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Are You Syrious?

AYS Daily Digest 27/4/20: More Political Interference into the Freedoms of Academia and the Media

Belgian fight for the regularisation of undocumented people / 127 people moved to Moria / So far no transfer of minors from the islands / Are the fires in the camps not a warning that all deadlines have passed? / Protesting the existing state of things in Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by the international community / & more updates

Finally after a month in the north these 127 refugees were transferred to Moria. They stayed on a beach in tents all the time under very bad conditions.” (Photo taken by Murteza/MCAT, via Moria Corona Awareness Team)

In response to an academic paper by researchers from the University of Turku in Finland, the Greek ambassador to Finland, Giorgos Ayfantis, sent an official response to the university, demanding that it be posted alongside the academic paper.
The paper addresses the issue of asylum seekers and migrants on Lesvos during 2019–20 and formulates criticism that has prompted the embassy — representing the Greek government — to react sharply.

The main issue here is extreme sensitivity to any issues regarding the longstanding Greek/Turkish conflict and in particular to the issue of the sovereignty of the Aegean Islands, including Lesvos, an issue rooted in the Lausanne Treaty that has been questioned by Turkey several times during the years.
Also, the response points to the fierce conflict and opposition to the NGOs working on the Aegean Islands and Lesvos in particular, with the degree to which the ambassador is quite remarkably defending the Greek government's responsibility for handling the situation on the island.

A remarkable statement by the ambassador is offered in the final part of the letter, stating that “Migrants in Lesvos, merely by their numbers, mentality, and attitude, are unarmed invaders.” By the official nature of the letter, we have to assume that this is the official position of the Greek government.

The whole issue is a striking example of political interference in academic freedom, and even if some of the arguments regarding the methodology of the paper might have some truth to them, this is a rare step to take — telling again of the highly sensitive nature of the whole issue to the Greek government.

A move to Moria

A month after arriving and after having lived on beaches and tents in three places on the north of Lesvos, 127 people have been transferred to the Moria refugee camp. Their asylum process can only now begin formally, but this begs a question — what must someone’s reality be when a move to the infamous Moria is a step forward….?

Not even the minimum

“Government negligence endangers human lives” is in the title of the report by Human Rights Watch regarding the current conditions imposed on everyone by the presence of Covid-19, requiring knowledge of the rights and possibilities of protection of those whose freedom of movement and choice has been even more limited.

“It is clear that Greece does not comply with the minimum measures of prevention and protection against coronavirus in the structures of the islands,” said the organization’s researcher, Belkis Ville.

Despite the constant meetings and announcements by government officials, no measures are being taken to protect vulnerable groups, not in Kranidi with 150 cases of corona disease, nor for transfers from the KYT (Reception and Identification Centers) of the islands of the Eastern Aegean. No substantive protection measures have been implemented until last night, not even for the refugees living at the hotel in Kranidi, and even for those who are in the high risk category, it is reported.

It seems that at the most recent meeting at the Ministry of Health, the existing measures were confirmed, thus no improvement is being made a priority in any of the spheres, including health. The previously announced move, promised to the Commissioner Johansson, of unaccompanied minors from the islands that was to take place right after Easter has not yet begun, and there’s no telling when and if it will happen in full capacity.

After the fires

Europe Must Act has sent out an open letter to the EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson, stating, among other things, that:

These fires were often caused by fights amongst camp residents. The tensions, and the fires caused by them, are the cumulative effects of subhuman conditions on hotspot island camps and the additional stress created by Covid-19 quarantine measures taken by authorities.

One tragedy after another. These events highlight how inherently flawed Europe’s current policy on migration and asylum is. Risking human lives is irresponsible governance at the highest level,

and calling on the Commissioner to work with the Greek authorities and Member States to evacuate asylum seekers and refugees from the islands to Europe, and demanding a statement from the EU Commission on this emergency situation on the Aegean Islands. Find the entire letter here.

No public scrutiny over racism and hate

The 55-year-old man who shot at refugees in Moria was released on parole, the Greek media reported, and according to sources on site, fascist groups at the court of Mytilene attacked journalists, throwing stones at them. The Greek police allegedly aggressively removed the journalists, not even trying to stop the attacks, but preventing any reporting on them.

A group of activists who started Transbalkanska solidarnost invite people to join their protest against IOM’s “non-action” in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by calling people to actively reach out to them during 48 hours, starting on 27 April.

Conditions in the camps run by IOM in BiH during the COVID-19 pandemic resemble those in concentration camps:

_violence against people in the camps is on the rise,
_food is constantly insufficient and not nutritious enough while even more reduced and worse in quality,
_hygienic conditions are concerning,
_healthcare remains at a bare minimum,
_people are denied the freedom to move and leave the camps for an indefinite period.

Transbalkan Solidarity contends that:

_Soap is not a luxury!
_Trash is not food!
_A camp is not a living space!
_A tent is not a house!

Regularisation of undocumented people is the only way for them to be secure and for others to be humane

One does not exist for the administration, those who are undocumented must find income however they can, they are left without any physical or social protection, writes ecolobxl from Bruxelles, where such practice is very visible in the society. Further on, they write:

To be undocumented is also to be ignored in times of prosperity and left to your own fate, instrumentalized. In the Brussels region, the number of people affected is estimated at 100,000. We, ecologists, did not wait for the coronavirus measures to be regularized. But today, this is a necessity for health and survival, for them as well as for all the inhabitants of our region.
Other European countries, such as Italy or Portugal, have decided to regularize the undocumented persons on their territory temporarily in order to protect them — and the entire population — from the virus. For us these measures are not enough:

regularization must be permanent, based on clear, known, individual and objective criteria, and motivated by justice and equality.

“To pretend — at least legally — that these human beings do not exist is to allow our economic machine to continue exploiting them and to close its eyes to the suffering into which this lack of consideration plunges them.”

The undocumented people participate at all times in the wealth of a society, they state. “Not only do they consume and run our businesses, but they clean, build, sew, care, etc. Denying them recognition and protection is one of the greatest hypocrisies in our system. Even more than usual and to get out of this pandemic, we will need all the energies available in our territory. Let us give them the opportunity to contribute more, recognizing their rights.”

As long as the undocumented live under the radar, that is to say in precarious conditions and all this implies in terms of insecurity, they will not have access to health care or testing. Many are COVID-19 infected and potential carriers. Many lives are lost and are risks to the community. Let us be fair and decent, regularize the vulnerable without delay.

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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?

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