The LESVOS blog

DAY SIX

Back in Athens and today’s slideshow features four drawings made by Afghan children whom are presently residing in a squat that has been opened by activists for refugees in an abandoned office complex. Just take a look at these images drawn by children less than ten years old and then decide for yourselves if these people deserve our protection?

The squat in question has a twitter account here: Notara 26

There will be a benefit event in London for this space next Friday, please support it by sharing this post. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1569472236661238/

We are also pleased that our film Into The Fire is being screened at this event. When we made it three years ago it was an account of how vulnerable people, who were running for their lives, were being treated upon entering Europe. We remain proud of that film but stress that the issues it raised now pale in comparison to the refugee crisis that is being experienced in Greece now. We urge everyone in London to attend and support this event in whatever way they can.

 

 

DAY FIVE

Today we visited two refugee camps on Lesvos near Mytilini both of them a very different experience. The PIKPA camp was opened by activists a while ago and contains around 140 people who receive quality food and medical care. The disabled and traumatised are cared for with a wide range of activities being organised for the children.

By comparison the Moria camp and registration centre has grown massively in a short space of time and the people there are living in stone age conditions. Yesterday the first water pipes were connected. Just two, for thousands of people. There is still no electricity, health care or sanitation as major NGOs bicker over who should provide what and when?

Most of the people are sleeping out in the open meaning that this will become a proper disaster when winter arrives. The tents that some have are totally inadequate. Most of the people are from Afghanistan with some from African and Asian countries. The Syrians whom make up the biggest group on the island are processed more efficiently in a separate facility elsewhere.

The registration process is chaotic with an enormous backlog which traps people in the camp preventing them from moving on to Athens.

REEL NEWS interviewed some truly amazing doctors and nurses (ALL volunteers, most of them from the UK) who are running a small and under resourced medical facility in the camp. They are treating everything from dehydration of babies & small children to adult victims of sexual violence. We will post details on how to donate to their work as soon as we have them.

Today news is also filtering through that one of the Paris attackers may have been processed as a refugee in Greece. This is already being used by racists and the far right, to stir up anti refugee sentiment.

Firstly the idea that groups like al Quaida or ISIL need to exploit the refugee crisis to sneak into countries that they are targeting is beyond absurd. They already have millions of dollars in resources from oil-rich Gulf States whose complicity in their evil work is ignored by western governments whom are more interested in maintaining those lucrative oil deals with their so-called ‘allies’.  Those perpetuating international terrorism are surely going to have many more options at their disposal? Rather than entering government controlled processes (risking arrest if they are recognized) and putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers with a proven track record of sending their clients to the bottom of the sea.

Secondly the mostly Afghan people we encountered in the camp today are victims of exactly the same kind of murderous extremism that was seen in Paris last night. The perpetrators want to sow fear and division to create yet more fertile recruiting ground for their warped ideology. Seeing the innocent victims of war and terrorism as the enemy is playing into the hands of the terrorists. To oppose the madness of Paris is also to stand in solidarity with refugees and build bridges with fellow victims. Rather than walls built on foundations of fear and ignorance that the likes of ISIL rely upon.

 

DAY FOUR

Today the boats arrived one after the other. The weather reports for this weekend do not bode well and the refugees (aided by the people traffickers) are crossing while they still can. Many are now taking an even greater risk by arriving in the dead of night. The Turkish coastguard end their half hearted attempts at stopping and confiscating the boats at around 9pm. So tonight a boat was stranded on the rocks by a local lighthouse. Fortunately a rescue boat run by volunteers was on the scene to immediately evacuate a hypothermic baby before rescuing the others. All of them Afghans, mostly Hazara people. The baby was treated at the volunteer clinic and is now doing fine.

It is worth remembering that most of the refugees, especially those from land locked countries like Afghanistan have never been on the sea before, ever. Yet they are expected to navigate these dinghies with their unreliable engines across miles of unpredictable sea, which can change from calm to stormy in a matter of minutes. Doing the crossing at night is even more dangerous.

The volunteers on the shore try to guide them in away from the rocks to places where they can land safely. Once ashore the limited transport is reserved for anyone with immediate and urgent medical needs. Today a photographer from the UK ferried a heavily pregnant Afghan woman to one of the medical facilities in his hire care.

On the beach in Eftalou hundreds of refugees waited shivering in soaked clothes for the bus to the ‘Oxi’ camp where they will be registered before heading to Athens by ferry from Mytilini which is around 70km away.

One thing that many of the refugees are not prepared for is the walk of many kilometres to the nearest aid point. The coastline where they are landing is very long and resources are stretched.

