Refugees in concentration camps protest

Refugees in the Moria camp in Greece protest. They are in a prison until they are to be moved out of Greece by the police and army. Photo credit:

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Army & police will be deployed in the removal of refugees

REFUGEES staged protests shouting ‘freedom’, in English, last Wednesday and Thursday, at the main gate of the Moria village ‘Detention Centre,’ that is, concentration camp, on the island of Lesbos. Greek riot police prevented them from leaving the camp.

Outside of the Moria camp’s main gate villagers and aid volunteers staged solidarity rallies. It is estimated that over 1,500 refugees have been put in the Moria concentration camp to be expelled en masse in accordance with the EU-Turkey agreement.

Both the United Nations’ Refugee Council (UNHCR) and the Doctors Without Borders have ceased collaborating with the Greek authorities on the ‘detention centres’ as well as on the vast refugee settlement at Idomeni on the Greek/Macedonian border.

Save the Children has stopped collaboration as well.

The head of the Greek section of Doctors without Borders, Marietta Provopoulou, stated on Thursday that ‘we are refusing to be related to a cynical mechanism which puts the right to asylum in danger’. She said that they will still help refugees independently.

The Greek Public Order Minister, Nikos Toskas, has confirmed that the Greek government is planning to remove all 13,000 refugees from Idomeni to ‘camps’. He said that both the army and the police will be employed in the removal of refugees but ‘peacefully’.

The Greek Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas, a physician, stated that ‘I cannot rule out the possibility that children may die at Idomeni! What I can guarantee is that we are raising our efforts so that won’t happen,’ Mouzalas said.

Greek refugee camp is ‘as bad as a Nazi concentration camp‘, says [Greek interior] minister. ‘I do not hesitate to say that this is a modern-day Dachau‘, says Panagiotis Kouroublis: here.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Close the EU’s concentration camps!

THE agreement between the EU and Turkey on dealing with the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing imperialist-inspired wars in the Middle East has quickly revealed itself to be nothing less than a blueprint for concentration camps in Greece and the forcible ‘repatriation’ of refugees back to the killing grounds they fled.

Under the agreement, refugees already in Greece will be forcibly sent back to Turkey and whilst awaiting deportation they are to be herded by police and army into military-controlled concentration camps.

This has proved too much for the aid agencies who deliver humanitarian relief to refugees and who work in war zones throughout the world.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has a record of bringing aid to vulnerable people in the most dangerous parts of the world, this week announced that it was shutting down its operations in Greek camps saying that the EU/Turkish plan is so inhumane that it would refuse to work with it.

In a statement MSF said: ‘We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalised for a mass expulsion operation, and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.’

MSF is not alone amongst aid agencies boycotting these concentration camps masquerading as ‘detention centres’. The UN refugee agency UNHCR, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have all withdrawn their support from these camps.

The IRC told the Greek coastguard that they would ‘not transport the world’s most vulnerable people to a place where their freedom of movement is impeded upon’.

Instead the IRC is transporting those refugees it saves from drowning to areas outside of the camps.

The mass expulsions of refugees to Turkey has also been denounced by Amnesty International which has pointed out that Turkish law forbids Iraqis and Afghans from obtaining refugee status and has already deported them back to the countries where they face certain persecution.

Syrian nationals, who are permitted refugee status in Turkey, will fare no better. The charity Human Rights Watch has recorded numerous incidents of Syrian refugees being pushed back into the war zones of Syria. All this is completely outside international law which forbids sending refugees back to the dangers they are fleeing.

The unanimous refusal of the aid agencies to be complicit in their ‘inhuman’ and illegal agreement graphically illustrates the barbarity being meted out to the victims of imperialism’s wars to re-order and re-conquer the region. This same barbarity is behind the attacks by the ruling class against the workers of their own countries.

The Greek police who are being used to force refugees into camps are the same police used by the Greek state to break the heads of strikers fighting the savage austerity measures demanded by the EU and central bankers.

In the UK, prime minister David Cameron, who is determined to send the Royal Navy to drive refugees fleeing the carnage British and French imperialism created in Libya back to the hell hole they created in that country, is simultaneously driving a war against the working class at home through smashing the welfare state and the NHS.

