“I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world” (Socrates)
The #overthefortress campaign started in late August 2015 with a relay which lasted several months, combining an independent monitoring and broadcasting action with material support to people arriving on Greek islands and then traveling the Balkan road. With the progressive closing of every border through the route, in Idomeni, Greece, at the Macedonian border, what used to be just a step in the migrants’ path quickly became a waiting zone. Idomeni gradually transformed into a wide informal camp, where thousands of people lived waiting for the border to be opened.
In March, we brought to life the amazing #overthefortress experience: 300 people set out from ports in Ancona and Bari, and a land caravan, brought solidarity and humanitarian aid to the migrants stuck in Idomeni.
We decided to stay there, and together with the refugees and thanks to the contributions of many activists who joined us, we activated a series of projects and commodities (a power and wifi spot, a women’s corner, a radio…) until the camp’s dismantlement, occurred on May 24th. We followed step by step the clearing out of every informal camp and the forced relocation of people in government camps.
Even if we chose not to operate in government camps, because we oppose the policy which blocks refugees’ right to mobility and confines them in these concentration venues, our interest in their life conditions and claims has remained intact. In these months, we kept in touch with them and reported the protests and unacceptable life conditions inside of the government camps. Many of them we got to know personally in Idomeni, and we maintain that it is not possible to accept that the newly found European unity is based on the sacrifice of thousands fleeing from their country’s liberty and fundamental rights.
Starting from October 10th, an #overthefortress relay is again in Greece with a caravan. After the clearing of Idomeni camp and the deportation of migrants in government camps, the mediatic attention on refugees’ conditions has vanished back into invisibility. More than 60,000 people, though, are still blocked in miserable conditions in the Greek morass, waiting to be granted the possibility to legally continue their path towards another European country, by means of the relocation program or family reunification.
All the bureaucratic mechanism appears nevertheless uncertain and erratic, with unsustainable lengths and hardly bearable renounces, such as the inability to choose where in Europe to be relocated, or having to wait suspended in a seemingly endless limbo. The first round of interviews will come to an end in June 2017, and according to Amnesty, if this rhythm is maintained, it will take 18 years to relocate every Syrian migrant blocked in Greece, if ever that’s going to happen. Because, in the meantime, the European strategy of war against the migrants and the process of externalising the frontiers is going on undisturbed, so much that today EU, along the lines of the Turkish agreement, proposes a pact with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani: in exchange for 4,8 billions of euros disguised as humanitarian aid, Afghanistan must accept forced repatriations in the country and block further departures. Another country, tormented by an armed conflict which provokes millions of internal refugees and forced migrants, is thus considered by the Union as “safe”.
We will therefore stay in Greece until the end of October to collect and report, once again, the stories of men and women trapped. We will give room and voice to the widespread solidarity as well, which has stubbornly remained by their side, resisting an ever so heavier general atmosphere. In the meantime, this will be the first step for us to redefine #overthefortress campaign’s aims and places of landing, and to keep denouncing european policies’ vilenesses, in order to claim liberty of movement, human conditions in camps and respect of fundamental rights.
Our next stop will be southern Italy, among places of landing, identification, working exploitation, solidarity practices and good hospitality.
Overthefortress against any border
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