Thoughts and thanks from the distance: Refugees who lived in PIKPA, talk about the importance of an open welcoming space

In early March 2015, the mayor of Lesvos Spiros Galinos called on the ‘Village of all together’ to move out all the refugees accommodated in PIKPA. He wanted to renovate PIKPA for a tennis tournament that would take place in May. He seriously proposed the prison of Moria as an alternative that could be turned into an open centre. This is where the refugees could live!

The ‘Village of all together’ responded by saying that a prison would not be an alternative option, even if the fences were to be removed. They demand to be offered a different place, otherwise they would be forced to remain in PIKPA.

Us from w2eu and as part of the ‘Village of all together’ outside of Mytilene want to contribute to the discussion by offering a little story from PIKPA as well as comments from people who made PIKPA their home for some time.

PIKPA was an empty and run-down former holiday camp for children, located near the airport of Mytilene. Since November 2012, in accordance with the mayor at the time, it could be used by the group ‘Village of all together’. The story of this unique and self-organised place of solidarity that welcomes newly arrived refugees, was not only known to the locals of Lesvos but also internationally.
Continue reading

New Mytilene Booklet by JOG & w2eu / download in English

Lesvos documentation 2014/15

We came back to Lesvos in August 2014. We returned once again to the outer border of Europe which was for many of us the place of our first arrival here. Again it was a journey that was full of memories, full of new encounters with people who experience today what many of us have been facing in the past. In this boobklet you will find many impressions from these days.
This year we were a very mixed group: There were young people who have already received a right to stay in Germany
and Sweden and who came back to meet with those who didn’t yet find a way out of Greece. From Athens a whole group of refugees came who currently live in the ´Welcome Island and some who are friends we knew from our camping last year in Lesvos or from the tours in Greece and Turkey. The trip was organized once again by Youth without Borders (JOG) and´Welcome to Europe (w2eu), together with many local friends.
We experienced incredible days on Lesvos, days full of memories of our own suffering but also our own success stories.
We welcomed the newly arrived and we had many encounters at the harbour of Mytilene when people left to continue their
journeys. We mourned those who didn’t arrive but died at this border. We protested against the prison close to the village of Moria and we overcame the fence with music. We had some incredible parties in PIKPA, the self organised welcome centre. …

We promise to come back again! Until this border becomes history.

Court of Mitilini sentenced a 17-year-old Syrian refugee as facilitator

Rabee, a 17-years-old refugee from Syria

Rabee, a 17-years-old refugee from Syria

Monday 13 October 2014, Mitilini. 9am, Court of Mitilini. Rabee a young Syrian fleeing from Aleppo, not wanting to take part in the war, arrived in Mitilini with his 2 brothers and his uncle on a boat. The coast guards chose him and his uncle out of the 22 people travelling on that boat and accused them of being facilitators. That was 5 months ago. Since then Rabee has been imprisoned in Athens in Avlona prison for minors, waiting for the trial that will give him his freedom. His older brother left for Sweden to join the rest of the family. He followed their plan to get to Sweden where more family members are. The youngest brother stayed in Athens waiting for Rabee to get free. They all could not believe that this nonsense accusation would last. Today Rabee’s uncle who came specially from Sweden to witness the trial and his small brother M. who waits since 5 months in Athens to continue his journey to his family in Sweden, were present in the court of Mitilini and wanted to be witnesses.

Three people from the Christian Peacemakers Team Mediterranean and me as a journalist wanted to observe this trial of a minor accused for something he has not done. We were all concerned about the rights of the minor. Facilitator trials take place once in a month in Mitilini and usually last about 10 minutes, most people get sentences of 25-75 years. Today was a special case; it is a minor’s court that will judge. We know that Rabee is sick and in the prison of Avlona every week he at least twice fainted, probably due to his low blood pressure and diabetes. He believes that the hospital in Athens had submitted reports to the court but the lawyer has not found them in his files. Rabee is brought to court with two other minors. All three are attached to one another with handcuffs. They only can move together. They sit and wait for hours like this in a court room. Since I know about his health problem and I see that they don’t get anything to eat or drink all the time, I get a coke and go to offer it to him. The guarding policeman doesn’t allow me to hand it over to him. A while later as his turn comes, after the two other minors have been sentenced to 5 and 6 years respectively, being Turks and not having any witnesses, we are thinking his chances are better. His lawyer has collected the ID cards of the Peacemakers and me and goes to the court to tell them that we are a delegation from Germany who came specially to observe the trial of this minor. The court forbids us to enter. Strange that the coastguard witnesses are allowed to stay during the whole court process in the room and listen to everything . What a lack of respect for the privacy rights of minors! The court also forbids Hussein , a translator who knows Rabee and his brothers since they arrived in Mitilini, and is assigned to assist the lawyer and accepted for the Mitilini court. Only one translator is allowed and that is a Greek Syrian young man who is coming from Chios specially to be at the trial, ordered by the court. Rabee and the lawyer are alone in the court. We stand outside and can only look through the glass door but can’t hear anything.

