Hell for refugees in Lesbos, Greece

Greek policeman kicks out at refugees in the Moria camp in Lesbos

From News Line daily in Britain today:

Abysmal conditions for thousands of refugees in ‘Moria 2.0’ camp

THOUSANDS of people are living in abysmal conditions in a new camp, which was built to replace Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, after it was destroyed by fire last month.

According to the Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam, conditions are even worse than in Moria, with little or no running water, no sewage management or treatment, limited health facilities and woefully inadequate shelter.

Almost 8,000 people – most of them families with children – have been moved to the new camp, which has been dubbed ‘Moria 2.0’ by residents. Many are living in flimsy tents, some of which are pitched just 20 metres from the sea and have already been flooded and battered by strong winds.

The location of the new camp is on a former military shooting range, which had to be swept for landmines and unexploded grenades before being built on.

More than 12,000 people were left in destitution, following the fires that swept through Moria camp on the 8th and 9th September. Nearly 8,000 have been moved to a new emergency camp in the area of Kara Tepe where they are living in precarious conditions with no access to running water or protection from the weather.

People are having to live in flimsy tents pitched too close to the sea, meaning they are battered by wind and prone to flooding.

In addition, the inhabitants of the new camp have been given tents which are deemed ‘not fit for winter’.

Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees published a press statement on October 20 in which they declared that conditions in the migrant camp on Lesbos, set up after fire destroyed the original Moria camp, ‘are abysmal’ and worse than at the previous camp.

‘The new temporary camp on the Greek island of Lesbos is even worse than the original Moria camp, with inadequate shelter, hardly any running water, limited healthcare services, and no access to legal aid,’ read a joint press statement from the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Oxfam International and the Greek Council for Refugees.

The conditions the two organisations have reported in the new camp have solidified their conviction that all asylum seekers in Lesbos should be ‘immediately relocated to adequate accommodation on the Greek mainland and in other EU countries’.

Oxfam visited the camp at the end of September in order to conduct a ‘rapid protection assessment’, states their press release. Once there, they found ‘numerous risks’, including ‘limited access to food and healthcare, insufficient measures against Covid-19, as well as no drainage and sewerage system on site’.

Many of the tents lack solid foundations, reported the international charity. That means they afford little protection against weather extremes like strong sea winds and flooding.

In fact, since the team visited, it has received various photos from inhabitants of the camp whom they met during the reporting trip which testify to walkways and tents flooding or becoming sodden after just 10 minutes of rain according to the migrants who sent the photos.

Residents told Oxfam that the quantity of the food provided is ‘not enough’ as it is only handed out once or twice a day. It is also of ‘bad quality’, according to them.

Hygiene facilities are difficult at the new camp.

There is a lack of running water and so Oxfam says many of the camp residents have been washing in the sea. This poses the risk of drowning, particularly for children, notes Oxfam, as well as the risk of being infected by contamination from wastewater from the camp, which is also draining into the sea.

Women face particular problems, noted Oxfam, because there is a ‘lack of toilets and showers, as well as insufficient lighting in the new camp’.

This means they could be exposed to ‘increased risks of sexual and gender-based violence’.

Oxfam’s EU migration expert, Raphael Shilhav said in the press statement: ‘When Moria burnt down, we heard strong statements from EU decision-makers saying “No more Morias”. But the new camp is rightly dubbed “Moria 2.0”.’

Shilhav criticises both the EU and the Greek responses following the fire, calling them ‘pitiful’. He says instead of looking at relocation, the authorities have ‘opted for another dismal camp at the external borders, trapping people in a spiral of destitution and misery’.

Shilhav says that by leaving people at the edges of Europe they remain ‘in limbo and despair, out of sight of the European public and politicians’.

The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) echoed Oxfam’s concerns. Natalia-Rafaella Kafkoutsou, a refugee law expert at the GCR, said the refugee body was also worried about the living conditions in the new camp.

Kafkoutsou welcomed the Greek government’s declaration to relocate all residents in the camp by Easter but said that plan ‘failed to address the squalid conditions in the camp, which will deteriorate in winter’.

Kafkoutsou said it was important that the Greek government offered coherent integration strategies and didn’t just ‘transfer a policy-made problem from the island to the mainland’. This means that the much-talked-about European solidarity mechanism needed to step up and work on an ‘effective relocation across member states for those seeking protection in Europe’.

Oxfam and GCR both expressed doubts about the ideas expressed in the new EU migration pact which was outlined towards the end of September. Kafkoutsou pointed out that ‘the practices and policies that led to the failure of the EU “hotspot” approach, both in Lesbos and the other Aegean islands, should not be replicated and consolidated in the EU’s future asylum system, which seems to be the case with the current proposals for a new EU migration pact.’

An asylum seeker currently living in Folkestone’s Napier Barracks assessment centre has spoken of the terrifying experience of crossing the English Channel.

This year, more than 5,000 refugees have made the arduous journey here on small boats and dinghies – risking their lives to do so.

They are often overloaded with people and many have had to be rescued from trouble by Border Force patrols or citizen boats.

The refugee, who has asked to be identified as MS, told the story of his harrowing experience.

After fleeing his home country of Yemen, MS spent several years homeless on the streets of Spain and Belgium.

However, nothing could have prepared him for how hard the journey would be. He said: ‘It was a really scary trip. We set off at three in the morning, and it lasted for nearly four hours. The engine stopped three times.

‘The waves hit us several times and nearly capsized us on one occasion.’

As many of the small boats are overloaded, refugees making the crossing need to be constantly alert to stop the craft from sinking.

As most attempts occur under cover of darkness, it can be difficult to keep afloat, as MS explains: ‘The water enters the small boat a lot.

‘We were working throughout the trip to take out the water so that we would not drown. We were very wet, and freezing cold because it was early in the morning.’

