Infomobile: Providing Information with, on and for Refugees in Greece

orestiadaAn attempt of an overview: Where do we stand after almost three years

The land border Evros, newcomers, refugee detention camps and the deaths and disappearances at the border… The islands of the Aegean contending for arrivals from Turkey again since August 2012… The ferry ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa as gates fenced with barbed wire and often as revolving doors back to Italy and back again… Again and again in transit in Athens – there: homelessness, racist attacks and police brutality… And countless times talks about how to go on.

The Infomobile has been touring with changing personnel and varying main concerns. When we go out as Infomobile, we are activists of „Welcome to Europe“ who spread information about other European countries, about rights and about contacts to supporters. But we are also listening to dramatic and strong life stories. We become witnesses. And we retell these stories. Sometimes we become translators between the dreams and struggles of those on the way and those who have always been in Europe. And we are often very concretely involved in supporting struggles for survival. At times, „the plan“ changes as quickly as the migration routes. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track. With this text, we attempt to give an overview of the current projects. Even though things change all the time, after almost three years, certain clear strands of permanent significance can be discerned. Despite all openness to new things and all the uncertainty something like stable structure has been developing.

We need lasting support for almost all of the projects we are going to present. This is why we have decided to send out a monthly newsletter starting January 2013. The newsletter will inform about the current status of the various projects. And we would like to ask you to consider together with your political surroundings and circles of friends, how you could give concrete (and also financial) support to one project or the other.

From „Schengendangle“ to „Dublin II Deportation Diary“ and „Lostatborder“ –

Infomobil Blog and Reports

The Infomobile creates publicity and reports on the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. Both as news items on the Infomobile blog and at irregular intervals in the form of reports on various topics.

– Blog:

– Reports:

Information for refugees: and leaflet

A second component is providing information for refugees that are especially important for their onward journey. The webguide in four languages (in English, Arabic, Farsi and French) is now well connected in the most important destination countries. The Infomobil basically does the street work part for the webguide in Greece and distributes business cards and additional leaflets with useful addresses and references on all its tours.

– Webguide:

– Leaflet for Greece:

Research project with Pro Asyl: „Walls of Shame“

Since 2010, a research and documentation project developed which is financed by Pro Asyl and also accompanied by this organisation’s PR. Regular research trips mainly led us to the border region of Evros on the Turkish-Greek land border. On these trips we also gave concrete legal assistance in countless individual cases. Each time, two attorneys accompanied by two translators visited the prisons in the border region. Out of these experiences resulted a comprehensive report entitled “Walls of Shame” which is set apart by its detailedness from other reports on the border region. In the meantime, the project has been expanded geographically and, among others, also covers the border region of Patras now. Maybe you can best describe this project as a kind of more professionalized version of Infomobile.

– Walls of Shame:

– I came here for Peace: The systematic ill-treatment of migrants and refugees by state agents in Patras:

– Human Cargo: Arbitrary Readmissions from the Italian Sea Ports to Greece:

Mitilini/ Lesbos: Will the paper boat „Chartino Karavi“ pick up speed eventually?

The idea of Infomobile arose out of the attempt to establish a continuous follow-up project to the info point at the Nobordercamp on Lesbos 2009. It turned into an Infomobile when the migration routes relocated from the islands to the land borders in the “travel season” of 2010. At first a permanent presence on Lesbos had been considered. Now, in the autumn of 2012, the migration routes have shifted anew. This is why we brought into play again the NGO „Chartino Karavi“ which had at some point been almost entirely planned out. The founding of this NGO is also financed. It is meant primarily to kick-start projects on Lesbos, but also beyond an independent NGO in Greece may proove useful. On the island, a lot is going on at the moment. As new migrants started to arrive there, various people have joined together in a network, in order to offer practical support to the new arrivals and to advocate for an open Welcome Center. As a result of their advocacy work, an open camp was indeed established on 28.11.2012 in PIKPA, where a camp had first temporarily existed during the Nobordercamp. This must be seen as a small sensation in a time when generally the aim is to detain migrants for as long as possible. In addition, solidary inhabitants of the island compensate through daily acts of support that the new camp lacks almost everything so far. These people need help. At the beginning of the upcoming travel season in spring 2013, some of the last detainees of the island prison Pagani, which had been closed down after revolts, plan on going back to Mytilene, where they want to protest against the construction of a new large prison on the island.

