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AYS Daily Digest 30/8/21: What does International day of the disappeared mean for those nobody is looking for?

Is the EU Commission denying funding to the Greek Coast Guard? / Slovenian police violated the principle of non-refoulement in 2019 — Info Kolpa sends out open letter / EU pledges against the urgent reception of Afghan refugees / Mixed Migration update & some more really good reads

The people on this boat had alerted Alarm Phone, and reported that they were threatened by the so-called Libyan coastguard within the Maltese Search and Rescue zone. Eventually they were rescued by the Ocean Viking on 1 July 2021. During the rescue operation a wheelchair was found on board. Source: Flavio Gasperini / SOS Mediterranee. — Via AlarmPhone

Oftentimes, we receive messages of friends and family members of the people who went missing along the way to a safer new beginning. All routes people are forced to take to flee are dangerous, unpredictable and carry with them a lot of risks. Along the Balkan route, many young people ended their journey in tragic ways, went missing or have gone through violence and detention. All the while their loved ones are worried and have almost nowhere to turn for information or support. Even children disappear. Efforts to find them and get them to safety aren’t as organised, dedicated or well taken care of by the big humanitarian organisations as one would perhaps have thought. In the past few weeks alone, AYS has been trying to assist in locating 3 children and several adults who have disappeared along the Balkan route…

The Missing Migrants Project is once again calling for attention for all those gone missing on their travel. According to the project, there are more than 40,000 people worldwide who are documented as disappeared since 2014.

MMP provides detailed statistics on (reported and suspected) deaths and loss of contact from family and friends up until now. The data that comes from the UN Data Analysist Centre and other national authorities, is considered and accepted to be incomplete. Deceased or missing persons are often reported in and around the same areas of Europe — borders. This underpins the risks and the fear people are forced to accept to leave their home. The figures go hand in hand with the lack of safe passages, illegal pushbacks, pull-backs, hindrance of civil rescue operations, violence/theft & destruction of mobile phones and other posessions by state forces.

The majority of people who have been reported as missing, do so in the Mediterranean sea. According to MMP, there have been 1311 recorded deaths in 2021 alone. Today, the Alarm Phone’s analysis on rescues and incidents in the first half of 2021 at the Mediterranean sea was published. The report highlights horrowing stories from individual, as well as the descrepencies between ‘official accounts’ and the reality their team has witnessed:

It is, and will forever remain unclear how many people have died in the central Mediterranean Sea in the first six months of this year. While official accounts speak of about 760 deaths, the Alarm Phone has recorded 24 shipwrecks, with hundreds of fatalities. Several of these shipwrecks were not officially confirmed and thus the deaths are left out of formal statistics.

As well as tracking down the number of ship wrecks (which is the least that can be done to ensure that nobody dies anonymously or without being noticed) the analysis focuses on the role of merchant vessels in conducting rescue operations but also of their tole in illegal returns to Libya, and includes several testimonies from “people in Libya, who face the violent effects of EU border policies and enforcement practices.”

Remember, if you are looking for a missing family member, a friend or if you are trying to help someone else in reuniting, you can always try by reaching out to several established initiatives including, Restoring Family Links and Trace the Face, as well as DRK (based in and focused on Germany) and Maybe Here there are different possibilities to look out for someone or even to be found, depending on where you reside.

Government reinforces refusal to temporarily take in Afghan refugees

Several weeks ago, the UK’s Defence Minister, Ben Wallace, declared to the media that countries close to Afghanistan would establish processing centers for refugees. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, once again stated again that Turkey would not be taking Afghans in. After having evacuated 300 Turkish citizens from Kabul, the state is sticking to its closed border policy, while continuing the construction of a fortified wall at its border with Iran. Meanwhile, Mr Çavuşoğlu emphasised that Turkey would “continue a dialogue with all parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban” and “welcomes the positive messages given by the Taliban”. Until in 2013 when EU member states declared Afghanistan as “safe”, Turkey had taken in Afghan refugees and would then relocate them to other countries. It is an important connection for many people fleeing their countries (especially Syria) to reach Europe and has been using its geographical situation and the European fear of refugees for many years now to put pressure on other European governments.

