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Greece: NGO Control Over Refugees

Four people were arrested in Athens on March 11th. One of the arrestees was a refugee.


Originally published by Anarkismo, edited by Enough is enough.

NGO Control Over the Detention of Refugees, Migrants, and “Unaccompanied Minors”

Non-Governmental Organizations have been shown to have a dangerous level of control over the autonomy and freedom of movement of refugees, especially those who arrived in Greece as unaccompanied minors. Furthermore, these organizations profit financially from their control over migrants, even those who have chosen to leave NGO programs in order to find housing in squats.

At 3:45 AM on Saturday the 11th of March, four anarchists were detained by the Greek Police, while on a patrol organized by the Assembly for the Self Defence of Squats. The police did not have cause to pull them over, but did so, made an unjustified search of the car, and demanded the IDs of all passengers, one of whom was an refugee, aged 17 (whose nationality is not prioritized for acceptance in Greece). This refugee is legally under the care of the NGO “PRAKSIS”, however, he had left their program consciously and communicated to them that he had found alternative housing. His reason for leaving this program is that PRAKSIS restricted his general autonomy, especially freedom of movement, and social/political interactions. Despite the fact that PRAKSIS had been informed by this individual that he was leaving the program by his own free will, employees there reported him missing to the police after he left. PRAKSIS requires all members of their programs to report into a shelter or office every 24 hours, or risk being reported.

The police took this as an opportunity to detain all four people in the car at police headquarters for five hours, although information as to the cause of their detention was not given for several hours. During this time, they were forced to present identification, their bags were searched, their cell phones were confiscated, and SIM cards removed and copied. A 500 Euro fine was also issued to the driver of the car over insurance, and the police revoked his driver’s license and registration plates for six months.

The refugee was kept an additional five hours, as the police refused to release him without the signature of a PRAKSIS employee. The NGO did not send any employee to release this comrade (who is legally under their care). Instead the other passengers of the car, after they were released, had to visit three separate PRAKSIS locations before an employee could be convinced to take this responsibility. The employees who were contacted initially refused to come as it was a Saturday, and they did not want to take responsibility on their day off. The employee who eventually arrived still refused to accept that this asylum seeker had wished to leave PRAKSIS, and threatened to let him remain in custody for an entire weekend, saying that he would be safer detained by the police then he would be in a squatting community. Furthermore, they have informed the individual that if he is detained by the police again (anything from the level of an ID check onward) he will be forced to spend at least one month in jail, at which point he will be assigned to another NGO program.

This falls in line with the strategy of the state to control migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers by treating them as a security threat, with the collaboration of NGOs. On a previous occasion, the same asylum seeker comrade was detained for 20 days in Larissa. Although he already had asylum papers, the police held him in custody until he was assigned to an NGO which would act as his legal “guardians”. During this time, he was kept as a prisoner in a jail cell, was deprived of his cell phone, and the length of his detention was repeatedly increased (originally he was told he would be released in 2-3 days). He was only given a place in a NGO in Athens (Metadrasi) after another friend intervened, as the police were not active in taking responsibility to find him housing. This demonstrates the strategy of the police in dealing with migrants and minors.

Furthermore, NGOs profit from this strategy, which is especially hypocritical. These organizations’ funding depends on the number of participants in their programs, thus they benefit financially from claiming that a participant is missing, even if they are aware that a person has found alternative housing. Also, they continue to receive funding for the care of an individual that is in police custody. In this way, NGOs directly profit off the very existence of individuals who are housed in squats, and have strong motivation to report those individuals to the police, further hindering their autonomy.

This is one part of the greater plan to completely privatize the care of refugees and asylum seekers. The State and the Capitalist (donor) class use NGOs to turn refugees and asylum seekers into commodities that are traded from organization to organization. NGOs hide behind the idea of humanitarianism in order to mask the fact that they gain both financial profit and political control from the refugee crisis. This has been an ongoing problem, concerning many NGOS in Greece (Metadrasi, Arsis, GCR, PRAKSIS, and many others). Squats provide a real alternative to privatized humanitarianism, and for this reason they are demonized by the state. A large migrant housing squat in Athens was evicted during the same weekend as the detention described here, and two others were evicted in the summer of 2016. This further demonstrates the threat that self-organized communities pose to capitalist manipulation of refugees and migrants.

The arrest on the 11th of March occurred outside the migrant housing squat (Alkiviadou) which was evicted by the police just two days later. The police still arrested these four comrades even after they were informed that the group was acting in defence of neighbourhood squats, thus the arrest was explicitly political. The Police are thus responsible for making squats more vulnerable to fascist attacks, which is in line with the state strategy to destroy self-organized migrant housing communities.

Squats (the real “non-profits”) must thus move to combat police violence and the commodification of vulnerable individuals, both for the protection of migrant communities, for the better organization of our self-defence structures, and to empower our refugee comrades to be active in the defence of squats. The Assembly for the Self Defence of Squats calls all migrants, refugees, and people in solidarity to organize for resistance against the state, fascists and predatory NGOS.

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