Social Crisis in Greece: The Plight of The Refugees 

Social Crisis in Greece: The Plight of The Refugees

By Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones
Global Research, June 03, 2013
Url of this article: ... es/5337338

Axmed, a Somalian refugee, has been stuck in Athens for over six years. This is common for most of his friends, as without papers they are stuck. Getting out by themselves requires money for false papers and travel that is beyond them. Axmed told us that he had a brother in Italy waiting for him. Most of his friends had families and friends waiting for them. But not in Greece. They were stuck.

Life without papers has changed in the last five years. Earlier, before austerity and recession struck, most of the refugees could find work with wages. Without papers they were inevitably highly exploitable and many were. But now there is virtually no work with wages. On top of this terror of having no income to live, they now have to contend with the Greek state and its police force. “They are making war against us”.

The war is largely conducted in the streets and in the police stations. All are sites of sustained violence by the police against the refugees. The stories are legion. Last week for example, Toufik arrived in Athens from Crete where he had been living and working for six years. He is a skilled plumber. But for the last 6 months he had not been paid at all. So he robbed the house of his boss and unfortunately for Toufik he was caught on a hidden camera in the house which led to his arrest 2 days later. Once in the police station he was systematically beaten for 5 days by a group of policemen. Throughout the beatings he was made to sit in a chair and wear a police helmet to protect his head. They wanted Toufik to tell them where the money was that he had stolen. He held out for 5 days before he told them. Once he had yielded to their violence they let him out. No charges but with the clear instruction that he had to leave Crete immediately or they would catch him again and this time kill him. He left. The police kept the cash. It is a common place story.

As it happens another refugee arrived from Crete just 3 days ago. He too is carrying serious wounds from a police beating. Walid, who is 25 years old was caught shop lifting for food. In the police station the police took a baseball bat and smashed his testicles. He too was then released and told to leave Crete immediately or suffer more. Walid needs urgent medical care which is now being organised and paid for by the refugees in Athens.

If you fight back the consequences are dire. Axmed from Somalia told us how he was set upon by 2 policemen whilst he was walking home. He hit back – in boxing mode he said – and landed a punch on one of the police. For this he was charged and sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in jail. Long and punitive sentences are routinely imposed far in excess of any other groups in the population. We were told of one instance where a refugee was given 25 years for fighting back. It was extraordinary to find so many refugees in this central part of Athens who were on parole and were expected on their early release from prison to report weekly to the police. The parole lasts usually for 3 years. During this time they are not allowed to leave Greece.

But it is not just the physical violence that overshadows their lives. It is also the extent to which they are routinely messed around. Axmed for example is from Somalia and is black. We met him in a cafe about 5 blocks away from his home, which he shared with 14 other people including his wife whom he had married a year earlier. She was pregnant and their baby was due in 5 months. He told us that there was an 80% chance of him being picked up by the police on his way home from our meeting. In the event he wasn’t but later that day they took him. Ironically, it was Sofiane who was picked up as we left the bar. One minute we are walking back to the hotel and the next there is a police car with 2 police inside demanding that Sofiane come with them. They refused to take us both. Sofiane has papers and 30 minutes later he was back. He forced them to apologise. They claimed that he looked like someone they were chasing for breaking out of the police cells. This is life on the streets for the refugees.

But back to Axmed. Being a black African means that he is an easy target for the police. The routine is well established. They are taken out of the city centre to the police station that deals with all refugees where their papers are checked. If they are in order they are then let out to make their own way back into the centre. The length of time in the station is usually about 3 hours but it can be for much longer. It is very common for them to be held until after midnight and to be released when there is no public transport back to the town centre, which results in a long walk back. Last week Axmed was picked up 3 times in one day. On his release he took the bus back to Omonia Square where he was immediately apprehended and taken back. There the police asked him what he was doing back and told him to go. And the same thing happened again. As soon as he stepped off the bus he was picked up.

