Solidarity, anti-fascist struggles & Covid-19

March 14, 2020, the first day after the announcement of the Greek government for the closure of shops and for a radical change in the way we communicate, but Sappho Square in the center of Mytilene was full of people. Solidarians from Greece and from many European countries gathered to support the call of the Antifascist Initiative of Lesvos Against the Detention Centers: 

“- to state in practice our opposition to the emphasis only on the island’s local society – and in all forms of fascism & nationalism and to send fascists and neo-Nazis back to their holes 

” – To unite our voices in favour of open borders, free movement in European countries and against the illegal movement of people.”

The rally and solidarity march took place on Saturday morning, following a route through neighborhoods and the shopping center of Mytilene, the waterfront, the building of the Region, the port and the courts.

The actions were commented on in various ways and – for the most part – quite critically, with the characteristic article of a local newspaper entitled ‘The most dangerous nonsense of the year took place today in Mytilene!’. Of particular interest is the criticism leveled not at those who would have done it anyway but “by people who would have supported the marches if it were not for the issue of corona, that is, by comrades in this struggle.”

In response to these criticisms, the Lesvos Anti-Fascist Initiative Against Detention Centers immediately replied with a text entitled ‘On the course of Saturday 14/3 (Mytilene) or On Social Responsibility’.

“For all these reasons we took to the streets against the generalized fear that feeds all kinds of ‘fascism’ against the different. We promise, when the epidemic is over, to come out again and be thousands.”

Naya Tselepi
March 2020

1,2,3,4,7 by Antifascist Coordination Lesvos & 5,6 by Naya Tselepi


Crisis as appearance

Some journalist are claiming that the 2015 European refugee crisis is one of the most photographed crisis in human history. Yet, it is important to understand what kind of messages these representations convey and how they reproduce the hegemonic narrative of this crisis. When one attempts a google search using the term ‘refugee crisis’ the first image that comes up is this one from Massimo Setsini. An image shot from above picturing a boat packed with human bodies in the midst of the sea. One of the main hegemonic claims of the 2015 refugee crisis is that it began with the appearance of certain bodies on the shores of Europe. This is a very problematic notion, not only because it basically equates the presence of these bodies as the starting point of the crisis and, therefore, directly implying that these human bodies are the ‘problem’. But mainly because it forecloses, and thus keeps hidden and invisible the reasons of this appearance: war, genocide, and unbearable oppression these bodies experience in their countries of origin. Conditions that, for example, could be related to the US, the UK, and France invading and bombing Syria. In other words, the starting point of the 2015 European refugee crisis should be traced and portrayed differently, exposing the reasons of the appearance of certain bodies of the shores of Lesvos. But, this would be a story not so genteel for the European values that are supposedly threatened so much by the presence of these bodies. A story that would have to narrate Europe’s colonial histories, a story that would not easily result in the construction of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. The appearance of whose body and where can be seen as the beginning of a crisis? Which crises are declared and why and which remain undeclared, invisible, hidden and thus not recognised as humanitarian disasters that lead to international protection? The disappearance of whose bodies constitutes a crisis? 

Looking at Setsini’s image I cannot stop thinking that the viewer is looking down to a boat packed with people, the gaze comes from above. This is the state’s gaze, using drones and other technologies of surveillance to generate visual testimonies of the others, always the others. This is a gaze that places the viewer outside of this boat, what would be like to have an image shot from inside this boat, at this same moment as a visual example of Europe’s refugee crisis? 

I can’t help but remembering Susan Sontag’s claim that the function of the camera is similar to that of a gun, we ‘aim’ and we ‘shoot’ an image. ‘Just as the camera is a sublimination of a gun, to photograph someone is a subliminated murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time’ (1979: 15).

Myrto Tsilimpounidi
December 2019


An image shot from above picturing a boat packed with human bodies in the midst of the sea.
Photo by Massimo Setsini, 2014

Everyday Life

Trash Life

how is the feeling to be treated as if you were a trash?

even worse -how is the feeling to live surrounded by trashes?

The living conditions inside and outside the hot spot of Moria have always been inhuman but during winter 2019-2020 they have become outrageous; piles of rubbish are dominating the scenery of thousands of people living, working and volunteering inside and outside the hotspot as well as the surrounding region covered by villages, fields, roads etc.. This accumulated waste is undoubtedly  influencing the everyday life of people; posing a threat to the health and safety of populations as well as ecosystem. 

