Studying Abroad: Greece 3
Greece is one of the gateways of many refugees routes to Europe. This is a fact, which does not go unnoticed on the streets of Athens.
It is an afternoon in March. I am on my way to a self-organized refugee assembly. The meeting is about to begin. It takes place in a lecture room of a university building. In front of the building refugee street vendors sell their small things. One after the other they and some Greek anarchists come in. When everyone has arrived a group of speakers consisting of Greek, Senegalese, Bangladeshis and French start to lead the discussion in five languages.
One of the points on the agenda is the people exchanging information of what has happened to them since last week. Two men were followed by the police and held in the police station, one of them beaten up. No one is shocked; it is part of their daily routine. A man from Bangladesh addresses the group with a problem. One of his flatmates will have a court appointment in the upcoming week, for not having valid papers. However, the police come to their apartment frequently to take the man to the police station for many hours. This random tactic might lead to the man missing his court appointment. The Greek anarchists offer to talk to the police in Greek. The Bangladeshi men accept this, but add that they will have to leave the house every morning at five in the next weeks in order to be protected from the police’s violence.
One was held in the police station and beaten up. No one is shocked.
A week later I meet the people from the assembly again. This time I brought some of my friends: a group of people from all over the world who gather to play soccer and basketball in a park. It does not take long and the whole sports field is surrounded by about 50 police men and women. Some of my friends want to leave, because they feel too scared. A friend from Senegal explains me, that this is a normal situation. After a few hours the police left. Our remaining Senegalese friends have to leave as well: with a decreasing number of people it becomes too dangerous for them to play sports at this public place.
A few weeks later I get to know another level of the fascist-immigrant-complexity on Zakinthos, an island. A friend who organizes the yearly anti-fascist festival on the island is starting to date a young man of African decent. Her friends warn her. She should not give any information to him concerning the anti-fascist festival. The young man is friends with the fascists of the island, who might attack the people involved with the festival. When I express my surprise to my Greek flatmate she shakes her shoulders. They want everyone, she explains and continues, it is a recent phenomenon that first generation immigrants side with them, its protection.
The difficult situation for immigrants in Greece today is certainly not only a national problem, as most of the immigrants want to go further North, but European rules, such as the Dublin II regulation prevent this. As long as Northern European countries are content with the selective borders they have created within Europe and as long as people will have to flee to the so created buffer zones, many more coming to find a life in decency will be killed, marginalized and kept in a vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation. This being said, it should be stressed that it is nothing which will happen in the future, but is part of European reality today.