For those whose papers are not in order, or who simply don’t have any, the outcome is dire for they are incarcerated in police cells – not a prison – for up to 9 months. There is no court hearing or similar due process. These police cells were designed to hold people usually overnight or for 2 days at the most. Not only are they massively overcrowded but there are no facilities for exercise; the windows, if they exist are set high in the walls so they see nothing outside. Foam mattresses cover the floor and washing and toilet areas are wholly inadequate for the numbers detained. The food is minimal, often just one simple meal a day, with no fixed routine so it can be after midnight when they get any food at all. Health needs are completely ignored. These places are as near as you can get to hell. At the time of our meetings, there were hunger strikes in four of the main police stations where refugees are incarcerated. It is little wonder then, as one Kurdish refugee told us, that so many of his friends, without papers, spend their days in their homes, rarely going out and living “like rats in their holes”.

If you sit for any length of time in this central area you can’t fail to see the police buses carting off refugees to this police station. Just as you will see in certain streets groups of up to 30 refugees sitting on the side walk waiting for the transport. According to the refugees we met the police are paid 7 euros for each refugee they bring in.

This might be good business for the police but as Axmed told us, for the refugees it means constant hassle and a deep feeling of insecurity. For him, he said, he could honestly state that he had never had one moment of relaxation in all the years he had been in Greece. He feels completely unsafe and vulnerable. Moreover, he said, like all other refugees, he lives in a state of shock as he never thought Europe would be like this; so cruel and inhumane, so full of corruption and violence, and where he can be so easily abused with impunity. He left his home and family to seek a place where he could work and breathe freely. Which would allow him to help his parents and family, who now live in very hard circumstances in Saudi Arabia. But now he rarely has contact with them for he feels ashamed to admit to them the full horror of his situation. He did not come to Europe to become rich he told us. He just wanted to get by and to be a human being.

Hustling to Survive

“You hustle to survive and you never know what each day will bring”. In the case of Axmed he could, some times, get a little money from helping other refugees find a place to stay and odd jobs helping out. As with many of the refugees we met, Axmed was fluent in many languages including English, Greek, Arabic, French and Turkish. In most of them he could write as well speak the language which has enabled him to pick up some translation work. Even though many of the refugees are confined to what can only be described as ‘shit jobs’ ( when they can get them) this disguises their many skills and talents which they never get a chance to use.

Hustling to survive has many dimensions, one of which is knowing where there might be resources of support. This includes knowing of the refugee medical centres where they can receive medical attention from caring doctors and other staff; likely places where they might be lucky to find some work, get food and so on. The depth of communication between them is impressive as they tell one another what is available, where the police are congregating and hassling on the streets and generally helping one another out. These are communities with a lot of information which is vital to their survival. And much of it is shared.

It was against this background that we asked about support from NGO refugee groups, from the progressive political parties, from anti-racist/fascist groups and similar. What we wanted to know was how such organisations help them survive.

Nothing. This was the answer we got from Axmed and his friends. It was the answer we were to hear every time. These groups were simply not part of the battleground of daily life. They had no profile. They were not thought about. They were not part of their survival.

There were very few exceptions. One Moroccan from Crete spoke of the help and the solidarity he had experienced from the anti racist movement in Chania, especially in getting a room and some food when he first arrived. We also heard from a few others that in Patras there were anti racist organisations that were helpful in terms of practical assistance and also in terms of Greek language classes. A high priority is given to languages by the refugees. If you can’t speak Greek, we were told repeatedly, you are even more vulnerable, especially as the police are particularly violent towards non Greek speakers. Moreover, without Greek you have no idea what the police and other state officials are saying or writing about you . Rarely are documents and charges translated with the consequence that refugees are being forced to sign statements without knowing what it is they are signing.

So learning Greek is a high priority and the school in Exarcheia run by the Network of Social Support to Immigrants and Refugees is one of the places which is highly regarded and well known in the refugee community for its excellent work in language teaching. But the refugees themselves also spend much time passing on their language skills to one another, especially English. We had some sense of this when we left the home of 3 young Algerians with one of them pushing another to do his English homework and that he should be expected to be tested later that evening on what he had learnt.

But in terms of practical assistance from ‘outside’ the stories were dismal. Hama, from Iraq, told us of a food centre that he had visited but never returned to as it was too humiliating. His friends also added that some of the organisations are as bureaucratic as the state and want to see papers, or even issue papers that then needed to be stamped here and there as a condition of receiving help. But the more common response is that what little help on offer is either not appropriate or not timely. One Somalian woman, Haweeyo, told us how she was given the name of a doctor and a lawyer who could help her brother who had fallen to heroin addiction and was in a bad state. After many attempts she made contact and the doctor promised to call back and come and visit. The call never came. Neither did the visit. That her brother recovered was due to the help he received from other refugees who over a period of a month weaned him off heroin, and watched him closely even to the extent of tying him to his chair when he was at the worst point in his detoxification.