Luckily we can reconstruct the trial through the direct word protocols that were made with witness accounts (except the ones of the coast guard of course). First the two coastguard witnesses are heard. They have been brought specially from Athens, the same happened few weeks ago during the trial of Rabee’s uncle who got sentenced to 10 years! One of the coast guard people insists that Rabee has destructed the boat with a knife and he had seen him. They also insist that they, who came with the fast coast guard boat hunting the small boat with 22 refugees on it, by wind 7 Beaufurt, have exactly seen that it was Rabee who was calling on the phone and that they have seen that he had a paper in his hands which he tore into pieces. They suggest that they had collected pieces of paper in the water and had seen that they were instructions in English for facilitators!! But they cannot present the paper because they threw it in the sea. The fact that Rabee doesn’t speak English and that the coast guards destroyed court evidence does not change the court’s belief in their accounts. Unfortunately I can’t say if someone asked them if they themselves speak English and how they managed to stop a small boat with 22 refugees, at the same time look in the water with all the waves their own boat produced, and find pieces of paper. They, who can’t even help people get out of the water from their boats, want to have collected pieces of paper, in waves of 7 Beaufurt and put them together and the throw them away. Greek courts are famous for believing the coast guards and not the ones accused. The saying ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does not exist here.

After the two coast guards finished their story-telling, the family witnesses of Rabee came to be heard. First T. his uncle from Sweden who himself had arrived in Mitilini one and a half years ago , had seen with his own eyes the problems people get who steer boats and therefore had strongly advised the boys what they should under no circumstances do: don’t destroy the boat, don’t steer it. Now I give you a protocol of what the people said. Maybe the court thought if they forbid us to enter we will not know what was said. Sorry but we do: T. said that he is the uncle living in Sweden now and he sent the money (3.000 Euros) to them to Turkey so that they could travel. The judge asked why he sent money to travel by boat while at the same time advising them not to steer and destroy the boat. If he knew the trip was dangerous he should not have sent them the money.

The judge wanted to know how he sent the money

t: with Western Union

When did you send the money

t: 10th of April

Do you have the receipt?

t: no I sent the money and when it arrived I threw the receipt away.

The court asked if Rabee can swim and he said no.

t: no one of them can swim.

Where did you find the money asked the judge?

t: I have 5 brothers and 2 sisters in Sweden, we collected the money all together and sent it to turkey.

The judge said that Rabee had said when he was caught that he was steering the boat and that he destroyed the boat.

T. answered that Rabee never said that, but the court translator, an Afghan translating bad Arabic said it although Rabee had not said it himself.

The judge: why does Rabee want to go to Sweden?

t: to stay with me and to continue his chemistry studies. And then bring his parents to Sweden. They are still in Aleppo.

At the end the judge asked: do you have anything to say?

t: I wish to get out of here with Rabee free, said T.

Judge: when did you last see and talk to Rabee?

t: we talked on the phone, he told me what happened How long you have not seen him? I live for one and a half years in Sweden, so long I haven’t seen him.

The lawyers asked T. why did Rabee left from Syria?

I said because he was getting 17 years old and with 18 they take you to fight and he didn’t want to go to the army.

Then M. the younger brother who came from Athens gave his witness account. The judge told him he is minor himself and therefore he cannot be a witness but asked him still some questions: He said they were 3 brothers on the boat and all could not swim. At one moment he was calling his mother and gave the phone also to Rabee. He was talking to reassure her that they are alive when the coast guard came. He was asked what his plans were for the future and he said he cannot go from Greece without his brother, so he will wait until he is free. Then Rabee talked. He said that he left Syria due to the war and that he did not want to go to the army and kill people. He wanted to go to Sweden and continue his chemistry studies. The boat was driven by a Turkish person. He did not destroy the boat. If the paper was in English he doesn’t speak English. Then Dimitris the lawyer talked. And then the court decided that they don’t agree on the decision. They went to the next room then returned and one of the coastguard witnesses was asked again.

Then the decision came with 2/1 : 7 years imprisonment! For a minor who is Syrian and travelling with his two brothers and uncle and who is, on top of it all, permanently sick.

1410-rabee court

Rabee after the sentence of 7 years imprisonment.

Immediately the lawyer said they will appeal and went with Rabee in handcuffs who could hardly breathe and policemen to the first flour to make the appeal. The next thing we saw were ambulance people coming with gloves and running upstairs and then carrying Rabee on a wheelchair without consciousness but with handcuffs, to the ambulance. No, his brother and uncle cannot go with him to hospital. He is a criminal detainee, the police said. So we ordered a taxi and Husein T. and M. went to the hospital. They had to wait more than half an hour, because the ambulance with the fainted Rabee in it, waited in front of the court for exactly 20 minutes for the police car to come and escort them so that the unconscious person would not escape. Who cares about his health, security comes first. At the hospital, Rabee was checked up still in handcuffs and the policeman were diagnosing that he has nothing but just got shocked from receiving a 7 years sentence! The doctor and nurse were saying nothing. Husein told them: he is since weeks fainting every week many times and is going to hospital. He has sugar and low blood pressure. Then the doctors decided to look at him. After he said he is hungry and the brother proposed to bring him food but they didn’t allow him. Only after long arguments they were able to enter the room where he was guarded and could from a distance, touch his feet only and talk so that he briefly seemed to recover. At the evening Rabee was brought back to the police station and already the next day transported back to the prison in Avlona.

The court decision will be published in one month. Rabee has to get acquitted and be immediately released.

w2eu_Welcome to Europe Mitilini

CPT- Christian Peacemaker Team Mediteranean

contact (at)

1. Even if Rabee is not a facilitator, here is a recent court decision in Greece that said that transporting Syrian refugees is no crime even if they don’t have papers.

