chose not to allow him back in. They deported him to Greece, in the name of the Dublin II Regulation, even though he had never gone through Greece. Today he sleeps in parks and squares. “In England I had a job, friends, a home. I don’t know why they sent me to Greece. Here I have nothing. Why won’t Greece let us go?”. It’s clear that this regulation keeps these people, as well as our country, hostages.


Square slumdogs

But the most tragic victims are children, aged five to twelve. Ali, Musaraf, Mahti, Uali, Ali Nezar…Their parents cannot take care of them so they try to find means of survival alone. They spend all day in the square playing. When they feel hungry they stand outside cafés and kebab stands searching for empty bottles which they will sell in a nearby shop. At night they will seek a bench on a square to sleep, either alone or with their parents. It’s noteworthy that none of the locals have ever accused the children of stealing or begging. These children are just trying to make ends meet. And this occurs in full sight of the police which patrols the area 24 hours a day. Nedless to say that authorities violate international agreements for the protection of children.


Locals

“They have destroyed our neighborhood” says one of the people who hang out in one of the cafés and offers to show us around so that we see what’s happening with our own eyes. After a short walk around Attiki Square we have come to the conclusion that “social integration” has largely been achieved as many shops-chinese, pakistani, african, albanian, romanian-contribute to the economic and social life of this small part of the world. Vassilis’ kiosk has just changed hands and name and is now Mohamed’s kiosk. Unless we prefer the “Manolada social integration plan” where immigrants work 15 hours a day for 5 euro and are tied to motorcycles are dragged around the village when locals feel so inclined. Nevertheless, somewhere in between the “take over” integration model and the “Manolada” model there is a third way, the way of interactive coexistence.


Local shop owners are far less tolerant and violent outbreaks have occurred. According to them, their living is compromised by foreigners. However, one should mention that both staff and customers are mostly foreigners from balkan countries.


There are those of course who have no problem sharing a park bench with an Afghan and appreciate the happy voices of children playing. “It’s not that bad” says one lady, “a few years ago there were no children in the playground and it was sad. Now things are different. Afghans are kind people who have suffered. They don’t steal and they don’t cause trouble. The only problem is that police is everywhere and they arrest them all the time”.

Is Agios Panteleimonas setting the pace?

Others confess that they don’t see a problem now but they are afraid that Attiki Square “is going to follow the pattern of Agios Panteleimonas”. This is not coincidental as “outraged” locals in Attiki Square are the exact same people we met in Agios Panteleimonas-members of the local residents’ committee. When we confronted them about that fact they refused it. They proclaimed their right to help other areas that share the same problem.


The danger of having Agios Panteleimonas become an example of problem solving with locals taking law and order in their hands, with the silent acceptance, if not encouragement, of the authorities has been debated. The experience of Amerikis Square, an area with a significant population of African immigrants, that never experienced problems in the past, proves such. Last week, we spoke to Greek residents and many older ones proclaimed that they don’t mind foreigners but they “would rather see them leave so as not to have the same problems as Agios Panteleimonas”. A 68-year old respectable citizen went as far as to carry a knife “just in case”. Some however mention that members of “Chrysi Avgi” (The fascist/nationalistic party of Greece) speak to local shop owners and try to convince them to protest against immigrants.


The question is what is the governement going to do about this situation? Laws, such as the one put forward by the deputy minister of the Interior, are certainly not the answer. This law introduces 18-month imprisonment, and suggests that not everyone is innocent until proven guilty, as foreigners are presumed to be dangerous for public order.

The government should:

1. Condemn the Dublin II Regulation
2. Improve the procedure for granting asylum, so that people who are entitled to protection according to international law receive it.
3. Understand that police measures do not solve the problem but rather transfer it from neighborhood to neighborhood and from city to city
4. Define the notion of “social integration” so that local owners of business don’t feel threatened and foreign workers are not be exploited


Foreigners have their say

Mr. Ali is 67 years old. He came to Greece three years ago with his wife and three children (aged 13,15 and 7) following the usual route: Afghanistan, Turkey, Greece. The Greek Council sent him to Sperheiados welcoming center in Lamia, where they stayed for year and a half. They were then sent to Athens. Today they live in a one-bedroom basement. Mice and cockroaches keep them company at night. Noone speaks greek so they have trouble finding their way around. They can’t afford their 300 euro rent anymore so they are afraid they will soon be evicted. They welcome us in their home and offer tea. The two older children sit silently at the corner. “They never leave the house” says their mother “They are afraid”. The third child, 7-year-old Maadi roams all day in the square. Playing is the only thing that makes him forget his hunger. “We didn’t want to leave. We are refugees. The Talibans took our home, Iran and Turkey kicked us out” On the wall stands a phorograph of their national hero Abdul Mazari, leader of the Hazara tribe, who was brutally tortured and murdered by the Taliban in 1995.


