Migration and Struggle in Greece

A protest letter from British academic members regarding the recent attack on refugee camp in Patras Greece

Posted by clandestina on 22 July 2009


We are concerned about the British media silence regarding the recent attack on a refugee camp in Patras Greece as a reflection of the idea of Fortress Europe.

As trade unionists and academics who research issues of human rights and social inequality we strongly condemn the recent use of violence against migrants in Patras, Greece.

Greece has been repeatedly condemned by international organisations over maltreatment of migrants and asylum seekers. In recent weeks we have witnessed further demonisation and victimisation of migrants and asylum seekers. Punitive police operations are presented as the answer and the authorities fuel the media with xenophobic rhetoric and images. As a result there is a dramatic increase in cases of brutality against migrants. The authorities not only seem to tolerate attacks of fascist groups on individuals and families, but also orchestrated a brutal and unlawful operation against the refugee camp in Patras.

Thousands of migrants have been living in this makeshift camp for over the last eight years without any support and protection from the Greek state. The Greek authorities made it impossible for most of them even to apply for asylum, by not providing access to the necessary services. During this period the migrants were systematically harassed by the police and coast guard and were labeled as “clandestines”. Nevertheless, nothing could prepare the local community of Parts and the groups of citizens who voluntarily support the migrants, for what was about to happen last week.

In the early hours of Sunday 12/7/2009 and without any previous warning, hundreds of fully armed riot police engaged in an inhuman and appalling operation. As the UNHCR, International Human Rights Organsations and local support groups highlight, major streets were blocked and access to the area was banned. The state authorities, arrested hundreds of migrants, demolished and burned down the makeshift accommodation, including personal belongings, travel documents and the camp mosque. The migrants who had travel documents were temporarily directed to a local hotel. The rest of them were arrested and there seems to be no further information concerning their whereabouts. It is highly likely that a number of unaccompanied minors were among the group, as the decision on who was minor solely lied upon the “judgment” of riot police during this inhuman operation. We also express our concern about the possibility of forcible repatriation of the migrants to Afghanistan.

For the lucky ones who escaped arrest things are not any better. Without any facilities to offer protection and support, hundreds of migrants live dispersed and terrorized in the city centre without being able to meet their very basic human needs.

We demand answers to the following questions

  • The operation lacked any legal, ethical and moral basis. Who decided it?
  • Why did the operation take place without any previous warning and most importantly without ensuring that access to other reception facilities would be available?
  • How many migrants were arrested and where exactly are they being detained?
  • How did they ensure that unaccompanied minors were not maltreated and abused?
  • Why migrants were not offered an opportunity to apply for asylum?
  • Are there plans to forcibly repatriate them without any prior access to the asylum process?
  • Will Greece keep tolerating the racist and xenophobic attacks against migrants and their families?

In the absence of an official answer we reserve our right to visit the area and make use of any means at our disposal to ensure that the authorities and individuals involved will be held accountable of their actions.

Prof. Alex Callinicos, Kings College London

Dr. Karen Evans, University of Liverpool

Dr. Iain Ferguson, University of Stirling

Prof. Emer. Chris Jones, University of Liverpool

Dr. Vasilios Ioakimidis, Liverpool Hope University

Dr. Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University

Mr. Peter Marsden Blackpool Local Government Unison (personal capacity)

Mrs. Julia Orry, Blackpool Branch Secretary (personal capacity).

Mrs. Laura Penkenth, University of Manchester

For more information please contact Dr. Vasilios Ioakimidis:,


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