This is the site of an abandoned factory facing the port of Patras, Greece’s ‘Gate to the West’ and the country’s third largest city. Patras is situated in the northern Peloponnese, 215 km west of Athens.
On January 13, the day this picture was taken and sent to us, 40 to 50 refugees and migrants from Afghanistan and Iran, all men and boys, many under 18, were living there in makeshift tents under collapsing roofs and dripping water.
Everyday, they wait for the right moment (usually after dark) to try to sneak under a truck or inside a large shipping container that will be loaded onto a ferry to Italy.
In about five hours from the time of writing these lines, and after already five days of failed attempts, M., a 17-year-old boy from Afghanistan, one of the dozens of refugees and migrants who have camped at the factory, will try to hide on one of the vehicles in the port, hoping that this time he’ll make it.
In previous days, the port police had spotted him along with others before they could make it to the ferry. They were chased and beaten.
This is M.’s first time in Patras. But it’s not his first attempt to leave Greece.
The day we first met, December 1, 2020, in Athens, M. had been living on the street for two weeks.
After having spent 11 months at a hotel for unaccompanied minors in Athens, he decided to leave and try to cross the border to Italy from Igoumenitsa port in north-west Greece. The friends he was with managed to cross the border. But he didn’t.
After two failed attempts in Igoumenitsa, he returned to Athens to seek refuge at the hotel he had stayed at before, but he was not accepted. So he decided to try his luck once again, and attempt to cross the border. The third time he came closer to his goal than any other previous attempts. He managed to hide underneath a truck but before the vehicle was loaded on the boat he was spotted by a police dog and caught by the officers.
His fourth attempt had a similar ending, although he had adhered to the smuggler’s instructions. Only this time the police sent him back to Athens and then the COVID-19 pandemic began and he stopped trying. Only temporarily at least.
Are you a member? Login to your account to read the whole story.
Not a member? Join us and get full access to our “Notes from the field”.