On Thursday we finally received the answer from Athens: With a short “no” the headquarter denied the access for “Youth without Borders” a selforganisation of young refugees who had applied at the Police Department Lesvos for an official delegation to visit the newly built detention camp on Lesvos close to the village of Moria. Many of us had been in the past imprisoned as well in what was called by a Greek minister “Dantes Inferno”. This old detention centre Pagani had to be closed after we struggled all together from inside and outside shouting for weeks and months “Azadi! Freedom!” until the last refugees had been released in the end of 2009. The very short negative answer to our official application proves what we already knew before: on the old military base close to Moria they try to hide again an inhuman prison. The official plan to treat refugees on this island remains the same: to keep them behind barbed wire, isolated from the society. The only thing that has changed is the amount of money coming from the EU to finance it.
Also without giving us access to speak with the detainees they cannot hide it any more. We have not been waiting for any bureaucratic procedures. In all our struggles to go further we have already learned that rights are nothing to beg for but to take them by ourselves. If you don’t want to close your eyes you just see what is happening – and you feel the need to get active.
We have already been inside the new detention camp on last Saturday, 12th of October 2013. After having met the first people released from this prison and having heard their sad stories we decided to go there and to have a look. When we went to the prison we found the door open and so a spontaneous Go-In-demonstration took place. About 50 activists, many of them selforganised refugees, went to the fenced containers with about 80 detainees on an old military area near the small village of Moria (10 km from Mytilini). Usually a gate should avoid direct contact, but as the door was not locked, we all went inside to talk to the jailed migrants and to put some banners on the fences. Obviously the police was surprised. Direct communication between the new arrived and the old-experienced refugees could happen in many languages. Visitor cards from www.w2eu.info and flyers were distributed through the fences.
The authorities tried to make the local population believe that they build a welcome and reception centre. They tried to hide the plans with dozens of container blocks also for long term detention with finally more than 700 detainees who can be held there up to 18 months. When we left the area of the detention centre on Saturday we went on to the small village of Moria to make another demonstration, to distribute our flyers (see below) and to come into a lot of discussions with the people on the street and in the cafés. Beside the main slogan – “No to a new Pagani, yes to a real welcome centre” – we used also a smaller banner with the text: “Pagani tis Troika, Pagani of the Troika!” – as the “modern” container style of detention is financed and forced by EU. A lot of people in Moria expressed their worries that the name of their village will become a shameful meaning like Pagani had it in the past. An old men sitting in a café chatted with others: “Before when I said to you that they will build secretly behind the wall a big prison you were laughing. Now you see all these young people: they know it from their own experience! When finally they will put also you in a prison you will not laugh any more.”
We don’t need any permission to come and see. Our networks and friendship have been growing since 2009. They go beyond fences and borders. The first people who were released from the new prison, we knew already. They have stayed in the open selforganised welcome center in Pikpa before they were brought to Moria. An absurd situation: to register they had to spend many days in prison. They were welcomed by us after their release with a spontaneous freedom party, so we had a very clear picture about what was going on inside even before our short visit on Saturday. Inside we found friends who will tell us afterwards. The time of a hidden prison on this island is over – because you can never forbid our longing for freedom for the friends inside!
The more “No”s you give us, the more you try to press us down by racist controls (and we experienced several this week, in the port when some of us arrived, in the airport when some of us left and even directly in front of Tsamakia beach as a provocation) – the more you water the plant of our rage the more energy it gives us to tear down the walls and fences and to break your cages.
Everybody in Lesvos remembers the detention camp of Pagani, which conditions became an international scandal and which had to be closed soon after the Nobordercamp 2009 and mainly because of the continuous revolts from inside. Local authorities are afraid that the new detention will cause again international attention and solidarity. Last Saturday’s action is the beginning for this!
Flyer distributed in Moria:
No to a new Pagani!
Yes to real Welcome Center!
We are returning to the island of Lesvos four years after the succesful struggle to close Pagani. We are here to demonstrate against the new detention centre near the village of Moria, with the support of local and international activists. Migration is not a crime! We were in the detention centre of Pagani and we don’t want anybody else to have the same experience. The new detention centre will imprison up to 700 people for up to 18 months. The experience of an open centre such as the one in Pikpa shows that it is possible to register and welcome refugees without detention. The EU is wasting money on building new prisons and turning Europe into a big fortress.
Close the new detention centre! No to a new Pagani of the Troika!
Yes to a REAL welcome centre such as Pikpa! Yes to solidarity with migrants and refugees!
The Refugees Returning to Lesvos
Village of All Together
Youth Without Borders (www.jogspace.net)