AYS Daily Digest 23/7/20: Greek Camps on Lockdown until August 2nd
Greece prolongs lockdown / Libya continues “concentration camp-like” treatment / Another criminal charge filed against the Croatian police / Morton Hall Detention Centre closing / & more news from the field
Jul 24 · 11 min read
The aftermath of evictions in Dunkirk. Photo credit: Mobile Refugee Support
FEATURED — Greek Camps on Lockdown Until August 2nd
The Greek government formally announced that all structures hosting people on the move will be on lockdown until August 2nd. This is the fifth extension of lockdown for people on the move since the pandemic began.
In an interview with InfoMigrants, Amnesty International’s researcher Adriana Tidona explained that this lockdown is even more extreme than previous ones because while previous restrictions were only for RIC centers on the Aegean islands, this one applies to all structures where people on the move reside.
This decision has no basis in public health. There have been no major outbreaks in any camp in Greece that could justify restricting people’s freedom of movement in the name of stopping contagion. The restriction on freedom of movement is also incomplete. People in the camps have no access to medical services or education and need permits to go meet with their lawyers, but since June 1, people with refugee status have also been forced out of the camps. If the goal is stopping contagion, dispersing people across Greece, where they sleep rough with no access to sanitation or protective equipment, seems counterproductive.
Before the latest extension was announced, 20 organizations including Amnesty International signed an open letter to the Greek government saying that “discrimination does not protect against COVID-19.” They said that if the Greek government was serious about public health, it would take steps such as providing health care to all people on the move, providing sanitation services, and ending overcrowding in the camps.
As this video of a vaccine distribution in Moria demonstrates, social distancing is impossible in the camps, and the disorganized nature of service distribution makes it even worse.
Unfortunately, the calls of people on the move and their allies to actually take measures to protect public health have been ignored in favor of more discrimination. By now, people on the move have been on lockdown over twice as long as Greek citizens — for no reason other than racism.
100 people who were pushed back to Libya were taken to Al-Khums detention center, reports Giulia Tranchina. There, they face physical torture: people are beaten until their limbs are broken, denied medical attention, and denied food and water. Those trying to escape are shot at. Aid dropped off by IOM is seized by the center director, and the UNHCR does not even try to help.
This is what people face when they are taken back to Libya, against all international humanitarian principles and laws. No more pushbacks to Libya!
A German diplomat based in Niamey, Niger, also described the conditions in detention centres in Libya as “concentration camp-like” in an internal diplomatic cable to Chancellor Angela Merkel: “[e]xecutions of migrants who cannot pay, torture, rapes, blackmail and abandonment in the desert are the order of the day there.”
More worrying news:
The ‘European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQPR)’ is a tool that enables officials to evaluate the qualifications of refugees and people with international protection even in cases in which documents are missing or completely absent. Ten other countries in addition to Italy participate in the project: France, Greece, Armenia, Canada, Bosnia, Romania, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany.
The scenes in Elaionas are replicated at the Skaramangas and Schisto reception centres on the outskirts of the Greek capital. People are told to fend for themselves after being accepted for asylum.
Volunteers working with refugees speak of hunger and dehydration. Yet Greece currently chairs the Council of Europe, the EU’s leading human rights organisation, the media reports in this story.
Directly from the Victoria square in Athens,
Franziska Grillmeier reports:
“This morning a dozen new families came to the Victoria Square in Athens from Moria with the ferry. Five families I have talked to so far have recognized refugee status.
One family father from Herat says, his family got a rejection and was advised to go out of the camp in order to leave Greece. However, he does not how. All the money to travel further has vanished in Moria in the last 11 months. He’s asking for legal advice.
High police presence around. All belongings of people packed in black plastic bags. Many of them have strollers one guitar is also in the luggage. People constantly ask for information. Many on the phone with family in Afghanistan. Temperatures are rising. Many without water.
One single mother from DRC is saying, this is a mother’s hell, she wished to be alone. She also has a second rejection and does not know where to go. Her child is playing with some cards, lying on his belly in the middle of the square with two other kids.
The other families from Afghanistan who were also sitting here yesterday, on the same spot. The night was noisy & rough, one woman says. People tried to scare them away into a neighboring street.”
A group of seven Greek racists attacked a Danish man of Afghan origin and his friends last week.