I think that Turkey is doing it’s utmost to close the pathways via Iran into Turkey and then further on to Europe, but I highly doubt that it will work because ultimately refugees will always find a way into the country given the worsening situation in Afghanistan. — Fadi Hakura, Turkey Project, Chatham House


Around 100 people have been seen arriving by boat at Milos island, resulting in alert of the police. The people who managed to get from the boat onto land were escorted by the police, while others had to remain on the ship. They had tried to reach Italy from Turkey and had been on the sea for three days.

EU commission blocks payment to so called Greek Coast Guard

Meanwhile, the Greek “Coast Guard” claims to not have found the 105 people in distress who had contacted the Alarm Phone. Footage from the boat in distress shows that a Greek Coast Guard vessel was on the scene. The occupants of the boat say that a 2nd Greek Coast Guard vessel arrived later on. Since then, no one could be reached for an update on the boat’s situation.

Greece is known for it’s violent, illegal and shielded pushbacks conducted by the military and police, at sea and along the Evros river at the land border with Turkey.
We have reported multiple times about the pushbacks along the Evros river, documented by Greek NGOs. Unlawful pushbacks continue to occur regularly. Officers are reported to have commited terrible acts against those they pushback, including the destruction of documents, beatings and naked searches, before leaving people with absolutely nothing right at the Turkish border and even forcing groups into the flooding river banks.

Pushbacks are not only taking place in border areas. People are also being apprehended and detained far into the Greek mainland before being returned to the Evros region to be illegally returned. Amnesty International spoke to four people who were arbitrarily apprehended and detained in areas of northern Greece and ultimately pushed back to Turkey in larger groups. Among them were a recognized refugee and a registered asylum seeker who had been living in mainland Greece for almost a year. — Amnesty International

There have been several reports of not only pusbacks from people on the move but also those who have already been placed in refugee camps on the Greek side. The latest indication is a from a Greek soldier’s solidarity network, although their information is not yet confirmed. In this regard, we learn not only that the Greek side acted on people who tried to cross into Greece, but also repatriated refugees and migrants who were granted a status assessment.

You can find the latest report about Greece's border and migrant “policy” here as well as an overview of the tedious asylum procedure in 2021 so far.

While undocumented injustice continues to happen in many border spots and with Frontex being present, the European Commission has finally reacted to the overwhleming proof and consistent reports of the illegal and life threatening pushbacks conducted by the Greek “coast guard” back into Turkish sea.

Since 2015, the EU has paid Greece more than 643 million euros to deal with the refugee crisis. Some of the money goes directly to the Greek coast guard. From 2016 to 2017, for example, the border guards received 15 million euros in emergency aid to cover their running costs.

Already in march, the Greek government has been applying for more financial support to “monitor EU borders more closely”.

According to the commission, it will be denying the demanded further support until Greece can present an independent control mechanism. In theory, this should ensure the right of an asylum process according to International Law, as well as not letting dozens of people float into sea in unsteerable plastic tents to return them back to Greece.

“We have long been pushing for EU financial support to be made conditional on border guards acting in accordance with the rule of law.” — Tineke Strik, Frontex Scrutiny Working group, EU Parliament

Medical support in Athens

They are probably the first and only doctors to examine refugee children and adolescents arriving in Athens. The pediatricians, Stavroula Dikaliotis and Smaragda Papachristidou, have managed with a lot of effort, to facilitate children’s access to public health. While the service is provided free of charge it remains a labyrinthine for many.

Article on medical aid in Athens.

At the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina

Activists of No Name Kitchen have been visiting the border between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia once again, a remote area but a hotspot for people on the move that is missing every kind of support. Their short report expands our featured, number-loaded article about the silent deaths and disappearences to a more human perspective.
We have previously been reporting about the area, as the Bosnian activists are continuously visiting and keeping touch with the locals of the border villages where people on the move pass through. Unforunately, many people don’t make it across the river:

Many of these deaths are unrecorded and forgotten except by the loved ones of the individuals who will carry this grief for the rest of their lives.

Infokolpa have presented a public letter on their website regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on the illegality of border proceedings commited by Slovenian Police.

The Supreme Court in the case of persons A. M ruled that the Slovenian police in August 2019 violated the principle of non-refoulement, prohibition of collective expulsions and blocked access to the right to international protection.

Slovenia must enable the plaintiff, an asylum seeker who had been a victim of a chain-push-back, to effectively request asylum in Slovenia.

We fully support our friends at InfoKolpa in this initiative, and the plaintiff whom we have had the chance to meet and understand the injustice he has endured.