2. The verdict of 7 years of imprisonment could be exchanged with a fine: 10 Euros per day = 25.000 euro.

Ο Δήμαρχος της Μυτιλήνης θέλει να κλείσει το αυτοδιαχειριζόμενο κέντρο υποδοχής προσφύγων στο ΠΙΚΠΑ

Αυτήν την εβδομάδα ο Δήμαρχος της Μυτιλήνης κ. Γαληνός ανακοίνωσε ότι θα κλείσει το αυτοδιαχειριζόμενο κέντρο υποδοχής προσφύγων το τέλος Σεπτεμβρίου. Το ΠΙΚΠΑ διαχειρίζεται από το 2012 μία τοπική πρωτοβουλία με το όνομα «Το Χωριό του Όλοι Μαζί».

Newcomers are welcomed in Pikpa

Newcomers are welcomed in Pikpa

Την νύχτα της 18ης -19ης Σεπτεμβρίου ένα στρατιωτικό πλοίο μετέφερε έναν άγνωστο αριθμό προσφύγων από την φυλακή κοντά στο χωριό Μόρια προς έναν άγνωστό προορισμό, το πιθανότερο σε ένα από τα μεγάλα κέντρα κράτησης της ελληνικής ενδοχώρας, όπου θα έρθουν αντιμέτωποι με μεγάλες περιόδους κράτησης, επίσημα έως 18 μήνες. Στην πράξη μπορούν να κρατηθούν πολύ περισσότερο.

In the "reception center" close to the village of Moria - we call it "Pagani of the Troika"

In the “reception center” close to the village of Moria – we call it “Pagani of the Troika”

Η ανακοίνωση του Δημάρχου κ. Γαληνού ταιριάζει απόλυτα σε αυτήν την κατάσταση. Το ερμηνεύουμε ως μία ανακοίνωση, η οποία μας καλεί να μην διδαχθούμε τίποτα από την ιστορία αυτού του νησιού. Να μην διδαχθούμε από το δεινά που βίωσαν οι πρόσφυγες μέσα στη Παγανή, την φυλακή γνωστή και ως «κόλαση του Δάντη». Να μην διδαχθούμε από τους αγώνες που οδήγησαν στο κλείσιμο αυτής της φυλακής. Και να μην διδαχθούμε τίποτα από τα δύο χρόνια της εμπειρίας μας στο πώς να διαχειριζόμαστε ένα πραγματικό κέντρο υποδοχής προσφύγων στις πύλες της Ευρώπης. Το να μην διδαχθούμε από αυτά σημαίνει να συνεχίσουμε να ποινικοποιούμε ανθρώπους που μόλις διέφυγαν από τον πόλεμο και την τρομοκρατία για να σώσουν τις ζωές τους, και να συνεχίσουμε να τους υποδεχόμαστε σε «κέντρα υποδοχής» που μοιάζουν με μικρά Γκουαντανάμο, όπως η νέα κοντέινερ –φυλακή κοντά στη Μόρια.

«Την ονομάζουμε Παγανή της Τρόικας, γιατί είναι ακριβώς αυτό: Μία Παγανή που χρηματοδοτείτε με ευρωπαϊκά κονδύλια. Μια Παγανή την οποία επιθυμεί το περιοριστικό ευρωπαϊκό καθεστώς μετανάστευσης», λέει ο ΧΥ από δίκτυο WelcometoEurope. Ο Δήμαρχος κ. Γαληνός ακολουθεί ακριβώς αυτή τη γραμμή. Ανακοίνωσε δημόσια την επιθυμία του να κλείσει έναν αυτοδιαχειριζόμενο χώρο, ο οποίος έχει υποδεχτεί χιλιάδες ανθρώπους και να κάνει σαφές, ότι ο ίδιος είναι πρόθυμος να εκπληρώσει ότι υπαγορεύει η ευρωπαϊκή μεταναστευτική πολιτική, η οποία εξακολουθεί να θέλει να καταστήσει όσο το δυνατόν δυσκολότερο στους πρόσφυγες να φτάσουν σε ένα ασφαλές για τη ζωή τους μέρος. Με το κλείσιμο του ΠΙΚΠΑ αποφασίζει να καταστρέψει ένα χώρο στον οποίο από το 2012 πολλοί εθελοντές έδωσαν τον καλύτερο εαυτό τους για να δώσουν στους νεοαφιχθέντες πρόσφυγες ότι χρειάζονται περισσότερο: ένα θερμό καλωσόρισμα και μια ατμόσφαιρα σεβασμού για να φιλοξενηθούν με ασφάλεια. Δημιούργησαν ένα χώρο που ήταν κάτι περισσότερο από μια στέγη πάνω από τα κεφάλια τους, ένα χώρο που τους έδωσε την ελευθερία να προετοιμαστούν για τα επόμενα βήματα στο δύσκολο ταξίδι τους προς τον τελικό τους προορισμό.

