On Wednesday April 24, 17 refugees (12 from Afghanistan and 5 from Syria) detained by the coast guard of Lesvos started a protest against the detention conditions
First no one wanted to register them (thus without papers they cannot leave the island) and when they are finally arrested (in order to be registered), they remain detained under inhuman conditions. Among the refugees small children, sick persons, young mothers and other vulnerable groups. The 12 Afghan refugees on hunger strike have been detained now for more than 12 days in the yard of the coast guarrd where they are constantly exposed to the sun (30 degrees celsius). In total they spent already almost 40 days on the island most of which they were homeless in the beginning when authorities denied registering them. Then they spent some days in the self-organised welcome center PIKPA which is run by the network “Village-ofall-together” until they were finally arrested.
Sans papiers arriving in Lesvos cannot leavethe island unless they get arrested and registered whereafter they receive a so called White Paper which is valid usually only for a period of 30 days. This paper legalises them for the given period of time within which they should leave the country by their own means. Anyway it is no travel document. Syrian refugees by a Ministerial Decision are given a period of six months instead of one.
A group of 10 Syrian refugees (out of 26 in total currently) was released upon pressure by the network “village-of-all-together” but as if for revenge they were given white papers only valid for 30 days instead of 6 months.
Elias (name changed) is 20 years old. He is from Aleppo where he was also studying to become a mechanical engineer. His plan is to go to the UK. The way from Syria to the UK is hard, risky and expensive. He shared the dangers of the road with his sister and his cousins.
“My father told us: You must leave. Here you will be killed. He could not come with us. My parents and the rest of the family had to stay in Syria.”
Elias was forced to join the army, but he didn’t accept to kill his people.
For more than a month he was on the road to Lesvos.
“We were terrified. We didn’t know which way we will be send to Europe. The smuggler said we should not worry. The boat was big, we should be only 10 passengers and the journey over the sea would take only 30 minutes. When we arrived at the coast we saw the rubber boat. We were 42 persons traveling in the night. The waves were enormous. Then the engine had some problems. I thought we would die. I told my sister to close her eyes and we started to pray. If I knew how dangerous it was I would have never taken my sister with me. We arrived wet and scared to death on Lesvos. We went ourselves to the police but they sent us away telling us to come back the next day. When we were finally arrested we stayed three days in prison. 70 men in a cell for two. We were locked up together with penal detainees.”
Upon release the family stayed five days in PIKPA and then left.
“I would have never left Syria if there wasn’t war! Now my plan is to study and then return to my country and help to build it up.”
As refugees continue to arrive on Lesvos island the network “village of all together” has transferred again almost 50 persons to PIKPA self-organised and open reception camp.
On Saturday 2nd of February 2013, 26 refugees – mostly Afghans and Syrians – were transferred to PiKPA. They were detained more than a week in the police station of Mytilene under very bad conditions.
“We couldn’t even lie down,”
some of them said. Upon release they received a deportation order (so called “White Paper” valid for 30 days) by the police and found themselves homeless on the streets since the strike of the seafarers had paralyzed the general ferry traffic between mainland and islands. The freed refugees were desperate not knowing where to go. As we had promised earlier this year as network “the village of all together” no refugee should stay anymore homeless and helpless in the streets. So we decided to take them to PIKPA.
On February 4th another 14 people were released from detention. We went to the police station and demanded them to be transferred directly to PIKPA. Today more refugees might be released and brought to PIKPA. We are preparing food for 50 persons today.
All of these people have suffered from the hazardous travel of the sea endangering their lives repeatedly to reach a safe haven in Europe. The strict controls on both sides of the Aegean, by Turkish Gendarmes and Greek Coast Guard / Frontex on the other side, make the border crossing a matter of life and death. At the same time weather conditions are creating additional dangers for the small, overcrowded and often insufficiently equipped dinghy boats. One of the refugees said:
“Three times we were caught by the Gendarmes. The fourth time we almost died in the huge waves.”
Samos 07.12.12 – Movement for the Human rights – Solidarity to Refugees
Following the visit of members of the Movement in the coast guard facilities where 41 persons – among them eight newly arrived women and seven children mainly coming from Syria – are hold, and where we were asked to offer our support with clothing and hygiene articles, we noticed the following:
In this informal detention place of the Samos coast guards’ special forces men, women and children are closed up together with three penal detainees and one unaccompanied minor who is waiting since long time to be transferred into a special reception centre for minors.
The detention place is absolutely unsuitable and the detention conditions are miserable. There are no matresses, blankets, hygiene articles and there is only one toilette. The newly arrived Syrian refugees came wet and exhausted without being offered dry clothes or food.
The treatment by the authorities and the abolute lack of protection that the Greek government is encountering them with are reminding of darker periods when the informal detention centre of Kapnokoptiriou was still in function – a warehouse of souls.
The coast guard – the responsible ones for the detention – told us that they had requested support from all local authroities without receiving any responds.