AYS DAILY DIGEST 5/9/2018: The Dunkirk jungle is about to be cleared
Volunteer deported from Turkey / Alarmphone volunteer deported within Morocco / Italy arrests famous Tunisian fishermen / Vial hotspot not winterized and conditions on other Aegean islands remain dire / Unlawful detention practices in Portugal / And much more…
The Refugee Women’s Center adds in an update that in Dunkirk 800 people are now estimated to be sleeping rough. But the situation in Calais’ neighbouring harbor city seems to have calmed down a bit in the past several days. “There have been no tent clearances since the women protested against forced evictions, and the state has been offering limited space in accommodation centres to people each morning,” the RWC states. Despite the fire in the warehouse last week, the team managed to distribute 150 sleeping bags and provide basic needs to 20 new families, who arrived this week. Additionally, they continued their regular activities.
But the area is still about to be cleared: the land owner filed a complaint against the occupation of his property. Now the court tribunal has ruled in his favor.
At the same time, Help Refugees is asking for sleeping bags for Calais, as the temperatures are constantly dropping in Northern France. “In the last week alone, there were 12 clearances by police. With each clearance, refugees lose essentials like tents and sleeping bags”, the NGO says.
A volunteer who wants to remain anonymous has been deported from Turkey back to Greece. He was travelling by plane. He reports that he was subjected to a police control before proceeding to passport control, just as an AYS volunteer experienced some months ago. After he entered the airport bus, the same police officers stopped the bus and took him out and back to the deportation area. On their phones he could see that they were sending and receiving messages on Whatsapp. He was accused of making false statements about his intentions to come to Turkey, although he stresses he did not lie. In the end, he was not able to stay in the country and was deported back to the Greek airport from which he had started. Additionally, he got a travel ban for five years.
Alarmphone reports that one of their team members was arrested in Tangier and deported to Tiznit in the south of the country. Undertaking a hard trip, he made his way back. “[We] are appalled by the actions of the Moroccan authorities who have violently deported him and thousands of others to the south over the past weeks,” Alarmphone writes.
Activists on Chios say that the camp is not ready for the coming winter. “There is no way of heating here”, it is said. Hence, people are collecting wood to keep warm on cold days. Additionally, volunteers are still not allowed to enter the area controlled by the army and provide aid there. As the food is still being criticized as disgusting, people on the ground claim the nutrition is unhealthy. Most of the people in the so-called hotspots on the Aegean islands struggle with the conditions, as they are far too overcrowded.
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This dire situation is causing tensions among the residents, which has already led to fights among them. While the authorities are struggling to meet even basic needs or to provide humane treatment, they are also failing to secure the camp. According to the Legal Centre Lesbos, after some fights “community leaders have been held by police during recent fights, throughout the night, and threatened that they will themselves face criminal prosecution if they refuse to give over names to the police”. The group accuses the police of contributing to the tensions with this practice and blames the government for the conditions in Moria.
But not only on the islands do the people stuck in Greece remain in distress. Rando Wagner from One Human Race is collecting funds to supply the 120 residents of the Lavrio II camp, including 40 children below the age of ten, with food. “The store room was devoid of anything apart from pasta and rice,” Wagner says. He has already bought hundreds of kilos of food, but is requesting more money to provide basic needs. His fundraiser can be found on GoFundMe.
In its weekly report for the Aegean Islands, the UNHCR highlights that half of the population of approximately 18,000 are women (28%) and children (22%, 12% of them girls and 16% boys). The vast majority comes from obviously unsafe countries such as Syria (24%), Iraq (23%) and Afghanistan (19%). Seven out of ten children are younger than twelve. Every sixth child (15%) on the islands is unaccompanied. They come mainly from Syria and Afghanistan.
Aegean Boat Report has published its new monthly report for August:
Salvamento Maritimo today rescued 309 people from 8 boats. They will be disembarked at the port of Algeciras.
Six Tunisian fishermen have been arrested and accused of smuggling people to Italy, The Guardian reports. They say that they have saved hundreds of lives during the past several years, when they rescued people in distress. They were arrested last weekend after they towed a small vessel 24 miles off the Italian coast to Lampedusa.
In Tunisia, hundreds of people gathered in Zarzis to protests the arrests. On of the men, Chamseddine Ben Alì Bourassine, is known for saving people and bringing back the remains of humans caught in his net to give the dead people a dignified funeral. Alarmphone has confirmed this incident.
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The occupation of a factory building in San Ferdinando has ended, Collectivo Mamadou reports. After the factory was cleared the field workers had to go to makeshift camps and will live in tents now. Altough the conditions in the building were not adequate, either, it was still more sufficent and dignified housing than now.
The Portuguese Aliens and Borders Service (SEF) is still detaining groups with special needs and vulnerable people such as families and unaccompanied childred at the Lisbon airport, according to Aida and Ecre. This practice is contrary to the decision of the Ministry of Internal Administration not to detain children younger than 16 for more than one week. “ Yet, the policy of automatic detention even for short periods remains contrary to Portugal’s international and constitutional obligations such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to UNICEF and IOM. The Portuguese Ombudsman had also addressed this question in a 2017 report,” the groups say.
Refugees and migrants interviewed in the Balkans by UNHCR and partners have reported sometimes being held without sufficient food by smugglers demanding additional payments. Others have been robbed along the way by local gangs, and many women and girls, as well as some men and boys are understood to have suffered sexual violence along the route. Since the start of the year, at least 26 people are known to have died in 22 separate incidents while traveling irregularly through the Balkans. Of these, 12 have drowned with most incidents taking place at the Croatia-Slovenia border.
