“We Need Help” – The direct testimony of the refugees in the Patras camp
Posted by clandestina on 28 April 2009
Below is research material in English about the Patras Refugee Camp (relevant clandestinenglish posts about recent developments there are here, here and here) from the Melting Pot Europe Project. We noticed the project through http://filoxenoi.wordpress.com.
Yasser ‘s voice seems to come from another planet: “Help us, we need someone fight for our rights”. Haji, the representative of the Afghan community in the Patras slum-camp, reports what happened during the rebellion.
Thousands of Afghan citizens, whose stories we have already reported, barricaded themselves inside the camp. Police doesn’t intervene, but keeps under surveillance the entire place. The refugees are afraid to walk outside the camp. They are terrorized by the policemen, but also by the Greek citizens. The 2nd March 2009 Greeks joined security forces to disperse with tear-gas the spontaneous demonstration of the Afghan refugees.
They were at the port, as they did each afternoon, trying to get on the ships directed to Italy, hoping to obtain the international protection which is completely denied in Greece against any national and European law. Even though the ports on the Adriatic sea reject them almost indiscriminately, they have no other choice except keep trying. This is the only way to get out this situation, risking their own lives in order to find any kind of dignity for being humans.
That afternoon, one of them had almost managed to hide himself inside one of the departing trucks, but something went wrong and he fell. The witnesses affirm that the truck behind him accelerated instead of stopping. His friends thought him dead, when they saw him laying unconscious in his own blood. They were mad with rage and began throwing stones against the truck. Then in just a second the strife began. The charitable associations supporting Patras refugees arrived, but also the organized groups which have always been against them. The strife stopped late into the night.
Greece, member of the European Union, is violating every day the rights of these people. The requests for asylum have been suspended since September 2008. Yet each of these young boys, many of them are under 18 years old and even children, have terrible stories behind them. Bombs and conscription for the Afghanistan war, violence of the Iranian police, Turkish prison, detention centers in Greece, mass rejection from Italy. The boy who has been knocked down by the truck is in coma in the hospital. Yet none of his friends could personally make sure if he is still alive. Twenty-five afghan citizens at the port on the 2nd of March have been arrested and nobody knows anything about them.
Transcript of Yasser’s interview
My name is Yasser.
Hi Yasser, do you remember me? I was in Patras some weeks ago…
Yes of course I remember…
We would like that you tells us what happened those days. Could you tell me something about what happened at the Patras Port, but also about what is happening right now? Where are you now?
Now I am at the camp.
What can you tell me about the camp at this moment? Are you surrounded?
There is the police, not quite close but still here. The camp is surrounded by the police.
And they do not allow you to go outside?
It is difficult for us to go out.
Why are they behaving like this?
I don’t know but I think because of the incident happened few days ago. Since the incident the police have surrounded the camp and we are afraid of going out because the police is here.
Can you tell us something more about what happened at the port few days ago?
Yes, there was this boy who was trying to get on the truck, hide himself, then another truck arrived and knocked him down. His mouth was bleeding and he also badly hit his head. After few minutes we thought him dead, then he was taken to the hospital. The doctor says he isn’t dead, but he is in a coma. Yet none of us saw him, and we know nothing about what is happening to him.
Why did you get angry that day at the port anyway?
Because we are human beings as well, we have human rights too. Nobody must kill us in such manner, it wasn’t the first time however. Last year another driver killed a boy at the port. Police beats us every day at the port, but also on the streets. We are human beings and we have human rights.
Therefore this is quite normal, is police normally behaving like that? Is it always violent with you?
Yes it is. Anyway at the moment the Greek community represent another problem. Some Greek citizens joining the police attack us that night at the port too.
Why is this happening?
I don’t know why this is happening, I don’t know why they are angry with us. We don’t do anything bad, we didn’t harm they, we simply try to enter the port during evening. Yet lots of Greeks joined the police that night and attacked us, while the police was throwing tear-gases at us. There weren’t one or two persons. There were lots of them.
Could you explain the reason why you try to reach Italy each night passing through the Patras port? What is for you the problem in Greece? Our condition in Greece is terrible difficult because we cannot obtain asylum and we cannot find a job. We can’t do anything, therefore we try to reach Italy in order to seek asylum and find a place where to live.
Did you ask for asylum in Greece?
