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AYS Daily Digest 26.03.18: Human Rights are Paved Over at the EU-Turkey Summit

Feature — EU Summit//Turkey begins “operations” in Sinjar//Greek Authroities accussed of ignoring calls for help//Donation needs in Athens//Rejected asylum seekers in Germany//and more…

Vial Camp, Chios. 12.03.18. Photo Credit: Refugee Biriyani & Bananas

Feature: Summit Meeting in Varna

There was a summit meeting between EU leaders and Turkish President Recep Erdogan in Varna, Bulgaria today.

The council of the EU announced the agenda for the meeting, stating that they will focus on “EU-Turkey cooperation on migration, including the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey, and counter-terrorism. They will also look at ways of moving the EU-Turkey relationship forward, on the basis of mutual respect and common interests.” The EU council also mentioned their “grave concern over the continued detention of EU citizens in Turkey.”

While the EU is raising the alarm on the detention of their own citizens, what are they doing to protect refugees who are being illegally detained and even tortured in Turkey? Whose “common interests” is the EU working towards?

In a public statment on today’s meeting, the group EuroMed Rights commented on the galling hypocrisy of this agreement. While its stated intention was to protect refugees from smugglers and dangerous crossings, the deal was really a plot to trap millions of refugees in Turkey and on the Greek islands. The consequences of the deal have forced refugees to rely on smugglers even further, and try riskier routes to evade the Turkish authorities. EuroMed wrote:

We are very worried on the manner the cooperation with Turkey is being hailed as a success over those last two years when it is widely known that the decline in the number of irregular EU arrivals from Turkey doesn’t mean that lives are saved but that people wishing to leave Turkey are prevented from doing so. European funding is contributing to deny people the right to access the EU through legal channels, if not supporting the running of detention sites. [The Eu-Turkey deal] fails the EU’s legal and moral duty to protect refugees willing to seek asylum on its territory. It fails to respect the right for all to leave any country. It is bargaining on human lives.

EU

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights (FRA) just released a report detailing illegal pushback across Europe. According to the organization’s findings, some of the worst offenders are France, Croatia, and Spain, which often push refugees and migrants back without due process and without giving them access to the asylum procedure. The group also identified many illegal pushabcks in Greece, particularly on the Evros river.

Iraq

Turkish President Recep Erdogan announced this Sunday that the Turkish military will begin “operations” in the Sinjar Province of Iraq. He will not state what these “operations” will be, or how many troops are involved.

Sinjar is home to thousands of Yazidi people, who faced genocide at the hands of ISIS in August of 2014. Kurdish forces have been in Sinjar since this time. These forces have left Sinjar in recent days under threat of attack by Turkey.

Turkey claims that Kurdish armed forces are terrorist groups, and that it is entering Sinjar to allow refugees to return there. Sinjar is a majority Kurdish area, so one must ask the question, does “relocating” refugees there mean displacing thousands of Kurdish people?

Turkey’s agressions in Sinjar are not just an attempt to make the area “safe”, they are part of Erdogan’s longstanding conflict with Kurdish parties, and a sign of his territorial ambitions. Will Sinjar become another Afrin, with thousands of people displaced and killed? And what is the EU doing on the day of their summit with Turkey to prevent the killing of civilians in Sinjar?

Libya

The UNHCR released their latest statistics on their operations in Libya on Monday. They list 335 “monitoring visits” to detention centers and the release of 983 detained refugees under their “Key Achievements”. But can these really be seen as acheivements when thousands are still trapped in these awful detention centers?

Turkey

The BBC released first hand footage of Turkish Coast Guard (TCG) violence today. The TCG can be seen beating refugees ina dinghy with batons. A Syrian woman was interviewed, saying that she experienced even worse violence after she was arrested. As a Lighthouse Relief volunteer wrote in an AYS special last week, there have been many documented and reported instances of TCG brutality towards refugees.

A stated goal of the EU is to lower the risk of “irregular migration”. How can assaulting and arresting people possibly be part of such a plan? The EU continues to turn a blind eye to violence as it funds Turkey with billions of euros for the “protection” of refugees.