The number of people in Serbia dropped by almost 200 to 3682 within two weeks, the UNHCR states in its report from 2nd September. 86% of them were accomodated in one of the 15 governmental shelters. This also means, some 500 remained living rough, mostly in the border area but also 150 were counted in the country’s capital Belgrade.
AYS has received messages from several people in Croatia who are worried about the fact that police have been controlling buses inside the country looking for refugees for a while now in different areas of the country, mostly cities that are close to the border crossings, in Slavonia, Dalmatia and the main bus station in Zagreb. This is happening in the buses heading from the Dalmatian coast to the mainland, but also on other bus lines. Racial profiling accompanies this police practice. “On Thursday I was waiting for the bus from Dubrovnik to Zagreb when a police officer came and started a search of the bus, even though the driver told him all the people inside the bus were from Croatia. The police officer told him he still needed to do the search and that he was looking for illegal passengers since they, as he said, had found one person from Syria the day before. However, as we were all white, and there weren’t many of us, he did not ask for our IDs. He continued doing the same in other buses. Something like this was not done in Dubrovnik even during our war, searches of the buses as if they were looking for the worst type of criminals,” says one the messages.
If you experience similar practices, also in other regions of Croatia, we ask you to share the stories with us.
It seems that another group has been formed to frighten people off crossing the borders. While Hungary and Bulgaria have become infamous for this practice in recent years, this time this unlawful group formation happened in Slovenia. Andrej Sisko, a far-right wing politician and presidential candidate in the elections of 2017, is said the be the head of this group, the BBC reports. The police have already started investigations, as the militia has posed with weapons — despite saying it is not paramilitary. Sisko himself stressed that the group, consisting of several hundred people, was not doing anything illegal.
Meanwhile, 200 people have protested against the immigration center in the south of Slovenia, close to the Croatian border, Metlika, rtv reports. Slovenian flags were visible and signs against immigrants. Among the protesters it was possible to spot politicians from the right-wing SDS, but also the president of the far-right political party United Slovenia.
It is already well known that the police in France regularily takes away the belongings of homeless people such a blankets, matresses and tents. La cuisine des migrants now reports that this morning three persons have been arrested during such a raid. As two of them face Dublin deportations to Italy and one has not asked for asylum in France yet, the volunteers are afraid that all of them will be expelled.
Solidarite migrants Wilson calls for volunteers this Sunday, as a team from Belgium is expected to bring two vans full of donations to Porte de la Chapelle. Interested volunteers can sign up on this schedule.
In the Bundestag there will be a panel discussion about sea rescue in the Mediterranean on Thursday, 13th September, from 5 to 9pm. Several NGO’s are invited to talk about related topics. You can find more information on the public facebook event. It includes an English translation.
Help Refugees will host a football tournament at Mile End Leisure Centre | 190 Burdett Rd, Mile End, London E3 4HL on Sunday. They have already raised more than 2500 pounds to continue their work with the “balls not borders” event.
The Migration Agency announced today (via DN) that more young unaccompanied minors than before will be eligible to stay due to studies. It is not that easy though, given the fact that they have to have a written statement saying that they expressed an intention to seek asylum before 24th November 2015. Up until now, only those who claimed asylum (officially, not only said that they wanted to do it) before 24th November were included in the so called “high school act”. How many this could affect is not known, as it is the municipality of arrival that has the records. Some of the minors, the exact numbers are not known, who arrived as a part of the big influx of people during the fall of 2015 were taken straight to accommodations. Because of this, the Agency says that some might have filed their asylum claims after this deadline.
This “high school act” has been widely discussed and criticized. Until the 30th of September (from 1st June) asylum seekers rejected but still studying or with the intention to study at high school can apply for a new chance of getting asylum. The Migration Court in Malmö and Stockholm have deemed the high school act insufficient and refused to judge by it, and the Migration Court in Gothenburg has asked the European Court for help on how to interpret it. For now, the Migration Agency has paused the decisions, but it is still possible to hand in appeals for those who wish to stay. The decisions will be pending though.
The newspaper further revealed that Swedish migrant politics differ from the rest of the EU. In a less flattering way, according to Bernd Parusel at the Migration Agency, Sweden is comparatively much stricter regarding granting people (including children) asylum based on humanitarian reasons or criteria making them extra vulnerable. This is for instance the case when the person does not necessarily qualify as a “refugee”, but could be in need of protection due to other circumstances such as diseases or other handicaps.
The policy regarding these other criteria has been renewed and changed several times over the years.
Since 2015, around 1.5 million people of mixed migration movements have travelled to Europe. Whether they are escaping violent conflict, internal displacement or climate change; or seeking to reunify with family, get a better education or to find a job to support their family back home, they are united in the hope for a better life. UNICEF estimates that around 400,000 children were among those taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean from 2015–2018 — or 1 in 4 of the migrants arriving in Europe.
Most migrants and refugees travelled to Europe via the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes (EMR and CMR), but an increasing number of people are using the Western Mediterranean route (WMR) to Spain. UNHCR estimates that some 28,000 people went to Spain in 2017, marking a steep threefold rise as compared to 2016. This rise in the total number of migrants pales in comparison to the almost sevenfold increase in the number of children arriving in Spain between 2016 and 2017 (from 569 to 3,880). In 2017, these children mainly came from Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea.
And although it is an illegal practice, the UNHCR has recorded several cases of push-backs this year. The countries include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. Push-backs and the refusal of the basic human right to ask for asylum have affected several thousand people this year, the UN body points out.
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