Mr. Ahmad Walid Rashidi suffered a broken nose and potential brain damage, while his friends suffered broken jaw bones. Mr. Rashidi said he also suffered discriminatory treatment at the hospital he went to after the attack.
The worst thing is, I lost my leg to Islamic fighters in my home country, and now I have lost my hearing and balance to racist people. I have paid twice with my body for problems and challenges which I was born in.
He also criticized the Greek government for its violence against people on the move, especially at the border, and the EU for not doing more to help Greece deal with arrivals, saying these factors caused the rise in xenophobic attitudes and violence.
No Name Kitchen reported on the situation in Patras:
In the small factory, there is no direct access to water and electricity. In a small house a few meters away, the people on the move can charge their mobile phones. However, on last Friday the electricity was turned off there. Mobile phones are essential for people, because this is the only way to stay in contact with their families and have access to important information…In all the dust and dirt that the people on the move have to live with here, there are currently many cases of scabies. The resulting wounds are very often inflamed and have to be treated in hospital in an advanced stage. We do distribute shampoo and soap, but it is simply impossible to keep clean in the factories.
Women in Solidarity House — WISH Lesbos created a short film called “Dirty Girls of Lesvos Island” about the women of Moria and their struggles. As one woman says, “Since our childhood they told us to shut up because of being women. Here they want us to shut up because we are refugees.” You can watch the movie here.
Romanian police officers continue to push back up to 80 people on the move a day across the Romanian border with Serbia. During these violent practices, they use batons, confiscate people’s belongings and money, and destroy phones. Asylum Protection Centre from Belgrade has documented two people who were injured on the head and hands during a violent pushback.
The Medicins du Monde team released short audio recordings with important information and advice. The recordings deal with topics such as coping with the recent earthquake, supporting children through trauma, and more, and they’re available in English, French, Croatian, Arabic, and Farsi. You can access them here.
Another criminal charge filed against Croatian police
In response to the account of eight armed men in unidentified black uniforms and balaclavas who treated people in search of protection inhumanely, the Centre for Peace Studies filed one more criminal complaint to the State Attorney’s Office in Zagreb. There is well-founded suspicion that at the end of May, these men tortured, humiliated, and pushed back 16 refugees from the territory of the Republic of Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It is especially important to take into account the testimonies of the police officers who speak about the police operation “Corridor”, the description of whose actions corresponds to the description of this case, but also to the previous testimonies of refugees. Unfortunately, this is just one in a series of cases that are continuously reported.
It’s well past time for Croatian authorities to show that they are serious about investigating police brutality on its borders. Read more here.
A precedent for ending illegal chain pushbacks?
The Slovenian ombudsman for human rights, Peter Svetina, published his final report on a pushback that occurred in July 2019 near Ilirska Bistrica. The ombudsman found that during the pushback, where over 120 people were detained and 100 of those deported to Croatia, the Slovenian police committed several violations.
Most people did not receive a detention order, which means they were never told why they were deprived of liberty and had no way to appeal the deportation. The police also did not take down the proper information for the people who were detained, which the ombudsman says proves that they did not properly establish if the border crossing was “illegal” or not.
The Slovenian police attempted to defend themselves by pointing to the large number of people they had to process at once, but Svetina said that is no excuse to violate people’s human rights. Hopefully this will set an important precedent for ending illegal chain pushbacks.
Of all European states, Italy has played the most significant role in outsourcing such interceptions because of the extent of the aid and assistance it has provided to the Libyan authorities. Italy is also the only European country that has signed a bilateral agreement with Libya for the specific purpose of stemming “illegal migrants’ fluxes [sic]” through the direct provision of resources to “the Libyan institutions in charge of the fight against illegal immigration.”
On 26 June 2020, the Centre Suisse pour la Défense des Droits des Migrants (CSDM) submitted a formal request for the opening of an inquiry procedure concerning Italy’s conduct in the Central Mediterranean.
Read more about it here.