Mr. Fahran, 55 years old, came to Greece with his wife and two children, aged 17 and 20, four months ago. They had to leave home due to the conflicts with the Taliban. Their first destination was Iran. Iranian authorities sent them to Turkey and Turkey sent them to Greece in an inflatable boat, along with 67 other people. It was very dark when another boat-one with an engine-crashed on them intentionally and they found themselves in the waters of the Aegean. One of their guides however seemed to have the phone number of the greek port police authorities and called them. The port police arrived to their rescue (we have reservations as to that account of events which we have heard many times before. We could assume that illegal immigrant smugglers sink the boats themselves to take advantage of international regulations that force local authorities to save all those who are overboard. Also one cannot exclude the possibility that the greek port police sinks the boats). Mr. Fahran and his family were held in the Mytilini welcoming centre for a fortnight and they were then handed their deportation document and their tickets to Peiraus. As of lately, they have found themselves in Attiki Square. They sleep with a dozen other Afghans in a house and they are waiting for money to be sent to them so that they can flee illegally to Norway where, they’ve been told, refugees are taken care of. Returning to Afghanistan would equal death.


Mr. Orbun is 76 years old. He came to Greece via Iran and Turkey with his wife and children 10 months ago. He occasionally tries to apply for asylum but has not managed to so far. He spends all day at the square and at nightfall returns to his home in Fylis where he lives with many others. He can’t afford food or rent. He expects Greek people to help. He says that he would have never left home had it not been a matter of life or death. He had to save his children.

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P.S. Interviews materialized with the valuable help of Abas who has lived in Greece for three years now and is fluent in greek. We thank him

Mc Yinka, Jerome a.k.a. The Source and El Jeraw

[Three Greek black wizards of hip-hop]

By Afrodite Al Salech
Photos: Iakovos Hatzistavrou
The translation belongs to Christina Melidou
__________________________________________________________________


They play hip-hop, they have fun and people love them – but do people really know them?


Manolis, known as Mc Yinka (short for olayinka =all around you are blessed), was born in Greece to Nigerian parents.

Gerasimos, known as Jerome a.k.a. The Source, was born in Greece. His parents come from Congo.

Zero, known as El Jeraw, came to Greece at the age of five. His parents come from Zimbabwe.


All three, each in his own way, style and personality, have managed to have a career in hip-hop, despite the constant obstacles placed by the Greek legal system. They are, you see, what we not-so-successfully describe as, “second generation immigrants”!


How difficult is it for a black person to grow up in Greece?

Zero: We grew up just fine. We had no problems as children. Problems started when we turned eighteen and realised that, legally speaking, we were not equal to other Greeks.

You were top of your class, weren’t you?

Zero: Yes, but we shouldn’t talk about that!

At an age when most people dedicate themselves to finding their own path in this world and try to find their identity both in personal and in public life, Manolis, Gerasimos and Zero had to face an additional problem: the Greek paradox. They had to constantly battle the immigration authorities for a residence permit, as if they were immigrants, even though they had never left the country, not even for a holiday abroad.

All three use greek lyrics for their songs. They claim it is a challenge to create hip-hop in greek but still “we express ourselves better in greek despite the musical difficulties”.

Do people who hear you and dance to your music realise that you are Greek?

Manolis: Look, image is stronger. While they hear you speak greek on stage, they come and talk to you in english backstage. Or sometimes I talk to a waiter (in greek of course) and he doesn’t understand me! That’s always strange for me but it’s also funny.

Zero: I’ve been criticized for my greek! They told me I don’t speak greek well! (they all laugh). They’re stuck. You ‘re black, therefore you don’t speak greek, you are not greek! End of story.

You must be amongst the first black people in Greece.

Manolis: Our parents are. In the mid ‘80s the first Africans came to Greece. But they were few.

