Κυριακή, 23 Νοεμβρίου 2008
















Chania Migrants on Hunger Strike– the first 10 days
On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 15 immigrants from North African Countries (Algeria, Morocco etc.), active members of the Forum of Immigrants of Crete, went on a hunger strike. The hunger strikers are all residents of Chania and they demand residence permits, which will allow them to continue living in Greece legally. This text is a summary of their first ten days of struggle. Before that, a lenghty quotation from the first public statement of the hunger strikers:
“We are migrants, members of Crete Forum of Immigrants, living in Greece. We entered the country illegally, as the majority of immigrants do, since the political and institutional regime in Greece does not allow people seeking a better life in Greece to stay legally in the country where they themselves live, work, and raise their children. Since we were eligible to do so, we applied for residence permits in compliance with the law currently in effect; however, residence permits were denied to us, on the pretext that our passport had been issued after 2004, although we had applied for it at the embassies of our countries of origin in Athens long before 2004. We then followed the legal process of applying for the cancellation of this reject decision in the Greek courts, but our demand was rejected all the same. Each one of us paid thousands of Euros along this process. Many cases are yet to stand a trial, and this delay forces us into “clandestine” status. For the police authorities, none of our documents has any validity, so that the prospect of us finding ourselves in detention rooms or deported is extremely likely, since this has already happened to people like us. Existing migration policies and laws clearly aim at our marginalization, promoting ignorance not only of the problems we deal with, but also of our social existence as a whole. Faced with that, we decided to embark on a drastic course of action and raise awareness around our issues and difficulties.
We claim the right to live and work under decent conditions.
For a migration policy that will guarantee the legalization of all migrants living in Greece and their meaningful integration into the Greek society:
* it is vital that the injustice of us being held hostages of an unfair legal status, ends. The current regime either excludes us from legalization processes, or threatens us with “legalization” in the terms of Fortress Europe.
* It is vital that the renewal of residence permits is disconnected from the possession of a certain number of revenue stamps. This is extremely unfair for migrant workers, for whom informal labor, with no insurance whatsoever, is the rule and the only option. This regulation forces us into buying extra revenue stamps with their cost burdening exclusively the migrant worker.
* It is vital that the right to family unification is disconnected from proving a certain – high – annual income, since this requirement forces us into vouching virtual incomes from rural jobs – and into paying high taxation.
* It is vital that the cost for the residence permit issue fees is lowered, and that it corresponds to the real cost of the bureaucratic process.
* It is vital that municipalities employ more people for work in the issuing and renewal of residence permits. Furthermore, it is unacceptable that the essential information for applying is not available in the migrantsʼ own languages. The Forum of Migrants of Crete has already pledged to assist Municipalities in making this possible.
* It is vital that the detention and deportation of minors ceases.
* It is vital that all children born in Greece are allowed to be registered in municipality tolls, obtain certificates of birth, and be granted Greek citizenship – as it happens in the rest EU states.
* It is vital that international human rights conventions and treaties are respected in Greece.
Appeal to all organizations and political parties, municipalities and prefectures, labour union centers, trade unions and scientific associations. We ask for the support of political and cultural collectives and societies in Chania, the rest of the country and abroad. To all democratic and aware citizens.
On Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 15 immigrants from North African Countries (Algeria, Morocco etc.), active members of the Forum of Immigrants of Crete, began a hunger strike. The hunger strikers are all residents of Chania and they demand residence permits, which will allow them to continue living in Greece legally.
Their latest public statement is as follows:
We are migrants, members of Crete Forum of Immigrants, living in Greece. We entered the country illegally, as the majority of immigrants do, since the political and institutional regime in Greece does not allow people seeking a better life in Greece to stay there legally, in the country, that is, where they live, work, and raise their children. Since we were eligible to do so, we applied for residence permits in compliance with the law currently in effect; however, residence permits were denied to us, under the pretext that our passport had been issued after 2004, although we had applied for it at the embassies of our respective countries of origin in Athens long before 2004. We then followed the routine legal process of applying for the cancellation of the rejection in the Greek courts, but our demand was rejected all the same. Each one of us paid thousands of Euros during this process. Many cases have yet to be tried in court, and this delay is forcing us into “clandestine” status. For the police authorities, none of our documents has any validity, so that the prospect of finding ourselves in detention rooms or deported is extremely likely, since this has already happened to people like us.
Existing migration policies and laws clearly aim at our marginalization, promoting ignorance not only of the problems we are dealing with, but also of our social existence as a whole. Faced with that, we have decided to take this drastic action to raise awareness around our issues and difficulties.
We claim the right to live and work under decent conditions.
For a migration policy that will guarantee the legalization of all migrants living in Greece and their meaningful integration into the Greek society:
* it is vital that the injustice of us being held hostages of an unfair legal status, ends. The current regime either excludes us from legalization processes, or threatens us with“legalization” in the terms of Fortress Europe.
* It is vital that the renewal of residence permits be disconnected from the possession of a certain number of revenue stamps. This is extremely unfair for migrant workers, for whom informal labor, with no insurance whatsoever, is the rule and the only option. This regulation forces us into buying extra revenue stamps with their cost burdening exclusively the migrant worker.
* It is vital that the right to family unification be disconnected from proving a certain – high – annual income, since this requirement forces us into vouching virtual incomes from rural jobs – and into paying high taxation.
* It is vital that the cost for the residence permit issue fees be lowered, and that it corresponds to the real cost of the bureaucratic process.
* It is vital that municipalities employ more people for work in the issuing and renewal of residence permits. Furthermore, it is unacceptable that the essential information for applying is not available in the migrantsʼ own languages. The Forum of Migrants of Crete has already pledged to assist Municipalities in making this possible.
* It is vital that the detention and deportation of minors ceases.
* It is vital that all children born in Greece be allowed to be registered in municipality tolls, obtain certificates of birth, and be granted Greek citizenship – as happens in the rest of the EU.
* It is vital that international human rights conventions and treaties be respected in Greece.
We demand
that residence permits are issued immediately for all those who are eligible for them according to the law (hundreds of migrants in Chania alone). This could be done either through a common sense interpretation of the existing law, or through a reformation and broadening of the acceptable ways for proving entry into the country.
(…)
We are appealing for active and daily support and solidarity to all migrants living in Chania and the rest of Greece, to all democratic and aware Greek fellow-citizens. We want all society to be on our side. We need it. We expect support from political parties and members of parliament, municipalities and prefectures, Labour Union Centers and any trade union and scientific association. We ask for the support of political and cultural collectives and societies in Chania, the rest of the country and abroad, because we know that our struggle concerns everyone.
Because we know that what threatens the society at large is racism, oppression, exclusion and discrimination, it is not us.”




