As Nasim from Syria told us, many of their needs are pressing. “We live in a big prison” where each day is about survival. Greeks, he told us, are “good at talking but this does not keep us from hunger, it does not protect us from the police. It is what you do that matters and not what you say “.

Where is the Left?

The fact that many of the NGO groups are ineffective as far as the survival of the refugees is concerned is not so surprising. There is more than enough written about the compromises that NGOs make in order to function and receive funding that tend to ally them with the power systems which are so merciless and unrelenting in scapegoating refugees.

But the absence of the ‘Left’ in all its various guises and fragments poses more profound questions. Whilst many of the refugees we spoke with did not frame their experiences in the language of left politics and theory, it was very clear that they have a profound understanding of the barbarities of capitalism and the state. They were completely unanimous in rejecting any suggestion that they were living in a society that was remotely democratic – even though they are told endlessly that Greece is the birthplace of democracy. They were as one in rejecting a system that equated money to humanity and societies which judged you as being nothing if you had nothing. As Toufik told us, in this system if you have no money you don’t exist; if you don’t have the right papers you don’t exist; it is a society which is continuously judgemental on things that don’t matter, such as the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the phone you use. None of this matters he told us, compared to who you were, how you thought, how you were with people. His friend, Mohammed, went further saying that there are rich histories which are rarely discussed now, where societies did not function like this, which were based on humanity and solidarity and which achieved beautiful things. It does not need to be like this, he said, and repeated what we heard many times, that the system today was no more than a giant prison which tries to crush all such feelings of humanity and solidarity. This system, he concluded, was just ugly.

Most of these insights come not from studying or reading but from living, from the streets, and from each other. They are given added weight because their very survival is rooted in a quite contrary set of values and behaviour. Without mutuality, without solidarity, they could not live. Huge status is accorded to those with ‘good hearts’ and ‘clean hearts’. These are the people you trust and to whom you turn to. Most of the refugees live collectively. They cook together, laugh together and talk. Many don’t have enough food but they survive because in the course of a week someone in the household will have something which enables them to buy and cook some food. If you have you give, knowing that this is what everyone does. Just as in the refugee camps in the West Bank the humanity amongst and within the refugee communities is both beautiful to behold and awesome. It is the bed rock of their resistance and their determination to survive as human beings.

With or without a background in Marxist and socialist theory, the lived experiences of the refugees has made many revolutionary. As they freely acknowledge, their futures will not change unless this barbarous system is destroyed and replaced by a system that places humanity and justice at its centre. For them reformism is a complete no brainer unless the system changes. This is why they are so sceptical about the current debates taking place in Greece as to the implementation of race hatred legislation. Unless that legislation eradicates the impunity of the police and the legal system to beat them up and incarcerate them without reason then it will change nothing. Are they anticipating good things should Syriza come to power at the next general election? The answer is the same. No, not unless they fundamentally break with the existing system.

It is not just that the system benefits the rich and powerful and brutalises the weak and the poor, which is the problem. For many we talked with it is the way in which the system endlessly divides people and turns them against one another that so troubles them. They despair of the damage done to peoples’ minds by a system that poisons them with lies such as blaming refugees for the crisis in Greece and elsewhere.

These factors make the absence of the Left in these areas such a matter of concern. Do we on the Left suffer from some of the same characteristics which are so despised in the system. Do we too believe that refugees are not worthy of our solidarity and support, that they too are nothing? Why are we not standing shoulder to shoulder? Why are we not meeting them in their fought-for safe havens in the bars and cafés. Why are we not building the levels of trust together that are so vital to our struggle for justice? Why are we not taking note and learning from their survival and solidarities? Why is it we laud new forms of non monetary exchanges and relationships when they are created from our groups but never seem to recognise that this is a deeply embedded way of life for many who live on the margins of society and have been so for years? Why are not taking seriously their calls for a world based on humanity and exploring together what this means and how we can achieve it?