The capitalist class is attempting to create an armed fortress of Europe with concentration camps and borders guarded by barbed wire to keep the victims of its wars out while at the same time waging brutal wars of austerity against workers.

The working class of Britain and Europe must reject any complicity in this barbarism and demand that the borders be opened and the camps be closed. Refugees are not the enemy. The enemy is a bankrupt capitalist system that can only survive by dumping its crisis on the backs of workers and the people of the world.

Child refugees fleeing ISIS say ‘Sorry for Brussels’

Refugee child with Sorry for Brussels sign

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Refugee children hold signs saying ‘Sorry for Brussels‘ at Idomeni camp

Thousands of families are trapped in Idomeni since the borders have been closed

Jess Staufenberg

3 hours ago

Children in one of Greece’s refugee camps have written messages of sorrow and sympathy to those affected by the Brussels attacks.

Photographs taken at the Idomeni camp on the border with Macedonia showed children with messages of support – including “Sorry for Brussels” – written both on their bodies and on cardboard placards.

It comes after three suicide bombs left at least 31 people dead in the Belgian capital.

Many of the refugees at Idomeni from Syria and Iraq are fleeing Isis, the same Islamist terrorist group which claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels.

The Idomeni refugee camp, which sprung up in the village in 2014, is now thought to contain more than 12,000 refugees fleeing the breakdown of their home countries to build a new life in Europe.

Conditions at Idomeni are comparable to “Nazi concentration camps”, according to Greek interior minister Panagiotis Kouroublis, following the closure of all borders to refugees in Macedonia.

What a shame that these children and their parents, refugees from ISIS terror, are vilified by corporate media and racist politicians as ‘terrorists’, ‘rapists‘, etc. because of the colour of their eyes and hair; and because of their supposedly being Muslim (true for many refugees, but certainly not for all).

What a shame that these children and their parents, refugees from ISIS terror, are sent back by European Union politicians to unsafe Turkey, where they may be sent back to war in Syria or Iraq.

What a shame that these children and their parents, refugees from wars started by Bush, Blair and other NATO politicians, wars which caused ISIS and similar outfits, are used by NATO politicians as a pretext for still more bloody war in the Middle East.

Refugees Stand In Solidarity With Victims Of Brussels Attacks. Many refugees are fleeing the same kinds of atrocities: here.

In the wake of the ISIS terrorist attack in Brussels, some U.S. politicians are already calling for a ban of refugees and immigrants from countries in which ISIS controls territory. Rather than justifying a refugee ban, this latest attack should act as a reminder why the United States should take the lead on welcoming those fleeing ISIS terrorism. Accepting refugees is clearly important from a humanitarian standpoint, but it is also good for America’s national security: here.

United Nations, MSF oppose imprisoning refugees in Greece

This video from Greece says about itself:

Boat landing Lesvos

20 November 2015

50-odd refugees on a 15 person dinghy means crushed legs.

More info available here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The international aid organization Doctors Without Borders is pulling out a refugee center on Lesbos, because it has become “a prison“. Yesterday, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR decided to limit its cooperation with the reception of refugees in closed camps.

The decision of the organizations is a major setback for the European Union, which late last week reached an agreement with Turkey on the return of refugees to Turkey. The Turkey deal specifically refers to cooperation by the UN organization.

Meanwhile, Save the Children as well has stopped cooperation as a protest against the prison camps.

The intention is that refugees immediately after arrival at the beach are taken to camps for registration and evaluation of their possible application for asylum. Those camps were closed a few days ago and are guarded draconically. …


MSF withdraws now from the camp Moria, “because refugee camps as a result of the EU-Turkey agreement have changed into deportation camps.” The organization does not want to participate in an “unfair and inhumane” system.

According to the UNHCR the measures of the agreement with Turkey have been implemented hastily without security guarantees for the refugees.

Until last weekend refugees could go freely in and out of Moria camp and take a ferry to the Greek mainland.

They should be able to board a ferry from Turkey to Lesbos or elsewhere in Greece too; instead of dangerous small boats.

