Migration and Struggle in Greece

The arrivals of refugees at the Aegean islet Agathonisi do not cease.

Posted by clandestina on 29 March 2009

This is a translation of a Kathimerini article.


«Even sea urchins have a name here» fishermen say in Agathonisi. «There are so many passports, travel documents, bank notes at the bottom of the sea, that to each sea urchin corresponds one» explains the rural doctor of the island, Mr Michael Christodoulou.  Nearly 700 immigrants and refugees have arrived since the beginning of the year and it is only March.  Afghan, Somali, most Palestinians, or … so they say.  The latter heve made their appearance again in the dealings of the immigrants smuggling business after the recent Israeli operation in Gaza … Humanism alternates with anger among the 100 residents of the islet and the affection for children and infants gives its place to suspicion against the invaders. «People are friendly here. But soon they will become inhospitable» comments the  physician. «They get tired …». 

 The people arriving at Agathonisi have spent days without eating and often are hypothermic. Infants and pregnant women come, as well as people with disabilities and mental problems. Mr. Christodoulou remembers when a couple of days ago he went by ambulance to a spot where refugees arrive. While driving there he noted some clothes at a street corner, only to realize some moments later along with the driver of the ambulance that this was an unconscious woman. Around her, scattered baby clothes. «We remembered that we had seen a little earlier a convoy of people  with a baby directed to the settlement. We sought and found out that the baby was with his father who had left the exhausted mother ». The mother was holding the baby in her arms when she fainted and her body fell on the baby. So the baby was black with dirt and blood was running from his nose of … The grandmothers of the village ran to find a milk bottle deep stored in their closets … The baby had to be rescued, at least for the moment. Because, as Mr Christodoulou notes, there is nothing to ensure the babys well being with the situation at the camp in Patras or in Athens being as it is. 

«What shall I do with them?» 

Last week  an Allilegyivolunteer, Mrs Tina Staikou along with Mrs Matina Katsiveli from the Support Group for Refugees and Immigrants at Leros, visited the refugees carrying tons of flour, bottled water, pasta, rice and milk for children.  Other organizations have sent blankets, new clothes … But the problem is not solved.  The municipality mayor Evangelos Kottoros struggles each time to «channel» newcomers to some large island or towards Athens. «In Patmos, Leros, or Samos they are not welcome, although there are centers for them there.  Every time I live with the agony what they will do, when will they leave. The situation needs a stable solution.  A place must be assigned for them to go ». Two days ago a coast guard ship collected 28 individuals and spent the evening going from island to island until one of them would accept them. None did and they were returned to Agathonisi.  Two coast guard vessels patrol the island now. «They come out even with 8 Beaufort, some even with 9 – 10 … But the flow of arrivals does not decrease.  It remains a constant nightmare. Just like the causes that create these human flows.

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