Adams: A Sudanese refugee who runs a refugee aid centre in the Omonia neighbourhood of Athens.
Many foreigners have been killed
I think I found out about the death of that boy Alexandros, on the TV The demonstrations were started by Greek people. As foreigners we didn’t play the main role in what happened in December. But ultimately the demonstrations were used by many people in need, people who were angry with unemployment, with not having papers, angry with the police, or just frustrated by the whole situation. So they joined the demonstrations, but for their own purposes.
In the centre of Athens there was looting everywhere. Like I said, many people were using the occasion for their own motives. Of course as foreigners we were afraid of taking part in any violent actions in a protest or another situation because we have no power here. They could find a dead body after all the riots,what’s his name? It turns out to be an immigrant and it doesn’t matter. No one would hear about it. They can kill us much easier than they can kill Greek people. Many foreigners are wanted after December. They accuse foreigners of carrying out the robberies, the looting. Many Greek citizens complained about the thieving and the arsons and property damage. The media put the blame for that on us.
The police are violent in general, all the time. Many foreigners have been killed at the borders and the asylum centres. These feelings of resentment toward police behaviour had grown very strong, so people used the occasion of the riots as an excuse. But the Greek people were making a serious revolution to change the system. Since then things have gotten better. Now the police behave better and they treat us better.
What I saw was very limited. I didn’t go out at all to the demonstrations. The streets were full of tear gas, especially in Omonia. But how I saw it, the problem occurred suddenly and from there everything happened automatically. The Greeks meant to create change, they were organised, but the foreigners just took advantage of the situation.
Since December I don’t notice any change in our relations with Greek people, four months later. I have lots of contact with humanitarian organisations, but it's all the same. And I don’t feel any difference in attitude from the Greek civilians even though the media blamed the foreigners for the looting. But in the demonstrations everyone was mixed together, so how can they say who did it?
I can’t say if other foreigners have made contact with Greek anarchists or if they came together in December. Individually of course it happened but in terms of organisational contacts, there has been nothing. And I can’t judge if Greek sympathy for foreigners has increased or not. There are many good people in Greece, but they are afraid of us, especially of us Africans. I don’t know why; maybe because we have black skin or something. But if we came near to them and talked with them it would be good. But how can we do this when we are so far apart?
Here we are refugees. We don’t know about the situation faced by the immigrants. Their problems and our problems are very different. Many refugees have no papers and they are not learning about their rights like the immigrants do. Many refugees are thinking about the problems back in their own countries. Or they are worrying about their papers. The majority of us have no papers: we only have deportation papers. Many refugees will be killed when they are sent back. The refugees have been coming to Greece more recently since about 2003, but the immigrants have been coming here for longer.
I’ve been here since September 2004. That’s when I went to the police and asked for asylum. If you’re very lucky you get a pink card which says you have requested asylum and this gives you some rights, but most of the time they refuse to give you that card or take your name. And they almost never grant asylum, even if you get a pink card.
This centre is the Association for Sudanese Refugees. The majority of us are from Darfur. We established this centre to organise ourselves and be in contact with humanitarian organisations, to make bonds with Greek people, to help each other, provide access to lawyers, medical care, aid organisations, and free food. We raise awareness for the problems faced by refugees.And we help out the newcomers when they arrive. When a new person comes, we show him where to get food. So this is the place where someone can find us, exchange ideas, understand our situation. We also have an entertainment program. You can watch TV we eat together, drink tea together, smoke nargileh. It’s social.
It’s very difficult to get into Greece and once you’re here they don’t let you go to other countries in Europe. They make you stay here. Many people are trapped, forgotten in Athens. There's no work, many people have no money no where to go, people are dying here.
And on the streets they are constantly checking papers and putting people in jail. There is a guy I know who is constantly being arrested. In the past three years he has only been in the streets for 7 months. He has no valid papers so when they find him in the streets, they arrest him and lock him up for the three months. Then he’ll get out and be on the streets for a month before they arrest him again. It’s completely crazy.
The minister wants to clean up this neighbourhood to increase tourism. So the police come here all the time. There’s no social support. The only solution they have is a police solution.
The leftists are good. They are doing things, making protests, and they cover the city with posters. But after that nothing changes. We don’t get papers, they don’t stop the deportations, they don’t let us work, they don’t follow their own laws for asylum seekers. Nothing. They’ve signed international conventions that have protocols but they never follow the protocols. The only thing they do is send the police.