Newcomers read the "Welcome to Greece"-Guide

Newcomers read the “Welcome to Greece”-Guide

Από τον Οκτώβρη διοργανώσαμε δύο φορές ένα ταξίδι πίσω στα σύνορα. Επιστρέψαμε για να δώσουμε πίσω ότι εμείς οι ίδιοι λάβαμε ως αλληλεγγύη από τους ντόπιους για τους νεοεισερχόμενους. Όταν ήρθαμε εδώ τον Αύγουστο συναντήσαμε πολλούς νεοεισερχόμενους πρόσφυγες που έφυγαν αφήνοντας τις λέξεις: « Όταν θα αποκατασταθώ θα έρθω πίσω για να κάνω το ίδιο όπως οι εθελοντές». Θα θυμούνται τη Λέσβο ως τον τόπο που τους καλωσόρισε για πρώτη φορά κατά τη διάρκεια του σκληρού ταξιδιού τους.

Αυτό είναι δυνατό μόνο επειδή υπάρχει ένας χώρος για αυτό το καλωσόρισμα, ένας χώρος που αποδεικνύει ότι είναι δυνατό να φιλοξενηθούν πρόσφυγες. Αν υπάρχει στη Λέσβο ένα ανεξάρτητο γραφείο που θα κάνει την καταγραφή, οι άνθρωποι αυτοί θα συνεχίσουν απλά το δρόμο τους την ίδια μέρα της άφιξης τους στο νησί.

Η Λέσβος ως ένα νησί έχει την ευκαιρία να γίνει γνωστή ως ένα μέρος του καλωσορίσματος και όχι ως μέρος μίας νέας φυλακής για τους πρόσφυγες. Η κράτηση και τα προαναχωρησιακά κέντρα, ή όπως αλλιώς θέλει κανείς να ονομάσει αυτές τις φυλακές, δεν είναι απαραίτητες, εξυπηρετούν μόνο τις ευρωπαϊκές πολιτικές αποτροπής.
Εμείς απλά λέμε: Καλώς ήρθες στην Ευρώπη! Το ΠΙΚΠΑ είναι ένας φάρος για εμάς. Χρειαζόμαστε χώρους καλωσορίσματος και αλληλεγγύης σε όλα τα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα. Κλείστε τις φυλακές.

In Pikpa: preparation for the further journey

In Pikpa: preparation for the further journey

Συνημμένη μπορείτε να βρείτε μία επιστολή στους φίλους του «Χωριό του Όλοι Μαζί», την οποία γράψαμε μετά το ταξίδι μας στη Λέσβο τον Αύγουστο.


 Γράμμα προς τους φίλους από το Χωριό του Όλοι Μαζί

Αγαπητοί φίλοι από το ΧτΟΜ

Αρχικά θα θέλαμε να σας ευχαριστήσουμε πολύ που ξεκινήσατε αυτή την υπέροχη ιδέα για ένα κέντρο υποδοχής και αλληλεγγύης. Λειτουργείτε το ΠΙΚΠΑ από το 2012 – που είναι ένα απίστευτα μεγάλο διάστημα – ειδικά όταν βλέπουμε τι προκλήσεις αντιμετωπίζετε καθημερινά. Ήλθαμε για πρώτη φορά τον περασμένο Οκτώβρη και τώρα ξανά τον Αύγουστο με περισσότερους ανθρώπους σ’ αυτό το νησί, μια από τις πύλες εισόδου προσφύγων στην Ευρώπη. Πολλοί από εμάς έφθασαν στην Ευρώπη μέσω Ελλάδας χρόνια πριν και ξέρουν από προσωπική εμπειρία τι έχουν περάσει οι νεοαφιχθέντες και πώς έχουν επιβιώσει μέχρι να φτάσουν εδώ. Δεν μπορούμε να εκφράσουμε με λόγια τι σημαίνει για μας ότι προσπαθείτε να δημιουργήσετε ένα μέρος όπου είναι ευπρόσδεκτοι. Κάποιοι από εμάς είχαμε την τύχη να μας καλωσορίσει το nobordercampτο 2009, αλλά τους περισσότερους μας «καλωσόρισε» στην Ευρώπη η αστυνομία και οι φυλακές. Όπως και αργότερα, με την απελευθέρωσή μας, κανείς δε βρέθηκε να μας βοηθήσει να βρούμε το δρόμο μας για την Αθήνα, τον επόμενο «σταθμό» αυτού του ταξιδιού. Αγγίζει τις καρδιές μας το ότι δημιουργήσατε ένα χώρο υποδοχής και φιλοξενίας, που χρειαζόταν, και τη μοναδική επιλογή για να υερνικήσουμε αυτά τα απάνθρωπα σύνορα.

