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AYS Daily Digest 22/06/2020 — EU Hired McKinsey to Work on Asylum Process

Violent Pushbacks From Greece Again///Xenophobic Rhetoric From Bosnian Politicians///What Is the EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum?

Cartoon by Flavita Banana via Bienvenidos Refugiados Voluntariados Grecia

FEATURE

To What Extent Was US Consulting Firm McKinsey Involved In EU Asylum Policy?

US consulting firm McKinsey was secretly involved in helping the EU implement the controversial deal with Turkey on migration, according to an explosive investigative report published by Balkan Insight.

If you do not recognize the name McKinsey, you may recognize some of their “greatest hits” such as the Enron scandal and their work for ICE in the United States.

The consulting firm was hired to help speed up Greece’s asylum process because a key component of the deal was that asylum applications had to be handled within 15 days (never mind if experts on the ground said this was impossible). In the end, the firm didn’t do much to achieve the goal they were hired for. Asylum application backlogs did not decrease, and McKinsey exaggerated the population decreases in island camps by a few thousand.

Regardless of their achievements, or lack thereof, McKinsey walked away with almost one million euros in a process that the EU’s internal procurement watchdog called “irregular”. McKinsey did pro bono work for the EU to create an action plan for implementing the agreement, work that was largely concealed from the public. They were then awarded the contract in secret, without a public procurement process. This mimics a contract they received from the German government to “clean up” their asylum system, to the tune of 45 million euros. That contract was also created outside a public procurement process and after doing pro bono work for the Germans.

This investigation raises important questions about the transparency of EU funds and the ethics of accepting pro bono work from consulting firms with the tacit agreement that a lavish contract will be awarded later. It also exposes the dehumanizing way in which governments treat people on the move. Speeding up deportations and ripping people from their families and hopes for a better future becomes “maximizing productivity.” The flesh-and-blood person behind every denied asylum application is an “output.” Cutthroat corporate boardroom practices do not belong in a field that is supposed to be serving people that are fleeing horrible trauma and abuse.

SEA

The Ocean Viking Sets Sail Again

SOS Mediterranee’s ship Ocean Viking is conducting rescue missions again after quarantining and undergoing extensive preparations. Their staff now includes a medical team so they can conduct rescues during the pandemic.

Their job is all too vital. The Mediterranea team found the body of a boy who drowned off the coast of Lampedusa. Unfortunately, he is only one of thousands who perish in the Mediterranean during the dangerous crossing, reminding everyone how important the work that rescue ships do truly is.

LIBYA

UN to Send Fact-Finding Mission to Libya

The UN will send a fact-finding mission to Libya to investigate reports of war crimes, human rights violations and violence.

Hopefully the mission will also investigate violence against people on the move. As Sacha Petiot, Head of the Libya Mission of Medicins Sans Frontieres, noted, people on the move have been largely abandoned in the conflict. Hundreds of thousands are stuck in Libya with no way to reach the safe shores of Europe. They are subject to arbitrary imprisonment and torture. The pandemic made it difficult to keep working and maintain a livelihood, and aid from the EU, NGOs, or the UN is not enough.

GREECE

Yet Another Violent Pushback in the Aegean

A group of 29 people, including several children, was illegally pushed back to Turkey. The group was rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard after floating adrift for over 10 hours, even though AlarmPhone alerted both the Greek and Turkish Coast Guards to the distress case.

Instead, the Greek coast guard harassed those on board by destroying the engine on the boat and towing the boat towards the Turkish border. This illegal sabotage and expulsion of people who were clearly in Greek waters is an established practice that the EU has chosen to ignore. Then, the Greek and Turkish Coast Guards shot at each other while the boat full of innocent people was between them, showing a stunning disregard for human life.

Violent pushbacks, whether at sea or on land, show no sign of stopping. Josoor reported dozens of instances of violent pushbacks of people in the Edirne area. In one harrowing case, 60 people were kept for two days in a filthy abandoned building after the police promised them they would get papers. The Greek policy towards people on the move seems to be one of physical and psychological torture.

Greece’s policy of expelling people with recognized status from camps continues to cause chaos and confusion. People are continuing to leave the camps — 155 people left Lesvos on Monday alone, bringing the population of Moria and surrounding areas below 16,000 for the first time in months. However, almost none of these people have a safe place to go and wind up sleeping rough or subject to more displacement by the government. In one case, 15 people who were expelled from Moria were picked up when they were camping in Athens, then transported to Eleonas, and finally taken to Serres against their will and knowledge — they were told they were going to Thessaloniki. The distress these people suffered is unimaginable, yet the government still has no plan to prevent more homelessness and precarity.

The government is also transferring 200 people from Elefsina camp in the next two days to turn it into a camp for people seeking voluntary return. Not even the commander of the camp was told in advance that this would be happening. This will massively disrupt what lives people have been trying to build for themselves, especially children who attend local schools. Yet again, the Greek government is playing hot potato with living human beings.

Despite opposition by people on the move and locals alike, Greek minister Mitarakis is forging ahead with building three closed centers in Leros, Kos and Samos. He requested 132,680,000 euros for their construction, which caused a public outcry. This is several times more than the cost of the existing closed center in Vial, which only cost 1.5 million euros. People are rightfully questioning what the money will be used for and how big the planned centers will be, especially since Leros and Kos were never large hotspots to begin with.

Syrian residents of Moria protested in front of the European Asylum Support Office, asking that they be helped, not treated like criminals.

The French Institute in Greece is hosting a panel on border narratives featuring several Greek journalists, including Marianna Karakoulaki. The event will be in French and Greek and the Facebook event can be found here.

