New border crossings into Greece: A revival of the old routes in the Aegean?

Kos
Beautiful Kos

Recently the greek news are talking of a revival of the old routes into Greece through the Aegean islands. Since two years Evros has been the main entrance for sans-papiers into Greece with steadily increasing numbers of arrivals. Since the beginning of the governments massive pogrom against sans-papiers in Athens but also in Evros and the further periphery in the beginning of this August, numbers of arrivals have been shrinking in Evros and increasing again slightly on the islands of the Aegean (mainly: Mytilini, Samos, Patmos, Leros, Symi etc.). In August 397 sans-papiers were arrested on the Aegean islands compared to 168 in 2011. The greek government following this increase and the medial hype around the “revival of the island routes” asked Frontex for more support in controlling their sea borders. The request concerns 4 additional aircrafts, 4 coast guard ships and specialised extra staff.
Concerning the fate of the arriving sans-papiers, as it seems, the authorities on the islands have the order to keep new arriving sans-papiers as long as possible in detention on the islands and not transfer them to Athens. In some cases solidarity group denounced the lack of access to the asylum procedure for the detained. In a long-term perspective if arrivals will continue and grow this could result in the creation of new detention places on the islands (or the re-opening of old ones). It is yet unclear if the slightly increasing arrivals on the islands can be interpreted as another change of routes or if it is more of a short term phenomenon. Clearly, the medial referral to a “revival” of the old routes and de facto arrivals of the last days anyway also lead to an increased use of a fascist discourse by some people within the local societies (i.e. in Symi but also elsewhere).

In Samos the local solidarity group published a number of press releases concerning the very poor detention conditions of newly arrived Syrian and Afghan refugees (among them also children, women and UN-recognized refugees from other countries) and the lack of access to the asylum procedure for the about 50-60 refugees. Since a few days the Syrian refugees are on hunger strike protesting their inhuman situation.

In Mytilini the last month there have been also repeated arrivals (50 and more in the last period). Sans-papiers seem to be detained in the police stations of the island.

In Symi a boat carrying 38 sans-papiers was seemingly shot by the authorities and thereafter sank (on September 4th). The passengers were saved and are in detention now. In total there were about 100 (or more) arrivals in this period. The police station does not fit any more detainees so that the new arriving have to stay in the yard and next to it in outside spaces. The Doctors without borders are offering some medical first aid, while the police is responsible for the catering. At the same time during a recent municipal council on the island one of the speakers proposed to call members of the fascist party GD (golden dawn) to “solve the problem” and “so that the guys don’t allow the boats of the coast guard to disembark the sans-papiers on the island”. The mayor of the island at some point said: “if nothing happens (from the side of the government?) then we have to tak the weapens and protect our island!”.

In Leros a few days ago 60 sans-papiers arrived – originally having arrived on Farmakonisi. Amog them were also small children. They were all detained in the yard of the coast guard and the police station.

In Rhodos 20-30 people were reported to have arrived in the last days. At the same time their are rumours about the construction of a new detention centre on Kos island.

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