These are not simply questions for the Left in Greece but for most of the Left especially in Europe. Some of the most significant victories in the recent years have been achieved by the power of poor peoples’ mobilisations, especially in parts of Latin America and south Asia. Yet for too long in Europe the Left has tended to ignore these groups believing that the road to socialism lies almost solely with an organised working class (employed in factories!). In a society such as Greece, where 65% of young people have no job the implications of such thinking are all too evident.

The current crisis is stimulating, many on the revolutionary Left to recognise that we need to rethink and to act differently. Like Panos Sotiris, we talk about the necessity of building new forms of struggle from below, and forging new alliances between those who have been abandoned by global finance capital and left to the mercy of increasingly violent and vicious police forces who have been tooled up to wage war on the poorest.

But no matter what injunctions for new thinking and acting we on the Left make, we stand little chance of achieving much unless we start standing with and by the most oppressed. We must rid ourselves of our arrogance and be prepared to learn from the very people whom the capitalist system dismisses as having no worth and no humanity. From what we witness in Athens the refugees are more than prepared to wage this struggle but where are their partners?

Panagiotis Sotiris ‘Greek Crisis and the Left Response: 2 Essays’ The Bullet,
Socialist Project, May 28, 2013.

Sofiane Ait Chalalet was born in Algeria and came to Greece as a refugee in 2006. He has subsequently married and now has the papers he needs to live in Europe without the persecution experienced by many of his friends. Chris Jones was born in England and worked for many years in higher education. Both Sofiane and Chris now live on the Greek island of Samos where they write and explore the impact of the crisis on the lives of the people here.

Copyright © 2013 Global Research
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UnfAir-Berlin -- Protestaktion gegen Charterabschiebungen im Flughafen Tegel 

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Mapping Racist/Fascist Attacks in Athens 

From Occupied London

A new project Mapping Racist Violence in Athens was just released. The aim of this map is to provide up-to-date information about racist attacks taking place in Athens and other Greek cities. The map is accessible here:

Being constantly updated, it will become an ongoing reference point where the quantity and scale of attacks, their location and severity can be grasped at a glance. The map will highlight and prioritise first-hand reports, yet it will nevertheless include information submitted by individuals, witnesses, mainstream or independent media –– as long as it meets a minimal verification level.

Given the complexity of the legal status and story of each migrant individual identities will remain hidden unless they have already been publicised elsewhere or the person explicitly wishes to publish their identity. This of course also counts for anyone else that might risk police persecution or fascist violence.

The aspiration is for the map to become a tool for anti-racist and anti-fascist organising locally and for raising international awareness and pressure.
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City on the run. Banoptikon videogame presentation at Hybrid City conference 

Banoptikon videogame
City on the run

Ilias Marmaras
Personal Cinema Collective & Collaborators
Athens, Greece


The following paper is a description of a project that took place the last three years, a project that attempts to simulate in the form of a videogame the results of a research. The research examines different aspects of current migrational politics and several issues that are generated from the power relations between migrants, “locals” and authorities, which are weaving and constructing the European canvas of this new struggle field. The central axis of this struggle concerns the digitalization process of migration flows and consequently, the transformations that affect the different actors and the urban territories.

Keywords: migration flow; ICTs; digitalisation; digital deportability; control mechanisms; networking


A major issue of debate in the social/political struggle field is the digitalisation of the mechanisms of control and surveillance. These mechanisms present an interesting contradiction; although they are based on machines and devices, they appear –mostly- “invisible” and “immaterial” to those they are applied on. Taking this into consideration, the videogame was considered for the particular research program as the most appropriate medium which could not only visualise these mechanisms and their unexpected and confusing results but it could also simulate the different situations involved.
Videogames can be either media or games, but sometimes they can be both. When used as media, they may carry an idea from one place to another while when used as games, they can establish a set of conditions within which humans play. Any meaning or message that comes out of the game can be generated by players, and sometimes it might even contradict the game's original design.
The first question that was posed was: To which extent can a 3D videogame serve as a tool in order to simulate the perplexed condition that we come across when we face the new / hybrid forms of surveillance and control applied on migration mobility?


