By No Name Kitchener
December 2022 started with two weeks of heavy rain in the Western Peloponnese. Over the course of the month, demographics at the two derelict factories where the No Name Kitchen team distribute resources stayed the same; the vast majority of people are from Afghanistan with a few from Pakistan. There was a small increase in numbers, with two new people arriving at the smaller of the two factories and six or seven arriving at the larger one. The team were supporting up to 30 people at any given time.
People living at the ‘big’ factory tended to be younger, with some as young as fourteen arriving, and one of the new person at the ‘small’ factory was also a minor. We continued to support a few destitute individuals at other locations around the city; these people have more diverse nationalities and ages.
The people at the factories tended to share the view that making the crossing from Patras was very hard; the port security guards, sniffer dogs, and weighing of trucks meant that it was rare that anyone could move forward and get to other country where they have family or they prefer to ask for asylum, taking into consideration the hard conditions that Greece offers for people on the move and assylum seekers.
Most days the guys we would meet guys in the factories telling that they tried to get into some ferry before, and were disappointed and exhausted. The risk of violence also continued, whether against the person or to property. We spoke to people who had been assaulted by port security guards and had their phones deliberately damaged.
We saw first hand the administrative violence of extended stays in police cells with inadequate food, no exercise or fresh air, no legal advice and no access to interpreters. One minor who had been staying at the big factory before he was arrested chose to give up on Patras and said he would be willing to try to get to another safe country by foot, which could mean to walk theBalkan route during the coldest part of the year after he was forced to stay a week in a police cell.
Illegal pushbacks from Italy to Greece
Two push backs were reported to us at the beginning of the month. They had both taken place at the end of November, but were brought to the attention of the team in the early days of December.
The first came from a Pakistani man who, according to his testimony, had made it to Italy only to be returned to Igoumenitsa, a small town on the west coast of the Greek mainland which is one stop away from Patras on the route for ships traveling to and from Ancona, Bari and Brindisi. During a visit in the middle of December we saw that the conditions in Igoumenitsa are even more challenging than those in Patras, with displaced people living in a makeshift ‘jungle’ camp with restricted access to water and power. Though the man was not able to provide a detailed report about the pushback, his experience indicated that the trend of people who had take a ferry from Patras being left in this more remote and hostile location was continuing.
The second pushback report came from a 16 year old boy who was living at the ‘big’ factory. He provided detailed testimony of his experience of arriving at Bari and flagging down a nearby taxi, only to be taken by the taxi driver to a police station. He was fingerprinted, his age was incorrectly recorded, and he was placed on a boat bound for Greece. He was not able to request asylum during his time at the police station because he was not provided with an interpreter. He told that his plan was to join a friend from the big factory to continue his trip through the co called Balkan route before the month was over.
Legal support in Greece
Over the course of the month we continued to help people at the factories to access legal protection, with many choosing to register asylum claims via an online platform that the Greek authorities launched in autumn 2022. Over the course of the month we helped 7 people secure registration appointments at Malakasa camp, and we began work fundraising for their journeys and overnight stays before the appointments. We continued to provide general legal information to people uncertain about their rights in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, and continued a positive working relationship by referring out to a local charity for questions beyond our expertise.
In mid December the NNK team were visited by journalists from Swiss news channel SRF, who were working with the independent news agency Lighthouse Reports to investigate and expose illegal pushbacks by the Italian authorities. We shared our experiences, information gathered in the past and perspectives, introduced them to some of the people living at the factories, and one of our contacts at the ‘small’ factory gave an interview about a pushback he had experienced some months earlier. The film, article and website they produced as a result of the investigation is a damning and indisputable indictment of illegal practices by an EU member state, made with the No Name Kitchen Patras team’s cooperation and support.