Επιστρέψαμε στη Μυτιλήνη για να ενθαρρύνουμε και να καλωσορίσουμε τους νεοφερμένους και να τους στηρίξουμε στο δρόμο τους από δω και πέρα. Οι τελευταίες μέρες ήταν μεγάλη εμπειρία για μας. Μπορέσαμε να συναντήσουμε και να μιλήσουμε με εκατοντάδες νεοαφιχθέντες πρόσφυγες και να τους παρέχουμε πληροφορίες, επαφές σε διάφορες ευρωπαϊκές χώρες και ελπίδα. Αυτό έγινε δυνατό, γιατί υπήρχε ο χώρος γι’ αυτούς και για μας στο ΠΙΚΠΑ, πριν ακόμα καταγραφούν από την αστυνομία. Είχαμε την ευκαιρία να διαδώσουμε τόσες πληροφορίες όσο ποτέ πριν. Συγκεντρώσαμε χρήσιμες πληροφορίες σ’ έναν οδηγό (βλ. Τις μοιράσαμε στα αγγλικά, φαρσί και αραβικά. Θα θέλαμε να σας αφήσουμε μερικά αντίγραφα εδώ, με την υπόσχεση ότι θα τα εκσυγχρονίζουμε κάθε χρόνο. Μας εντυπωσίασε η απίστευτη δουλειά των μεταφραστών καθημερινά στο ΠΙΚΠΑ. Πολλοί από μας έχουμε εμπειρία στη μετάφραση και πρέπει να πούμε ότι είναι πολύ εξαντλητικό σε καταστάσεις όπως αυτές. Επίσης αποχαιρετήσαμε πολλούς νεοαφιχθέντες στο λιμάνι της Μυτιλήνης – και ήταν πανευτυχείς, καθώς ήταν περιτριγυρισμένοι από εσάς και εμάς.

Ωστόσο υπήρξαν και λυπηρές στιγμές για μας. Θέλουμε να μοιραστούμε μαζί σας κάποιες σκέψεις, όσο μερικοί είμαστε ακόμα στο νησί. Ξέρουμε ότι εμείς θα μείνουμε μόνο γι’ αυτό το σύντομο χρονικό διάστημα εδώ. Κάποιοι είμαστε έτσι κι αλλιώς μέρος της συλλογικότητάς σας και θα θέλαμε να συνεισφέρουμε στη σπουδαία σας προσπάθεια για την υποστήριξη των προσφύγων σ’ αυτή την πύλη της Ευρώπης. Οι λυπηρές στιγμές συνδέονται με το γεγονός ότι οι άνθρωποι δεν αντιμετωπίζου ν μόνο μια κατάσταση όπως αυτή στο ΠΙΚΠΑ, αλλά και το λιμενικό, την αστυνομία, τη Frontex.

Το λιμενικά εισέρχεται καθημερινά στο ΠΙΚΠΑ με κλούβες για να οδηγήσει ανθρώπους στη φυλακή της Μόριας, για να τους καταγράψει και συγχρόνως να κάνουν αυτό που ονομάζεται screening, διαλέγοντας έτσι τα άτομα που θέλουν να κρατήσουν φυλακισμένα για μεγαλύτερο διάστημα. Πολλοί από μας γνωρίζουμε τις ελληνικές φυλακές της ελληνικής ενδοχώρας , αφού μείναμε πολλούς μήνες εκεί μέσα για το μοναδικό λόγο ότι είμασταν πρόσφυγες. Ήλθαμε εδώ με έναν και μόνο σκοπό: να υπερνικήσουμε αυτό το σύστημα των φυλακών. Λυπούμαστε πολύ που δεν έχουν μάθει τίποτα από το παρελθόν, ώστε μετά το κλείσιμο της Παγανής βλέπουμε στο ίδιο νησί μια νέα φυλακή προσφύγων.

Όπως πολλούς από σας, μας ανησυχεί ιδιαίτερα ότι το ΠΙΚΠΑ χρησιμοποιείται από τις λιμενικές αρχές ως «αποθήκη» των νεοφερμένων, πριν ακόμη τους μεταφέρουν στη φυλακή για καταγραφή – χωρίς ιατρική περίθαλψη – για αβέβαιο χρονικό διάστημα. Κάποιοι παραμένουν ήδη για μια βδομάδα εδώ, μέχρι να τους παραλάβει το λιμενικό. Όπως και σεις λέμε: το ΠΙΚΠΑ είναι ένα ανοιχτό και αυτοδιαχειριζόμενο κέντρο υποδοχής και όχι τόπος για την αστυνομία. Η εντύπωσή μας είναι ότι οι άνθρωποι καταλαβαίνουν πολύ καλά τι κάνει τη διαφορά. Απαιτούμε να κάνουν την καταγραφή χωρίς κράτηση. Το παράδειγμα του ΠΙΚΠΑ δείχνει ότι αυτό είναι δυνατό.

Έχουμε δει το ονομαζόμενο «Κέντρο Υποδοχής» στη Μόρια με τα ίδια μας τα μάτια και όλοι ξέρουμε ότι δεν έχει σχέση με υποδοχή αλλά με φυλάκιση, εξευτελισμό και συγκέντρωση ανθρώπινων υπάρξεων. Θα ήταν λογικό απλώς να επιτρέπουν στα άτομα να πηγαίνουν ελεύθερα σε κάποια γραφεία για μια απλή καταγραφή και να τους αφήνουν να συνεχίσουν το ταξίδι τους για την Αθήνα το συντομότερο δυνατόν. Οι λίγοι που επιθυμούν να ζητήσουν άσυλο στο νησί θα μπορούσαν να φιλοξενηθούν πολύ πιο εύκολα και με μικρότερη δαπάνη. Η νέα Παγανή της Τρόικα έχει κοστίσει περισσότερα από 3 εκατομμύρια ευρό και προφανώς δεν μπορεί να λειτουργήσει, γιατί έχουν ξεχάσει ότι εκατοντάδες άνθρωποι πρέπει να έχουν τη δυνατότητα να πάνε τουαλέτα ή να κάνουν ντους στο διάστημα που κρατούνται εκεί. Η Μόρια δεν μπορεί να είναι χώρος καταγραφής. Ούτε το ΠΙΚΠΑ γιατί δεν ανήκει στο λιμενικό, στην αστυνομία ή στη Frontex. Οι άνθρωποι θα έπρεπε να μπορούν να κάνουν την καταγραφή με τη θέλησή τους και στη συνέχεια να επιβιβάζονται στα πλοία για την Αθήνα, μετά από λίγες ώρες ξεκούραση.