What we face here is a situation of “bodies in mobility” and the “internalization of tracing”. “For bodies in mobility, the greatest threat appears to be the possibility of being digitally fingerprinted in a precise and accurate manner; in a way that fingerprints will be traceable in different databases all over Europe and a hit would force them to return. Digital fingerprinting becomes a much more significant threat than physical arrest or imprisonment, precisely because it is internalized. Bodies in mobility under this threat learn that they should constantly avoid any procedure that may lead them in front of this possibility, including the chance to apply for asylum, to go to the hospital or register their children to school” [1].

We come against a new state of being, that is a co-existence of a physical body with its virtual dedoublement. If the average user of the virtual spaces, the inhabitant of today’s hybrid city , chooses to deal with different forms of “existence” and shifting identities, a migrant not only is obliged to do so, but in addition he has to carry this multiplicity all the time on his own body everywhere she/he stands or moves. The migrant is not simply a subject of “anytime control” but a body that has to maintain the potential of movement and at the same time be “fixed” as a butterfly on the canvas of a database. For migrants or at least for many migrants, the primal aim “to find a city to live in” [2] (in the meaning of a permanent place of stay) is diverged to a nomad lining on roads and movements. Or, else we need to consider databases as a domicile address,,, without forgetting that this could be turned into an advantage for migrants; Eurodac’s database is based in Luxemburg, the richest state in Europe.

But, if the bodies in mobility are really surveyed and controlled via the fingerprinting methods – as imposed by the Eurodac accord [2] –, then we could also say that the migrants carry the borders on their fingers. This in its turn means that the limits between cities and non-urban areas (like the passage at Evros River in the Greek-Turkish border) are blurred. And to a further extent, for migrants, regardless if they enter a geographical border or they walk at the streets of a European city, by carrying the borders on their fingers they are under the constant threat of “digital deportability” [3].

In the Banoptikon videogame the actors are constantly on the move while feeling uneasy,, just like it happens in real life. They are threatened by being deported at any time and as the research case studies showed there is a rather unclear situation regarding the efficiency of the digital mechanisms of control. One wonder: do we face surveillance mechanisms or intimidation tactics? “Much like Bentham’s Panopticon, which may be empty, one never knows if the digital mechanisms of surveillance are in fact working properly, if data will be lost, or unsuccessfully registered in the system. In other words, one never knows if the gesture of fingerprinting is in fact an empty gesture” [4].

An avatar at the Border zone which is one of game’s levels, confirms the paradox of the results of fingerprinting by saying:
“I have been fingerprinted and the others who were with me were ‘fingered’ on paper. I was too. But I do not know why, maybe because the print of my fingers was not good enough or anything. I also had to stick my fingers into a small machine with a glass to put my fingers on. I know that most of the fingerprints do not matter so much. I know two Sudanese people, who made it a week ago over the Adriatic Sea to Germany. We were all together in the prison of Pagani a year ago. Obviously, there was no problem with their fingerprints in Germany. People never tell that they come via Greece. I do not know if you did well by not asking for asylum or not. In any case, none seems to know”.

In the gameplay, there is a starting point -The River passage - and a desirable end - the Euro-city-. This structure corresponds to the stereotype that most of the inhabitants of the E.U territory share. It corresponds also to the desires of the migrants. But this “reading of the gameplay” is just an epiphenomenon. The players realise that actually there is no safety; there is no final shelter for most of the migrants most of the time. Even if they swift identities -in the game the user’s avatar swifts identity in some cases- they are under the threat of being controlled, exposed, having to take the migration road once again. As migrants in the game are heard saying: “Walking will become the law, and collectivity the code”.


Fifteen years ago, when migration started becoming an urgent problem for the Greek state, several detention camps -for some the right name is concentration camps- appeared, located mostly in the eastern islands of the Aegean Sea. Recently, and under the pressure of the crisis and the social-political buzz for the recuperation of Athens’ centre, more camps have been built at the periphery of the city. Most of them are structures insufficient to host human beings, -in some cases more than a hundred persons are crammed in twenty square meter cells- but they are well equipped with CCTV cameras, digital systems of control and communication, digital machines for fingerprinting and data transfer to the central data base in Luxembourg.

This new condition, that tends to become a “permanent state of exception” leads to the question: Are the detention camps parts of the city? One could argue that detention camps are mechanisms of control, which intervene in the migration flow. In fact, what the detention camps are doing is to decelerate the migration flow. And this is not happening only by the physical imprisonment of the bodies but mainly by the process of fingerprinting. Camps , both physical and digital, are at the same time traps that aim to re-territorialize -literally- the “flight” of the swarm of “migration birds”.

