Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), endorsed by Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists and Southwest Asian & North Afrikan – Los Angeles (SWANA-LA). Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.
Earlier this week, the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy under extensive pressure by the European Union (EU), announced that cash assistance and housing services for formally recognized refugees would be eliminated. The decision comes off the heels of years of discriminatory policies that violate international human rights law and that have made the lives of the extremely vulnerable refugee community in Greece even more precarious. The withdrawal of critical assistance and housing services exacerbates the refugees’ lack of access to basic needs and justice, and further compounds the often ad hoc and arbitrary web of legal and social systems refugees are forced to navigate for basic survival. Namely, since the inception the of the March, 2016 EU-Turkey deal, refugee rights, under international law to seek asylum and protection in a safe third country, are denied. Many prominent human rights and legal organizations and individuals explicitly make clear the EU-Turkey deal violates and does not adhere to international law.
Since the EU-Turkey deal, upon which European countries accelerated the shut down of their borders, many refugees have become trapped in Greece, unable to continue their journeys as borders have tightened and unable to return home because of threats to their life. The Greek and European asylum system has not offered safe and legal pathway to seek asylum and instead, have slated thousands of people for deportation. We call on the EU to honor international law and allow all arrivants to Greece to seek asylum. The revocation of assistance and housing services in the already fragile political economic conditions of Greece, can and will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis of an already vulnerable population faced with militarized detention, an irregular legal system, limited access to justice, information, and resources.
We in the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists and Southwest Asian & North Afrikan – Los Angeles (SWANA-LA), stand in solidarity with the growing Refugee Movement in Greece, who are self-organizing against the violences of the European Union and Greek state, the ineptitude of the International Non-Governmental Organization system and against vigilante violence by growing European right wing-ultra nationalist formations such as the Golden Dawn Party. As a collective of Palestinians and members of the Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) Diaspora, working to advance justice and liberation in Palestine, we know all too well the struggle of exodus, forced displacement, and statelessness. For over seventy years, Palestinian refugees–who constitute what the United Nations recognizes as the longest refugee community–have perished in chronic conditions of camp life across the Arab region awaiting their return to their beloved homeland. For these reasons, we understand the pain, misery, needs, and aspirations of the growing global displaced community which as of 2017 totaled 64 million people and we affirm our solidarity with all displaced communities across the world and with the rising refugee movement in Greece.
We utilize this familiarity with refugee-hood to enact service grounded in community-centered, culturally relevant, and trauma informed trainings and political mobilization that contests racial surveillance, carcerality, militarization of borders, wars and imperialism, and xenophobic migration and refugee resettlement policies. Part of this work for us has developed through our exposure to the narratives and organizational efforts of refugees in Greece who come from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, West and East Africa and an array of ethnic and national backgrounds from across the Asian and African Continents. They inspire in us the belief that a new world is not only possible, but necessary as they have survived unimaginable violence and demonstrated profound resilience in the face of adversity.They have set an example for communities globally as they have demonstrated strength and determination in surviving violence in their homeland, perilous death voyages to Europe and the awful conditions of the camps, detention centers, and squats since being in Greece.
We note that the reason these communities have become refugees in the first place is deeply tied to the role of national and global capitalism. Global powers within the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)–those mandated to safeguard global peace and human rights–have in fact produced and profited from wars in the region, from the effects of racial capitalism on Global South economies and environmental conditions, and from native authoritarian regimes that suppress dissent and people’s aspirations for liberation. Whether caused by the harvest of empire or the rise of nationalist capitalist authoritarianism, these communities have fled their homeland most often because there was simply no way to survive there. They embarked on difficult and dangerous voyages to get to Greece, the first shores of the EU, and survived vigilante and state violence along the way along with exploitation by smuggling and trafficking industries. We affirm our belief that human mobility must be an honored and protected human right and not be criminalized. The right to return, the right to stay and the right to move are all critical to ensuring a safe and just world.
In Greece, the conditions for refugees who wait for resettlement or who avoid deportation orders, are difficult to say the least. Poor medical aid services and lack of proper humanitarian assistance services, chronic health conditions in the refugee camps, limited services for social, linguistic, and economic integration, lack of proper mental health and trauma informed services, and virtually no opportunities for employment and self-reliance as Greece suffers its own economic crisis as well, all make life for refugees in Greece miserable. We therefore call on the EU and Greek state not to cut cash assistance and housing but in fact to expand resources for all arrivants to Greece including proper medical aid including mental health services and more.
In addition, exclusionary rubrics of who constitutes a formally recognized refugee and who is relegated as an “economic migrant” stoke tensions between refugee communities who compete for basic resources within a frame of scarcity produced by the EU. This is precisely because the EU and international community policies have exclusive measures of which ethnic/national/political subjects are deserving of human rights and which are not. While we recognize the particularities of different groups’ conditions and experiences, we reject the EU and international communities’ false distinctions and definitions of who is entitled to seek asylum, human rights and services and believe that all people must be granted these fundamental rights as they are enshrined in international law.
Though INGO’s have barely met the basic necessities of refugees, and in fact often contribute to the violence which refugees are experiencing, the cash assistance and housing services were two of the only life-lines allowing these refugees to survive. Part of the problem lies in the INGO structure. Unfortunately, political movements have become limited by the restrictions of nonprofit organizations and INGO donors, which are fundamentally based on corporate structures of governance designed to maintain hierarchy, monetary profit and ensure material capitalist productivity as opposed to centering the needs of affected populations on the ground through collective healing and transformative justice frames. Often, the services organizations aim to provide, are based on these expectations, taking away from the more urgent, and less measurable outcomes communities actually need. In this instance however, assistance and housing are a well known, documented, and critical need for refugee communities. We believe that meeting the basic survival needs of our communities must be a critical component to our long-term radical movement work which aims to dismantle the ways in which NGO’s and INGO’s co-opt revolutionary demands for change.
We recognize that the needs, desires, and experiences of refugees in Greece highly resemble those of undocumented peoples in the United States, Mexico and globally and that systemic forms of oppression are convergent. As these systems in Greece converge between private militias and border control agencies, the Greek state, the international aid industry and right-wing forces; in the US we see this through the alliances fomenting between private border security and militarization companies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and nationalist militia. Similarly, in Mexico, we see these connections between White Supremacists and the State in their attack on asylum seekers. For these reasons, as part of a global community fighting for justice and liberation, we attest our solidarity to people worldwide from Central America to Asia and Africa in rejecting colonial barriers in migration, causing inhumane conditions brought upon by global north states. Solidarity is neither a guarantee nor a requirement – it is a choice. We choose to build with one another in a shoulder to shoulder struggle against state-sanctioned violence at home and abroad.