Even taking into consideration the recent economic crisis, the response of the Greek government is shameful (don’t get us started on the richer European countries…). Yesterday the government provided transport for thousands of riot police across all of Greece’s islands to confront those marching during the general strike. Yet the most vulnerable people on the planet have to walk miles while suffering from cramp, exhaustion, malnutrition and many other conditions associated with being homeless and on the move.

DAY THREE

Today REEL NEWS visited the small fishing port of Sykamnias on the northern coast of Lesvos which has become a hub for refugee solidarity.

Rubber dinghies arrive, one after the other, along the coast as volunteers nervously line the beach to receive them. To say that they are dangerously overloaded is an understatement. They are CRIMINALLY overloaded and the people traffickers responsible for this are making a fortune from exploiting human misery and desperation. Each boat carries up to 40 people whom have paid several thousand euros each. Each boat & motor costs the trafickers less than 2,000 euros and many are being recycled off the beaches and sent back to Turkey.

Upon arrival, the refugees are greeted by a mixture of local and international volunteers. The boat people are exhausted and also traumatised in some cases. All are aware of the risks and recent tragedies. The volunteers are overworked and there is little coordination between the different groups.

However they are able to offer the refugees food, tea, dry clothes and basic medical attention before they head on to their next destination the port of Mytilini. Transport is arranged in some cases. Many of the refugees are either elderly or young. One arrival today was just 4 days old.

At present the weather is allowing the refugees to make the crossing without too much risk. The sun is shining and the sea is calm. The weather forecasts for this coming weekend are not good and all eyes are on the sea as the long overdue winter is expected to arrive soon.

DAY TWO

For an insight into the sheer scale of the present refugee crisis look no further than the port of Mytilini on the island of Lesvos. It is just one port on the frontline of this unfolding tragedy that spans across all the borders of Europe.

Hours before the ferry was due to leave for Athens hundreds and hundreds of refugees (mostly from Syria and Afghanistan) were camped out waiting for their place in the queue.

The weather was unusually warm and mild for the time of year, a small blessing for people whom have already travelled thousands of miles through appalling conditions. It will change before long as winter begins to bite. Usually this time of year would be characterised by cold winds and torrential downpours.

We interviewed a number of people today. All were from Syria & Afghanistan and telling a similar story. They had grown tired of living in fear in their own countries and waiting for things to improve. In Syria refugees had been patiently waiting in refugee camps for a resolution to the conflict for years and had given up hope of ever seeing peace. In Afghanistan the waiting had begun in 2001 and now things were getting rapidly worse. So they had joined the exodus into Europe looking for something that resembles a future.

As we left news was coming in of another boat capsizing on its way from Turkey with those on board drowning including many children.

 

DAY ONE

Today Reel News stopped in Victoria sq, Athens to speak some of the hundreds of Afghan refugees camped there on their way to Western Europe. Most were physically and mentally exhausted having been deprived of sleep since their perilous journey across the sea from Turkey.

They had left their homeland for a wide range of reasons.

Most were families fleeing a deteriorating security situation. In particular they were from the eastern provinces like Nangarhar which border Pakistan. Where a 3-way war is developing between the government, the Taliban and new insurgent groups whom have declared allegiance to the Islamic State and similar affiliates across the border.

Many were University educated young men from middle class backgrounds who saw no hope of getting a job or starting any kind of career in a country that is fast becoming a failed state.

Also there were a disproportionately high number of families from the minority Hazara tribe whom have long been persecuted in Afghanistan and see the situation getting steadily worse for their people.

The ages of the people ranged from the oldest grand parents to the youngest babies. Most expressed a desire to reach Germany, Sweden or Switzerland. All saw these as countries with strong economies where they could work hard and build a future for their families. Yet again exploding the racist myth that refugees are coming to Europe intent on living off benefits. Most have no clue what a benefits system even is.

We also interviewed Ahmad Abdi who was distributing much needed milk and baby food, which had been bought with money raised by the Athens Somali community. He said: “I was once myself a refugee. I have now have children of my own and could not stand by and do nothing. We are pleased to be helping our brothers and sisters in their time of need. But shouldn’t the UN be doing this?”

 

Into The Fire to be broadcast on the occupied ERT station

Funeral of Shehzad Luqman in Kotzia square in Athens. 19-1-13 The 26 year old Pakistani migrant was stabbed to death in a racially motivated murder on January 16th as he was cycling to work. His family and friends from the local Pakistani community met in

Journalists across Europe were shocked when The Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation in Greece (their national media service) was closed by the government at a few hours notice. Since the shock closure, staff at the station have gone into occupation and continued to broadcast online.

REEL NEWS is pleased to announce that they will show our documentary Into The Fire at 8pm on Friday July 19th. We are pleased for this opportunity to support the workers at the station and their struggle to save their jobs and this important national institution. We are also pleased at this opportunity to shine a light of the plight of refugees and migrants in Greece and to infuriate the Greek government, Golden Dawn and the Greek Police.

