From broom to bulldozer

In his book «Musaferat, or The Thousand and One Nights of a Refugee Camp,» Patra-based author Vassilis Ladas comments that a city needs to have its rubbish swept away, not fellow human beings. The migrants/refugees of Iroon Polytechniou Street in Patra are victims of war, violence, hunger and racism, he says. It is ironic that on this street, named in honor of the Greek students’ uprising against the junta in 1973, we are mere onlookers in a human drama. The camp in which our fellow humans reside is inhuman, comments the writer, and its brutal «cleanup» cannot mask the huge responsibility that the government and local authorities shoulder to serve humanity and the basic responsibilities that are binding on them by virtue of European and international agreements. But, says Ladas, the callousness of the local authorities should not be allowed to tarnish the image and disposition of an entire city. It is time that each of us, he says, individually and together, react. These passages from his book, published by Futura, was featured in newspapers in Patra on January 31, 2008, and signed by seven writers who live in the Peloponnesian port city. Some will call these people bleeding hearts, but at least they sensed the onset of events that were right around the corner. And now we have seen it happen. Only instead of sweeping the camp away, they bulldozed it. The government appears proud of its mighty feat, and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is sure to boast about it to his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi. Some television stations even found a way to twist the story around so they could do a report on «relieved citizens» and politicians who were pleased with the outcome of the police sweep, conducted even before a proper camp could be set up to house all these people. The dissenters were only given brief airtime, and, of course, the Afghans were not heard at all. You see they lacked the imagination to claim they were members of the Kalash tribe and could trace their roots back to Alexander the Great.