Zero: I remember at school, on the first day of every school year, people would stare, even teachers. I remember that Africans at high school would place a bet on who would be the first to date a white girl.

Gerasimos: It was Nikos Ontoubida, Manolis’ cousin, wasn’t it? (laughter)

What are the main problems for a black person in a country of white people such as Greece?

Zero: Various things. We don’t show up when we want to rent a house. We send a white friend. Or if we’ve made a deal on the phone as soon as they see us they go “Look son, I don’t mind, you’re fine young men. But the other tenants don’t want foreigners”. It’s always the others! Never them! What can you say!

Gerasimos: Or you tell them straight away over the telephone: “Hello, I’m African”. And, if they don’t hang up, you go and take a look at the flat.

Zero: There are of course cases when you tell them “Hi, I’m African” and they reply “And why do you tell me son?”. But that is the exception. There were also times when we couldn’t get in nightclubs. Skin control! Once I played in a club and the following night I wasn’t allowed in! Very popular club. I’ll reveal its name when the time is right. These things still happen but it’s easier for us because they know us.

Gerasime, I have heard some remarks that were not politically correct regarding your participation in Speira Speira (translator’s note: group of performers).

Gerasimos: Yes, yes, but I don’t bother.

Zero: Let me tell you something, it’s not rare for the most racist comments to come from left-wing/progressive people. We have experienced left-wing fascism. Last year, for example, left-wing people didn’t allow us to sing at a festival against racism in Petroupoli because they deemed one of our older songs as insulting. I grant you that the song had some lines that could be misunderstood, it was titled “Shake it”. But we haven’t been allowed in this festival since. I don’t give a damn but all these so-called progressive people often cross over to the other side.

How do you perceive the latest developments in the immigration situation?

Manolis: Look, everyone says that there are fewer immigrants in other countries. One reason why this happens is that other countries grant citizenship. In Greece, even people like us who were born here are considered immigrants!

Do you consider yourself an immigrant?

Manolis: Of course. The system forces me to think so, since I am treated as one. Someone like me in the U.K would be a British citizen.

Gerasimos: I consider myself neither a Greek nor an immigrant. I am a citizen of the world. I am tired of trying to prove the obvious.

Zero: But they don’t allow us to define ourselves as Greeks. I used to feel like a Greek. But every time I had to deal with public services, banks, the police…they always put me in my place. And there came a moment when I told myself “boy, you are an immigrant. End of story.”. I had to do this to move on and be calm.

What’s your status at the moment?

Manolis: I had a residence permit up until now. Now I am waiting for my new “child of immigrants” card for people who have been residing in Greece for a long time.

Are you happy with this card?

Manolis: Of course not, but it’s something. At least I can stop queuing for a residence permit. And finally I can travel. You know, I couldn’t go on concerts abroad. Obviously what we really want is citizenship. That’s fair. I want to have a voting right.

Zero: I’ve applied for citizenship since 1997. But there was a problem with my residence permit. What could I do, I always received it after it had expired! You know we apply and then we receive it two years later, on the month it expires! It’s hell! So I couldn’t file my application. Now, I have a card but I don’t know where I stand with my passport. If it expires I’ll have a problem as I can’t travel to Zimbabwe to renew it. Last year the government there murdered my father for being a member of the opposition. They mutilated him and threw him in the river. I can’t go. I don’t know what will happen when I land at the airport.

You have a sister as well…

Zero: Yes, Athina. Athina was born in Greece. But my sister’s existence is not acknowledged. For all intentions and purposes she is without country and citizenship. We’ve been trying for years but nothing happens. The government doesn’t care.

Gerasimos: Finally, I am beginning to see some light with this card for people that have been residents for a long time. Look, the situation sucks. I often ask myself if my only purpose in this world is to stand in a queue with a handful of documents. What does any person really want? To be allowed to live in decency, to travel, to have an internet connection at home. Can I do these things? Up until now, I can’t. Those who govern have a short memory. Greeks were immigrants for at least twenty years. Are they kidding us? It’s all about who gives bragging rights to Greece. If you win the eurovision song contest,or play basket ball or bring olympic medals then they acknowledge your presence.

Zero: Sofoklis (translator’s note: they refer to a basketball player) is not a black man. He’s Sofo. That’s it.

Go to the Eurovision Song Contest then.

