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AYS Daily Digest 6/4/20: Riot Police Violently Raid a Detention Centre in Greece

Marking tomorrow’s World Health Day with 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and the death toll of over 70,000 people worldwide, the world forgets those in forced isolation, increasing despair, and neglect with people on the move — read some of the latest news from the field

Camp Krnjača in Serbia, where people are isolated and without possibility to go out, leave the camp or provide their own food (Photos: Lagkadikia Camqu Hama)

70 members of the riot police stormed a detention centre and were beating the confined people confined with batons. Reportedly, there are five people in a critical condition, many were injured and people had not been given food for a long time, according to the first reports that AYS and other groups received.

The most comprehensive report of the incident reads: The government and the Minister of Civil Protection are responsible for the barbaric crackdown on migrant protests over food in the midst of the corona pandemic. Not only are they cynically indifferent to the human lives of the 450 migrants held in the PRO.KE.K.A (Pre-removal Detention Centre), but they are endangering their health with bad food and that of poor nutrition quality.

On April 3, when the food arrived, they found that it was not eatable, and refused to eat it. This kind of food was simply “not for humans”.
Officials have promised that this will change, which did not happen, however.

Then, starting with a large group of Arab protesters came out of the cells, almost everybody went to the rooftop and started a hunger strike. This was followed by an attack of the police in full battle gear. The police took them out of the cells, hitting them with batons, while they also used electric tasers, as the people complained. Dozens of people were beaten for taking part while lying in the yard, it is reported.

They smashed the cameras on their phones so they can’t take pictures of the injuries. And they haven’t given them food since then. According to police sources, a man was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Sea Eye reported that on Monday morning, the crew of Alan Kurdi received an emergency call via AlarmPhone, who also informed the responsible authorities, as the Alan Kurdi crew set a course for the coordinates. They reached the position an hour later. There, the crew found a wooden boat with a total of 68 people. None of the people had lifejackets. While the crew launched the first lifeboat, a Libyan-flagged speedboat approached at high speed.

The shots and risky maneuvers by the Libyans quickly led to a life-threatening escalation of the situation. Around half of the people jumped into the water from the overcrowded wooden boat and tried to reach the ALAN KURDI on their own.

The Libyans immediately stole the wooden boat and disappeared. Some of the rescued are in shock, are hypothermic and are now receiving medical care.

With their behavior, the Libyans risked the drowning of many people. While the EU member states pay money to so-called Libyan coast guards, our crew is once again hindered and threatened in saving lives.

Bassam Al Hallak, a 52-year-old Syrian refugee, set himself on fire yesterday morning in Taalbaya, a poor area in the Bekaa…

Bassam Al Hallak died after seven hours of agony. Nobody did anything for him, not even the UN, his son Haitham said. Unemployed for two years, he feared the epidemic would plunge his family in greater poverty. Seen as carriers of the virus, Syrian refugees endure discrimination.

UNHCR aresupposed to take care of their needs, but it has recently reduced its aid, including medical support.
Reportedly, so far, no Syrians in Lebanon has tested positive for COVID-19. Since early March, this has not stopped at least eight Lebanese municipalities from imposing a travel ban on Syrian refugees, even before measures were taken by the Lebanese government, it is reported.

In the last month, the reception centre in Cyprus has reportedly been turned into a detention centre made up of tents where people are living in appalling conditions and not allowed to leave.

As Cyprus Refugee Council and Caritas Cyprus criticised the living conditions at the refugee centre in Kokkinotrimithia that is hosting approximately 600 people, it did not take long for the authorities to publically deny the accusations, saying that the centre’s conditions are “ in line with public health standards”.

“All asylum seekers that belonged to vulnerable groups have been taken elsewhere and put in isolation to protect their health and everyone else’s.”

No Covid19 cases were registered among the people staying at the centre.

Underlying racism in official reporting

There is underlying racism in the way Greece reports about COVID-19, separating the report on the general number of infected people and the number of infected people inside the camps. It is clear that if COVID-19 is present in the camps, it came from outside the camps. These types of reports leave room for interpretations, and all kinds of conclusions and conspiracy theories that connect people on the move currently trapped in the camps with COVID-19. In this way they spread a dehumanizing rhetoric very present in governmental reporting, but also within the bureaucratic reports of the big organisations following their lead.

Illegal Deportations and Pushbacks to Turkey, Ordered by the Greek Government, Executed by the Greek Coast Guard

Aegean Boat Report reports:
“While the eyes of the world are occupied with the COVID-19 pandemic, Greek government seems to be taking advantage of the situation, a new tactic to tackle flows towards the Greek Aegean islands has been implemented.

In the last weeks at least nine incidents of people being found drifting in the sea, in life rafts without propellant, has been reported by Turkish coast guard. This could easily have been disregarded as Turkish propaganda, if it hadn’t been for the evidence from Samos.

