Exiles in Balkan’s winter: a petition from Amnesty International


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Winter highlights the conditions of reception in Greece, especially in the hotspots of the Greek islands, created in the framework of European policy, and where the exiles sleep in tents under the snow.

Amnesty International calls on the European Commission to ensure that dignified reception conditions are in place, that resources are put in place to deal with asylum applications properly, and that the planned transfers to other EU countries are effectively realized.

You can sign the petition here :



moria-hiverMoria’s hotspot camp, in Lesvos island.

Winter in the European Union’s refugees campings


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While the European Commission plans that asylum-seekers can be returned to Greece again under the Dublin III European Regulation, winter highlights the real conditions of reception. Often, tents in empty hangars, quite often, tents outdoors.

This is the case in Moria, on the island of Lesbos, one of the hotspots created by the European Union.




– 28 ° in Bosnia and Herzegovina, – 27 ° in Serbia, the – 7 ° on the Croatian coast would appear to be mild if gusts of 140 km / h were not recorded a few kilometers away on the Montenegrin coast.

Through this cold one dies, and the list of dead exiles through the Balkans extends, in Bulgaria or Greece, near the borders.




lesbos-7-janvierLesbos, refugees are stranded in the island as part of the European Union policy of “hotspots” at the borders and the agreement with Turkey (see here, here, here and there).

Greece: the City Plaza continues


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While Greece has covered itself with camps and has become a trap in which exiles are caught and blocked on their way to the countries of Europe where they hope to build their lives, an abandoned hotel was transformed into a self-organised welcome center. It was April 22, 2016.

The City Plaza celebrated the anniversary of its six months of existence from 10 to 13 November, through debates and activities for children. It also called for mobilization for the 18th of December, International Migrant’s Day. It is a place of hospitality in connection with the particularly lively social movement in Greece.

You can follow the activity of City Plaza hotel here :



Greece : after the camps at the Macedonian border, eviction of the Pyraeus camp


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After Idomeni (see here and here), Polykastro et the other camps near the Macedonian border, the greek authorities have evicted and destroyed the Pyraeus Camp, near Athens.


The material conditions in the overcrowded camps setteled by the Greek State are hardly better, as the recent reports of Pro Asyl and Catholic Relief Services show.

You can download Pro Asyl report here.

You can download Catholic Relief Services report here.

The asylum procedure in Greece remain widely unaccessible, as this report from the Greek Forum of Refugees shows.

You can download Greek Forum of Refugees report here.


Greece: a lawyers organisation sues the European Asylum Support Office


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The agreement between the EU and Turkey provides exiles arrived in Greece from March 20th 2016 to be returned to Turkey. But these people can apply for asylum on Greek soil, and more and more Greek courts consider that the return to Turkey is illegal, this country can not be considered safe for people seeking protection.

In this context the European Asylum Support Office, which works alongside the Greek authorities to deal with asylum requests, prevents the access of lawyers to the parts of the hotspots where applications for asylum are recorded and reviewed. For security reasons, of course, but security for whom?

The Lawyers Association of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, has therefore decided to sue the European Support Office on Asylum for this barrier to access to rights.



Hungary: protest in a closed camp for asylum seekers


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Confinement, poor material conditions, lack of information, the asylum seekers from Kiskunhalas closed center began last Wednesday, June 1 a movement of protest.



« Solidarity with the people protesting against poor conditions in the closed asylum detention center in Kiskunhalas, Hungary

People imprisoned in the closed refugee detention center of Kiskunhalas organized a protest yesterday, June 1st 2016. Today, the protest continues. They are demanding freedom to leave the prison and live in an open camp, a faster asylum procedure and better living conditions in the camp. According to Julia Ivan, a lawyer at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, many of the protesters are people that Hungary is trying to deport to Greece with the Dublin regulation, despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against such deportations.

Kiskunhalas is one of the asylum  detention centers, where asylum seekers are kept imprisoned up to six months, without ever having committed a crime. The conditions of these camps are even worse than in the ‘open camps’ – with widespread abuse by guards and insufficient or no access to legal aid, healthcare, food, social workers, or translation (see our anti-detention campaign for more info). People are cut off from the outside, with ca 10 minutes of internet access per day and no mobile phones allowed. There is limited quality legal aid, but the many people report to us that they are simply not told where and when they may see a lawyer about their case.The Cordelia Foundation is present once or twice a month to offer psychological support.