Gerasimos: That’s tricky. If we go and win, we’ll be good. If we lose, we’ll have to disappear off the face of this earth! (laughter)

Enough about the law system. How about everyday interaction with people?

Manolis: Greeks are fine. No problem.

Gerasimos: It’s only when others started bringing up the notion that people should not be fine with it that things changed. After the european parliament elections I first noticed “looks”. Look, it’s simple. If mass media spent a week saying that black is cool, people would run to self-tan beds. “Africa look” would be all popular!

Zero: They frighten people. Those on top give instructions for mass media to follow. Now immigrants are the enemy, because that’s convenient. They control our minds, they turn our attention elsewhere so they can go on with their business.

Gerasimos: Half the forest surrounding Athens burned down. Who knows? It was all about the immigrants at the time this happened. Burned trees will turn into houses. It’s organised crime really.

Zero: The last thing on a Greek’s mind now is immigration policy. Greeks are drowned in debts. But they control your mind so that you think of immigrants rather than the financial situation that government policies have brought about. And I’ll tell you one more thing: Say, that tomorrow morning all immigrants disappear from Greece. Will the average person have a better life? Increased salary? Quality of life? Better health care? Better education? Of course not.

Gerasimos: I have an idea. Let’s send all immigrants home and let’s bring back all Greeks living abroad. These people are twice the greek population. Do they want that?

And what do you do for things to change?

Manolis: Our music is our means. We have no other way. In my last album I have a song called “Xairetismos”. I sing for what I believe, the way I see things. “Greece 2000 plus immigrants, weak links on a social chain of xenomaniac xenophobiacs”

Gerasimos: I have a song called “What I live”. I speak my truth for the children of immigrants. I’m not interested in accusations. I’m interested in giving people an incentive to discover the truth. The first verse goes “another song, another wound, another soul, another cab gone” like when you hail a cab and it doesn’t stop. Someday some cab will stop but it’s all about all those that didn’t stop because we were black.

You use cabs as a symbolism?

Zero: What are you talking about? I don’t know what’s up with cab drivers. They don’t pick up black people. And if a kind person finally dares to differ he’ll always say “you blacks are fine people”. And I tell them “no, not all of us are”. That’s just another stereotype.

The right to not be “a nice person”?

Zero: Of course! Imagine if we dare to not be nice? It will condemn our entire nation! (laughter)

How about Barrack Obama’s election?

Gerasimos: People were optimistic even if it was just for a day. For a little while people on the planet felt there was hope. That is enough.

How about the possibility of electing a black person to the greek parliament?

Zero: People in Crete call me the “cretan Obama”

Gerasimos: It’s not unlikely. But it will just be for appearances. A symbolism. Everything in Greece is sumbolic.

Manolis: You can’t make sense of it. Which is why we keep singing “I salute your struggle with respect. I take up light and sing your icon”


Thank you!
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Learn more:

Mc Yinka
http://www.myspace.com/mcyinka
http://www.facebook.com/people/Mc-Yinka-manolis-Afolanio/1618149541
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Athens-Greece/Mc-Yinka/82597707484


El Jeraw
http://www.myspace.com/subzeraw
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=102205411100&ref=mf
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=101818665706
http://www.facebook.com/zeraw


Jerome a.k.a. THE SOURCE
http://www.facebook.com/jerome.kaluta
http://www.myspace.com/jeromethesource
http://www.facebook.com/pages/JEROME-aka-THE-SOURCE/17999764747


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Δευτέρα, 3 Αυγούστου 2009

Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced


A highly recommended article: Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced

Click here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/malalai-joya-the-woman-who-will-not-be-silenced-1763127.html

Manos or Hassim. Number 481352 - Born in Greece

By Afrodite Al Salech
Photos: Iakovos Hatzistavrou
The translation belongs to Teacher Dude

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Manos was born in Greece in 1977, his parents immigrants from Iraq. He studied in the 17th primary school, Peiria and the 2nd junior high school, Renti. Everything went smoothly until 1992 when his father died. Manos was just 15 years old when his mother, unable to deal with the loss of her husband alone in Greece made the fateful decision to take her children to visit her home country, Iraq. It took just a few days for her to realise that this was a mistake, however, there was no going back.


The regime of Saddam Hussein welcomed them then slammed the door shut. Despite the fact that Manos was a stranger in his country of origin and didn’t even know the language he found himself doing his military service in the Devil’s Triangle, on the border between Iraq, Iran and Kuwait. He lasted just six months before deserting. However, luck was not on his side and he was arrested by the Iraqi authorities and subsequently spent 3 years 8 months in jail.