Ελπίζουμε ότι θα έχετε τη δύναμη να πιέσετε, ώστε το ΠΙΚΠΑ να παραμείνει και να καθιερωθεί ως χώρος υποδοχής και να εμποδίσετε την αστυνομία να καταλάβει το χώρο. Το ΠΙΚΠΑ είναι ένα σημαντικό σύμβολο αλληλεγγύης – και τις τελευταίες 10 μέρες έχουμε δει εκατοντάδες νεοαφιχθέντες πρόσφυγες που είχαν την εμπειρία του καλωσορίσματος. Ευχόμαστε σε σας και σε όλους εμάς δύναμη και αντοχή. Μπορείτε πάντοτε να υπολογίζετε στην υποστήριξή μας.

Welcome to Europe and Youth without Borders

August 2014


Mayor of Mitilini wants to close down self-organised Welcome Center for Refugees

- Press release of Welcome to Europe –

19th September 2014

Mayor of Mitilini wants to close down self-organised Welcome Center for Refugees

Newcomers are welcomed in Pikpa

Newcomers are welcomed in Pikpa

This week the mayor of Mitilini, Mr. Galinos announced to close down Pikpa, the self-organised Welcome Center for refugees on Lesvos by the end of September. Since 2012, Pikpa is run by volunteers from the local initiative “Village of all together”.

In the night from 18th to 19th of September, a military ship transported an unknown number of refugees from the prison close to the village of Moria to an unknown destiny – most probably to one of the big camps on the Greek mainland, where they will have to face long periods of detention, officially up to 18 months but in practice sometimes even longer.

The announcement of mayor Galinos perfectly mirrors this situation. We read it as an announcement to not learn from the history of Lesvos island. To not learn from the hardships refugees had to go through in Pagani, a prison also known as “Dantes inferno”. To not learn from the struggles that had led to its closure. And to not learn from the two years of encouraging experiences made in running a real Welcome Center at the gates of Europe.

In the "reception center" close to the village of Moria - we call it "Pagani of the Troika"

In the “reception center” close to the village of Moria – we call it “Pagani of the Troika”

To not learn means to continue the criminalisation of people who fled from war and terror just to save their lives. It means to continue to “welcome” them with “reception centers” that resemble Guantanamo prisons, such as the new container prison on Lesvos, close to Moria.

“We call it the ‘Pagani of the Troika’, because this is exactly what it is: a Pagani financed by EU money, a Pagani that is wanted by a restrictive European migration regime.” Says Welcome to Europe. Mayor Galinos exactly follows this line: he publicly announced his will to close down a self-organised space, where thousands of people have been welcomed at the gates of Europe. He makes clear that he is willing to fulfil the dictate of Europe’s migration policy that seeks to make it as hard as possible for refugees to reach a safe place.

With the closure of Pikpa Mayor Galinos has decided to destroy a space in which, since 2012, many volunteers are working hard to give newly arriving refugees what they need the most: a warm welcome and a respectful atmosphere to host them in safety. They have created a space that is more than just a roof over peoples’ heads. It is a space that allows for the freedom to prepare the next steps of their difficult journeys towards their final destination.

Since October 2013 we collectively organized twice a journey back to the border. We returned to give back what we had ourselves received: the solidarity of local people to newcomers. When we were there in August 2014 we met a lot of newcomers who left with the words: “When I will be settled I will come back and do the same.” They will remember Lesvos as the place where they were welcomed for the first time during their difficult escape.

Newcomers read the "Welcome to Greece"-Guide

Newcomers read the “Welcome to Greece”-Guide

This is only possible because a space for this practice of welcoming exists, a space that shows that it is possible to host refugees. If there were an independent office doing the registration in Mitilini, the people could just continue with their travels within one day.

Lesvos as an island has the chance to be known as a place of welcome and not as the place of a new prison for refugees. Detention and pre-removal centres, however you want to name these prisons, are not needed, they only serve the European policies of deterrence.

We just say: welcome to Europe! Pikpa is, in the best sense, a light-house for us. We need spaces of welcome and solidarity at all European borders. Close down the prisons.

In Pikpa: preparation for the further journey

In Pikpa: preparation for the further journey

Attached you will find a letter to the friends of the village of all together that we wrote after our journey to Lesvos in August.




Letter to the friends of ‘The village of All Together’


Dear friends of ‘The village of All Together’,

first of all we would like to thank you many times for having started this wonderful idea of a solidarity welcome center! You run Pikpa now since 2012 already – which is an incredible long time, especially if we see what your challenges are every day! We came already in October last year and now once again in August with even more people to this island, one of the gates for refugees to Europe. Many of us came via Greece to Europe years ago and know by their own experience what the newcomers had to overcome and survive until they arrive here. We cannot express with words what it means to us that you try to create a welcoming space for them. When we came some of us had the good luck to be welcomed by the nobordercamp in 2009 but most of us have been only “welcomed” in Europe with police and prisons. Also later on, after our release nobody has been there to assist us to find our way to Athens, the next “station” of this journey and further on. It touches our hearts that you created a space of welcoming and hospitality – it is needed and the only possible option to overcome these inhuman borders.