Read more about the Italian-Libyan deal in the piece by the Melting Pot team:
La realtà libica raccontata attraverso un rapporto sugli interventi finanziati da fondi AICS nei…
Il 15 luglio nell’ambito del progetto Sciabaca e Oruka è stato pubblicato dall’ ASGI un interessante rapporto sugli…
Salvini: Open Arms decision July 30
Next Wednesday, the Italian Senate will decide on a possible trial against former Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini for deprivation of liberty in the case of Open Arms, which was not allowed to disembark in Italy for about three weeks last August. The date was set yesterday by the conference of the chairmen of the Italian Senate.
sign the petition:
Signez la pétition
0 a signé. Prochain objectif : 10 000 ! ENG — FR — CH DE — CH FR Mercoledì 22 luglio, le autorità italiane hanno posto…
People are returning to the Dunkirk area after a series of evictions by French authorities. The police confiscated people’s tents, sleeping bags and tarpaulins, so almost 100 people are forced to sleep rough with no protection or belongings.
Mobile Refugee Support tries to provide tents and other equipment to people on the move, but it is harder this year since they cannot rely on tents salvaged from festivals. To learn more and find out how to donate, go here.
More pictures from Dunkirk. Source: Mobile Refugee Support
Abdication of responsibility for unaccompanied children on the move
Meanwhile in Paris, about 75 minors have been sleeping rough in a tent city in the center of the capital for 22 days as the government twiddles its thumbs.
The city of Paris promised to find a place to house the children, but only if the national government agreed to cover 50% of the costs. However, the Ministry of the Interior has not agreed to take action yet or responded to InfoMigrants’ request for comment.
It takes weeks to request an appointment — who can rely on such a system?
France’s residency system is failing to keep up with the needs of the people. In several prefectures, it takes weeks just to be able to request an appointment, let alone see somebody in person.
While this delay was in part caused by the lockdown, during which all government offices were closed, the system was backlogged long before that. This causes uncertainty for all people on the move, who are pushed into precarious situations because they are unable to get their paperwork completed promptly — but is especially bad for minors. Minors must submit an application for a residence permit before their nineteenth birthday, but the delays will cause many to miss that deadline — severely lowering the chances that they will find safe harbor in France.
The growing Syrian community in Germany is leaving its mark on German society
Many Syrians are now applying for permanent residency, meaning that they are here to stay. Resourceful people are building resources for their community such as Arab grocery stores and lending libraries.
This idyllic picture is marred by the fact that many Syrians in Germany are unable to reunite with family members stuck in Turkey, Greece, or Syria, and still face xenophobia that often turns violent.
The article is available here and is well worth a read.
24artists have joined forces on the initiative of actor Volker Bruch (Babylon Berlin) for an action. They are donating personal items to be raffled off to support sea rescue efforts in the Mediterranean:
Los für Lesbos — Beatsteaks, AnnenMayKantereit und 22 weitere Künstler starten Aktion zugunsten der…
24 Künstler haben sich auf Initiative des Schauspielers Volker Bruch („Babylon Berlin”) zu einer tollen Aktion…
The bigger they are, the harder it is to take criticism, it seems…
at least that’s what one could deduce from IOM’s response to Euronews.
After Euronews published a 3-part investigation into the IOM’s voluntary return program, IOM “demanded” they be allowed to publish a response. In the response, IOM accuses Euronews account of being “one-sided” and dismissing the realities of humanitarian work on the ground. IOM also denied that their policies are Eurocentric, citing their cooperation with African Union member states.
While it’s true that realities on the ground can be very difficult, it’s also true that the people that bear the brunt of those difficult conditions are people on the move, who are at the mercy of Europe’s harsh border regime, torture camps in Libya, and harsh, potentially deadly conditions if they return home. The international community can and must do more to help, and arguing with reporters doesn’t seem very productive.
Project allowing Syrians to keep their properties
The “Free Syrian Lawyers” organization supported by the “EuroMed Rights” organization is coordinating awareness-raising workshops on property rights for the Syrian community in Turkey.
The workshops project enables the classes affected by these laws, mainly residents of informal housing areas and women, to understand these risks and challenges and educate them on how to protect their property from violations.
The workshops include legal recommendations and methods that safeguard property rights and help the restitution of real estate confiscated unlawfully without compensation for the damages.
See more here.
- This article talks about the Lebanese government’s plan for the return of Syrian people on the move to Syria, especially the inconsistencies within the plan.
- The situation on the ground in Afghanistan:
Civilians among 45 killed in Afghan air raids against Taliban
Air raids by Afghan security forces against Taliban fighters have killed at least 45 people, including civilians…
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