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AYS New Digest 6/09/2022: A shaved cross on the heads of people on the move, border humiliations do not stop

Hungarian authorities shaved the heads of people on the move in the shape of a cross// People in distress in various parts of the Mediterranean left unrescued or illegally pushed-back//The body of a mother hugging her son recovered near Lebanese coast// Rise in hate crimes against Syrian refugees in Turkey//The trial begins into the legality of deportations from UK to Rwanda//LIBE did not grant discharge for Frontex agency // and more


Shaving heads in the shape of a cross: the Hungarian authorities’ way of humiliating people on the move

“They turned on the razor, grabbed me so I wouldn’t move and made a cross on my head. Then they started laughing at me as they hit my head. When they finally released me, I just wanted to take all the hair off my head”.

This is testimony reported by Klikaktiv, a Serbian NGO, after talking with a man from Morocco illegally pushed back from Hungary to Serbia. His story is reminiscent of many other reports collected by KliKactiv and other organizations and activists along the Balkan route borders. Extreme physical and psychological violence, humiliating acts and then illegal pushback. This is a systematic daily practice carried out by European countries. According to the respondent, Hungarian authorities beat him and his group and after that they took their belongings. After which the border guards amused themselves by drawing the cross on his head, humiliating him and emphasizing the racist structures inherent in borders.

Illegal rejections take place every day at European borders: the right to asylum is not respected by European countries that collectively reject people without a proper application analysis process.
This in itself has a devastating effect on people on the move, but it is amplified by the systematic violence that aggravates the trauma for those who have no other option but to risk their lives by crossing borders.

Sea and SAR

People in distress in many areas of Mediterranean are abandoned in the middle of the sea

Long and dangerous sea journeys continue in various parts of the Mediterranean, due to the lack of safe ways. People searching for life still have to risk it.

In Zarzis, Tunisia, last Saturday (3 September) a commemoration was held of the shipwreck of 6 September 2012, when only 56 people of 130 were rescued. Families of the disappeared, activists and civil society groups came together for the event.

As Alarm Phone announced in a tweet, tens of thousands of people have died at Europe’s borders since then.

On 2 September, 60 people in the Maltese area called for help, but they received none from the Maltese authorities. Although they probably received help from a merchant vessel, the silence of the Maltese national armed forces is alarming

Indeed, 90 people are missing in the same area. Since the morning of 4 September, there have been no further reports from Alarm Phone. No aid from Maltese authorities has been forthcoming, even though they were alerted.

Last Friday, 2 September, Seaeye4 rescued 76 people, while continuing their search for people in distress at sea.

Meanwhile, yesterday, on 5 September, 35 people called for help in the Libya area. According to the people in distress, their boat has a hole in itand is taking on water and seven people have already fallen into the sea. Alarm Phone requested an urgent rescue.

On the same day, in the same area (close to the Libyan coast), there are still 25 people abandoned at sea, even with many merchant vessels traveling around the ship. Here is the tweet from Alarm Phone:

People in distress often are abandoned on the Mediterranean by the authorities, and are left dying in the sea.

On the other hand many people on the move who were intercepted by authorities were pushed back to their departing country. This is the case for 60 people near Crete, who were illegally returned to Turkish waters. Their conditions were not considered: no water, no food and some of them were ill. Still, they were pushed back by the Greek authorities.

Push-backs are carried out daily, and not only from Greece. This video shows the Armed Forces of Malta (Leonardo AW139 callsign AS1428) coordinating a pushback on 3 September, proving the involvement of Maltese authorities in illegal returns of people to Libya.

Even if people at sea are rescued as they should be, most of the time they have to wait days at sea before they can receive support, and the support comes mostly from civil society and NGOs. After waiting for eight days, on Friday, 2 September, 460 people in distress were rescued by Ocean Viking and disembarked in Southern Italy.