Sea

We have received new information about the impounding of the Proactiva Open Arms rescue ship by an Sicilian court last week. Not only has the vessel been taken, but the ship’s captain Marc Raig Creus, as well as the head of mission Anabel Montes Mier and the NGO coordinator Gerard Canals are facing between 4 and 15 years prison on bogus “human trafficking” charges. They are also facing a fine of 15,000 euros for each person rescued.

The Italian authorities are trying to prosecute volunteers for people they have saved, while they are ones who should be facing charges for the people they have imprisoned and killed under the Italy-Libya agreement. A petition to drop the charges against Proactiva is currently circulating, and over 250,000 have already signed. You can find it here.

Greece

Islands

At least 16 people died in an shipwreck near the island of Samos last week. Today, the German newspaper Der Spiegel published serious allegations against the Greek migration and Hellenic Coast Guard made by the three survivors. Der Spiegel also claims to have independently verified some of their claims, including the fact that refugee’s phone call of distress were ignored by Greek authorities, even after being reported to them for hours by family members. The surviving people also claim to have seen a vessel nearby after the wreck, but these claims have not been independently verified to our knowledge. It is clear that the search and rescue operation did not begin until more than 24 hours after the shipwreck.

The bodies of the victims being taken of a Hellenic Coast Guard ship, 17.03.18. Photo Credit: Aegean Boat Report.

In the week following the incident, both the Greek Migration Minister and a Minister for the Aegean Islands, Panagiotis Kouroumblis, visited the survivors of the wreck. Kouroumblis promised that “if someone is found responsible, I will be very tough”.

In an incident last month, some refugees from the Moria camp were shot at by a local farmer who claimed to see them stealing, as the Politikal Lesvos outlet reported.Three Ethiopian refugees from the Moria camp in Lesvos have now been arrested following accusations that they “stole animals”, based on footage that does not depict them. Independent journalist Marianna Karakoulaki tweeted the story from the island today.

Forwarding a call for donations from AYS colleague and independent volunteer Ruhi Loren:

In Vial camp, Chios they tell us: ‘Food is no good.’ ‘Food is no good.’ Describing the bland, small, poor quality, microwave style meal provided by the camp authorities. In the past this food has had maggots in it as well as giving people food poisoning.

‘I just want to feed my children, one lady cried.’ Other people reported €90 cash card allowances per person, per month is not enough.

This Ramadan, Refugee Biriyani & Bananas in conjunction with Chios People’s Kitchen are wanting to provide Ramadan Food Packs for approximately 1,500 people living in Vial Camp, apartments and hotels of Chios. To be distributed by ourselves with FEOX rescue team and other independent volunteers.

Food packs for Chios. Photo Credit: Refugee Biriyani & Bananas

You can support the initiative here.

Mainland

The volunteer-run kitchen Hope Cafe in Athens put out a call for donations today. They are struggling to support many refugees in the city who are being neglected by the UNHCR and Greek authorities:

We desperately need your help this month as funds are at an all time low…
In the last three weeks our hot meal numbers have gone up to 300 . That’s a huge achievement considering how small we are. A vegetarian meal only costs 65 cents per person but that’s 200 a day. Hope Cafe just can’t continue that long term unless our funding picks up drastically.

You can support Hope Cafe here.

According to the Greek Amna news outlet, the bodies of two refugees have been found in a building near Alexandroupoli in Northern Greece. Their belongings were abandoned near them, and the police have declared that they suspect “criminal involvement”.

The DW outlet reported today on the increasingly dangerous crossing along the Evros River border. In the last year Frontex reported stopping 5,500 people, and Turkish authorities reported seizing 21,000 on the Evros border. More people are attempting the crossing, and although accurate nubers are not available, it is clear that more are dying. DW quoted a local fisherman on the river saying, “it’s not one, two or five. I have lost the account of the bodies I’ve seen floating down the river”.

The “Marine Cell” rescue hotline working on the Evros border reported a near tragedy this morning. They described the details of the rescue operation on their page:

These people were dumped by a smuggler in the river to try to cross to the other side. [The smuggler] knows very well that this point is dangerous and the water is fast and deep 2 M besides that the river today is high. I
If it weren’t for God and those trees on their way, they would be missing.

