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AYS News Digest: 01/12/2021 — EU law change allows Eastern countries to waive asylum seekers rights

Journalist imprisoned in Libya, tells story // More funding for SAR: Salvamento Maritimo // Polish state of emergency extended // Push-back in Bad Radkersburg in Court in Austria // Italian government continues to detain illegally // Sweden wants to deport 80,000 // Calls for help with no reply, Channel tragedy // Frontex plane in France


EU law change allows Eastern countries to waive asylum seekers rights

Photo Credit: The Left in the European Parliament

The EU Commission has published Asylum and Return: Commission proposes temporary legal and practical measures to address the emergency situation at the EU’s external border with Belarus which outlines measures that Latvia, Lithuanian and Poland may use in order to assist in the situation at the Belarusian border. The measures include extending the time that authorities can take to assess an asylum claim, as well as an abridged process for returning people to their home country. There have been numerous responses to the statement, including by MEP Cornelia Ernst, with allegations of legitimising refoulement.

This piece accuses the EU commission of bowing to pressure from the eastern countries, allowing human rights abuses under the veil of the law change, whilst this piece provides a thorough examination of recent events in light of the new statement.


Journalist imprisoned in Libya, tells story

The news that the EU is responsible for funding Libya’s detention of people hoping to reach Europe has spread among USA media outlets. Following the detailed expose by the New Yorker, this piece further examines the link between Frontex and communications with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. The fact that climate change is likely responsible for the need to migrate is emphasised through the story of Aliou Candé. His farm was failing in his home country of Guinea Bissau, “its natural rhythms and resources wiped out by a warming planet. His cows could barely produce enough milk for his children to taste it even once a month.”

Further coverage of Ian Urbina, the author of the New Yorker piece, is interviewed about his imprisonment experience here.


Missing man, last seen Melilla

Photo Credit: AMDH

A man remains missing after being apprehended by authorities in January this year at the border of the Spanish enclave, Melilla. Milano was injured whilst being captured along with two other people. He was taken to hospital but has not been heard of since.


Conference in Serbia

Photo Credit: Medija Centar Beograd

A conference is being held on the Monday, 6 December 2021 with speakers from organisations working on the Balkan Route. More information is available here.

Another event has been organised for Tuesday, 7 December 2021. The Balkan Route — the Recent History of Migration From and Through SEE is an online event open to everyone.


People return to eviction site, BiH

A week after a large-scale eviction near the town of Velika Kladusa, people are returning to the now flooded site, apparently preferring this to the official camps.

Meanwhile, a story echoed by many families, a father and son want to join the other family members who are in Croatia.


Letter: why are camp residents denied outside access

A letter has been sent by several solidarity groups, demanding to know why 200 people have not been allowed to leave the camp on Samos.

News of the change in how the Greek asylum system operates has reached British media. Those wishing to claim asylum can no longer use Skype to contact authorities, but must report to an official camp. Updates on the new process are being provided here.

COVID-19 vaccines are available to people on the move via the Greek Forum of Refugees in Athens. Details on further ways to receive the vaccine are available here.

Bad weather saw some damage to tent structures on Lesvos as well as causing dangerous conditions for a group crossing from Turkey. The group crossed the River Evros, some people fell in the water, and were in urgent need of assistance. After media pleas, the Greek authorities rescued them.

A Frontex interpreter was pushed back from Greece to Turkey. This claim is currently under investigation by the Greek Ombudsman who issued this press release.This isn’t the first time an interpreter has suffered an illegal pushback. Five years ago, a similar incident occurred.

Detailed evidence, including phone conversations, text messages and location data, is presented of a pushback from Greek waters to Turkey over the course of many hours.

Criminalisation of journalism has been challenged by Reporters Without Borders (RWB). The new Greek law threatens freedom of the press, and RWB calls for a change to the law which addresses the spread of ‘false information’.

This moving piece shares the stories of people trapped in one of eight deportation centres in Greece, further evidence of law-breaking by Greek authorities.


More funding for SAR: Salvamento Maritimo

The Search and Rescue operation Salvamento Marítimo, which operates in the waters around the Canary Islands has called for more public funding, whilst rejecting the help of NGOs. The reason for this is that the assistance of NGOs offers an excuse for the government to withdraw support.


Polish state of emergency extended

Concerns have been raised about the ‘state of emergency’ declared by Poland. The law preventing NGOs and journalists from entering the border zone has been extended. Amendments to the legislation were ignored as the law was rushed through the government-majority lower house of parliament. Reaction to the news from a local group states that this is against the Constitution and have also published this report in Polish about the last three months. The Socialists and Democrats (representing 14 MEPs) have strongly spoken out against the changes.

“…the emergency measures proposed by the Commission are in fact unrelenting against vulnerable people in search of protection.” Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson

The way the law was changed has been likened to the dictator-like behaviour that occurred in Egypt in 2011.

This piece gives voice to several of the people affected by recent events at the border.

