On Thursday 20th April: Souda camp came under attack from local fascists – again.
Tensions have been bubbling since morning when a group of 10-15 locals gathered outside the newly rented building of our friends from Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, protesting their presence. A hateful act of intimidation.
Approximately 50-60 locals then re-congregated at 6.30pm in a park nearby where they then headed towards the Municipality town hall, in a louder protest, demanding the emptying of Souda camp, and the immediate cessation of SMH’s planned activities.
When we got word of an unfriendly mob headed towards Souda camp – currently filled with 800+ inhabitants – men, women and children – it triggered traumatic memories of the fascist attacks last November that we witnessed. Our Greek coordinator, Gabrielle, rushed onsite and the rest of the team were on high alert on the possibility of having to open our Athena Centre for Women again for anyone stranded, thus being exposed to possible attacks – as we did last November.
The riot police were already at the back of Souda camp when she arrived. Inhabitants of Souda reported rocks being thrown in just earlier and and chants of “F** you!” and “Kill us now” were heard. The tension in the air was so thick and within minutes of her arrival, an explosion went off.
At the same time, the shuttle bus arrived from Vial where a newly arrived single mother with her two children disembarked, wanting a space in Souda. Due to the chaos and uncertainty, it was agreed with the Municipality that it is best the family spend a night at our Centre before allocating accommodation space in the already-full camp the next morning. The family was quietly swept away and hosted overnight. They have since settled in and referred to the various services provided by other actors on the island, to support their stay here.
All commotion died down by midnight. We joined other solidarians out on patrol within the castle walls and streets, looking for anyone else stranded. Based on what happened in November, it was not until early hours of the morning that we breathed a little but everyone continued remaining alert and tense. It was a sleepless night for all and the camp was subdued the next day. Women stayed in their tents and for those few who ventured out, we received our sisters from Souda and provided the much needed listening ear.
- We are finding it extremely difficult to wrap our heads around the forceful resistance against an initiative by our SMH friends to offer services not only to refugees but to the inhabitants of the island. Having operated on this island for a year, we witnessed the extra unnecessary strain on the already collapsing Greek public systems – yet the work of various groups on the island have been sadly perceived as encouraging the refugees to stay or more to come. If only they can understand that NONE of the inhabitants of both Vial and Souda want to stay on Chios, beautiful as it is. Sorry guys, but none want to stay. They all want to be in their homeland, their cities, their homes which are sadly no longer an option. Or any place that isn’t keeping them trapped in limbo.The mindset that people brave a dangerous journey on an un-sea-worthy dingy just for “aid” is also sadly, myopic.
- We remain concern over the security of our brothers and sisters in Souda camp, especially with nonchalance of the authorities on site as reported by our friends from the Refugee Info Bus.
The AfS team strongly condemns any form of racism.
The ugly truth is that the current climate on the island is sadly one of intolerance – with a few noisy few fuelling it with their hate and gas-lighting with untruths.
We truly want to believe the intolerance is due to the frustration at European level and the majority of the population on Chios are decent people.
Hence we urge the responsible authorities to conduct a thorough investigation, take strong action against those responsible for inciting the violence and hate.
Intimidation cannot be allowed to be a way of life or tolerated.
Finally, we salute all our fellow solidarians who mobilised quickly into action at great risk to their personal safety and patrolled the streets and castle walls during the night.
Acts of solidarity such of these are required of all of us in these dark times.
Solidarity is our strength to fight injustice and violence, to fight against the oppressive EU border regime that daily violates the rights of our sisters and brothers on Chios.