When our friends Marta and Irene told us they were going to Greece for a month to accompany refugees and to write about the different initiatives that were taking place there, we quickly offered them space in our magazine. They are both very much involved in movements defending universal social rights in Madrid, and they like to describe what they experience, narrating scenes, capturing life in its detail, voicing questions and doubts, and avoiding hackneyed phrases like those of “hero” and “defenceless victim”, as you will note in their first chronicle “After the eviction from Idomeni.”
In Greece, they will come across closed borders and thousands of refugees waiting for their opportunity. Where and how do they live the waiting? It is very different being in an informal, semi-self-organised encampment to being in one of the military camps set up by the Greek government. The aim of this second “antiheroic Greek Chronicle” is to explain the difference. It seeks to describe a place where the future of thousands of people is being played out; and also, with little exaggeration, the political fate of Europe.
In their third chronicle, the writers present the bad food, military rations and obstacles they are finding when they visit refugees in the camps of Sindos Frakaport and Oreokastro. They also describe what they are doing there and how they try to maintain normal relationships without normalising the camps. To do so, they are finding many accomplices, both inside and outside the camps: refugees who want to run a collective kitchen, Syrian teachers ready to set up a school, Greek collectives who are preparing the No Border Camp event in Thessaloniki, etc. And, as they say: people, as well as talking about their individual material needs, also plan collective projects.
The bureaucratic labyrinth of the asylum application process for refugees in Greece is worthy of Kafka at his best: empty promises, blatant lies, telephone lines that are always busy, incomplete information, hopes that are raised and frustrated time and time again, aggravating slowness and, above all, there are just so many lives, so many trapped people. In their fourth text, Marta and Irene explore this labyrinth and describe how it functions in detail. They wonder about the role the Greek Syriza government has played in setting it up: what the government does, and what it allows to be done; the effects of its stand for military camps as a necessary step for refugees to continue their journey; and the multiple exclusions of a process unable to accommodate complex life situations.
In their final chronicle from Greece, the authors ask themselves about the political side of their experience supporting refugees for a month in Thessaloniki. To accompany without a prior objective, to share life as a whole and not just some aspect, to build an equal relationship in spite of all the inequalities that pervade and influence us, to show real, concrete solidarity and not charity, to question the accepted legitimacies, to connect and generate meetings that strengthen each other, to be available, to risk coherence, to organise a concert, to dance, to laugh… In short, to disobey, in every possible way, what reduces a human life to the status of a victim. This is politics with a small “p” or the power of common people.