AYS Daily Digest 22/05/2020- Sweden’s plan to deport five-month-old Baby Benjamin
Activist Elin Ersson’s High Court Judgement // Increase in English Channel Crossings // Updates from Melilla // Migrant Workers in Manolada // New decree on humanitarian aid in Bosnia
A five-month-old boy born in Sweden is set to be deported to Afghanistan despite his mother remaining in Sweden. Baby Benjamin, along with his dad and five-year-old brother have had their application for residence permit rejected by the Swedish migration board and are now set to be deported to Afghanistan.
In accordance with the Higher Education Act, baby Benjamin’s mother, 20-year-old Javaher Rezai, has been allowed to stay in the country to finish her studies. Thelocal.se report that Rezai had fled Afghanistan to avoid marrying a man her family had chosen for her. After several years in Iran, she met her husband and gave birth to their eldest son and then decided to move to Sweden. Highlighting the absurdity of the current judgement, her new-born child and her five-year-old son are being forced ‘back’ to a country neither of them have ever been to.
Swedish activist Elin Ersson, who in 2018 live-streamed her attempt to halt a deportation on an Istanbul-bound Turkish Airlines flight from Gothenburg has been sentenced in the High court for violations of the Aviation Act.
Ersson had appealed for her sentence to be acquitted or reduced, but the High Court affirmed the judgement of the Gothenburg District Court and sentenced the activist to pay a fine of SEK 4,200 (€400).
Erreson’s live-stream has been viewed by an estimated 13 million people and raised awareness of the case of Ismail Khawari, who was being deported back to Afghanistan, a country that he had not been in since he was six.
Together with Solidarity Wheels, No Name Kitchen shares an update from Melilla, where despite only 120 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the government used the current health crisis to force migrants and refugees into a two-month lockdown.
“The Land Workers of Manolada’ produced by Dr Apostolos Kapaslis in cooperation with the RLS Regional Office in Athens, is a short film following Bangladeshi agricultural workers in Manolada. In the film, they explain the appalling living conditions that they are forced to enduring including a lack of drinking water, no proper toilets and unbearable heat or cold. Furthermore, the film highlights the absurd unilateral employment contract that combined with the inhumane living conditions and the increased role of the police over their work, has prompted some international observers to draw resemblance with labour camps. The confessionals of the migrant workers in Manolada come only a few years after the European court of human right affirmed that Greece violated Article 4 of the European Convention, on the prohibition of slavery and forced labour. The decision of Chowdhury and others VS Greece, a case regarding the treatment of migrant labourers in Manolada, had concluded that Greece had failed to prevent forced labour by adopting measures to end the factors giving rise to it, despite being aware of them.
It’s been announced that the current quarantine being placed on the Moria Reception and Identification Centre has been extended until June 7th. The forced quarantine was expected to be ended by Thursday but now its residence will have to endure another two weeks of lockdown. They have been given the opportunity to appeal this lockdown, but with no legal aid and a 10 day-deadline, there seems little hope that the 18,000 people enduing acute overcrowding and a distinct lack of sanitation facilities will be able to leave any time soon.
Allegations have emerged that the new head of a refugee accommodation centre in Pyrgos has extensive affiliation with far-right and Nazi groups and has previously published a book titles ‘Minarets: The Speeches of Islam in Europe’. The Minister of Immigration and Asylum has failed to make public his CV or necessary qualifications for the position as head of a refugee accommodation centre. This has lead many people to question how suitable could a person be with alleged links to Nazi groups to run and manage a refugee centre.
Upon the re-opening of the Greek Asylum office on Lesvos, on May 18th, 1,400 rejection decisions were issued to applications of international protection. All individuals whose case has been swiftly rejected now only have ten days to file for an appeal but currently have no access to legal aid to help navigate the complex appeal process or assist in producing a case file. In what appears to be a new tactic of harassment and intimidation, the police have been imposing up to €150 fine for any Moria inhabitants who travelled to Mytilini to attempt to access free legal aid. Journalist Franziska Grillmeirer summarised the absurdity of the current situation by stating:
“This means an asylum seeker gets a rejection on his/her request. He/She is not allowed to leave the camp because of Covid-19 movement restriction for refugees in camps. He/She has only ten days to appeal, wants to seek help from a lawyer, but all she gets is a €150 fine.”
ECRE reports that HIAS Greece and other organisations have submitted a complaint to the Greek Ombudsman regarding the lack of access to legal aid. They affirm that the free legal assistance for the 1,989 applications (1,400 at first instance) is required by Greek and EU law.
Greek solidarity organisation NoBorders has shared a list of items that the Notara 26 Squat in Themistokleous, Athens needs. This squat is home to dozens of people, mostly women with children who after their most recent forced eviction on May 18th, have again lost the security and safety that they so desperately crave. The Notara 26 squat has been a routine target for police harassment and abuse, having last been raided in February at 4:30 am.
A new report from justsecurity affirms numerous statements by activists and field teams that Greek authorities have been using rescue equipment to carry out illegal pushbacks and deportations.