Despite the ban of journalists, this article has been published giving voice to Polish residents inside the emergency border zone who have been left in silence.


Push-back in Bad Radkersburg in Court in Austria

Austrian Parliament Building, Wien, Austria. Photo Credit: Photo by Frederic Köberl on Unsplash

Austrian Parliament Building, Wien, Austria. Photo Credit: Photo by Frederic Köberl on Unsplash

The Austrian police have again had to respond in court to allegations of an illegal push-back. The proceedings this time concern a minor from Somalia who was pushed back from Austria to Slovenia. His right and need for international protection has been nearly instantly recognised by Slovenia upon his arrival.

The court hearing will continue on 21 December in Graz, as reported by national magazines and public radio.

Push-Back Alarm Austria has been supporting the claimant in accessing legal remedies from the very start.

Meanwhile, Austrian MP Steffi Krisper (NEOS) presented yet another parliamentary inquiry on push-backs at the Austrian-Slovenian border after MEP Bettina Vollath came to a local inspection at the Sicheldorf border crossing in September and continued her constant commitment in the EU Parliament to stop pushbacks.

Right now, when large-scale pushback policies put in question the fundamental right to seek protection from persecution in Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland and the Baltic states, the procedure in Graz is of particular importance.


Italian government continues to detain illegally

Five years after the European Court of Human Rights found Italian authorities in breach of the European Human Rights Convention, this article examines if illegal detentions are still occurring. ‘Hotspots’ are the reception centres where people who enter Italy for the first time are taken.

Despite the deliberately ambiguous nature of hotspot centres, the way they function and the impossibility for migrants to leave makes them de facto detention centres. As such, without an underpinning legal basis, detention in hotspots must be considered arbitrary and unlawful. Bisignano, L. and Santoro, G.

The authors also call for the Committee of Ministers over-seeing the complaints against the ‘hotspots’ to remain open in order that the Italian Government can be held accountable.


Vigil in France following Channel tragedy

Photo Credit: Marie Magnin and Hans Lucas, via Refugee Infobus

A vigil was held last Thursday in memory of those who lost their lives in the Channel the previous day.

On Saturday 12 December a debate is scheduled in Paris, hosted by Solidarité migrants Wilson; there will be various speakers, including journalists and solidarity groups.

A series of photographs documents the informal camps in the area near the French town of Dunkirk.


Sweden wants to deport 80,000

Interior Minister Anders Ygeman has announced intentions for Sweden to deport 80,000 asylum seekers from the country. The police and the border police will be given more resources, with 2,000 extra personnel and allegedly collaborating with Germany in the charting of planes in order to expel larger numbers. Sweden received 163,000 people at the end of 2015.

This week the Migration Agency came out with a new legal statement about the security situation in Afghanistan. The statement is partly based on the previous report from the European Asylum Support Office. It is not 100% clear exactly how this will affect people from Afghanistan who are applying for asylum in Sweden. Neither is it clear how the statement will influence the treatment of approximately 7,000 people from Afghanistan who are already in Sweden but were affected by the deportation stop this summer. However, it seems that it will be easier for people from Afghanistan to gain protection than it was before.


Calls for help with no reply, Channel tragedy

Photo Credit: Flight tracking of HM Coastguard’s helicopter G-MCGU (named “Sar 111232535” on MarineTraffic) by Sergio Scandura

Reactions to the sad deaths of 27 people in the English Channel last week continue. There is speculation that border vessels from both France and England were aware of the boat in distress, yet neither took action. Words of a survivor from the stricken vessel have been published:

“Two people were calling — one was calling France and the other was calling Britain”. Mohammad recounted that: “The British police didn’t help us and the French police said, “You’re in British waters, we can’t come.” Despite both HM Coastguard Dover and French Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at Gris-Nez knowing the location and condition of the boat, neither launched a search and rescue operation. Calais Migrant Solidarity.

Yet the above image shows the search pattern of a British SAR helicopter some hours before any rescue took place.

The response of the British government has been to place the blame for the tragedy in the hands of people smugglers. However, this opinion article discusses how smuggling covers those who saved lives during the Nazi occupation of France as well as acts of charity like Rob Lawrie who faced a prison sentence for attempting to help a four-year old child. It also details how the government’s response is only likely to increase the presence of smuggling operations.


Frontex plane in France

A Frontex plane has landed in France, ready to be used in patrol of the English Channel. The plane, which was actually supplied by Denmark, will survey the border area using high-tech equipment.

This detailed article discusses how digital technology and large-scale processing of personal details for use in immigration control leads to racist discrimination. The link between databases for immigration control and those for serious crime prevention are linked in ways that discourage undocumented people from reporting crimes against themselves.

Photo Credit: Open Letter Europe Must Act

An open letter to EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson from Europe Must Act has been published on the two-year anniversary of Johansson’s time in the position.

Whilst Frontex is searching for public support for its work, with €315,000 allegedly being spent on media relations projects.


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