In the game there is a simulation -based on the material offered by the team of the No Borders Organisation- of the famous – inactive today - camp of Pagani at Lesvos Island. Back to late 90’s, this camp, situated a few kilometers from the island’s capital, was among the first places –if not the first one- that the digital system of fingerprinting was installed. An avatar in the game describes the impact these technologies had on the uninformed and confused migrants.

“I was fingerprinted here in the camp with others. We were not told anything. There was no translator. I have not seen anyone. There were boys in the camp who spoke English and told us to go quietly. I had no information on fingerprints. It was the first time. I was afraid. I said, why did they take my fingerprints if I have not done anything? I did not understand why”.

The player in the game that “listens” to the migrant avatar is simultaneously informed through a notification card that:
“We call the moving body of migration, which is legible (instead of intelligible) and literally to be 'read' by machines the embodied identity of migration. However, such identity is not a result of the initial enrollment. Technically speaking it becomes even more clear that the identity of a migrant is achieved only when it comes to a situation of producing a hit within Eurodac, because in the language of programming “identification” results from a one-to-many search via pattern recognition algorithms in an established database. Thus, the embodied identity of migration within Eurodac is deeply and by definition linked with the establishment of a body that Epstein calls the “foreign body” and the “risky body”[5].


“Theorising cities as flows or urban spaces as networks is nothing new. The architecture of the cell is no longer relevant to the everyday lives of cities. Although the centre of Athens is invested with symbolic power by the discourse of migration, migrant mobilities defy this logic of the centre or of centralisation.” [7].

Athens’ city centre appears as a central node in the gamespace design. This is based not only in the fact that Greece and especially Athens have radically changed in the last years, but mostly in the ways that these changes appeared and continue to appear. In other words, in Athens changes didn't happen in a rational mode, following a form of “proper” urban evolution as it might have been the case for other European cities; on the contrary changes occurred under extreme pressure and conditions that often involved radical technological changes, population bouleversements and even natural, social and political disasters.

In the game, the down town part of Athens appears as a center only to be deconstructed as such. The networking “nature” of the material migration flow and the representation of the digitalised life of the city dwellers (that live a “life on the screen”, a life that goes along the different networks of communication) is present everywhere.
The main question that concerned us in the development of the gameplay for this essential level was the following: Which are the relations between the city as a structure and the different actors, both of which are considered as game elements in the game?
Taking into consideration that migration is primarily an unbounded social movement, the game simulates the area of Athens within a larger terrain of flows and mobilities. Different groups / actors move in an environment that looks more as a screen rather than a physical space. The movement of the avatars is hypnotic , a reference to the bizarre images of people walking in the “real streets” wired to their smartphones, talking to invisible listeners or looking at the screens of their digital devices. The space has huge video-screens embedded broadcasting footage that break down the architecture of narration.

In the interior spaces of several buildings, some avatars that simulate sex workers, talk about the use of ICTs in their jobs. Information flow on education and religious matters or intercultural conflict and dialogue show the interconnections between the migrant’s countries of origin, the transit spaces (like Athens) and the destination countries. “Wide access to ICTs has become particularly significant. In host societies, this technical aid has generated new forms of improvised and informal social integration, which often make up for the shortcomings of institutions. Thanks to ICTs, individuals who are separated from their family can not only maintain occasional contact with their place of origin, but also take part in family decisions and events” [8].

A sex worker (in the game) states clearly that: “This business cannot exist, I don’t know how it would exist without the technologies. Then I would’ve needed to do something else... How can you, how would you, it’s not possible. I think nobody could do without it. OK, maybe without the Internet easier than without the phone. The phone is no. 1 in these things. Then the Internet... This is what I think; nobody could work without a phone”.
In another case, a young Muslim explains how Internet strongly influenced his religious life. “For me, new media were the way to learn about Islam. I was not born as a Muslim, but chose for the Islam. And when I was considering the Islam, I went on the Internet. That was my entrance to Islam”.

