Socialist Worker

‘Bring in all the refugees —give them asylum now’

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2694

A migrant from Africa is overjoyed after reaching the Skala Sikamias beach on the Greek island of Lesvos last week.

A migrant from Africa is overjoyed after reaching the Skala Sikamias beach on the Greek island of Lesvos last week. (Pic: PA)


As European border forces prepare to beat back thousands of refugees, the call needs to go out to let them in.

People fleeing war and poverty should not face more brutality.

Tens of thousands of people were gathering at land and sea borders between Turkey and Greece trying to enter Europe as Socialist Worker went to press.

Hundreds had begun arriving daily on Greek islands in the north Aegean Sea, close to Turkey, having made the crossing in flimsy rubber dinghies.

At least one child had already drowned, after a boat carrying 48 people capsized in Greek waters on Monday.

Greece’s right wing government has vowed to deport immediately as many new arrivals as possible.

But residents of two Greek islands have risen up against their government’s cruel border policies.

Footage released by Turkey on Monday appeared to show Greek coastguards ramming, beating and even shooting at people on a crowded dinghy.

Meanwhile hundreds of people attempting to cross by land have already been attacked by Greek border cops with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets.

As the numbers there were growing, so too was the likelihood of bloodier—possibly deadly—confrontations with cops enforcing European Union (EU) border policy.

Breakdown

The renewed movement of refugees is the result of a breakdown in an agreement between the EU and Turkey designed to keep them out of Europe.

That agreement—signed in 2016—led to barbed wire fences along Europe’s borders with Turkey, and vast, overcrowded prison camps for refugees on Greek islands.

Some 42,000 people are now held in camps on the islands close to Turkey in the north Aegean Sea—more than half of them on the island of Lesvos.

The overcrowded camps have come to dominate the islands and cause misery for refugees and Greeks alike.

Rather than offer people safety, Tory prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wanted to expand the camps. But he was forced to abandon those plans by a mass revolt by island residents demanding the refugees be allowed onto the Greek mainland

Petros Constsantinou, a leading member of the Greek anti-racist organisation Keerfa, told Socialist Worker, “A mass movement was pushing against the detention centres, but also in solidarity with the refugees.”

“They tried to build these prisons with the support of special forces of the police,” he said. “They sent 1,000 police to occupy Lesvos. This was really an invasion for the local population.

“The resistance transformed into a revolt, starting on the night they sent the police ferries to the islands. Thousands of people surrounded the port in order to stop them disembarking. The police had to fire teargas as soon as the door opened in order to get off.”

Petros described how trade unions called a general strike, which was also joined by shopkeepers and small farmers. People occupied and blockaded the land that had been confiscated by the government for the new prison site.

When police took the land, thousands of protesters surrounded them.

Battled

People battled police for three days—even invading the hotels where cops were staying and throwing their clothes out of the window, forcing a government retreat. Petros said reports that the island residents were opposed to refugees were “bullshit”. “The revolt was organised by trade unions and the left,” he said.

Small groups of fascists have tried to organise.

“But they couldn’t control all these demonstrations,” said Petros.

“The solidarity movement that developed after 2015 is still there. There are still people who go and give refugees clothes and water. But now the people are demanding that these people have the right to move to the mainland.”

Demanding safety for refugees is the best response to governments whose racist border laws wreck the lives of ordinary people. “We argue for open borders,” said Petros. “We say bring in all the refugees—give them asylum, papers and safety.”

Across the world the same call needs to go out. Our enemies are the rich, not desperate people.

And in Britain we need to step up the fight against the Tories whose vile racism scapegoats migrants to divert attention from their own crimes.

Statement by International Socialist Tendency groups in Greece and Turkey - No to war and imperialism, the refugees are our brothers and sisters bit.ly/ISTrefugees0320

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