The majority of refugees who have made the crossing are young men. MS says on his boat there were several women and children, some of whom became panicked by the ordeal.

He said: ‘There was a little Syrian boy who had a panic attack. He started screaming hysterically whenever he saw the water coming in and he said, “I cannot swim.”

‘We tried to calm him down and reassure him that we will arrive safely.

‘A Yemeni woman who was on the trip was very frightened and prayed all the time and sometimes cried.’

According to him, it was at the point when a Border Forces boat arrived that the refugees finally felt like they were safe.

MS explained: ‘We didn’t feel safe until we saw the Border Forces boat that pulled us onto their ship and gave us some blankets so that we wouldn’t get cold.

‘That renewed our hope that we might have a better chance in the UK than we had in Europe.’

Unaccompanied children who have crossed the Channel in small boats are being forced to wait for days in a holding unit without access to beds or showers before being placed in local authority care, a government watchdog has warned.

The children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said delays in moving youngsters out of the Kent Intake Unit – where asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel from France are processed before being moved on to other areas – was creating an ‘untenable’ situation.

Unaccompanied minors arriving on the UK coast previously went straight into local authority care in Kent, but Kent County Council announced in August that it had reached capacity and could not take in any more children.

The Home Office said the underage arrivals would instead be kept at the Kent Intake Unit before being placed with social services. The department is said to have recruited a team of four agency staff to work at the unit, which is located within the port of Dover and has a short-term holding facility for both adults and children.

Anne Longfield warned that the current system was leaving ‘children who had survived a dangerous boat crossing, and may have slept rough for months or been trafficked, waiting almost 72 hours in a holding unit without access to showers or beds, waiting for social workers from another county to come and collect them’.

In a blog post following a recent visit to the Kent Intake Unit, the commissioner wrote: ‘While front-line staff are working tirelessly to care for these children, the current situation is untenable.’

The Home Office said children would be allocated to local authorities across the country under the national transfer scheme, a voluntary programme set up in 2016 to more evenly share the costs of supporting unaccompanied children.

However, Longfield said the system and processes for dispersing child asylum seekers to local councils nationally was ‘buckling’ and in need of reform.

‘It is crucial that the scheme is reformed and properly funded so that more councils are willing to take children into their care, especially when cash-strapped councils are already struggling to provide the right support for the children already in their care. A national age assessment scheme could also help to reduce delays,’ she said.

Around 100 local authorities have pledged more than 400 places for unaccompanied children under the scheme, but the Home Office has said more needs to come forward and ‘do their bit for vulnerable children’.

Bridget Chapman, learning and project coordinator for Kent Refugee Action Network (Kran), which supports asylum-seeking children and young people in the Kent area, said: ‘I’m horrified but not surprised to find that children are being kept in what amounts to dehumanising conditions.

‘We raised questions about the suitability of this venue being used to hold them and nothing was done. We now have vulnerable children being traumatised in Kent before they’re then moved on to somewhere else.’

Chapman called for the national transfer scheme to be reinstated and funded ‘properly’, adding: ‘It has to be done with a support plan in place. It has to be funded properly and it has to be done in a timely fashion.’

Bella Sankey, director at Detention Action, said: ‘A government can be judged on how it chooses to treat unaccompanied refugee children that seek its help. Ours is currently detaining these children indefinitely, with adults, in cramped conditions and without basic facilities such as beds.

‘It is a sickening situation and a deliberate policy choice of Priti Patel’s Home Office which has failed to ensure that local authorities around the country are resourced and mandated to promptly take these children into their care.’

Greek nazis are criminals, court decides

Magda Fyssa (centre) the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013 triggering a crackdown on the party, celebrates immediately after the delivery of the verdict of a court in Athens

Magda Fyssa (centre) the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party in 2013 triggering a crackdown on the party, celebrates immediately after the delivery of the verdict of a court in Athens.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Editorial: The Golden Dawn verdicts are a victory that should encourage anti-fascists everywhere

THE verdict that Greece’s fascist Golden Dawn party is a criminal organisation is a huge victory for the Greek left and international anti-fascism.

It is a vindication of years of work to mobilise against fascism and isolate the neonazi party.

And it’s a win for popular pressure that forced a reluctant Greek state to take action – pressure symbolised by the thousands who rallied outside the courthouse today, and reluctance symbolised by the state prosecutor who recommended that the charge that Golden Dawn was a criminal organisation should be dropped and the specific crimes committed considered as the acts of individuals.

Those crimes are a showcase of the targets prioritised by fascists. The murder of the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas. The attempted murder of an immigrant fisherman. The attempted murder of a metalworkers’ trade-union leader and communist.

The fascists had friends in high places: the communist trade-union leader Sotiris Poulikogiannis pointed during the trial to Golden Dawn’s co-ordination with shipyard owners who wanted its help in smashing the militant union in their workplace. Lawyer Thanasis Kampagiannis has described the back channels that existed between Golden Dawn and the mainstream conservative party New Democracy – which forms the current Greek government.

They were defeated not by Greek officialdom but by years of community organising and anti-fascist unity to build what Kampagiannis calls a “democratic wall” to stop them. That is why Golden Dawn lost every parliamentary seat it had last year.

That mobilisation will need to continue. Illegality is a serious blow to fascists, but these dealers in death were already criminals.

Street violence is part of the core strategy of fascism. Mussolini’s Blackshirts were identified by Hitler as the key innovation of the original Fascist Party. Golden Dawn’s now convicted leader Nikos Mihaloliakos spoke to this truth when responding to election defeat: “We return where we became strong, on the streets and squares, in the tough struggle against Bolshevism.”

Violence precedes and underlies all its forays into “official” politics – as in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP was formed as the political wing of the RSS Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisations. To this day they act as his boots on the ground, breaking up opposition meetings, setting on and killing political opponents as the murder last weekend of Keralan communist organiser PU Sanoop illustrates.