From there, most were trying to travel further to Western Europe, although they have been stopped for several weeks at the Greek-Macedonian border.

Refugee crisis: Aid organisations end activities in Greece over government’s ‘police-run’ detention centres. Under the migration deal between the EU and Ankara, virtually all those arriving on the Greek islands will be returned to Turkey: here.

Helping refugees on Lesbos island, interview

This video says about itself:

Refugees Welcome – Lesvos Greece

22 December 2015

I’m an English teacher taking a year off to explore film/travel and this was my last trip of the year.

I have no volunteer experience but I wanted to see what was really happening with the refugee crisis in Lesvos, Greece.

I booked a flight, rented a van, and headed for the beaches where I found a hotel and a great volunteer group to join.

Here are some of the “rabid dogs” and “terrorists” I met there.

I would love nothing more than to make this my everyday job. Different countries, different conflicts, different people…but in the end we are all in this together.

Shot with: GoPro 3+ Black, Lumix Gh3, Iphone 5c

Poem: “Home” by Warsan Shire (read by Benedict Cumberbatch)

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

‘Locals avoid coastal roads so they don’t have to see corpses’

Saturday 19th March 2016

[Danish daily] Dagbladet Arbejderen talks to refugee solidarity activist Var I Dali about her experiences helping desperate incomers to Lesbos island

Faroe islander Var I Dali and her sister Simone have spent four months on the Greek island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea helping tens of thousands of refugees arriving from Turkey in flimsy rubber boats.

In October alone 100,000 people arrived on the tiny island’s shores. “I simply acted out of my frustration, I had to do something for these people in need,” says the 27-year-old, who finished her MA in international development language and cultural studies at Roskilde University Center west of Copenhagen last year.

More than a million people sought asylum in Europe last year and every month the United Nations aid agency UNHCR releases statistical data showing where the refugees are coming from.

Around 40 per cent come from Syria, a country more or less completely destroyed by bombings after five years of war. Another 30 per cent are coming from Afghanistan — a country EU president Donald Tusk recently declared “safe.” It has been almost continuously at war since the late 1970s.

One morning, Var and three other volunteers were driving along the northern coast of Lesbos. From the vehicle, they saw a rubber boat approaching. There was unrest on board. “It turned out that the boat en route from Turkey had taken in water, so the Turkish smugglers panicked and threw bags and people’s belongings overboard. In their haste, they overlooked the fact that an infant was wrapped in some of the carpets in the bottom of the boat. “The child was never found. The mother was heartbroken when the boat came ashore. She couldn’t understand why we were saying ‘now you are safe’,” recounts Var.

She accompanied the mother to a nearby refugee center in order to be registered and then contacted the Red Cross and the UNHCR. “It’s the worst thing that can happen to parents, to lose their children like that. Everybody is deeply shocked,” says Var.

Whenever the volunteers on Lesbos can see Greek rescue ships at sea and hear the sound of rushing helicopters, they know that a rubber boat has capsized and a search has begun. Twice Var I Dali has helped organise checks where relatives have had to identify their drowned children, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins.

“The corpses are lying on the beach, and families identify them while weeping heavily. There used to be many drowned children. Normally, psychologists should be present under such circumstances, but it wasn’t the case when I was there,” Var says with regret in her voice.

She explains that several of the passengers have burn marks on their bodies because they have been sitting too close to the rubber boat motor. Others have frostbite due to the cold water.

International migration organisation IOM estimates that more than 22,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean between 2000 and 2014. “Local Greeks tell us that they are deliberately avoiding the roads running close to the coast simply to avoid seeing drowned human beings, or even just baby shoes rolling around in the shallows,” she explains.

Var is critical of narratives which suggest migrants are driven by a desire to earn more. “I refuse to believe that people leave everything they own and hold dear behind just to achieve prosperity and wealth inside Europe.

“When they arrive here, they own only the clothes they are wearing. And they never know if they or their families will survive the journey across the Mediterranean. Why do human lives have to be lost when this problem, in principle, could be solved politically?” asks Var.

“If you meet just one of these refugees while already thinking they are just migrants pursuing wealth, you will change your mind like this,” she says and snaps her fingers.

