AntiNote: The following are updates from two solidarity groups in cities along the so-called Balkanroute who are engaging in a direct and confrontational form of organizing in response to the border crisis.
Namely, squatting—reclaiming hoarded space for common use. In the present situation of converging crises, with growing numbers of people finding themselves literally stranded on the “wrong” side of economic, social, and geographical boundaries imposed and enforced from above, it has become urgent for the excluded, in all their boundless variety, to find each other, get to know each other, and take care of each other. To do this requires space, resources, and time that we don’t think we have—until we take it.
Needless to say, this kind of activity—taking things, that is—is frowned upon by those who don’t seem to bat an eye at shooting and caging people, and they generally try to stop it from happening (even if they’re not using the things being taken!). But it is happening nonetheless—indeed, more and more.
In this case: in Belgrade and Athens, cities with long, contested histories of property resistance—and more to the point, cities deeply and directly affected by the border crisis. As we will see, the future of these occupations is by no means secure—it never is. We must extend to them (at bare minimum) our awareness and solidarity if we wish to see them sustain, survive, and multiply.
So, let us direct our attention first to Serbia, then to Greece.
Report on Recent Happenings in Belgrade
No Border Hostel Collective (Refugee Support Serbia)
We are a group of no-border activists from all around, who are spending our time in Belgrade, for weeks now, supporting people on the move with their journey through Serbia. We deliver hot chai around the bus station two times a day to 100-200 people, and inform about the situation further north. Also, we established and help run the self-organized “no border hostel,” a squatted building in the city center where around 30-50 people per night find shelter without the hustle of official registration like in the camp far outside of the city center. We formed a collective together with local groups and individuals around this place, and work hand in hand to keep a good spirit up.
On this coming Sunday [24 April 2016], Serbia will elect a new shitty government. For that event the municipality decided to get rid of the refugees in the city center, and cleaned the parks yesterday with water early in the morning, sweeping away all proof of the ongoing inhumane conditions here. Sleeping people were not warned, and many were sprayed wet in the cold. EU-paid garbage collectors (nominally from the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees) and police collected all sleeping bags, mats, tarps, tents and personal belongings such as clothes or shoes, and filled up two large dumpsters. The parks were shiny afterwards – many lost their sleeping places for the next cold nights.
At the moment, no NGO is allowed to give out sleeping equipment, not even blankets. People without the right papers and appearance are only allowed to sit and walk in the park. All day after the hose-down, the police harassed people and checked for papers. In the evening, the municipality “invited” all refugees to come to the “open camp” outside the city by bus. Only twenty persons went on the buses, while all others had to find new places to sleep.
The same night, the squat got an unofficial eviction notice from city officials; today the threat was repeated. But solidarity in the collective is strong; many came in the afternoon and evening to protect the squat from eviction – some people slept there together with the refugees. Facing a situation in which people don’t even have access to the least equipment to sleep outside in the parks, the squat becomes an even more important and trusted space for rest for people on the move. Activists around Belgrade seem to be motivated to keep this place running, and support against eviction and police repression is confirmed by the numbers of people showing up every day. Vacancy in the city is obvious, and it’s just a matter of time: more squats should pop up.
Some say that all this harassment in the city center against people on the move will end as soon the election circus is finished. Others expect harsher conditions in the so far “refugee-friendly,” “somewhat humane” Serbia. To understand the whole situation better we are closely observing the recent happenings in Greece, especially in Chios, Lesvos, Piraeus and Idomeni. Evictions and police repression against refugees and supporters seems to be escalating. Please keep us updated about your struggles!
In solidarity with refugees that were detained after the eviction of Soli Café (Chios) and No Border Kitchen (Lesvos)
In solidarity with support structures struggling for better conditions for people on the move
Still and always – No border, no nation!
Disassemble Fortress Europe!
Fight racist regimes and police repression!
Squat the Earth!
Refugee Support Serbia
No Border Hostel Collective
Athens’ New Refugee Accommodation Center
Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees
Since the morning of 22 April 2016, the abandoned City Plaza Hotel in Athens has been turned into an Accommodation Center for refugees. Currently refugee families from different nationalities, together with hundreds of people in solidarity, are working collectively for the cleaning, repairing and organization of space so that it can open soon as a project of self-organization and solidarity, as a center of struggle against racism and exclusion and the struggle for free movement, decent living conditions, and equal rights. The Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees invites everyone to practical and material support of the City Plaza Accommodation Center. For the next few days and as long as there are works in progress in the building, it will not be possible to accommodate more refugees.
