There have been several articles in different in Greek and English language media about the “Welcome to Greece!” guide of our network. Most of them up to now have been denouncing and/or misinforming though. Mostly, journalists obviously didn’t even read the guide before writing about it. To avoid further misunderstandings leading to the defamation of the guide here are some explanations:
- Some basic information: The guide „Welcome to Greece!“ (see: http://lesvos.w2eu.net/info-for-refugees/welcome-to-greece-guide/) exists in four languages, English, Arabic, Farsi, French. The first version was published in August 2014, an updated version in July 2015. It is produced by the network Welcome to Europe and it was mainly distributed during what we call the “Journeys back to the border”, when refugees who arrived via Greece in Europe go back every year to welcome those who arrive newly.
- The guide is distributed for free and it can be downloaded on the website w2eu.info for free as well. We invite again all solidarity groups and structures to download it and reprint it. Many solidarity groups acting in Greece have already asked us to print and spread the guide or get already printed version for distribution as there is an immanent lack of information leading to a high degree of anxiety and stress among the newly arriving. Many people are distributing the guide currently belonging to different groups and their feedback is just: That more guides are needed!
- It is one of the huge gaps in Greece during this current humanitarian crisis concerning the situation of refugees that they don’t have the information they need in order to understand their rights, possibilities and obligations in Greece and Europe as well as the situation and place they specifically find themselves in upon arrival. Our main aim is to inform the people and to give them as much space as possible to take their own decisions grounded on knowledge of the situation: against the deadly consequences of a migration regime that forces them to take these dangerous routes. With thousands of refugees arriving daily in Greece, the capacities of UNHCR, NGOs and solidarity groups are much too low as to provide each newcomer orally with basic information about their rights in their own language.
The guide is meant to help solving this obstacle letting people know for example where they are, what the procedures are, what kind of documents they receive, what the law says, how long they might stay in the place of arrival but also how they can contribute to a conflict-free and peaceful environment of solidarity given the current circumstances of a humanitarian crisis. More than that the contacts inside the booklet help them to find support with NGOs upon arrival in Athens. For example often people leave the island sick, and need further treatment or medication in Athens. Others decide to apply for asylum, family reunification and / or housing and need to know where they can be support with that. We witnessed hundreds of refugees sitting or lying in different corners of Lesvos island and reading peacefully the guides. In the port we saw hundreds daily sleeping while the guide was visible in their pockets or bags obviously kept safely along with their small properties. We strongly believe that providing people with information is their basic right. Many other solidarity groups and NGOs do the same (mostly orally though) and it helps in de-escalating situations within the ongoing humanitarian crisis as refugees feel a little more welcomed if they know about their rights even if they lack a proper place to sleep and if they are hungry.
- The guides are not used to “advertise” for more people coming into Europe. We know pretty well how dangerous the ways are people are forced to take, when the European migration control forces them to life-threatening sea-crossings. The people will come anyway, there is no need for advertisement of any kind, the war zones in Syria, in Iraq and Afghanistan and the social destruction that follows are the background of these forced movements towards Europe.
- We don’t think it is useful to distribute the “Welcome to Greece!”- guide already at the other side of the border in Turkey. The people need other information there about the situation for them in Turkey itself. It makes much more sense to distribute the number and Sea-safety-information of our sister network Watch the Med Alarm phone in Turkey as many protection seekers are eager to continue their flight to Europe when they don’t find security and protection in the place they are. The more information they have the better they are prepared to react in situations of danger and their clandestine journeys get hopefully a little safer, for example by insisting on wearing life vests.
- In a hand full of different articles the “Welcome to Greece”-guide was denounced in different ways giving wrong information about it. We invite you to read our first reaction here that is still valid here.
- We invite everybody who is solidary with people on the move to share the information inside the guide. The content of the guide is also in a readable version for smart phones. You can find the links to the Arabic version here.
- We will not stop. We are very thankful to Medico international who funded the printing costs of this year August. The 10.000 guides in Arabic and 10.000 in Farsi are now nearly all gone after spreading them mostly among new arriving refugees on Lesvos. Dozens of refugees thanked us and others distributing the guide for keeping them informed and many offered to get active in helping the next newcomers after they arrive safely themselves and get asylum in the country they want to go.
- So we will reprint it and everybody is invited to do it as well. We also invite anyone to provide us with corrections and updates if necessary. Unfortunately we are not able to re-write, re-layout and re-print the guide in a monthly basis as it would be needed in order to follow up with the quick changes in procedures. Anyone helping in collecting the information provided, correcting and proofreading it, putting it together, layouting, translating and printing it is doing this for free and as an act of solidarity. We try to do our best to have correct and update information though and any help for that is welcome.
- We see this poor medial attacks as a part of the wider attempt to criminalise the growing solidarity networks and their support to refugees and migrants. We continue to say: Welcome to Greece! Equal rights to all! No prisons! No criminalisation of solidarity! Freedom of movement is everybodies right!