Alpha Centre in Samos is opening for students again, although they are following strict social distancing rules. You can find more details about what that looks like on their Facebook page.

The Albanian Women’s Union worked with people on the move in Athens to express their solidarity in honor of World Refugee Day. Read more about their work here.

BOSNIA

Human Rights Violations, Xenophobic Rhetoric from Bosnian Politicians

Politicians from Bosnia’s different entities seem to agree on one thing — xenophobia.

Bosnia’s Serb member of the presidency, Milorad Dodik, demanded “full sterilisation from migrants on our territories,” saying that there will be no reception centers in the Republika Srpska entity. He also demanded special privileges for RS police so they could “defend themselves” against people on the move. This caused an outcry from those concerned about human rights, who point to the police’s dismal record of brutality against citizens and people on the move alike and the dangerous power this kind of xenophobic rhetoric has.

Meanwhile, Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, chastised the president of the Una-Sava Canton in response to his letter last month criticizing the EU’s response to the situation in Bosnia. President Mustafa Ružnjić asked the EU to close the camps of Miral and Bira, otherwise he threatened that the canton would create another open camp like the infamous Vucjak, closed last year due to human rights violations. Johansson said that closing the camps as Ružnjić asked would only cause a humanitarian crisis and if the Bosnian authorities are not respecting human rights, the EU would reconsider its substantial financial aid.

While politicians at all levels argue about money and make grandiose xenophobic statements for the media, the humanitarian situation for people on the move, caught between poor conditions in Bosnia and police violence in Croatia, remains terrible. A video called “The Game” wants to shed light on the experience of people on the move on the Balkan Route. It can be found here.

CROATIA

More Brutal Pushbacks

The Croatian police beat and robbed two young men of everything, including their clothing and shoes, before pushing them back to Bosnia. The EU remains complicit in this violence.

SLOVENIA

Twenty-two People Rescued from a Truck

The Slovenian police found 22 people on the move in two tanker trucks registered in Serbia on the Croatian border. Many were “on the verge of suffocation.

We are likely to see more dangerous attempts like this as legal avenues of immigration are almost nonexistent and other options, like crossing on foot, become more dangerous thanks to the growing border controls along the Balkan route.

ITALY

Illegal Pushbacks from Trieste

As the Balkan route “reopens,” illegal and inhumane pushbacks continue. A group of 12 people was violently pushed back from Trieste.

Two weeks ago I arrived two km from Trieste but the Italian police took me back. I don’t understand. Why did the police take me back? There were 12 of us…12 of us were deported to Bosnia…Friday afternoon we were deported by the Italian police…then the Slovenian police ripped up all of my documents and took us back to Croatia and then we were beaten and robbed and sent back to Bosnia.

SPAIN

Landings in Ibiza and Aguilas

Two separate landings were intercepted by the Civil Guard in Spain — one group of eight in Ibiza, and another group of twelve in Aguilas. All were reported to be in good health and tested for coronavirus. The General State Administration director for the Balearic Islands, Enrique Sanchez, said his government will be implementing new coronavirus protocols because they anticipate more arrivals.

GERMANY

Residents of Lower Saxony Call on State to Declare Itself a Safe Haven

Over 130 Lower Saxony mayors, councillors, organizations and clubs signed an open letter demanding that the state declare itself a safe haven for people on the move and set up its own state admission process for resettlement from the Greek camps.

The letter urged the state government to remember the leading role it took during the 2015 crisis and extend the country admission programme it offered for Syrians then.

If you are German and want to help, you can contact your member of the Bundestag following this action tool.

UK

28 People Intercepted Trying to Cross Channel

UK Border officials caught three boats full of people trying to reach their shores. The people were taken ashore and interviewed at Dover. The Home Office said that they will deport them to France when possible. In a statement, the Minister for Immigration Compliance repeated his government’s determination to “dismantle these ruthless criminal gangs who facilitate these crossings.”

Of course, he did not reflect on the conditions his government created that made “legal” application for asylum practically impossible, forcing people to attempt dangerous crossings.

EU

EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum Prioritizes Borders Over Human Rights

The New Pact is postponed for now until the Budget is done, but will probably be adopted in the second quarter. The Pact’s priority is border security at the expense of people’s lives and rights. Some points include:

  • an increase of 9.4 billion Euros in Frontex’s budget, amid global calls to defund police
  • increasing returns by providing incentives and cooperating with third countries. Third countries highlighted as priorities for cooperation are Libya, Niger and Rwanda (yes, Libya, where there is currently a brutal civil war and torture camps for people on the move)
  • accelerating border procedures, which will come at the expense of due process
  • increasing “flexible solidarity”

Further arming the borders and increasing deportations, which are the two focal points of this plan, will cause more death and injury at the EU’s borders and beyond. There is very little mention of humanitarian aid, improving conditions in reception camps, increasing integration of people on the move into their new homes, or providing any kind of assistance to people looking to build a better life.

EU Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Milatovic gave a video speech to the 20th Berlin Conference on Human Rights. You can read the text of her speech here.

GENERAL

For Further Reading…

Here’s a roundup of articles that may be of interest.

Here is an article about Israel’s export of civilian-tracking surveillance systems, which doubled in 2019. Of these exports, 26% went to Europe. The technology can be used to track coronavirus contacts but also people on the move.

Dr. Jeff Crisp wrote an article about the importance of safe and legal routes for people on the move, and included several possibilities for what those routes should look like.

Here is an upcoming webinar series on migration and asylum hosted by TRAFIG and other organizations, and here is a write-up explaining the upcoming SO-CLOSE project, aiming to increase inclusion of people on the move in their new communities.

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

If you wish to contribute, either by writing a report or a story, or by joining the info gathering team, please let us know.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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