Observatory News Bulletin: On the events of Apil 22nd 2018 at Sappho Square in Mytelene and the developments a year after

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Observatory News Bulletin: On the events of Apil 22nd 2018 at Sappho Square in Mytelene and the developments a year after

The Οbservatory of the Refugee and Migration Crisis in the Aegean presents a collection of articles, announcements and audio-visual material, concerning a series of events that took place on Sunday, April 22, 2018, at a central square of Mytilene. The events included attacks of citizens of Lesvos, against a group of asylum seekers who, since April 17, 2018, had been protesting in Sappho Square due to poor medical supplies in Moria. The collection is presented on the occasion of a recent acquitting court decision for 108 refugees and 2 Greek citizens who had been arrested   during the events of Sappho Square with the accusations of illegal occupation of public property, and police resistance and includes material covering the period April 2018 - May 2019. It also includes the Introductory Text, which was produced by the Observatory of the Refugee and Migration Crisis in the Aegean in April 2018 as a reading context of these events.

The collection includes the following sections:

  1. Introductory text from the Observatory (April 2018)
  2. Articles from Greek (local and national) press
  3. Articles from international press
  4. Announcements in political, social and educational fora and announcements by humanitarian actors
  5. Published accounts on the events
  6. Links to published audiovisual material

​1.INTRODUCTORY TEXT FROM THE OBSERVATORY (April 2018)

The violent rally against asylum seekers that took place on the night of 22 April 2018 in Mytilene, Lesvos, was joined by significant numbers of far-right protesters and bore the characteristics of a planned attack. The rally not only manifested extreme xenophobic violence, but also exhibited the toleration of such violence among various strata of local society. In this capacity, its implications extend beyond the confines of local society, to acquire broader ramifications.

Indeed, the recent events in Lesvos reflect a shift in the attitudes of ‘solidarity’ that had flourished between 2015 and 2016, and which appear to be absent at the current juncture. Previous states of tolerance and rhetorical support for asylum seeking refugees and immigrants are presently giving way to an increasing tolerance of aggressive and xenophobic violence.

This text complements the folder of the Observatory of the Refugee and Migration Crisis in the Aegean and offers an explanatory frame for the events that unravelled in the centre of Mytilene on the night of Sunday 22 April.

The geographical restriction that confines asylum seekers to the Greek Islands, put in place by the common statement of the EU and Turkey in 2016, has kept thousands of people in Lesvos’ facilities for protracted periods of time. This model has already been applied in Lampedusa and has failed to address the challenges faced by immigrants and refugees in humane manners. Moreover, the continual deterioration of reception and accommodation facilities has had significant effects on small island communities and the everyday lives of local populations. The relocation of asylum seekers to mainland Greece, administered by state authorities and granted to those who belong to ‘vulnerable groups’, is ridden with delays and usually proves ineffective, as it does not avert the entrenchment of appalling living conditions.

The general strike called by the Municipality of Lesvos on 20 November 2017, which demanded the island’s ‘decongestion’ and was joined by large numbers of citizens, constituted a critical juncture. Local authorities’ legitimate appeal for the lifting of geographical restriction policies, a request shared both by asylum seekers themselves and several organisations in support (see the campaign #opentheislands + 01), has triggered xenophobic reactions that find expression in everyday life and gain prevalence through various occurrences.

One such occurrence has been the mobilisation of communities residing in proximity to Moria’s hotspot. Initiated in the summer of 2017 and operating throughout 2018, local communities’ backlash has manifested variously, including the firing of a gun by a stockbreeder who sought to scare off aspirant rustlers. Related incidents include residents’ ongoing opposition to the rental and opening of NGO facilities in their neighbouring village, and local authorities’ adverse reactions to governmental efforts to improve living conditions in Moria’s hotspot and to install new containers that would shelter people during the winter months. The Rental Accommodation Scheme, put in action by the Ministry for Migration Policy and the UNCHR (program ESTIA), has also received negative reactions among social media users, who often condemn owners willing to rent their property to asylum seeking refugees. Finally, symptomatic of the prevailing tension is the defilement of the monument erected in 2013 in Thermi, a village close to Mytilene facing the Turkish coastline. The monument commemorated those who lost their lives in the fatal shipwreck of December 2012.