After all, to quote Deleuze: “When we need to keep at a distance the forces of chaos knocking at the door, we draw a transportable and pneumatic territory. If needed, I will catch my territory on my own body, I territorialize my body.” [9]
The digital devices is that very kind of ritournelle, which allows one to reterritorialize oneself when the forces of chaos are knocking at one’s (door) life.


Intercultural conflicts and identity production fights, are taking place everywhere. Power and counter- power structures are formed and dissolved in both physical and virtual space. Consequently, the hybrid spaces are also spaces of conflict between ICTs and “old non-flexible structures”. But then, the question that arises is: Which are the perceptible forms of the game affected by power and counter-power?

“The city is the main site of contestation and cultural/identity-conflicts. It is the space for the formation of political identities. Both sides fight over the definition of the urban space as either internationalist, multicultural and cosmopolitan or as one of contamination, ethnic alienation and annihilation. Or, to put it differently, is the city an open cosmos or a closed, militarised, and secured zone of ethnic cleansing?” [10]

As mentioned earlier, the conflict is taking place in both the urban space and in the digital networks. Putting aside the mainstream media that are under the control of either the state or the corporate powers, for most of the actors the battlefield is set in the spaces of the social media.
We know from previous social and political events, like the ones of December 2008 in Athens, that the first medium that reproduced the news of the murder of the young adolescent Alexis Grigoropoulos, which provoked the revolt, was Twitter. Indeed, a crucial part in communicating the riots was the hashtag #griots. The December 2008 riots were a true social revolt, but they had a more decentralized form and were organised in a way that the status quo did not recognize or acknowledge them.

On the web, the revolt took place in a much more structured manner; it was differentiated from the rhetoric of the status quo of the mainstream media, which refused of course to respond to their demands. According to the Economist, the Greek riots prompted the discourse around a new era of networked protest. And it seems to be so for many people because mobile phones and blogs, through which real-time communication is achieved, proved to be a weapon more efficient than Molotov cocktails.
As a blogger wrote at the time: “What has been witnessed is a form of internet hyper - Darwinism in which the forces of change which usually take years, have been compressed into a time frame measured in weeks.”

But to which extent is this new form of struggle and “openness” achieved for Greek protesters applied in migration flows and intercultural conflicts that follow?
“In Greece we know that migrants do not have any agency in the public sphere and they are mediated. Their discursive contributions are limited to migration issues exclusively. This is often reduced to mere accounts of their experiences, as they are not asked for their personal analyses or opinions towards social, political, cultural, or economic issues. There is actually no institutionalised recognition of migrants in Greek public discourse and they are mainly excluded from networks. Migrants are mostly criminalised, degraded, or victimised. They have little chances to “talk back” even online, as right wing groups threaten or/and terrorise migrant participants in online discourses. Even in anti-racist discourses, migrants are almost invisible since they have no active individual speaker roles. They are suppressed in hidden in grassroots online forums, too. Migrants use online media mainly for personal purposes. Anti-racist groups use Internet platforms only selectively and for the distribution of information. There is little to no communicative interaction between migrants and anti-racist movements. This severely limits the possibilities for migrants to step out of their invisibility. (Interestingly, despite their potential to have fluid online identities, users tend to reproduce racialised and gendered identities on the Web).” [11]

In Banoptikon, in the simulation of the gamespace of Athens down tow, the player experiences the absence of the participation of migrants as political subjects that claim and use technology in order stand up for their rights. In other words, the player realises the exclusion of migrants from the communication networks in which racial and anti-racial situations and struggles are taking place. In the game’s dialogues, migrants “talk” about the use of ICTs as tools for the amelioration of their bonds with family, for educational and religious purposes or as tools that serve a better work condition. But they never –or very rarely- appear to use the new technologies to organise their struggles for political and social rights that could result in better living conditions.

There is a dialogue in the harbor of Igoumenitsa town, which is one of the main exit gates for migrants to Italy. The dialogue, inside the game, is taking place under a video screen that broadcasts a pogrom situation that occurred there in 2011. A group of migrants is playing football in an area close to the harbor, until locals supported with anti-riot police forces attack them.
“We were playing football, we were calm. They attacked us with rocks. Some of us also they throw them to keep them in distance. Then the police came and helped them; the police was using gas and somethingother, like big balls. And after they changed all the truth. They have camera. They make video. They changed the whole story. They show them enjoying down with their music-party there and we attacked them. They changed everything. Okay, they don’t want to help us. But to lie like this! They put it in the Internet to show the entire world to say: Don’t accept them! If you take them they will make problem. There must be truth in the world, because they don’t tell the situation, they give us wrong pictures. Because we the people here, we don’t have cameras, we don’t have TV to produce pictures about our situation here”.

