On the 1st of November 14 refugees, seven women and seven men, camped on the upper side of Syntagma square and begun a hunger strike demanding the reunification with their families in Germany. These refugees in particular had organised a number of mobilisations from April onwards, at the time when the Greek and the German government, based on an informal and illegal agreement, started blocking family reunifications.
The result from this short-term blocking was the trapping of thousands of refugees in Greece who for over 18 months have been living in refugee camps under extremely poor conditions, without knowing when they will be brought together with their families again. In most cases of the strikers their request for family reunification has already been approved and the 6-month limit for the relocation the law prescribes has been exceeded. However, the Greek and German states continue to delay the reunifications blaming one another instead.
The 14 refugees mobilised from the first days when the reunification procedure with their families was being delayed due to the racist international agreements. In coordination with other refugees from the camps they organised from below mobilisations demanding both reunification with their families, as they rightfully deserved, and the improvement of their living conditions. The mockery they were met with not only from the Greek government but also from the German lead the 14 refugees to the ultimate solution, putting themselves in danger, starting a hunger strike, demanding the lift of the blocking regarding family reunification.
After 14 days the 14 refugees decided to stop the hunger strike. Just before their health was in critical condition and just before the transfers to hospitals started. This decision was particularly weighted by the responsibility of the strikers for the children that are with them and their families which are waiting for them in agony in Germany. The end of the strike, however, does not mean the end of the struggle. The strikers declare that the struggle will be continued with the same determination, persistence and militancy. The demand for family reunification for refugees remains a topical demand and will remain until even the last family is reunited, against state modulations, authoritarianism and racist politics by Greece, Germany and the EU in general.
After 14 days the hunger strikers should be proud for what their hard fight has achieved.
For it was a fight fought with abundant dignity and militancy. The even-numbered presence of women and men in the strike and the role of women in organising and representing the rest, as well as the daily meetings and assemblies, the sense of solidarity and the commitment to a struggle affecting -other than themselves- thousands of others, leave no doubt regarding the moral superiority and political dignity of the hunger strikers. Let us remind ourselves of the way the strikers dealt with the racist and sexist behaviour of the German embassy which tried “due to safety precautions” to exclude women from the hunger strikers’ delegation. Let us also remind ourselves of the collective spirit and strong solidarity bonds that 2 hunger strikers exhibited who, although they were notified to pick up their tickets of their family reunification, they decided to remain in the struggle.
The hunger strikers should feel justified.
The silence was broken and, with it, the illusion that was persistently cultivated that the refugee situation has been “normalised” and the living conditions “improved”. In these two weeks tens of articles and reports were published in international, German and Greek media, many of which criticised the political game that is played behind the backs of refugee families, but also the inhumane conditions in which they are forced to. Both the German ministry of the Interior and the Greek ministry of Migration were forced to take a stance on the issue, and, even though they repeated the same allegations citing “technical difficulties”, they exposed themselves more than persuaded anyone.
More importantly the struggle of the strikers surpassed the Greek borders, mobilising the solidarity of dozens collectivities and thousands of people around Europe. The most significant perhaps moment was on Wednesday the 8th of November when the families reunited in the streets, when hundreds of relatives and solidarians demonstrated at the same time in Athens and Berlin.
During the second week a delegation of hunger strikers and Solidarity Initiative met both with the S. G. for Migration and the consul of the German embassy. The representatives of the two governments were met with people who do not beg, but assert. The hunger strikers heard sympathetic words and advice on the value of patience. The representatives of the governments spoke as if they do not bear any responsibility for the policies implemented, as if they do not implement the EU-Turkey agreement, prevention policies and discourage of migration. The policies that in the end do not benefit anyone other than the rising far-right in Europe.
With self organisation and solidarity
The struggle for family reunification is a self organised migrant struggle, with particular demands but much wider meaning. It is clear that the limitations to family reunifications are an example of the broader political “discouragement”, which makes up the core of EU’s anti-refugee politics. According to which the exclusion from rights for the ones who reach EU’s bordering countries aims to serve exemplarily/preventatively to those “thinking of coming”. The bodies of refugees in Greece are becoming the field of a biopolitical policy that is stripping them off rights, turning them into numbers, into objects to be managed, separated, selectively integrated, excluded, detained and deported.
The refugee hunger strikers have swapped the roles: they became those who put their bodies in the front lines, resorted to the ultimate means of political struggle which concerns all of society. They spoke for the thousands of refugees that are in the same position as them, they denounced the permanence of the refugee camps which is a permanence of social exclusion and they expressed their solidarity with the hunger strikers in Lesvos and the refugees in the hotspots of the islands.
The leading role of refugees was what mobilised tens of antiracist, social and political groups as well as unaffiliated fighters. The Solidarity Initiative succeeded widely uniting political collectives and set as basic principle the respect for self organisation of refugees, emphasising simultaneously the prospect of unity between locals and migrants, their common struggle for a society without discrimination, racism and exploitation. The experience of supporting the struggle of refugees was an experience of solidarity in the flesh. When a plea to the sensitivity of the most powerful stops being abstract, it becomes a creative and overturning action, which surpasses constructed divisions, whilst simultaneously respecting the diversity of the struggling subjects. This is what we are sure of: The struggle for family reunification spoke for much more than it demanded.
The hunger strike is only a moment in a lasting struggle!
The struggle goes on…
After these difficult 2 weeks in the camp in Syntagma we want to thank first the struggling refugees who put themselves forward for thousands of others, without considering the cost. We all learned a lot.
We also want to congratulate the dozens of solidarians who did security shifts, organised festivities, created under difficult circumstances an environment friendly to the children of the refugees and who took care of every little and big thing as the health of the refugees was getting worse day by day.
Lastly, we want to send a message of solidarity to the many people who passing by the refugee’s tents uttered their support for our cause, signed the solidarity text and contributed financially. And they were many many more than those who without questioning spat out racist clichés and spoke of Jewish-Mason conspiracies.
Immediate reunification for refugee families.
Decent living conditions for everyone!
Right to stay, freedom of movement!
Immediate abolishment of the EU-Turkey agreement.