From the summer 2015 on, Europe and Greece have been found unable to respond to the issues emerging from the largest refugee “wave” in their territory since World War II. In the origins of these refugees’ movements there can be found the declaration and act of war, on a military as well as an economic level, from countries of the North on the countries of the South, which has led their populations to poverty, fear and oppression.
This fact has created two very distinctive and opposed tendencies: the first is expressed by the activation of racist reflexes, which can be found in the core of the European continent. Fences and walls have been built; Frontex and NATO have been invited in order to “protect” the borders; deportations and brutal repressions are carried out against refugees. It is also clearly expressed through the racist agreement between the E.U. and Turkey, which violates the Geneva Convention and every humanist value, as it approaches the refugee issue as if refugees were merchandise that can be part of a transaction; it also leads to an unthinkable number of deportations of refugees to countries in which their life and freedom is compromised.
The second tendency is the one expressed by the huge wave of solidarity in Greece, as well as in Europe. Millions of people were found side by side with the refugees in their battle to cross the borders and overcome all kinds of difficulties through their journey. In August 2015, people in solidarity in Athens took immediate action in [city park] Pedion tou Areos; thousands of people from all over the world have come to Lesvos and other Aegean islands in order to contribute to the efforts of the people there. Europe is seeing the largest wave of solidarity and mutual aid in decades. This mobilization is bearing the hope for a resurgence of civil society, in order to erase the danger of seeing Europe become a “Dark Continent” again.
The Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees has also been taking action, for quite some time now, within this movement of solidarity, in the center of Athens. It has brought out the fight of the refugees; stopped the efforts to create “apartheid” areas that prohibit the presence of refugees; and pointed out the responsibility of the Greek government: not only did they fail to secure the accommodation, protection and free passage of the refugees, but also signed the racist agreement and took the responsibility to implement it.
From now on, our needs go to a different level. Europe’s political agenda of closed borders has determined the conditions under which a number of political and economic refugees now struggle: though they initially had the intention to move on towards northern countries, they are now stuck in Greece. Without foregoing for a moment our basic demand for open borders and our fight against closed ones, we feel the need to gather our forces toward the creation of decent living conditions of refugees in Greece, in our neighborhoods, with full rights and all social services.
In this framework, along with our constant demand for immediate accommodation of the refugees—and not in camps military or otherwise, but in appropriate buildings with full infrastructure where they will be able to move freely in and out—we decided to occupy this building. On the one hand, we wanted to contribute a solution to the problem that is within our grasp; on the other hand, we felt the need to have a place where information and coordination for refugees’ issues would take place.
Our decision does not release the Greek or any other government from their responsibility to immediately provide all refugees with accommodation and protection. However, it points out that solidarity can be the driving force which will stand up against any racist plans of the European countries and it will see to the protection of all refugees, in the direction of full integration, next to the local workers and oppressed people. There have been several attempts by media and government, right after the racist agreement between EU and Turkey, to demonize and attack solidarity activities, which have been considered to be responsible for the fact that the refugees stand up for their rights.
It is rather clear that if the status of exception which has been planned for the refugees proves to be successful, it will be used as a model for other parts of society which in recent years have experienced the brutal agenda of poverty, oppression and exclusion. We declare that we will stand on the side of the refugees, people in solidarity, and workers who, during all these years, have fought for the rights to education, healthcare, accommodation, and food for refugees; against the criminal politics of closed borders which has killed thousands of people; and against ghettos far from the city center where refugees will be “invisible.”
The Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees invites solidarity workers to participate in this effort at the Refugee Accommodation Center City Plaza and every other independent solidarity structure. Let’s create a world of mutual aid and co-existence. Against racism, solidarity! We will all live together!
- Down with the shameful agreement between EU and Turkey – Open borders, safe passage for refugees.
- Full legalization of all refugees. No deportation to Turkey or elsewhere.
- Accommodation for all refugees in appropriate buildings, within the city core. Requisition of hotels and empty houses for refugees’ accommodation.
- Free access to healthcare and education services for all refugees – Participation of the refugees’ children to programs of school placement.
- Closing of all detention centers, no exclusion of refugees from cities.
- No criminalization of the solidarity movement.
Featured Image: Soli Café Chios (Facebook)