26 January 2008

Patras: police rounds up thousands of refugees

PATRAS - Police in Patras the last week launched an operation aimed at rounding up some 3.500 refugees who have been camping around the central port for several months. By January the 24th afternoon, police had detained around 200, who were put on buses to Athens. The remainder are to be gathered over the next few days and sent to detention centers in Lavrion and Evros, in order to be deported to Turkey. In the meanwhile, shacks used by Kurds and Afghans in Patras were knocked down as authorities rounded up the refugees.

On the south east side of Europe, at Patras, the first European port to the west, hundreds of young men, some as young as 10 year old have only one wish: they dream of a sea passage taking them over to western Europe. These young men are fleeing their war homeland, Iraq and Afghanistan. After weeks and months of risky journeys they reach Greece. Patras police have been violent but refugees could live in a camp, under extremely poor conditions, often in paper shelter facilities. The camp host at least some 700 persons, mostly Afghans, including 300 children. (CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PICTURES OF THE CAMP) The conditions of the camp are horrible: no sanitary facilities, lack of drinking water and no provision of garbage collection. In 2006, a 33-year-old Afghan resident of the camp was instantly killed when he tried to illegally connect cables with electric wires, in order to provide electrical power for his makeshift hut. Since the last week, demolition of their self made shelter facilities has started.

The police operation is well organized. It started 3 days ago when police made some arrests in the port and published a leaflet in 5 languages, where they threaten the refugees to leave Patras by their own means. Today 23/1 started the operation of dismantling the unofficial refugee camp in Patras' coast. The police have given them few days to gather their things. The 30th January, the demolition will be completed. People are telling us that they prefer to die than to live under the regime of terror and insecurity. Children have disappeared from the shelter while their relatives from Afghanistan are looking at them. Activists and local people have been trying to help them.

In the meanwhile, a ferry arrived at the Greek port of Igoumenitsa the 19 January with 66 Iraqis Kurds and 4 Afghans, returned from the Italian authorities. They will be deported to Turkey as well as the 200 Iraqis arrested in Igoumenitsa the last week and sent to Evros, near the Turkish border, in order to be readmitted in Turkey.

Read also:
Bari: Italy is returning hundreds of Iraqis