She then looks ahead, quietly. Var comes from Thorshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, but lives in Copenhagen. She explains that when the rubber boats finally reach the shores of Lesbos after an hour and a half at sea, passengers are gathered at assembly points where they get some fruit, blankets, dry clothes and medical care if needed.

All too often there are not enough tarpaulins or tents for 300-500 people at the assembly points, which is why Var has frequently witnessed men giving their indoor seats away to women and children. “The men then simply sleep outside in freezing temperatures,” she reports.

After this reception, the refugees either walk or are put onto UN buses which take them to a center where Greek police register and fingerprint them. Var helps to organise queues outside the centre, where thousands of people are given a number while waiting, standing up for hours.

When they have been given a temporary residence permit, refugees then rush to the ferry heading for Athens. Syrians will be allowed to stay in Greece for three months, while Afghans will have to leave after one.

Upon arrival in Athens they mostly set course for northern Greece and the border with Macedonia, then from there follow routes northward through Europe either on foot, or in buses and trains.

Nato actions won’t help. Var does not think Nato warships patrolling the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey in support of EU border force Frontex, currently the EU’s major response plan, will help. Nato vessels are being tasked with picking up shipwrecked refugees and send them back to Turkey.

Experts from the Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council predict that actually more refugees will emerge out of this scenario. Eight-nine million internally displaced Syrians in refugee camps are already waiting to break up.

“I think that increased border control will create more danger for the refugees, as they will try to come in through other and even more dangerous routes. Some are already sailing at night, which is extremely dangerous,” Var warns.

Var travelled back to Lesbos earlier this month to help more refugees.

Ancient Greek poetess Sappho, new book

This video says about itself:

Sappho: Love and Life on Lesbos (2015) | Maya Vision International

Papyrology expert Margaret Mountford goes in search of the truth behind the legend of Sappho – the most controversial writer of the ancient world and the first authentic woman’s voice in western history. The mysterious discovery of a lost papyrus containing the words to songs unheard for seventeen hundred years sends Margaret on a journey to explore the truth about Sappho.

Was she indeed the first lesbian, a priestess, prostitute, a stern schoolmistress or an aristocratic lady of leisure as readers over the centuries have variously alleged? We ask how each generation’s view of the archetypal liberated woman of letters tells us as much about us and our fears and concerns as it does about her.

By Lucasta Miller in Britain today:

Searching for Sappho by Philip Freeman, book review: A valiant attempt to uncover the identity of the poet

Freeman uses Sappho’s poetry as a way in to exploring her culture, especially the experience of its women

“Burning Sappho” as Byron called her, remains an enigma. The first – or rather the earliest known – female poet, she came from the Greek island of Lesbos and was active during the late 7th and early 6th-century B.C. One century younger than Homer (whoever he was), she created a voice very different from his epic sweep. Achingly intimate in their first-person love confessions, her lyrics beg the question “who was she”?

In Searching for Sappho, Philip Freeman, an American academic, admits that it is impossible to write the real Sappho’s biography. Even the reconstruction of her oeuvre is trammelled by the fact that it exists in fragments mostly deriving from quotations in the works of much later Classical literary critics. Some of his most intriguing stories relate to the discovery by modern-age archaeologists of scraps of papyrus containing new examples of her work.

Apart from the texts themselves, everything we know about her is a myth. She was said in a Byzantine encyclopaedia to have been married to a wealthy merchant named Cercylas. But this turns out, more likely, to have been a dirty joke, as the name in Greek signifies “Mr Penis from Man Island”. Ovid disseminated the legend that she committed suicide out of lovesickness for a mysterious ferryman, Phaon, who had rejected her advances. Yet Sappho’s extant work includes recently discovered lines that suggest that she outlived the intensity of youth to reach old age (or what passed for old age in an era of low life expectancy).

Sappho is, of course, associated with above all with erotic passion. From her we get the words Sapphic and Lesbian. Her intense portrayal of same-sex eroticism is like nothing else in literature, especially her extended metaphors for physical arousal (Freeman points out that in the phrase usually translated “I am greener than grass”, the word “green” in fact means wet and dewy). And yet she clearly also had a husband as her poetry refers to her beloved daughter Cleis. Sexuality was more fluid in the days of the ancient Greeks. We learn here that their verb “to lesbianize” refers not to woman-on-woman activity but to blow-jobs.

