Anti-fascists plan to gather in the Greek port of Piraeus tonight, Friday, as the Nazi Golden Dawn prepares to march against refugees.
It follows violent attacks against refugees at the port on the island of Chios this week. Refugees there have broken out of a detention centre and are occupying the port in protest against plans to deport them.
But crowds led by fascists attacked the town hall on Wednesday night, then charged into refugees’ camp late on Thursday. Eyewitnesses say they beat up at least one Syrian refugee and one supporter.
Panos Garganas is editor of Socialist Worker’s Greek sister paper Workers’ Solidarity. He said, “There is a big solidarity campaign going on. Anti-racists and trade unions plan a mass meeting with refugees in Piraeus later this month.
“Golden Dawn is rushing to take the initiative before this happens. And the government’s move towards policing refugees has created an opening for the fascists. They are now saying there is an Islamic invasion of Greece, and it needs a new government to get rid of all the ‘jihadis’.
“Now we are rushing to organise a counter-demonstration. We have beaten them in Piraeus twice before and hopefully will again—but it is a tough situation.”
The Greek government is aiding the European Union (EU) clampdown on refugees with detention and deportations. Many ordinary people are standing alongside refugees.
Importantly, delegations of hundreds of refugees joined Greek unions’ strike demonstrations yesterday, Thursday. Public sector workers and media workers walked out across the country against planned pension cuts.
Panos said, “The demonstrations were big—despite the trade union bureaucracy trying to hold back on more strikes.
“Refugees face terrible conditions in camps near the northern cities of Thessalonica and Ioannina and socialists there have worked with them. Groups of them walked out of the camps to join the demonstration.”
He explained, “The struggles are linked by two main things. The first is the EU, which is imposing Greece’s bailout, border closures and deportations.
“The government’s spin hasn’t worked. People are saying, ‘The same bastards who forced austerity on us are now selling out the refugees’.
“The other thing is the left making the connection. We need to support refugees, and there’s a limit to what volunteers can do. To help them we need more staff for schools, hospitals and local authorities—and that comes into direct confrontation with the bailout.”
'We've decided to live like humans and we will succeed' - refugees speak out
The Greek state is trying to drive refugees off the streets into new “closed” detention camps this week.
Its mass deportations ran into a legal hurdle after it emerged that people were being sent back to Turkey without having the chance to claim asylum. But deportations are continuing.
There is resistance. Refugees have held protests from the port of Piraeus to the islands of Chios and Lesvos. Trade unions, campaigns, and the municipal council of Nikaia in western Athens have come out in their support.
Syrian refugees marooned at Idomeni on Greece’s northern border talked to journalists from Socialist Worker’s sister paper Workers Solidarity.
Masloum, a young English teacher from Aleppo, was part of an occupation of the railway line in protest at the EU policy.
“We want to pressure the governments on both sides of the border,” he said. “That’s why we’re blocking the trainlines. They tell us it is pointless—but there’s no going back for us. We’ve decided to live like humans and we will succeed.”
Noura and Antan from Latakia were in the nearby refugee camp with their young children—the youngest just eight months old and running a high fever.
They abandoned Syria after Russian planes bombed their home. Antan had spent six months in dictator Bashar al Assad’s jails where he was tortured horribly. His hands and feet bore the scars of nails used to crucify him.
Noura said, “They tell us to go to reception centres, they say it will be better there. But it’s a lie, the biggest lie of all. Those who have decided to go there have sent us photos. The centres where conditions are good filled up quickly, in others the situation is very poor.
“Many people who went in because they believed the lies are now coming back. Supposedly they can apply for asylum using Skype there. But there is only one hour’s internet connection and thousands of people—which of them will get their interviews?”
Pavlo, a painter from Thessalonica in Greece, had been helping the family. He said, “The other day I took Noura to the United Nations High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR) tent so they could tell her about her rights to get asylum. The Swiss bureaucrat told her to ‘go back to Syria’.”
Abdullah, a graduate from Aleppo, was trying to get to Germany. “I know that I might wait years but I don’t mind waiting,” he said. “The real problem is that I don’t know which country they will take me to.
“What I want is to be able to choose my future. There’s nothing left for me in Aleppo—my home has been destroyed. It isn’t fair that I can’t choose what to do in my life because I don’t have the right passport.”
Abdullah was one of several thousand who waded across the Suva river marking Greece’s border with Macedonia last month—and was deported back by Macedonian troops. He is determined not to be sent back to Turkey.
“We decided to cross the river and pass the border because a rumour was circulating that they would deport us all back to Turkey,” he said. “Those who say that Turkey is a safe country don’t know what they are talking about.”
The EU wants to close off the flow of refugees by force. But refugees won’t go without a fight.