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AYS Daily Digest 28/02/18: A victory for humanitarian aid

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee wins a lawsuit against the Cabinet Office / Greek cabinet reshuffle also affects the Migration Ministry / Family reunions from Greece delayed and volunteers needed / Spain saw almost as many new arrivals in 2017 as Greece did / German asylum office tries to restrict family asylum, more than 2200 attacks against refugees in 2017 / and more…

The HHC is one of the NGOs, who support refugees in Hungary. Credits: hhc_helsinki/Twitter

Feature: A victory for humanitarian aid

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has won a lawsuit against the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister in first instance at the Metropolitan Court of Budapest. The NGO, dedicated to protect human dignity and the rule of law, sued the Cabinet Office, because it “had violated the human rights organization’s right to good reputation,” as the HHC states. In its ‘Stop Soros National Consultation questionnaire’, sent to every household in October and November last year to around eight million Hungarians, the Cabinet Office gave “misleading statements” and “misrepresented facts”.

In this questionnaire, the Cabinet Office wrote:

George Soros would also like to see migrants receive lighter sentences for the crimes they commit. George Soros, with significant amounts of funding, supports numerous organizations that assist immigration and defend immigrants who have committed unlawful acts. One example, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, with regard to the prohibited crossing of the border argued that ‘the application of strict legal consequences with regard to unlawful entry may be considered concerning’.

The HCC underlines that it has “never encouraged more lenient punishment for crimes committed by ‘migrants’ or ‘immigrants’. The HHC has always spoken for equal rights.” The citation in the questionnaire was truncated from a HHC statement, referring to the building of a border fence with regards to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The Metropolitan Court called the government to apologize and pay the 2 million HUF (ca. 6380 Euro) for moral damages. The Cabinet Office can appeal the sentence.

Lebanon

With it’s campaign “Choose Love”, Help Refugees have gathered many coats to distribute to people in need. In collaboration with Salam LADC, they handed out 329 children’s coats this month in four settlements in the Khodr Baalbek region.

Greece

Vitsas replaces Mouzalas in cabinet reshuffle

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made several changes in his cabinet today. This also affects the Migration Ministry, in which minister Yannis Mouzalas now is replaced by alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas.

Mouzalas came into his position in August 2015, when large numbers of people crossed the Aegean sea from Turkey to the Greek islands. After the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016 and the eviction of the makeshift camp in Idomeni in Northern Greece in May 2016, he was responsible for accommodating and integrating some 62,000 people who were stuck in the country. While many (successfully) attempted to leave on their own to make their way to Northern Europe, some were resettled, relocated, deported or left voluntarily. The number has now dropped to around 50,000, according to UNHCR figures.

Mouzalas’ ministry was often criticized for the miserable conditions of many camps on the mainland as well as on the islands. After promises in the Autumn of 2016 that no-one in the hotspots would have to sleep rough, even this winter the only shelter available to some people has been in summer-condition tents. Last winter several people died because of the cold weather and the bad conditions in the camps. It is said that one of the reasons why Mouzalas resigned was due to health problems.

The new minister Dimitris Vitsas, a member of Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party, is not completely unfamiliar with the subject of migration. As alternate Defence Minister he was in charge of accommodation as numerous military facilities were opened as new camps and the military was responsible for operating them.

Updates from the field

According to the Greek news agency AMNA, 997 people crossed the Aegean Sea in February so far: 553 on Lesvos, 47 on Chios and 397 on Samos. However, AYS figures relying on government data, show different numbers: 445 on Lesvos, 0 on Chios, 397 on Samos, 181 on Kos and 116 on “others” — making a total of 1139. Most significant is the drop on Chios. This is attributed to the increased policing measures on the Turkish side in order to avoid the fleeing of Turkish citizens who are prosecuted by the Erdogan regime.

According to the Turkish coastguard’s official website, a total of 25 operations were held in their territorial waters in February, most often in the Turkish-Chios Marine Region. 1,046 people were prevented from traveling to Greece. Yesterday, no new people were registered on the Aegean islands, while eight were transferred to the mainland. Volunteers reported one boat with 48 people arriving on Lesvos in the night.

Delays in issuing tickets for family reunification

At the moment no plane tickets are being issued by the Greek Asylum Service and its implementing partner, Zorpidis travel agency. The Mobile Info Team for refugees in Greece informs that both are working to solve the problem. Family reunifications have not stopped yet, “currently transfers to Germany should be happening for people approved last April and transfers to other European countries for September approval”.

Watch football in the Orange House

Zataar will show the UK Premier League football match Manchester City vs. Chelsea FC at the Orange House in Athens on Sunday, 6pm. Everybody is welcome to join and enjoy.