Internationally fascism is far from dead. India’s BJP, with its virulent xenophobia, bids to rewrite history to erase non-Hindus from the national story and routine use of violence, is the governing party in the modern world closest to the classic model of fascism. But the threat also exists elsewhere.

Germany, reeling from an anti-semitic attempted murder whose suspected perpetrator carried a swastika in his pocket, has been forced to disband its entire elite KSK military unit – the German army’s equivalent to the SAS – because of officers’ links to far-right terror.

In the United States, gun-toting white supremacists march against Black Lives Matter demonstrators: when they kill, as Kyle Rittenhouse did in Kenosha, Wisconsin, they receive warm words from a US president who has also called on the far-right Proud Boys to “stand by” in an election whose official result he will not commit to accepting. In Britain, racists block the roads from Dover and the Home Secretary panders to them by calling on the navy to keep out refugees.

The left internationally should look to Greece for our response. Liberal officialdom will appease and collaborate: the socialist left must organise against fascism as only we can, since socialists understand the real causes of the fears fascists prey on, which lie in the insecurity and misery created by the capitalist system. Yet understanding those fears and offering real solutions does not mean giving an inch to the fascists’ lies.

As Communist Party of Greece general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas quoted after the verdict: “Understand fascism – it will not die by itself. Crush it.”

No to Turkish-Greek oil war!

This 12 August 2020 video says about itself:

Turkey: Greek warship seen off island of Kastellorizo following Turkish oil search

Footage filmed from the Turkish town of Kas looking out upon Greek island of Kastellorizo in distance purportedly shows a Greek warship, on Tuesday.

The sighting came a day after Turkey sent one of its oil-and-gas research vessels Oruc Reis escorted by Turkish warships to carry out a seismic survey, used primarily for oil and gas exploration, off the Greek island.

Greece has reportedly responded by bringing in a large portion of its fleet to the area.

Athens considers the Turkish research to be contrary to international law stating that the sea areas belong to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Greece according to the rules of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

From daily News Line in Britain, 31 August 2020:

No War! Greek And Turkish Workers Must Unite – Their Enemy Is At Home

WHILE President Trump is celebrating the Israel-UAE alliance against Iran and Palestine, and planning to extend it throughout the region, his NATO allies are getting ready to cut each other’s throats in the Med.

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu yesterday warned Greece that its plans to extend its territorial waters would be taken by Turkey as a declaration of war.

Turkey’s discovery of major gas deposits in waters surrounding Crete and Cyprus has further escalated tensions between the two states.

Cavusoglu has now warned France against supporting Greece, saying that Paris wants to create a security force of the EU against NATO. Turkey is signalling to the USA its willingness to help the USA curb the EU. ‘NATO is one of the goals of the current escalation,’ Cavusoglu added.

The Turkish military has launched fresh war games in the eastern Mediterranean region, as tensions between Ankara and Athens mount over maritime borders and gas drilling rights.

The EU is taking the side of Greece, with France last week deploying its naval forces to hold joint military exercises with Greece along with Italy and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay has attacked as ‘hypocritical’ a threat by the EU to impose sanctions on Ankara, saying that: ‘We are proficient in the language of peace and diplomacy, but will not hesitate to do the necessary thing when it comes to defending Turkey’s rights and interests. France and Greece know that better than anyone,’ he added.

EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, who said that the bloc was preparing to slap sanctions on Turkey to curtail Turkey’s ability to explore for natural gas in the contested waters of the region, and could, according to Borrell, target individuals, Turkish ships and the use of European ports.

‘We can go to measures related to sectoral activities … where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy,’ Borrell told a news conference recently in reference to the possible sanctions.

On Friday, August 28, Turkey declared that it would hold military drills off northwest Cyprus in the coming weeks.

Following that, the Turkish military issued a warning to mariners, known as a Navtex, which said it would be holding a ‘gunnery exercise’ from Saturday, August 29th until September 11th. Before that, on August 12th, Greek and Turkish frigates that were following one of Ankara’s oil and gas survey ships, the Oruc Reis, collided.

Turkish and Greek F-16 fighter jets have already engaged in a mock ‘dogfight’ over the Mediterranean as Ankara dispatched its planes to intercept six Greek jets as they returned from war games in Cyprus. The Med region was not always a powder keg ready to be exploded by the NATO alliance, and the EU.

It was Colonel Gadaffi who warned the UK and NATO that if it moved to remove him through military action, then Libya would be carved up by Islamists and the whole region would be propelled into a massive oil war.

The Middle East and the Med region is set to explode and end the US plans for a signing ceremony in Washington of the normalisation deal with the United Arab Emirates in which the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was due to participate, to seal the anti-Palestine and anti-Iran alliance.

Israeli minister Ofir Akunis said yesterday that the date for the signing ceremony could be decided by senior aides to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in Abu Dhabi today.

In fact, the fear of Arab and Muslim leaders of the consequences of making a deal with Israel and selling out Palestine is very great. The Sudan leadership told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ‘NO’ and rejected a major financial bribe, such is the fear of the Arab revolution.

What is required in the Med region are not imperialist wars but socialist revolutions. The Greek and Turkish workers must unite to prevent any war in the Med. Their enemy is at home. It is the EU capitalists that have destroyed Greece, not the Turkish workers nor any other section of the working class.

Coronavirus news update

This 3 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Fired Amazon Worker Chris Smalls Responds To Leaked Smear Campaign Plans

Amazon executives described Smalls as “not smart or articulate”, Smalls was fired after organizing a walkout over employee safety at Amazon‘s Staten Island warehouse.