Marine Cell contacted Greek and Turkish authorities, and the people were rescued by Turkish firemen. Marine Cell states that the refugees are now “safe in Turkey”. But can they truly be safe if they are trying to flee?

Serbia

The UK charity Help Refugees is fundraising for a partner organization in Serbia:

Our partners Refugee Aid Serbia are open every week day. Volunteers from across the world teach English, German, Serbian, and Maths, as well as recreational Workshops.

This incredible project needs funding to continue their vital work. Please help us continue to support groups providing vital informal education classes in Serbia & Greece by donating just £15 for a brand new school kit today.

Inside the classroom at Refugee Aid Serbia. Photo Credit: Help Refugees

Donate here.

Bosnia

More and more refugees are passing through Bosnia on the their way to Europe, as borders in other Balkan countries bordering the EU are becoming more patrolled and militarized. AYS writer and independent volunteer Nidzara Ahmetasavic reports that the number of refugees in the country is at least twice that stated by official figures. There are no camps in the country but citizens and civil society groups are struggling to provide for the reufgees and to accommodate them.

BALKAN WEATHER REPORT (for Tuesday 27.03)

Montenegro

Tuesday will be cloudy with rain throughout the day, and in the mountains in the north sleet and snow during the night and morning hours. The rain will not be heavy. The wind will be weak to moderate blowing. In the morning the temperatures will be from -3 to 8 and the highest daily from 2 to 16 degrees.

Serbia

In Serbia it will be moderately cloudy with light rain in some places and in the mountains light snow. Later in the day and during the evening it will partially clear up starting in the north and western parts of the country. In the mountains the snow will continue to melt. The wind will be weak to moderate blowing form the southwest to west. The lowest temperatures will be form 0 to 4 and the highest daily from 7 to 12 degrees.

BiH

In Bosnia and Herzegovina it will be moderately to predominantly cloudy. Light rain is possible in the southeast of Herzegovina and in the northwest of Bosnia. In the early morning hours there will be light snow in the western regions above 700 meters. The wind will be weak blowing from the north and towards the end of the day changing directions to the south. The lowest temperatures will mainly be from -3 to 2 and in the south from 3 to 6 degrees. The highest daily mostly from 6 to 11 and in the south up to 15 degrees.

Croatia

In Croatia it will be partially sunny and variably cloudy. Locally there is possibility to some rain or a rain shower here and there, mainly in the south of the country. Inland the wind will be mostly weak, to moderate in the west, blowing from the norhtwest. Alongside the coast first a changeable wind will be blowing, in the afternoon a north-western and in the evening in the north a southwestern to southern wind. The lowest temperature will be from -2 to 3 and alongside the coast from 4 to 9 degrees. The highest daily temperatures inland will be form 9 to 14 and from 12 to 16 alongside the coast and on the islands.

Bulgaria

The head of the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees stated today that refugee centers in the country are only at 17% capacity, with around 850 people currently living in the facilities.

Italy

France

The UK charity Refugee Community Kitchen, which is operating in Calais, has put out a call for donations. For only one euro you can cover the cost of TWO meals!

UK

RefuComm has put out a guide to your rights for asylum seekers in the UK. Resources are available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Kurdish, Ndebele, Pashot, Punjabi, Shona, Somali, Tamil, Urdu and Tigrinya.

Germany

According to InfoMigrants, in 2017 there were 65,000 rejected asylum seekers in Germany who could not be deported because they lacked the needed documents.

The InfoMigrants story was based on an internal report by the German Interior Ministry. According to the Ministry, there was an especial lack of “cooperation” with Indian and Pakistani authorities. It also noted that deportations to Turkey had been made more difficult in 2017.

The German Federal Employment Agency announced today that 650,000 new jobs were expected to be created in the country this year, 100,000 of which will be held by people who arrived as refugees.

“Generally speaking, the high increases in employment we’ve had in the past few years in Germany would not have been possible without immigration,” said Enzo Weber, who heads a research department within the Employment Agency.

We strive to echo correct news from the ground through collaboration and fairness.

Every effort has been made to credit organizations 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 any corrections.

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

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Are You Syrious?

News digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and people on the move, but also for journalists, decision makers and other parties.