Since 2013 government policy has been to detain those that are considered at risk to leave the country during their asylum process. In reality, the practice is much more widespread, often also detaining people based on nationality or other arbitrary criteria. At the time, UNHCR criticized Hungary for making arbitrary detention systematic.  According to the people we know inside the camp, currently about 90% of the refugees in Kiskunhalas were previously living in an open camp, but then have been brought to the prison after attempting to continue to Austria, while others came straight from the Serbian border. The majority of the people come from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran, but we have also spoken with someone hindered from returning to their home country Kosovo.

Lack of information has resulted in outrage. Most of the people in the camp don’t know why they are being held in detention. Information seems to be non-existent and there is no kind of support available within the fenced-off and heavily guarded area of the camp. According to our contact, the only time they receive updates is when their detention gets prolonged after two months. Most of the refugees are even unaware that they are still in an ongoing asylum procedure. Thus, to put it mildly, an ideal environment to produce profound discontent, disappointment, and despair.

‘As crimes pile up, they become invisible’, Bertolt Brecht once wrote. He could have easily been describing the evolution of the Hungarian asylum system. Its constant shifting and reformation, pacing fast towards escalation and disaster, and finding yet more humiliating and coercive ways to manage the survivors of the Mediterranean, the endurers of the Idomenis, the vanquishers of the fences into despair and resignation. All this does not seem shock anyone anymore, numbed from the slow abolishment of the right to asylum and the general normalization of authoritarian tendencies.

The most recent episode of the tragedy of migration in Hungary, though, was not an invisible one. Rather, once again, people had to fight themselves into the eyes of the public to have their cries for freedom heard, to be able to voice political demands. On the first day of June people in the Kiskunhalas refugee prison camp had enough. 300 of the 484 detainees initiated a protest chanting ‘freedom’ and holding a sign announcing a hunger strike. The crowd was quickly subdued by an equal number of police leading to an hours-long standoff (video).

The protesters selected three representatives to speak for them. One of them, a refugee from Syria, handed over a petition with the demands. Among them were freedom to leave the camp, faster Asylum procedures and better living conditions.The immediate and brutally uncompromising delegitimation came in the form of the government’s chief security advisor György Bakondi evoking the threat of violence by the protesters while rejecting all of the demands. While security is used as a way to legitimize repression and disregard the political demands of the migrants, the danger of violence is real. Placing people in prisons under these conditions is a recipe for escalation.

MigSzol stands in solidarity with the protesters and their demands and strongly condemns the practice of detention. MigSzol is also concerned about the long-term consequences of putting people in these conditions, certainly for them but also because of the consequences for broader society. The alienation and anger inevitably produced by these conditions can certainly not be something anyone in Hungary desires. Finally, we are deeply disappointed that several Hungarian media outlets, who so far have been critical of the Fidesz propaganda war, have now started using similar language as the government. They joined in calling the people “illegal immigrants”, judging their character without ever having spoken with them, and accusing them of merely applying for asylum because they want to stop their upcoming deportation. Migszol will protest these editorial practices by writing to the responsible media outlets and journalist to confront them directly. »

Greece: when exiles from Idomeni take the mountain


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On the third day of the evacuation of the camp Idomeni, at the Greek-Macedonian border, we can learn a little about the plight of people. Those who have accepted to board the bus to which the riot police orientait them were taken to existing centers or other created for the occasion, including abandoned factories in the suburb of Thessaloniki, where the material conditions are unworthy, insecure housing, insufficient food, lack of medical supervision, isolation. They would be about three thousand.

Nearly three thousand people would be left to the mountains to escape the police and the centers managed by the military, and would be in even more precarious conditions. Some seven hundred people have managed to cross into Macedonia, to continue their journey to the center of Europe.

Information in Greek:



In English:


Day by day information from the exiles:






Greece: information about the eviction of Idomeni camp


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The expulsion of eight thousand five hundred exiles from the camp of Idomeni, on the border with Macedonia, began yesterday morning. The Greek government has guaranteed that there would be no violence. Eight riot police companies have been mobilized. On the night before the start of the evacuation, volunteers, activists, journalists, photographers, were sought tent by tent, vehicle by vehicle, to be removed from the site, and there is thus no witnesses.

But witnesses there are, of course, the exiles themselves. You can follow online the situation based on the information that they send:





Greece : the moment of the agreement between Turkey and the European Union


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On March 20 came into effect the agreement between Turkey and the European Union providing for the return of the exiles arrviins in Greece to Turkey, and the relocation in Europe of one Syrian refugee for every Syrian réfugie expelled to Turkey.