Now, a better consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Today, Dutch NOS radio reports that 35 Dutch soldiers have returned from Iraq. Earlier, scores had returned from the Afghan war. This should be an example for all governments in the world; to fight the coronavirus in worldwide solidarity; instead of fighting, or planning to fight, war on Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Iran, nuclear-armed China or nuclear-armed Russia.

Greek hospital doctors outside the Athens Health Ministry – they are demanding the requisitioning of the private sector

From daily News Line in Britain today:

GREEK DOCTORS DEMAND ‘PUT AN END TO PRIVATE SECTOR’ – fill 30,000 vacancies in the Greek NHS

THE Greek National Health Service doctors’ union OENGE has called on all doctors, trade unions, trades councils and social associations to ‘organise jointly mobilisations at hospitals’ entrances and protests at health administrative centres’ on 7 April, the ‘World Health Day – National Day of Action’.

The call was issued last Wednesday by the President of OENGE, Afrodite Rentziou, at the entrance of the Attiko Hospital near Athens. Several trade unions federations have pledged participation.

Rentziou said that only 75 new beds have been placed in Intensive Care Units, on top of 600, when the necessary number exceeds 3,500.

She added that before the coronavirus pandemic, there were 30,000 unfilled vacancies in the Greek NHS and the government now say that only 4,000 would be hired and for just a few months.

Rentziou appealed for the immediate employment of some 900 doctors who have applied for work in the hospitals.

OENGE have put forward three main demands. Mass employment of doctors, nurses and hospital staff; total unconditional requisition of the health private sector and integration with the Greek NHS; and protective clothing, masks and gloves for all medical staff.

On Thursday evening the Greek government’s health spokesperson Dr Sotiris Tsiodras announced that 1,514 people have been infected by the coronavirus and 53 have died since March 10.

The refugee camp at Ritsona, 50 km north of Athens, declared a lockdown on Thursday following 20 reported cases of coronavirus infection.

Dozens of villages in northern Greece have been declared infected by the virus and police and Greek Army units enforce a total prohibition of movement in or out of the villages.

The large ferry Eleftherios Venizelos with some 350 people on board of whom 120 have tested positive, according to the seafarers’ crew union PENEN, has docked in the port of Piraeus and will remain on a 14-day quarantine.

PENEN have denounced shipping companies for not declaring infections on cargo ships.

Greece quarantines Ritsona camp refugees: here.

Greek anti-nazi fighter Manolis Glezos, RIP

Greek anti-fascist resistance fighter Manolis Glezos. Photo: Guido van Nispen/Creative Commons

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, March 30, 2020

Greek anti-fascist resistance hero Manolis Glezos dies at 97

GREEK anti-fascist resistance fighter Manolis Glezos died today aged 97.

Famed for tearing down the swastika flag from the Acropolis with his friend Apostolos Santas at the age of 18 in 1941, Mr Glezos embarked on a lifetime of political struggle, being arrested as recently as 2012 for protesting against EU austerity measures being imposed on Greece.

Mr Glezos was sentenced to death for communist activity in 1948 during the Greek civil war, but this was commuted to life imprisonment in 1950. He was elected to parliament from prison a year later for the United Democratic Left, an organisation with close links to the then banned Communist Party. Released from jail in 1954, he was jailed again in 1958, prompting the Soviet Union to issue a stamp in his honour and award him the Lenin Peace Prize.

Greek teenager’s graffiti art about coronavirus

This 20 March 2020 video says about itself:

Greek teenage artist’s graffiti inspired by virus

Restrictions to prevent the spread of the new virus have kept millions at home, including teenage Greek graffiti artist S.F. who added some artwork to his own building in Athens. The 16-year-old art student was inspired by the masks worn by people around the world as protection against the virus. His new mural on the roof of his apartment block shows a woman wearing one.

Greek police fires live ammunition at refugees

This 5 March 2019 video is about the killing of Syrian refugee Muhammad al-Arab at the Turkish-Greek border.

By Martin Kreickenbaum:

Greek police shoot at refugees using live ammunition

9 March 2020

The situation for refugees on the Greek-Turkish border has further worsened in the last days. More than 10,000 people are trapped in the border area, unable to move backward or forward. Greek border police and soldiers are using live ammunition to prevent refugees from entering the country. At least six refugees have been seriously injured, one Syrian refugee has even been shot dead.

The use of live ammunition is being carried out with the explicit support of the European Union (EU). Meetings of EU interior ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, and EU foreign ministers on Thursday, reaffirmed Europe’s inhuman attitude towards the plight of the refugees.

The statement of the EU interior ministers states, “Illegal border crossings will not be tolerated. The EU member states would take ‘all necessary measures in accordance with EU and international law’ to ‘protect’ the borders against refugees.” EU Internal Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson added, “I am counting on the Greek government to follow suit.”

The EU is calling on the Greek government to drive back the refugees with all its might, and is putting this call into practice by having border police and border guards shoot at refugees.

Although the government in Athens rejects reports about the use of live ammunition at the border as “false reports”, videos circulating on the internet have been determined to be genuine and authentic by journalists. Reporter Mark Stone of Sky News confirmed a video showing injured refugees being carried away from the border wrapped in blankets. In this case alone, six refugees had been seriously injured by shots in the chest, head, legs and groin area.

The internationally renowned research agency Forensic Architecture, which is affiliated with London University and has investigated, among other things, the fire at London’s Grenfell Tower and the murder of Halit Yozgat in Kassel by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU), also confirmed the murder of refugee Muhammad Al-Arab.

A video [top of this blog post] shows the 22-year-old from Aleppo, Syria, who was fatally hit with rubber bullets fired by border police on the border river Evros, being carried away bleeding heavily from his head. The Greek government has so far refused to investigate these incidents.

Moreover, Greek police do not use “normal” tear gas grenades when seeking to expel refugees at border crossings, but instead use cartridges with a tip. A photo from the investigative website Bellingcat shows a Greek border police officer loading such a bullet into his tear gas rifle.

