AYS Daily Digest 15/09/20 Fire and COVID cases on Samos
Updates on Moria // shipwreck off Libya // Germany to take in more people from all 5 islands // Lithuania refuses to take in people from Greece // new asylum suggestions in Sweden // and more…
Fire and COVID-19 in Vathy camp on Samos
What happened to Moria could very well happen to any of the island camps. AYS’s member on Samos provided this update on the fire that started on Tuesday around 20:10 and was “almost completely out” later in the night:
“There have been no reports of any hospitalization. It is unclear exactly who started the fire, but tensions in the camp have been very high since two confirmed COVID-19 cases were announced today and the camp is in lockdown until 29 September. The fire itself started at the edge of the “jungle” and spread up the hill, in part due to the wind direction, and away from where anyone lives.”
As for recent life in the camp, our member elaborates on the tensions:
“People living in the camp are scared, frustrated and really worried for what might happen in the coming days; the threat of COVID-19, potential for more fires, the terrible food they are subject to in the camp (since now no one can leave to buy food), and being completely trapped inside the camp.”
As the first two COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Tuesday inside Vathy, our member warns that there are rumors in the camp that this is a lie:
“They (the rumors) are coming from a pretty general consensus/ belief that the Greek government and elements of Greek society want to lock these people away. It feel like a matter of time before some awful incident occurs. We just hope that everyone (authorities, people & NGO workers) keeps calm and can work something out together. The awful camp food is a really big issue, and is one of the starting points of tension in the camp.”
SHIPWRECK OFF LIBYAN COAST: 24 dead
Yet another tragedy, or just ‘effective migration management’ to the EU. The 45 people who survived were returned to Libya by the Libyan coast guard.
Also, four people have now died from the shipwreck near Crete, after authorities found another body on Tuesday. Two of them were children, ages 6 and 7. More may have died as well.
These stories might be cause for more rescue operations but unfortunately, Sea-Watch’s Moonbird aircraft is barred from taking off. It was previously operating off Lampedusa before its operations were stopped by Italian authorities.
Finally, Malta and Italy are both refusing to take in two pregnant women off the the Open Arms ship, even after receiving orders from doctors. A doctor from the medical charity Emergency warned that 9 people are in need of immediate hospital treatment. Open Arms currently has 278 people on board, 56 of whom are unaccompanied minors. Tuesday was their seventh day waiting to find a port. The Special Envoy of the UNHCR for the Central Mediterranean situation said:
“2 of the 3 boats were rescued in Maltese SAR. Malta received less sea arrivals this year so far than in 2019 (minus 4%) with 2161 arrivals in 2020. Maritime obligations must be observed & solidarity should be effective with countries of disembarkation.”
UPDATES ON MORIA FIRE AFTERMATH
CONDITIONS FOR REFUGEES: Currently 12,000 are still living on the streets and in makeshift camps. Only 800 people were accepted into the new tent camp erected on a former shooting range for the military. Mare Liberum e.V. reported that “Over 12,000 are still refusing to go into the camp — demanding freedom.” The Ministry of National Defense is also requiring the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum to pay a total 2.9 million euros for rent of this area until 2025 (for a five year “temporary” camp). Conditions for the almost 13,000 people include:
- standing in line for hours for food donations
- very little access to running water (some are “showering” in the sea) (some are getting fresh water from irrigation pipes)
- garbage cans overflowing in areas where children play
- many are using bamboo poles and blankets to make their own tents
- at least 25 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolated. Moria White Helmets is reminding everyone to wear a mask (including journalists and NGO workers). Despite this precaution, under these conditions COVID-19 could spread very easily.
GREEK GOVERNMENT PLANS: What are the government’s plans to address this tragedy?
The government does not want to evacuate everyone from Moria, for fear that it will spark outrage on the other islands. They are continuing their plans for building a temporary camp that will house roughly 12,000 people, giving priorities to families with children. They are also moving forward with a new reception and identification center (RIC) (aka CLOSED CAMP) where people will not be able to move in and out freely (something many Greek residents want).
6 MEN WERE ARRESTED FOR ALLEDGEDLY STARTING THE FIRE: But it is very IMPORTANT to state that no evidence has yet been put forward by the Greek police or authorities. The narrative is extremely convenient for the Greek government, but as yet it can be considered with a very critical lens.
UNHCR RESPONSE: In a statement on Tuesday, UNHCR put forward some of what it is currently doing, as well as its plans for stepping up support on Lesvos:
- “Assisting in the setup of this new temporary tented facility to accommodate those most at risk and providing technical advice and sharing expertise regarding site setup and planning.”
- “Site planning and works are currently underway, including gravelling. So far, UNHCR has provided 600 family tents, which are already accommodating some 700 as of yesterday evening. We have also provided chemical toilets and handwashing stations and are ready to provide additional water, hygiene and sanitation support that may be required.”
- “To prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, asylum seekers are undergoing rapid COVID-19 testing, by the national health authorities, before entering the new facility.”
- “Supporting the national health authorities in establishing a medical area in the new site, in accordance with WHO guidance, providing three tents, installing a Rubb hall and fencing to serve as isolation areas. Already functional, 20 people confirmed with COVID are now quarantining in this isolation area.”
- Providing a lot more food packages
JOURNALISTS ARE BEING DENIED ACCESS: Europe Must Act said that as of Tuesday morning “This morning, journalists were yet again denied access to the Kara Tepe road by police road blocks. This lack of press freedom and access is concerning. MSF and a few other NGOs were allowed through the police blockade but others were also denied access.” Here is a statement from a journalist demanding freedom of the press on Lesvos.