Activists destroy part of the fence on the border with Belarus, getting arrested

For the third consecutive week now, 32 asylum seekers remain stuck on the Polish-Belarussian border near Usnarz Górny, hindered by both countries to move in any direction and shut off from basic needs and medical care. According to local media, an ambulance with a doctor and paramedic is waiting for permission to enter the encampment but the authorities refuse to let anyone through.

The barbed wire fence on the Polish-Belarussian is still under construction and has recently been protested against by activists. In Szymaki, a village nearby the human trap, a group of activists have been opening part of the border by cutting the fence. Shortly after, they were taken by the Border Guard and eventually the police, who claims to find some 15 meters of fence destroyed. Although the activists celebrated publicly the cutting of some wires, there may be too little video evidence to charge all of them.

Nevertheless, “Actions are underway to bring charges against these people” said Lt. Anna Michalska, spokeswoman for the Border Guard, on Sunday evening.

While government officials condemn the act and call for a harsh, exemplary threatment to an act that is “helping the hybrid attack on Poland’s and the EU’s eastern border” and that “threatens the security of our Homeland”, a statement to show solidarity towards everyone hindered to find safety and shelter, “both there, in Afghanistan, and here, at our borders”, was published openly by several activists.

A poll for local Wprost on polish hospitality towards refugees has been published.

Accepting refugees was opposed mainly by young people, with 61 percent of young people between 18–29 and 67 percent of respondents between 30–39 not wanting refugees under their roof. “The group most willing to accept refugees were people aged 40–49, 50–59 and 60–69,” Wprost wrote.

Minors in Ceuta not to be expelled, still awaiting for the process

The National Court has rejected the Interior’s request to reject the last years’ appeal by an NGO against the “instruction” of expulsion to Morocco of minors in Ceuta, and has therefore agreed to continue with the case.
It gave the Spanish Network for Immigration and Refugee Aid, which lodged the appeal, a period of eight days to formalise its claim once it has gained access to the Ministry’s complete file, which the Court must provide.

EU pledges against the urgent reception of Afghan refugees, draft statement says

European Union interior ministers will say on Tuesday they are “determined to act to prevent uncontrolled migration from Afghanistan”, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters. Interior ministers will reinforce the promise to give more money to Afganistan, although delivering aid had become more complicated since the Taliban took back control of the country, according to EU officials. Banks are either closed or in some cases give out only small amounts of money, food prices are high, people are having a very heard time to cover basic needs, especially food.

The interior ministers also plan to finance more third countries to host Afghan refugees. As reported, Turkey will not be one of the safe countries to welcome Afghans. Uzbekistan has also announced that it has closed it’s borders completely to Afghan refugees.

More info on the EU handing over it’s responsibility to come when ministers have met on August 31. Here you can find their draft.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid agreed openly that the Taliban would take back all deportees from Austria, Germany or anyone expulsed due to committing a crime, and that they “would be taken to court. The court would then have to decide how to proceed with them”, without elaborating on why they should be taken to court or what judgement they might face there.

Austria is currently not deporting refugees back to Afghanistan, but is planning to deport reception centers in third countries and probable to start deportations again as soon as possible, whatever that means.

In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to allow over a million asylum seekers to cross the border into Germany. One key concern at the time was that her decision would signal an open-door policy to aspiring migrants worldwide — thus, increasing migration to Germany in the long-term. With the continued global rise in forced displacement, Merkel’s decision in 2015 provides a unique case study for the fundamental question of whether welcoming migration policies have sustained effects on migration towards destination countries. We analyze an extensive range of data on migration inflows, intentions, and interest between 2000 and 2020. The results reject the “pull effect” hypothesis while reaffirming states’ capacity to adapt to changing contexts and regulate migration.

Israeli arms that have been purchased among others by Italy, Greece and Germany include drones, radar systems and patrol vessels. […] Israel is essentially a go-to for countries looking to secure and militarize their borders. Israeli companies, specialists and top military generals have become increasingly visible at border and homeland security trade shows in the past 20 years. In that time, Israel became one of the top-ten largest defense exporters in the world and a leading supplier and consumer in the border security industrial complex.

  • Séraphine, a refugee in Greece, was not informed that her monthly cash allowance would stop if she left the camp to try and find work in Athens. Now she is being forced to sleep on the street with her husband. A video from Raising Voices is showcasing another individual example of Greek asylum policies.

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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.