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AYS Daily Digest 30/07/2021 — Fatal Shipwreck Off the Coast of Greece

Sea-Watch rescues 100 people//Child drowns trying to reach Croatia//French government removes people from Place des Vosges, still doesn’t provide housing

Art against human trafficking by people on the move from eastern Sudan. Image via Real Story

A group of people traveling from Turkey to Greece were in distress when their rubber dinghy sank. Although authorities were able to rescue ten people and take them to a quarantine camp on Lesvos, three are still missing, presumed dead. One of the missing people was a child. The wreck happened in Turkish waters but very close to the Greek border, so Greek authorities responded when they spotted a man swimming towards the Greek coast.

Showing no respect for the tragic loss of human life that had just occurred, Greek officials immediately used this as an opportunity to push their narratives and blame Turkey. Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said that Turkey had failed in its obligation and left the rescue job to the Greek coast guard, “which puts the protection of human life above all.” That is an ironic statement for anyone who knows just how many people have needed rescuing at sea because the Greek Coast Guard actively pushed them back or damaged their vessels! Although we do not defend the Turkish authorities’ action in this case, this is a clear attempt by Greek authorities to deflect attention from their own complicity. The Migration Government’s official Twitter also put out a statement blaming Turkey for allowing the boat to depart, claiming it violated its obligations under the 2016 agreement (never mind that just the previous day Turkey had detained 200 people just for attempting to leave the country—and that the agreement is unjust and never should have happened in the first place).

The authorities’ blame of Turkey is also ironic in this instance, as their handling of the rescue prioritized politics over human lives. Continuing the government’s agenda against solidarity organizations and criminalization, reports of which have even reached the New York Times, the Coast Guard ordered the SAR ship the Nomad to the port for another inspection instead of allowing them to help with a rescue. During a distress case at sea, where a matter of minutes could decide whether a life is saved or not, shouldn’t all help be accepted?

The rescue organization Sea-Watch rescued 100 people in the Mediterranean on Thursday night into Friday. The people were exhausted after spending so much time at sea. Many were also injured, some suffering painful chemical fuel burns. The rescue organization requested that Italy and Malta send an urgent medical evacuation to help the injured people.

AlarmPhone alerted people to the disappearance of a boat that left Western Sahara on July 28th carrying about 40 people. Since then, there has been no contact with the people on board.

A Kurdish family in Konya was attacked, and seven members of the extended family were killed. The family had already been the victim of racist abuse by a large gang back in May, but nothing was done to protect them. While European states try to argue that Turkey is a safe country, it is clear that there is no such thing as adequate protection in place for ethnic minorities, particularly historically marginalized ones.

Refugee Support Aegean have released their report on immigration detention in Greece during the first half of 2021. The report found that despite obligations to use detention only as a last resort, the Hellenic Police has detained thousands of people.

Several people on the move were arrested in Ormenio in North Evros. Although local media said that they came from Turkey, the fact that the people’s clothes and shoes had been stolen indicates that they were probably pushed back from Bulgaria, because this is a common practice of that country’s border guards.

In the previous weeks, the situation for people on the move, minors in particular, has not gotten better in Serbia and along the Balkan route. In their overview of the past week, Info park reports that despite the growing number of situations where children are apprehended, mishandled and put on the bus for Preševo, the Center for Social Welfare’s outreach workers continue to avoid any involvement. “Although they have the option to contact their superiors (case managers, legal guardians), who are able to act in the child’s best interest, in accordance with the law (SOP on protection of refugee and migrant children), they do not exercise that right. The Center for Social Welfare’s failure to take the responsibility directly endangers children’s rights. Info Park strongly advocates for the presence of neutral and independent NGOs to ensure that the rights of refugee and migrant children transiting through Serbia are protected,” they write.

Meanwhile in Šid, minors are among the group of about 100 people living in the “jungle,” in very poor living conditions. Distributions by No Name Kitchen are some of the only ways that these boys (and men) have access to water or medical care. More information on NNK’s work and how you can support it here.

A child attempting to reach Croatia with his family by crossing the river Una near Bosanski Novi tragically drowned last night. Locals called the police after hearing the screams of the parents, but authorities were not able to revive the boy.

Our thoughts are with the poor family.

Joint Italian-Slovenian police will again patrol the border in the Gorizia and Nova Gorizia areas after joint patrols were suspended during the pandemic. The patrols will also be equipped with more technological “toys” in the form of surveillance drones. This fits into the wider expansion of technology in service of surveillance that is happening across Europe, as far south as Greece.

Five more boats arrived in Lampedusa on Thursday night into Friday with about 65 people in total on board.

The authorities forcibly removed a group of 150 people who were camping in Place des Vosges in protest against the lack of housing solutions. First, they forced them back into the Chemin-Vert metro station, but did not tell them where to go or where they can stay. After promising that everyone would have housing, in the end the only “housing” that materialized was emergency accommodation in three gymnasiums where it was doubtful that everyone would even get a place. Emergency accommodation for a night or two is not good enough when people, many of them with children that need stability and a healthy environment, are trying to rebuild their lives.

Of course, the police conducted the move with unnecessary force, as the French authorities often do. Heavily armed officers escorted a group of about a dozen men, carrying all of their possessions in backpacks. The people clearly posed no danger and the police presence was there just to intimidate them.

The problem is much larger than these 150 people, as the government has failed thousands of people who are entitled to housing after seeking or receiving asylum.

Translation: “Places des Vosges in Paris, Parc des Gayeulles in Rennes, on the French-British border…every day, France and Europe ridicule their own laws, commitments, values, and international conventions by leaving thousands of women, men and children on the street.”

The French government’s refusal to provide safe housing is a very real threat to the physical safety and even lives of people on the move. Yesterday, a car stopped next to a camp for people on the move in Calais and shot randomly at them, hitting a 15-year-old in the back. The boy is luckily in stable condition, but this was clearly a racist hate crime. When the French government leaves people on the streets with nowhere to turn, even for basic shelter from the street violence that the government’s xenophobic policies encourage, these crimes will occur.

After it was criticized by far-right politicians, including Nigel Farage, the rescue charity RNLI posted an unapologetic tweet saying “We’re proud of the lifesaving work our volunteers do in the channel.” The tweet prompted an outpouring of support, including a 270% increase in the number of people looking up volunteer opportunities and over 200,000 pounds in donations. While politicians try to divide people with xenophobic rhetoric, it is heartening to see how many are still in touch with their basic humanity.

The UNHCR released a statement pointing out critical gaps in aid along popular routes for people on the move in the Sahel and East Africa. This exposes many people to the predations of violent gangs and smugglers along the way. Victims of trafficking have very little in the form of legal assistance, medical help, or even safe shelter, even once they make it out of a trafficking situation.

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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.