Tents and Drones, Open Doors
AntiNote: We are pairing two recent articles by our comrades at Samos Chronicles to juxtapose what corrupt, top-down elite state and private institutions tend to do with all the resources they hoard, and what autonomous, self-organized communities could do their damn selves if they had those kinds of resources.
Please consider contributing to the Open Doors project described in the second article if you want to make your solidarity—remote as it might be, geographically, from the frontier islands of Greece—as direct as possible, unmediated by disinterested and avaricious social managers and office holders who love to skim off more than their share while their “wards” suffer grievous, willful neglect and abuse. In other words, just give the people the money. Taking it from the rich first would be ideal; let’s work towards that too.
On Wednesday, 3 October 2018, over two hundred refugees arrived on Samos.
On Thursday, a Palestinian friend living in one of the containers inside the camp was told he had to leave to make space for new arrivals who had more need for his place.
Of course he asked, Where do I go?
To the forest around the camp, he was told.
In what do I sleep?
A tent, came the reply.
You must go and buy one.
On Friday we heard that the Chinese shops which sell small summer-style tents had sold out.
* * *
On 5 October it was reported that the government had sacked the director of the national hot spot program:
“In comments to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency Thursday, Vitsas [the migration minister] said that last Tuesday he gave the head of the [hot spot] service, Andreas Iliopoulos, until Friday morning to resign or be dismissed. Vitsas’s comments came a day after Iliopoulos alleged in an interview with liberal newspaper Fileleftheros that European Union funds for migration centers were being mismanaged and called for prosecutors to intervene. Vitsas dismissed the claims as ‘lies.’ Iliopoulos meanwhile told Kathimerini he had no real power” (Ekathimerini, 5 October 2018).
One can assume a touch of the kamikaze in Iliopoulos’s decision to be interviewed by this newspaper. Only a few days earlier the defense minister Panos Kammenos had filed a defamation action against three journalists, including the editor-in-chief of the Fileleftheros daily, who had raised concerns about the misuse of funds intended for the hot spots.
“’The money existed to transform the camp [Moria Lesvos] into a center that could have resembled the Hilton; instead it is the Moria that is a source of national shame,’ said the paper’s editor-in-chief, Panayiotis Lampsias. ‘Our reporting is based on fact and totally backed up. We stand by it and will continue with it,’ he told the Guardian three days after he was briefly detained” (Guardian, 26 September 2018).
At the same time, it was revealed that the European anti-fraud agency was investigating “alleged irregularities concerning the provision of EU-funded food for refugees in Greece.”
Athens has received a total of €1.6 billion in financial aid for refugees since 2015.
At the beginning of October, the leader of the conservative New Democracy party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, visited Samos. To his credit, he went into the camp and noted, “It is really outrageous that while our country had at its disposal €1.6 billion from Europe—of which it has absorbed 1.1 billion—that these conditions exist today in Greece and in Europe in the twenty-first century” (My Samos Blog [in Greek], 2 October 2018).
On 26 September, Christiana Kalogirou, the Regional Governor of the North Aegean which includes Samos island, issued an order demanding action in the Samos hotspot: if the improvements have not been made in thirty days, then the camp would be closed.
In particular, the following problems were highlighted: concerns over food management—the storage, distribution, and quality of packaged food; strong noxious odors, uncollected trash, widespread dirt, an abundance of flies and other insects; filthy toilets, standing water, fly and insect infestation of toilets and washing area; massive overcrowding, which favors transmission of infections; and over 650 people in tents around the camp with no easy access to toilets or washing facilities, making for an unhealthy living space.
We wait to see what will happen. It is unimaginable that the camp will be closed.
* * *
On 27 September local Samos media reported that Frontex was now test-flying its drone over Samos . Two weeks earlier, Frontex disclosed contracts of €6.5 million, of which €4.75 million will go to the Israeli company Aerospace Industries to provide a medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely-piloted aircraft (Statewatch, 17 September 2018).
In the meantime, on the ground we have this (and the rains are coming):
The autumn of 2018 will see the opening of a new grocery store in Samos town. It will be the first of its kind on the island. It will be for refugees, run by refugees. The shop has been rented and is now in the process of being set up. It is in a very good location on one of the most used routes from the refugee camp into the town center.
Open Doors: Getting Set Up
Endless closed doors face us when we arrive in Samos. From its beginnings, this shop will have open doors; it will be run by a refugee cooperative and its development over time will hopefully reflect the ambitions and creativity of the thousands of refugees on the island, of whom many have been held for as long as two years or even more.
In these conditions we have no control over our lives. We are not consulted. We are never expected to be active in shaping our lives. We are like shadows which don’t really exist. Yet we are also the foundation of the biggest business on the island, responsible for the employment of hundreds of people who do things to us without asking.
Open Doors is just a small step to show what we can do and what we are capable of. It will be a place where refugees and locals can come and shop for food and spices, some of which we cannot find on Samos. The food in the camp is disgusting. To survive, refugees are buying food and making their own meals. Otherwise they will be hungry.
Our first purpose is to provide a source of good quality foodstuffs, as cheaply as possible, which try to meet a wide variety of tastes. And true to our name, our doors will be open to all, and we will be a place where all people can feel comfortable. Unlike the squalor of the camp, Open Doors will be a place of dignity, humanity, and solidarity.
But without solidarity from near and far, we will struggle. We have already secured some donations from friends in Germany who are helping to get us started. But it is expensive to set up a shop in Greece. It is a big boost for us to know that Open Doors has been selected by the School of Social Sciences at Liverpool Hope University, in England, as one of its nominated charities this year.
To meet our costs, we are going to need help at least over the first year. We have many expenses at the start in setting up and fitting the shop with shelves and fridges, buying the initial stock, covering the bureaucratic costs of creating the business, and help towards meeting the costs of at least one full time worker. This is just to name a few!
With your help we want to feed at least those who will regularly help us in the shop. We will certainly need an ’emergency store’ where those with nothing can get some basic stuff. We have no doubt that the store will quickly become widely used and visited by the refugees and will become a place where ideas and thoughts are shared. We hope through its own income as well as through donations that the store will be able to help some of these ideas become realities.
Because of our experience of being endlessly ripped off, we are totally committed to openness—for without it, solidarity becomes impossible.
We promise to keep you updated!
Here are our bank details for one-off or standing-order donations:
Name of Bank: Piraeus Bank
Address: Them Sofouli 37, Samos, 83100 Greece
reference: Open Doors
All photos via Samos Chronicles