But this is not a complete picture of the relation that “bodies in mobility” hold with technology and networking. As everyone that finds herself in a state of emergency, migrants invent their own tactics and their own form of networks. We could call it Ad hoc networking.
“Ad hoc networking is what forms a constant threat for destabilising the regular network. Control and surveillance, for instance, count and aim to expand and reproduce the regular operation of the network: they need to make sure that first of all, authorised users should have unhindered access to the network, that data flows don’t fail, that unauthorised users or data (viruses or hackers) don’t disrupt the network. Ad hoc networking exploits the weaknesses of the regular network in order to create discontinuities, breaks, cracks within it” [12].


Banoptikon tries to simulate social and political situations referring to migration flow, which are taking place inside cities, networks, rural areas and above all to human bodies. Bodies are the subjects on which old and new technologies are applied and therefore they still remain the basic topos of the battlefield. As Brouno Latour states back in the 80’s: “It is an agonistic situation, a power struggle or warlike situation, in which “the one able to master on the spot the largest number of well aligned and faithful allies will win” [13]. Or to put it differently, in this specific case what we are facing, the melting point between bodies on the move on one hand and digital technologies of control on the other can be located; that is a situation where the body becomes data, and thus subject to control, while the same time the data are materialised and become bodies.

“So, precisely because the migrants carry the border, because they embody the border – especially in the form of their fingers – they cannot entirely cross it. However, what they do is to transgress the border at the same time as incorporating it. Only in this way they re-territorialise the border and they push it deeper into the European territory and they challenge the limits of Europe.” [14]


[1] V. Tsianos & Br. Kuster, “Border Crossings”,
[2] Talking Heads - Cities.
[3] V. Tsianos & Br. Kuster, “Border Crossings”,
[4] V. Tsianos & Br. Kuster, “Border Crossings”,
[5] C. Epstein, Charlotte,,“Embodying Risk: using biometrics to protect the borders”,in: Louise Amoore and Marieke de Gloede (eds), Risk and the War on Terror, London and New York: Routledge, 2008.
[6] N. Kambouri & P. Hatzopoulos,“Athens is no longer a cell (if it ever was) but an interconnected network. “, unpublished
[7] N. Kambouri & P. Hatzopoulos,“Athens is no longer a cell (if it ever was) but an interconnected network.”, unpublished
[8] D. Diminescu, M. Pajnik, D. Parsanoglou, Th. Priftis,“Information and Communication Flows”,
[9] G. Deleuze, “Post-scriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle”, in: L 'autre journal, n°1, 1990
[10] A. Karatzogianni, O. Morgunova,, N. Kambouri, O. Lafazani, N. Trimikliniotis, Gr. Ioannou,“Intercultural Conflict and Dialogue”.
[11] N. Kambouri & P. Hatzopoulos,“Athens is no longer a cell (if it ever was) but an interconnected network.“, unpublished
[12] N. Kambouri & P. Hatzopoulos,“Athens is no longer a cell (if it ever was) but an interconnected network.“, unpublished
[13] B. Latour, “Visualization and Cognition: Thinkingwith Eyes and Hands”, in: Knowledge and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Culture Past and Present, Volume 6, 1986
[14] V. Tsianos & Br. Kuster, “Border Crossings”,

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The Banoptikon videogame project, is related to the broader E.U. research program MIG@NET ( The program searches and examines different aspects of current migrational politics and the issues that are generated from the power relations between migrants, "locals" and authorities, which are weaving and constructing the European canvas of this new struggle field. The central axis of this struggle concerns the digitalisation process of migration flows and consequently, the transformations that occur to the different actors and the urban territories.

The videogame Banoptikon, aspires to simulate social and political situations referring to migration flow, which take place inside cities, networks, rural areas and above all to human bodies. Because bodies are the subjects on which old and new technologies are applied and therefore bodies remain the basic topos of the battlefield.
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