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Hell on Earth – refugees herded together like animals

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Only a few weeks ago, it was thought a scandal when Turkey opened its borders with the EU, despite the fact that the EU offered Ankara several billion euros a year to prevent refugees crossing that border to come into Europe. Today, that is long forgotten. Yet several thousand people are stuck in the border area between Turkey and Greece. Their situation is increasingly hopeless because Greece has not allowed any more asylum applications since 1 March.

The EU and its border force, Frontex, have sealed off the borders and taken rigorous action against people there. Hand grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets have been used. Where videos and reports are still possible, they show a clear and terrible picture of the EU and the nation states Turkey and Greece. Some videos show Turkish security forces, hand in hand with fascist organisations, first dragging fugitives into buses and then, in the no man's land in the border area, dragging them out by force with drawn guns.

Other footage clearly shows Greek coast guards trying to push back a rubber dinghy carrying several dozen refugees with an iron bar, or angry islanders and fascists from all over Europe waiting on the coasts, only to attack and chase back into the water people fleeing from suffering, misery, war and death. Cadres of neo-fascist organisations and the "Identitarian Movement", including from Germany, were sighted in Greece. They were only there to hunt down fugitives with weapons and to protect "their" borders. Although some of them, including Mario Müller, were beaten up, this is unfortunately only a drop in the ocean. It does not change the overall picture.

Fear of COVID-19 and fear of refugees
The situation in the camps on the five islands in Greece has always been appalling and it is getting worse. Up to 42,000 asylum seekers live on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos. Each camp is overcrowded and holding far more people than it was designed for. Moria, one of the largest camps on Lesbos, was intended for 3,000 people but, according to current estimates, 20,000 to 24,000 are living there under the worst conditions:
- There is one tap for every 1,300 people
- 167 people share a toilet
- 240 people share one shower
- Soap or sanitisers are hardly available
- Families with five or six persons must sleep in a maximum of 3 square metres. If the virus were to break out here, it would have disastrous consequences and cause many deaths.

“Wash your hands! Keep social distance!” Such hygiene measures are completely impossible! So far, there is only one confirmed case of COVID-19 on Lesbos. This was in the south of the island which has had hardly any contact with the refugees. However, it is surely only a matter of time before the virus reaches the camp.

A local anti-fascist activist from Dresden says: "In general there is a great fear of a corona outbreak in the camp. The danger is that the disease will be brought in from outside not that the people who are there brought the disease with them, as racists like to claim.”

And how does the Greek government react? The right-wing populist conservative party of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, New Democracy, has always stirred up hatred and hostility against the refugees. This has not stopped because of the corona virus. In the media and also in interviews one hears and sees again and again how refugees are equated with criminals and drug dealers.

They are also being used as scapegoats for the decline of the Greek economy. The fact that the EU Troika have sucked the Greek economy dry with their austerity diktats is hardly mentioned any more. Refugees are the new scapegoats for conservatives, racists, right-wing populists and fascists. We have already seen this from Germany, France, Poland or Turkey.

Isolation of the refugees
At least for two weeks, no visitors are allowed to enter the camps. Even the helpers from NGOs are not allowed in. Only one person per family is allowed to leave the camp once a day in order to do errands on the island. Other outdoor activities are no longer allowed. This means: no schools, no sports activities, no visits to the library. 24,000 people will be kept in an open-air prison under the worst possible hygienic conditions. It is clear that this situation will cause even more harm to people who are already traumatised and weakened. Without external distractions, children who had already tried to take their own lives before the COVID 19 pandemic will suffer from even more severe psychological conditions. And we are not talking about just a few.

The rising racism of the islanders is also reflected in the fact that the Free Citizens (Eleftheri Politis) an explicitly racist party, sits in the village parliaments and has 12 seats in the regional parliaments of the South Aegean. George Hatzimarkos, the governor of the Southern Aegean, announced that he would have a fence built around Camp Moria as an alleged further "protective measure" against the spread of the virus, making it even more obviously an open-air prison.

The racist incitement by Turkey, Greece and the nation states of Europe has encouraged fascist gangs to patrol the borders and islands. The violence on the islands went so far that journalists were beaten up and their equipment was thrown into the water. The situation is still tense, especially when civil society is only concerned about the Corona virus. The refugees are in a threefold life-threatening situation.

Shameful treatment of children
Seven EU countries, including Germany, declared themselves "ready" to accept just 1,600 children from the camp, after weeks of wrangling. Now, even this completely inadequate gesture has been made controversial. It is being suggested that the number of virus infections would increase if refugees are allowed in. This is clearly racist; currently most of the infected are in countries such as China, Italy, Germany, France, Spain - and fortunately not in the camps.

For the whole of the EU to only take in 1,600 refugee children, is not a virtue but a disgrace. It is just a symbolic gesture to gloss over the real, racist border policy. What is really needed now? The cancellation of the refugee deal with Turkey, which was renewed and extended on 13 March! The refugees must not be a pawn in the game between the powers, concerned only for their interests and profits! The opening of all borders and the dismantling of Frontex - now!

Because of the ongoing crises and wars, especially in Idlib, millions of people are forced to flee and we should fight for a dignified life for everyone and everyone! Not in camps or in the no man’s land between border fences! For the immediate evacuation of all camps. There is only one humanitarian solution worthy of the name; the opening of the EU's borders, the reception of people into the EU states of their choice, the creation and provision of housing, free medical and psychological care, education and training and jobs paid at collectively agreed wages. Refugees who are believed to have been infected by the virus should be accommodated and cared for free of charge in hospitals.

In order to prevent bourgeois governments and right-wing demagogues from playing the fugitives off against wage earners - e.g. the unemployed, precariously employed or people in poverty in old age, it is necessary to fight for work, a minimum income, social benefits such as old-age provision for all, paid by taxation of profits and large fortunes. To achieve this, anti-racist movements must unite with trade unions, workers' organisations, refugees and migrant bodies!