Calls for volunteers

BALKAN WEATHER REPORT

Montenegro

During the morning it will gradually become more cloudy, in the afternoon there is going to be rain on the coast, and the expectation inland is for snow and sleet which will turn into rain overnight. The wind blowing from the south and east will be moderate and strong locally, during the night it will become strong. The morning temperatures will be from -19 to 0 and during the day -4 to 8 degrees.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Predominantly cloudy weather with snow in the afternoon and evening is expected. Towards the end of the day the snow will gradually turn into rain in Bosnia with heavy rainfall in the night from Thursday to Friday in Herzegovina and in the southwest of Bosnia. The wind will be weak to moderate blowing from the east and northeast. The morning temperatures will be ranging from -17 to -11, in the south from -7 to -1, and during the day from -4 to 2, in the south from 2 to 6 degrees.

Serbia

With a warning by the Republic Hydrological Institute it is expected that temperatures may go down to -20 degrees on Thursday in some parts of the country. The highest daily temperature will be between -8 and -4, while the lowest will be mostly from -7 to -12 degrees. However, only in a few parts of the country it will snow tomorrow, while in others it will be cloudy and partially sunny. Warmer temperatures are expected on Friday, when it will even get to some positive temperatures, but also with more snow and rain throughout the country.

Croatia

It will be partially and predominantly sunny at sea, while it will be partially cloudy inland. The wind will be weak to moderate inland, and moderate to strong on the sea. Highest daily temperatures will be from -8 to -4 on the continent and from -2 to 3 degrees alongside the coast.

Germany

In their newsletters, several refugee councils in Germany warned that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) are trying to further restrict the right for asylum. As the Office told the councils, it no longer uses the date of application but instead uses the date of the asylum decision, when assessing whether parents and siblings of unaccompanied minors in Germany have the right for family asylum. The refugee councils highlight that last year the BAMF worked differently. This practice has already been deemed unlawful by the Administrative Court of Hamburg in 2014. The refugee councils advise contesting these decisions and ask any affected persons to send them their case.

Six attacks per day, on average. This is the sad truth about attacks on refugees in Germany. Newspapers reported that more than 2200 attacks on people and their accommodation occurred in 2017. More than 300 people were injured in these attacks. While this means a drop of around one-third compared to 2016, when more than 3500 attacks were recorded, the level remains high.

Italy

MSF and Caritas had to close their heated tent in Gorizia for administrative reasons, MSF states. “It is sad to see that civil society once again has to assist people in need. We need urgent action from the authorities to ensure decent living conditions for all“, MSF’s Tommaso Fabbri said. Around 60 people were accommodated in the tent every night. L’Altra Voce adds that about twenty people were transferred to other shelters and boys can sleep in Caritas’ office. But it is not known yet what will happen to people who will arrive in the days to come.

In Ventimiglia minors and mothers with babies are sleeping rough in extremely cold temperatures, as low as -7 degrees, with a 3 month old baby and their mother sleeping under the bridge. The Red Cross camp hosts around 300 people, with 150–200 people sleeping rough. The new Zampa law includes the creation of special centres for minors and mothers with babies, but in Ventimiglia the mayor and some citizens opposed the opening of a centre in the area. This was a decision imposed by the Prefettura and basically leaves migrants with no options.

In Como, where the temperatures are currently around -5 degrees, the mayor refused to open the train stations for people sleeping rough.

France

Still more than 900 people are assumed to be sleeping rough in Paris with temperatures well below zero. In Calais and Dunkirk at least 500 people are left on their own in the streets, hundreds more across Northern France and Belgium. Volunteers are supporting them with basic aid. If you can also support them, please do. There are rumours that in Paris another eviction could be conducted by the police again tomorrow.

Spain

The Andalusian human rights association (via InfoMigrants) revealed in its new 2017 report, that the number of people crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to reach Spanish shores almost tripled last year. At least 250 people died or disappeared, trying to make it across this stretch of sea. 22,419 people arrived, this almost equals Greece’s 29,718 arrivals by sea (source: UNHCR). Combined with the arrivals via land, more than 28,000 people entered the country in 2017.

Those arriving in Spain are mainly from Morocco, followed by Algeria, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Gambia and Syria.

‘’The measures to limit flows agreed with countries of origin, repression of migrants and mechanisms to close the borders of Fortress Europe are not able to stop the forced migration of those fleeing war, hunger or a lack of opportunity,’’, Rafael Lara, APDHA’s coordinator for international solidarity.

UK

The Public Law team at Duncan Lewis Solicitors are representing an Afghan minor who lived in the Calais Jungle, in bringing a challenge against the Secretary of State for the Home Office for failing in her duties under the ‘Dubs Amendment’. The case is due to be heard in the High Court on 28 February and 1 March.

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

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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.