Socialist Worker

EU border clampdown sparks resistance in Greece

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2497

Protests to defend refugees, such as this one in Orestiada in January, are continuing in Greece

Protests to defend refugees, such as this one in Orestiada in January, are continuing in Greece (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Refugees, volunteers and anti-racists are resisting a clampdown in Greece.

Under a new deal between the European Union (EU) and Turkey, refugees who arrived in Greece after 20 March are to be detained in camps or deported.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras hailed it as a victory. He said, “We have put into action what we have been trying to achieve for the last three months.”

A government bill is to be rushed through parliament to facilitate the deal.

Petros Constantinou from the Keerfa anti-fascist group told Socialist Worker, “The new bill will mean that the government will be able to carry out mass deportations.”

Activists are organising a protest for Wednesday of next week outside the parliament.

On the island of Lesvos police have been violently clearing out refugees.

The official Moria camp has been turned into a prison and hundreds of refugees are inside. NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has pulled out of the camp in protest.

Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF head of mission in Greece, said, “We made the extremely difficult decision to end our activities in Moria because continuing to work inside would make us complicit in a system we consider to be both unfair and inhumane.”

Greek authorities are trying to clear refugees from the camp at Idomeni on the Macedonian border and send them to permanent camps.

Refusing

Going to the new camps will mean passage to Europe will become impossible and many are refusing to go. Volunteer-run solidarity camps face daily raids.

Teacher Sofia Georgocosta, an activist in Lesvos, told Socialist Worker, “The police go in all the time, even to the parts where the women get changed.

“All the time they are pushing, saying you have to leave, you have to leave. They are forcing people onto boats to mainland Greece.”

More than 5,000 refugees are now stuck at the port of Piraeus near Athens with nowhere to go after being transported there from Athens.

But there is resistance. Hundreds of refugees demonstrated in Idomeni last Saturday, demanding the border be opened.

Refugees from the port of Kavala joined anti-fascists from Keerfa in Thesslonika at a 700-strong counter-protest against 150 members of ‘Sacred Band’, a coalition of fascists and Islamophobes

On Lesvos, in the port of Mytilini, around 40 Pakistani refugees were taken away by police in handcuffs on Saturday.

Keerfa protested alongside volunteers under the slogan “We don’t want Lesvos to become the Guantanamo of Europe.” This followed a protest at Moria called by activists who run the solidarity camps.

Refugees inside the camp joined in chants of “Freedom!” and held up signs saying “Open the border”.


Refugees abandoned by Syriza

Ordinary people in Greece have shown immense solidarity, organising collections and opening up their homes to refugees.

Syriza prime minister Alexis Tsipras called for the people of Lesvos to get the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

But the Syriza government and the European Union (EU) are imposing austerity on them and clamping down on refugees at the same time.

When the Troika forced austerity on Greece, Tsipras said his hands were tied and that the position Greece found itself in was unfortunate but inevitable.

Now, the Syriza government has shown it is ready to abandon refugees to defend its place at the EU top table.

Public sector unions across Greece are set to strike against the government’s pension cuts on Thursday of next week.

The Keerfa group is calling on all the unions of Lesvos, particularly the dockers and shipping workers, to strike with them.


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