According to Bellingcat, “normal tear gas grenades have a limited range”, however, the projectiles used by the Greek police at the border have “significantly more force” and in combination with the sharp tip are “potentially lethal.” Bellingcat notes that almost identical tear gas cartridges were used against demonstrators during the recent protests and riots in Iraq, injuring or even killing dozens.

Violence against refugees is increasing dramatically, not only on the land border between Greece and Turkey; in the Aegean Sea, too, refugees are being brutally prevented from landing on a Greek island.

The refugee aid initiative Alarmphone, to which refugees in the Mediterranean who are in distress at sea can turn, reports several cases that occurred between March 1 and 3, in which refugee boats were fired at or attacked and robbed by masked people. In some cases, the boats’ engines were stolen, leaving the refugees helplessly adrift at sea. Emergency forces of the EU border protection agency Frontex and the Greek coast guard did not intervene, although they were in the immediate vicinity.

The German refugee aid organization Pro-Asyl, which recently reported shots being fired at the Hungarian border, sharply criticized the use of rubber bullets and live ammunition at the Greek-Turkish border. “There are several reports that fugitives are also being shot at on the Greek border. The order to shoot is a European reality; just four years after the demands of the [far-right Alternative for Germany] AfD.” Pro-Asyl is referring to statements by the then AfD chairperson Frauke Petry, who declared in 2016 that the Federal Police must “if necessary, also use firearms” when confronting those crossing borders “illegally”.

In contrast to 2016, however, the order to shoot at European borders has become official German government policy. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (Social Democratic Party, SPD) unreservedly supports the brutal action of the Greek police towards refugees. He told Deutschlandfunk radio, “We are assuming that all this is being done in a proportionate and also very appropriate manner, and we are also prepared to help the Greeks in this difficult situation, including with funds that we are making available.”

This support consists of an EU grant of €700 million to further strengthen border security against refugees. Seven ships, aircraft, helicopters and vehicles with thermal imaging cameras will also be made available to the Greek government. The Frontex intervention force will be transferred to the border.

Maas, who always demands compliance with international law whenever it serves German interests, also approves of the suspension of the right of asylum, which is contrary to international law, and the illegal deportations of refugees carried out by the Greek authorities.

At their meeting on Thursday evening in Zagreb, Croatia, at the insistence of the German foreign minister, EU foreign ministers increased the pressure on the Turkish government to comply with the EU-Turkey refugee agreement. The EU expects Turkey to comply with this declaration in return for financial support and to guarantee the accommodation of refugees in Turkey, Maas said.

This attitude is cynical and dishonest. Turkey has taken in a total of 3.6 million refugees from Syria, more than twice as many as all EU member states together. Moreover, the dirty deal that Chancellor Angela Merkel negotiated with Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan in Spring 2016 has no legal force whatsoever, as it is not a recognised accord, but only a declaration of intent. The European Union has thus engaged the Turkish government as a stooge to prevent by force the further influx of refugees into the EU.

The insistence on this shameful deal is now creating a humanitarian disaster on the Turkish-Greek border and on the Syrian-Turkish border in the Idlib region, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are stranded and camped in makeshift tents.

Through the EU’s uncompromising and violent defence of “Fortress Europe”, refugees on the Greek-Turkish border are literally caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the Greek border police are hunting down refugees as “illegal immigrants” and shooting at them using live ammunition, on the other hand, they are prevented from returning to Turkey by special units of the Turkish police. More than 10,000 people are thus trapped in no man’s land.

The German government, which has a decisive influence on EU migration policy, has also made clear it will not deviate from its tough stance, by refusing to accept even one unaccompanied child from the catastrophically overcrowded internment camps on the Greek Aegean islands or from the Greek-Turkish border area. A motion by the Green group in the Bundestag (federal parliament), which provided for the admission of just 5,000 unaccompanied children from the Greek camps, was rigorously rejected by the grand coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) together with the votes of the AfD.

While the brutal offensive against refugees and all those sympathetic to refugees is supported by the governments in Berlin and Paris, and by the EU in Brussels, ever broader sections of the population are turning against this inhumane policy at the expense of defenceless people seeking help. A survey conducted by the opinion research institute Infratest dimap showed that despite all the anti-refugee propaganda against asylum seekers, half of those questioned still support the unconditional admission of refugees from Greece and Turkey.

In Athens and Thessaloniki, thousands protested against the brutal attacks on refugees at the Greek border and on the islands of Lesbos and Chios, where a fascist mob chased refugees and pushed them back into the sea, without being stopped by the police. The protesters kept chanting, “Together we can fight against exploitation, war, nationalism and racism.”

The war against refugees at Europe’s external borders is the flip side of the growing right-wing extremist terror against those with an immigrant or Jewish background, as recently seen in the fascistic terrorist attacks in Hanau and Halle. The two cannot be separated. The ruling class is pushing ahead with its policy of militarism and social cuts in order to defend its interests and wealth. In order to suppress any opposition, it openly promotes nationalism and seeks to divide the working class along ethnic lines. In this way, it is not only preparing the ground for fascist violence and dictatorship but is already putting this into practice.

The author also recommends:

Stop the war on refugees at the Greek-Turkish border!
[3 March 2020]

The mass drownings off Libya and the fight to defend refugees
[27 July 2019]

The global war on refugees
[3 July 2019]

Last week, the world watched in horror as thousands of desperate migrants confronted barbed-wire fences on Greece’s eastern land border with Turkey, while Greek security forces in full anti-riot gear beat them with batons and shot rubber bullets and tear gas. However, Spain’s … government announced it would not only support the Greek government but send police reinforcements to Greece: here.