Based on a relevant article in a local newspaper[1], during the last days of January 2020, the rubbish created multiplied risks; they were accumulated on the main streets outside the hotspot posing obstacles to access; even of ambulances and fire trucks; leaving out heavy rains and winds that were worsening the effects. As explained by the article’s writer, the situation is due to the fact that the newly contracted company for the collection of dump isn’t fulfilling its tasks. Meanwhile, the efforts to improve the situation made by he municipality and the state are poor. The ones to  dedicate to reducing the hazards associated with the over-spilling rubbish, were volunteers with the support from the local community. 

Their emergency relief operation contributed to the clearance of the emergency access roads aiming at the improvement of overall well-being and living conditions. As a continuation to this, they kept on conducting waste cleaning operations on a weekly basis.[2]

Naya Tselepi
February 2020

[1] Άρθρο, Στο Νησι, ‘Να παρέμβει η Εισαγγελία για τα σκουπίδια της Μόριας!”, 29.1.2020

[2] in moria&epa=SEARCH_BOX

Photos by Knut Bry, 27.1.2020


The Unknown Migrant

This is a symbolic monument for the unknown migrant made by an unknown artist in Herakleion, Crete in order to commemorate the people who lost their lives in the Aegean Sea. The tag reads: to the unknown migrant, who died on the borders and due to slavery. This symbolic monument resembles the heroic representations of the national heroes and the unknown soldiers ‘who died fighting for the liberation of their country’ (sic). Perhaps this symbolic monument came at a time where the militarisation of the management of migrant and refugee flows made the aqueous border between Greece and Turkey one of the more dangerous in the world.   The militarization of the refugee crisis has involved the deployment of NATO in the Aegean and across the Mediterranean. It has extended the powers and scope of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and the institution of a “standing corps” “to ensure a coherent management of the external borders and to be able to respond to situations of crisis a standing corps will be set up, with up to 10 000 operational staff by 2027.”[1] It has interpenetrated the national criminal legal systems with EU police and asylum agencies. It has outsourced the functions of the external borders not only through bilateral agreements (for instance, with Libya and Turkey) but also by weaponising the sea. This undeclared war through the practice of the militarisation of the sea[2] has made the Mediterranean and the Aegean crossings as lethal as possible, turning it into one of the deadliest borders on earth.[3]

Yet, even this quantification of deaths reflects what Martina Tazzioli has termed the  “politics of counting.” Here, efforts driven by solidarity with refugees that seek to make the deadly consequences of border regimes visible face a quandary: numbers are used to represent the extent, scale, or scope of human suffering and loss; yet, quantification is an intense form of depersonalisation, homogenisation, and dehumanisation. It is not incidental that, “[r]eflecting upon border deaths, the first image that comes to mind for many of us is a list of numbers”. In this light, perhaps this monument dedicated to the unknown migrant focuses on the militarisation of the refugee crisis, on the heroic subjects of this crisis whose deaths we need to remember. Even so, it becomes very difficult to avoid dehumanisation and depersonalisation when we refer to people with the label that they are given by the states and the border regimes that killed them (migrant, refugees, asylum seekers, etc).


Myrto Tsilimpounidi

[1] Council of the European Union, “Press Release: European Border and Coast Guard: Council Agrees Negotiating Position,” February 20, 2019, european-border-and-coast-guard-council-agrees-negotiating-position/

[2] “Migrants do not simply die in the sea, but through the strategic use of the sea . . . the Mediter- ranean has been made to kill through contemporary forms of militarized governmentality of mobility which inflict deaths by first creating dangerous conditions of crossing, and then abstaining from assisting those in peril.” Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, “Liquid Traces: Investigating the Deaths of Migrants at the EU’s Maritime Border,” in Drift (New York: Nightboat, 2014), 658–59.

[3] International Organisation for Migration, “Four Decades of Cross-Mediterranean Undocumented Migration to Europe: A Review of the Evidence,” 2017, -mediterranean-undocumented-migration-europe-review-evidence.


Anna Carastathis, Aila Spathopoulou, and Myrto Tsilimpounidi, “Crisis, What Crisis? Immigrants, Refugees, and Invisible Struggles,” Refugee: Canada’s Journal on Refugees 34, no. 1 (2018): 29–38.

Martina Tazzioli, “The Politics of Counting and the Scene of Rescue.” Radical Philosophy 192 (July/August): 2015, 3, 5.

