EU, Middle East, Africa & Asia dinning at the Athens table

  I would like to share for now what I have encountered in Athens so far.

   First of all I was amazed of Athens. This city is alive! It does not feel like a constructed “Disney Land”. The city breathes. Exarcheia is a central neighborhood of Athens that has preserved decades of urban resistance to state repression. This neighborhood is an example of communal spirit. It is full of graffiti,   co-op cafes, independent bookshops, art shops … and is an example of alternative lifestyle and self-expression where locals and migrants can feel more welcome and safer than in other neighborhoods. It became home of anarchist collectives, activists, intellectuals and offers information, help and temporary housing for thousands of refugees every day as the state fails in offering humane help. Occupied social centers, independent activists, co-op foundations, squats,  like:  Holes in the Borders, Notara, Amurtel, Jazmine School, City Plaza, Elleniko Stadium, Khora and many many others….. are part a a self-organized solidarity, anti-authoritarian network of anarchists, migrants, refugees, artists, locals and volunteers that work together to offer basic help like legal information, lawyers, food, cloths, moral support, children activity, medical, psychological assistance, day care… The services and initiatives try to create a safe and functional system that can provide the community with a set of tools and skills that could react on the extremely complex context that Athens is at the moment... A big part of the problem in my view is that it is highly difficult to create a defined central goal in this collaboration. Yes there is an attempt to bring stability and hope to people that seek help but the core issue is not solved. A clear answer takes long to achieve because it implies a clear response from the ones in power. Each of the organizations, activist groups and squats focus on their own program and find difficulties in creating a strong fist all together that would react to the large picture with one hit, also because the ‘picture’ keeps on changing rapidly. Hopefully it is there to come. At the moment that is what we are trying to achieve or at least put into discussion. We try to visit many squats, talk to their representatives, talk to displaced people, try to attend anarchist meetings and organizations in understanding what is each’ perspective to then getting an idea of what would be a core priority issues and possibilities of solving them; the issues go way beyond European perspective; Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia got face to face in this Mediterranean land. Despite the fact that there are numerous violent attacks on squats, centres and individuals by all kinds of perpetrators that are triggered by someone’s nationality, intention, or the amount of pigment, people  stay strong and continue their extremely important and complex work trying to represent direct democracy – where people manage their lives without reference to government.

  Since I am here I managed to be part of few solidarity protests, numerous meetings, met a lot of amazing volunteers, inspiring activists that with very little means of existence manage to do what governments fail to do, that strangely enough sometimes becomes a convenience to the government. Managed to become part of the legal support team and 3 times a week i work with children at‘kids space’ at Khora(most of the kids speak great English and all are eager to learn and to work together). Sometimes I go to squats and give free haircuts to anyone who wants, this is in the days when I feel like relaxing. Got to learn a lot from these extremely courageous and strong individuals! It is at times petrifying to hear each person’s story of fleeing war, loss of beloved ones, belongings, houses, cities while giving haircuts or doing puppets for the animation with the children, but mostly we laugh, dance, tell fun stories, make jokes, drink tea and share our wishes and dreams. The squat I am coming mostly is so called ‘single men squat’ or ‘the school’ where I managed to make some great friends. Some of them IT specialists, nurses, teachers, professional football players…  Whenever we go there, they each reach under their beds to get the goodies out, tea, and sweet brioche, or their diner to share it with us while we talk, laugh and try to learn about their situation or try to give advice if we have the knowledge that could help. It is also a combination of very mixed feelings when some of them decide to leave Greece and continue the dangerous, somewhat dehumanizing travel. All this because of the impossibility to be heard and passed through the legal asylum process here in Athens: worry that they get safe wherever they chose to go, sadness that our systems are corrupt and cruel, happiness that they have the guts and power to continue their way (It is highly complicated to continue the journey because it costs a lot of money to travel (pricelist is from 2000 to 4000 euros to help cross borders or get to the EU land). The learning is happening every day. I started to understand more of what is happening and how the system manages its “possessions”. As Greece became one of the “buffer zone” for the influx of people that want to regain stability because of war reasons, seek international human right protection or just want to be reunited with their families, the bureaucracy hurricane does everything possible to extend the legal process, demoralizes and lowers hope and chances to be heard, but also proves to be non-critical, dysfunctional and violates international human rights. If volunteers and law professionals have difficulties in understanding how the procedure of offering asylum is, imagine how difficult is to understand how it works for one that is fleeing a war zone, with the unimaginable hardship one passes through, arriving to Greece where the government is extremely specific about the details of the procedure of relocation or reunification or asylum. The recent EU and Turkey agreement and the that was signed in March 2016 states that anyone who claims asylum after this date, in Greece or in other European country and is reported to have passed through Turkey, could easily be sent back to the “repartition-camp”(that is something like a prison with miser access to medical care, education or legal assistance) in Turkey as it being a declared “safe for refugee” country to make his asylum process that also is futile and difficult to get.  The process can take from 6 months to ages, meaning that in all this time you are not allowed to work or to rent a house or any kind of other “humane benefits”. But even if one has finally received his papers and confirmations after a few years, he still has a very limited access to basic humane benefits and to the work field. In Greece the system is extremely difficult. Just to give a small example: imagine the unimaginable! You flee from a war zone (with all the intense things that happened) arrive from a long, cold and tiring journey to Greece. First you have to find a police station or the center for migration to have the first proof that you have arrived on this date. After you have to make a Skype call to the Migration office in the 2 hours per week slot when someone is speaking your language(in the centralasylum office there are only 3 computers) to state your name and where you come from and date of birth. This will put you in the long waiting line for the first interview appointment that could take 3-6 months. At the first interview you state again who you are and what are you seeking. And again after 6 to 12 months you might receive a phone call or not that you are invited to the second interview to review your case where a translator, a policeman and a migrant office person will take your interview and listen to your story and judge it if its credible enough and After that you wait for another 6 to 12 months to get an answer. If the answer is positive, you wait another good amount of months for the decision to be executed. If the answer is negative, that is in most of the cases, and also you do not have a clear explanation why it is negative, you risk of being deported back to the camp to the further back to Turkey, and all that is veeeery long time… meaning you are uneligible human on the European land…

   I realize that this whole situation, on a bit more complex scale, is the cost of yours and my privilege.

  Would recommend to each person to come by themselves and see this cost. See how a piece of paper and a set of conditions like where was someone born creates such an injust situation. One of the main feeder of this whole thing is this scary nationalistic abstract thought of ours that is manipulated by our cultures. Can we get out of our cultures? Can we recognize when we are drawn to something so artificial and yet we accept it so blindly with hands wide open and with a huge smile on our faces. We forget that we are all human being, same specie and same red blood as cheesy as it may sound. People that I met where wiser, stronger and much more courageous then I am. I leaned more in these 4 months then in a few years in “Disney Land”. If you are an artist or a writer or anyone who is curious to see a bit more of where we are at as a specie,grab your backpack and please come to Athens, by yourself. You will be surprised of yourself. It’s a good mirroring process…. Plus f you have any kind of skill, it can be used, enhanced and perfected here…

  At the moment we are working on denounces… We denounce the incapable, injust and illegal system that we live in and the reality that is ignored and unspoken of.  There is a genocide happening, on a few levels (scales) and we go with ease towards this genocide. We think that someone else is being murdered but we are killing ourselves through ignorance, racism, jealousy, fragmentation, inaction and misinformation.

   There is a lot we can do!!! Believe me! I was surprised and shocked how a small action can maybe change someone’s life, or your own. If you need any kind of information or support, please write me.

Will be continued...

Pictures and videos will be soon.