Big pro-refugee marches in Greece

Students on the 20,000-strong Athens march in support of refugees

From daily News Line in Britain:

‘OPEN THE DOORS TO THE REFUGEES’ – urge 20,000 marchers in Athens

‘OPEN the doors to the refugees’, demanded 20,000 marchers in Athens on Thursday.

Some 20,000 people marched through Athens on Thursday night calling for the Greek borders to be opened and allow refugees to cross from Turkey.

It was a militant and angry march with dozens of large banners stating, ‘We welcome the refugees.’

People shouted slogans against the European Union, NATO, imperialism, the Greek government and the riot police.

The march was organised by left-wing parties, trade unions and anti-racist groups.

Mass marches were also held in the cities of Patras, Ioannina and Thessaloniki. …

Armed riot police buses were placed on the road to prevent the marchers demonstrating at the EU offices in Athens.

Throughout the week, Greek army units and armed riot police attacked refugees with tear gas and water cannon as they were attempting to cross the border.

Last Monday, 2 March, reporter Jenan Moussa had tweeted that ‘a Syrian man was shot by Greek border guards’. It has been confirmed by Greek press reports that the murdered refugee was Mohamed al-Arab a 22-year-old man from Syria.

Reports also carried Afghan refugees’ accounts that the Greek army shot two other refugees in their legs. The Greek government spokesperson, Stelios Petsas, dismissed the reports as ‘Turkish fake news’.

Three Greek cabinet ministers held a press conference last Tuesday in Brussels defending Greek army and navy actions. But videos posted by news agencies and on social media show Greek coast guards attempting to sink a small boat full of refugees with gunshots and by piercing the boat with a sharp-ended rod.

Last Wednesday, the newspaper editor Yannis Laskaratos of the Gnomi Greek newspaper published in Alexandroupoli, next to the Greek-Turkish border, stated in an interview to TV stations that ‘unbelievable events’ are occurring on the banks of the river Evros that separates Greece and Turkey.

Laskaratos said that armed local farmers self-described as ‘national guard’ are patrolling the borders along with Greek army and Greek riot police units.

Laskaratos stated that these racist vigilantes beat up the CNN journalist Kostas Pliakos who had intervened against the beating of refugees. Pliakos was ‘arrested’ by the vigilantes.

Laskaratos also said that the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was photographed with them on his visit last Tuesday to the border village of Kastanies along with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who described Greece as ‘the shield of Europe’ against the refugees.

Right-wing Greek government kills refugees

This 2 March 2020 video from the British (Conservative) Daily Telegraph says about itself:

Greek coast guard officers allegedly fired shots towards a boat full of refugees crossing the Aegean as tensions with Turkey soared over the migration crisis on Monday.

Video footage showed a Greek coast guard officer, dressed in black, fire two shots from an automatic rifle into the water, close to an inflatable dinghy packed with asylum seekers.

The footage, reportedly taken at sea off the Turkish resort town of Bodrum, showed other officers apparently threatening the migrants and refugees with poles as they screamed and yelled in protest.

By Johannes Stern, 3 March 2020:

Stop the war on refugees at the Greek-Turkish border!

The Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (Socialist Equality Party—SGP) and the International Committee of the Fourth International condemn the war being waged against refugees at the Greek-Turkish border. The pictures seen around the world over recent days recall the darkest chapters of European history and expose the true character of the European Union (EU) and all capitalist governments across the continent.

Before the eyes of a shocked public, heavily armed police and military units are intervening against helpless refugees who have fled the conflicts in the Middle East to seek refuge in Europe. Over the weekend, Greek soldiers forcibly prevented 10,000 refugees from crossing the border, firing tear gas at women and children. The first reports of the use of live ammunition and the killing of refugees began to appear yesterday.

BBC journalist Mughira al Sharif published a video on his Twitter account showing a group of agitated young men trying to assist a man who was lying motionless on the ground. His face was covered in blood. “Ahmed Abu Emad, a Syrian immigrant killed by the Greek military this morning. Ahmed was shot at 9:07 a.m. by the Greek military as he tried to cross the border at Ipsala with hundreds of immigrants. Ahmed’s body was brought back to Turkey,” wrote al Sharif.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas described the video as “fake news and Turkish propaganda. However, it is clear that the Greek government is preparing for a much more comprehensive and deadly operation against refugees. Since Monday, Greek military units have been conducting live fire exercises on the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, where tens of thousands of refugees are rotting in overcrowded camps in dreadful conditions.

The exercises were a direct response to the boats that began arriving a day earlier from Turkey on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, and Samos. According to a report from the Greek public broadcaster, at least one child drowned in the process. Anyone who manages to make it to dry land is being arrested. To do this, the Greek government has suspended the EU asylum law. “Our national security council decided to maximise the deterrence on our borders. Beginning immediately, we will not accept any asylum applications for a month,” said conservative Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday.

To enforce these measures, which are illegal under international law, the Greek military and police are often collaborating with local gangs of fascist thugs, whoattack refugees, aid workers, and journalists. German photojournalist Michael Trammer documented on Sunday how a group of young men on Lesbos attacked a boat full of women and children in front of the Greek coast guard before beating Trammer so badly that he required medical care. “A head wound required stitches. I have bruises on my head and body”, he later told Die Zeit.

The brutal offensive against refugees and anyone who sympathises with them, or even reports critically on the issue, enjoys the full support of the authorities in Berlin, Paris, and Brussels. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen promised additional support would be provided to Greece and Bulgaria on Monday. “Our priority is to give Greece and Bulgaria all necessary support so the situation can be dealt with there,” she declared. “The challenge now faced by Greece is a European challenge.”

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke along similar lines. “Full solidarity with Greece and Bulgaria. France is ready to contribute to the European efforts, provide swift assistance, and
protect its borders. We must act together to prevent a humanitarian and immigration policy crisis,” he said.

