Crossing Lines – The Kurds

In January 1997, a number of Kurds try to hide in a ship, which sails from Patras to Brindisi in Italy. The port authorities discover them and so, their effort fails. Trying to find a place to spend the night, they seek shelter in some abandoned train wagons not far from the port.
Thus the refugee camp of St. Dionysius in Patras was born. By April of that same year, the camp is full of refugees. Its proximity to the port makes it seem the ideal passage to Italy. In January 1998, the camp was definitely locked by the authorities.

Savvas Lazaridis. Crossing lines -The Kurds 1997


I know it is hard to believe. There are people, somewhere in Europe, who live in wagons, a small primitive society at the end of the 20th century. Everyone sees them but no one speaks. The human rights are deaf, dumb and blind.
I asked a man what his day-to-day feeling is. I feel inferior living in wagons with rats, burning in the sun, soaking in the rain. People pass by and look at you, as if you were a creature stripped of every meaning, every logic and rights, as if you have committed a sin and you were under arrest.

Without a passport there is no way out. No one respects you, it is as if you don’t exist. We are like the sons of Israel when they run away from Egypt. We live in isolation and bewilderment. We are now in Greece, but we don’t feel that the people here or the state really cares for us. Even the United Nations ignore us, although they pretend they don’t for the sake of public opinion. Meanwhile, we are starving and dying of hunger.

Around three or four o’clock in the evening, our people go down to the port, trying to hide in the trucks, hoping to get on a boat and cross the see to Italy.
Most of them are discovered by the drivers who beat them up and insult them. So, they return to the wagons, tired, disappointed, hungry, and pessimistic about their futures. They spent their night like any other night before, full of nightmares and bad dreams.

I, myself, have tried several times to cross the see, but failed. I will try again tonight.
I hope I will make it.

Nagmendeen R. A. September 1997