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AYS Daily Digest 09/10/2020 — An Abdication of Responsibility on Lesvos

Algeria: violent, brutal treatment at the hands of police / Mare Liberum stops operations for the safety of their members / Confirmed: those who refuse to exit ESTIA will not have access to HELIOS / France: the authorities are inflating the number of meals distributed and hundreds of people are still going hungry / Amnesty International detects that most governmental policies increase the trauma instead of alleviating it / Recommended reads and more news

Save Pikpa! Photo credit: Begum Basdas


Greek Government Refuses Responsibility for Conditions in Moria 2.0

After yesterday’s rains exposed how poorly designed the new camp on Lesvos is, the Greek government still refuses to accept responsibility for the horror that they helped build.

The UNHCR criticized conditions in the camp, saying that there are “critical gaps in drainage, water, sanitation, hygiene and health services.” Even though the Greek government received 750,000 euros in emergency funding from the EU Commission, they did not provide proper housing to the people.

In response, the Greek Migration Ministry put out a press release completely abdicating responsibility for conditions in the camp. The statement said that it is the UNHCR’s responsibility to improve infrastructure in the camps as the tents bear its logo. They ended the statement by calling for the return of apartments occupied under the ESTIA program. In an interview, Immigration Minister Notis Mitarakis also underplayed the failure of his government’s response by praising the “immediate” solutions and claiming that only 7% of tents were affected by bad weather.

The critique of UNHCR branding on humanitarian supplies is valid when coming from people on the move or volunteers, but not from governments looking to avoid responsibility. The situation could easily have been avoided if the Greek government had bothered to provide people with dignified housing at any point in the past few years.

Instead, the Greek government is doing everything in its power to shut down dignified housing alternatives such as Pikpa. In response to the UNHCR’s criticism of the decision to shut down Pikpa, the migration ministry said that the camp was no longer necessary. However, places like Pikpa are vital alternatives for those who need more support such as children, who find a home there free from violence and fear.

Even though Pikpa is right there as an example of what to do, the Greek government is choosing to shut it down, ignoring criticisms from people on the move and international human rights observers, while throwing up its hands and moaning that it cannot possibly be expected to provide better housing than the muddy tents of Moria 2.0.


Thousands Illegally Pushed Back to Niger

The Algerian government has conducted pushbacks against 3,400 people on the move, including children separated from their parents, and deported them to Niger without due process since September 5th. Those deported included recognized refugees who were already registered with UNHCR. Many were just left in the desert near the border. Many people reported violent, brutal treatment at the hands of police.




Alan Kurdi Detained…Again

The Italian Coast Guard detained the Sea-Eye’s ship “Alan Kurdi” for the second time this year, even though it was just certified by German and Spanish authorities. This is clearly a politically motivated detention to stop rescue operations. You can hear from the captain here (in German).

For more information on the state of EU border violence at sea, check out this interview with members of AlarmPhone.


Mare Liberum Stops Operations

Mare Liberum said that they will stop operating for now for the safety of their crew members after the Greek government announced that they are investigating four NGOs for human trafficking.

Although no NGO has been named officially as a target in the case, most people including the media believe that Mare Liberum will be at the centre. Mare Liberum, along with many other NGOs, has faced increasing attacks this year since the German government’s stay to police harassment and racist treatment at the hands of Greek police. It is clear that they have been targeted for their important work exposing the abuses of the Greek government and Frontex. Here is part of their statement:

In the meantime, we will not be silenced. We will continue exposing the atrocities committed in this European external border region, to stand up against injustice and to advocate for the rights of those who are on the move.

We call for the EU governments to protect refugees from arbitrary violence, from illegal push-backs and from inhumane camps. Now, we also feel impelled to call for solidarity concerning our protection — the protection of our crew from preposterous yet dangerous criminilazation.

Depriving People of the Next Step to HELIOS

The UNHCR Protection Working Group confirmed that people who refuse to exit ESTIA, the UNHCR-funded emergency support programme, will not have access to HELIOS, the integration programme, later on. There has been an increase in people refusing to comply with leaving the ESTIA programme, which is not surprising considering the uncertain housing so many people on the move face. Not only is blocking people from accessing HELIOS a harsh punishment, it will slow down transitions from the overcrowded ESTIA programme.