What Von der Leyen and Macron mean by “challenge” and “assistance” can be clearly seen on the Greek-Turkish border: the securing of “fortress Europe” through the mobilisation of military personnel and fascist thugs.

According to reports, the notorious EU border protection agency Frontex has sent reinforcements to Greece. The state of alarm has been increased to high, and aerial surveillance by satellites and planes has been intensified. Bulgaria also deployed 350 extra troops and special forces to its border. Other countries are preparing similar measures. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who heads a coalition government in Vienna with the Greens, threatened to strengthen the borders along the West Balkan route with Austrian police units.

Manfred Weber, the head of the conservative parliamentary group in the European Parliament, made clear the scope of the EU’s planned military operations against refugees in comments Monday. “The EU states have talked long enough,” Greece requires urgent help, and the EU needs an “immediate initiative” to deploy 10,000 European border soldiers, he remarked.

In an interview with the Deutschlandfunk radio station, Weber, who used Nazi-style language in 2018 to demand a “final solution to the refugee issue,” praised the brutal actions of the Greek military. He left no doubt about the fact that the war against refugees is in reality directed against the entire working class, which in France and Germany is beginning to protest against austerity, the rearmament of the military and the domestic apparatus of state repression, and the rise of militarism and fascist terrorism.

“If the state ensures that the external borders are secure and that the law is obeyed, then it must also be capable of doing so at demonstrations, like in Germany and France. … To deploy tear gas. That’s what we Germans do if there’s violence on the streets,” he provocatively declared.

Weber also refused to exclude the option of a German-European military intervention in Syria—the very outcome Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking with his effective abandonment of the dirty deal reached between Ankara and Brussels on refugees. “Can it manage to establish a zone in northern Syria under international command with a UN mandate, as Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer suggested a few months ago, to offer the people a safe haven, to offer them security and stability?” asked Weber. “That would certainly be the best outcome for the tortuous situation we now have in Syria.”

One is compelled to recall what Trotsky wrote in his 1933 essay “What Is National Socialism?”: “Not every exasperated petty bourgeois could have become Hitler, but a particle of Hitler is lodged in every exasperated petty bourgeois.”

While the German bourgeoisie has fully embraced the refugee policy of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), it is increasingly retracing the steps of the Nazis in its foreign and military policies. What Weber cynically refers to as “the best for Syria” would in reality produce more death and destruction. The establishment of a German-European security zone would further incite the war for oil and imperialist interests that has been raging for nine years in Syria and three decades throughout the Middle East and raise the danger of a direct clash between the major powers.

Leon Trotsky noted in the Manifesto of the Fourth International on Imperialist War, written in the early stages of World War II, the connection between capitalism, anti-refugee agitation, racism, and war.

“The world of decaying capitalism is overcrowded,” he wrote. “In an era of aviation, telegraph, telephone, radio, and television, travel from country to country is paralysed by passports and visas. The period of the wasting away of foreign trade and the decline of domestic trade is at the same time the period of the monstrous intensification of chauvinism and especially of anti-Semitism. … Amid the vast expanses of land and the marvels of technology, which has also conquered the skies for man as well as the earth, the bourgeoisie has managed to convert our planet into a foul prison.”

The war against refugees at the European external borders is the flip side of the growing right-wing extremist terror against people with a migration or Jewish background, as recently in Hanau and Halle. The two cannot be separated. The more aggressively the ruling class pursues its policy of militarism and social dismantling to defend its interests and wealth, the more openly it resorts to dictatorship and fascist violence to suppress any opposition.

The SGP calls on workers to reject the attacks on refugees and immigrants and come to the defence of their democratic rights. Independent action and defence committees at workplaces, training centres, schools, and universities, and in neighbourhoods must be formed to organise protests and strikes to coordinate the opposition to the attacks on refugees and immigrants throughout Europe. The following demands should be raised and discussed as widely as possible:

• The dissolution of the prison camps for refugees in North Africa and the Middle East, the withdrawal of all European and US troops from these regions, and the safe and secure transfer of all refugees to the European country of their choice.

• The dissolution of the “hot spot” camps in Greece and other countries, and the recognition of all refugees and undocumented immigrants in Europe.

• The abolition of the EU’s Frontex border protection agency and the demilitarisation and opening of all borders.

• The refusal to cooperate with the EU’s deportation machinery and any state policies promoting ethnic cleansing.

• The making available of trillions of euros for public services, health care, and training, and the provision of jobs for every worker, regardless of their country of origin. The large banks and corporations must be nationalised and placed under democratic control.

• For the international unity of the working class in the struggle for a socialist programme against capitalism, fascism, and war.

Fascist mob pours petrol on the deck of an NGO ship in Greece. Mare Liberum says the crew is safe for now but they are being followed: here.

Kurdish fighter’s family deported to Syria as EU pledges millions in migrant crack-down. European Commission president Ursula von Leyden pledged €700m to help Greece crack down on refugees: here.

Far-right violence against refugees in Greece

This 4 February 2020 video says about itself:

Greek police dispersed a large rally of migrants and refugees during protests on the Greek island of Lesvos on Monday.

The demonstrators protested against what they call terrible living conditions in the state-run camp of Moria.

By George Gallanis:

Growth of fascistic attacks on refugees in Greece

14 February 2020

In the form of physical violence, state repression and ideological condemnation, refugees in Greece confront growing fascistic attacks. Reflecting an international process of a movement to the right by all capitalist governments, in Greece, the main entry point for refugees into Europe, this is taking a concentrated form in the brutal repression of refugees.

