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The summer has sheltered immigrants in parks – how about the winter?

05 August 2015 / 23:08:16  GRReporter
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20-year-old Angelos (not his real name) has been in Greece for a month. I met him in the central Athens park Pedion tou Areos (Campus Martius) among 400-500 immigrants who have been living in tents there for several weeks. His journey from the capital Kabul of his native Afghanistan, however, started three months ago, and Greece is not his final destination. On his way to Sweden, where he wants to end up, he has spent a month in Iran and another - in Turkey. Like most immigrants who take the long journey, which includes the crossing of the Aegean Sea in old dinghies or speedboats, he wants to get to the Nordic country to settle there. He says relatives are awaiting him in Sweden.


In his fairly good English he explains that every day dozens of new immigrants and refugees arrive at the park. Some leave, but asked 'how', Angelos says he doesn't know. Like him, the rest do not have the necessary documents to continue their journey to Western Europe. It is a well-known 'secret' that they try to head off illegally in all sundry ways: by trying to board the TIR-trucks travelling by ferry to Italy, lately by train to Thessaloniki and then on foot across the border with Macedonia, etc. There have been frequent reports in recent months that hundreds of immigrants board the night trains to Northern Greece.

Angelos says with a shy smile that in Afghanistan he and a friend were into boxing and weightlifting. And he asks: "Couldn't I make my way to some European country as an athlete?".


While I am talking with him, children are running around. The older ones are trying to ride bicycles, which are obviously more suited for the younger ones. The toddlers are playing with castles and plastic figurines of animals, a little girl is honking a plastic piano.


Some have learned to say hello in Greek, others are just smiling or greeting in English. There are babies as well, surprisingly calm, despite the heat. Some of the women are handling their children, while others wash in shifts in the makeshift 'laundry room', which is simply a shady place equipped with several hoses and located near the 'bathroom' - a nylon-wrapped space between two tree trunks.



Despite the difficult conditions, however, they are beyond the point of return. "The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating continuously. No work, violent clashes – this is why people are always trying to escape abroad," says Angelos.

"Each individual case is different. Some have money and immediately begin to organise the next leg of their trip. A few of them file applications to obtain asylum in Greece, others are entitled to leave under the law for family reunification. Some still have not decided what they will do in the future," says  to Kathimerini another Afghan, who helps his compatriots every day in the park.


Other immigrant and leftist organisations take part in the operation of catering for the bare necessities to the park dwellers. Over the last two weeks, immigrants who are already established in Greece prepare breakfast and lunch for them. Nearly 5,000 helpings have been allegedly handed out so far in.

Individual citizens also chip in food, clothing, hygiene products and medical assistance. A mobile station of the infectious diseases prevention centre is also on site, and in the early days the Smile of the Child charity made one of its ambulances available to transport sick children to the hospital.


As GRReporter already wrote, the immigrants have settled in the park due to the lack of reception centres. After it came to power, SYRIZA padlocked the existing centres without putting new ones in place. As a result, the hundreds of immigrants and refugees, arriving every day in Greece, simply remain on the street. Exceptions like people having enough cash to hire a hotel room or private lodging are very few and far between.

Only a few days ago State Minister Alekos Flambouraris said that the government is hard at work putting together housing to shelter immigrants from the camps in the park. GRReporter paid a visit to the earmarked place, situated away from residential areas in Votanikos. It's a space of about 4 ha owned by the Athens municipality. The presence of several workers was a sign that preparations were given a start, but nothing has been built as yet.


The government says that permits for placing an electricity post have already been issued. Sewerage installation is also underway, writes Kathimerini. According to sources, migrants who wish to move there will live in containers, which can accommodate about 450-500 people between them. One-third of those living in the camp are children, 10 of which are not accompanied by a parent. The camp is fenced and is expected to be guarded 24 hours a day, but it will be of the open type, that is, immigrants will be able to walk in and out freely.


Tags: Society immigrants from Afghanistan camp Pedion tou Areos park a centre for immigrants Greek government
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