Impressions from the no border camp in Thessaloniki

This year’s no border camp [1] took place in Thessaloniki from 15th to 24th of July. The camp was organized as a big transnational meeting of anarchists and no border activists to discuss and network but also to demonstrate and struggle together against the European border regime. In northern Greece the face of Fortress Europe becomes particularly visible.

Start of the demonstration towards the Turkish consulate at the Kamara square in Thessaloniki (credit to Beyond Europe)

After the closure of the northern Greek border and the evictions of the camp in Idomeni, a lot of refugees are stuck in military run camps around Thessaloniki [2]. Accordingly, the no border camp had been organized in a way that made it possible for interested inhabitants of the relocation camps to join the no border camp and to take part in the discussions and actions. Some of the refugees decided to stay longer and started camping as well. Throughout the 10 days, the participants discussed recent developments, initiatives and projects in solidarity with migrants and refugees and organized different demonstrations and direct actions against the EU border regime. The main demand of the no border activists taking part in the camp was the abolishment of all borders or rather the abolishment of all obstacles that restrict the right for freedom of movement, meaning among others physical borders, the visa-regime and racist immigration laws. In addition they stand against all actions of migration management and oppose deportations. In practice and for the case of Greece the demands of the camp were the opening of the northern Greek borders towards Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, the end of the EU-Turkey deal and improved living conditions for refugees in Greece. I will not go more into detail here but focus on impressions from a Turkish perspective instead.

The no border camp started exactly on the day of the unsuccessful military coup in Turkey. As Turkish comrades – mainly from Istanbul and Izmir – participated as well, the topic was present throughout the whole camp. Already on Saturday, Turkish activists and friends organized a discussion round on the recent events; different workshops and encounters on the military coup and its consequences mainly for the political left followed. Throughout the discussion it was clear that there was a need and also a strong will for transnational solidarity for Turkish activists who might face even stronger repressions during and after the state of emergency. Participants of the no border camp therefore organized a demonstration towards the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki on Friday the 22nd of July: around 500 people marched in solidarity with the oppressed people in Turkey and Kurdistan fighting against the government and the current militarization. The main slogan of the demonstration was ‚no to the military coup, no to dictatorship“, the English version of #nedarbenediktatörlük, which became a popular hash tag in Turkey. In addition, a statement on the recent developments in Turkey was published by the no border camp.

The demonstration was blocked by the police a few hundred meetings in front of the Turkish consulate, which was not surprising as the security around the consulate is generally very high (credit to Leila)

One of the main points of discussion, especially during the Balkan route network meeting, was the infamous EU-Turkey deal. The no border camp seemed to be the right place to exchange on the implications for migrants and refugees both in Turkey and Greece and to discuss possible campaigns and actions against the deal. During the workshops it became clear that the deal has implications on so many levels – deportations back to Turkey, more pull- and pushbacks between Turkey and Greece, horrible living conditions for refugees in Greece as well as in Turkey – that it wasn’t really possible to focus on one certain point and discuss counter actions. During one workshop the discussion went more into detail on Frontex involvement in pull- and pushbacks to Turkey, as the Watch the Med Alarm Phone recently published a report on this. A group of activists decided to work more on this topic, trying to launch a new campaign informing and scandalizing Frontex central role in the EU border regime.

Many of the discussants agreed that, at least for now, the EU-Turkey deal is ‚on hold’: e.g. during the last weeks there were no deportations back to Turkey, little is known about relocations from Turkey to Europe and as the Turkish government is not willing to change their anti-terrorism laws, visa liberalizations for Turkish citizens are not likely to happen soon. After the failed military coup, which led to a wave of suspension and arrests and further governmental repressions, the future of the EU-Turkey deal is even more unknown. During the discussions, the main topic regarding Turkey switched from the EU-Turkey deal towards possible repressions for activists, critical academics and leftists. Similarly, in Turkish media the deal hardly plays any role at the moment, which makes it quite difficult to make any comments on the possible future of the deal.

Certainly, the experiences during the no border camp have shown how important political developments in Turkey are for the future of the EU border regime and that these two aspects are deeply interwoven. Thus, the no border movement needs to take these developments into account and react to them, as they have direct consequences for flight and migration. Should the Turkish government keep following its road of further repressing the opposition, this might lead to new waves of emigration from Turkey, consisting of refugees from Middle Eastern countries that are already living in Turkey as well as Turkish citizen citizen trying to flee the anti-democratic practices of their government.

[1] The no border movement has a tradition of organizing no border protest camps to come together and exchange and take part in a common struggle. Previous camps took place in Strasbourg, Cologne, Lesvos etc.

[2] You can find more information on the current situation in Greece and along the balkanroute at They published a detailed mapping of all the refugee camps in northern Greece with information on the living conditions in the different camps:

written by Lisa Groß, as participant of the no border camp and co-author of HarekAct

The views and opinions expressed in the articles published on HarekAct are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of all editorial board members.