Friday, July 26, 2013
Nabi, a 20-years old Moroccan, is lying on the ground. He looks dead.
Twenty minutes earlier we were sitting in the recovered-from-garbage chairs and furniture, smoking cigarettes and chatting in one of the abandoned wagons of the old train station of Corinth (Greece). Nabi lives there with about other 50 migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen. Nasir—a polyglot, art lover Afghan interpreter—asks Nabi, another art lover, to draw something. The young Moroccan sketches the boat of the Hellenic Seaways moored just 200 meters down in the bay. They all are waiting the lucky day in which they will be able to catch the ferry; climbing to it, or hidden in the load of the trucks that the boat carries to Italy. And then… go further North in search for a job, a future, a safe and normal life. Crisis-hit Greece has become a nightmare for them. There is not the slightest possibility for work in a country with rocketing unemployment figures. Greeks don’t want them, neither they want to stay in Greece, but they are stuck here because European Union treaties allow third countries to return them to the state where they first entered the EU. And Greece has been the gate to Europe in the last years for 90 % of migrants.
Now, Nabi is lying on the ground.
Everything happened so quickly: a group of 4 or 5 locals drive their two cars to the old train station claiming that a migrant has stolen some money at the open air market this Saturday morning. They hit the first migrant they find, an old man cooking in an improvised fireplace. The locals try to do the same with other migrants, but the cries raise the alarm and more migrants appear from the old wagons with sticks and stones to expel the assailants. The locals go back to their cars, although one stops and punches another migrant in the face, just before getting in his black Renault Megane. The migrants try to stop the black Renault but the driver makes a U-turn knocking down a migrant, a 35-years old Algerian. He stops the car, its back aiming at us, and hits the gas at full speed in reverse gear. I jump on a small wall, as does the photographer Alessandro Penso and some migrants, to avoid being knocked down by the black car. Others run, but Nabi cannot beat the speed of the vehicle and gets hit. His body flies some meters away in front of our astonished eyes. The insane driver hits the gas and escapes leaving Nabi lying on the ground.
We all run to check his health. He has been badly hit, bleeding his face, but he is alive (later we will know that he got some bones broken). The police arrive and later the ambulance, considerably late since there is no ambulance driver working that day in Corinth (because of the austerity measures cuts) and has to come from a neighboring town
The migrants are in anger and despair. Some cry and claim that two of their Algerian friends –one about 50-years old named Ibrahim and the other a 20 years-old named Hassan- have been kidnapped and put into the first car. They call them on their cell phones, but nobody answers.
“This people come every now and then, with truncheons and sticks. If they find someone alone they beat him till he is almost dying,” denounces a 30-years old Tunisian, too afraid to give his name. “We don’t do anything wrong, we even eat from what we find in between the rubbish not to mess with the local people,” says Abduljalil: “We are only waiting here for the good weather to be able to escape from this country.” “Ten days ago –explains Ahmed, an Algerian- they came and fired me with a plastic-bullet gun. They were driving a white four-wheel drive Toyota”. However, these migrants cannot go to the police station.
“If they come to report something, I have to arrest them as they are living here illegally. I am sorry, but that is the law”, excuses himself a police inspectors of Corinth. Even now when a group of journalists –Italian photographer Alessandro Penso, Greek photographer Giorgos Moutafis, Spanish journalist Antonio Cuesta and myself- have witnessed the attack, the police officers try to downplay the incident.
-“You know… the car owner has some psychiatric problems. We have got him before. He has been at the hospital”, says the police inspector.
-“Maybe… but do his friends also have mental problems?”–we ask him.
-“This morning, the migrants robbed some money in the market…”- justifies the inspector