On March 20, the open reception and identification centers on the Greek islands like Chios or Lesvos, turn into closed centers. Exiles become prisoner-e-s. The volunteers who helped make the place less unworthy are forbidden access in the centers, while NGOs like MSF to withdraw not to be complicit in human rights abuses that are taking place. Faced with the threat of being sent to Turkey, the exiles protest. Independent supportive structures in the islands are destroyed or threatened with closure.



News from the I AM YOU collective :


As we come out of a very turbulent 24 hours we are finally able to share the latest changes from Lesvos. Yesterday morning all the NGO’s and volunteers were told to leave the camp in Moria because it was to be taken over by the Greek police and military. This news came as a great shock to us all, including UNHCR and even the Ministry. It happened suddenly and without any warning. These changes followed the new agreement EU made with Turkey and since yesterday Moria is now yet again a detention center. Only a few organizations such as Médecins du Monde and Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) remain, but until when we don’t know.

All refugees that arrive to the Greek islands will be returned to Turkey and for every Syrian deported another Syrian in Turkey will be resettled into the EU. This is the theoretical deal. Anyone who was registered in Moria before this deal was official were transported out and taken to ferries leaving Lesvos to either Kavala, Piraeus or Athens. Anyone who arrived to Lesvos after the deal came through, midnight on the 20th of March, is now being detained in Moria. Latest information also states that eventually the police will collect and confiscate peoples belongings such as cellphones. Purpose unknown but our fears is that a closed facility like this makes it nearly impossible for the outside world to know what is happening behind closed doors.

Within a couple of hours we could see Moria transform back into the cold and chaotic place it once was, before NGO’s and volunteers entered. One could see the fear making its way back into peoples hearts and with no real answers to their many questions all we could do was hug people goodbye and collect our things before leaving the families to fend for themselves. Even with the many skilled and hardworking organizations in place, collaborations, translators and access to clothes and food, Moria was a struggle to manage on a daily basis. Now with only police and military, who’s main task is to keep the place secure and with no means of communicating with the people, it is very difficult to imagine what will happen and how families will be treated.

As for I AM YOU we are still keeping a presence in Lesvos for the next few weeks to evaluate the consequences of all the changes. We are working on continuing to develop new projects and will travel to Idomeni and Athens shortly for assessments on how to continue supporting families fleeing war and persecution.

I AM YOU has during the past six months built a very strong organization and with a long term team present and dedicated volunteers we feel confident that we will be able to set up shop in other locations and do what we do best – coordinate with other organizations to create a well functioning structure to help large amounts of people most efficiently.

Even though it has been very difficult to say goodbye to the place where we got started, I AM YOU’s mission of supporting families and sharing their stories with the world has only just begun. »


Protest in Chios detention center :

To see with the video and all links, check the blog-post:


« Detention/ deportation centre “Vial” on Chios island: “Hurria means Freedom!”

Protest against readmissions to Turkey and for the right to continue the journey to Europe

Today, on Tuesday 22nd of March, in the afternoon, hundreds of refugees locked up in the new detention centre “Vial” on Chios island started a protest raising their voices against the new Fortress Europe. They continue their struggle for freedom of movement as they became the first
refugees affected by the new cruel detention / readmission measures following the dirty deal between the EU and Turkey.

Thousands of refugees are now behind bars directly after they survived the dangerous journeys by boat while simultaneously volunteers and many NGOs were kicked out of the former Hot Spots. At the same time UNHCR and also Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) left the camps openly critisizing the new system as unfair and inhumane.

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming: “UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention.” Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF Head of Mission in Greece: “We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalized for a mass expulsion operation and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”

More than that, authorities now even cut of any contact to people inside by confiscating their mobile phones. Greece nowadays returns to past horrors of “Pagani” if not worse.

In Arabic language Hurria means freedom and these are their demands:

These are the Voices of hundreds of refugees stuck on Chios. They simply demand freedom. They demand that the European governments take responsibility and treat them as human beings. They just want to continue their journey to Europe. Why can’t we access Europe? Why do you want to deport us to Turkey? They ask all other refugees to join their protest and to stand united against deportations.

Already earlier this day activists started to report on the terrible condition in the detention centre of Vial, and in an Arabic speaking facebook group the first video of the protest on Chios circulated as well.

