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AYS News Digest 11/4/22: The Council of Europe to member states’ governments: Stop pushbacks at EU borders

A lot of SAR activities, some tragic deaths, and inevitable pushbacks reported by SAR NGOs / intimidation, evictions and arbitrary confiscation continues in and around Calais / worrying treatment of refugees in Berlin / a number of really good reads in the “worth reading” section & more

At the same time while the Commissioner warns, Croatia keeps some people detained in garages, organised and orchestrated by the Ministry of Interior, Zoran Pehar of N1 reports (Photo: N1, Zran Pehar)

With pushbacks and denial of access to asylum evolving into an official policy of many EU member states, and after being well documented by media and NGOs, the Council of Europe and Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic urges member states to stop all forms of pushbacks in Europe.

“The scale and normalisation of pushbacks at Europe’s borders require urgent and concerted action by governments and parliamentarians”, said the Commissioner while releasing the Recommendation on April 7.

The 64-page report focuses on four key areas and reminds member states’ governments of their obligation to protection of human rights and in particular, those set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and stresses that “pushbacks are at odds with member states’ human rights obligations, because they violate the principle of non-refoulment, undermine the right to asylum, deny key safeguards in return procedure, and often lead to violence, torture, and other serious ill-treatment, and sometimes even jeopardize the right to life.”

Secondly, it underscores that states should “enhance the transparency of border control activities, in particular through strengthening independent monitoring to prevent and identify violations, as well as bolstering mechanisms to ensure accountability when such violations occur.”

Thirdly, calls for all Council of Europe member states to recognise pushbacks as a serious, pan-European problem requiring immediate action and speaking out loudly and clearly against pushbacks.

“In the face of overwhelming evidence of pushbacks across Europe, all member states, including those not directly carrying out pushbacks, must step up and speak out. Not doing so will amount to silently condoning human rights violations” stated Mijatovic.

And lastly, parliamentarians must act as lawmakers and protectors of democracy by monitoring and preventing legislation allowing the occurrence of pushbacks. At the same time, they should hold their governments accountable when the adoption of laws or policies that are not human rights compliant occurs.

ALGERIA

More deportations and one death

LIBYA

What continues happening to people once they are pushed back to Libya traumatises and changes people forever. This is done with the knowledge (and funding) of the EU

SEARCH AND RESCUE AT SEA

467 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean during the first three months of 2022 alone, reports Sea-Eye. The NGO criticizes unequal treatment of people fleeing in distress while Maltese and Italian rescue coordination centres are still refusing to coordinate emergencies at sea. At the same time, it urges EU states to change their policies and respect the right of people to seek asylum within the EU.

5 rescues in 24 hours by German Sea-Watch 3 crew

Sea-Watch 3 managed to save over 200 people in distress in 5 different operations during only one day in the central Mediterranean on Sunday. Several still remain missing. In one of the rescue operations, the team was able to rescue 34 people out of 53 that were initially on the boat. Survivors are in urgent need of medical care while the youngest ones are not even one year old.

Geo Barents disembarks at the Sicilian port of Augusta after 11 days of waiting

After 11 days of waiting to disembark to a safe place, 113 survivors aboard the rescue ship Geo Barents of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were allowed by the Italian authorities to reach Augusta on Sunday morning.
In a previous article the past week, MSF reported that over 100 people have drowned in just one week in the central Mediterranean while at least 130 have been forcibly pushed back to Libya.

MSF condemns Italy and Malta’s failure to assist boats in distress and urges Frontex and the EU to change their policies towards people fleeing.

100 people at risk at sea in Malta

Lampedusa, 10 Apr — On Saturday afternoon, Alarm Phone had received the alert of a sinking boat with 100 people on board off Malta. It remains still unclear whether they are all safe, however, the organization excepts for them to have been rescued and disembarked in Lampedusa as of an update on Sunday.

4 people died, 6 went missing, while 20 were pushed back

During the weekend, a boat capsized off Tunisia with 30 people on board.
20 people were rescued, 4 bodies were recovered and 6 people are missing, Alarm Phone reported. According to the latest update, they were intercepted by the Tunisian authorities and returned to Tunisia.

Mare Jonio sails for the 2nd time in 2022

At the same time, MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans sailed from the Sicilian port of Mazara del Vallo for the 11th mission for the eleventh observation, monitoring, search and rescue mission. The ship is set to reach the SAR area assigned to Libya in the Central Mediterranean, where many people have lost their lives and many more have gone missing since the beginning of the year. Already in January 2022, the ship rescued 214 women, men and children who were on board two boats in distress.