Lockdown Continues

Lockdown in Nea Kavala camp will continue until October 12th as 14 more people tested positive for COVID-19. Residents are saying that authorities are not providing enough food or properly isolating people who tested positive. The restrictions and neglect prompted a protest yesterday. We will update as we receive more information.

Meanwhile, five more people tested positive in the Samos camp.

If you need to renew your white card, you can make an appointment to do so online in English or Greek. More details are available here.


4% Acceptance Rate for Albanians Seeking Asylum

Out of several hundred Albanians that applied for asylum in the EU in July, only 4%, or about 14 people, were accepted. This is a sharp drop from last year, when around 100 people would receive protection each month. The drop can be explained partially by the pandemic, as asylum offices in many countries have not reopened fully.


People to be Relocated From Pistoia Church in Tuscany

The Tuscan governor signed an order calling for “adequate decongestion” of church facilities in Pistoia, where about 200 people have been saying. Aid groups have long criticized the conditions they were in. While some will stay in the parish, most will be relocated.


More Arrivals to Canary Islands in Past Few Months

This year, more and more people are making the long, dangerous crossing from Africa to the Canary Islands. Many consider this “the most dangerous crossing in the world.” There are many factors behind this increase, from the coronavirus pandemic to externalized EU borders making it harder to cross at other, safer points. The crossings will not stop any time soon.


Trouble with Food Distribution in Calais

Following criticism that food distribution would only be allowed in certain places in Calais, the organization mandated by the state to distribute food will carry out mobile food distributions. Local organizations heavily criticized the original plan, with a limited number of distribution points that were inaccessible to most people, so now small trucks will cross the city from east to west twice a day to distribute food.

However, even with the new distribution plan, solidarity organizations say that the authorities are inflating the number of meals distributed and that hundreds of people are still going hungry. They denounced the new distribution plan as nothing more than a communication operation.

Also in Calais: local authorities rescued 16 people off the coast.

Each Eviction Followed by Despair

In the impromptu camp in Saint-Denis, formed after authorities pushed many people out of Paris, people are reporting terrible conditions. Several hundred people are living in shameful conditions, surrounded by violence.

Scarce Options for Young People in Jeopardy

One of the few French governmental policies not founded on exclusion, an apprenticeship programme for youth on the move, is at risk due to the pandemic. You can read more about the programme here.


Sweden’s New Asylum Policy Will Fail People on the Move

Sweden’s government has submitted a proposal for a new migration policy that would be even harsher on people on the move. It will become one of the most difficult countries to obtain a residence permit, and the permits will be some of the shortest in Europe. The proposals have not been adopted yet and are out for consultation, so there is still time to avert this. It is unfair to sentence people to years of uncertainty, and forcing people to apply for residency over and over again makes it more difficult for them to integrate and build a new life.


More Analysis of the EU Pact on Migration

A few weeks after its release, the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum is still under analysis. Here is one such article, specifically tackling whether it is likely to be approved in Poland and Hungary. Even though the solidarity mechanism does not create an actual mechanism to force redistribution of people on the move, politicians have already labeled it a quota system and will probably refuse to adopt it. The attempt to appeal to the far-right within Europe will probably fail, but inhumane policies will still be implemented.


Global Neglect of Mental Health Services for People on the Move

Even though the vast majority of people on the move have been through unspeakable trauma, very few have access to actual mental health care. Amnesty International decried this international neglect, which has only gotten worse during the pandemic. Instead of helping, most governmental policies actually increase the trauma people have to go through.

Previously, some have said that digital biometric IDs can make it easier for people to access care, including health care and mental health care. However, there are many problems with increasing digital surveillance, as outlined here.

The particular neglect in the field of mental health care does not mean most governments are better at providing physical health care to people on the move—often, NGOs like No Name Kitchen have to pick up the slack. Support No Name Kitchen’s Health on the Move project, helping people along the Balkan route!


  • Worth watching: this documentary from Al Jazeera on the situation in Moria, featuring Efi Latsoudi from Lesvos Solidarity.
  • While we focus our efforts in Europe, it’s important to note that migration and horrible treatment of people on the move happen all over the world. This is a good overview on migration from Honduras and the impact of COVID-19 on Central America.
  • Finally, these weekly roundups will provide extensive weekend reading material. This blog post from Forced Migration Current Awareness focuses on children and families on the move. This update from ELENA brings you the latest in legal developments. Also worth reading is ECRE’s Weekly Bulletin.

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

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Are You Syrious?

Are You Syrious?

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.