In September 2016, 50 people were forcibly removed to Jamaica on a private chartered flight. Most of them had committed no crime, had been in the UK for years and have families – and are now expected to appeal from Jamaica over issues with their immigration status. Flights like this have been going on since 2001 to various countries (although none with white populations) – but now a campaign is growing to get them stopped.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
On a recent trip to Hamburg in northern Germany REEL NEWS witnessed first hand the brilliant response from ordinary German people and activists to the unfolding European refugee crisis.
In the main rail station activists have set up a permanent reception area for refugees arriving by train. They are given food, tea and advice on how to claim asylum or travel onto further destinations if they wish. Meanwhile the city’s main conference centre is presently hosting 1,200 refugees with the adjoining exhibition space being used to sort tons and tons of clothes, tents and toys donated by local people and businesses.
It is a considerable task. At weekends a car or van arrives with donations every 30 seconds. Each day 6-700 volunteers come through the building to help process the numerous items. Sanitary packs are made up for women and children. Clothing and toys are safety checked then bagged up for either immediate distribution or to be sent elsewhere in Northern Germany. Such is the scale of generosity in this one city that they are now exporting aid to other areas.
As volunteers leave the building after their shifts, they stick their nametags to the corridor around the exit. In just a few days the area has become literally wallpapered with the names of those taking part in the relief effort. A visual testament to the scale of this one aid operation.
Meanwhile activists are also responding in solidarity with deteriorating situation for Kurdish people both in Turkey where a bombing campaign by the government has recently begun. Also in Europe, where small Kurdish communities are being threatened. By both repressive anti terror laws (the PKK is falsely branded a terror group), and also from local Turkish nationalists.
On Friday September 11th local antifascists staged an impressive show of force against in solidarity with both German Kurds, recently arrived Kurdish refugees and those fighting for autonomy. Particularly in the Rojava rejoin of Northern Syria where Kurdish forces are reclaiming territory taken by the murderous islamist ISIL group.
The protest marched through the city led by Kurdish groups and finished with speeches and music outside the local detention centre. Flares and fireworks were let off on the roof of an occupied social centre on the route of the march. Anti fascists are clearly making the link between the current situation in Turkey and the activities of far right Turkish nationalist groups like the Grey Wolves who had a protest planned for Hamburg the following Sunday.
Then on Saturday September 12th Hamburg became a police state as a modest 2,800 riot cops were drafted in from all over the country along with 10 water cannons and a helicopter. The reason? A threatened march by German neo Nazis. The police had argued that the march should be banned as they did not have the resources to control the backlash from local people. A feeble excuse, given the size of the police operation.
For those residents wishing to oppose the Nazis without actually having to look at them a non-confrontational protest was organised in a square addressed by the mayor and other politicians.
Meanwhile local antifascists, trade unions and leftist groups organised a march starting from the main station where Nazis defying the ban were expected to arrive. The police estimated the total attendance of both protests to be at over 20k.
As the march from the station began Antifa called their activists into the station as a train carrying a small group of boneheads was spotted arriving. Concerned that the Nazis trapped in the carriage might be overheating; the anti fascists took immediate steps to improve the ventilation of the carriage with those conveniently sized rocks that lie around railway lines in abundance. Riot cops were briefly prevented from getting to the platform in question as more anti fascists linked arms to obstruct their passage. The Nazis remained trapped on their train, any plans of marching in Hamburg destroyed by militant action.
Then around 45 minutes later a second group of fascists arrived. This time they managed to leave the station as the march had left. But within about 2 minutes they were running for their lives back inside as reports from spotters reached the demo.
Protected by a ring of many riot cops the Nazis (most of whom looked like a cross between hipsters & metal fans) started doing that usual thing that the far right specialise in. I.E. acting all tough and doing their utmost to provoke the increasing numbers of anti fascists, while enjoying the protection of the state. Before long, it was raining cobblestones on the police lines whom brought in water cannons for protection.