At the insistence of the Greek government, and backed by the European Union (EU), some 50,000 refugees, sealed off from the rest of Europe, live in festering conditions on camps on the Aegean islands of Greece. …

Last Monday, some 2,000 refugees demonstrated against the hellish conditions of the Moria detention camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Described by a doctor from the Boat Refugee Foundation (BRF) as a place of “violence, deprivation, suffering and despair”, Moria was designed to house 3,100 but today houses nearly 20,000 refugees in and around the site of the camp. …

Refugees marched from Moria to Mytilini, the island’s capital, where they were met by armored police units. The police attacked them, administering tear gas among the crowd of men, women and children. As children and people fled for safety, away from the billowing clouds of tear gas, police arrested 40 people. Journalist Franziska Grillmeier described the event to Al Jazeera: “There were men holding their kids up, kids who were foaming at the mouth, kids having panic attacks and babies unable to breathe and dehydrating through the gas.”

Protests continued the following day on Tuesday. Refugees shouted “Freedom!” and “Stop the deportations!” and carried banners with similar slogans. Refugees also shouted, “Lesbos people, we are sorry,” expressing solidarity with the island’s residents.

The online newspaper Sto Nisi reported that a group of 15 to 20 masked neo-Nazis armed with clubs and helmets terrorized the streets of Mytilini and the area around Moria following the demonstrations, in search of foreigners and NGO workers and volunteers who work with refugees. According to eyewitnesses, they knocked on doors of houses in search of aid workers and even tried to break into a café.

An eyewitness told Sto Nisi that police were fully aware of the gang and turned a blind eye to them. “Five meters away [from the gang] was a parked police car which was there for around 20 minutes,” he said. “At that point they spotted me and started to shout abuse at me. I didn’t take any notice, but what struck me was the fact that the policeman in the car didn’t even make a pro forma attempt to stop them.”

He continued, “What I want to stress is that any action by the fascists was carried out with complete tolerance from the police. The police knew from early on who these guys were, where they were going and what they were capable of.”

There exists a large contingent of Greek police who support the fascist Golden Dawn party, who previously violently attacked refugees and whose members are accused of murdering leftist hip-hop musician Pavlos Fyssas. Videos surfaced in December of Greek police performing “pushbacks,” illegal deportations of refugees back into Turkey that stand in violation of international law and violate both the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Geneva Convention.

Sto Nisi also reported of far-right posts on social media spreading lies about refugees raping women, defecating in churches, attempting to blow up a power plant, burning fields and houses.

One of the posts read: “In Mytilini we will take up arms! We are already sleeping with these! There are rumors that a group of locals is planning to blow up the Moria hot spot! There will be war! It’s no longer a question of racism. If this is true we will be with them. Yesterday [refugees] tried to blow up the PPC power plant. These invaders have taken over our islands!”

Last Thursday, prompted by growing pressure from refugees and workers, police on Lesbos arrested seven people on suspicion of planning attacks on refugees following last week’s demonstrations. The men, aged 17 to 24, were found with makeshift clubs and a metal rod.

Late January, protests were held across multiple Greek islands housing refugee detention centers. The headline speaker on the island of Lesbos was Costas Moutzouris, a previous member of the ruling ND party who ran for Northern Aegean Prefect as an independent. Using the language of fascists, Moutzouris placed the blame of the social crisis in Greece on refugees, “They are forcefully trying to impose a different way of life and religion on us,” he said. “We will not accept this.”

During his election campaign last summer for the post of prefect, Moutzouris was asked to comment on rumors that the fascist Golden Dawn party supported his campaign. Moutzouris replied, “If there was, is or will be any support from Golden Dawn then this is welcome.”

Amidst the backdrop of threats to refugees, there is a concerted effort by the Greek state and Greece’s bourgeois media to attack NGOs. …

Last week, on the insistence of ND, the Greek parliament passed a law restricting NGOs. Greece’s prime minister remarked the new law will prevent NGOs from operating “unchecked” and will be “strictly vetted.”

Without evidence, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, ND’s deputy migration minister, accused NGOs of inciting last week’s protests on Lesbos and of taking advantage of refugees for money. Koumoutsakos told Greece’s Proto Thema Radio that NGOs had appeared “like mushrooms after the rain” and “some behave like bloodsuckers.”

This has been echoed, without criticism, by Greece’s right-wing Kathimerini newspaper, which wrote on Monday, “NGOs that are operating in Greece without any accountability to the Greek state, with officials expressing fears that the groups might have shady agendas such as inciting migrants to protest or collaborating with traffickers.”

Such measures in fact only feed into the fascistic conspiracies being promoted by right-wing groups and academics, and seek to further chip away what little support refugees receive. Moreover, the NGOs serving refugees in Greece often consist of on-the-ground volunteer staff, comprised mostly of students and workers from around the world. The attacks on NGOs are a further attempt to dismantle the growing solidarity between workers internationally and the plight of refugees.

A thousand threads tie the fascistic thugs on the streets hunting down refugees to the ruling Greek capitalist party. The policies of New Democracy—state violence against refugees on a mass scale—express themselves in the individual acts of violence and terror by the fascistic thugs. Every capitalist party across the world seeks to divert the growing class struggle. …

As the class struggle continues to intensify, the attacks on refugees will only continue unless the Greek working class intervenes.

In January, the ND government announced it would begin testing water barriers, an aquatic version of Trump’s border wall, along a 2.7-km stretch of the coast off the island of Lesbos to block refugees attempting to enter Greece by sea.

On Monday, Notis Mitarachi, ND’s minister for immigration and asylum, revealed plans to set up new closed camps for detaining refugees on Greece’s Aegean islands in March. The new camps are expected to open in the summer and are designed to house 20,000 refugees three months at a time. The camps will likely replace the current open-air camps, like Moria on Lesbos.

The centers will function as de facto jails that allow more control over the refugee population, completely closed off from the public eye. ND government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, “These closed facilities will be governed by strict rules and [limitations] for movement for the occupants.” He continued, “Occupants will receive exit cards for controlled leave, while the structures will remain closed at nighttime.”