At Greek port, migrants dream and despair in abandoned factories

Rapper Mahdi Babika Mohamed’s journey to a better life in Europe started in his native Sudan and passed through Libya and Turkey before abruptly ending in a squalid abandoned factory at Greece’s western port of Patra.

There, the 37-year-old is one of hundreds of migrants making desperate attempts to board ferries to Italy by hanging on to the underside of cargo trucks – usually unsuccesfully.

“We come from a country in war to another war here in Patra,” said Mohamed. “Every day I try to get on the ferry and it’s dangerous hiding under the trucks, I could die any minute.”

Patra is no longer on the frontline of Greece’s migrant crisis as it was six years ago when authorities shut down a makeshift camp in the port where hundreds of migrants had lived in squalid conditions.

Focus has since shifted to the thousands of Syrian and other migrants now breaking through Greece’s eastern sea border, but the refugee problem in Patra is far from over.

Today, about 100 Afghan, Iranian and Sudanese migrants live in two deserted textile and wood factories opposite the main ferry terminal, living off food scraps and without electricity. Some arrived recently, others have lived there for as long as two years.

Each day, some try to jump over a high fence into the terminal in the hope of sneaking onto a ferry set for Italy, where they dream of a better life than in crisis-hit Greece, where jobs are scarce and sympathy even harder to find.

Others hide by the roadside, dashing to scramble underneath trucks waiting at traffic lights before entering the ferry terminal.

One of those is Azam, a 26-year-old from South Sudan who says he boarded a small fishing boat in Egypt with 175 other immigrants earlier this year. He says he paid around $3,000 to go to Italy but the boat took them to Crete instead.

Despite several attempts, he has yet to make it on to a ferry to Italy. But he refuses to abandon his dream.

“I want to go to northern Europe and find a decent job and live a good life I will try until I make it,” Azam said. “I’ll never give up.” [Reuters]

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