Monday, April 11, 2016

Last Days on Lesvos--for so many

Again I must apologize for falling behind in my posts. After everything fell apart in Lesvos, I was pretty sick, exhausted, and depressed again. I think we all felt like we had been hit with a tsunami--that everything we had worked for was swept away by a force far too large to resist with any success.

People are still there resisting. Refugees, volunteers, NGO staff, local residents... But I couldn't stay and be part of that, though I love a good protest. My visa was about to expire and I had to leave enough time on it that I can go back to Athens for my flight out. I left about a week so I have time to check out the anarchist scene in Exarchia where squats are being set up for refugees. I hear it is especially busy now that the EU in its infinite wisdom decided to clear everybody out of the functioning camps and move them either to Athens or to some quickly erected make-shift camps all over mainland Greece. Especially since these camps have absolutely no facilities other than tents. No running water. No electricity or wi-fi (so no light or connection with friends, family...anyone). No medical services, distribution... Really, nothing.

One particularly problematic aspect of having no electricity or internet is that those seeking asylum (and they are all supposed to be able to) are given Skype appointments to request it. A little hard to keep a Skype appointment without wi-fi. Although, maybe it's a moot point, because according to all reports I've heard the Skype number doesn't work or isn't answered. Great. Good job EU. Missing an appointment through no fault of your own is a great way to deny asylum. It's so easy.

Ugh. What a mess. Deportations started on April 4th, but stopped on the 5th. Then they started again, but there haven't been that many. However, I heard today that the port of Piraeus (near Athens) is to be cleared out by Easter--the Greek Orthodox celebrate Easter May 1st this year) and the government has been trying to clear the makeshift camp at Idomeni on the Macedonian border. MSF does have a small camp there built to accommodate 1,500 people, but there have been up to ten times that many stuck there recently.

There have been thousands stuck there since the borders closed. Yesterday, apparently, a group tried to break through and the Macedonian police used tear gas and rubber bullets to stop it, wounding a lot of people in the process. People have tried to cross through the closed border before--last month two groups attempted to cross the river. In one group, that wasn't as organized, several people drowned. The other group used a cable, but were brought back as soon as they made it across.

Though I think the EU's deal with Turkey, and much of the way they've handled this has been awful, I still have to fault the US even more. Much of the blame for the crisis must be placed squarely on the shoulders of US policy. I found it incredible when a US State Department undersecretary (or something) showed up at Moria a couple of weeks ago--after it was turned into a detention camp. The State Department put out a statement saying they were very concerned about the refugee issue, but apparently not concerned enough to stop dropping bombs on half the world and making economic war on virtually all of it.

And still there are refugees coming here to Izmir hoping to cross into Greece and start a new life in Europe.