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AYS Daily Digest 14/06/2019: People are being moved to new “camp” in Vučjak, Bosnia

New testimony of brutality by Croatian police// Hundreds of seasonal workers exploited in Italian fields// 53 people still stranded off Italian shores// Cases of police violence at the French-Italian border// Violent pushback from Bulgaria to Greece// First deportation from France to Eritrea// 50+ people detained in Morocco// News from Malta, Italy, Switzerland, the UK…

Saluzzo. Credit: Spazio Popolare Autogestito Gabrio

Today, authorities at Una San canton, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, started moving people “residing in private accommodations” from Bihać to Vučjak, a small town around 10 km from the main centre, in the middle of nowhere.

Sources on the field confirmed that, just after a food distribution by the local volunteers yesterday evening, the police took all the people — except one group — to Vučjak area, where they had just started flattening the ground, clearing it in order to place temporary campsite.

Ironically, the UN and IOM, who have been running the show in BiH until now, are against this solution. As we reported earlier, the IOM had proposed building a new camp that would have all the standards etc., which would be extremely costly, and very likely take at least months to be built.

However, local authorities — in the midst of tourist season (they are close to the Croatian National park, Plitvice Lakes, as well as the Bosnian National park on Una river) — pretty much want to make those people to “disappear” from their city and daily lives. As well as marginalising these communities in a despicable way, these authorities are ignoring the fact that forceful solutions never stopped migration; nor did the overwhelming aggression of the Croatian police; nor will their forced unfit “solution”.

No international organisation is so far involved in assisting the people forcefully moved to Vučjak area.

The UN has stated that:

[…] we firmly believe that this location is entirely inadequate for the purpose of accommodating people there. We call upon the authorities to immediately cease this relocation until a more suitable place is available. The UN urges the authorities to allow migrants and refugees already relocated to “Vucjak” to return.

Vučjak is dangerous not only in terms of conditions of accommodation (there is a severe lack of running water and electricity). It is also located close to landmine infected areas, was there was previously a landfill. They area is also at high risk of fires, due to the high concentration of methane gas underground.

The UN understands the concerns of the local population and the Una Sana Canton authorities regarding migrants and refugees residing outside of the four official reception centres in the Canton, especially those squatting in public spaces and empty houses, and the need for additional accommodation space. The UN would like to emphasize, however, that such measures need to be taken with full respect of migrant and refugee rights under international and national law, including humanitarian standards for accommodation sites.

Read the full statement here.

No surprise, then, that people who were moved during the day, started to walk back towards Bihać in the evening, as reported by this source and this one.

A new testimony of Croatian police violence has reached AYS, in addition to what we reported already in Wednesday’s digest.

This recent testimony was taken by a volunteer on the ground and it perfectly describes the goose game people on the move are forced to “play” in an attempt to escape the Bosnian maze, where people are stuck, forced there by the negligence of European authorities.

Police don’t give water, don’t give food, don’t give anything, they just say “ok, go back to Sarajevo”, but then I go to Sarajevo and police there don’t take me, don’t take anybody, it doesn’t matter if I stay in Sarajevo or Bihać, I live in disguise.

The young man then proceeds to describe the violence inflicted on them by Croatian police, when trying to cross the border near Velika Kladuša.

When they catch you, they beat you a lot […], I go in the jungle, on the way, maybe it’s Croatian military police, he put a gun on my head, he doesn’t say anything to me, nor listen, but he just says “can you speak English?” and if you say yes, he beats you and he doesn’t look where he hits, which body part, he hits you on your eyes, head, leg, foot. He beat me a lot on my legs, on my arms. It was me and 2 other friends and the Croatian police also beat my friends. And then the police caught us and took us to the police station and then they beat us and don’t give anything, no water…

He proceeds to recall an incident where children were thrown into the river.

It was midnight, in the night and they say “come out of the car [police car], one by one” and there were maybe 7–8 police agents and they have electric sticks and they put them maybe over your head, they did this to me, to all people, if you run away you’re safe, if you don’t run away, they beat you. There was a river and the water is very dirty and they throw you in water […]. They also put children in the water, one of 7 years and one of 3 years, and two Pakistani guys took the children out of the water and save them and then ran away.

