Adults and children have spent every night sleeping out in the cold in front of the Greek Parliament. (Photograph by Marios Lolos)
For the past seven days, asylum seekers from Syria have camped outside the Greek parliament, despite the freezing cold temperatures. Today, according to witnesses on twitter, some collapsed from the ongoing hunger strike that has deteriorated their health. Adults and children are asking the government to allow their transportation to other European countries, as the lives of immigrants in the country are in danger due to the prevalence of race motivated attacks. The following interviews were taken by members of the Movement ‘Deport Racism’: Effie Garides, Helene Benatou and Stella Petroulia.
Last night the cold was harsh at Syntagma Square, Athens. Spending the night there is gradually becoming harder for Syrian refugees, who seem determined not to give up on their struggle and remain at the square until their demands are fulfilled. What they mainly ask of Greek people is to go there and see them. We spent time with them and they opened up to us about their demands, the sitution in Syria and their living conditions. They haven’t been in the country for longer than three months while the most recent to arrive came here no less than a month ago. Their shared hope is to re-unite with their loved ones who remained in Syria, in some other European country.
Mohannand came to Greece with his epileptic brother who often suffers from seizures.
‘We want a solution for Syrian refugees. We want a roof over our head and benefits for as long as we stay here. We need medical care and schools for our children and the possibility to reunite with our families. The Dublin Regulation provides all that, but here in this country we are given nothing.’
‘I want to leave Greece because this government does not recognise any of our rights. In other countries refugees are housed and have the right to travel to other countries. We need the people here to help us, to come join us here, to pressure their government’.
Kensa has left behind her four children, her daughter aged 15 and three boys aged 17, 13 and 8, hoping to get to a country that will allow her children to come and join her.
‘We couldn’t live anywhere, there are bombs everywhere. I want to leave here and settle in a country where I can bring my children with me and be safe’.
Siham has been in the country with her children, ages 9, 10 and 18. Her 18 year old son is here with his wife and their two children, a one year old toddler and a two month old baby.
‘We left because of the war.. My husband was badly injured on his arm and had to have surgery and my son is misisng. Many people are missing. The government takes them away and we never find them afterwards. Young men, even children as young as fourteen are forced to join the military. Or ISIS kills them.’
They all travelled here on a boat. ‘The journey was difficult and dangerous, the baby is still ill. I feel very tired. My younger son is asking why are we sleeping outside, he wants to go back to school, to feel safe, to have a home and be able to play like all children.
Mohammed was a Palestinian refugee in Syria. He lived in Yarmouk Camp in Damascus, where over 100. 000 Palestinian refugees found shelter, which was destroyed during the war in Syria.
‘I want to leave from Greece. The army of Assad destroyed our camp and they wanted to arrest everyone. If we had stayed there, they would have killed us all.’
Amir is a doctor. He also wants to move to a country that can offer him work.
‘The only thing we are asking is free movement through the airports. We don’t want to stay here, we have no other demands from the Greek government. Nevertheless, the Greeks have a good heart’
‘The situation in Syria is really difficult. The government put me in prison for six monthss, in a tiny cell that I could never get out of, I ate and I slept there. That is because of my work as a photographer in Media Revolution. At some point I bought my freedom from a civil employee for six thousand dollars. On one side there is Assad and on the other there is ISIS. In the middle, there are ordinary people making grassroots military groups just to protect themselves.