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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

It is time to stop

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

A woman was shot dead on the North Macedonian border with Greece on Wednesday 19 April 2023. She had done nothing wrong, committed no crime. We have to stop doing this to people. We have to stop ruining their lives and even killing them to prevent them from daring to seek safety, decent places to live, learn and work. We have to stop killing people to satisfy our own fear and bigotry.

It is time to stop.

It is time to stop.

A woman has been shot dead outside Gevgelija, close to North Macedonia’s border with Greece.

The shooting took place yesterday (Wednesday 19 April 2023) during a vehicle inspection.

No details of the woman have been publicly-released, but it is rumoured (we stress, not confirmed) that she had been a resident at Katsikas refugee camp in Epirus.

She was shot through the chest when police attempted to arrest a 26-year-old man they claim to believe is a people smuggler. The man is said to have grabbed an officer’s gun, which went off in the ensuing struggle.

She died of chest wounds in a nearby hospital.

The man, along with one other smuggling ‘suspect’ and seven other people, were all arrested.

The list of things wrong with this situation is genuinely just exhausting.

First of all, why are we sending armed police to carry out vehicle checks? What do we think will happen?

Second, especially why do so when those we are likely to arrest are people trying to seek safe places to build decent lives? What threat do those people pose to us?

Third, we do not know who this woman was, but the chances are she was fleeing persecution and violence in a country most of us would feel lucky never to have visited, let alone had to live in.

But she wasn’t killed there. She was killed here.

How can we continue to do this?

Fourth, it is not illegal to enter a country to apply for asylum. In fact, it’s the only way one can apply. Not only why are we sending armed police to stop this, why are we sending the police at all? And under what possible pretence were the seven people not ‘suspected’ of being smugglers arrested?

Fifth, if the woman was ‘resident’ at Katsikas, well… many of us know what the camp is like.

Katsikas is not a decent place.

Its containers have holes in their walls and rooves: they leak water and are freezing in winter; too little food is provided. There is one washing machine for 1,000 men, women and children; people are isolated miles from the nearest large town or city, and they are trapped. There are insects in the beds.

And Katsikas is far from the worst camp in Greece.

Sixth, why are there still even refugee camps in Greece, some seven years after the most intense moments of the refugee response ended?

Why are we making people live like this?

And is it any surprise when people wish to leave, and do so under their own power? (the answer to this is no: in fact, this is why the Greek government has slashed all protection, housing and aid programmes available to people who arrive here: to force them to leave through the sheer, bitter misery of their lives here)

We did this to this woman.

Through stupidity (taking guns to people-smuggling investigations).

Through illegality (stopping people from travelling to seek safety, which is their legal right).

And through cruelty (making people’s lives so miserable in the world’s wealthiest ever political bloc that they are forced to leave through desperation).

We did it.

We have said many times that the price of bigotry is paid by other people. In this case, a young woman who had done nothing wrong, paid for it with her life.

We cannot keep doing this.


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