STATEMENT BY THE GREECE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN (UK) – 6 March 2020
STOP THE WAR ON REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS IN GREECE
‘Stop the war on refugees and immigrants’ was the main slogan of a huge rally in the heart of Athens on the evening of Thursday 5 March. There were also demonstrations across Greece against the asylum policies of the new right wing New Democracy government
The Greece Solidarity Campaign has received reports from Greece about very serious and dangerous developments. The Greek Government has suspended the right to asylum (initially for one month) in contravention of the Geneva Convention and has increased border controls to a maximum level.
At least 42,000 refugees exist in dreadful conditions in overcrowded camps designed for a fifth of that number. Due to the unfortunate EU-Turkey accord, the Aegean islands are the arrival point for refugees, and Greece, a country still reeling from economic crisis, cannot cope with this catastrophe on its own.
The laws relating to suspected illegal immigrants, which were in reality not enforced during the previous Syriza government, are now being revived. Since 1 March, those without papers and suspected of being illegal immigrants, including those entering Greece over the land Evros border on foot, are being arrested and, if found to be illegally in the country, face imprisonment, fines and deportation to their countries of origin (eg not Turkey, which is refusing to accept them back). Those arriving on the islands by boat are detained on military vessels, fingerprinted and moved to detention centres on the mainland – prior to deportation – without trial or legal representation.
These are extraordinary measures, in violation of asylum rights and have been implemented by the government without parliamentary approval. There is a war atmosphere. The army has been sent to the borders. The government has permitted people to carry guns by the borders and there are reports of refugees being shot.
On the islands of Chios and Lesvos the government planned to build detention centres for 20,000 refugees, against the wishes of the mass of the local population. The government has sent large numbers of riot police from Athens, whose heavy-handed tactics have provoked mass demonstrations and violent incidents, involving both refugees and local people. The local unions have asked all workers to stand against government plans which would turn the islands into “prisons for human souls”. There have been strikes and islanders have stormed the hotels and military camps where the police were staying. At one time 300 riot police were surrounded by 5000 islanders. As a result the government has, for the time-being, withdrawn the riot-police units from the islands.
There is no evidence of any popular support for these government measures outside the diminished band of the fascist party, Golden Dawn, but the continuous insensitive and inept handling of the crisis, by both the Greek government and the EU, has created an explosive, “war-zone” situation, with unpredictable and potentially tragic consequences.
CONTINUE THE PROSECUTION OF THE FASCIST GOLDEN DAWN PARTY
In a separate but related situation, there have been some very disturbing developments in the trial of the fascist Golden Dawn party which, together with the new government’s re-introduction of heavy-handed police tactics in general, seem to have emboldened the extreme right.
As we approach the conclusion of the trial, after more than four years deliberations, the Greek State Public Prosecutor has, surprisingly, asked the court to drop the charges against all Golden Dawn leaders, including 17 ex-MPs, and members (for being a criminal organization and for being involved in a number of other violent crimes), except for one single individual for the physical act of the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. GSC opposes the dismissal of these charges because it ignores the extensive and widely publicized evidence put forward during the trial that the act of murder was incited by GD’s leadership, which also encouraged other acts of violence against minorities and left-wing politicians.
The Public Prosecutor has a decisive role, but we believe that her decision can be overturned by popular pressure. A united front petition against the pronouncement of the Public Prosecutor has been agreed and formally adopted by many municipal councils of varying political persuasions, (including some conservative party controlled ones, where the ‘liberal’ right wing has voted with the left and social democrats). The lawyers involved in the prosecution on behalf of the victims, have completed their courtroom work, but they are now publishing their final summing up speeches.
DEFEND ANTI-FASCIST ACTIVISTS IN GREECE – In parallel, the anti-fascist campaign group KEERFA that has been playing a key role in supporting the victims and raising funds for their legal teams, has been under attack as an organization and its key members face threats of physical attack. Their website has been targeted and taken down three times – the first time was 5 minutes after KEERFA called for resistance and a general strike when the riot police were sent to the islands. GSC calls for financial support for Greek anti-fascists under attack.
THE GREECE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN
The Greece Solidarity Campaign calls on the EU and the UK Government to work for a sustainable solution involving all member states. The islands must no longer serve as a reception camp, where refugees are housed indefinitely under appalling conditions.
Greece cannot face this situation alone. We demand replacement of the Dublin Regulations (on the reception and dispersal of asylum seekers), with a Europe-wide refugee reception policy and the establishment of legal and safe humanitarian corridors to places of safety.
GSC condemns the inhumane measures taken by the Greek Government and calls for it to establish reception policies for asylum seekers and refugees that are respectful of human rights, take account of residents’ concerns and recognise the right to mobility and freedom of movement to the mainland and on to other European countries.
In the UK, which has accepted so few refugees, we particularly demand that the initial agreement, brokered by Lord Alf Dubbs to take in unaccompanied refugee children, be honoured. Finally, we ask our individual supporters, community and political organisations and all trade unions to give energetic support to the activities of the Greece Solidarity Campaign and campaigning bodies who are seeking a just and humanitarian solution with safe passage and a secure future for refugees.