Freedom Party?

It has been a very busy week since my last update which left me at a cliff-hanger ending, waging a legal battle with papers and pens and basic information about the asylum procedure and charging through the front gates of Moria. Spoiler alert: I still haven't made it into Moria! I tried for a few days, arriving at the front gate relatively proper, sporting a collared shirt and a list of names & contact details of my Morian friends ('clients') that I kept in an old brief case found in the CK team warehouse. I told the guards I was there to provide counseling services to people who had requested them, as is their right under the Asylums Procedures Directive. I brought that directive with me in case there was any confusion. They told me to come back later, to talk to a chief of police who wasn't there, to arrange a meeting with Anthi Karangeli of the interior ministry (the so-called dragon lady who runs Moria) without any information about how to get in touch with her other than come back and talk to the next guard after the shift change. In many ways they told me to go away over and over again.

I went back to the gate with actual lawyers and even one supreme court lawyer from Lesbos and found that the situation at the gate was identical even for non-undercover-musicians. It's crazy. At the legal coordination meeting for advocacy groups working on the island, we heard similar stories, but most frightening was another fact which came to light in our discussion. There is no protocol, no set of procedures which the Greek Asylum Service is following and applying uniformly to everyone in the camp. Even if we could get into the camp to give advice, we don't know what we're preparing people for and the evidence we've seen so far in the form of rejection letters issued on the basis of inadmissability suggests some form of blanket expulsion that does not examine the merits of the cases in question. And so we wait. The pope came and went, everybody was fed for a couple days and the place got cleaned up a bit but now it's degrading back to its previous state of hunger, violence and disorder.

My legal ambitions being somewhat stonewalled, I've gone back to bringing music and company, making daily visits to the fence at Moria and inside another camp up the road called Kara Tepe. Kara Tepe is an open camp, meaning the approximately 1000 people there (mostly women, children, families and generally vulnerable people) can come and go as they please. I have an agreement with the man who runs this camp and refers to its inhabitants as "My People" to be able to go inside with my guitar on the grounds that I don't do anything other than play music and make his "visitors" happy. Stavros is an incredibly intimidating ex-military, ex-sercret service type, always wearing dark sunglasses that complement his apr├Ęs-safari look. Whenever I see him, he is holding court in the shade like a lion. And even though he doesn't ever appear to be doing anything, the toilets are always clean, food gets delivered door-to-door to every house, and the people are generally happy with some sense of independence. The only time I caught him in a moment of weakness was as he was being pummeled with pebbles by a group of laughing children. He took off his glasses and looked me in the eyes and said that somebody needs to run these kids around until they are exhausted.

I still have notebooks and pens and copies of the UNHCR's asylum interview preparation self-help kit tucked away in my guitar case but for the most part, they stay there. The lawyers I've been working with don't have time to follow up with anyone or know what to tell them and I'm afraid of giving people false hope. It's really sad to go over someone's story and tell them that even though ISIS burnt his home and his office to the ground and told his neighbours that they were going to find him and his family wherever they are and kill them all, even though he fears for his life in Turkey because it's so easily accessible to his persecutors, he will probably be sent back there because he failed to properly document his case. In his own words, he's not an economic migrant but a frightened human being seeking shelter. At the moment it feels like that shelter is not mine to give. Stavros told me that only Greek lawyers are welcome at Kara Tepe and that all of the foreign lawyers who want to help the refugees need to go back to their own countries and change the laws so that they can start accepting refugees there. His nationalist rhetoric stood as an affront to the zeitgeist of "No Borders, No Nations" which inspires volunteers to action but is nonetheless a very pragmatic outlet for their goodwill. There are 42000 refugees stranded in Greece and they don't want to be here. The answer was and remains: tear down your fences!

One bit of really great news that is spiraling around the volunteer grapeline is that everyone who has been in Moria for 25 days will be allowed to come and go as of Monday. I have no idea how this is going to happen in practice and nobody inside has received any kind of news about it. I read it on a pretty minor looking news site and can't find it anywhere else, but according to the new director of UNHCR on Lesbos it's true. The down-side and possible counter-rumour is that Kara Tepe is expected to receive an extra 2000 guests and if that happens, I can't imagine the toilets staying clean there (among other problems which would carry over from putting way too many people in a tiny space). Also, the No Borders Kitchen which was home to about 300 Pakistani men got bull-dozed this week and everyone was bused off to Moria. And the Better Days For Moria camp in the olive grove across the street has been completely dismantled, and that would have been a good alternative location. In fact, I really don't know where people are going to be housed if they leave Moria. But focusing on the good news side of things, if and when my friends in Moria are allowed to walk out the front door we're going to the beach and we're all looking forward to it and talking about it as if it's really going to happen. We never mentioned it, but they all arrived on a boat that came through Borderline's abandoned-cheese-factory-turned-welcome-centre on my first day on the island and I know which beach they landed on and how beautiful it is. My biggest wish is to take them back there so they can start their time in Europe over again, preferably with ice cream and a BBQ with non-food-ration-sized portions and no-lineup. I'm not really sure where to take them after the freedom party but these days little victories are worth alot and that would be a really great one.