Socialist Worker

Greece and Turkey leave refugees stranded at seas

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2779

Refugees crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe

Refugees crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe (Pic: Wikicommons/ Mstyslav Chernov)

Squabbling ­governments left more than 300 Afghan refugees stranded in the sea for days, as they rowed over who should take them to safety.

Some 375 refugees were left trapped on a cargo ship after it developed engine trouble last Thursday off the Greek island of Crete in the Mediterranean sea.

Yet rather than send help, the Greek government argued with Turkey over who was responsible for rescuing the refugees.

It was four days before the Greek coastguard eventually towed the ship to the island of Kos in the Aegean sea.

Many of those on board were reported to be hungry and dehydrated after their ordeal, and one woman had to be taken to hospital.

The scandal lays bare European governments’ false claims to want to help Afghan refugees.

In fact, they are desperate to stop most refugees ­entering Europe at all costs.

Greece refused to rescue the passengers because of a deal struck between the European Union (EU) and Turkey in 2016 that was designed to keep refugees out. It was signed to stop refugees mainly from Syria entering Europe.

Cold truth  of ‘warm’ welcome for Afghanistan refugees
Cold truth of ‘warm’ welcome for Afghanistan refugees
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Just as they do with Afghan refugees now, European governments claimed to support ordinary Syrians while ­denying them safety.

The deal allows Greece to deport refugees to Turkey, which many travel through to enter Europe. It has meant hundreds of thousands of refugees—many from Afghanistan—have been kept for months and even years in massive refugee camps on Greek islands in the Aegean.

And Greek coastguard ships have been filmed executing violent “pushbacks” against boats and dinghies carrying refugees. Boats block, ram, beat and even shoot at them.

At the land border between Turkey and Greece, border cops use batons, rubber bullets and teargas against ­refugees attempting to cross.

The EU is currently ­worried that the number of refugees trying to enter Europe will again increase after the Taliban defeated the US occupation in Afghanistan.

Greece’s Tory ­migration minister Notis Mitrachi called the boat carrying refugees a “dangerous and illegal journey from the Turkish coast facilitated by criminal gangs.”

He called on the EU to “ensure the EU/Turkey ­statement is upheld”—meaning he wants it to be even more forceful in keeping refugees out.

Racist EU laws deny people from outside Europe the right to freedom of movement.

The EU treats free ­movement as one of the privileges given only to its members so that they have an advantage over ­non‑­European countries.

Yet the deal with Turkey is breaking down as the Greek and Turkish governments argue over control and influence in the Aegean and east Mediterranean seas.

In the meantime ordinary Afghan people—whose lives have been wrecked by the West’s wars—are frozen out, stranded and used as bargaining chips while they try to reach safety.

Protest on Saturday in central London

Protest on Saturday in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Remembrance march demands justice

Hundreds of friends and relatives of people who died in prison or police custody marched in central London last Saturday calling for justice.

The United Families and Friends annual march gives solidarity to campaigns that have often been continuing for many years. Each year it also sees new examples of police killings.

Keshia Johnson came from Manchester with her family. Her brother Ronaldo Johnson died in April after the car he was riding in as a passenger crashed during a police chase.

“We have just been batted from the police to the IOPC [Independent Police Complaints Commission] for information, but we are no wiser as to what’s happened,” she said.

“It needs to change.”

Filmmaker and activist Ken Fero called for a People’s Tribunal on Police Killing to hold the cops accountable internationally.

He added, “We collectively must stop saying ‘deaths in custody’ using the language of the state and say what police murdering is—police killings.”

There was also a solidarity mobilisation in Edinburgh where the families of Sheku Bayoh and Allan Marshall presented demands for justice to the first minister’s residence.

Sheku died after being restrained by police in Kirkcaldy. Allan died after prison officers violently restrained him in HMP Edinburgh.

Charlie Kimber

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