Published November 6, 2009
If you are not from the part of the world that implicitly denotes itself as “the first world,” then whatever brought you here, whether you are a migrant worker in Europe or a refugee, there is a 50% chance that your first destination within the zone was Greece.
There is also a good chance that you have left Greece at least once, tried going somewhere else, but then bumped into the Dublin agreement, and realize why the Greek police scanned your fingerprints. You were then shipped back to Greece. Greek authorities told you can stay, give you show up by the gate of the Immigrant Office once per month, to verify that you are still hanging in there, get a stamp, and wait. Forever, according to statistics.
You sing the blues, the Dublin-agreement-international-fingerprint-database-I-have-no-passport-got-no-job-got-no-home-and-they-won’t-let-me-unite-with-my-family-blues.
It is quite possible, then, that you sometimes sleep by the wall surrounding the Immigrant Office, since it sometimes takes days to get to speak with anyone in there, and if you are caught on the bus without a ticket, you already know by experience that the police might bang your head to the pavement several times, for a laugh, no matter how you plea.
Your wakeup call will be when the office-workers arrive, since you are sleeping in their parking lot. You will then line up or loiter by the gate, where a man stands with a machine gun – not by his side – but ready in his hands, finger by the trigger, replying to those who address him: What do you want, asshole?
The photograph above is from your own reality show, where you struggle for the right to have rights. You who thought Europe was what they show you on TV.
Wow, real fascists!
Greek politics take place on the street. On Monday, November 2, a group of neighbourhood fascists occupied the square Agios Panteleimonas in Central Athens. Fascist is not a slanderous name imposed by their opponents, but their explicit identity. The reason, this time around, was an anti-racist concert to be held in that square that same night. Less than a year ago, the fascists occupied this same square and kept it long into the year, beating and knifing those foreigners and leftists who dared enter the square. They did so in cooperation with police authorities.
The leftists’ intentions to throw an anti-racist concert precisely in that square were to reclaim the place and its surrounding area for all its inhabitants and visitors. The fascists showed up at 1 PM. This time, however, things had changed, even if only slightly. After October’s elections, a left wing government is now in charge in Greece. ‘Nominally left wing,’ say the activists, furious about increased police presence in their neighbourhoods.
Police presence – it’s actually more as if the city is under siege. On a casual walk through anarchist stronghold Exarchia, you will see a gang of four to five policemen every 3-4 minutes, sporting full armour. Now, before the concert, the police never escapes your line of vision, in at least a kilometre’s radius from the square. Apart from those armoured packs that visibly do not differ much from an army, the concert would seem like a sweet little neighbourhood gathering. Inside the square you can even forget the tension surrounding it. On the way home, however, you remember that there is a war. This was strategic music.
There is a long tradition in Greece of fascists and police fighting side by side against subversive groups. Athens last boiled over after police shot and killed a 15-year-old boy, an anarchist, in Exarchia in December 2008.
The new socialist government seems intent on keeping up right wing policies on refugees. It means they are left in limbo, as mere bodies on the streets, bereft of all civil rights. If the more centrist parties of the coalition government have little trouble leaving the square in Exarchia to the fascists, the Communist party obviously has a reputation to defend. This time, the police were sent in to remove the fascists. Which they did. According to a witness, “they know each other by nicknames, so it wasn’t really any hard fighting, but you know, bumping and pushing.”
There were clashes also with the concert’s promoters and its audience. There were incidents. But all in all, according to most witnesses, the police was neutral this evening, and kept the fascists from disrupting the gathering. Most of the organizers and guests were surprised, almost shocked. “It’s historical,” the told me. “This has not happened for, I don’t know, many, many – many – years.”
Perhaps the fact that 1.000 policemen armed with guns and gas don’t directly attack a group of people when they hold an anti-racist gathering is what the Icelandic Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has in mind when it says that reports and pleas issued by the Red Cross and the UN Human Rights Committee in 2008 and 2009 are already outdated – so there is no need to fear for the asylum seekers we dispose of on the streets of Athens.
There are no animals in the picture above, except in the perverse mind of machine-gun endowed state bureaucracies. In the foreground of the picture is Nour-aldin Al-azzawi. He is a man. Since a large group of state-acknowledged people have testified to this, the Minister of Justice and Human rights decided last week to let Nour enjoy the benefit of her doubt, at least temporarily. Meanwhile, nonetheless, the state doesn’t dare turn the machine off—the Deportation Dogomat 2000 keeps on shouting: Out! as they arrive. Out!
1. Nour-aldin Al-azzawi, 19, recently deported from Iceland, leads the journalist around the wall of the Immigration office. Another Iraqi deported from Iceland did not have the good fortune of friends in Iceland and Greece, and no place to stay, and headed back to Iraq, where his life is threatened, rather than play dead outside the fences in Europe. Nour-aldin has kept in touch with his friends and campaigners through Facebook, which is making it a bit harder for governments everywhere to ‘disappear’ people.