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Greek coast-guard rough waters to turn turtle rubber boats with irregular immigrants

23 November 2010 / 10:11:20  GRReporter
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Lomani is 24 years old, from Afghanistan. He has been living in Greece for 7 years now where he is working and studying sociology at the University of the Aegean Island of Lesbos. He has left his homeland with his brothers in 1999 for political reasons and he had lived in Pakistan several years. He didn’t arrive in Greece straight but after having traveled almost all over Southeast Asia. Now he is a member and coordinator of the social support network for refugees and immigrants, which together with the political and social rights network, convene a meeting to organize protests against the fascist, as they call them, attacks against immigrants in Greece.

Lomani told in an interview with GRReporter how dozens of immigrants, mostly from Southeast Asia and Africa are daily victims of knife attacks by far-right groups, but police caught none of the attackers. He said immigrants in many areas in central Athens do not dare to show up neither day nor night. There were numerous attacks against them on St. Panteleimon Square, Attica Square, near the train station, in neighbourhoods like Neos Kozmos, Ambelokipi and America Square. "Children at the age of 14-15 years are part of these groups. They are doing this now probably because they like beating people, but this phenomenon will be out of control in the future if not stopped," said Lomani.

According to the social support network for refugees and immigrants, the state is obliged to ensure people’s safety no matter they are regular or irregular and irregardless of their origin, religion and language. "It is not possible these paramilitary groups to come and burn the places where people pray, and even their homes, to stick up Nazi posters then and shout such slogans and the police do nothing," said Lomani. "As to those committees of angry citizens, this is a big lie. No angry citizen would wound us with a knife, set fire to a room, nor attack a man on the street."

Lomani expressed the general view that the problem with immigrants in Greece is serious. And here he stated the organization’s proposal to the European Union: immigrants to be granted the right to travel across Europe and the Dublin II regulation to be repealed as it stipulates that all irregular immigrants caught in a Western European country should be returned back to the first member state to which they arrived. "Immigration is a result of the political situation in the immigrants’ home countries and the West is to be blamed for it to a great extent. There was no immigrant flow to Europe before the United States attacked Afghanistan. The same applies for Iraq. People leave Bangladesh because of poverty. All these people, elders, women, small children go for days and weeks to flee their country because they need shelter or humanitarian aid. They do not do this to see Europe," said Lomani. "Did you know that when port police find some of the inflatable boats with immigrants, they go close to it and rough the water to turn it turtle? And these are not my words. This is written in the report of the German organization for refugees’ protection Pro Asyl. We think the forces of Frontex should leave the border. They use military equipment against people who have no other choice. They have the right to sanctuary under international conventions," said the young man and added that European funds could be used for the construction of normal bases for immigrants, not for jails as he called the existing centers. Last year the network has organized a summer 10-day no border camp on the island of Lesbos, which involved over 500 people from many European countries, Africa, Asia and America. The purpose of this largest of its kind initiative in Europe has been to inform the public about the poor conditions in the local reception center, which was designed for 200 people but housed more than 1,000 behind high walls and fencing in extremely miserable conditions and without any rights."

The social support network for refugees and immigrants believes that the problem with immigrants is far from provoking just xenophobic attitudes. "Now some people would go on the street, saying "I do not like you're black, the way you dress, etc. and if you don’t leave I'll pull out a knife." This is dangerous as well as the fact that the candidate of the far Hrisi avgi (Golden Dawn) was elected municipal councilor with such a large percentage of votes. This same Nikos Mihalolyakos told in TV broadcasts that the police should give weapons to the members of the group to "cleanse the center of Athens. Yes, there is a problem. The crisis affects us all, we lose our jobs, wages are falling, prices are rising, but is this immigrants’ fault," asked Lomani rhetorically and accused the media in presenting a distorted reality in which immigrants are the assailants of peaceful Athens citizens who are afraid to go out on the street. "Even a man, most unfamiliar with the situation, would understand that this is not true when visiting these places."

"I came here to not feel threatened, to have documents and rights. If this country is not able to give them to me, let me go." said Lomani and stressed that "nothing can stop people leaving their home countries where they are impossible to live. We have rivers in Afghanistan, but we have no sea, we do not even know how it looks. And here we sail the sea in inflatable boats. A hopeless man would even swim the distance that divides him from Europe."

Tags: Irregular immigrantsCoast-guardDublin IIFascistsAttacks
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