AYS Daily Digest 25/08/2020 — Movement Restrictions Strand People on the Move in Bosnia’s Una-Sana Canton
Sea-Watch 4 Rescues Over 200 People///Shipwreck Off the Coast of Chalki///Horrible Conditions in Postojna///& More
FEATURE — People Trapped in Una-Sana Canton, Violence Escalating
Almost a week after Una-Sana Canton imposed restrictions on movement for people on the move, countless people are stranded and facing violence from police and vigilante groups. Amnesty International called these measures “disproportionate and discriminatory.”
Una-Sana Canton banned the transport of people on the move on public transport, in taxis, or on foot, making it impossible for people who are not in the official camp to move around. Police have set up checkpoints on roads leading into the canton, as have vigilante groups. Republika Srpska have also set up checkpoints at the border between the two entities, essentially trapping people between the two checkpoints. People are stranded on the road and have been sleeping rough for days on end, including families with young children.
In protest of this treatment, a group of people blocked the road between Bosanska Otoka and Novi Grad. The group of people have been forced to sleep rough while many do not even have sleeping bags and have no protection against insects, with many suffering from illnesses. They’ve been protesting their situation by blocking the road for several days, although only for a short period of time. After about an hour, the Una-Sana Canton police arrived and forced them to disperse. The authorities can force people to move and threaten them with batons, but cannot provide them with food or a safe shelter?
The people also face violence from far-right vigilantes in addition to state violence. There is a Facebook group called “Docek Migranata” that shares photos of people on the move as well as volunteers and calls for people to go to that location and beat them up. This makes it difficult for organizations like No Name Kitchen to keep doing their important work and for the people to even do something as simple as buying food. Facebook has done nothing to shut this group down.
These attitudes are only encouraged by racism at an official level. Nermina Cemalovic, the Canton’s health minister, justified the repressive measures by accusing people on the move of spreading coronavirus. “We can’t control them because they move in groups of 100. They don’t follow any rules or norms and we have to think about protecting citizens,” she said. Accusing people on the move of spreading coronavirus is a tried-and-tested tool in the arsenal of 2020’s racist politicians, but one that is poorly supported by facts.
Despite the threat of violence, many locals are helping people by distributing food and other aid. They are unfortunately working alone. Even though there are over 1,000 people on the move (outside of the camps) in Velika Kladusa, the national government has done very little to help the situation. International organizations have also been silent. The people are trapped — crossing the Croatian border is dangerous, as this report from Border Violence Monitoring Network about a violent pushback that occurred earlier this month shows. They cannot go back to Sarajevo because they cannot travel, they cannot cross into Republika Srpska, and they cannot travel on foot within Una-Sana Canton. The accomodation center in the canton, Miral, is closed and not accepting new residents. This cannot continue!
Civilian rescue ships continue to do the work European governments will not. Sea-Watch4 has rescued over 200 people who are fleeing terrible conditions in Libya in three separate operations. Philipp, the head of operations on the Sea-Watch 4, reminded everyone that although Sea-Watch was able to rescue these people, countless others have died in the Mediterranean. “If European states did not detain civilian rescue ships at random, these people might still be alive,” he said.
Sea-Watch 4 is the only NGO ship currently at sea, although Mediterranea Saving Humans expects to resume operations soon.
For more of Sea-Watch’s important work, read their airborne monthly fact sheet.
Dozens of people have perished in the past few days in the Central Mediterranean, as NGO ships languish in European harbors, and European governments ignore calls to conduct rescues at sea. Instead, they continue to fund the violent acts of the Libyan Coast Guard. Since 2015, the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa has sent 435 million euros to projects in Libya (the breakdown of the spending can be found here). The institution has spent about 90 million euros on funding the Libyan Coast Guard alone, with the sole purpose of stopping crossings. Imagine how many people could be helped with that money!
A shipwreck has occurred northwest of Chalki. The first on the scene to assist was a cargo ship, which was later joined by ships from the Hellenic Coast Guard, two helicopters, and more vessels. Initially, media reported that 89 people were rescued, but that number has since grown to 92. So far, there are not many details about how the shipwreck happened and search and rescue is still ongoing, although thankfully there are no casualties reported yet.
The Greek government is refusing to change its decision to allow dozens of employees in accommodation centers to go back to work after vacation without testing them for coronavirus. Advocates are calling this “incomprehensible and dangerous.” The government is also refusing to test employees in Vial camp who have come in contact with a confirmed case. This carelessness months after the beginning of the pandemic, when ignorance is no longer an excuse, is dangerous to people on the move, employees and the Greek public as a whole.
