Another fascist attack on Souda camp on the Greek Island of Chios 20.04.2017

“A flash of light, a sound like a gunshot, and smoke billowed out from the camp. Residents responded in desperate shouts “You want to kill us? Fine!” People are losing their will to live stuck in tents on the shore of the furthest point of ‘safe’ Europe.”

Tents cramped along the shore, against the sea separating Europe and Turkey. Photograph by our Farsi/Urdu translator.

At 6 o’ clock on Thursday 20th April, Chios locals, reportedly from the Golden Dawn fascist group, collected outside the municipality to protest the planned building of a new hospital in Chios town centre, an all-inclusive initiative to offer healthcare not only to refugees currently residing on the island, but for the locals themselves. Despite the apparent benefits to local Chios residents, this indicates an acceptance of the permanency of the Syrian, North African, Afghan, and Bengali refugees stuck on the shores of this island, waiting while the EU process their claims for asylum in Greece and other European countries.

Fascists gather around the Chios Municipality in protest.

The wait here is excruciating; severe gaps in information about the asylum process, and very little guidance about individual cases leave people powerless. Refugees are truly stuck here on the coast of Chios, facing Turkey, waiting to hear if they will be sent back across the shores to this supposedly ‘safe’ country.

Souda Camp, Chios. Photograph by our Farsi/Urdu translator.

Around 50 protesters gathered outside the municipality and chanted, asking for the clearance of Souda camp, which holds mostly Syrians, and many families. Chios doesn’t want them there, people don’t want to be there, they want to be at home, but unfortunately that is no longer an option. Our team faced a lot of aggression from participants at the protest as we attempted to document the event on camera.

Crowds become irate in the town centre. Photograph by our legal assessment volunteer.

At around 9 o’clock, the crowds seemed to disperse. Within these three hours, there had already been attacks on refugees in the town centre. Unfortunately it became immediately apparent that a small group of them were heading in the direction of the camp, so we followed them. Fascist groups have been known to attack volunteers, so once we were noticed by the group, and frog-marched down the road by them, we diverted our path and lost them.

Arriving at the camp before the group, all seemed calm. A huge police presence on site seemed ready to respond if things got ugly. About an hour later, they did.

At 10 o’clock, there was a sudden explosion near the entrance of the camp. Something had been thrown in; the fascists had got to the camp. Souda camp backs onto houses, so even when the entrance is guarded by police, people can enter it through alleyways along the street. A flash of light, a sound like a gunshot, and smoke billowed out from the camp. Residents responded in desperate shouts “You want to kill us? Fine!” People are losing their will to live stuck in tents on the shore of the furthest point of ‘safe’ Europe.

At this point, police were nowhere to be seen. A little while later, when crowds had calmed, and families and women had begun to hurriedly leave the camp, the police returned; nonchalantly, from the direction of the source of the explosion. No measures were taken to investigate. In fact, there was no reaction at all.

Hiding at the sides of the entrance, we observed the small group that had harassed us down the road earlier. Shamelessly, they had come to the entrance to observe their work. Peering through police lines, they cajoled the two men carrying their injured friend from the camp.

One of our company got a phone call, and urged us to leave immediately. This was encouraged by a friend from the camp who had been standing witness with us. As we left, the group had gathered, on motorbikes, and were speeding up and down the road outside of the camp. Police stood by, chatting, leaning on their riot shields.

The fascists left shortly after us, at midnight. They’d set off their explosion, thrown their rocks, laughed, but most importantly made their point. They would not be held accountable for anything; the authorities were totally complicit with their violence.

In Chios, the situation is truly desperate. The human suffering is palpable; this is almost the first point of arrival for people pushed out of their countries by war, violence, and terrorism. And here they are, penned in on the edge of Europe, facing Turkey across the sea. The human suffering is unfathomable; but it is the furious racist hatred, and the authorities apathy, that is truly shocking.

Clothes drying across the sea from Turkey. Photograph by our Farsi/Urdu translator.
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