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.

Individuals from our group have a long contact and involvement in PIKPA as activists but also some of us have stayed there a year ago upon their own arrival.
“For me Pikpa means … a reminder of the though times!”
When we started the camping a group of us was visiting PIKPa regularly to inform the newly arriving about their rights and possibilities as well as about PIKPA and self-organised life there. Also we got involved in the daily tasks of finding beds for the new ones, clothes, help identify the sick, accompany them into the hospital, solve conflicts etc.

It was at the same time great to be able to give back the notion of solidarity to the newly arriving and also to welcome that in that way. Especially for the ones among us who did not feel welcomed when they had arrived in Europe it meant a lot.

“When I came to PIKPA i felt like after all I am not so far away from my home-country!”

The first visit of PIKPA by our complete group was for the welcoming party in the beginning of the camping. When we arrived at PIKPA we found ourselves in the middle of a transport operation where the police was coming several times to PIKPA to fill their car with people and bring them to Moria. For the ones of us who came from Germany and Sweden and whose experience of arrival in Europe is located in their past it was a shocking image to see and hear how the police was treating the people. They were shouting names, pushing people in the bus, pushing them again out etc. This was not the treatment for humans, neither for animals was our feeling. At the same time that all of us were sad and angry about the police behaviour, the friends who still live in Greece and whose exüeriences of arrival in Europe / Greece are not so far back in the past but more recent, were not so strongly sadened. As one of us said: ‘They have treated me much much more bad than this. That was friendly what we saw. When I arrived I was insulted, sexually abused and I had to stay under miserable conditions in prison.’

It seemed in the beginning very hard to hold a party in PIKPA when the day was overshadowed by the behaviour of the police. But what we had to understand was that people arriving newly to the island wanted to go to the detention center as they wanted to be registered in order to be able to leave the island. Without registration one gets no paper and without paper one cannot buy a ticket for the boat. In that sense people were longing for getting fast out of PIKPA, fast into Moria in order to be fast free and continue their journey.

The part we then made all together – newly arriving refugees and the ones coming back – was a long lasting moment of shared hope, solidarity and strength. It was a breath for all of us and a big smile.

The next days we continued in small groups visitiing PIKPA. Contacts and friendships were born. Some people we first met in PIKPA we met again in Moria during our protest. Others we met again upon their release in the port where we could say goodbye for the moment. One of them told us:
“I had stayed in PIKPA that day you held the party while the others from my group were already brought to the detention centre. When I was brought the next day to Moria detentuon and I showed them a video from the party, they all said they wished they had been there too.”

We organised a football tournament in PIKPA with teams mixing the new arriving with the oldies. Everyone was thinking only of having fun and of getting some cold water to drink. Some of us played even without shoes as everyone just wanted to be part of it.

The day we held a memorial for the victims of the border we visited PIKPa again to say goodybye as a group. We played music from all conitents and Renovatio played live some of their songs. Many people were already for days in PIKPA and were happy to see us again. Almost everybody danced: small and big ones. It was another moment of strength that pushed away all bad memories for a few hours.