AYS Daily Digest 21/12/17: Pace of transfers from the islands to the mainland needs to accelerate

Greek islands remain overcrowded / Refugees cross dangerous mountain path between Italy and France / City workers in Paris continue to throw away tents / Belgian government suspends deportation of Sudanese refugees amidst reports of torture / And more news…

Photo by One Happy Family — Community Center, Lesvos

FEATURE: Greek islands remain overcrowded

One boat landed on Samos with 53 people. On Wednesday, 86 refugees were transferred from the islands to the mainland, including 22 from Lesvos and 42 from Kos.

Human Rights Watch again urged the Greek government to speed up transfers from the Aegean islands to the mainland, warning that overcrowded facilities on Lesvos, Chios, Leros, Samos, and Kos are ill-equipped to deal with the coming of winter. The hot spots on the islands still have almost 11,000 people in facilities with a total capacity of just 5,576.

While some people are being transferred from the islands to the mainland, including 86 on Wednesday, others continue arriving, including 254 to Lesvos from Wednesday to Thursday. Medico says conditions on Lesvos are now ‘life-threatening,’ with newly-arrived refugees sleeping in camping tents, children walking barefoot between garbage and sewage, and a lack of warm water or place to get warm.

The conditions are unsanitary and there is a lack of quality food. Families lost everything during the recent fights, including their tents and most valuable possessions, and were forced to to seek shelter in a warehouse. Meanwhile, the One Happy Familly community centre is looking for donations. The team is cooking between 450 and 980 meals per day and €12,000 finances their kitchen for one month. The group is operated jointly by refugees and volunteers, and provides other activites as well.

The No Border Kitchen is also looking for funds to continue its work in January.


GREECE

New measures to protect the homeless in Athens

Ekathimerini reports municipal authorities in Athens have announced measures to protect homeless people and other vulnerable groups in the Greek capital from the cold weather. A heated hall in the Athens Municipal Cultural Center on Academias Street will open to the public at 10 p.m. on Friday and people in need can call the help number 1595 for information.


ITALY

Refugees cross dangerous mountain pass

La Repubblica reports that six refugees lost on the Bardonecchia mountains have been found, while they were attempting to cross the border to France. After having walked kilometres in the snow, they got lost and called for rescue. The firemen and the Alpine rescue had launched the alarm at 11:30 a.m. after having noticed their absence, but the six refugees refused the help and kept walking towards the Colle della Scala that connects Italy with France .

“When we told them we would have led them back to Bardonecchia, they refused to come with us and they left, we told them they would have put their lives in danger, they were wearing sneakers and track suits and they were soaked. We cleared the ground from the snow, so that they could put their feet out of it, and then they started walking again and we kept an eye on them up to Colle della Scala tunnel.”

Right after that, the Alpine rescuers saw three minors from Ivory Coast heading to Colle della Scala. The youngsters, in jeans and sneakers, had left Bardonecchia at two in the afternoon.

Five days ago, Libération reported on the solidarity movement of French citizens and mountain guides at the border with Italy who have started to organise walks every night to rescue refugees. The mountain guides also organised a walk across the mountain in solidarity with refugees last Sunday, during which one young refugee was found walking barefoot through the snow. One mountain guide says, “soon we will find somebody dead” — refugees face avalanches on the Italian side of the mountain and risk hypothermia and getting lost on the French side, as road signs and sign posts have been withdrawn. Another Libération article writes about Joel, a mountain guide who found 11 young refugees in a single night. Tracked by authorities, between 1,500 and 2,000 refugees have crossed the Alps during the last three months.


FRANCE

City workers continue throwing away tents

In Paris, city workers again threw out tents, sleeping bags, and other items into the garbage.


GERMANY

Number of rejected asylum seekers returning to their home country drops

DW reports that the number of failed asylum seekers willing to return to their home countries from Germany has almost halved this year, compared to 2016, despite moves by Berlin to raise the incentives for voluntary departures. Under a new scheme, families can receive up to €3,000 and individuals up to €1,000 if they voluntarily return home by the end of February. In a feature, InfoMigrants also writes about the different programs available to those who want to go back.


BELGIUM

Belgian government has decided to suspend the deportation of Sudanese refugees

VOA reports that the Belgian government has decided to suspend the deportation of Sudanese refugees at least until the end of January and investigate the torture of those who were forced to return to their country. Six “calls for help” have been registered by the NGO Timep Europe, amongst them Kamal, 18 years, “hit with batons to the feet” during a “two day” interrogation. Streetpress reported on a similar situation in France back in October, with agents of the Sudanese government visiting refugees in French retention centres to determine their identity and facilitate their deportation. After their visit, four refugees were deported, with all four saying they are being threatened by police in their country.


UK

Help Refugees appeals Dubs decision

Help Refugees is appealing after losing a high court challenge against the government over the number of unaccompanied child refugees given sanctuary in the UK. Only 200 lone asylum-seeking children have been housed in the UK under the Dubs scheme, which campaigners had hoped would bring 3,000 minors there. Help Refugees adds, “Lone refugee children are living in horrendous conditions in Greece, France, and Italy; immediate steps must be taken by the UK government to honour its obligations under the Dubs Amendment. The government has failed these children. Our appeal intends to hold them to account for this shameful failure.”


SWEDEN

Finance Minister says integration doesn’t work properly

Dagens Nyheter reports that the Swedish Minister of Finance, Magdalena Anderson, said that she doesn’t think that Sweden should take in more refugees than they can integrate into society. At the same time, she encouraged asylum seekers to go to other countries, saying, “They will have better opportunities if they go somewhere else.” She added that unemployment is low in general, but remains high among people born abroad, arguing that there are problems with the integration of newcomers.


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