A Summer Evening in Chania, the Immigrants’ Hangout, and Help for Syrian Asylum Seekers
The Community Kitchen
Scapegoating: Racist Attacks on Migrants, Roundups, and Detention
On the other hand, “Hakim,” an Algerian in his thirties, managed to build a satisfactory new life in Crete, his chosen destination, ten years ago. Able to speak Arabic, French, Greek, and a bit of English, he responded to my questionnaire in a conversation with my friend K. Born in Algiers, he has lived in Chania for ten years, but his family is still in Algeria. He first came to Crete after his father died, leaving him responsible for the support of his mother and three younger brothers. With wages very low in Algeria, and much higher in Greece ten years ago, as he heard from many friends who had come here, he thought he’d have a better life here. So he left home with only the clothes he was wearing and embarked on a difficult, expensive journey, traveling by land (often by bus) across North Africa and then through Turkey, like all the migrants he knows from Algeria, making his way without a smuggler or bribes. I was surprised to learn that he has been to Algeria and back a few times since moving here. He was stopped by the Greek authorities many times, but when the computer databases revealed no criminal record, he was simply sent back to Algeria. When he came over the border at night, he managed to stay.
Since arriving in Crete, Hakim has worked in fields and at an olive oil press in Kissamos; now he’s used to life here and prefers it. As another one of the countries bordering the Mediterranean, Greece doesn’t seem that different to him from the country where he grew up. This reminds me of what Anti-Racist Festival organizers said about the festival theme of “mare nostrum,” our sea, the Mediterranean: Let’s go forward, towards a sea that unites, not a tomb that separates and divides; towards a sea that nurtures freedom, dignity and creation, rather than wars, exploitation and poverty.” Ten years ago, Hakim found it easy to find a decent job to pay his rent and send money to his family in Algeria, although he could not get social insurance, since it was very difficult to obtain legal papers in Greece, even then. He heard from a friend who went to France because of the Greek economic crisis that it was easier there, since after a number of years a boss or landlord could intercede with the authorities to legalize an immigrant—unlike here. In Greece, the only way he knew to obtain legal residence and work permits was to marry a European woman—which some Greek and Bulgarian women would agree to, for one or two thousand euros, followed by divorce. That is no longer possible, since immigrants who wish to marry need a temporary residence permit called a red card, which is very hard to get.
Cross-Cultural and Multicultural Hope and Tolerance?
As I said earlier this summer, I am grateful to all the Greeks and foreigners who helped me gather information for this blog. They know who they are. All migrants’ names, and most Greeks’ names, have been changed to help protect their privacy. Comments from Dr. Irene Sotiropoulou come from a personal interview in Chania, June 3, 2014, as well as subsequent online communication. Journalist George Konstas (who wrote many of the articles about the Syrian migrants for the local paper) was kind enough to answer my question about Syrians still in Chania in a recent email, following his last published article on the subject earlier in August.
Trapped (from a blog full of citations)
Apokoronas Friends of the Chania Red Cross
The blog entry “Trapped” used the following Greek-language sources from the local paper Haniotika Nea, among others (which can be very roughly translated using Google’s translation tool, for example):
Conference in the Region about Hosting Migrants
Shelter for 345 Migrants (video)
For the Rescue and Hosting of 345 Immigrants: Unprecedented mobilization
In the Case of 345 Immigrants: Six arrests for trafficking in human beings
Forward to Hostels: The end of the adventure of underage refugees
For links to additional information about immigrants in Greece, see my June and July blog entries.