– History of the info point during the Nobordercamp 2009:

– New Blog on the current situation on Lesbos:

Direct intervention against hunger and crises of any kind:

Igoumenitsa, Patras, Columbia / Athens

Again and again, the Infomobile has offered practical support in crisis situations. In 2011 that was the case mostly in Igoumenitsa in the period shortly before and shortly after the eviction of the informal settlement in the hills and in the olive groves around the harbour. In the winter of 2010 and again in 2012 it was mainly in several locations in Athens where unsheltered refugees were caught sometimes for a long while in dramatic situations marked by hunger and racist attacks , which they struggled to survive. Quite concretely practical help is needed: food, blankets, clothes, but also the treatment of minor wounds and the referral to experts (psychologists, doctors, lawyers, etc.). These quasi-charitable tasks are a necessary aspect of local support. Almost all contacts which lead to the building of longer-term structures (such as the newly formed Eritrean community in Athens described below) emerged from such situations of concrete crisis support and from the growing relationships between individuals who became multipliers (if they were not already) through their especially solidary attitudes. From this approach, however, we refrained from creating a separate charitable structure – we rather have the impression that this must be a necessary part of the work on the ground that can become a foundation of shared experiences and trust which can be the starting-point of further projects. We have not always reported about this part of our work which has mostly to do with undocumented persons on the verge of existence and under constant threat by the state (and others). Experience shows that publicity is often damaging for these hidden places: many times, such transit areas have been raided by police when they became public and known.

– Call for support Igoumenitsa 2011:

– Blog entry of 2011 on homelessness of refugees in Athens:

– Video of 2010 on shelterless refugees and migrants in Columbia (Athens):

Racism and racist attacks

Racism and fascist attacks have been a sad part of everyday life in Greece for a few years. The situation has constantly gotten worse in the past two years. Today there are reports of racist attacks almost on a daily basis. Many people have been seriously injured and some have been killed. We document at least part of these attacks on the Infomobile blog. We believe that it is important to have an exchange on forms of resistance against racism in Europe. This is why we published a juxtaposition of experiences of racism of refugees in Greece and Germany resp. of discussions on racist pogroms in the 1990s in Germany and on the current situation in Greece in 2011, which was based on various interviews. This kind of exchange could be intensified.

– Lostineurope:

Lostatborders: The dead and disappeared at the Greek borders

In 2011, the Infomobile installed a well in Provatonas, near Tichero, to commemorate those who died and disappeared at the border, and to signal the desire to process crucial experiences of the mobile’s first tour in the region of Evros in 2010. Similarly, activists of the noborder camp in Lesbos had established a commemorative plaque for the dead of the Aegean Sea in Mytilini the year before. The well in Evros was accompanied by the creation of a blog and a photo report, entitled “lostatborder,” to document the search for disappeared persons at the border. These were all means to try and express our sorrow as well as to provide assistance for those searching for missing relatives and friends. A translation of the report into Greek and Turkish is yet to be done; we welcome translators who can help us compiling these documents. A challenging aspect of our work is that our ability to assist relatives in search of possibly deceased loved ones is very limited. In addition to the suffering we witness in the jails or in the streets of Athens, this failure is the most difficult part of our activism, especially because, most often, there is no chance to find anyone. We are looking for ways to be there for the relatives while not getting lost in the futility of the search. This ongoing questioning explains why there have been no new entries to the lostatborders blog, and why we were unable to pursue building networks with groups of relatives in other countries, for instance groups of families searching for missing refugees from Tunisia.

