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AYS Daily Digest 23/10/20: Forbidden work of mobile outreach teams — no food, water or NFI across USK, BiH

Authorities made a decision to end the work of mobile teams across the Una-Sana canton, leaving many alone in a life-threatening situation in the face of the upcoming winter / Second shipwreck this week / Spain: poorly cared for and receiving inadequate food / recommended reads and more updates

Velčevo, entrance point to Una-Sana canton (Photo: Sanella Lepirica)

FEATURED

The government of the Una-Sana canton has failed the test once again. In the past three years they have learned nothing, except that they cannot teach others the laws and standards of their own state that they themselves don’t respect, but also those of the civilisation they so badly want to be a part of.

With the arrival of winter, while the international and local organisations take a shot at preparing operational plans for winterisation in order to respond to the more and more difficult conditions people on the move live in, one of the largest camps in the area, Bira, was emptied. People were started to be trasferred to Miral and the completely inadequate provisional camp Lipa in the vicinity of Bihać (with leaking tents, violent behaviour, lack of food, and people sleeping outside), a camp that was never envisioned for winter conditions (as the planning there is done in such a short-sighted way). Apart from that, unaware of the situation the entire Krajina is living in and the continuous arrival of people in that county, the most recent move, hitting the final nail in the coffin, was the official decision forbidding the work of the outreach mobile teams of all organisations, denying the people sleeping rough the minimal humanitarian package that they anyway barely survived with. Even the distribution of food and water is forbidden.

Is there anyone to stand up to these people and will the state authorities finally take the responsibility for all this, along with starting proceedings against those responsible for such fatally poor decision making?

In Tuzla, the situation is also far from satisfactory. There are several hundred people on the move within the Tuzla county. The largest number is in the city of Tuzla, but also in the surrounding areas of Živinice, Srebrenik, Lukavac, Gračanica… There is not a single reception camp or organised settlement for the people in this area, and it has been a place through which thousands have passed over the past three years. Some stay for longer, mostly sleeping rough and living in the streets, as they have no conditions to continue their travel. A specially worrying fact in Tuzla, apart from the authorities knowingly ignoring and breaching human rights, is that the locals have grown numb to the fact that there are people sleeping in the street. Unfortunately, for the past several nights, groups of people all across town have been sleeping under nylon bags because of the lack of sleeping bags, tents and blankets, as the volunteers’ sources ran dry a while ago, as we reported. Although it is a common issue, a group of volunteers and several organisations have managed to do an amazing although insufficient job there. Imagine what the officials, organised groups with their support, or collective efforts of international organisations could achieve? On an everyday basis, there is an effort to dispel the prejudice about people on the move, mostly created by the media, and poor (if any) reporting.

Velčevo, entrance point to Una-Sana canton (Photo: Sanella Lepirica)

The people on the move now cannot rely on the usual points of reference and aid, so their scanty support can now only come through the unofficial support of the few grassroots volunteers still providing assistance, and those locals with some means and energy left to still try to do something. In the meantime new testimonies of brutal police violence, severe human rights violations and inhumane treatment of people have emerged since the reports about Croatian border police robbing, beating and sexually abusing migrants entering from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatia has of course once again dismissed allegations of violence, and the government said it would launch an investigation with the goal of removing any doubt about police conduct and punishing any possible misdemeanours. This has never happened before, so we don’t suppose it will happen this time, but we will keep an eye open. In June, the Guardian revealed that EU officials were accused of an “outrageous cover-up” for withholding evidence of Croatia’s failure to supervise border forces via an independent border monitoring mechanism, and since then pressures against those vocal about it have continued, and so has the violent treatment of people, humiliation and disrespect for both humans and human rights.

LIBYA

Nearly 3,200 people are being held in Libyan detention centres, according to the UN agencies. According to their reports, the people were being held in 11 detention centres across the north African country as of October 19, in dire conditions and with many at risk of serious abuse, as we have been reporting continuously throughout the past months.

It appears that, after the ceasefire signed by warring factions in Geneva on 23 October, the ceasefire “will allow the displaced people and refugees inside and outside the country to return to their homes”, Libya UN envoy was reported saying.

SEA

Second shipwreck this week, fire confirmed victims

On Thursday afternoon, a boat capsized off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy. Fifteen survivors from Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were rescued by fishermen and brought to shore. Among those missing and presumed dead are four Libyan nationals and one Moroccan. This is the second shipwreck this week.

According to the IOM, “at least 500 migrants have died so far this year in the Central Mediterranean. IOM fears however, that due to the lack of dedicated SaR and monitoring efforts, the number of fatalities is much higher, and that ‘invisible shipwrecks’ continue to happen unseen by the international community.” The Organisation calls for more solidarity from EU member states with countries receiving migrants, and demands more concrete actions to address the gap in Search and Rescue capacity on the Mediterranean.