ITALY

Sea Eye 4 finds home in Palermo after rescuing saving 106 people

Sey Eye 4 finally got to a safe harbor at the port of Palermo in Sicily, after rescuing 106 people in the Mediterranean Sea for two days ago from two different operations. SICILYLAB reports that among them were 22 children.

The ship had first requested to disembark in Malta, however, permission was not given by the Maltese authorities.

Harald Kischlat, M.D., board member of German Doctors e. V. and responsible for the medical care of the refugees on the SEA-EYE 4 said:

“The refugees on board the SEA-EYE 4 stayed on boats that were not suitable for the high seas for many days. They’re hypothermic, seasick, traumatized. It is irresponsible and inhumane to deny these people access to a safe port for an unnecessarily long time.”

The mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando welcomed the crew of the Sea Eye 4 ship, to whom he granted honorary citizenship last June.

“At this moment in which Europe is committed to saving the lives of many Ukrainians who are victims of an absurd war, Malta cannot continue to ignore the tragedy of those who die and try to survive in the Mediterranean.”

“It is unacceptable — continued Orlando — and the suffering and deaths in the Mediterranean are increasing. Palermo is available for reception”, he stated at SICILYLAB prior to the disembarkation of Sea EYE 4 at the Sicilian port.

FRANCE

The intimidation, evictions and arbitrary confiscation continues in and around Calais:

GERMANY

“Those responsible duck away”

In a media paper on the Berlin’s main reception point, Tegel, an employee reports organizational shortcomings, frustration and coldness.

Among them is shameful behavior on part of the German office for refugees which is requiring a proof of registered accommodation for 6 months in order to be able to stay in Berlin and not be relocated elsewhere, and with such strict exemptions that a woman in need of chemo is being sent far away from the hospital system.

There are more reports of the shameful restrictions for Ukrainian refugees who are (again) being put in the outskirts of the city:

Deaf people who fled Ukraine demand the right to stay in Berlin

180 people who fled to Berlin at the end of February. According to Clara Belz, refugee officer at the Berlin Association of the Deaf, who looks after the people, most come from Kyiv or the surrounding villages, where they have lived in their own apartments. “There are traumatized and chronically ill people among them, TAZ story says. The group was informed by the LAF staff at the end of March that they should not stay in Berlin but continue to Cologne.

On April 1st, a large part of the group refused to leave, only 18 people went to Cologne. The group had to leave the hotel in Mitte on April 4, the Senate had canceled all hostels and hotels rented for refugees. Around 80 deaf people came to the container village in Buch, the rest found private accommodation, according to the refugee council, some of them in Potsdam, TAZ reports.

POLAND

People helping displaced people other than of a Ukrainian nationality are at risk of facing criminal charges

Grupa Granica and the media such as EU Observer report detention of activists helping non-Ukrainian people fleeing.

At the same time, Amnesty International, in a recent report, talks about the ill-treatment and cruel pushbacks of mainly Middle Eastern people crossing the Belarusian-Polish border with many of them being arbitrarily detained in Poland in appalling conditions and without access to a fair asylum proceeding.

In contradiction to the heartwarming response of EU governments, activists and also individuals toward those fleeing the war in Ukraine, the ones helping displaced people of other nationalities are being arrested and possibly facing charges of organising illegal immigration, leading up to eight-year prison sentences.

Grupa Granica refers to the case of four activists who were detained for two days for providing help to a family of seven stranded in the forest without water, food, shelter and access to medical assistance. The prosecutor’s office accused them of illegal crossing the border and submitted a request to the court for temporary arrest for 3 months. The group condemns the prosecution of activists, stating that the officers acted inconsistently with the procedures; they did not prepare an arrest report and used a completely inadequate coercive measure.

In other news, on March 25, Polish authorities detained a 21-year-old activist of the KIK — Klub Inteligencji Katolickiej (the Catholic Intelligentsia Club) providing humanitarian help to people in need in Podlasie forests at the Polish-Belarusian border. The activist was arrested on suspicion of organizing illegal border crossing, for which she may be in prison for up to eight years.

WORTH READING

  • Criminalisation at Europe’s borders: Uncovering the risks faced by those who support asylum seekers:
  • The EU Policy of Containment of Asylum Seekers at the Borders of Europe: (1) The Hotspot Approach

(2) the Closed Controlled Access Centres

  • Find out more about the conference organized by Borderline Sicilia, as a part of the EU Pact Asylum and Migration project, funded by the EACEA, in collaboration with the Culture and Society Department of the University of Palermo, an ‘important moment of discussion on the “New pact on migration and asylum of the European Union”:
  • 14 Books About Refugees Trying to Reach Europe:

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Are You Syrious?

Are You Syrious?

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.