This year is no different than the ones that have been before, for those field workers exploited in the agricultural sector.

Dozens of men are reaching the area for the season, in the hopes of earning some money to send home, or to save for the low season ; they are sleeping on benches, under a makeshift shelter in an abandoned building, with no basic services at all.

Repeatedly surveilled, racially profiled, woken up even 2 or 3 times per night just to be told to go away from the public squares, to hide somewhere where the average Italian would not see them — but to go where?

There is no place with enough capacity to host all the workers exploited in the fields, who are present in the territory. This is even keeping in mind that the majority of these people have regular documentation, released by the Questura, that allows them not only to stay in the Italian territory, but also to have rights associated with it, such as the basic rights of having a roof over your head, a place to sleep, cook and take a shower.

The only structure available for the workers, is the former barracks Filippi, which can host up to 368 people, but that would not be enough to accommodate all those who will come in the next weeks. The previous squats and buildings, like Foro Boario, where people used to live, are now closed and sealed, empty for no apparent reason.

Therefore, workers have to walk kilometres a day to ask for a daily employment in the fields, humbly asking how much their pay would be, a pay that can change every day, as can the possibility to get a job, and the chance to get hosted; yes, because this is the only possibility to sleep in an enclosed, “safe” space.

At the moment, the people present at Foro Boario, sleeping rough, number around 100 and are constantly increasing; some are with a contract; others are still waiting to be recruited by a “good employer”. A modern slavery business.

Every night, the police come and take personal belongings, cardboards, blankets and even food! In a ridiculous attempt to make the workers leave, and carrying on a clear abuse of power. These workers are afraid to denounce the mistreatment, as they fear for their permit renewal.

There are a gas canister and a camping cooker, wet cardboards and few blankets…and we are told that the tarpaulin to find shelter from the rain has been confiscated by the police; but it is immediately clear that just one wall is separating them from having an appropriate accommodation: the dormitory opened last year, called PAS: Prima Accoglienza Stagionale [the fomer barracks Filippi].

In the building, there are big communal rooms with bunkbeds, 12 showers and a few cookers to prepare your meal. Queues to cook or take a shower are extremely long.

Freedom of movement is limited inside the structure as well, through the use of passes and schedules, organised by CGILFLAI (a union for agricultural workers, oddly enough).

Moreover, another clear abuse is represented by the fact that it is still unclear when the picking season is going to officially start, leaving hundreds of people in limbo.

Donations of blankets, shoes (42 +), socks and towels are, therefore, extremely needed for workers in the area.

Caritas is organising a shop, where people can receive clothes, shoes and other items; the shop is open every Wednesday from 10 to 12.30.

For more information, follow Comitato Antirazzista Saluzzese and Saluzzo Migrante.

Note that the exploitation is ongoing in other areas too, most notably San Ferdinando in Calabria and San Severo in Puglia.

Violent pushback from Bulgaria to Greece.

Twenty seven migrants crossing from Turkey to Bulgaria were violently beaten by border agents and pushed back to Greece, in the Evros region.

In video recordings taken of the event, there are visible signs of bumps on their backs, abrasions and blood in their hands, head and face.

Police also robbed those attempting to cross of their money and valuable possessions, including shoes.

See original source here.

Sea Watch 3 is still stranded off the Italian shores with 53 people on board.

In addition to daily detentions, authorities in Nador have burnt down and destroyed personal possessions of unaccompanied minors and young migrants on the move.

Malta will create a “special unit” to fight illegal exploitation of workers in the territory, but, as reported, the task force will mainly be in charge of controlling residency and working permits.

Officials working for the special unit against illegal immigration will be able to inspect sites where migrants might work, study or live (including schools and private education centers) without a warning. These random inspections will be carried out with the assistance of police.

Attempts to hinder these inspections or providing false information can be punished with fines of up to 5,000 euros and up to six months in jail.

Asylum seekers regularly spend 2–3 years in inhumane camps on the Greek islands before getting an interview for their asylum application. #safepassage Credit: Mare Liberum e.V.

