Dimitris Dalakoglou Vrije Uni. Amsterdam
Antonis Alexandridis Vrije Uni. Amsterdam
In late May 2016 riot police buses were rolling on the Greek highways system travelling from Athens to Idomeni refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian borders. Today the evacuation of the camp started, the activists who were carrying out most of the welfare work on the camp together with refugees were prevented from being present.
The situation in Idomeni was tense over the last weeks as rumors about the current operation were spread. Protests and clashes are a daily phenomena over the last few weeks. Greek police changed its approach to the camp from one of tolerance towards refugees and the politicised independent volunteers to a much more aggressive one. This shift came after the Greek minister for Migration, Yiannis Mouzalas, announced his intention for a “peaceful evacuation of Idomeni camp” a couple of months ago and the transfer of the refugees to reception centers created in former barracks and other state-run facilities.
Nevertheless, refugees in Idomeni seem to be well aware of the politics behind this policy. If they are removed from the borders the refugee crisis stops being an international European problem and becomes a domestic Greek issue. So their collective protests are of increased frequency and intensity.
Meanwhile the Greek authorities seem to organize a criminalization of the solidarity of independent volunteers. First the authorities requested every volunteer to register and be certified in order to operate in the area, something that many independent volunteers refused to do. These ‘uncertified’ volunteers, have been carrying much of the burden of the humanitarian crisis since the summer of 2015 and rightly had second thoughts about the policy. However soon their harassment by the police forces started, sometimes with the silence of the larger and certified organizations operating in the area. This harassment included from stop and search operations and detain for hours in the local police stations to arrests for “carrying walkie-talkies”.
Blame the Anarchists
Simultaneously some well-known mechanisms from the recent past seem to be mobilised again as some of the so-called by SYRIZA’s spokesmen ‘corrupted TV channels’ have changed their discourse to serve the governmental plans. Alpha, one of the largest Greek TV channels reported: “Suspicious games in the camps. The situation is explosive in the refugees front, with the slightest provocation chaos prevails. This atmosphere is stirred up by groups and organizations, which with the pretext of help, motivate refugees and migrants in tensions, telling them that in this way they will open the borders”.
Blaming this mysterious external factor (activists and volunteers) serves many purposes. First of all reminds to the refugees that they have no right to their own political agency. More widely it reminds them that they are non-citizens with very limited rights including the democratic right to protest. Moreover instead of focusing on the obvious ineffectiveness of the EU-Turkey agreement and the ill-functioning asylum relocation programme, which makes these people to revolt, putting the blame on volunteers imply that arresting and kicking out the Anarchist volunteers will resolve the problem as refugees themselves are happy with this.
We saw a very similar tactic over the last few months when refugees’ entire human agency was put into question. Smugglers (as people are contraband commodities) and traffickers were the sole target of EU policies. As if tackling smuggling networks would stop the war in Syria and Afghanistan or the refugee flows. Of course such an approach treats smugglers as the cause of migration and not as the expensive mediators in the absence of safe corridors of passage.
Thus altogether refusing the rights to self-determine their activities is again EU washing its hands clean. The refugees seem to be according to the EU governments victims of provocateurs, smugglers, ISIS, the civil war etc.’ They are never the victims of EU and its border policy, or the victims of the decisions of European governments to declare wars, never.
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as part of everyday struggles for freedom, space and the commons.
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