Not me, but other persons in the camp did. Here if you ask for asylum they say you are a liar. What changes if you do ask for asylum? The lawyer explained us that they admit asylum for less than 1% of the requests. Actually it is impossible to obtain political asylum here.
Did they confined you or not in a detention center the first day you arrived to Greece?
No, I came directly to Patras, I have already known that I had to try to continue my journey.
Therefore you go to the port each night and try to hide inside the trucks departing for Italy?
Yes, each night.
Now after the incident what do you think will happen in Patras?
We don’t know yet. The police is here surrounding us, but none of us knows exactly what is about to happen.
We are afraid for our lives. Since days we have been barricaded inside the camp without doing out.
You do not only fear the police, but also the Greek citizens?
Each of us retard going out the camp because we don’t know what might happen. Now we are afraid of simply walking on the streets.
How old are you?
I am 19.
What is the average age in the camp?
Almost everybody is less than 20 years old.
How many persons are there in the camp at the moment?
More than one thousand.
What can you tell us about the life in the camp?
Life here is dreadful. We are living in hell.
Is there anything that you would like to ask the Greek and the Italian government?
I don’t ask for anything to the Greek government, as I already know that it would never help us. I would ask the Italian government instead to open its gates because here life is like living in war. I would say to the Italian government that we are refugees, that we didn’t come here to harm anybody, we came here only to live and have a better life, we came here to survive. I would say to the Italian government please open the gates. You know how we are living. During these days lots of journalists came down here and reported to us what is happening in Patras. We cannot live this way any longer.
Would you like to tell us something of your life? Explain us why are you a refugee?
I am a refugee because my country is in war, but as far as I am regarded the problem goes beyond this. My story is quite different from the other ones. One day as I came back home, I found my father that had just killed my mother. At that point I killed my father. My entire family is against me. I had no other choice but running away.
Do all of you inside the camp have such difficult story?
Yes, all of us have such stories.
Have you tried to tell your story to anybody from Greece?
No, I don’t even try. Only two friends of mine know the story, and nobody else.
Are you going to try to go inside the port again this night?
I don’t, and like me neither many others in the camp. We are afraid. If now after the incident the police arrests us, who knows what might happen to us.
What happens usually when the police arrests you at the port?
They take us to the police station and they leave us there for 24 hours with no water nor food.
Do they beat you?
Is normal that they beat us. They beat us, shout at us, insult us, abuse us.
Thank you very much Yasser. We promise you that we are going to make your voice heard. We join you in your battle for your rights.
Thank you, we need somebody to fight for our rights, we need help.
Last question: do you organize any demonstration for the next days?
Yes, I know that they are organizing some demonstrations, but I don’t know precisely what are you going to do.
Are there any Greek association supporting you?
Yes, they came down here and ask us to join them in a demonstration. I am not quite sure if we are going to join them, but maybe next week. There are some groups, not many actually. Hope that works.
What do you think, is it important to make a demonstration right now?
Yes, I think so. I don’t know what the other one thousand refugees might think, but I think it does.
Were you there that day during the strife?
I arrived five minutes later. I was there when there were throwing tear-gases at us. They arrested 25 persons and we know nothing about where they are, nobody knows anything.
Are there children among them?
Yes of course, there would be children too.
Transcript of Haji’s interview
It was 4 pm when a seventeen years boy named San tried to get out the port by hanging on behind a truck. Then another truck arrived and he got smashed between the both of them. At that point the boys who were there got angry with the truck drivers and the strife began.
The boys threw stones against the windows of the trucks. Then some Greek persons began arguing with the boys that were protesting and the strife extended. At that point the police intervened with tear-gases.
When I saw what was happening, I approached the boys together with a Greek friend of mine and we promised them that we would go and see how San in the hospital was doing. There were 4 of us going to the hospital and we found out that San was in a coma and that the doctors decided to operate him: therefore it was impossible for us to see him. We know nothing about him, not even his brother could see him. Doctors are still saying that he is in a coma and that they have to operate him because of the injures he has at his head and arms.
For almost 12 hours there was some sort of war between migrants and police. At this point a group of fascists tried to burn down the camp. All the people inside the camp had to go out because the situation was very dangerous.
This interview was made by Basir ad Haji in the Patras camp.
Alessandra Sciurba, progetto Melting Pot Europa
Translated by Oprea Mihaela