The planned attack against asylum seekers, who had been demonstrating in Sappho Square since Tuesday 17 April 2018, occurred within the social and political context that had developed in previous days. The asylum seekers, of mainly Afghan origin, had marched from Moria’s hotspot to Sappho Square, where they remained until Sunday. They protested against the compromised medical treatment that had been offered to a compatriot of theirs at the Vostanion Hospital of Lesvos. They disclosed that the patient had been reporting heart problems to Moria’s hotspot medical facilities three days prior to the heart crisis that eventually led to his hospital admission. The medical facilities of Moria (known as Moria Medical Support and affiliated to the Evangelical organisation Eurorelief, the operation of which has received strong criticism - see also here), however, ‘offered him paracetamol and told him that he will be fine’ (from an interview with the Observatory). While refugees’ demonstration was initially sparked by these events, the subsequent occupation of the square acquired broader dimensions and acted as a protest against the geographical containment of asylum seekers and the living conditions in Moria’s hotspot. The central chant of the protest was ‘Moria No Good!’.

The demonstration in Sappho Square, which constitutes the second similar event to take place between 2017 and 2018, appears to have triggered an unprecedented mobilisation of the far-right. While the demonstration and hunger strike that had taken place in the winter, and which had later culminated in the occupation of SYRIZA’s local headquarters, had sparked negative reactions, these had not been violent in nature.

The protest staged by immigrants and refugees in April 2018, however, was met by escalating violence. The appearance of publications, which commented on the ‘provocative public prayers of “Allahu Akbar” chanting immigrants in Sappho Square’, served to create a tense atmosphere. The tension was further enhanced when the municipal cleaning service attempted to clean the Square in the presence of both police forces and the mayor, who asked protesters to evacuate the space. The mayor’s subsequent statement to the Athens-Macedonian News agency, which was later reproduced by several media outlets, sought to communicate the exasperation that he claimed was experienced by large parts of local society. According to the mayor, ‘local society ought to return to normality, and such provocative actions (…) incite local cohesion, thus posing the risk of dangerous social reflexes’.

In all cases, the ultimate factor that appears to have contributed to the outbreak of violent episodes concerns the mobilisation of far-right groups. The closed Facebook group ‘Patriotic Action for Mytilene’, members of which had also participated in previous xenophobic mobilisations, issued a call for far-right group members’ participation in the flag lowering ceremony and summoned individuals from different parts of the island. In conversations we had during the events of 22 April and in the days that followed, several residents reported disconcerting rumours regarding the arrival of Golden Dawn members and riot police from Athens. The fact that the court order for the evacuation of the square was issued on Sunday, that is, on the very day that the far-right mobilisation had been planned to take place, also stirred concern among residents. Moreover, the presence and operation of the police repeatedly failed to prevent the throwing of objects and petards on behalf of approximately 200 demonstrators against the 150 immigrants and refugees, as well as the 100 individuals who had joined the square in solidarity (see the Testimonials section of the folder). Finally, the removal of immigrants and refugees by police forces in the morning hours of Monday exhibited signs of violence and received criticism.

The Island of Lesvos, and certain areas and residents in particular, have been enduring both the high concentration of refugee populations, as well as the inefficient facilities dedicated to their reception and accommodation. At this critical juncture, events like the ones above generate tensions that set the ground for extreme forms of violence and establish a broader climate of toleration for xenophobic aggression.

The folder and introductory text dedicated to the events in Sappho Square serves the purpose of the Observatory of the Refugee and Migration Crisis in the Aegean to act as a body of knowledge and intervention in Aegean islands’ local communities. That is, it serves the systematic recording and accurate reporting on topics pertaining to the refugee crisis, with a commitment to the problematisation of processes of information production.