Into the Fire: The Hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece

For more information check out the Into the Fire website.

Today Into the Fire is simultaneously released on websites, blogs and other platforms around the internet.

Do you have a website or blog? Embed this film!

Use this link to embed the film to make sure subtitles are turned on:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMOnuD0SQJs&cc_load_policy=1

When you’ve published the film, don’t forget to add your link to the listing. It only takes a minute.

The film is available with subtitles in Albanian, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish with more coming soon!

In times of severe austerity things look bleak for Greek people, but they’re far worse for those who have recently arrived. Without housing, legal papers or support, migrants in Greece are faced with increasing and often violent racism at the hands of the growing Nazi party Golden Dawn and the police in Athens. Many are trapped by EU laws and legislation of other EU countries meaning they’d be returned to Greece if they managed to get to another member state, they are desperate to leave the country.

You can download the international version and subtitles in .srt format from Archive.org.

More versions will be added throughout the day, follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get updates or check our embedding guide for new uploads.

A version of the film with burned in English subtitles is available on Vimeo. You can also download it there. Other language versions will be added as we make them, follow or check the Into the Fire Channel for updates.

The premiere of Into the Fire on 29th April, 6:30pm will be hosted by the School of Oriental and African Studies. Habib Rahman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants will join us for the screening and discussion afterwards, the event will be chaired by Sham Qayyum. Join the Facebook event.

Into the Fire Trailer

On 21 April, Into the Fire will be simultaneously released on websites and blogs worldwide, including this one of course. The film will be available in various languages, including Albanian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish. There are a number of public screenings planned in several countries in Europe and Northern America. To participate in the release or organise a screening see http://intothefire.org/publish

The premier of Into the Fire on 29th April, 6:30pm will be hosted by the School of Oriental and African Studies. The filmmakers will be joined for discussion by Habib Rahman of the Join Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

In times of severe austerity things look bleak for Greek people, but they’re far worse for those who have recently arrived. Without housing, legal papers or support, migrants in Greece are faced with increasing and often violent racism at the hands of the growing Nazi party Golden Dawn and the police in Athens. Many are trapped by EU laws and legislation of other EU countries meaning they’d be returned to Greece if they managed to get to another member state, they are desperate to leave the country.

3 weeks to go! Are you participating in the distribution?

Into the Fire

Into the Fire will be an experiment in distribution. You have probably heard of crowd funding. Projects get funded by a lot of people who give a little money to make it happen. We are crowd sourcing our distribution: A lot of people will be releasing Into the Fire together with us. On 21st April 2013 they will embed the film on their blogs and websites. With every participant the size of the audience will grow exponentially. If you would like to be listed as one of the distributors, get in touch with the link of your website and a logo or image!

Are you participating?


Three years ago, the UNHCR called the situation in Greece a humanitarian crisis. Since then, things have gotten worse. Anyone perceived as foreigner is at risk to become a target of racist violence. Voices demanding the protection of human rights are not listened to. Even doctors who help migrants and refugees are threatened by racist groups. But refugees have no choice: European regulation forces them to remain in Greece, and stops them from moving to a country where they are save and have a chance to get their asylum case heard.

 

Don’t want to wait 3 weeks? Buy the DVD now:

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Let us know if you want the DVDs

 

Into the Fire: An Expriment in Distribution

It has been almost a year since we first reported from Greece. During the past year we have been working on a documentary taking a closer look at the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece.

We have been shocked by what we’ve discovered. Issue 35 includes our 40 minute documentary Into the Fire – The Hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece. We hope to reach a large audience with this film, and are starting on an experiment:

We want you to be our distribution network

We will publish Into the Fire on 21st April. That gives us 4 weeks time to get in touch with as many organisations and individuals as possible and see whether they are interested in publishing our film on their websites an blogs.

Funeral of Shehzad Luqman in Kotzia square in Athens. 19-1-13 The 26 year old Pakistani migrant was stabbed to death in a racially motivated murder on January 16th as he was cycling to work. His family and friends from the local Pakistani community met inThis is where we need your help!

Do you have a website or blog? Then we ask you to be our publisher. Do you know someone who has a blog or website? Email them and ask them to publish our film. Share our online posters and blogs, like us on facebook, tweet about the upcoming release. If you would like to write a review, help translate the film, organise a screening or have any other ideas, get in touch!

Reel News at “Europe Against Austerity” conference this Sunday

We’ll be involved at this event this Sunday, the day after the TUC march, showing films and photos from Spain and Greece.

Europe Against Austerity action conference
Sunday 21 October, 11am – 4:30pm

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Across Europe millions of people are taking to the streets to demand an end to austerity. There is an urgent need to link up these struggles.

On the 21st October there will be a Europe Against Austerity conference organised by the Coalition of Resistance and hosted by Unite at their London headquarters.

