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AYS Daily Digest 19/01/2021 — Debate on Humanitarian Situation at Borders in EU Parliament

Awful Conditions in Arsal, Lebanon// Crackdown on NGOs in Cyprus// Turkey Will Not Accept Deportations from Greece// & More

Are You Syrious?
Jan 20 · 9 min read
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Image source: The Left in the European Parliament

FEATURE

EU Parliament debate on humanitarian situation at external borders

MEPs made speeches highlighting the situation for people on the move in Bosnia & Herzegovina and elsewhere. You can watch the full debate here.

EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson spoke about the existing discussions and measures taken to prevent violence at the border, however her speech accidentally exposed the weaknesses in the EU’s existing monitoring and humanitarian policy. She highlighted the work the Commission has done with the Croatian government to increase monitoring at the border, but can the government be trusted to monitor itself?

Members of the Party of the European Left in the European Parliament highlighted the extensive existing knowledge about the border violence that the EU is complicit in. Swedish MEP Malin Bjork raised the Black Book of Pushbacks, put together by Border Violence Monitoring Network and released by the European Left in the European Parliament. “I am so fed up with people saying ‘alleged pushbacks,’” she said, “we have here a documentation of 1,500 pages that has testimonies of the brutality and the violence at EU borders.”

MEP Tineke Strik highlighted the “substandard and shameful conditions” in Bosnia & Herzegovina and on the Greek islands. Meanwhile, MEP Erik Marquardt highlighted the futility of debating the same issues, year after year, without taking any action. “Yesterday I was watching that debate [from last year] and we should be ashamed for having to make exactly the same speeches, that we made one year ago, The Council, the Commission, and the Parliament again.”

Also under debate right now is the integrity of Frontex. Calls are mounting for the Frontex director, Fabrice Leggeri, to resign after reports that he deliberately misled the European Parliament. Statewatch obtained a letter from Monique Perlat, the Director-General of migration and home affairs in the European Commission, to Leggeri that was written in December. In the letter, Perlat chastises Leggeri for misleading the European Commission on important matters such as the recruitment of fundamental rights officers and publishing vacancies without obtaining the approval of the Management Board.

It’s clear that Leggeri is becoming an increasingly unpopular figure among the EU establishment and could be removed from office. However, removing him without changing EU border policy, abolishing Frontex or even reforming the agency will not make any meaningful change. Many, including MEP Sophie in ’t Veld, have pointed out the larger structural issues within Frontex, but those are harder to fix than removing one blatantly mendacious director.

It is clear that real change is needed for EU border policies. Otherwise, the MEPs will have to make their speeches yet again at the debate next year.

LEBANON

Awful conditions in Arsal

CYPRUS

Crackdown on NGOs working in solidarity with people on the move

SEA

Tunisians biggest group in arrivals to Italy

“Tunisians: the first nationality of people on the move on the Central Mediterranean route towards Italy. 38% of arrivals since Nov. 30th. The number of Tunisians crossing the Mediterranean is growing, exceeding the departures from the Libyan coast.”

GREECE

Turkey will not accept people deported from Greece

The sources also noted that Greece, along with other EU member states, is not itself currently accepting the entry of Turkish citizens because of the coronavirus.

The Greek government demanded the EU’s intervention, but all the Commission said is that they are preparing a reply. Until then, what will happen to those 1,450 people who are now stuck in legal limbo?

Lesvos Updates

The director of Moria 2.0 has banned camp residents from photographing and sharing images of their living conditions, in a transparent attack on free speech.

The Press Project and Disinfaux Collective published the fifth part of their series, “Sketching the Far Right in Lesvos.” You can find it (in Greek) here. In other news on the far right, former Golden Dawn MEP Giannis Lagos lost his appeal against his conviction in an attack on a community center in 2013. Lagos was already convicted in the Golden Dawn trials last year, but is not serving his jail sentence because he is in Brussels and his MEP status gives him immunity.

Solidarity roundup

On Lesvos, Moria Corona Awareness Team, Stand By Me Lesvos, Hope Project and Moria White Helmets have collected and distributed warm clothes to people in need.

The group Solidarity With Migrants will be collecting necessities this Thursday to drop off at Malakasa Camp 1 (and Camp 2 if possible). Find a list of all that they need and how to donate here.

ROMANIA

Action organized to feed people on the move in Timișoara

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Timișoara, Romania 17 January 2021. Photo and post via Art Against

Action to feed refugees. Refugees try to survive the journey to Europe from Servia-Romania route during freezing winter, snow weather, fear of deportation and coronavirus pandemic. In solidarity we trust.

Photographs by Tania Strizu /Dreptul la Oraș

Art Against

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

Human rights violations in Lipa

There have been five complaints about the violation of media freedom to the official Line for Helping Journalists. Officials in Lipa camp have blocked journalists from moving around freely and tried to take the journalists’ possessions and footage by force. The Association of BH Journalists contacted the authorities and requested the protection of media freedom.

Although Lipa has been the focus of international attention, especially following the devastating fire, as the photojournalist Livio Senigalliesi said, “there are hundreds of Lipas” thanks to the EU’s militarized border which traps people in the Balkans.

SLOVENIA

Awful Conditions in Postojna Center

ITALY

Hunger strike against pushbacks

SPAIN

Illegal detentions on Canary Islands

Around 150 people tried to cross the fence that separates the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco. Nine were hospitalized after they were injured by the razor-wire-topped fence. Most others were taken to a local accommodation center.

AUSTRIA

President Calls for More International Cooperation

The Federal Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has not proven to be as sympathetic and has resisted calls by Austrian mayors and advocacy groups to take in more people from camps in Greece. The group SOS Mitmensch, protested in front of his office and put up two large blocks of ice, symbolizing the Chancellor’s “cold shoulder” towards people on the move.

GERMANY

Police Crackdown on Smuggling Ring

While the government arrests traffickers, with its other hand it threatens to deport victims of trafficking. One Eritrean woman is in danger of deportation to Italy under the Dublin Regulation, even though this will put her within reach of her traffickers. This is unfortunately not an uncommon case. The woman is seeking church sanctuary, but recently the German government has cracked down on churches offering sanctuary, even threatening religious leaders with fines and imprisonment.

UK

Napier barracks on lockdown after COVID-19 outbreak

Of course, the government refuses to accept responsibility for housing people in unsafe conditions after months of protests by people on the move and their advocates. Instead, the government are blaming the people for getting sick, claiming that people refused to self-isolate or take tests. How are people expected to self-isolate when they share a bedroom with more than 20 others?

The Home Office is continuing to put off creating a resettlement plan for people on the move. However, if they do not put one together quickly, there will no longer be the capacity to host people as many organizations working with people on the move will be forced to lay off their employees. The existing program is ending in only two months.

EU

Statewatch wins fight for greater transparency

One interesting Frontex-related document that is already available: this transcript of Leggeri’s appearance in front of the LIBE Committee on December first.

The EU is allegedly close to renewing its “Joint Way Forward” agreement with Afghanistan that would allow deportations to continue, even as violence has continued into the new year.

This article outlines the EU’s vaccine policy with regards to people without papers. In October 2020, the European Commission said that all people unable to physically distance, such as those in homeless shelters or camps, could be priority groups for receiving the vaccine. However, a plan is not enough and outreach capacities must be developed.

WORTH READING

This poignant article takes a look at the rise in suicide among the Iraqi Kurdish community, especially in camps for displaced Kurdish Yazidis.

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

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

Are You Syrious?

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

Are You Syrious?

Written by

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

Are You Syrious?

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

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