Life in The Shadows in Modern Greece - PhMuseum

Life in The Shadows in Modern Greece

Stephen Boyle

2011 - 2012

In recent years Greece has experienced an unprecedented influx of migrants, and at a time when the Greek people can ill afford to be hospitable. The city of Athens has witnessed entire neighbourhoods transform into so called "migrant ghettos". The migrants are blamed for everything from a sharp rise in crime to the presence of infectious disease. Consequently, far right politics has experienced a resurgence in recent years, a fact that has worried successive governments holding office in Greece. In response, the authorities have conducted severe crackdowns on undocumented migrants in an attempt to steer support away from extreme right wing parties.

The first aim of this project is to ask the question: who are the migrants? Athens locals describe

them as vermin, scum, aliens, thieves, pimps, leeches, bastards and much more. In reality they are

people fleeing famine, war, civil strife and social disorder. In Greece they now have to contend with

open racism and xenophobia, violent assault, poverty, homelessness, threat of arrest and police

brutality.

The second aim of this project is to put a human face on the crisis and to combat the perception that the

migrants are akin to hostile aliens bent on social disorder and crime. It is also an endeavor to try and develop a more positive and constructive dialogue around immigration issues in Europe in the 21st century.

Thirdly, I wish to return to Greece to document the development of far right politics, and to look closely at experiences of the Greek people within the context of the immigration issue and the severe economic crisis.

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  • At a derelict house in the north of Athens which is home to a number of Sudanese and Somali
    refugees.
    Everything in this house has been salvaged from garbage bins and skips.
    March 2012

  • Afghan migrants. Athens 2011

  • Somali migrant boy in the street in central Athens. 2011

  • Afghan women queue for free clothing organised by a charity in central Athens.
    October 2012

  • Somali migrants in Athens. 2011.

  • A striking aspect of migrant life in a hostile city is their extraordinary resourcefulness. In western
    Athens, Somalis took over a derelict building and set it up as a fully functioning community centre.
    It even boasted a barber shop (seen here).
    Three hours after this photo was taken, Athens police would conduct a raid and destroy everything
    beyond repair.
    March 2012

  • Somali migrants break out and flee from the Somali Centre after a police raid. Following the raid,
    hose who were not arrested were locked inside. During two such successive night raids in March
    2012, police beat migrants and arrested about 50 to 60 Somalis. During the second raid, everything
    in the building was destroyed and the premises locked permanently.
    March 2012

  • Somali migrant. Athens 2011.

  • Afghan migrants performing traditional dance while celebrating Eid al Adha in Athens in October 2012.

  • Somali migrants break out and flee from the Somali Centre after a police raid. Following the raid,
    hose who were not arrested were locked inside. During two such successive night raids in March
    2012, police beat migrants and arrested about 50 to 60 Somalis. During the second raid, everything
    in the building was destroyed and the premises locked permanently.
    March 2012

  • The undocumented in Athens are fleeing from dangerous and unstable conditions in their home
    countries, and many carry psychological and physical scars. Here, a Somali migrant in Athens
    shows the bullets wounds in his leg received at a Mogadishu checkpoint a year earlier.
    November 2011

  • Afghan refugees perform a traditional dance at anti-racism demonstration.
    Despite the general growth of xenophobia in Greece, there are certain elements of society taking a
    stand against it. In March 2012, an anti racist demonstration was held in Athens organised by Greek
    youth and student groups and immigrant organisations. The event called for an end to xenophobia
    and racism in Greek society, to legalise all undocumented migrants, and to call on Greeks to prevent
    the growth of far right extremism. About 400 people marched, including immigrants as well as an
    equal number of Greeks of all ages.
    March 2012

  • Somali migrant cleaning up after a police raid on the Somali Centre the previous night.
    March 2012

  • A Sudanese refugee at an abandoned house occupied by homeless Sudanese and Somali refugees in
    north Athens.
    The occupants of this house are subjected to regular organised racist attacks. The occupants claimed
    that these attacks occurred approximately every six months. Their attackers, incredibly, have
    included machete wielding youths on scooters.
    March 2012

  • A young Afghan migrant with his one year old child sleeping in the background. Since this man has
    applied for asylum, and is “in the system”, he is not regarded as being undocumented. Nevertheless,
    he still suffers police harassment and abuse from locals as he travels about the city with a shopping
    trolley collecting scrap metal and discarded cardboard. He makes about €4 a day.
    Athens, October 2012.

  • Somali migrants, Athens 2011

  • Refugees and asylum seekers in a Catholic run charity food kitchen in central Athens.
    Refugees and asylum seekers receive no support from the Greek government while being processed,
    resulting severe deprivation and poverty. This organisation, Hellena Carta Athens, feeds between
    250-280 people once every day and the numbers are increasing.
    October 2012

  • Portrait of a Somali migrants in Athens. 2011

  • A Somali migrant in Athens displaying broken teeth from fighting.
    Although others, who declined to be photographed, described in detail their experiences and
    wounds from racist attacks in Athens, it was not clear if this man’s injuries were the result of racial
    abuse.

  • Afghan migrants in their sparse apartment in central Athens. Nine adults and three children live
    here, which has two small bedrooms and a living room/ kitchen area.
    October 2012


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