Two stories with people who wanted to escape the conflicts in Syria and were treated like garbage in Greece.
By Anta Psarra
World Refugee Day today, which sounds like a short joke in the context of Greece. A four-year-old girl, and 18 Syrian soldiers who are chased by dogs in the Pedion tou Areos park every day, became witnesses of the culture and philoxenia [TN: hospitality] for the refugees of war. Another ‘small’ example of ‘Xenios [TN: hospitable] Zeus’.
STORY Νο. 1
One year ago in Kamisli, a Syrian city near the border with Turkey (Kurds, Christians and Arabs live there together), the gun fighting began. Faik’s family – he himself, his wife and their four-year-old daughter Delavin who was ill with cancer, surviving today with one kidney – not able to stand facing the daily threats to their lives, started walking through Turkey and reached the area of Evros. They stayed for five days at the campsite of Evros and then proceeded to the city of Oresteiada. “There was a garden over there and everything around us was shut”, Faik told us.
With an expulsion paper and one month to leave the country, they reached Athens. Whatever money they had they used to buy illegal tickets for the mother and child to get to Germany. At the airport, they were separated into different groups, as is the usual practice. The mother managed to leave, but the child was stopped and her father was called to take her back. The girl was crying, the police realized that the child had been left alone, and she was … arrested. As soon as Faik got to the airport, he was arrested too and stayed behind bars, along with his daughter, for four days. Then, they were transferred in Foreigners’ Department where the child stayed in prison for 28 days.
The father asked for milk and special food for the girl, but his requests were not honoured. He asked what the legal excuse was for putting a small child behind bars and he got no answers. Fortunately, the asylum services in Germany, to which the mother appealed, took over and managed through negotiations with the German embassy in Athens to free the father and little Delavin.
Their papers were prepared and they were given the opportunity to leave for Germany. Unfortunately, though, the Head of the Foreigners’ Department has not yet signed the papers for the release of the two, and it is still unknown when will he manage to find time to sign them. It could take five months, because the papers sit on a pile on his desk! “Assad is a criminal and has killed a lot of people, but in Syria a four-year-old kid does not go to jail. In Greece there is no life for war refugees”, Abdul, the translator, bitterly commented.
In the meantime, the girl continues to miss her mother and nobody seems to worry about that. They were given the red card [TN: proof of asylum application and temporary stay permit] after the intervention of the German asylum services, but this does not help them to eat, nor does it allow the father to work. They constantly tell him to come again tomorrow, in order to have his papers signed. This has been going on for four months. At least, this story might have a happy ending.
STORY Νο. 2
The other story concerns 18 young people who all reached Greece from Syria, all of them are 23 to 24 years old and live in … the Pedion tou Areos park. When they went to Foreigners’ Department, they were told that the law allows stay and asylum only for juveniles. These people were soldiers and they did not want to kill anyone in this horrible war. So they left to escape. They are war refugees.
All of them are homeless and other Syrians bring them food. When one leaves for work or to get food he gets beaten by the fascists, when two or more of them leave the place, they get caught by the police, they are usually driven to the Foreigners’ Department and spend approximately 15 hours there.
They are not kept in jail, since they are from Syria, but they also are not allowed to do anything, find work or a house or some food. They live in the park and they can not go anywhere. “We lost our dignity, we escaped the war in order not to get killed or kill and now we live worse than before, we die slowly. If they won’t let us go to another country, it would be better for us to go back to Syria. We don’t want to become thieves.”
These young people are all from good families and educated, among them a pharmacist, and now they live like animals. They go without food for more than two days. During recent nights, someone has been letting dogs loose in the park, after midnight, and the dogs chase and bite them. It happens every night, that’s why they were forced to sleep outside the park.
They want to go back. They did not come here in order to live in Greece, they came because there is a rough war back there. All the countries around Syria opened their borders in order to accept the refugees and Greece shut them. There is no country without a designated place for Syrians to stay. In Turkey, in Jordan, in Germany, in America, everywhere. If Greece can’t pay, it can ask Arab countries for money in order to host the war refugees, as long as it takes. Turkey hosts one million refugees and has made campsites for them. In Germany, they are given a house and asylum right away, and their children have the opportunity to get an education.
“Our embassy does not exist anymore. Who is going to help us?”
*Thanks to our interpreter Abdul Darwisi for his valuable help.
Translated from ‘Efimerida ton Syntakton’ newspaper, 20/06/2013. Available online at: http://www.efsyn.gr/?p=62083
[Translator’s note: ‘Xenios Zeus’ is the name of the large scale police operation for the arrest of ‘illegal immigrants’ and their detention in detention camps. Ironically the term ‘Xenios’, one of the names of the ancient God Zeus, means ‘hospitable’. In a similar way, the detention centres for immigrants are called ‘hospitality centres’.]