Several Search and Rescue NGO ships are still being blocked and prevented from carrying out their rescue operations. Iuventa, AitaMari, and Sea Watch3, for example, have been detained for 178, 171, and 108 days respectively.

It is in response to this issue that MSF, in collaboration with SeaWatch, has lodged a legal appeal in the Sicilian administrative court of Palermo, in order to challenge its continued detention.

According to the MSF statement, “we fear that the decision of the Italian authorities is politically motivated and relies on a preposterous interpretation of maritime law and safety regulations that only aims to obstruct the Sea-Watch 4’s rescue operations at sea. After an 11-hour-long inspection on board the Sea-Watch 4 by Italian port authorities on 20 September, the ship was slapped with a detention order on the basis of a laundry list of irregularities ranging from several non-functioning lights to some that are simply impossible to addres.”

Johannes Bayer, CEO of Sea-Watch, declared: “Under the pretext of security, people are specifically prevented from being rescued with flimsy justifications. We must not get used to rescue ships being illegally blocked and Europe drowning people as a deterrent. Whoever fights for human rights must do so at all levels. That is why we have appealed against the arbitrary fixing of the Sea-Watch 4. We are not only morally right, our ships are safe and ready to be rescued.”

See more here and here.

According to ECRE’s recent report, people who hold resident permits in Italy have been transferred to quarantine ships far from their homes after testing positive for COVID-19. Aboard, hygiene measures and access to medical support are reportedly inadequate. For more on the report, see here.

SPAIN

Poorly cared for, receiving inadequate food

The General Directorate of Child Protection of the Canary Islands Government has returned their children to the five women who arrived in a boat in Fuerteventura in recent weeks, after receiving the DNA tests that prove their relationship from the Police and the Prosecutor’s Office, as confirmed to Efe the Ministry of Social Rights.

The Secretariat of Migration of Cádiz and Ceuta has raised concern about the situation of over 30 Moroccans, of which six are women, who have been confined since last Saturday due to one of them testing positive to Covid-19. According to the Secretariat, people are poorly cared for and are receiving inadequate food.

UK

People kept wuthout showers, sleeping facilities or access to open air

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has has met with her Greek counterpart to “discuss shared commitment to tackle illegal immigration”. One of her newest strategies is to pledge £28 million to private companies to return asylum seekers who arrive in the UK without a visa. A widespread consensus amongst migrant rights advocates and legal experts, however, is that outsourcing to private companies can prove dangerous, as they do not have to hold up to the same degree of transparency and accountability as governments do.

“Outsourcing the safety of migrants to private companies is no way to run a safe immigration system,”

— said Chai Patel, legal policy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

“Time and time again we see appalling abuse, neglect and even deaths of people at the hands of corporations that put profits before human lives. The government must be directly accountable for the safety of the people it deports and detains.”

While the Home Secretary has been vocal about curbing illegal immigration and disincentivizing people’s movement towards the UK, her government’s treatment of asylum seekers in detention centres on UK territory is appalling. A damning report has found a lack of basic provisions and a number of shortcomings in Kent’s asylum seeker facilities. Inspectors at the facilities of Tug Haven in Dover, Kent Intake Unit, and Frontier House in Folkestone, found that people were kept for days in rooms which had no showers, sleeping facilities or access to open air.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “Wet, cold, unaccompanied children detained in unacceptable conditions with adult strangers, no access to legal advice and little safeguarding, record keeping or basic health screening. This report reveals the brutal reality of how refugee children are treated in Priti Patel’s Britain.”

For more on this report and on the appalling conditions in asylum seekers’ facilities and detention centres in the UK, see here.

Another barbaric initiative to remove migrants from UK territory, expected to come into force from 1 January 2021, would make sleeping in the streets legal grounds for cancelling someone’s right to be in the UK.

According to the UK Home Office, “The new rules provide a discretionary basis to cancel or refuse a person’s leave where they are found to be rough sleeping and refuse offers of support or are engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour.”

Renae Mann, national director of the No Accommodation Network fighting to end destitution among migrants, noted that “Ineffective, punitive government policies are often the direct cause of people’s homelessness. The just and humane response to rough sleeping is to provide safe housing and legal advice, not deportation.”

This rule comes in the middle of a global pandemic, where more and more people are forcibly evicted from their homes because they cannot pay rent, as a result of losing their jobs or other forms of subsistence due to local or national lockdowns and ensuing measures.

An interesting podcast on Australia’s asylum system, and its potential to become a possible model for the UK. Listen here.

WORTH READING

  • A bit of good news. A report on a project empowering refugee women to end extreme poverty. See here.
  • ELENA’s weekly legal update report is available here.
  • For a good analysis on the new EU’s Regulation on Asylum and Migration Management package, see ECRE’s article here.
  • Finally, for those interested in European internal labour migration, from East to West, see Professor Ulf Brunnbauer’s commentary here.

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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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