Greece has become an important entry point into Fortress Europe for many people fleeing the physical and economic violence that festers within their home countries, fuelled in many cases by the policies of the EU and its constituent members, yet the situation for migrants within Athens is dire with police brutality and fascist beatings becoming more and more frequent.
Within an hour of arriving in central Athens, I had seen police brutality towards migrants first hand – I turned a corner and there was three police officers and security guard watching as a fourth officer aimed a kick at a Black guy lying on the ground. On several occasions walking around central Athens, I have seen groups of young Black men, surrounded by police, anxiously pulling out papers as the police coral them in sidestreets and walking “chaingang” style with their hands on one another’s shoulders flanked by police at the front rear and sides, where they are being taken uncertain for sure, but likely to be one of the detention camps which have sprung up all over Greece.
Yesterday, I took a trip to Petrou Ralli, the street which reportedly houses the place where migrants can claim asylum. Unable to find an address, I wandered up and down the street looking for likely buildings. As I peered through the gates of one building, a police officer on guard at the entrance to the next building called me over and demanded to know what I was looking for and where I was going so that he could “help” me. Playing the dumb foreigner and innocently asking what the building was that he was guarding received a curt response: that it was a police station and that was all that he could tell me. Yet looking behind him, I could see washing hung through the bars of the windows and signs of life inside. I was sent to get the bus back to central Athens, while he watched to make sure that I left, sneaking peeks back at the massive building, with the evidence of its purpose only just visible through the bars. As I got the bus back, it passed over the bridge over railway station where the migrants who were rounded up on 4th August were met by armed police to receive them from the trains, and I felt a little shiver run down my back.
Last night as I wandered home, having failed to meet a friend as arranged because he had been picked up and detained by police for over an hour, I came across the following letter to Greek society …but it is not just Greek society which needs to read this letter, for the migrant situation in Greece is an extension of the situation of migrants across the whole of Europe, caused by its policies and tacitly encouraged by its politicans.
Firstly we would like to greet all these people who help us live in freedom in Greece since we face a difficult situation having the police on one side and the fascists on the other chasing us all the time. We come face to face with fascists every time we are on the streets. The same happens with the police who without any bother is torturing us and taking our money. We don’t know what to do, we are scared and we are suffering. Every immigrant is terrified of this situation.
Everyday we come up against a rising racism expressed from a part of society but mostly from the police. Cops intrude on our homes, take our money and things. Along with the fascists they are chasing us every moment. Especially in the nighttime fascists are wandering around neighbourhoods looking for immigrants to beat up. Most of the time they are presenting themselves as cops, showing their civil identity, asking for our papers, and after tearing them up, they begin to beat us. We fail to recognise really if the ones we face everytime are fascists or cops.
Due to economic reasons or due to a war, we were forced to abandon our countries and come to Europe, particularly to Greece, so that we would like to live in peace, dignity and freedom. Our main activity is peddling, wandering off in the streets. This allows us to pay for our rent, our food etc.
Here we demand from Greek society and authorities to let us live with dignity and with freedom. We thank all those who understand and stand next to us with solidarity.
A Letter for the Greek Society, The Immigrants