In this period of economic crisis and neoliberal attack on labour and social rights in Greece, we also face a generalized attack on migrants’ rights, a broad campaign by the PASOK government and the mass media to use migrants as scapegoats for social insecurity, unemployment and ‘criminality’. The Frontex Regional Office in Piraeus, the Rabits operation in Evros and Poseidon in the Aegean Sea, the ‘screening procedures’, mass deportations to Turkey, and the building of a wall to stop migration along the border with Turkey: these are the racist policies of repression and criminalization of migration, the establishment of a new European apartheid.
In this context, 300 migrants have decided to go on a major hunger strike in both Athens and Thessaloniki on 25 January 2011. The aim of the hunger strike is to bring about a new regularization procedure, the “legalization of all migrants”. It is the biggest hunger strike being staged in Greece and probably in Europe and is taking place in a period of rising racism. Under these circumstances we need as much solidarity as possible.
First of all, publicity: as the Greek media will certainly try to underestimate the issue we need international positive publicity. A text with signatures from groups or individuals from all over Europe would also be important. Even more, an action week in solidarity with the striking migrants would be very useful.
Secondly, and probably after the 15th of February – 20 days after the beginning of the strike – when things get crucial, it would be good if some of you or those with ‘institutional’ positions (from unions, NGOs, organisations, parties, or whatever) from all over Europe traveled to Greece to demonstrate in solidarity.
Waiting for your proposals and counting on your solidarity,
(from the Solidarity Assembly to the migrants’ hunger strike [CLT ed: The impending Solidarity Assembly blog will be posted here when it is up])
Statement of the 300 migrant workers on hunger strike from 25 January 2011
We are migrant men and women, refugees from all over Greece. We came here to escape poverty, unemployment, wars and dictatorships. The multinational companies and their political servants left us no choice but to repeatedly risk our lives to journey towards Europe’s door. The West that is exploiting our countries while benefiting from much better living conditions is our only chance to live decent lives, to live as human beings. Whether by regular or irregular entry, we came to Greece and are working to support ourselves and our families. We live without dignity, in the dark shadow of illegalness. Employers and State agencies benefit from the harsh exploitation of our labour. We live by the sweat of our brow and with the dream that one day we will have the same rights as our Greek fellow workers.
Recently our lives have become even more unbearable. As salaries and pensions are cut and prices rise, migrants are blamed for the misery and harsh exploitation of Greek workers and small businesses. Far right discourse is reproduced through the media when they talk about us. On issues of migration, the propaganda of fascist and racist parties and groups has become the formal language of the State while their ‘proposals’ have already become government policy: the wall in Evros, floating detention centres and a European army in the Aegean, repression in the cities, massive deportations. They are trying to make Greek workers believe that we are suddenly a threat to them, that we are to blame for the unprecedented attack from their own governments.
The response to the lies and the cruelty must be provided now and it will come from us, from migrant men and women. We will put our own lives on the line to stop this injustice. We ask for the legalization of all migrant men and women, we ask for the same political and social rights and obligations as Greek workers. We ask our Greek fellow workers, everyone suffering exploitation, to stand with us. Support our struggle! Do not allow the lies, the injustice, the fascism and the despotism of political and economic elites to prevail. These are the same conditions that forced us to leave our homelands with our children in order to live with dignity.
We do not have any other way to make our voices heard, to raise awareness of our rights. Three hundred (300) of us will go on hunger strike in Athens and in Thessaloniki on the 25 January 2011. We risk our lives because, either way, there is no dignity in our living conditions. We would rather die here than allow our children to suffer what we have been through.
Assembly of migrant hunger strikers