Read here more:

Other people reached the Calabria region of Italy. Over the past two days MSF (Doctor without borders) assisted 495 people who had departed from Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, and said in tweet


Causes of the April shipwreck on the Lebanese coast remain uncertain while operations to find the bodies are interrupted

A mother embracing her son. It would be a sweet image, if it were not happening on the sea floor as a last gesture of love. Only months after a shipwreck near the Lebanese coast did the an operation begin to recover the bodies, thanks to the will and pressures of the families. Despite this, 30 bodies remain missing. Operations were abruptly halted. The circumstances of the April shipwreck remain uncertain, with families strongly suspecting the involvement of the Lebanese navy. Indeed several survivors told the media that a Lebanese naval vessel deliberately rammed their boat in an effort to force it back to Lebanon. Read more here:

Since the navy denies the accusations, the hope of the families was that the recovery of the ship could provide proof to investigators.


Hate crimes against Syrian refugees in Turkey increase

The rising inflation and higher cost of living are aggravating hostility against Syrian refugees in Turkey. There have been many examples recently of Syrian people stabbed or attacked in the street, the murder of the 17 years old Fares Elali is the latest one. Widespread hostility is put into practice through acts of criminality, which make Turkey a dangerous place for Syrian refugees.

At the same time, politics is using Syrian refugees as an object of propaganda: the issue of repatriating one million Syrians back to northern Syria has become a hot topic in domestic politics. Metin Corabatir, president of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration (IGAM), said to Arab News:

“Popular figures in the media are also fueling these tensions by disseminating misinformation about Syrians and by drawing a rosy but unreal picture about their living standards in Turkey.”

While there are only mild condemnations from politicians of the violence towards Syrian refugees, there is an increasing racist discourse fuelling such acts.

Read here more:


Militarisation of borders continues in Greece

The militarisation of the Greek border is increasing and illegal pushbacks by the Greek authorities continue. People on the move keep dying as a consequence of this militarisation. Recently a five-year-old girl died on Evros, thus adding to the list of border murders. Read our digest on this subject:

Despite this, the Greek authorities continue to pursue a policy of securitising the borders, announcing the extension of the fence and more border guards, together to the implementation of more sophisticated technologies. Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi on Sunday (4 September) boasted that at the land and maritime border, Greek border guards stopped more than 154,000 people on the move who were seeking a safe life. This means that only as of the beginning of the year, 154,000 people have not had the right to petition for asylum in Greece.


Ukraine’s top priority in humanitarian aid shows structural global inequalities

Wars, climate catastrophes, financial crises, and the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are concurrently causing extreme conditions in several countries. However the majority of humanitarian aid is going to Ukraine due to western attention to the invasion of the country last February. In the meantime, countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and many other non-western countries are experiencing a lack of support linked to the small amount of attention being paid to them. According to Arab News, the UN appealed for more than $6 billion from its donors to assist Ukrainians impacted by the war, and Ukraine has said that more than the amount requested had already been raised. Arab News reports the words of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of WHO, from a press conference on humanitarian aid:

“But even a fraction of this is not being given to Tigray, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria and the rest. I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way. Some are more equal than others. And when I say this, it pains me. Because I see it. Very difficult to accept but it’s happening”

Read more here:


Lack of facilities for refugees and racial behaviors by German authorities

Asylum seekers and refugees in Germany are facing trouble due to the lack of space in accommodation facilities. According to Germany’s interior ministry, the reason that a dozen German states (12 out of 16 states) reached their capacity limits is the high number of refugees from Ukraine and asylum seekers from other countries, as Info Migrants writes here.

This is also compounded by the poor reception capacity of the school system, struggling to find a place in school for every young student.

New arrivals from the Czech Republic in particular are blamed by the German authorities, highlighting different treatment according to origin. This is clearly shown by the checks carried out by the German police at the Dresden station since 25 August. Since the end of August, the Federal Police have been specifically controlling non-white people on the railway line from the Czech Republic to Germany and at Dresden Main Station, in particular those from Afghanistan. PRO ASYL and the Saxon Refugee Council denounced this treatment and called for an end to the discriminatory practice of racial profiling. Read more here


In France, the life of the inhabitants of Calais is made impossible

The Calais food collective supports everyday people living in Calais, but French authorities are obstructing their support. As they published in a tweet yesterday, 5 September, the municipal police of Calais removed a tank of water that allowed a hundred people to have access to water.


The failures of the asylum seeker reception system need to be addressed

We wrote about this topic here:

The crisis of the reception system in the Netherlands remains unresolved.