We asked him what it was like there. He falters, words are not enough,

“A fellow prisoner couldn’t take it anymore and killed himself in the the only why he could by banging his head against the wall until he passed away. Right there, in front of our eyes”. he explains.

And his own experiences? He shows us the scars on his face and body a from cigarettes burns. “They would put us in a crate 1.5 by 1.5m and keep us there for 2 months”. And for the rest of the time? “15 of us lived in a cell, 5m by 3 with cameras everywhere. They would make us beat fellow prisoners, If we refused they would kill us.”

When he was released in 2000 he couldn’t remember his name for many hours. “In prison, you see they call us by a number, mine was 481352.”

“When did you return to Greece, we ask?” “A few months later I applied for a visa from the embassy in Greece but they never gave me one”.

So he decided to come to Greece, his own country, illegally. During his first attempt he only reached as far as northern Turkey before being arrested by the Turkish authorities. After spending 17 days in jail in Kurdistan he managed to escape.

During his second attempt the same thing happened again, however, his third attempt was more successful when he managed to cross into Greece via the Evros river. Unable to pay smugglers he used a dinghy to cross the river, however he was picked up by border guards in Mandri, near Soufli. He explained his story at the local police station but the police accused him of smuggling and sent him back to Turkey illegally.



There he claimed that he was from Palestine and after spending five days in jail managed to re-enter Greece, this time getting all the way to Athens via Alexandroupoli in 2005.

We asked him about the gangs that smuggle people into the country. “I didn’t have any money so I came on my own. However, when I was in Turkey I made sure I found out everything so as to follow the same routes and tactics they used. Google maps helped me a lot.

A good spot in Turkey is in Istanbul, in Kourtoulous (Tatavla) 2km from Taxim square. From there people smugglers drive 20-30 immigrants to Evros. They take them across the river in dinghies and with the help of Greeks send them to Athens. There they are kept hostage in some home until they pay the smugglers. If the border patrols catch them they are secretly sent back to Turkey with the help Turkish authorities and Greek hunters. Otherwise they are imprisoned for three months and sent to Athens where they are served a deportation order.

A second route is from Turkey to Greece is via Bulgaria and then through Pomak villages. The third route is by boat from the Turkish coast to Greek islands such as Mytilini, Samos and Chios. These journeys cost between 2000 and 5000 euros.”


“How exactly did you you enter Greece the last time?”

“I found somebody to take me as far as the border, on the Turkish side of the Evros river. I gave him 200 euros. I had got myself a dinghy and clean clothes which I put inside a waterproof bag. This bag, along with another inflatable one served as a life belt. I crossed the river then changed into my clothes. I knew about the police road blocks in Mandra and so I avoided them. Another serious danger are the minefields but they’re further north in Didimoteixo. If you know that you’re not in danger.”



“Once I was in Athens I looked for a lawyer in order to become legal”. The lawyers, as he explains to us, are not so different to the smugglers, they ask for money for everything. From 2000 euros for a residence permit to 10,000 for full Greek citizenship. I started to work on the black market and 2 years later I met my girlfriend, Christina who persuaded me to apply for political asylum.”

“I went to the aliens bureau in Petrou Rally street. when I got there at the crack of dawn one Saturday a fewe months ago the only thing I could see were thousands of heads. It was raining and the police kept on hitting us with clubs and shouting at us to sit down. One cop started to threaten me but changed his attitude when he saw that I could speak Greek. I told him that I was Greek and so he took me to an office where I explained my story and got an appointment to claim a pink asylum seekers card immediately.”

“What will you do now?”

“I don’t know, he answers. The card runs out in one month and I hope that they will re-new it. However, I’m not sure at all about that”.

Manos is one of the hundreds of thousands of who were born in Greece who studied in Greek schools, who think, dream and fall in love in Greek. But Greece, their de facto homeland does not recognise their right to be Greek.

If Manos had Greek citizenship he probably wouldn’t have gone to Iraq and would have avoided what happened to him there. He would have been dealt as a ward of the state and a special case and not be just an asylum seeker with a pink card. A card that will probably run out. And so having no other choice he will remain an outlaw in his own country. A Greek illegal immigrant in Greece.