By Paul Ndiho, Washington D.C
December 21, 2010
Tens of thousands of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East attempt to cross by boat to Greece’s Patras city each year, with many ending up in squalid camps or living on the streets and others are crammed into abandoned buildings.
Patras Greece, a Port City and major transit point for hundreds of migrants from across Africa and Asia into Europe. Mojahed from Sudan arrived here a few months ago after a perilous journey through Libya, Cyprus and Turkey after escaping the violence in his native Darfur.
“I left Darfur by force, because of the Janjaweed and the government came to shooting us, killing our grand sister, grandma, burning our houses.”
He fled to nearby Chad and stayed for a year in a camp, but he wanted a better life, he wanted a future. These days his better life means scrounging in the city’s garbage. He skips along with his friends also from Sudan looking for food.
“It’s so hard for me. It is very difficult to search from the garbage because I feel hungry so much. It is very difficult.”
The pickings are slim and local people seem not to believe what they are seeing.
In Patras, officials say there could be as many 1,000 homeless migrants; Afghans, Sudanese or Somalis who left their homes in fear of their lives.
“Greece is one of the countries that is chosen by the immigrants in order to pass to Europe.”
Many of the migrants, including Mojahed, end up here at the Patras train station.
“Let me show you the place where people are sleeping. This is our rooms, our houses, everything. When we come back from the garbage from eating the food we come back here to sleep.”
Mojahed hasn’t applied for asylum, nor have his friends. The process is long and rarely brings a positive result, he says. He would rather take his chances smuggling himself into Europe. Some migrants say they have been here for nearly a decade living rough times. Day or night they try to board the transport trucks that can get them onto the ships. They hide under the carriage or the wheels or inside if they can all in the hope of getting onto a ferry that will cross over to Italy. The journey is risk and some people die trying. Yet they refuse to give up.
Mojahed has tried to cross a few times but has been unsuccessfully. He will try again, he says. He also says his claim to asylum should be given more consideration.
“Give us the right to live; we are human beings. No fighting, listen to us. Give is our rights.
It’s a life of dreariness and yet they keep coming. Since January more 44,000 migrants have crossed into Greece from Turkey most with the same dream as Mojahed. But reality has not lived up to their hopes. UNHCR has urged the government to speed up the reform of their asylum process but system remains broken leaving asylum seekers little chance of having their refugee claims heard.