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AYS News Digest 03/10/2022: Pushback from Polish hospital to Belarus

President Erdogan: one million people to be returned to Syria // Weather conditions change as numbers in Serbia remain high // Slander of Greek human rights defender // Tragedy off Gran Canaria // Frontex officers to be deployed to North Macedonia

FEATURE

Pushback from Polish hospital to Belarus

Photo Credit: Egala Association

A man from Syria, treated for a dislocated leg, was pushed back from hospital to the forest at night.

The man was taken by ambulance on the afternoon of 1st October and treated at Heinowski hospital. The volunteer who represented both the Egala Association and Grupa Granica went to the hospital to provide legal support in an attempt to prevent the exact events which later occurred.

After gaining consent from the man to have power of attorney, the volunteer presented all the relevant paperwork to the border authorities by email and attempted to make contact by phone. By 6 pm on the same day, the man had been deported back to the Belarusian forest.

“The man was in dirty and drenched clothes at the hospital. I don’t think he has been able to put his shoe on the injured foot. With injuries like this, it is very painful and the bandage makes the shoe too small. I don’t know if the Border Guard officers donated painkillers. Not sure if the man got any dry clothes, food and water. I know he hasn’t eaten or drunk in days.” Egala Association Volunteer

Despite the beginnings of construction of a fence between Poland and Belarus, people haven’t stopped attempting to travel that way. No Borders Team and Foundacja Ocalenie give detailed reports of groups continuing to need assistance during steadily colder and more challenging conditions, which will put pressure on the volunteers and their resources.

TURKEY

President Erdogan: one million people to be returned to Syria

The Turkish president continues to propose a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria. This comes as right-wing supporters call for people to be sent back to their home country. The area of northwest Syria which is controlled by Turkey would be where up to one million people will be ‘voluntarily’ sent, out of an estimated 3.7 million Syrian people currently in Turkey. The speech comes as political parties prepare for presidential elections, with the opposition party proposing to deport people to Syria over a three year period. Turkey is considered a ‘safe third country’ by the EU.

LEBANON

As recently reported in the News Digest, a shipwreck of a vessel that had started from Lebanon resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people. The rising number of people fleeing the country shouldn’t be a surprise considering how life is changing for people there. Food prices have increased by over 300% in the first half of 2022, whilst fuel prices have surged by over 1,000% for petrol and almost 3,000% for diesel. The Salam LADC organisation are working in the country to provide educational opportunities in a sustainable way to people from anywhere. Their Norwegian partner has more information.

SERBIA

Weather conditions change as numbers in Serbia remain high

Serbia organisation Klikaktiv have provided an update on conditions in the Balkan country. As autumnal weather brings colder temperatures, the number of people sleeping rough is consistently higher than it was during the same time last year. Right-wing sentiments in the country, police violence and abuse by smugglers make life very difficult.

“This is how refugees spend their days — on the one hand completely rejected by everyone and on the other used by some — from smugglers or police officers who steal their money, mobile phones and other valuables at the borders. And there is no future for them in their countries. And there is no future in Europe either — people see that no one greets them with greetings, but that fences are being raised before their eyes.” Klikaktiv

This exemplifies the lives of so many on their way to finding hope and a better future.

GREECE

Slander of Greek human rights defender

Human rights defender Iasonas Apostolopoulos, who is currently working for Mediterannea Saving Humans, the search and rescue organisation, is the topic of a UN Special Rapporteur’s letter to the Greek government.

Mr Apostolopoulos was accused by a Greek newspaper of working with people smugglers and causing deaths in the Aegean Sea. Capitl.gr published defamatory material and disclosed his home address. A Greek MEP later mentioned comments Apostolopoulos made against the EU, which led to death threats. The Government response can be read here, but doesn’t address the issues in question at all.

MEPs have sent written questions to the EU Commission concerning surveillance systems used in Greek camps. This comes following the publication of a report last month which was authored by BIRN and Solomon. The surveillance systems, which provide CCTV and drone footage of people at official migrant camps and are funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, are allegedly a breach of the GDPR.

The racism of the asylum system is pointed out in this Guardian article, where Ukrainian refugees are given preferential treatment over those from Afghanistan.

GERMANY

Events to learn more about the situation at the Poland-Belarus border in Germany

Activities in Poland share their experiences of the Belarusian border, the continued struggle of people-on-the-move and the illegal activities of authorities. More information can be found here.

SEA and SAR

Tragedy off Gran Canaria

A boat was assisted by a merchant vessel with just one survivor. The boat was carrying four lifeless bodies. Thirty-four people had started the journey nine days previously. This thread gives some more details.

The 3rd October is commemorated every year on the island of Lampedusa. 03/10/2013 saw a catastrophic shipwreck off the Italian island when 359 people lost their lives in a single night.

Meanwhile, the MV Louise Michel could safely disembark on Lampedusa after two days with their guests.

EU and FRONTEX

Frontex officers to be deployed to North Macedonia

It has been reported that Frontex officers could be present in North Macedonia this year. It is thought that EU Commission will sign the relevant agreement later this month.

A review of several policy documents by the EU Council and Parliament is underway. The documents in question relate to Frontex’s ‘technical operation strategy’ in order to implement “European integrated border management” (EIBM). In other words, to toughen up the external border strategy.

Statewatch describes the proposals:

“That equates to outsourcing increasingly bloody border control measures to third countries, discrimination and exclusion enforced through visa policies, enhanced border surveillance at the EU’s external borders that encourages the use of more dangerous routes to arrive on EU territory, the growing use of large-scale biometric databases to register and track movement and stay, and discriminatory and violent immigration raids by national law enforcement agencies.”

Also on the agenda for the EU Parliament is the use of Artificial Intelligence at the borders. The addition of a clause by the Czech presidency of the EU seeks to cover use of AI in secrecy, by failing to disclose data in cases of “sensitive operational data”.

Alongside this worrying proposition, civil groups are calling for the halting of use of an AI tool that predicts migration flow. EUMigraTool is designed to monitor and predict where people will attempt to move, but the risk that the tool is and will be misused are very high. The open letter signed by 20 groups (including BVMN to which AYS belongs), calls for the immediate discontinuation of the tool.

Members of the European Parliament were recently denied entry to the border area between Spanish Melilla and Morocco. In protest to this, No Name Kitchen have presented photographic evidence to the EU Parliament in Brussels of the violence at the external borders. This was part of the March to Brussels which took place this weekend.

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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.