2. ARTICLES FROM GREEK (LOCAL AND NATIONAL) PRESS

Μεγάλη ένταση στην Πλατεία Σαπφούς  | emprosnet.gr | 22 April 2018

Σοβαρά επεισόδια εναντίον προσφύγων και μεταναστών στη Λέσβο | kathimerini.gr | 22 Αpril 2018

Ακροδεξιοί επιτέθηκαν στους πρόσφυγες που είχαν καταλάβει την πλατεία Σαπφούς στη Μυτιλήνη | tvxs.gr | 22 April 2018

Δεκάδες τραυματίες στα επεισόδια από ακροδεξιούς στη Λέσβο | efsyn.gr | 22 Αpril 2018

Επεισόδια απίστευτης βιαιότητας από ακροδεξιούς-Εκκενώθηκε η πλατεία Σαπφούς από τους πρόσφυγες | era-aegean.gr | 23 April 2018

Συνελήφθησαν και οι 120 ενήλικοι καταληψίες της πλατείας Σαπφούς | amna.gr | 23 Αpril 2018

Συνέλαβαν... τους πρόσφυγες στη Μόρια | efsyn.gr | 23 Αpril 2018

Τους πρόσφυγες τελικά συνέλαβε η αστυνομία από τα χθεσινά επεισόδια στην πλατεία Σαπφούς |era-aegean.gr | 23 April 2018

Πλατεία Σαπφούς απολογισμός: 120 συλλήψεις προσφύγων , 30 τραυματίες | lesvosnews.net | 23 Αpril 2018

Μυτιλήνη: Ούτε μια σύλληψη ακροδεξιού μετά τη φασιστική επίθεση​ | news247.gr| 23 Αpril 2018

Μια νύχτα που δεν πρέπει να ξαναζήσουμε | emprosnet.gr| 24 Αpril 2018

Τους περικύκλωσαν, τους άνοιξαν τα κεφάλια και έφυγαν ανενόχλητοι | efsyn.gr | 24 Αpril 2018

Οι φασίστες δεν μπόρεσαν να κρύψουν το καμάρι τους | efsyn.gr | 25 Αpril 2018

Λέσβος: Δικογραφία σε βάρος 17 κατοίκων για τα πρόσφατα επεισόδια | amna.gr | 26 Αpril 2018

Ταυτοποιήσεις ακροδεξιών για τα επεισόδια στη Μυτιλήνη​ | lesvosnews.net | 26 Αpril 2018

Ταυτοποιούνται από την ΕΛ.ΑΣ άτομα για την συμμετοχή τους στα επεισόδια της πλατείας Σαπφούς- Γνωστοί Μυτιληνιοί ανάμεσα τους | lesvospost.gr | 26 April 2018

Μέλος της Ν.Δ. στο πογκρόμ στη Λέσβο | efsyn.gr | 27 Αpril 2018

Ηχηρή και δημοκρατική απάντηση στο φασισμό | efsyn.gr | 8 Μay 2018

Έφοδος της αστυνομίας σε σπίτια τριών Μυτιληνιών για τα επεισόδια της πλατείας Σαπφούς-Κατασχέθηκαν ψηφιακό υλικό, υπολογιστές και κινητά | lesvospost.gr | 15 June 2018

Ερχονται συλλήψεις για το φασιστικό πογκρόμ στη Μυτιλήνη | efsyn.gr  | 18 June 2018

Στον Εισαγγελέα 26 άτομα για τα επεισόδια της 22ας Απριλίου κατά προσφύγων στην πλατεία Σαπφούς | era-aegean | 7 November 2018

Αυτό είναι το παράδοξο της ρατσιστικής επίθεσης στην πλατεία Σαπφούς | lesvonews.net | 22 April 2019

Το τέλος της ντροπής! Ένα χρόνο μετά τα γεγονότα στην πλατεία Σαπφούς και οι πολίτες της πόλης διαδήλωσαν σιωπηλά με ένα αναμμένο κερί στο χέρι | stonisi.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

Αθώοι οι 108 πρόσφυγες που διώχθηκαν για την κατάληψη της πλατείας Σαπφούς | efsyn.gr | 9 May 2019

Over a hundred refugees arrested after being attacked by fascists in Greece are finally acquitted | thecanary.co | 10  May  2019 

Μυτιλήνη: Aθώοι οι 108 πρόσφυγες για στάση και κατάληψη δημόσιου κτιρίου | iefimerida.gr |  14 May 2109

3. ARTICLES FROM THE INTERMANTIONAL PRESS

Far-right attacks increase tension in Greece's Lesbos | Al Jazeera | 23 April 2018

Far-right hooligans attack migrants on Lesvos, turn town into battleground | ekatimerini.com | 23 April 2018