The trial into the legality of deportations from the UK to Rwanda started on 5 September

The High Court claims that ministers have deliberately ignored evidence that Rwanda has violated human rights. Home Secretary Patel signed an agreement in April with Rwanda in an attempt to deter people from crossing the Channel. She defended her plan in Parliament, as reported by The Guardian :

“This partnership is very clear in terms of standards, the treatment of people that are relocated to Rwanda, the resources that are put in and also the processing of how every applicant is treated.”

Patel doesn’t consider that people risk their lives on the Channel because they do not have different choices: borders discriminate, closing safe ways depending on the origin .

In other article by The Guardian, some Syrian asylum seekers who arrived by boat were interviewed about their fears. One of them told The Guardian:

“If the court does not stop the deportations to Rwanda what should we do? Everyone in the hotel would rather die than go there”.

The psychological effect of deportations to Rwanda would be devastating. Also Rwanda is not a safe country.

The Guardian reports the words of Raza Husain QC, on behalf of asylum seekers with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and the groups Care4Calais and Detention Action. He said to the court:

“Rwanda is a one-party authoritarian state that does not tolerate political opposition. It is a regime that repeatedly imprisons, tortures and murders those it thinks [are] its political opponents”

The Foreign Office considered that Rwanda was not eligible for an asylum deal, but it was put back on the list of potential countries after “particular interest” was shown by Johnson and Patel. The Independent explains how Rwanda was put back on the list by British ministers. Read more here . Moreover here the court case is summarized by The Independent.

Care4calais is among the organizations that are committed to fighting deportations in Rwanda. By tweet they disseminated the image of little Amal as a sign of protest against the inhumanity of the plan. Little Amal is a puppet who has become a figurehead for refugees all over the world.

She represents a ten year old Syrian girl and last year, in The Walk project, she traveled from the Syria-Turkey border to the UK. Yesterday she wore a sign around her neck in support of the campaign against deportations.

Meanwhile Priti Patel resigns as a Home Secretary. Read here:

A few days before the trial started nearly 1,000 people on the move crossed the English Channel in small boats on Saturday, 2 September. Another 200 were forced to return to France. Here more:


LIBE didn’t grant discharge for Frontex agency

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted not to grant discharge for the Frontex agency and acknowledges that the problems at Frontex will not be solved by simply replacing the Executive Director.

The need for real structural change within the agency brought LIBE to this choice.

Frontex is indeed clearly involved in human rights abuses at the EU borders and the complicity of the agency in illegal pushbacks has been widely demonstrated.

The resignation of Leggeri, executive director of Frontex, was the result of a report by OLAF, the European anti-fraud watchdog, on misconduct, concealing evidence, and intimidation of whistleblowers related to pushbacks.

There is undeniable evidence of systemic and widespread violence at the EU’s external borders. This article emphasizes the importance of a commitment to a new analysis of the European administration, especially since Frontex plays a key role among migration agencies, increasingly entrusted with executive powers, in cooperation with other EU and international agencies and other (state and non-state) actors.

Read more here


The Australian Government has set up new accommodation for Afghan refugees. Meanwhile many controversial aspects of reception centres remain unresolved.

The Australian Government has stated that it will provide 31,500 places for Afghan nationals, through Humanitarian and Family Visa programs. The Government has adapted Australia’s migration law to allow Afghan nationals evacuated from Afghanistan to apply for an offshore humanitarian visa in Australia. Read more here

However, Australia’s asylum and migration management system suffers from serious flaws, and this could worsen if the Naurao centre is assigned to the Nauru processing offshore centre.

A Guardian investigation showed the operator has been accused of ‘gross negligence’ that allegedly led to gang rape, murder and mistaken solitary confinement in its US facilities. Nauru remains Australia’s sole offshore processing centre and has been plagued by controversy ( violence against asylum seekers, sexual abuse of children, inadequate medical and psychiatric care, and a spate of suicides)

Read more here:

Worth reading :

  • Read the new hebdo mixed migration: Here the importance of recognising the mistakes in Afghanistan made by the international community is given special attention. Together with other news about migration

- The article highlights how Libyan women novelists have rethematised and interpreted the country’s history in the post-Gaddafi era

Upcoming events

  • The Schengen Borders Code Reform: What Rights Are at Stake? : webinar organised by Picum, Asgi, Ecre and BVMN. If interested, more info here:

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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.