Socialist Worker

Brutal police raid on refugees in Greece

Dora Teloni spoke to Socialist Worker about how the Greek authorities’ destruction of a refugee camp is part of Europe’s war on the vulnerable

Issue No. 2161

I will never forget what happened on Sunday 12 July, when the Greek police destroyed a refugee camp in Patras, the country’s fourth biggest city.

I have never seen such brutality as I did in the clearing of the camp. The majority of residents were from Afghanistan and aged 25 to 30.

Huge numbers of armed police were mobilised against these refugees, who have already had to flee their own country because of the “war on terror”.

It was a military operation against people who the authorities view as a “social problem”.

The camp was a little town where migrants gathered together. They built a community there over eight years despite the terrible living conditions.

After the police arrested the refugees, bulldozers flattened the 150 small huts, improvised shops – and the camp’s mosque.

More and more police had been going into the camp over the past two months.

They arrested anyone who hadn’t applied for asylum. People were afraid and so they left.

In the past there had been up to 3,000 people in the camp. But there were only around 300 there when the raid happened.

Nobody, not even lawyers, was granted access to the refugees. We shouted at the police, but there were just 15 of us.

The refugees waved to us from the buses they had been herded onto. They looked lost, wondering what the future held for them.

We don’t know where many of them are now. We don’t know what their future will be.

We found some in prisons, with 25 people crammed into a small room. Children were taken to a shelter 250 miles from Patras.

Many of the refugees who left the camp before the raid are now homeless, hungry and desperate. Some of them are living on the streets and trying not to attract the attention of the police.

Lots of them wanted to stay in Greece and applied for asylum. But the right wing Greek government is very strict, and only grants asylum to one person out of every 150 who apply.


The refugees cannot legally be deported back to Afghanistan. But in the past the government has deported people illegally anyway.

The government wanted to “disappear” the camp to get votes.

The governing New Democracy party put immigration at the top of its agenda after the success of the far-right Laos party in the recent elections.

The Pasok (Labour-like) party agrees with the government on the issue.

Now there is a war against immigrants going on across Greece with police attacking people in many places.

The Movement for the Rights of Refugees and Immigrants, which I am part of, has held demonstrations, collected food and clothes, and helped with legal advice for the refugees in Patras.

Since the raid we have been out on the streets trying to save people and raising solidarity.

We handed out leaflets so that people could read the truth rather than the government’s lies.

But these attacks are not only down to the Greek government.

Greece is following the policy of the European Union (EU), which is trying to create a “Fortress Europe”.

The EU has helped start wars in these people’s countries. Now it doesn’t want the people affected to come here and participate in life.

Dora Teloni is a social worker and activist in Greece

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Tue 21 Jul 2009, 18:32 BST
Issue No. 2161
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