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AYS Daily Digest 28/07/2020 — Three People Killed After Pushback to Libya

Lawsuit Against Libya, Italy and Malta for Illegal Pushback///Frontex Allegedly Involved in Illegal Pushback in Aegean///

IOM Staff member observing a different disembarkation in Tripoli. Source: IOM Archives

FEATURE

Three People Killed After Pushback to Libya

Local authorities shot at a group of 70 people on the move in the Libyan city of Khoms as they disembarked from a vessel. Two people were killed immediately and another three were injured. One of the injured men passed away on the way to the hospital.

Allegedly, the shooting occurred because the people tried to escape from the authorities after the Libyan Coast Guard intercepted them and brought them back to Libya. Considering that their destination (and where the survivors of this violent incident were taken) was the notorious Souq Al-Khamis detention center, which is infamous for the beatings and torture that occur there, it’s understandable why they would try to escape.

Both the UNHCR and IOM issued statements condemning the violence and urging a full investigation. Both organizations also called for more cooperation between Mediterranean nations and repeated that Libya cannot be considered a safe third country. However, European states continue to cooperate with Libya by pumping money into the Libyan coast guard and working together on pushbacks. Just this weekend, news broke about Frontex taking over aerial reconnaissance in Libyan air space.

A full investigation must also include the role European governments play in supporting this bloody practice of detention and returns to Libya, that results in more loss of life every day.

SEA

Lawsuit Against Libya, Malta and Italy for Illegal Pullback

The Association for Juridical Studies on Migration and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights filed a lawsuit before the UN Human Rights Committee against an illegal interception that occured on October 18th, 2019.

Last year, a boat in distress in the Maltese SAR area (but close to the Italian island of Lampedusa) contacted AlarmPhone, who then contacted Maltese authorities. The Maltese authorities did not respond for several hours and instead of conducting a rescue, they conducted aerial monitoring while a Libyan Coast Guard ship pulled the people in distress back to Libya.

The authorities are accused of violating people’s right to flee Libya and its civil war and torture camps and endangering lives through their refusal to conduct a rescue. This case could set a very important precedent.

More Distress Cases at Sea

AlarmPhone reported several cases of boats in distress in the Mediterranean on Tuesday. One, a boat with about 85 people on board, was rescued to Lampedusa. Unfortunately, a second boat in distress in Maltese SAR with about 33 people disappeared.

Stories like these, or of the 95 people that were adrift over 33 hours in Maltese SAR over the weekend, have largely been ignored. The New York Times ran a story about the Maltese incident, but they were one of the only major media outlets to do so. This shows how EU disregard for life has been normalized by the media.

GREECE

Frontex Allegedly Involved in Illegal Pushback

Footage taken by Turkish authorities in early June and released by Anadolu Agency allegedly shows a Frontex boat helping the Greek Coast Guard conduct an illegal pushback. The incident was witnessed by a NATO patrol ship.

The FRONTEX elements can be seen blocking the boat’s way, after which Greek forces arrive and take apart its fuel tank and unlawfully push the asylum seeker’s boat back into Turkish territorial waters.

A full investigation into the incident still needs to be done, however, it’s clear that Frontex were at the very least near the incident . Even if they did not actively participate in the pushback, if they witnessed an illegal act happening, why didn’t they intervene?

Meanwhile, the Turkish Coast Guard reported that they rescued over 900 people from June 22nd to July 22nd who were victims of illegal pushbacks from Greece.

Doctors Without Borders’ Isolation Structure in Moria Closing

The coronavirus treatment structure set up by the organization Doctors Without Borders on the road to Moria will officially close after receiving yet another fine, this time for 35,000 euros.

The local municipality issued the fines because the structure, which was set up in a series of old warehouses, was guilty of “arbitrary construction.” Never mind that the pandemic hit suddenly and a dedicated coronavirus structure was desperately needed before building permits could be obtained. The structure carried out thousands of examinations and was probably instrumental in keeping Moria safe from a deadly outbreak. Its closure, especially as new cases pop up on Lesvos, is a great loss.

Tragedy in Moria — Another Person Murdered

The young Afghan man who was stabbed on Sunday in Moria died from his injuries. He is the seventh death from stabbing in Moria this year.

Dangerous Crossings at Idomeni

In Idomeni, near the Greek border with North Macedonia, groups of people on the move try to smuggle themselves across the border by hiding on freight trains. The journey is dangerous, not just because of the violent pushbacks by North Macedonian police, but because people get electrocuted while traveling by train.

“Only the train delays get reported, not the deaths,” one local resident said.

When legal routes to asylum are closed, people turn to more dangerous solutions. This loss of life could easily be prevented, and it is shockingly callous that the deaths are not even acknowledged.

Appeal for Donations

Organizations on the ground are fundraising for a patient’s shoulder surgery in Thessaloniki. They are only a few hundred euros away from their goal! You can donate here.

MONTENEGRO

Frontex Launches Operation at Montenegrin-Croatian Border

Frontex announced that its officials will be placed at the border to provide support for Croatian border guards. This is yet another case of Frontex acting outside EU borders, from its activities on the Albania-Greece border to flyovers in Libyan SAR. Frontex team members are also given immunity from Montenegro’s criminal courts for acts performed in the course of duty.

Where is the accountability?

