Global Independent Analytics

Living in slums, Greece's migrants fight hunger and cold

According to United Nations data, about a quarter of the one million refugees and migrants who fled their homes to head to Europe last year were Afghans.

Lefteris Papadimas reporting for Reuters: Mohammed Asif and his family are deprived of food, shelter, and feel of security. Their "Home" is a green blanket spread over a piece of plastic on a pavement in a grimy neighborhood of the Greek capital. At least for now.

Asif, like many thousands of his Afghan countrymen, is trapped in Greece. Their hopes of reaching safe sanctuary in northern Europe were tarnished by a series of border blockades by Austria to Macedonia. He, his wife, and their two children are Hazaras, an ethnic minority that had long suffered back home, with thousands of people being executed by Taliban militias in the 1990s. Now, they have been sleeping on the street for three days.

"We are desperate. We left Afghanistan because we are Hazaras and the Taliban threatened to kill us, my entire family," he told Reuters. "What will we do now?"

The Greek government, overwhelmed by an influx of refugees has clearly failed to resolve the situation and diffuse tension, hence, Victoria, a once upmarket area of Athens, now sunk into disrepute.

Drug dealing and prostitution are rampant. There are no public facilities and soiled nappies are strewn on a sidewalk next to bins brimming with rubbish. A Christian charity distributes biscuits and orange juice, and the occasional local turns up with a saucepan of food.

Next to Asif, young mothers with month-old babies sat on the sidewalk. A man held a child aged about 10 in his arms, looking stonily ahead. They all expect only one thing.

"I'll stay here until Macedonia opens its borders," said Ali Khan Ranjbar, 28, from Ghazni, a city in central Afghanistan and a Hazara like Asif.

Despite their wishes, however, Macedonia is not particularly keen on the idea. As of Feb. 20, crossings of Afghans to Macedonia have ceased, with witnesses reporting migrants being forcibly removed from border outposts and sent by buses back to Athens.

On Monday Macedonian police opened fire on refugees with tear gas shots in order to disperse hundreds of migrants who stormed the border gates with an improvised battering ram.

According to United Nations data, about a quarter of the one million refugees and migrants who fled their homes to head to Europe last year were Afghans.

"I don't have any more money. I paid $10,000 to get to Europe ... I want to go to Germany or Sweden or Austria for my kids to have a better future," said Asif.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under heavy pressure at home to end her open-door policy towards migrants. Sweden is rethinking its asylum policy and Austria last week capped the number of asylum claims at 80 per day.

 

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Let’s look at the facts. EU forced Greece to create Hotspots for migrants and refugees. Initially we were told they would be given bracelets and could then travel to Europe. But that’s not what happened. Now most of them are stuck in Greece.

The key problem is, as socialist economist and political leader Dimitris Kazakis explained in an interview with him, is that the EU does not follow international law. According to international law, refugees and migrants have freedom of movement. Not in the EU where they are confined to Greece and where they can be used as slave labor by corporations.

We have reached a stage in transnational capitalist development where the human itself is turned into a commodity into a means to an end. 

After Greece was raped and pillaged by austerity, now it is the gathering ground of migrants and refugees who are stuck here although the economy is doomed.

This serves as a double purpose. The migrants can be used as slave labor, and can also riot and attack others when things get bad, resulting in a civil war while the war profiteers profit and NATO is sent in.

The migrants are not the enemy, in fact, they are the victims of smugglers, wars and Angela Merkel.  A war against the migrants is what the elites want as wars and conflicts are the main sources of revenue these days. However, piling up migrants in Greece is not helping anyone. Greece should leave the EU before it is faced with millions of migrants and it loses its identity forever. 

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Van Gelis

Like the Vietnamese boat people, America is refusing to take any Afghans who are fleeing from the collapse of US order in Afghanistan. 6 years of IMF economic genocide where no concern was shown to 2m unemployed Greeks or about the 30,000 suicides. Now they are turning central Athenian squares into third world dumping grounds. Why doesn't America clean up its mess?

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Lionel Baland

The first victims of the politicy of Angela Merkel are the migrants. They sell everything at home, travel in bad conditions and arrive finally in Northern Europe, full of hope, thinking that they will get a house, a car and a job. A lot of them are sent to a tent or to an uncomfortable shelter somewhere in Germany. They don’t speak German and many don’t have any qualification. The only future that they can have in Europe is a very bad job with a low salary. Many of the migrants are not refugees, but young men travelling alone. They have big jackets, walking shoes and can walk 30 km a day. They travel very fast. By contrast, for the true refugees, travelling is very hard because they are with women, children and old members of the family. The mafias and the traffickers take a lot of money of these people. The migrants are a big threat for the German and European women and for the true refugees too. There are many rapes and sexual aggressions, not only when the woman refugees are traveling toward Northern Europe, but when they stay in a shelter or in a tent in Germany too. The inhabitants of the Balkans become the troubles. To avoid this, they are two right solutions for Germany: taking the refugees directly by plane from Turkey to Germany or closing the German border and refusing to take refugees and migrants. But Angela Merkel denies choosing one of these two solutions and so they put the trouble in other countries. She works against her own people but against the other people of Europe too.

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