Ventimiglia

Testimonies of police violence.

From Monday 10/06, Caritas Intemelia extended their opening hours for the support service they offer. The programme is for migrants with regular permits, who have been excluded from the reception network due to the effects of the Salvini Decree.

In particular, they offer: job orientation services, with the creation of a CV and actual help and support into finding job offers and making applications; support for permit renewal practices; preparation and dispatch of citizenship application/request; legal advice services; orientation for all the additional services present in the territory.

The office is open on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 9.30 till 11.30.

Como

Volunteers in a network of schools are providing classes to learn Italian and practice the language.

See more here and here.

A father of three children was forcibly deported on Sunday 9th June from Lucerne, even before a decision from the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights reached the public.

A group of people in solidarity tried to prevent the van from leaving the police premises, but eventually they had to give up and were prevented from going around in the neighbourhood.

The police didn’t let them go for long and kettled the peaceful walkers with a massive presence, threatening them with rubber bullets although there were children with them. All those present were forced to undergo an identity check, and one person was arrested arbitrarily and harshly.

See more here.

The first refoulement of an Eritrean citizen was carried out on Thursday 6th June, making human rights associations worried that this change of perspective and actions towards Eritrean nationals could be easily repeated.

The woman was stopped at the French-Spanish border and immediately taken to the detention centre of Toulouse, where she was forced to file an asylum application, in very unusual conditions and as part of an “emergency procedure”.

The woman filed an appeal to the National Court of Human Rights, but was removed from the country before any ruling was sentenced.

In a statement, the prefecture of the Pyrénées-Orientales, at the origin of the expulsion, considers that "the interested party was able to assert her rights several times" and that the prefect thus "executed the decision of removal" decided by the Administrative Court of Toulouse.

The human rights organization La Cimade is worried that this case could open the way to more expulsions to Eritrea, considered to be one of the most dangerous dictatorships in the world.

A proposed inquiry into Brook House detention centre was announced by the High Court today, during a trial for mistreatment and abuses committed by guards towards two former detainees.

The judge stated that:

A detention centre, with its population of vulnerable persons, is a place where erosion of the rule of law may be thought to be both particularly likely and (because of that) particularly dangerous…..detainees are frequently subject to hostile political and media rhetoric; the public at large do not in general care about welfare in detention. In those circumstances it may be thought to be of especial importance that detainees’ rights should be publicly vindicated and the rule of law thus publicly upheld.

It is therefore fundamental to carry on such investigations in order to make these perpetrators accountable for their actions and ensure that such events will not be repeated in the future.

Last year a separate report, commissioned by Brook House operator G4S, called on the Home Office to take “greater responsibility” for conditions at the centre. The authors, from an independent consultancy, said that Brook House was “unsuitable to hold any detainee for more than a few weeks”.

Right to Remain has updated its legal advice section for those who are forcibly detained; it specifically deals with the lack of legal representation available. Please check it here.

Only 50% of detainees held in immigration detention currently have a legal representative, and of those, only 61% of those have a legal aid solicitor.

The situation is even worse for people held in prisons under immigration powers. Out of 50 detainees who had moved from prison to detention, only 3 had received immigration advice from a solicitor while in prison (6%).

For those who booked an appointment with the legal aid solicitor in detention, two thirds had to wait more than a week, and just 20% received specific advice about their case.

We strive to echo correct news from the ground through collaboration and fairness. Every effort has been made to credit organisations and individuals with regard to the supply of information, video, and photo material (in cases where the source wanted to be accredited). Please notify us regarding corrections.

Apart from daily news in English, we also publish weekly summaries in Arabic and Persian. Follow the links to read and share the summary in Arabic for the week June 3–9 and the summary in Persian for the week May 27-June 2. Find specials in both languages on our medium site.

If there’s anything you want to share or comment, contact us through Facebook, Twitter or write to: areyousyrious@gmail.com.

We’re open to expanding our team of volunteer researchers, editors, and info gatherers. Get in touch!

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Are You Syrious?

News digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and people on the move, but also for journalists, decision makers and other parties.