April 1th at 08.00 a boat landed on Mourtia Beach, Samos east, carrying approximately 25 people. There where several people on the beach this morning witnessing the landing, pictures, and videos was taken. Port police were called by a person on-site, later port police denied having received any information on such incident, and that no new arrivals had been reported on Samos.

Witnesses report that two boats from HCG arrived in Mourtia bay after the landing, the refugees were taken on one of the boats from port police, a boat took off heading southeast. A picture taken by a local journalist shows that two boats from HCG were in fact in Mourtia bay this morning, but port police deny that any of their vessels were in the area this morning.

The last boat that landed in Mourtia beach was February 19th, nevertheless, later this very day people who walk on this beach every day, found a rubber boat, engine, a fuel tank and clothes that weren’t there the day before. Port police told people who contacted them about this that there had been no arrivals, and that they should remember that it was April fools day.

Turkish Coast guard picked up 26 people 13.30 this same day, in a life raft that had drifted towards Aydin national park, 10 children, 6 women and 10 men. According to the statement from the passengers, obtained by TCG, they claimed that they had crossed to the island of Samos; were later rounded up by the Greek Coast guard, put on a life raft, and dragged to Turkish waters.

Pictures taken by locals from Mourtia Beach, compared to pictures taken by Turkish coast guard leaves no doubt, people photographed on Samos is the same that TCG found drifting in a raft outside Aydin national park. When we also take into account the statements from locals regarding this landing, the evidence is overwhelming.

If this had been an isolated incident, this could have been an HCG crew taking things in their own hands, but it’s not. Nine known cases in the last two weeks, from Simi in the south to Lesvos in the north, shows that this is not an isolated incident, this is boat crews acting on orders from the top.”

A 48-year-old man was on Monday remanded in custody at Chios island’s court prison for shooting and wounding two Syrians, both aged 16, the media confirmed. The man has been accused in the past of threatening refugees with a rifle, but was later acquitted of charges.

Due to a dispute between local government and the Greek Ministry of migration, 152 new arrivals on Lesvos are still stuck out in the open without any sufficient infrastructure which meets basic needs, such as electricity, toilets or other sanitary facilities, @f_grillmeier reported. 25 people of those 152 who also arrived after March 1 have been staying in a discarded bus at Mytilini Harbour close to an old swimming pool, but have now been tranferred to Kara Tepe.

56 people are in tents and underneath broken boats close to Petra, 32 people are reportedly in staying tents at mountain-region of Agios Stefanos, 39 in a chapel close to Kliou, north. According to the media, the local government has not indicated a safe temporary place for those who have to quarantine for 14 days after arrival. The Ministry of Migration says that it is the responsibility of local authorities.

A security company has been assigned to guard the closed Immigrant Structure at the Klidi location of the Municipality of Sintiki, by the Ministry of Immigration. As published by the local anexartitos.gr , the contract signed by the Minister of Immigration, Notis Mitarakis, and the representative of the Serrai company Security on March 26, 2020, provides services for 24-hour security of the structure for three months. Starting from 27/3 to 26/6, against the amount of € 153,760 with VAT.
Services include the entrance gate of the two-person gate (male and female) in three shifts each day, the perimeter guarding of the structure with a patrol vehicle and the presence of a supervisor who will check them above.

Anxiety and Despair Among People Confined in Camps Across the Country

As a consequence of the locked camps’ regime that seems to be unsustainable in the long run, as it is now, there is growing despair among the people held in the centres across Serbia, guarded by the army. The people staying in these camps are complaining that they are not allowed to provide their families and themselves with enough proper food for a healthier survival within the facilities in which they are held. They say that in the Krnjača camp there is a small shop with no clear pricing, and everything is much more expensive than in the other shops outside of the camp. They are forced to buy food in these shops which they claim are owned by some of the staff, and even there not everyone gets to have a chance to shop.

The SCRM introduced obligatory isolation for new arrivals sent to Preševo camp, which with a population of 1,501 making it the largest camp .
Growing mental health issues, gaps in service provision and supply, conflicts between different groups and the toxic influence of smugglers’ propaganda inspiring some to protest violently, these are some of the issues InfoPark documented from the testimonies of people held in these centres.

Camp Krnjača in Serbia, where people are isolated and without possibility to go out, leave the camp or provide their own food (Photos: Lagkadikia Camqu Hama)

In their recent Weekly Bulletin, the Info Park reported:

The beginning of April was marked with a significant deterioration of the atmosphere in some of the camps, especially the big ones. Two massive fights occurred in Obrenovac RC (5 April) and Krnjača AC (6 April) centers, involving up to 150 persons. In both incidents, the migrants tried to escape, the SCRM staff was attacked so gendarmerie and the army had to intervene, including shooting live bullets in the air in Krnjača. Since yesterday, Obrenovac camp is loaded with a heavy presence of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) forces controlling the situation, while Krnjača is guarded by armored vehicles. In many camps, security forces scaled up the measures to prevent migrants from attempts to escape, although in smaller centers the situation remained calmer.