The fascist were then informed by their protectors that they would be searched ID’d and then removed from the city for their own protection. By now hundreds of Antifa and other activists were had them surrounded and more cops were brought in to keep them at bay.
Antifascists jeered at the Nazis as they were searched and corralled. Not exactly shining examples of Aryan perfection that they claim to be the ‘masterace’ whined that they were being victimised while dodging flying bottles and masonry. All in all it was a very bad day for National Socialism as those of them who accepted the ban on their event in Hamburg were also attacked and prevented from marching in Bremen.
Here at REEL NEWS we are very far from naïve about the real reasons for the supposed generosity of Angela Merkal towards refugees. Not least the economic incentives for recruiting grateful workers from desperate situations. However a weekend in Hamburg has done much to boost our faith in the ability of ordinary people and activists to organise in solidarity with refugees and against the moronic racists who are trying to exploit this crisis for their own purposes. Nice one Hamburg!
“We’re not afraid of you anymore! The more you attack us, the stronger we become!” says Lenin Escudero, UNISON rep for the SOAS cleaners who are demanding to be brought back inhouse and enjoy the same pensions, sick pay and holidays as the rest of the staff. More strike action to come…
The EDL managed to attract just 150 hate-filled racists to Slough for their “National Demo” on Saturday. Their smallest national turnout ever. One of their coaches had just 8 people on it and their organisers were heard begging their supporters for cash at their rally in the town centre. Splits and internal rows have clearly taken their toll. If calling this protest was an attempt a energizing an organisation that is in rapid decline, it seriously backfired. Many of them were complaining about the low turnout and poor organisation on twitter before the event even started.
Will no pubs open to get tanked up in before the march began. Bored EDL supporters were contained by the police at the station for nearly 3 hours. Nearby anti fascists jeered and heckled as half empty mini buses rolled in with the dregs of what is left of their active base. A group of local Asian men got as close as the police would allow to the racists and unfurled two unions jacks chanting: “St George was an Arab” at them.
When the march eventually started, what should have been a ten minute walk, took over an hour as antifascists blocked the route. A counter protest called by Slough Trades Council & local UAF attracted well over 100 people. The same numbers were mobilised by the Anti Fascist Network and at least a further 100 local youths turned out and joined the antifascists leaving the EDL massively outnumbered and in need of heavy police protection.
The police did disappoint charging into the counter protest on the high street with shields and horses. This to clear the route for the EDL, who threw glass bottles into the midst of the contained anti fascists injuring at least one person. Having pushed the counter protest back towards the shopping centre the police were then met by a mixture of anti fascists and local youth further down the road. The stand off was eventually broken when the police charged again with batons dogs and horses also scattering terrified locals out shopping with their children. Many local people were furious finding themselves banned from their own high street or imprisoned in shops until the EDL rally had finished.
Despite locking down the entire town centre the police found getting the EDL back to the station just as difficult. Many anti fascists had regrouped and continued to heckle the racists and block their way home. As usual the ‘master race’ challenged everyone to a fight from the safety of their mobile kettle behind their riot cop protectors. The locals laughed and jeered at them telling them to come back without their security guards. More dogs and horses were deployed to clear anti fascists blocking the road near the station.
Slough can now add its name to the proud role call of places that are no go areas for the shrinking remnants of the EDL. Anyone interested in witnessing the agonising death of this loathsome phenomenon in person should head to Brighton for their next grand humiliation on April 27th.
The BNPs protest outside the Lunar House UK Border Agency HQ turned out to be small in numbers, pathetic in outlook and actually quite boring. For a party that previously had an elected London Assembly member and 12 councillors, the 27 strong demonstration was pitiful. Considerably less than the shambolic turnout by (EDL splinter group) the EVF a few weeks earlier at the same location.
