A Safe HavenPosted: April 13, 2012
Day 157-LXXXIII, from Μαραθιάς to Άγιος Νικόλαος, 20 km.
Day 158-LXXXIV, from Άγιος Νικόλαος to Εράτεινη, 10 km.
The hard core of the march is still the same as ever. We are now a little less than twenty people. In Agrinio we lost our American comrade Diego. He keeps on reporting about the revolution from Athens. In Patras we lost almost our entire Italian contingent, the ‘conspirators’. The only Italians left now are Max and me.
We also left behind one of our Catalan comrades. He is in hospital. He was feeling really bad, and so they did al kinds of checks on him. I haven’t understood well what happened, but according to rumours he is suffering from a severe case of broken heart.
Fortunately, there have also been people who joined us lately. In Mesolonghi comrade Mimo has returned. Mimo had already participated in the early stages of the march, and he caused quite a stir in Emilia Romagna, as a result of being a schizophrenic with a special love for knives.
Mimo is a Moroccan from Bruxelles. He has spent much of his life on the dark side of the system, or in prison. He used to be a professional car-jacker and a home-jacker, someone who steals your car or breaks into your house without minding that you are there. At the stoplight in broad daylight he would just open the door, force you out of the driver’s seat, take your car and race off. For a high class Mercedes he would make about five thousand euros.
He served eight years in total. He caused a lot of pain and distress to many people, but he says he never physically hurt any of them. He is done with his old life, and amazingly it doesn’t seem to weigh him down. He maintains an air of innocent childish happiness, which is exactly what the march needs right now, because overall, morale is still very low.
Apart from Mimo we have been joined by two Algerians from Patras. They are ‘illegal’ immigrants without ID, trapped in Greece. For years they have been trying to find a way to go to France, to their family, and they were delighted to hear that our policy is to refuse identification to police.
That’s why they came along. When our French contingent returns to France through the Balcans after Athens, they might try to join them.
One of them told me what it’s like to be an Algerian. At home, you suffer poverty without the prospect of ever getting out of it. The country isn’t poor, but it’s irredeemably corrupt. There’s oil, and on the coast the climate is favourable enough for many types of cultivation. But all the riches of the nation are divided among each other by a small clan of generals.
About twenty years ago people rose up against the establishment, under the banner of islamism. When the islamists won the elections, the generals reacted by cancelling the results and by starting a campaign of state terrorism. Everyone who was suspected of supporting the islamists became a target. And even if you weren’t, security forces could enter your house and shoot you through the head, as an example for your neighbours.
Hundreds of thousands of people died, the country was pacified, and the system of endemic corruption went on like before.
Today, as a normal Algerian, you can either live your life on the edge of hunger, or you can join the police, to control the masses and receive a decent pay. The only other possibility is to emigrate.
In the last few years, Spain and Italy have been stepping up their border patrols to prevent immigration. By now Greece is the weak spot from whence to enter fortress Europe. For us, priviliged European citizens, it’s no problem to cross from Greece to the rest of the EU, but for someone who comes from the other side of the wall, it’s much more difficult.
The sans papiers here live in a permanent state of fear. When they get arrested, they risk being deported to a concentration camp for immigrants, where they are either held indefinitely, or forced to negotiate their return back home.
And if isn’t the police they fear, it’s the fascists. With the economic situation degenerating, it’s easy for some people to blame the immigrants, and to make unprovoked attacks on them.
“All I want is to live a normal life, to work, to take care of my family,” Ali says, “that’s why I came to Europe. I thought Europe was the land of human rights.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong. Life may be hard for the Greeks nowadays, but for an Algerian without ID life is much harder still.
Then the March to Athens comes by, waving its flag of peace and shouting its slogans about a different world without borders. After all they have been through, we present a sign of hope. So they come along, and we welcome them into our tribe.
Here in the march they found three things that they had hoped to find in France.
Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité.