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AYS Daily Digest 16/7/21 —Sweden to Stop Deportations to Afghanistan

Three people stuck in Cypriot no-man’s Land//Busy day in Spanish SAR//U.S. State Department criticizes Greece for pushbacks

The abandoned place in Patras where many people try to find shelter. Photo credit: Arianna Egle Ventre of No Name Kitchen


Sweden to stop deportations to Afghanistan as more and more people flee

In light of the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, Sweden said that it would stop all deportations there. About 7,000 people are said to be affected by this ruling, but this number doesn’t account for others who were maybe in line to be deported but had their returns stopped by the pandemic.

While this is commendable, the fact still remains that for many years, Sweden was deporting people to a country that even back then was not considered safe for civilians. The people are also stuck in legal limbo since they cannot get residency or other legal status, only wait until the state decides they are expendable again.

The situation in Afghanistan is worsening, leading at least 1,000 Afghans per day to arrive at Turkey’s eastern border seeking safety. However, Turkish asylum policy (supported by EU funds) prioritizes harshness over humanity. Many people die as they take dangerous routes to avoid Turkish pushbacks or getting shot by the Iranian army. Others spend all of their life savings on smugglers to get to Istanbul, and then hopefully Europe. According to Turkish asylum law, Afghans are not eligible for refugee status in the country and must ask for international protection and wait for resettlement elsewhere.

While the situation in Afghanistan has been getting worse since U.S. troop withdrawal (and it is important to remember that the U.S. Army is to blame for the situation in the country), it has not been safe for civilians for decades. While it is important that Sweden has vowed to pause deportations to the country for now, they should never have taken place at all.


Busy day in Spanish SAR

The Spanish Salvamento Maritimo rescued a patera with 18 people on board about 80 miles from Gran Canaria. Unfortunately, one person on board was already deceased when the rescuers arrived.

In the Straits of Gibraltar, Salvamento Maritimo had to rescue five people in distress that tried to reach Cadiz from Ceuta.

A total of 100 people are still missing on the Canary Island route according to AlarmPhone.

The Sea-Watch 3 is making its final preparations to go on its latest mission. You can donate to support their work here.


Three people stuck in no-man’s land between Turkish and Greek areas of Cyprus

For the past two months, three people from Cameroon have been stuck in the demilitarized zone that divides the two parts of the island. Many people on the move try to reach Europe by crossing from North Cyprus to the South, which is an EU member state, but they do not know the dangers of the crossing. Since then, they have been trapped in the demilitarized zone, as Cypriot authorities refuse to allow them to apply for asylum, claiming that it would set a bad precedent.

For now, the people are living in tents under the sweltering Cypriot summer, completely dependent on charity. While they are surviving, this is no way to live.


U.S. State Department condemns pushbacks

Greek authorities can claim that allegations of pushbacks only come from “leftist” sources, but the U.S. State Department, one of Greece’s closest allies, included a statement condemning pushbacks in their 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report.

However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government lacked efforts to screen asylum-seekers and migrants for trafficking at entry points to Greece. In addition, reports from credible sources documented numerous, sometimes violent, forcible returns, or “pushbacks,” against migrants and asylum-seekers who had entered Greek territory, including women and children. The pushbacks discouraged potential victims from self-identifying or cooperating with authorities.

While it is naive to think this statement will be enough to make the Greek government change its tune, it should still be interesting to see how they attempt to play this off, as the U.S. State Department can hardly be accused of leftism.

With friends like these…Greece and Lithuania

After news that Lithuania will be building a wall to keep out people transiting through Belarus, the prime minister met with Greek PM Mitsotakis this week. Both prime ministers compared their situation, saying both were victims of states using migration to pressure the EU (Turkey and Belarus, respectively) and are just doing what they need to do to protect their borders. The Lithuanian PM Simonyte already said that most people will have their asylum applications rejected, as Belarus is only unsafe for people protesting the government (who decides what makes up the real “opposition” is unclear).

Greece promised to provide Lithuania with “expertise and technical support” to handle the situation at the border. Knowing what kind of “expertise” the Greek border guards and coast guard use at their borders, we shudder to think what information will be shared.

Mitsotakis also made a statement saying:

“Neither Greece in the south, nor Lithuania in the north wish to be the gateway to Europe for people-smuggling networks or third-party states intent on putting pressure on the European Union.”

These joint meetings and statements are serving to legitimize border violence, no matter where they happen in the EU. By continuing to portray the arrivals of ordinary people as “emergencies,” no matter where they happen, it normalizes the suspension of human rights with the justification of a “state of emergency.”

Updates from Patras

People living in Patras shared the story of a young boy who was attacked by a truck driver in the area and beaten on the face with a wooden stick.

Of course: it is obvious that the violence suffered by people on the move during their travels (and once they have arrived in Europe too) is not good: but… But it is still daily and systematic.

There is no surprise: but there is rage.

Surprise would almost deny the systematicity of this violence.

Over the past week there have been many cases of violence in the Port of Patras: a violence that is at the root of the injustice of the border regimes, which are creating hierarchies of humanity.

Read the full story here, from our friends at No Name Kitchen.

The European Network of National Human Rights Institutions and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights published their “National Report on the situation of human rights of migrants at the borders.” You can read the full report here. The report discusses pushbacks at the borders, the conditions in reception centers, and other human rights violations.

Help an asylum seeker with medical procedure!

An asylum seeker in Greece needs urgent surgery to remove uterine fibroids, or tumors. The authorities have been aware of her condition since 2019, which doctors have said could jeopardize her life if surgery is delayed, but have not done anything to help her. Donate to the cost of her surgery here.


Continued expulsions at Franco-British border

The French authorities carried out another eviction at Grand-Synthe. They destroyed people’s tents and belongings without offering alternative housing. The point is just to make people on the streets and in the forests more miserable.


Outcry over Danish plans to outsource asylum

You know things are bad when the Daily Mail is a voice of reason. As Denmark is continuing to work on plans to outsource asylum seekers to Rwanda, this comprehensive report from the Daily Mail (!) examines the framework for this idea. Right now, people are being resettled in Rwanda from Libya, which could extend legitimacy to Denmark’s scheme. Although this plan has been met with outrage, it has precedent in Denmark’s increasingly strict asylum laws going back two decades to 2001. The policy’s justification as a deterrent does not hold weight, as even the people currently in Rwanda’s Gashora camp shared their desires to get to Europe.

According to Jan Egeland, a Social Democrat from Norway, said:

The world’s poorest countries — Lebanon, Rwanda, Jordan — are forced to keep their borders open… Meanwhile Danes can sit in Nyhavn (Copenhagen’s pub hotspot) with a pint and some roast pork and for ever enjoy the best welfare the world has to offer, with no regard for international solidarity.

Although people protested in front of Danish embassies around the world against its policies, particularly its decision to return Syrians to their country despite evidence that it is unsafe, the sad truth is that harsh immigration restrictions are supported in Denmark across the political spectrum.


Human rights organizations against deportations to Zimbabwe

Next week, the Home Office plans to deport 150 people to Zimbabwe despite protests by human rights observers and the people themselves. The deportations were scheduled after the UK created a deal allowing mass deportations with President Mnangagwa, despite widespread concerns about his regime’s human rights abuses, which have actually gotten worse since Robert Mugabe died. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Organization also said that the Home Office is basing its evaluation of the people’s cases on a report from 2016 and has not bothered to conduct more recent evaluation. Many of those awaiting deportation fled Zimbabwe because of their political activities as union activists or democracy campaigners, which would put them in danger if they returned.


EU Pact negotiations slow as ever

Negotiations among EU member states to adapt the New Pact on Migration are still slow, even after a meeting of the bloc’s interior ministers. Slovenian minister Aleš Hojs said that perspectives are still very different, although they agreed on a Eurodact fingerprints database.

Hojs called for expanding the embattled Frontex’s responsibilities, even wanting it to police the internal EU Croatia-Slovenia border. Meanwhile, human rights advocates such as Dr. Petra Molnar are critiquing the expansion of surveillance technologies at the border, including by Frontex.


The ELENA weekly legal update is out! You can read about the developments, including recent court cases in the ECHR, here.

Many people on the move have been resettled to rural areas of Europe. This provides its unique set of challenges as people often enter insular, aging communities, but also opportunity. Read more about it here.


The European Migration Forum is back this October. Learn how to express interest and apply here.

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.