Refugees escape prison and occupy the Chios port

Yesterday, refugees broke out of Vial to join protests outside. After more than a week of overcrowded imprisonment, insufficient food, bad facilities, degrading treatment and a humiliating lack of information and access to asylum processing, people felt awful. Fights have repeatedly broken out and the police has been powerless or unwilling to stop them. “These fights never happened in the open camps,” a local commented today. But now they do, and last night they boiled over. Fights started in the evening and went on late into the night. Stones were thrown, people wielded iron bars. It goes to show that if you starve, humiliate and isolate people sufficiently, they can turn on each other.

Broken windows in Vial this morning.
Refugees had already planned yesterday, after seeing their overwhelming numerical advantage over police, to leave the prison today. These fights hardened their resolve. “Noon tomorrow” they said, and at noon they broke out. Hundreds marched down to Chios town, to the port, where they want to take the ferry.

Refugees at the port in Chios.
Police isn’t happy about any of this, but is not sufficiently staffed to do much about it. Riot police may be brought here, but that will take at least a day. The mood at the prison is tense and nobody is allowed near the fences. “Yesterday was yesterday. Today is today. Go away now,” a uniformed man told me as I approached to hotspot today, shortly after the breakout. Very solemn faces were behind the fence, looking out. They seemed not to want or not to dare to speak. Gates between partitions of the camp, that had been open yesterday, are closed now. There are plenty of people inside who missed their chance of escaping, some because they had sickly relatives to take care of.

Vial yesterday, after the protest, when people were locked up again.
Most of those who broke out today want to stay on the dock until the ferry comes, it seems to me. The police wants the port cleared so ferries and legal passengers can go about their business unimpeded. But refugees want to go to, too, law and order be damned. (It is not surprising, after the treatment they’ve gotten, that their respect for European law and authorities has diminished somewhat.) A few hours after refugees occupied the port, a representative of the authorities walked in with an announcement: The open camp at Souda, a stone’s throw away, would be opened to them. The port might then be cleared, everything could go on as before. By and large, refugees said no.

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Man in uniform announces idea.

Their thinking is simple. They were told before that they were stuck in a prison. Now they’re not. They are now told they can’t go on the ferry. Why not? What’s there to stop them going further? It may not work out, but at least they have choices now. They can occupy the port or they can go to an open camp. These are choices won by their raucous disobedience.

From the protests yesterday.

This shows the essential flaw of the advice constantly given to refugees by NGOs, UNHCR staff and detention center volunteers: That they should stay calm. The simple truth is, you don’t beat injustice by accepting it. On the contrary, you gain concessions and protect your rights by defying it, by disobeying, by doing what is right even though you’re told you can’t. The people who yesterday were being told they couldn’t leave prison are now being begged to move to an open camp. This is the power of direct action.

Civilly disobedient.
It is hard to believe the police will allow refugees to board the ferry tonight. But the authorities will be in a tight spot. Refugees have been imprisoned here for two weeks without reliable information or food supplies, without access to an asylum process. They have every right to be allowed to move on, rather than suffer this humiliation. They know this. It will be hard to stop them.


Refugees escape prison and occupy the Chios port

5 thoughts on “Refugees escape prison and occupy the Chios port

  1. drs. Efthimia Dilpizoglou says:

    “This shows the essential flaw of the advice constantly given to refugees by NGOs, UNHCR staff and detention center volunteers: That they should stay calm.”

    They tell them to stay calm because their destination is the West, and the West unlike Greece will not put up with such behaviour. Rioting and breaking shit doesn’t work in the West. Western countries do not accept the premise that angry desperate people have some inherent right to riot uncontrolably.
    If you know anything about the Dutch penal system you should know that Dutch officers will happily hold down and jam a needle filled with a strong tranquilizer into the neck of any troublemaker. Unlike the Greek officers they have been trained to perform such emergency interventions quickly and efficiently. If these refugees think they can get away with this kind of behaviour once they reach the West they’ve got another one comming. The can get away with rioting and breaking free in Greece because Greece is incapable of doing anything about it for lack of resources and training. Hell, in Greece we’ve even got anarchist terrorists regularly breaking out of prison. The Dutch and the Germans on the other hand will not put up with any of this, have the resources to hire armies of riot police if necessary and the Dutch in particular, they’ve just announced they’ve got empty jails to fill up. Furthermore, it is a matter of public record that far-right politicians in the West are advocating the adoption of crime bills that will make it easier to deport refugees who commit a crime in the West while awaiting their asylum application, so the more unruly these refugees are, the better it is for those who want to get rid of them because their unruly behaviour will be punished with deportation. Greece is a macho Mediterranean culture not unlike the macho Arab cultures these refugees originate from, and hence the Greeks have a completely different attitude to violence, vandalism and rioting from the attitudes of Western countries. In Greece it is culturally accepted that violence is part of life, that people (men) cannot be reasonably expected to restraint themselves and that the desperate will inevitably riot. The West doesn’t accept either one of these premises. In the West there is no excuse for violence or vandalism of any kind and the desperate are basically expected to be good, docile, politically correct victims. In the light of all this, it’s not unsound advice from the NGOs to ask them to remain calm.


    1. Some may admire the strict monopoly of violence you painted so vividly. Of course, the picture do not cover regular and massive riots in France, Germany, UK or “less civilised” countries of mythical “West”.Nor it touches the difference between “legal” and “moral” behavior.

      I, personally, believe that it is universal reluctance to riot that put Greece in a position of a “sick man of Europe”. And I strongly hope that the Greeks (women and men) will become a bit less meek and humble.


      1. drs. Efthimia Dilpizoglou says:

        “regular and massive riots” <– I don't know what you are talking about. When was the last time there was a mass protest in a Western country in recent history?
        "in France, Germany, UK" <– refugees do not want to go to France or the UK. They want to go to Germany or one of the Scandinavian countries. When was there a massive riot in one of these countries?
        " And I strongly hope that the Greeks (women and men) will become a bit less meek and humble." <– so you want a civil war? Or is a regular war more to your preference. And, a propos, have you yourself ever either survived or participated in an actual war, since you appear to be such a casual advocate of the practice of war-mongering?


  2. Dear drs. Efthimia Dilpizoglou, do yourself a favour, get informed.

    1. Examples of riots in _Western_ countries in recent history:'_strike_of_2012

    2. “refugees do not want to go to France or the UK”
    Have you ever heard of “The Jungle” in Calais and the reason why it emerged?

    3. Strawman fallacy doesn’t work on me. I wrote exactly what I meant — every bit above that, including musings on war, comes exclusively from your mind and I have nothing to do with it.


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