After their arrival, under heavy Police police protection, the BNP spent the next two hours sitting around looking bored as their Italian mayoral candidate Carlos Cortiglia cured everyone’s insomnia with a succession of rambling speeches and barking mad conspiracy theories. According to Carlos, the UNITE trade union is campaigning to scrap the age of consent at the behest of the Labour Party which is itself a front for an enormous paedophile ring or something. The strange reality occupied by the BNP is even more paranoid and delusional than that of the EDL.
The BNP youth wing (if it still exists) was nowhere to be seen with half the demo made up of mostly male, middle-aged oddballs. The other half looking like a racist remake of Last of the Summer Wine.
As the protest dragged on the nazis looked increasingly bored and demoralised. Back in the 90s the Croydon BNP branch was one the biggest and most active in the country. On Saturday their presence was laughable with local black and Asian residents wandering past their demo looking neither impressed nor intimidated.
The only incidents that lit up the dullness of the occasion was a banner drop by South London Antifascists and a brief intervention by two extremely drunk EDL supporters who attempted to challenge the entire UAF demo to a fight. They were quickly bundled into a subway by the police before their alcohol-induced desire for martyrdom could be fulfilled.
After what seemed like a tedious eternity of playing megaphone tennis with the UAF, the BNP were eventually escorted back to East Croydon at around 3pm.
On Saturday (July 26th) the English Volunteer Force (EVF) and South East Alliance (SEA) promised to bring “thousands” of nationalists (ie racists) onto the streets of South London for a “peoples march against terrorism”. The ‘terrorists’ presumably not including the Loyalist murderers, bombers and gangsters whose banners they like waving on protests? It became clear that a slanging match was happening with the EDL leadership when the organisers were forced to release a cringe-worthy video prior to the event.
In the end the planned 9 mile march from Woolwich to “west minster” did not happen. A group of no more than 40 assorted racists & fascists protested outside Lunar House in Croydon against immigration. The building has been the focus of BNP protests in the past. So it was unsurprising to see plenty of familiar faces there. The EVF were the biggest group who seem to be little more than a front for what is left of the National Front (NF). The NF saw a recent influx of disillusioned BNP activists who jumped ship to their miniscule party after deciding that BNP leader Nick Griffin was too liberal for their liking. Despite this, it is still a tiny organisation with few members and resources.
A massive (and no doubt expensive) police operation was deployed to protect the EVF from over 200 anti fascists who came from a broad range of groups including the PCS (whose members work at Lunar House), Unite Against Fascism and the Anti Fascist network. The racists went through their usual ritual of acting tough while being guarded by hoards of cops. Meanwhile the police demonstrated their well documented impartiality by harassing and detaining the anti fascists wherever possible. Earlier in the day some local hooligans attacked members of the press near the protest. They were grabbed by the cops as they tried to run from the scene but the police then released all but one of them to join the EVF protest. Ignoring complaints from the assembled press whom had been assaulted. Would such leniency be applied to the left?
Despite being assisted considerably by the state, the fascists seemed to have a pretty miserable time of it. It was clear that the organisers were visibly shaken by the low turnout and that many in their midst were uncomfortable in each others presence given decades of splits and acrimony in the far right. One individual with a strong Israeli accent invited pretty much every photographer present to snap his t-shirt of the extreme Zionist ‘Jewish Defence league‘. Seasoned anti fascists were highly amused to see him being photographed standing next to well known holocaust denier (and former BNP deputy leader) Richard Edmonds. We can only assume that they did not get round to chatting about thorny issues like the works of David Irving?
After less than an hour of being shouted down by anti fascists from all sides. The EVF & SEA left under heavy police protection and were escorted to Woolwich where they promptly cancelled their march and took the train to Westminster for a tedious rally outside Parliament. There they were again harangued by anti fascists while being heavily protected by the police. Not a good day for the master race…
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.
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.
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:
Support Reel News!
If you like what we’re doing, become a Reel News Supporter to help keep things going! Starting at £3 monthly.
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.
This 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!