The Nightmare Life: Migrants tales from Greece
greece / turkey / cyprus |
migration / racism |
opinion / analysis
Saturday August 25, 2012 18:08 by Costas Avramidis - WSM
Racism is definitely not a "new fruit" in Greek society and not a unique phenomenon to this country. I have witnessed it with my own eyes as it manifested throughout the years I was living there so I can share with you a little knowledge of how it ripens.
In Greece being different is not a good thing, as you will suffer a lot if you are a minority! Your life will be a living hell, if you are a woman or find yourself in a minority like being a lesbian, gay, gypsy, Pakistani, Albanian, Egyptian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Nigerian... In other words it will take a lot of effort to escape being discriminated against and that's without mentioning the people that are prepared to stand up for all these people, the likes of socialists, autonomists, anarchists, people that volunteer in NGO's or anyone that cherishes humanism/altruism. For people to fit in, in a land the locals like to call Hellas (and of the sun) to survive within it is to stay silent and live life in a comatose state.
Between 1994 and 1996 I was doing compulsory army service and I found myself on Samos island amongst others. Samos island is one of the closest Greek islands to Turkey. During that time there were a few serpentine Greek and Turkish characters making a fortune transporting immigrants on rusty overloaded buckets they called boats. These people had made their way from the Middle East, Africa and Turkey itself and for a chance to make it into fortress Europe they had to pay a handsome fee. Lots of times these "boats" would sink to the bottom of the Aegean Sea loaded with human cargo, in many cases it was women and small children that perished. Those who managed to escape death or being arrested by the coast guard or the coppers ended up trapped on the island. They found themselves wandering around the island with no legal documents, and without any means of leaving the island. They were living in constant fear of getting caught and being arrested by the police who beat and tortured them before they were eventually deported. Some did not survived the beatings!
Most of the time if there was no pressure from the government on the police to enforce the law to have them all arrested. They were happy to turn a blind eye to the immigrants and leave them to be exploited by the locals*. They would have them working for nothing and threaten them constantly with the police if they didn't do as they were told. Many of the immigrants would be left to sleep in old barns packed on top of each other like livestock! They were worked an unimaginable amount of hours with little food in all kinds of extreme weather conditions. From time to time you would hear the locals talking about them in coffee shops and markets with snippets of conversations such as "the Pakistanis are very hard working unlike the Africans that are lazy bastards"
For the rest of my service I ended up for a brief period of time on the Greek-Turkish borderline in the Northeast of Greece by the river Evros. During a period of 3-4 months that I spent there I witnessed some of the most horrific incidents I have ever witnessed in my life!
Early in the summer they sent me and another two co-soldiers out on a patrol by an island between the river and a canal that faced the Turkish side. There we found 33 men and women from Morocco, Middle East, Turkey and Rwanda (fleeing the recent genocide there). We arrested them, left them to rest and then fed them a little stale bread and gave them some fizzy orange to drink. That was the only food they had. We escorted them from this massive sand trap beyond the island west of the river. When we arrived to our small guarding hut, we try to ask them if there was something in the way of medicine or food that we could offer them.
I have to say that most of the soldiers and even the fellow that was acting lieutenant were all doing our best with the resources available to us. The riot police bus arrived from Alexandroupoli and they started to chain the migrants, squeezing the handcuffs as tight as they could on their hands in a sadistic manner as if these poor, exhausted, half-starved and barely able to walk people stood a chance of escape. And even if they could where could they go? A good few of us soldiers, including the lieutenant, tried to protest against their ill treatment by the policemen but these bastards took pleasure in their job.
Another time we were told that one of the pumps that had been placed into the river to help with the irrigation of the fields during the dry summer season was blocked. They had to switch it off to see what was wrong with it, only to discover the body of a young man that had drowned trying to cross the river during the winter months when that river ran very high.
If that was not shocking enough for us young fellows, some of us barely 19 year old, the next thing we found out had us completely devastated. We heard the locals saying very calmly that this was not the first time, but one of many. The locals were finding bodies blocking the pumps and they were fed up with the inconvenience caused
To whoever cares about these all back in Greece, I want to plead with them by saying that the time of the festivals and concerts in solidarity with the migrants is over a long time ago. The time of organising with them and start kicking the living daylights of all these scumbags -racists, Nazis, police- is a long time coming!
Many of you rose up in 2008 when the police murdered Alexis Grigoropoulos and fair play to you for this but very few have come even close to doing the same for the migrants that have been abused and killed for year. All these humans are as important as Alexis and their lives weigh equally. To de-humanise people is the genesis of all our oppression.
An injury to one is an injury to all regardless of sex, sex preference, race or religion.
*diversion tactics to pull the wool out of the eyes of the locals to have them distracted from other things happening such as salaries and pension cuts, big scandals, high unemployment etc