31. August 2017 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Lesvos : A group of 50 Afghan refugees occupied Lesvos’ historic Sappho Square · Kategorien: Griechenland · Tags: ,

No Border Kitchen Lesvos | 30.08.2017

  • Afghan asylum seekers‘ occupation of Sappho Square in Lesvos ends
  • Authorities promise to resolve all cases within two days, or face further action
  • The protesters faced violent night-time attack and abuse from an off-duty Moria prison guard

On Wednesday 28 August, a group of 50 Afghan refugees occupied Lesvos’ historic Sappho Square, saying they will never return to Moria prison camp. After three days of struggle, police have promised to meet their demands by issuing their asylum decisions within two days.

The protesters have faced threats and harassment from the Greek police, and violence and abuse from off-duty Moria prison guards, but vowed they would not leave until they are given a decision on their asylum cases or transferred to Athens.

On Wednesday 30 August, they won the agreement from the Greek authorities that their asylum cases would be decided in two days, by Friday 1 September. Many of these protestors have been waiting on Lesvos for 12 or 18 months without a decision, and this promise marks a major victory of self-organised struggle among refugees. If the promise is not met, they will re-occupy the square and escalate the protest.


On 28 August 2017, over 100 Afghan refugees and supporters marched from Moria prison camp to Sappho Square in the heart of Mytilene, the principal city of Lesvos. They wore t-shirts emblazoned with the date of their arrival on Lesvos, their asylum status – “no decision” – and the message “I will never return to Moria.”

They carried a banner reading “refugees are not enemies: the enemies are those who make them refugees” and chanted “close Moria, open the borders” and “Azadi, Azadi” – Farsi for “freedom”. Upon arrival, they set up a peaceful protest camp in Sappho Square, displaying their banners and demands.

Greek police have repeatedly threatened the peaceful protesters with arrest and detained community leaders, recalling the recent protests within Moria where police pelted refugees with stones, beat them with batons, and hospitalised other demonstrators with beatings before and after arrest. Following those protests on 18 July, 35 individuals were imprisoned on scanty evidence, with Amnesty urging an investigation into apparent police violence and human rights abuses during the arrests – “possibly amounting to torture”.

Nonetheless, the protesters vowed to remain, bedding down with blankets and singing Farsi resistance songs into the night. At 5:00AM on the second night of the protest, two men arrived on a motorbike, riding up onto the pedestrian square where the Afghan community was asleep. They shouted abuse and threatened violence, saying they would return to target particular refugees with attacks, and swung a punch at one refugee. One of the attackers was identified by refugees as a guard in Moria prison camp.


Many of the Afghan protestors have been trapped on Lesvos for over a year, waiting endlessly for a decision amid the inhumane conditions of Moria. Inhabitants of Moria must queue for hours every day to collect meagre food rations, and face constant humiliation and violence at the hands of the police. The camp is at least 1000 people over its 4000 maximum capacity, with new arrivals sleeping rough in the pathways between overcrowded containers where refugees live. Self-harm and suicide attempts are endemic, in a mental health crisis highlighted in a recent report by Médecins Sans Frontières.

As well as demanding freedom of movement to Athens and a decision on their asylum cases, the protesters call on Greece to halt all deportations of Afghans, noting the recent massacre of unarmed civilians in Mirzaolang as well as daily suicide bombings and US drone strikes as proof Afghanistan is not a “safe” country, as the EU claims.


Aarif Mohmand*, an Afghan refugee living in Moria, said: “I arrived on Lesvos on 23 June 2016. I have now been here for more than one year. Every day there are bombings in Afghanistan – 200, 300 people die. It’s not safe for us. When we arrived in Lesvos, I thought “we are successful, we have arrived in Europe, we have saved our lives.”

“Now, after one year on Lesvos, I realised there is nothing. Life in Moria is horrible. There are more than 5000 people in there, it is far overcrowded – I live together with 28 people in one room. You have to queue for hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner – there is a schedule for food, but nothing for our asylum claims. There is no asylum ‘system’.

“We want our rights. I hope some governments and countries, and the United Nations, hear our call and come here.”

Daud Nashir*, an Afghan refugee living in Moria, said: “The police came and said it was illegal to sleep in Sappho Square, and threatened to arrest all of us. It’s illegal for us to sleep here peacefully for one night, but not illegal to force refugees to sleep in disgusting conditions in Moria for over a year.”

Said Hashmatullah, the community leader of the Afghans in Moria, said: “There are over 100 Afghan people here on Lesvos who arrived in 2016 and still wait for an asylum decision. The children can’t get an education, the adults can’t study or work. They just sit, queue for food, and eat, nothing else. The people are going crazy as a result, suffering psychological problems. They are ready to kill themselves.

If it wasn’t for the fact that so many people die every day in violence in Afghanistan they would accept deportation – but we know Afghanistan is not safe either, and so we are waiting here. We came here for our human rights. But these ‘rights’ have remained a dream. And for this reason we have left Moria, in search of our rights.

The police told us to demonstrate inside Moria, but I told them we cannot – we have to inform the European community about our situation and they do not allow journalists inside Moria. We told them we are ready to go in prison before we go back to Moria. Our patience has run out. We cannot be here any longer.”

In a statement, the Afghan community of Moria said: “Today Afghan refugees in Lesvos are protesting our imprisonment on Lesvos. Many of us have been trapped on this island for over a year, and we are still waiting for decisions. We join the struggle of protests held on 17 and 18 of July, and demand that the right to freedom of movement be granted for asylum seekers who have been here since 2016.

We also join the call of Afghan refugees who protested last week in Athens, and call on Greece to halt all deportations of Aghans. From the recent massacres of unarmed civilians in Mirzaolang in northern Afghanistan, in which children, women, and elderly were ruthlessly killed, to daily suicide bombings across the country, to the reckless US drone strikes in Nangarhar, Afghan Asylum Seekers in Greece say: Afghanistan is not a safe country, and all deportation should stop.”

*names changed to protect the identity of refugees.

Beitrag teilen

Kommentare geschlossen.