Some have suggested that Sappho’s first-person lyricism was a sophisticated theatrical projection. Freeman asserts on the contrary that her work must have been based on authentic personal experience, although he can offer nothing more than his gut feel to support this argument. What he can do more objectively is to use her poetry as a way in to exploring her culture, especially the experience of its women. Sappho must have belonged to an economically privileged strata, given her education and that she alludes to a sea-faring merchant brother in poem. But in all walks of life, Greek women’s existence was founded on the family and marriage. Her work bears testimony to the wedding rituals of the era and also pays tribute to the intense emotions mothers felt for their children in a time and place when childbirth was as dangerous as the battlefield.

This short book provides an admirably clear and compact introduction to Sappho, while offering as a bonus a complete new translation of her frustratingly incomplete known oeuvre (one fragment reads simply “and I to you … of a white goat”, leaving the mind to boggle). It will whet your appetite, but leave you in a state of unsatisfied desire.

Syrian war refugees stuck at Greek-Macedonian border

This video says about itself:

Greece: Idomeni – Syrian Single Mother

11 March 2016

In the refugee and migrant crisis, more children and women are on the move than men – they make up 60% of recent arrivals to Greece, compared o less than 30% in June 2015.

Forced to make the dangerous trek into Europe on their own after their husbands, fathers or brothers were killed or otherwise separated. Thousands of women with children are now at Greece’s northern border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, some waiting for weeks, hoping to be allowed northwards. Life in the makeshift Idomeni camp is a daily struggle.

Nisrine is here with her five children. Her husband was killed by a bomb in Aleppo 3 years ago. Her family’s flight from war came to a halt here.

“I feel it is impossible to live here with my children. I can’t bear it. I have been here for ten days. I haven’t had a single night’s rest. They sleep, I don’t.“

Learn more here.

William Shakespeare against hatred of refugees: here.

Desperate refugees’ suicide attempt in Greece

Picture shows the two refugees hanging from a tree in central Athens’ Victoria Square. They had been extremely depressed after continual refusals to allow them to travel further into the EU

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Refugees hang in Victoria Square, Athens

TWO desperate refugees tried to commit suicide by hanging themselves in central Athens’ Victoria Square on Thursday.

With the European states bordering Greece razor wiring their borders to keep refugees out, hundreds of thousands of refugees are stranded in Greece, which is being turned into one big refugee camp by the European Commission in Brussels.

The two men were cut down by bystanders from the tree in central Athens’ Victoria Square. Bystanders said that the two men were upset because of delays to their planned travel to northern Greece. One of the men was unconscious and was taken to hospital.

Thousands of refugees have been pictured queuing for food distributed by the Greek army at a transit camp in the western Athens suburb of Schisto. It is estimated that about 4,000 refugees continue to arrive on Greek territory daily.

Greece asked its passenger ferry companies and travel agencies yesterday to cut back on bringing refugees from frontline islands to the mainland and said its own chartered ships would halt operations for a few days.

The moves, described by Greece’s shipping minister as temporary, are designed to stem a flow of people mostly fleeing from imperialist wars and violence in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, 400 mostly Syrian migrants have walked out of a transit camp near Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, and are heading toward the country’s border with Macedonia, police said.

They are said to be determined to storm the border. Some 2,000 migrants were taken to the newly built camp on Wednesday. But the 400 migrants, mostly from Syria and some from Iraq, demanded they be allowed to leave on Thursday and began walking or seeking other means of transport to reach the border town of Idomeni, some 70 kilometres to the north.

Tens of thousands of refugees who have escaped the hell of war in the Middle East are being deprived of all rights and any shred of human dignity. They are being used as pawns in conflicts between the European states. Barbed wire and guns hinder their onward journey. They are mistreated, detained under barbaric conditions and deported. They are not considered human, and certainly not as being in need of protection. They are treated as “invaders”, “illegal immigrants” or “criminal foreigners”: here.