THE FAR RIGHT ON LESVOS: From Europe Must Act: “The Greek City Times is reporting an interview with German right wing activist Rebecca Somer just returned from Lesvos, claiming that fires were set by refugees assisted by German NGOs, presence of armed jihadists amongst the camp residents, refugees obstructing firefighters & being extremely aggressive towards the police. This has been widely circulated on social media.” Also check out this really important reporting on the far right networking coming to Lesvos from all over Europe (particularly western Europe):
WAYS TO HELP: Please support Menstrual hygiene for Lesvos — a project of Feminist Support Lesvos. Their goal is to provide more menstrual hygiene products for those in need, especially considering the severe lack of access to running water and other hygiene needs/services right now. Find out more here.
PLEASE READ THIS FROM A PROMINENT LEGAL SCHOLAR: “At the End of Strength: Asylum policy after the fire in Moria, Europe is losing its conscience, writes legal scholar Dana Schmalz.”
119 refugees arrived in Lampedusa: the camp is “full again”
AGI is reporting that “Another five landings, for a total of 119 migrants, were registered in Lampedusa. The first landing, of a small group of seventeen people, took place late in the evening at the Favarolo pier after the sighting of the patrol boats of the Guardia di Finanza and the Coast Guard. During the night, then, there were four other landings with a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 58 migrants. All have been taken to the hotspot, where there are currently over 250 people with a maximum capacity of 192 guests.” More here.
The Mayor of Castel Volturno, a southern Italian municipality near Caserta, is saying that the population of refugees and migrants in their small town is now “unmanageable.” They have about 23,000 refugees and migrants. He is saying that after the lockdown measures to contain COVID-19, the population grew substantially. He is asking for the state to intervene.
On Monday, 5 people were handed over to the Slovenian authorities after crossing into Italy. The police presence and procedures for catching people on the move entering from the Balkan route are increasing. More here.
Spiegel is reporting that the German government will take in 1,553 additional refugees from the 5 Greek islands
“The Union and the SPD have agreed on this, as Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced in Berlin. These are 408 families with children who have already been recognized in Greece as in need of protection.
This should be the second step after Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) announced on Friday that Germany would accept up to 150 young people from a total of 400 unaccompanied minors. The 400 minors are to be distributed to European countries. In a third step, more people should be admitted if there are agreements with other European countries. The SPD had called for the inclusion of a significant proportion of those affected.
53 unaccompanied underage asylum seekers have already been admitted, according to a press release from the federal government. The admission of 243 children in need of treatment and their core families is already being implemented. This is likely to affect at least 1,000 people, of whom more than 500 are already in Germany. The total number of people that Germany is taking over from the Greek islands is accordingly around 2,750.”
The Kurdish activist Mehmet Yalçin, a refugee in Bordeaux, has been refused asylum. On Tuesday morning he was arrested, sent to Paris, and will be returned to Turkey which many warn is “synonymous with a death sentence.” There was a rally to support him at the Bordeaux airport. More here.
Local news is reporting on new asylum assistance measures:
“Plans to discourage asylum seekers from safe countries from coming to the Netherlands will only force them into the illegal circuit and could hurt people who really need asylum, critics have said. The new measures are aimed at asylum seekers from countries such as Morocco and Algeria, who stand little chance of getting a residence permit, and who are putting too much pressure on the system.”
The Interior Minister said on Monday that Lithuania won’t accept any refugees from Greece, because they are focusing on people fleeing from neighboring Belarus:
“Lithuania was approached [about accommodating refugees from the Greek camp], but at the moment we are focused on Belarus and are putting maximum effort into helping citizens from the neighboring country to come to Lithuania on a humanitarian basis. Therefore, we decided that we cannot accept people from other countries at the moment.”
On Tuesday the “migration committee” handed over their suggestion of a new, long term migration policy to the minister of migration. The committee, consisting of politicians from all of the parties in the parliament, failed to agree — instead they voted. Which means that some suggestions are supported by some parties etc. It is important to note: they are still suggestions, and it’s expected that the debate will continue. But this is the “final” suggestion from the committee to the government.
The Swedish Refugee Law Center had some thoughts about the suggestions:
“Temporary residence permits continue to be the main rule. Broadly speaking, the proposal is an extension of the restrictions that followed from the temporary law, but there are some reliefs. Temporary residence permits are also proposed to continue to be the main rule in Sweden. Refugees receive a three-year permit and alternatively those in need of protection receive 13 months, both permits can be extended. People who come as quota refugees through the UNHCR’s quota refugee program receive permanent residence permits. The category other in need of protection is removed.
One of the questions that has been big during the spring is whether Sweden should have a humanitarian basis. If the proposals go through, Sweden will once again grant residence permits for particularly painful circumstances with certain relief in matters concerning children.”
Read their whole critic and thoughts here.
The Irish Examiner is reporting that Ireland is considering taking in more children from Greece:
“Children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman is giving “urgent consideration” to taking in unaccompanied children left stranded by fires that destroyed a massive refugee camp in Greece last week. In a meeting between the minister met and UNHCR Ireland, the issue was raised and, after, its Head of Office Enda O’Neill urged Ireland to meet its commitments to relocate unaccompanied children. Mr O’Neill pointed out that Ireland committed two years ago to take in 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece, but that only eight had arrived to date.”
The Guardian is reporting that “the government is planning to “opt out” of parts of the European convention on human rights in order to speed up deportations of asylum seekers and protect British troops serving overseas from legal action. The proposals are being coordinated by Downing Street aides. They are intended to rule out claims in areas where judges have supposedly “overreached” their powers. The restrictions, according to the Sunday Telegraph, could prevent migrants and asylum seekers from using the legislation to avoid being removed from the UK and to shield British soldiers against claims following overseas operations.” Learn more here.
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