The number of people on the move in Serbia continued to slowly rise due to pushbacks from Hungary, returns from Bosnia and new arrivals. Currently, 8,743 migrants are in 17 camps, IP reports. The Miratovac makeshift camp is completed but is still empty.

Pushbacks continue

Although the official sources claim the “pressure on the border” has reduced, and that there are not that many people trying to cross the green border into Croatia, the reports on pushbacks have not ceased. AYS has received information on several cases of pushbacks in the area close to Velika Kladuša in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, L’ ALTRA VOCE have recently shared an account of a pushback of a group of boys who tried to enter Croatia, but were beaten up and had their belongings taken away, they say. The images they sent them display heavily bruised arms and extremities on the boys’ bodies.

Sixteen cops beat them with great violence using steel bars. They insulted and beat them. Then they took everything away from him: cell phones, money, shoes, jackets. And they pushed them into the cold water of a river.

36 people, including 11 women, two of whom are pregnant, landed in the afternoon directly in the port of Lampedusa. For three weeks there have been no landings on the island. The non-EU citizens have been transferred to the island’s hot spot where they will be quarantined, alongside the previous migrants, who arrived in Lampedusa on March 14th.

Some 1,000 people were placed under mandatory quarantine after eight people tested positive for Covid-19 at the camp Hal Far.
Following the Government’s decision to quarantine Hal Far Centre, the Armed Forces of Malta have immediately been tasked with “assisting the Malta Police Force in securing this location”.

The updated AIDA country report on the Netherlands documents that in February 2020, almost 9,000 asylum seekers were still awaiting — some of them for almost two years — the start of their asylum procedure. Asylum seekers stay in a rest and preparation period, which should normally take around six days, after which the actual asylum procedure should start.

The rest and preparation period still takes about 12 months (in general 47 weeks) before the general asylum procedure takes place. The Secretary of State of Justice announced that it will be difficult to reduce the delay by 2021, but measures are being taken to limit the delay. The Dutch Council for Refugees reported that the excessive waiting time in the rest and preparation period created tension in the centers and serious concerns among asylum seekers about family reunification.

Due to the long waiting times at the IND, applicants also spend longer periods in the reception centres. The COA has announced that they will need 5000 extra places in 2020 due to this development.

Measures have been taken to limit access to the asylum procedure for newly arrived asylum seekers due to coronavirus. For the latest update on COVID-19 related measures consult the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service.

People living in “departure centres” for rejected asylum seekers in Denmark are reportedly not allowed to learn Danish, earn money, or even cook their own food. The asylum seeking community’s sense of abandonment grows as Denmark’s response to the pandemic was hailed worldwide as a leading example. However, the government’s economic plan does not include those who have been fired, an unfortunate reality for many migrants.

A man who spoke to the media on this serious issue hopes Danes who have been in self-isolation remember people like him who will continue to be “forcibly isolated” when their lockdown ends.

The statement follows after an article in Danish daily Information on Monday, describing the failure to quarantine migrants without a residence permit in Denmark if they have caught COVID-19 or have symptoms of the disease. However, the effort solves nothing, experts now states. “On the contrary,” says attorney and professor of social law at the University of Copenhagen Emil Kiørboe, who has dealt extensively with migrants without legal residence. “The effort can rather confirm for this group that you are putting yourself at risk by asking for help. And maybe the same even by being tested. It seems contrary to the stated purpose. “Emil Kiørboe points out that COVID-19 infected foreigners without legal residence according to the statement will be” offered quarantine accommodation at Center Brovst in North Jutland or Center Gribskov in North Zealand “, but that they can subsequently expect to be expelled from Denmark. Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye states in the press release: “Of course, after dealing with the corona, foreigners staying illegally must be sent home. We will not change that. “

“The only thing right is to provide this group with immunity from arrest for a period of time. Otherwise, they will not be approaching for help, the social lawyer Maja Løvbjerg Hansen claims. “We may have doubts as to whether the government has understood the seriousness of the situation. There are up to 25,000 unregistered migrants in Denmark. If they are threatened with deportation, if they are tested for COVID-19, they will not seek help and we will not stop the spread of infection. “

MP from the Social Liberal party (Radikale) Rasmus Helveg Petersen agrees and states that the decision is taken unilaterally by the minister and government and is caused by immigration political reasons and not by public health concerns.

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

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We strive to echo correct news from the ground through collaboration and fairness. Every effort has been made to credit organisations and individuals with regard to the supply of information, video, and photo material (in cases where the source wanted to be accredited). Please notify us regarding corrections.

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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.