This will be an important opportunity for trade unionists and anti-cuts activists to discuss plans for future common action. The conference is nearly full so please us know immediately if your organisation would like to send a delegate. The provisional agenda for the day is below.

We will be livestreaming this event from our website for those that cannot make it.

Reel News will be showing a series of films from the recent demonstrations in Spain and Greece and the Greece Solidarity Campaign will be showing the film of their delegation visit to Athens. Award winning campaign photographer Guy Smallman will present an exhibition of his work. Breakfast is being provided by the Communication Workers Union.

There will be an international bloc on the TUC demonstration with COR, the GSC and others linking up with CND and Stop the War Coalition.

If you can provide homestay accomodation for the Saturday night for one or two of the international delegates please contact us.

There will be a post-demo social with food and music at the new radical venue, Firebox, on Saturday evening.

11am – 12pm Breakfast and welcome by UNITE and CWU
with Jim Kelly and Steve Bell

1) 12 – 1pm: Eurocrisis – Into the abyss?
Elisabeth Gauthier, Transform/PCF
James Meadway, New Economics Foundation
Stathis Kouvelakis Syriza
Myriam Bourgy CADTM
Chair: Andrew Burgin / Myriam Djegham

2) a: 1.15pm – 2.30pm: The shape of the resistance
Dimitris Gkinis OLME
Christophe Ventura / Danielle Obono Front de Gauche
Kevin Courtney NUT
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Vladimir Nehu SUD Sante
Chair: Chris Nineham / Attac France

b: No to neoliberal education
Alex Kenny NUT
Haralambos Kokkinos DOE
Student representatives
Chair: Jane Shallice

3) 3 – 4.15pm: Actions, co-operation and the the timeline to Athens 2013
Marisa Matias Bloco MEP [European Left Party]
Fred Leplat CoR
Dot Gibson NPC [personal capacity]
Natalie Bennett Green Party UK
Felipe Van Keirsbilck JSC
Chair: Kate Hudson / Anders Svesson [Sweden]

Coming Soon – Into the Fire!

After making Our Present is Your Future, we went to Greece a second time to speak to immigrants and refugees about their life in Greece. Many of those we spoke to were homeless, and often didn’t know where their next meal would come from. Trying to reach safety in Europe, they get trapped in Greece, in the midst of the economic crisis. They are left to fend for themselves. And people are scared. The streets in Greece aren’t safe – for those with the wrong skin colour. A 16 year old Somali was attacked an beaten by a group of men, after they shouted at him: “Hey black! You come to Greece? You will know Greece today!”

In preparation for this film we set up a website, with links to different organisations who work to support immigrants and refugees. Check it out here!

To get updates, you can also like Into the Fire on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

We are currently looking for partners who will help us reach a larger audience with this film. Are you working with a Human Rights or migrants and/or refugee organisation? Do you have a blog? A newsletter? You can help us by embedding the film on your website, or writing a review and linking to it. If you would like to participate, get in touch!

If you don’t have a blog or website, share the film with your friends and put it out on your social networks.

Help spread the word!

Another way you can help is by organising a screening of the film. If you do, let us know!

Potato Movement

This is the last film from the series ‘Our Present Is Your Future‘, you can also see the full playlist. Check our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter for updates on new releases. You can also get the DVD or become a Reel News Supporter!

While farmers don’t get a whole lot for their potatoes, in the shops they are rather expensive. In response, sales have plummeted. When farmers couldn’t sell their produce, and decided to give it away rather than have it go to waste, it was the start of the potato movement: Farmers and consumers are in direct contact on the internet and bypass traditional allocation structures, increasing the profit for farmers and lowering the prices for consumers.

Also see: Potato Movement rushes

 

Support Reel News – get a subscription!

If you like what we’re doing, become a Reel News Supporter to help keep things going! If you donate £3 or more each month, you will get the bi-monthly DVD delivered right to you doorstep!

Let us know if you want the DVDs

 

It’s not me anymore it’s us now – The Street Fighters from AlAnyA

We will be publishing the last film of our series on Greece Our Present Is Your Future next Sunday, and added to our playlist. Check our Facebook page to vote which one you want to see next. Get the DVD or become a Reel News Supporter!

Update: See full series ‘Our Present Is Your Future

The Solidarity, Disobedience and Resistance movement take a practical approach to the problems people are facing. They close down motorway tolls, block ticket machines for public transport and reconnect electricity where it has been cut as punishment for not paying taxes.

Also see: Motoway Toll Block (photo slideshow)

 

Support Reel News – get a subscription!

If you like what we’re doing, become a Reel News Supporter to help keep things going! If you donate £3 or more each month, you will get the bi-monthly DVD delivered right to you doorstep!

Let us know if you want the DVDs