This is not the only protest of today: In Idomeni at the border from Greece to Macedonia/ FYROM thousands started another protest demanding the opening of the borders in order to leave Greece while two refugees tried to burn themselves in dispair.

In the meantime Welcome to Europe tried to find some first answers on the most urgent questions of people who are now detained on the Greek island as well as of those who are stuck in the various open and closed mass camps on the mainland. Quite difficult as many things will still
change and no one knows exactly how the situation will look like after weeks and months. »


From the self-organised accomodation center PIKPA :


A few hours after the EU agreed on the barbaric measures of the EU/ Turkey deal, a massive movement of refugees from the island of Lesvos towards the mainland started. The refugees received no clear information about where they were heading or about their rights. It was apparent that the government did not and does not have a plan on how shelter and health care services can be provided in the new destinations.

At the same time, the mayor of Mytilene announced to a group of representatives of Lesvos Solidarity that the space of PIKPA has to be evacuated. This means that the vulnerable cases that the camp is giving shelter to (people with long term health conditions, disabilities, single parent families, elderly etc) will have to leave immediately so that the mayor can transform the space into a children’s camp and a sports center. After the new measures he said, there will be no need for solidarity shelter camps.

Lesvos Solidarity has informed the Mayor, Mr Galinos that our residents cannot be moved hastily to an unknown destination unless a consistent follow up of the medical cases can be guaranteed in a camp that appropriately covers their needs. In addition, many of our residents have applied for asylum, family reunification, relocation; these processes move very slowly so our residents will have to wait for quite some time until their cases get processed.

The Municipality has promised not to leave these people on the street, but in any case the place has to be empty in order to be reused for other purposes.

At this historic moment when the EU has shown no respect towards upholding people’s human rights, the abolition of Pikpa camp in Lesvos is strongly related with a political decision that imposes:

• The closure of open and self-organized accommodation spaces
• The complete destruction of the beach rescue and support system structures on the beach
• Attacks to autonomous structures, medical units, social kitchens and lifeguard teams.
• The abolition of the solidarity network.

The above actions have been taken to prevent people’s fundamental human right to claim asylum; to force the detention of refugees; and to recognize Turkey as a safe country: a country which in reality creates political refugees, infringes human rights and does not give all people access to their right to claim asylum.

This new EU regime seeks to crush solidarity movements and deny people’s access to their human rights: we refuse to live in this kind of Europe.

At the same time, the Greek borders remain closed transforming the mainland of Greece into a warehouse for thousands of refugees and transforming the island into prisons, promoting mass deportations back to Turkey under NATO’s watch.

Alternatives must be available to protect people from this inhumane regime:

• Resist the application of these new measures in every possible way.
• Protect and create new structures that can cover the needs of vulnerable groups.
• Create a strong network of solidarity shelter spaces.

At this time, Lesvos Solidarity collective believes that the shelter camp for vulnerable groups located at the PIKPA facilities and all the self run, self organized spaces working in Greece should stay up and running since their existence is even more important, now more than ever.
We are not willing to let our residents be dumped into inappropriate camps, lacking access to basic and humane services.

The municipality’s decision to transform the space of PIKPA into a children’s camp and sports center should include solid suggestions on where and how a new camp for vulnerable cases would take place. At the same time, we demand from the municipality to recognize the solidarity that locals have demonstrated over the past months and not to play down our struggle and hard work. The municipality should also take a stand against transforming the island into a big detention center and against returning refugees back to Turkey, a country where fundamentals human rights are absent. Furthermore, we demand that the municipality stops criminalizing solidarity structures and instead supports having open self organized solidarity shelter camps.

Pikpa Solidarity camp, which has been accused by the municipality for “illegal and irregular actions”, has been for three and a half years been a strong solidarity hub, known all around the world. We will not allow our solidarity struggle to get destroyed due to the horrific and inhumane measures that the EU has decided to apply. »


About the destruction by the authorities of the No Border Kitchens:

« NoBorderKitchen camp was destroyed by Greek authorities today. Everyone was arrested
All 19 comrades from NBK were released wihout charges. Still, hundreds of refugees arrested and detained in Moria, today, facing deportation.
More on facebook

Fuck, that hurts: https://www.facebook.com/nobordersnetwork/photos/pcb.1034634243271134/1034632409937984/?type=3&theater »


City Plaza Hotel in Athens changed into self-organised refugees accomodation center


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Since April 22, the abandoned hotel City Plaza in Athens was occupied and turned into a self-organised accomodation cener for refugees by the Solidarity Initiative for economic and political refugees. One of the many initiatives of solidarity that emerge in Greek society.


