The Thessaloniki No Border Camp in retrospect

No Border Camp

On the 24th of July 2016 in Thessaloniki, Greece, a ten-day No Border Camp came to an end. It was one of the largest in the history of No Border Camps, and one of the most discussed in the bourgeois media. It also stands out for being followed by the most brutal and vengeful State repression.


The Thessaloniki No Border Camp had been attacked by the mass media even before it had started. Two days after it had finished, a grand scale police operation targetted the social movement and specifically the structures of migrants' self-organization. Three occupied migrants' homes were evacuated. Indeed, it was made perfectly clear that practical solidarity and communities of struggle where locals and migrants fight together are most threatening for the authorities and the dominant order. If it had not been for this police operation, in this announcement we would be limiting ourselves to a description of the 50 workshops that were realized during the camp, of the networking meetings and discussions amongst people from Europe, North Africa, Turkey, of the demonstration at the detention centers in Paranesti and Xanthi, of the march against the Evros Fence. If it hadn't been for the police operation, we would now be recounting the march of solidarity to migrants in the streets of Thessaloniki of several thousands of people, led by a bloc of 500 sans papiers. We would be discussing the protests at the consulates of France and Germany, as well as the first international action of solidarity to the social movement in Turkey, a demonstration to the Turkish consulate against militarization and repression now spreading throughout Turkey under the pretext of the "response to the coup". And we would add that there were organized and spontaneous meetings and discussions at the No Border Camp by people who were active across the "Balkan Route" during the last year in structures of practical and political solidarity on the islands, in the cities and at the borders of Greece and other Balkan countries. And we would underline the most essential feat of this No Border Camp, namely the deepening of relations between locals and migrants, and -most crucially- the realization of migrants' autonomous assemblies and discussions - sans papiers living in the city, migrants living in Europe, refugees staying in the detention camps.

We had not realized how threatening these relations and these assemblies are for the powers that be. Now we have, we are determined to confirm this threat by continuing our struggles. This, of course, is a matter of practical actions and of collective organizing. It is not a matter of words. However, this retrospective text consists of words only, so let us add a few more.

First, let us say a few words about the government's total humbug about the detention camps around Thessaloniki, which it calls "organized structures", while calling the squatted homes "caricatures of structures that create insecurity". The minister Toskas spoke of "8,500 refugees being hosted by the State in acceptable conditions after they fled the disgusting situation in Idomeni, while these occupied places only hosted 32". He lied. There are not only 8,500 "invisibles" in State custody. There are another 8,000 in Cherso and Polykastro (in the area of Kilkis), 1,500 in the area of Pieria (Iraklis and Petra Olympou), 1,340 in Yannitsa and Alexandria, as well as 750 in Kavala and Drama. At a short distance from Thessaloniki, 30 to 60 minutes in a car, there are 16,000 invisibles, crammed in industrial buildings or in camps in the middle of nowhere. If we expand the radius, the invisibles' number reaches 20,000.

This is obviously a large number. And it is obviously much better for the State for this number to remain vague or secret and for these people to gradually become ghettoized, rather than for them to come into contact with the locals who are fighting against injustice, to join their struggles, or, worse still, to organize their own resistance. As we had expected, those of the migrants who had been transferred to the "hospitality centers" of "State solidarity" after their brutal evictions from the squats, immediately wanted to be taken away. Indeed, not one of the migrants could tolerate the "acceptable conditions" Toskas boasted about. Whoever had had even one day of experience at the evacuated squats, had found medical and legal aid there, had created relationships of equality with the locals and the Europeans, had joined their protests. Some moved on, others became integrated in the fabric of the city, some chose to participate in communities of struggle.

 Perhaps the residents of this city do not know that after the evacuation, the police had exact orders as to the number of migrants it could arrest, so that Toskas could then be able to speak of "32 people". The police had exact orders as to what kinds of people it would arrest, so they were careful not to touch families and children, because images of crying babies in police vans would then speak louder than the talking heads of State propaganda. The residents of this city did not see the gleeful smile on the faces of riot cops as they were denying entry to the evacuated orfanotrofio squat to a person who wanted to bring out from the debris the medication for a diabetic migrant who had just been arrested. These reality snapshots might be buried under the tons of dust of the bulldozer, but all the dust and detritus in this city cannot cover up the brutality of the authorities.

And now a few words about the university authorities. They can take pride in having paved the way for the police operation with their hysterical condemnations of a couple of damaged locks and a few graffitied walls...But more than this, they are the arch-accomplice of the State in the recent orgy of repression. These sad hypocrites have now made complete fools of themselves...They couldn't get enough of bashing the No Border Camp, for days they warned students against criminality and disease, but everybody knows they have never done a thing against the organized drug smuggling on the university campus, a practice that spread and became fully established after the special "asylum" status of the university grounds (=an old custom according to which the campus was a no-go area for standard police intervention) was lifted a few years ago. What clowns indeed.

And a note on this latter point: We happen to be living in the real world, and not in social media networks or ministries and shady dealing bureaus, so we know that the networks of drug smuggling that are now doing business at the university and the Rotunda square are also active in the State's "hospitality centers" that the minister of Public Order is so proud of. In other words, solidarity groups cannot enter detention camps, but drug dealers can and should. Using drug smuggling for public space management (university campus, Rotunda square) or for population management (first in Idomeni at its final stage, i.e. before its eviction, now at the "hospitality centers") is a well-worn method of governance: It destroys communities, it increases insecurity and it encourages violent behavior amongst the disenfranchised. It destroys any collective process, replaces social networks by mafias and authoritarian structures, and turns these detention centers into ghettos under the control of micro-gangs.

Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury to worry about the hurt feelings of Syriza members: They can hardly believe the shift of the Syriza government from the allegedly uncompromised anti-austerity "ant-memorandum struggle" towards "State-managed charity for refugees" and now suddenly to the full monty "dogma of law and order". Whatever these disappointed members feel, the government has chosen to continue the repressive policies of the right-wing Dendias period, in the broader context of both a material devaluation of life here due to a global capitalist attack, and a total moral devaluation of people through the official treatment of migrants as subhumans. All the government wants is to remain in government - and how able it is indeed to preserve social peace.

Left governamentality preserving social peace - this is where authoritarian left rhetoric meets the para-State mafia, the priesthood, the fascists, the snitches and collaborators. A bulldozer pulling down a haven of freedom is now the shameful emblem of their law and order.They had to resort to raw and brutal repression and to preposterous lies. This proves their weakness and embarassment.

With the common struggles of locals and migrants for freedom and dignity we will make their worst fears and nightmares come true.