SLOVENIA

Court Ruling Striking Down Illegal Pushback Could set Important Precedent

The Slovenian government has to allow entry to the victim and pay him 5,000 euros in damages, after they conducted an illegal pushback to Croatia that violated his human rights last year.

Experts are speculating what this case could mean for others taking the same route. Swedish MEP Malin Bjork said, “It makes our case stronger,” when arguing against the systematic nature of chain pushbacks.

The ruling said mutual trust between EU member states cannot be absolute, and actual conditions on the ground must be taken into account before refoulement. It also solidified the utility of courts as a tool for advocates.

The true impacts of this case will unfold as the year progresses.

SPAIN

New Protocol for Arrivals Coming This Week

A protocol to manage arrivals to the Andalucian coast by patera (small boat) and prevent the spread of coronavirus is set to be approved by the central government of Spain this week.

The plan would involve cooperation between the central government and Andalucia’s regional authorities to jointly manage accommodation centers for people who test positive for coronavirus. People who’ve been in contact with an infected person but haven’t tested positive will quarantine with the help of the central government.

Meanwhile, the government stressed that people on the move were not responsible for any cases in the Canary Islands, which has seen many recent arrivals.

Civil Guard Acquitted (Again) of Deaths in Ceuta 6 Years Ago

Activists and families are deploring a court ruling that acquitted 16 members of the civil guard of the deaths of 15 people in Ceuta in 2014.

On February 6, 2014, 15 people who tried to cross from Morocco to Spain on the beach of Tarajal died after the Spanish Civil Guard used violent tactics such as detonator rounds, smoke cans and more to prevent them from reaching the shore. 23 other people were forcibly returned to Morocco without access to any formal asylum procedure. After years of lawsuits and appeals, activists faced another dismissal, this time from the Provincial Court of Cadiz.

Even though the tactics used were clearly violent and disproportional, the courts ruled that they were standard practice for “hot returns” to Morocco.

This is a clear violation of justice for the families of the victims as well as those who survived the pushback, and sets a worrying precedent for violence at the border.

FRANCE

Urgent Action Wednesday Morning in Paris

Solidarite Migrants Wilson is calling for volunteers to come to Canal St-Denis starting at 4am ahead of the planned #EvacdeMerde. More information can be found about the action here.

This evacuation serves no purpose besides intimidation and destruction of people’s property. An investigation by Cedre found that following evacuations, 25% of people are back on the street the same night, and 75% return within a month. More information about evacuations and how much harm they do can be found here (in French).

FINLAND

Finland to Accept More People From Mediterranean Camps

15 people from Cyprus will be transferred this week, while another group of 25 from Greece will arrive next week. They are mostly unaccompanied children and a few single mothers.

In February, Finland pledged to relocate a total of 175 people.

EU

EU Auditors Want More Efficient Deportations

EU Auditors found that less than 40% of people rejected for asylum actually left the European Union.

Most of this difficulty was ascribed to the fact that cooperation with other countries was proving difficult, and there were no logistics in place to conduct returns. The EU is now looking for ways to improve the “efficiency” of deportations, even though countless money-absorbing schemes for repatriation have been cooked up since 2015.

One doubts that the EU auditors took time to consider how people who are forced to live in legal limbo like this are affected and how this precarity hurts their integration efforts. Perhaps more money should be invested in helping people integrate, instead of endless asylum denials, deportation proceedings, and more and more repatriation schemes even though the existing ones aren’t working?

Meanwhile, local politicians across the EU, including German officials, are chafing at the EU’s broken asylum policy. There is still no comprehensive asylum procedure, which makes applying for asylum completely arbitrary. Nor is there any policy in place for balanced resettlement. The EU announced that it’s planning to reform the system, but its most important goal seems to be efficiency, whether in asylum decisions or deportations. Experts warn that efficiency often comes at the expense of human rights and due process.

Local governments and activists are the ones leading the charge for a humane asylum system. City governments and municipalities across Europe are the ones that are calling for more people to be resettled in their hometowns and for more asylum applications to be approved. The greatest hope for Europe is coming from the ground up.

You can read more about the push for asylum reform in Europe here (in German).

GENERAL

Drastically Different Treatment for Voluntary Returnees and Deportees in Nigeria

The New Humanitarian published an investigation into the treatment of people who return to Nigeria after trying to make it in Europe, comparing the situation of voluntary returnees in IOM’s paid program and deportees. Both groups of people face difficulty reintegrating as there is a lot of stigma attached to “failing” at reaching Europe. COVID-19 has made the economic situation even harder. Many are also traumatized because of the violent route to Europe, the trafficking they’ve experienced, and the violence of the return process as well.

People who were deported do not even have access to the meagre support systems voluntary returnees have. Many have no way of supporting themselves once they reach Nigeria, nor do they have anywhere to go. Some arrive without so much as their phones because the police broke into their homes and took their belongings, giving them only a few minutes to prepare to be deported. Some were deported after over a decade or more in Germany or other European countries.

Recommended Reading

The UNHCR published an extensive report on the dangers facing people traveling from West and East Africa to the Mediterranean coast. You can read the report in English here and find other resources such as press releases in various languages here.

This story from The Conversation offers an interesting insight on conflict resolution led by people in the move in Ugandan camps, combatting the stereotypes of camps as inherently lawless environments.

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

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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.