Hamza Haddi and Mohammed Haddar will have their appeal hearing on September first, and advocates are asking for your support! Hamza and Mohammed were convicted of “smuggling” after they attempted to flee to Greece from Morocco in February. They are not alone in suffering these unjust charges — the Greek coast guard has a pattern of arresting 1–2 people per boat and accusing them of “trafficking” without any proof. This is yet another way people on the move are detained arbitrarily.
Austria’s interior minister visited Greece and pledged support to “maintain Europe’s external border.” Austria pledged two million euros in aid to Greece and to work together on deportations. However, they did not offer to help resettle people on the move, which Greek authorities, aid workers, and the people themselves have been asking for. Europe’s priorities are clear once more!
Meanwhile, life continues as best as people can manage in Moria. Attika Human Support is continuing their important work. You can read about their warehouse activities (and learn how to donate) here. Residents are trying to make their lives as bearable as possible, including by making art. You can watch a video about the importance of art in Moria here (in German).
People who are detained in Postojna camp in Slovenia came out with a statement about the conditions they are being held in.
They put us in a closed place, some people have been here 28 days and some others 25 days without knowing what will happen to us…There is no logic and no law. Some leave without proof of identity, while others are sentenced to three months. There’s patients here and the medical care is not good, some friends are scared about what will happen with us and others are thinking of killing themselves here. Some have tried and sometimes police come inside with dogs — they started attacking a man with the dog, we don’t know why they do that. Are we criminals to leave us here for three months or more?
You can read the full statement here.
The dispute between the central government in Rome and Sicily continues. The situation started after the governor of Sicily announced that he would close all hotspots on the island (something he technically has no power to do). His words were criticized by many groups, including by the Jesuit Refugee Service. The central government began evacuating hotspots on the island like the one in Pozzallo, although the Ministry of the Interior said this had nothing to do with the governor’s order.
Ordinary Italians continue to show their humanity and compassion. Lifeguards and swimmers in Isola Capo Rizzuto helped rescue 56 people in distress. Thank you to these people for their beautiful act of solidarity!
Meanwhile, second-generation Italians are continuing their fight for an equitable citizenship process, boosted by the global Black Lives Matter movement. You can read more about their fight here.
Salvamento Maritimo called for reinforcements at a meeting on Tuesday between the company and union representatives. Workers for the organisation describe 20-hour days that take a physical and psychological toll, which has prompted them to ask for a meeting with the company. After several deadly wrecks recently, they said they cannot continue like this anymore. Many boats are crewed by only three people which is not enough to carry out rescues.
Salvamento rescued a patera with 43 people off the coast of Gran Canaria, illustrating the importance of the organization’s work in preventing deaths at sea. They should be given the resources necessary to do this work at minimal risk to people on the move and Salvamento Maritimo crews!
Parisian police evict people on the move sleeping rough almost nightly. Since the evacuation of the camp at Aubervilliers at the end of July, the police are coming every night to evict people still sleeping rough. They use tear gas on the people, including small children. However, those forced to move have nowhere to go because the accommodation centers are full.
A young mother passed away in accomodation in Glasgow, leaving behind a one-year-old child. Mercy Baguma is the third person on the move to die in Glasgow this year. While the cause of death is unclear yet, her baby, found crying next to her, was afterwards treated for starvation. Ms. Baguma was unable to support herself financially after her limited leave to remain expired, and with it her permission to work. Her death is in the hands of the British government that does not provide people on the move with a safety net.
People on the move staying in hotels are getting harassed by far-right groups. The groups are filming hotels housing asylum seekers, harassing people as they enter or exit, and even forcing their way into the hotels. They are obviously emboldened by the callous actions and rhetoric of the British government.
People are still fighting for justice, despite the tragedies and the hostile environment. Lawyers have launched a last-minute appeal to stop the deportation of people that reached the UK on small boats. We will update when we learn more. In Dover, Kent Anti-Racism Network is organizing a solidarity stand, planned for September 5th. Join if you are able to!
DW published a video report about the dangers people face trying to reach Europe — and once they get here.
This article talks about the use of biometric data to track people on the move for humanitarian purposes — as well as the ways collecting this data can go wrong.
Finally, this story follows orphaned children in Syria, forced to deal with war, economic collapse and now a pandemic.
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