Here is the statement they published :



From the summer 2015 and on, Europe and Greece have been found unable to respond to the issues emerging from the largest refugees’ wave in their territory, since the World War II, in the source of which there can be found the declaration and act of war, on a military as well as an economic level, from the countries of the North to the countries of the South, which has lead their populations to poverty, fear and oppression.

This fact has created two very distinctive and opposed tendencies: the first is expressed by the activation of racist reflexes, which can be found in the core of the European continent: fences and walls have been built; FRONTEX and NATO have been invited in order to “protect” the borders; deportations and brutal oppression of refugees. It is clearly expressed through the racist agreement between the E.U. and Turkey, which violates the Geneva Convention and every humanist value, as it copes with the refugee issue as if refugees were a merchandise that can be part of a transaction; it also leads to an unthinkable number of deportations towards countries in which their life and freedom is compromised.

The second tendency is the one expressed by the huge wave of solidarity in Greece, as well as in Europe. Millions of people were found side by side with the refugees in their battle to cross the borders and overcome all kinds of difficulties through their journey. People in solidarity in Athens, in August 2015, took immediate action in Pedion Areos, thousands of people from all over the world have come to Lesvos and other Aegean islands, in order to contribute to the efforts of the people there. Europe has known the largest wave of solidarity and mutual aid in the last decades. This mobilization is bearing the hope for a resurgence of the society, in order to erase the danger to see Europe becoming a “Dark Continent” again.

The Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees has taken action, for quite some time now, within this movement of solidarity, in the centre of Athens. It has brought out the fight of the refugees; stopped the efforts to create “apartheid” areas, without the presence of refugees; pointed out the responsibilities of the Greek government, which not only did they fail to secure the accommodation, protection and free passing of the refugees, but also signed the racist agreement and took the responsibility to implement it.

From now on, our needs go to a different level. Europe’s political agenda of closed borders basically determines the conditions under which a number of political and economic refugees, who initially had the intention to move on towards northern countries, are now stuck in Greece. Without foregoing for a moment our basic demand for open borders and our fight against closed ones, we feel the need to gather our forces toward the creation of decent living conditions of refugees in Greece, in our neighborhoods, with full rights in all social services.

In this framework, all along with our constant demand for immediate accommodation of the refugees, not in camps, military or not, but in appropriate buildings with full infrastructure, where they will be able to move freely in and out, we decided to occupy this building: on the one hand, we wanted to contribute, within our grasp, with a solution to the problem; on the other hand, we felt the need to have a place where information and coordination for refugees’ issues would take place.

Our decision does not release the Greek or any other government from their responsibilities to immediately provide all refugees with accommodation and protection. However, it points out that solidarity can be the driving force which will stand up against any racist plans of the European countries and it will see to the protection of all refugees, in the direction of full integration, next to the local workers and oppressed people. There have been several attempts, right after the racist agreement between E.U.-Turkey, from the media and the government, to demonize and attack solidarity, which was considered to be responsible for the fact that the refugees stand up for their rights.

It is rather clear that if the status of exception, which has been planned for the refugees, proves to be successful, it will be used as a model to other parts of the society, which, during the last years, have experienced the brutal agenda of poverty, oppression and exclusion.

We declare that we will stand to the side of the refugees, people in solidarity and workers who, during all these years, have fought for the rights to education and health, accommodation and food for refugees, against the criminal politics of closed borders, which, up to now, has killed thousands of people, against ghettos far from the city centre, where refugees will be “invisible”.

The Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees invites the workers in solidarity to participate in this effort, in the Refugee Accommodation Center City Plaza and every other independent solidarity structure.

Let’s create a world of mutual aid and co-existence.

Against racism, solidarity. We will all live together.

– Down with the shameful agreement between E.U.-Turkey. Open borders, safe passages for refugees.

– Full legalization of all refugees. No deportation to Turkey or elsewhere.

– Accommodation for all refugees in appropriate buildings, within the city core. Requisition of hotels and empty houses for refugees’ accommodation.

– Free access to health and education services for all refugees. Participation of the refugees’ children to programs of school insertion.

– Closing of all detention centers, no exclusion of refugees from the cities.

– No criminalization of the solidarity movement.

Solidarity Initiative

for Economic and Political Refugees »