In the report, justsecurity interview a Kurdish couple from Hasaka, Syria who retell their experience of being pushed back by the Greek authorities. They described being “treated like animals, … [t]he army took our phones, money, clothes, and documents then threw them into the sea. Around 3 a.m., they took us toward the sea border. Then they made us take a boat shaped like a square tent, 2 meters wide. Then we were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.”
The report concludes that the life rafts “shaped like a tent” the Greek Coast Guard appears to be employing to expel migrants are, in fact, designed for emergency evacuation in the case of shipwreck. They are manufactured not for transportation, but for rescue in case of a boat or ship sinking, to keep survivors afloat and alive until assistance arrives. They are not equipped with an engine or other propellant, cannot be steered, and provide minimal protection from the elements.
Discussing the use of rescue equipment to push migrants and refugees back via the sea, Paul Crowely, a former captain for the Irish Royal National Lifeboat Institution said “for any other reason other than to preserve life if no other option is available. It would contravene any internationally recognized standard to take people from a non-life-threatening location, either land or vessel, and place them in a raft.”
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have published a joint statement urging Malta and other EU member states to allow the 160 migrants currently being forced to stay on two boats in the Mediterranean, to come ashore to safety. This statement has further been supported by Human Rights Watch’s additional call for Malta to allow the remaining migrants to get off the vessels and file for asylum if they wish to do so. The statement reads:
“It is important to disembark the remaining people as soon as possible, as they have been on board the vessel for some two weeks — the standard quarantine period for COVID-19 — without any clarity on disembarkation,” “States must continue to disembark people rescued at sea, in line with international maritime law obligations and ensure access to asylum and humanitarian assistance.”
The joint statement by the IOM and the UNHCR sought to additionally remind EU member states of their obligations under international law to immediately assist people in distress, following mounting evidence that suggests countries are ignoring or delaying their responses to distress calls.
Advocacy Director for Europe and Central Asia Philippe Dam also argued that currently there is no legal basis to support Malta’s refusal to accept the migrants.
On Friday, The Centre for Peace Studies and the Welcome Initiative for Migration Rights held a protest in front of the Croatian Interior Ministry. The protest called for the Ministry to launch a full investigation into the continued allegation of violence and mistreatment against refugees. Outside the Ministry, the group of activists held photo evidence of Croatia’s continued abuse and mistreatment of refugees and held a banner saying “Humanity, not torture! Investigation, not denial!”.
Sara Keus from the Centre for Peace Studies said “Two weeks have passed since photographs were released showing refugees being marked with orange spray paint all over their heads, which the refugees say happened during unlawful pushbacks from Croatia,”. She further stated that “It is up to us to show humanity, prevent further torture and violence and we demand investigations, instead of your denial of responsibility”.
In response to the protest and the organisations calls for an investigation, the Interior Ministry sent them a press release that had previously been used in response to The Guardian article that broke the story of the allegations and also to NGO No Name Kitchen who had first documented these cases.
British authorities have confirmed a recent increase in people attempting to cross the English Channel. The Covid-19 travel restrictions and the subsequent lack of trucks appears to have forced many migrants and refugees to change from attempting to travel to the UK via truck to now attempt it via a dinghy on the English channel.
A young man has drowned after attempting to escape the forced containment on a ferry docked off the Sicilian Seaport. The young man, a 28-year-old from Tunisia was one of 120 people contained on the Moby Zaza since May 13th. NGOs working in the area said that this young man was “the first victim of illogical measures taken by the Italian government that have turned into useless and harmful tools harming the rights of rescued people.”
NGOs Mediterranea Saving Humans, Sea Watch, Proactiva Open Arms and Doctors Without Borders released a statement claiming that they had asked the authorities “on which legal grounds the landing of shipwrecked people is postponed when they could be quarantined ashore.” They added: “Even before this tragic incident, other recent discrepancies and unacceptable showdowns at the expense of rescued people have highlighted the inadequacy of the measures adopted by the government on the issue of maritime rescue operations during the COVID-19 emergency.”
NGO Alarm Phone report of another agonising wait for a rescue that people in distress at sea have to face. At 7:03h CEST May 22nd they received a call that 85 people were in distress close to the Libyan coast. Despite the engine not working and the wooden boat full of people, taking on huge amounts of water and drifting at sea, the Maltese and Tunisian authorities refused to take responsibility, with the Libyan coast guard being unreachable. The Libyan, Tunisian, Maltese and Italian authorities have all received the GPS coordinates of the boat. They have been reminded of their obligation to conduct sea and rescue missions to boats in distress in international waters.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Yesterday a new decree of the cantonal government Una / Sana (Bihac) came into force. It declares that humanitarian aid, including local aid organizations, are now banned. In cases of infringement, fines and arrest are threatened. Only the UN subsidiary IOM is allowed to continue to carry out its projects.
Fahrudin Radončić, the current Minister of Security, explained that “I will make it so bad for “migrants “in the canton of Una Sana and in Bihac that no one comes anymore “
To read more about the new decree and its effect on humanitarian aid and the people in need, please follow the post below:
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