Monument of the unknown migrant in Herakleion, Crete


Stealing from Migrants

Different evocations of “crisis” create distinct categories that in turn evoke certain social reactions. Post-2008, Greece became the epicentre of the “financial crisis”; simultaneously, since 2015 with the advent of the “refugee crisis,” it became the “hotspot of Europe.” As Anna Carastathis explains by the end of the summer of 2015, Greece was experiencing the schema of ‘nesting crises’. By ‘nesting crises’ Carastathis is referring to the dominant state discourse of a crisis within a crisis given temporal and spatial priority to the “sovereign debt crisis” while the refugee crisis is constructed as a sudden problem first emerging in the summer of 2015. This renders invisible its prehistory, namely the criminalised migration of people into the Greek territory and the relegation of long-standing migrant and refugee communities in Greece to the socio-legal margins of the society. Intersecting the discursive constructs of the financial crisis and the refugee crisis, we are able to see how they are constituted through a process of mutual exclusion and prototypically: the prototypical subject of the financial crisis is the Greek citizen, while that of the refugee crisis is the displaced Syrian family who deserve international protection.

Photo 1: Hey boss, I am stealing from Migrants, Mytilene, 2017
Photo 2: …Migrants, Mytilene, 2019


In this era of the nesting crises, Lesvos has witnessed its economy flourishing. From the many stories and testimonies of charging 5 euros to migrants and refugees for a bottle of water which price is set at 50cents in Greece, to locals keeping the boats in which the refugees arrived on the shores in exchange for dry clothes and a blanket, this growing economy is build on human suffering. Sebastian Leape informs us that European funding alone in 2017 worked out at 7,000 euros for every refugee living in Greece. If we add to that works of the NGOs, solidarians, journalists, researchers, and photographers arriving in Lesvos to document the ‘refugee crisis’ we have only a partial understanding of how the crisis boosted the local economy, rapidly increased housing prices in Mytilene, supported the local stores, and provided a new life for the island. Image 1 was shot in 2017 at a central location in the city of Mytilene and the tag reads ‘Hey boss, I am stealing from migrants’. Image 2 was shot at exactly the same place in 2019, the wall is now painted over and the remaining tag reads ‘migrants’.


Myrto Tsilimpounidi
December 2019


Carastathis, Anna (2018) “Nesting Crises.” Women’s Studies International Forum 68: 142-148.

Carastathis, Anna – Spathopoulou, Aila –  Tsilimpounidi, Myrto (2018) ‘Crisis, what crisis? Immigrants, Refugees, and Invisible Struggles’, Refugee: Canada’s Journal on Refugees. Vol. 34 (1): 29-38. 

Leape, Sebastian (2018) ‘Greece has the means to helo refugees on Lesbos – but does it have the will?’, The Guardian,

Photos by Myrto Tsilimpounidi


Heteronormative Necropolitics

In Necropolitics Achille Mbembe (2019), speaks about a world always already invaded by inequality, precarity, and militarisation in a climate of ever-increasing resurgence of racist, homophobic, nationalists, and fascists discourses.  He outlines an alarming picture for Europe as a continent eaten up by the desire of ‘apartheid’ and always in the search of an enemy, whether external or internal. For Mbembe, this is how democracy embraces its dark side, what he terms as the ‘nocturnal body’, which erodes rights, values, and freedoms that were previously constituted. At a nutshell, the notion of necropolitics refers to the use of social and political power that dictates how some people may live and how some others must die. If we apply Mbembe’s thought on how certain people should live and others must die in the case of the 2015 European refugee crisis, we realise that we are talking about the heteronormalisation of necropolitics. By this, I mean that the ideal figure of the refugee has been constructed as the Syrian family. Even in the solidarity movement of ‘Refugees Welcome’ the image underneath the sing portrays a man, holding a woman who holds a female child. These very problematic representations in a way dictate whose sexuality and reproductive abilities dictate survival.

I juxtapose these thoughts with the story of Suma, a trans refugee fro Cairo travelling in a boat from Turkey to Greece in 2016:

We arrived in Chios by boat having each paid 700 euro. All four of us LGBT people who had boarded the boat were for the entirety of the journey very discreet; in fact, I had covered myself almost completely in a niqab – it seems funny but I was afraid to meet the same fate as another trans refugee; once her travelling companions realised she was trans, they threw her in the sea. Hours later the Turkish coastguard collected her, but this whole torment, I learned later, made her go mad.

Myrto Tsilimpounidi
December 2019


Mbembe, Achille (2019) Necropolitics. Durham: Duke University Press.

Souma, trans woman refugee from Cairo, 2016 (Source: Interview with Theodoris Antonopoulos,

The image is part of the Facing Crisis photography workshop held in Athens (Greece) in July 2017 by Myrto Tsilimpounidi & Anna Carastathis in collaboration with LGBTQI+ refugees.
Photo by Myrto Tsilimpounidi, 2017