AYS Daily Digest 23.04.18: Fascists Attack Refugees on Lesvos | Are You Syrious? | 23 April 2018

Extreme Right-Wing Group Attack Migrants on Lesvos (video) | Greek Reporter | 23 Αpril 2018

Migrants injured in far-right attacks on Lesbos | InfoMigrants | 23 Αpril 2018

Police detain 120 migrants, 2 Greeks after clashes on Lesvos | amna.gr | 23 April 2018

Lesbos: Far-right attack on migrants leaves several injured | DW | 23 April 2018

Migrants on Greek island of Lesbos attacked by far-Right extremists shouting 'burn them alive' | The Telegraph | 23 April 2018

Lesvos mayor puts onus for violence on government | ekathimerini.com | 23 April 2018

Tensions growing on the islands | ekathimerini.com |23 April 2018

Far-right extremists clash with asylum seekers on Lesvos island |greekcitytimes.com | 23 April 2018

Far-right group attacks migrants on Greek island | trtworld.com | 23 April 2018

At least 10 hurt after migrants attacked on Greek island | ekathimerini.com | 24 April 2018

‘One of the Hardest Nights’: Violence Erupts Between Greeks and Migrants | New York Times | 24 April 2018

OMCT Urgent Appeals: Greece: Physical attacks and threats against refugee rights defender Ms. Ariel Ricker | greekhelsinki.wordpress. | 22 May 2018

Over a hundred refugees arrested after being attacked by fascists in Greece are finally acquitted | thecanary.co | 10  May  2019 

4. ANNOUNCEMENTS IN POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL FORA AND ANNOUNCEMENTS BY HUMANITARIAN ACTORS

Ομόθυμη καταδίκη των επεισοδίων από τον πολιτικό κόσμο | emprosnet.gr | 24 Αpril 2018

Δηλώσεις - Ανακοινώσεις για τα επεισόδια στην Πλατεία Σαπφούς | lesvosnews.net | 23 April 2018

Ο Δήμαρχος Λέσβου για τα επεισόδια στην πλατεία Σαπφούς | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

ΣΥΡΙΖΑ Λέσβου για επεισόδια: «Οργανωμένη δολοφονική ενέργεια από ομάδες ακροδεξιών» | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

Ο Χ. Αθανασίου για τα επεισόδια στην πλατεία Σαπφούς  | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

ΝΟΔΕ Λέσβου: «Ηθικοί αυτουργοί των επεισοδίων η κυβέρνηση ΣΥΡΙΖΑ-ΑΝΕΛ | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

Σ.Γαληνός κατά Σ. Καραγεωργίου για ανακοίνωση της ΝΟΔΕ Λέσβου για τα επεισόδια | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

Η ΑΝΤΑΡΣΥΑ ΛΕΣΒΟΥ για τα επεισόδια στην πλατεία Σαπφούς | era-aegean.gr | 23 April 2019

Ανακοίνωση του συνδυασμού «Βόρειο Αιγαίο-Γόνιμη Γραμμή» για τα επεισόδια στην πλατεία Σαπφούς | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

Σχόλιο του Γραφείο Τύπου της Λαϊκής Ενότητας Λέσβου για τα χθεσινά γεγονότα | laikienotita-lesvou.blogspot.com |23 April 2019

Το Εργατικό Κέντρο Λέσβου για τα επεισόδια στην πλατεία Σαπφούς| era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

ΚΚΕ για επεισόδια: «Οργανωμένη επίθεση ακροδεξιών-φασιστικών ομάδων κατά προσφύγων-μεταναστών»| era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

Οι Οικολόγοι Πράσινοι για τα επεισόδια-Επίσκεψη Σκα Κέλλερ στη Λέσβο | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

Αστυνομικοί: Ανησυχία από τις επεισοδιακές εξελίξεις στη Μυτιλήνη- Ανακοίνωση από την ΠΟΑΣΥ | lesvospost.com | 23 Αpril 2019

Ανακοίνωση του Αντιρατσιστικού Παρατηρητηρίου του Πανεπιστημίου Αιγαίου | antiracist-observatory-uoa.blogspot.com | 23 Αpril 2019