We came back here to Mitilini to encourage and welcome the newcomers and to assist them on their further way. The last days have been a great experience for us. It was possible for us to meet and talk with hundreds of newly arriving refugees and to provide them with information, contacts in various European countries and to give them hope. This was possible ecause there was the space for them and us to meet in Pikpa before they have been brought to be registered by the police even. We had the chance to spread as many information as possible even before. We gathered useful information in a guide (see: We distributed them in English, Farsi and Arabic. And we would like to offer you to leave copies here and could promise to update it every year. We have been especially impressed by the incredible work the translators did every day in Pikpa. As many of us have experience in translating we have to say that this is very exhausting in a situation like I We also said farewell to many of the newcomers in the harbour of Mitilini – and they have been more than happy to be surrounded by you and us.

Nevertheless there have been also sad moments for us. We would like to share some thoughts about it with you as long as some of us are still on the island. We know very well that for most of us it is only a short period of time to be here, but some of us are anyway part of your structures and we would like to contribute to your great effort to support refugees on this gate to Europe. The sad moments are related to the situation that people will not only face a situation like in Pikpa, but they will be also confronted with coast guards, police and Frontex.

The coast guard entered daily Pikpa with the buses to take the people to the prison in Moria to register them, and in the same moment also to do a so called screening to sort out all those people they want to keep longer time in prison. Many of us know the Greek prisons. Some of us have been only recently freed from prisons on the Greek mainland after having spent many months there – without any other reason than being a refugee. We came here with one main aim: to overcome this system of prisons. We are more than sad to see that nothing has been learnt from the past and that after the closure of Pagani we see on this island a new prison for refugees.

Like many of you we are especially worried about the situation of having Pikpa used by the Coast Guard as a space to “store” newly arriving refugees there before they are brought into prison for registration – without medical treatment and for an unknown timeperiod, some already stayed for nearly one week here until the coast guard came to pick them. Like you we still say: Pikpa is an open and self organised welcome center and not a space for the police. Our impression was that the people understand very well what makes the difference.

We demand to do the registration without detention. The example of Pikpa shows that this is possible. We have seen the so called “Reception Centre” in Moria with our own eyes and we all know that it had nothing to do with reception but with imprisoning, degrading and selecting human beings. It would be only logical to just let the people freely go to any office for a simple registration to let them continue their journey to Athens as soon as possible. The few people who wish to apply for asylum already here on this island could be hosted much more easily and with fewer expenses. The new Pagani of the Troika has cost more than 3 Million of Euros and it obviously cannot be used because it was just forgotten that hundreds of people should be able to go to the toilet or take a shower while they are kept there. The place for registration cannot be in Moria. And it cannot be in Pikpa, because this is not the space of the Coast Guard the police or Frontex. The people would go out of their own interest to do the registration to board finally the ferries to Athens after a few hours of rest.

We hope that you will have the energy to enforce that Pikpa remains and will be established as a space of welcome – and to stop the police from taking over the space.

Pikpa is an important symbol of solidarity – and in the last ten days we have seen hundreds of newly arriving refugees who made an experience of being welcomed. We wish you and us together all strength and a long breath! You can always count on our support.

Welcome to Europe and Youth without Borders

August 2014

Life not Death, by Efi Latsoudi

29th of August 2014
We received the information that there is a rescue operation in Nees Kydonies Lesvou. A 38-year-old woman has gone missing. Strong winds in the area. The coast guard boats are not sailing only a helicopter flies for a while over the area.

At noon 25 Afghan refugees arrived at PIKPA. Two dingy boats had arrived early that morning. Strong winds and waves can’t stop smugglers but also can’t stop the need of people escaping war. Among the survivors of the first boat there is a five year old girl with her uncle. Her mother is missing. The child is resting in PIKPA. PIKPA is overcrowded again. More than 150 people arrived yesterday. No available beds and the families taking care of the girl give her their own beds. We inform the Doctors of the world in Moria detention camp about the tragic incident as well as Red Cross International. The child has a sister and her father in Belgium and they talk on the phone when the child is transferred in Moria to be examined and supported by the doctors. Continue reading

Press Release / w2eu (28.0814): 73 refugees transferred from Moria to unknown destination on vessel of the Hellenic Navy (Α/Γ Ροδος L-177)

Mytilene, 28.08.14
On Wednesday night (27th August 2014) a group of 73 refugees most of which were Afghan was transferred from Moria first reception detention centre in Lesvos to the port of Mytilene. When the last load of people reached the port it was already dark. They were then brought on board discretely and in the shadow of one Greek officer at a time. During this seemingly secretive operation the port was full of civil police and coast guards.

As the refugees thought they would be released – similar to the previously detained refugees all the other days, they were shocked and in panic when they found themselves in the port facing a 116 metres long ship of the Greek Navy. They were not informed about what was going to happen. They didn’t know where they would be brought. And their biggest fear was that they were being send back to Turkey.

Many of the persons transferred are relatives of families who were released shortly before, there are unaccompanied minors among them who were afraid to register with their real age as they heard the underage stay longer in detention and there are others who have family members in other European countries. All these persons have escaped war and conflict to find security and protection in Europe.

• We demand to know where these people were brought as to inform their relatives and lawyers! Transparency to all official procedures concerning refugees instead of secretive operations!
• Stop the transfer of refugees on Navy Boats that terrifies and retraumatizes them!
• Stop the arbitrary and discriminative treatment! We demand freedom for all refugees! Stop the detention of protection seekers!
• We also demand to know the whereabouts of the 36 unaccompanied minors who were seemingly transferred from Moria on August 18th to Athens/ Amigdaleza!

Welcome to Europe

20.08.14 Press Release: “What if it was your child?”

LESVOS: Unaccompanied minors kept in detention for days and transferred to detention in Amigdaleza with plastic handcuffs

On Tuesday 19th of August 2014 we became witnesses when the police transferred 36 unaccompanied minors from Moria “first reception” detention centre in Mytilene, Lesvos Island to the port and on the ferry heading to Athens as some of us were travelling the same day. The children and teenagers – some of which are merely older than 13 years – were handcuffed (with plastic wire straps) and guarded by dozens of uniformed officers and civil police. On the first sight we thought that we would be travelling with penal detainees being transferred to Chios prison. Only on the second sight we recognized minors we had met a few days ago in PIKPA and then again in Moria during our days of action on the island. They were not even allowed to take of the handcuffs when going to the toilette!

temporary detention in the port of Mytilene upon arrival / August 2014 / copyright: w2eu

temporary detention in the port of Mytilene upon arrival / August 2014 / copyright: w2eu

Unaccompanied children upon arrival to Greece are afraid to say the truth about their age. They are so afraid to suffer more days in detention that they often declare themselves as adults neglecting all the possible negative consequences this decision might have in long term. The boys who were transferred to Athens on the 18th said the truth about their young age. It seems like they are being punished for that. And even more, it seems that the newly arriving are deterred from registering as minors when observing what happens to the others or listening to their stories.

These days hundreds of refugees have arrived on Lesvos island. Moria detention centre has been filled – also with unaccompanied minors. Due to high numbers in arrivals adult refugees are being released within a few days, while the few unaccompanied minors who register as such have to stay behind the barbed wire and wait for a place in a specialised open reception centre.

unaccompanied minors locked up in Moria / August 10th 2014 / copyright: w2eu

unaccompanied minors locked up in Moria / August 10th 2014 / copyright: w2eu

The day before yesterday the 36 unaccompanied minors were brought like prisoners into the ferry. Yesterday they most probably arrived to Amigdaleza detention centre for minors in Athens. With the words “We don’t want food. We want freedom!” they had been peacefully protesting in Moria against detention. Some of them were locked up more than three weeks under miserable conditions. Now they are in a real prison for minors. Only one month ago (17.7.14) a 17-year-old Afghan out of despair self-injured himself in Moria detention centre. He was struggling for his freedom. Also elsewhere in Greece like in Samos island dozens of unaccompanied minors are held for weeks before they are send to open reception centres for children. Yet their voices are seldom heard as contact to the inside of the detention centres is not existent for the civil society.

unaccompanied minors protesting in Moria detention centre / August 2014

unaccompanied minors protesting in Moria detention centre / August 2014 / copyright: w2eu

• We demand the immediate release of all children and teenagers from Amigdaleza, Moria, Samos and any other detention centre! Freedom to all!
• We demand child appropriate treatment and protection instead of (re-)traumatising procedures! No police guards for children! No handcuffs on children! No children in prison!
• We demand for the opening of more specialised open camps for child refugees!

Welcome to Europe | Youth Without Borders

Letter of Protest against inhumane treatment of refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos

Berlin / Hamburg / Mytilene in August 2014

Dear Madams and Sirs,

We witnessed recently how refugees were exposed after their arrival on the island of Lesbos by an inhumane treatment by the Greek coast guard. With this letter we are protesting against this approach.

On Wednesday, 06th of August 2014, we planned, as part of our summer camp on the island of Lesvos from Youth Without Borders and Welcome-to-Europe (two anti-racist solidarity networks), to celebrate a party with and for refugees and migrants. We chose as the place the PikPa, an empty children’s camp, which had been converted by activists from Lesvos with the consent of the mayor to a welcome-center for providing the newly arrived refugees with a roof over their head, the first legal informations and food. As well on this Wednesday refugees from Turkey had arrived and spent the time waiting to be registered by the Greek authorities, in Pikpa. Finally, a Coast Guard bus arrived and about 35 of the refugees were to be picked up.
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Traces Back Part II: PIKPA

PIKPA is a self-organised welcome center run since December 2012 by the civil society of Mytilene- Specifically the local network village of all together has been offered the former summer camp for youth by the municipality in order to host new arriving refugees. In the beginning the open camp was meant to host the homeless refugees who were arriving on the island and whom the police denied to arrest. When the local authorities started arresting the newcomers and the new first reception detentiuon center in Moria was opened PIKPA changed into a place hosting the ones released from detention who could not reach a ship at the day of release. Meanwhile numbers of newly arriving refugees have increased dramatically and to such a degree that they won’t fit in Moria detention center and again the authorities started transfering them to PIKPA. Refugees are currently first arrested by the coast guard, then transferred to PIKPA and then to to Moria.

Continue reading