Original article in Dari by Basir Ahang in Athens, Greece
Translation by Kamran Mir Hazar
Edited by Ambika Babu
While there seems to be no end to the continuing terror attacks and US led counter operations in Afghanistan, the plight of its refugees on foreign soils is worsening daily. Driven from their homes by continuing violence and instability, these refugees including hundreds of women and children, are seeking asylum in several countries like Iran, Syria, Turkey and Greece. Of these, Greece features the most deplorable conditions, which needs to be addressed immediately by international refugee authorities.
Hundreds of people are currently living in the Athiki park in Athens. Basir Ahang, the source of this article says that he is hesitant to move around Athens freely as he fears for his security. When interviewing refugees in the park, he was apprehended by Greek police, handcuffed and his recording equipment seized.
The camp lacks any medical facilities or security measures, making it especially unsafe for women and children. To make matters worse, the camp is now under constant attack from a racist group called Nazi Skins. They are clad in black uniforms, wear helmets and even have a special flag of their own. The group is reported to have members as young as 18 years and under. They target Afghan refugees and burn down businesses owned by them. On one instance, they assaulted Zyed Abbas, the owner of an internet café with batons. Mr. Ahang, who was in the café, barely escaped out a back door.
It was reported on the same day that the group viciously attacked four young members of an Afghan family, leaving one individual in a coma. He had been severely beaten with brass knuckles, a favorite tool of the Nazi Skins. Security forces were called in, but when they left, the Nazi Skins resumed the attack.
Greek police are accused of ignoring these attacks, often standing in corners as passive spectators. In another situation, police were asked to take a 23 year old young man, Rafiqui from Ghazni, Afghanistan, attacked with brass knuckles, to the hospital. Instead, the police allegedly searched his pockets for documents. By that time, he had lost consciousness from loss of blood. His hands were broken in four different areas, and he is now recovering in a hospital.
Though numerous legal Afghan refugees reside in Athens, the majority are not assigned refugee status and do not have adequate papers. As a result, hundreds of Afghans are imprisoned by Greek authorities for unlawful entry and possession of illegal documents. It is reported that even with adequate papers, the police do not pay attention and the refugees are detained.
Recently, 30 Afghan refugee families, including women and children were imprisoned. Among them, a widow with two children, age 3 and 1. Currently hundreds of Afghan refugees live in streets and parks in Greece. They leave their war-stricken homes in search of a better life, mostly for their children. One family came all the way from Afghanistan to Athens hoping for a brighter future for their children. However they were evicted after failing to pay the rent. Their 10 year old boy, Omeet, now scavenges in trash bins, looking for empty bottles to sell, so he can help the family survive. According to a source, at least 470 Afghan minors under the age of 18, have arrived from the island of Mettlini, near Turkey. The security of these children looms as a big concern.
In another report, published September 4th, the Greek police and national commandos detained 300 Afghan refugees in a combined operation. According to an Afghan cultural organization in Athens called Noor, a total of 850 Afghan refugees are currently serving in Greek prisons.
“For the last 17 days, my wife Zahor, sons Osman, 7 and Hossein, 3 are imprisoned in Tivir,” says Hossein. According to his lawyer, the family will be detained for another 6 months. Firoz Ahmadi, another refugee who has served in Greek prisons recalls his experience; twice a day, the inmates are lined up for police interrogation, which often includes physical assault. There was no medical help, and in his three months in the prison, he was allowed to shower only once. It was reported that neither Greek citizens including lawyers nor the organization ‘Doctors without Borders’ were particularly helpful when informed of this situation.
Noor (meaning light) is attempting their best to help the refugees financially and by getting them refugee status from the European Commission. They have had several lawyers take refugee cases. The UNHCR, on the other hand is reported to have turned a cold shoulder to the issues faced by Afghan refugees in Greece.
Photos by Basir Ahang