Tuesday, 11 November 2008.
















At 5 am the hunger strike begins, 15 migrants participate. Since that moment, the struggle receives support from hundreds of people, Greek and Migrants. Their presence is impressive. The small camping of the tents where the hunger strikers are to spend the hunger strike days is set up next to the entrance of the townʼs city hall. A sound system is also there, and the migrants make the best use of it virtually singing in Arabic the demands of their struggle. The major has already alerted the police authorities, although he is aware that the 9/10 migrants are “sans papiers”: he is already guilty to our eyes of consenting actively to any detention and/or deportation the hunger strikers might be subjected to. Cops and officer-cops check out regularly the situation but do not intervene.
During the next night, some decerebrates and self-proclaimed “nationalists - racists”, on motor-bikes and big ideas for themselves, assault the hunger strikers with empty glass bottles. One of the motorbikes is halted by the hunger strikeʼs picketers…
















Thursday, 13 November 2008.
















A grand demonstration takes place in the streets of the Chania city centre to accompany the hunger strikers to the new site of their strikersʼ camp, in front of the Public Economic Agency facilities. The demonstrators have virtually moved the camp by lifting the tents up in their arms (see photos)! The change of place is due to Mayor Virvidakisʼ machinations: this prick has been busy thinking up ways to put the migrants to the added risk of immediate detention/deportation – as if the hunger strike were not enough. This change of place however does not signal defeat or retreat for the hunger strike. On the contrary, the new setting is in the very centre of the cityʼs economic, commercial and administrative life (lots of shops and public services there). Not to mention that just on the other side of the road (Tzanakaki street) there is an occupied Crete Polytechnic University building, which can offer added publicity to the whole event both creatively and organizationally. As the hunger strikers put it in their statement: “…we are leave the town hall entrance with our heads held high. We do so out of respect for the law, not for the mayor and his opinions. Fighters never leave the battle. They only move to new positions, just like lions like to change their den”.
More and more local associations, societies, trade unions, collectives and communities express their solidatity with the hanger strikers, hundreds of signatures have already been collected for the hunger strikeʼs petition.
On the same day, the hunger strikers issue a press release to express their solidarity with the ongoing massive hunger strike across the countryʼs prisons. In terms of participating numbers and broadness, this has been the most important prison hunger strike in Greece so far, forcing the Minister of Justice to proclaim a new draft of law, partially satisfying the hunger strikersʼ demands. The Chania hunger strikersʼ support was the natural thing to do, not least because a good half of prison hunger strikers were migrants - the number of imprisoned migrants, in Greece as elsewhere, is disproportionally large.











Monday, 17 November 2008.
















The annual demonstration commemorating the student and popular revolt against the military junta in Greece (1973), was turned in Chania into a mass manifestation of solidarity with the hunger strikers (both migrants and prisoners). About 800 hundred people attended the demo and supported the struggle.
The hunger strikersʼ health deteriorates, the first signs of exhaustion become apparent. No sign from the Greek government though. Local MPs of the opposition visit the hunger strikers and express their solidarity. The local Lawyers Bar issues an announcement, supporting the migrantsʼ lawful demands, and denouncing the unfairness they have been subjected to by authorities.
















Wednesday, 19 November 2008.
















The Chania city council becomes another arena of the migrantʼs struggle, with the opposition accusing the mayor of hostile politics against the migrants. The mayor, whose authority is directly involved in the unfair interpretation of the law against the migrants, has been attacked for his overall attitude and his dirty role in putting the hunger strikers in danger, ignoring the mass wave of support within his own municipalityʼs electorate. Of course, this is not just a local issue, but one that relates to core values and legal regulations in Greece and Europe as a whole. But resistance should also turn against local authorities that behave the way this mayor did, they are also responsible, as the Greek government is for remaining silent.
The hunger strikers demand to have a face-to-face meeting with the Minister of the Interior now, to state, loud and clear, their determination and demands.
Thursday, 20 November 2008.The first immigrant hunger striker in need of hospital aid is already suffering the hunger strikeʼs severe consequences. He fainted and was taken to the Chania hospital.










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