Ανακοίνωση Σ.Φ. ΠΑΟΚ Μυτιλήνης | lesvosnews.net | 23 Αpril 2019

Προπηλακισμός από ακροδεξιούς της δημοσιογράφου της ΕΡΤ Μυρσίνης Τζινέλλη-Καταδικάζει η ΕΣΗΕΠΗΝ | era-aegean.gr | 23 Αpril 2019

League for Human Rights expresses “dismay” over the racists attacks on Lesvos” | Keep Talking Greece | 23 April 2018

Ο Βίτσας επικρίνει τη στάση της Αστυνομίας στα γεγονότα της Μυτιλήνης | era-aegean.gr | 24 Αpril 2019

«Συνύπαρξη»: Η κοινωνία να απομονώσει τους υποψήφιους εμπρηστές της γαλήνης και των προσφυγοφάγων | era-aegean.gr | 27 Αpril 2019

UNHCR | The Refugee Brief | 24 April 2018

Ανακοίνωση Συλλόγου ΔΕΠ Π. Αιγαίου σχετικά με τις επιθέσεις στην Πλατεία Σαπφούς στη Μυτιλήνη | alfavita.gr | 30 Αpril 2018

Πλήρης κάλυψη στην Πατριωτική Κίνηση![Vid] | emprosnet.gr | 26 April 2018

Απλώς «ακραίες φωνές» οι ακροδεξιοί τραμπούκοι | efsyn.gr | 25 Αpril 2018

Trial of Sapfous 122- Not Guilty Verdict on All Charges | legalcentrelesvos.org | 9 Μay 2019

5. PUBLISHED ACCOUNTS ON THE EVENTS

Αυτόπτης μάρτυρας: Το σκηνικό ήταν πολεμικό - φώναζαν "Καλό ψόφο" | lesvosnews.net | 23 April 2018

«Είδα παιδί 5 ετών με ανοιγμένο κεφάλι»: Το χρονικό ενός προαναγγελθέντος πογκρόμ | topontiki.gr| 23 April 2018  

Chronicle of a night in Saphous - A detailed hour to hour account of the events by a volunteer

Η «Εφ.Συν.» στον τόπο του εγκλήματος | efsyn.gr | 25 Αpril 2018

Με Αφορμή τα Γεγονότα στην Πλατεία Σαπφούς στη Μυτιλήνη | babylonia.gr | 30 April 2018

6.PUBLISHED AUDIOVISUAL MATERIAL

Μεγάλη ένταση στην πλατεία Σαπφούς | emprosnet.gr | >https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCbgRevG7Bc&feature=youtu.be

Πλατεία Σαπφούς επεισόδια 22 04 2018| Lesvos Post > https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=vu2bZf9Jcks

Facebook Βίντεο  > https://www.facebook.com/philippa.kempson.1/videos/10155783317829355/

Επιθέσεις φασιστών στη μυτιλήνη | Βίντεο πολίτη > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAvqeonEATU&t=3s

Γεμίσαμε... "ακροδεξιούς" > https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=YR-HrXqw5H0

Μυτιλήνη Φλόγες| Lesvosnews.gr > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g7LLWlzqi8 

Επίθεση φασιστών στους πρόσφυγες στην πλατεία Σαπφούς στη Μυτιλήνη | iskranews > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsmEWRf9Wr4

Εκκένωση της πλατείας | ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqlHeG0-ZFo

ERT3 | «Γνωρίζουμε τα πρόσωπα»: Η δημοσιογράφος Α. Σπυριδάκη για τα επεισόδια στη Μυτιλήνη (ΕΡΤ3, 23/4/18) > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYRiJ9I7h_4

Λέσβος: Χειροπέδες σε 120 μετανάστες | Euronews > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4GwXWT_PNE

Μυτιλήνη επιθέσεις φασιστών με την ανοχή των ΜΑΤ | Βίντεο πολίτη > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO-K0JG644s&feature=youtu.be

Μυτιλήνη Δολοφονικές ρίψεις αντικειμένων απο τους ακροδεξιούς | Βίντεο πολίτη > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvw3QGlM-A4

Ξυλοδαρμός αλληλέγγυου απο ακροδεξιούς | Βίντεο πολίτη > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qalf89WKRm

Ενωμένοι «ενάντια στον Διχασμό» |kathimerini.gr | 16 Μay 2018