For more details, please see:

– Lostatborder-Report:

– Lostatborder-Blog:

Revolts and legal aid

With some regularity, there are hunger strikes and revolts in the Greek refugee camps. At times individual inmates go on hunger strike, other times there are larger groups of refugees who refuse to eat for prolonged periods of time. There have been multiple cases in which mattresses or prison cells, or whole sections of a jail were set on fire. The outcome of these actions always depends on whether people succeed in raising public attention; publicity has a crucial impact on whether hunger strikers are subsequently the target of abuse by jail officials or police, or whether the protest results in a wave of releases or, in the best case, an especially cruel detention camp is closed for good. Most recent revolts in Korinth and Komotini began when the maximum period of deportation detention was extended to 18 months. In most cases, authorities responded with harsh repressions, there were incidents of police abuse and criminal charges were levied against several refugees, threatening them with prison terms of several years. The trials and legal defense will incur high costs, as basic legal fees alone exceed 1000 Euro. Generally, NGOs providing refugee aid do not cover such costs. We strive to provide at least a few refugees with a defense lawyer.

For more details, please see:

– Revolt in Korinth:

– Revolt in Komotini:

Fostering community networks: The foundation of the first Eritrean community in Athens

An Eritrean community is currently being established in Athens, aiming to create an organized network of mutual support. The Infomobile has been in touch with the founders since the authorities dismantled an informal settlement in Igoumenitsa where the Eritreans used to live. We suppose that setting up community networks supported by migrants themselves is the best possible and most sustainable assistance for both refugees and immigrants. We have thus tried to support the Eritrean community from the very beginning. Over time and based on this ongoing collaboration, we have been able to develop a mutual sense of trust. We value the openness of community members to actively search for contacts and partners, and to not limit themselves to one particular political or religious faction within the group or exclude members based on their gender. The Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees in Athens provides legal assistance for the community foundation, whereas we have been developing ideas to provide seed money to rent spaces for community events. More details are to be expected in one of the upcoming newsletters.

Island of welcome

Last year, we started “Islands of welcome,” a project attempting to open up prospects for refugees for a long-term existence in Greece. The islands provide crucial assistance for a few homeless refugees without families with exceptional needs and who, in turn, proved to be exceptional in offering their solidarity to others. It is our goal to help refugees in making plans for the future and thus offer sustained lasting support, eventually, however, enabling them to an independent life. For us, this support for individuals is an investment in future activists and supporters. So far, the project has access to one apartment; there will be a second one available in spring 2013.

Since August 2011, the apartment is home to three refugees from Sudan that we had met in Igoumenitsa. The three people take turns occupying the place and keep track of who needs help, who moves in next etc. A friend from Morocco, who participated in the Hunger Strike of the 300, is a contact person for the residents and he receives a small monthly allowance. For a while, a Greek friend offered Greek language lessons. Funding for the apartment primarily comes from individual donations, but especially from a few monthly sustainers. At 500 Euro/month, the costs for the apartment, language lessons, and food, are slightly higher than expected.

The new island of welcome to open shortly is going to be for women only. We are thinking about organizing this space together with the Sudanese community, which has been supporting single women, not only from the Sudan but also from Somalia, Ethiopia or Eritrea, for a long time. The women have jobs within the community and, in exchange, receive food and a small allowance. The apartment would provide a helpful addition to this form of support, and a community member could be the contact person, again, for a small allowance. We are looking for an apartment in a central location, similar to the existing apartment. We are hoping to pay less for this space, as rental prices went down, and we expect to pay ca. 400 Euro/month. We are looking for monthly sustainers for this apartment.

For more details, please see:

On the concept for the Islands of Welcome:

Clinics of Solidarity to counter the crisis:

Infomobile begins to establish networks with activists addressing other social issues

In Fall 2012, we started to intensify our collaboration with other self-organized networks that address the repercussions of the economic crisis and coordinate everyday forms of resistance in Greece. It is difficult to solely focus on issues of refugee and immigrant rights these days, given that “equalization” largely consists of depriving Greek citizens of their rights as well. We thus want to reach out and use our networks to facilitate transnational networks of mutual solidarity with other self-organized structures in Greece, and to learn from each other. We started this a few months ago by collaborating with the Clinics of Solidarity that sprung up over the past ten months. They are, after all, a point of convergence: in the clinics, everyone can get help, whether it is people with or without insurance, with or without papers.

– Solidarity to Health Selforganisation Countering the Effects of the Crisis in Greece with Clinics of Solidarity:

Donations for the Infomobile:

Wohnschiffprojekt Altona eV

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