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AYS News Digest 17/11/21: ECHR serves justice for little Madina, Croatia found guilty

Greece punishing “fake news” with up to five years in prison, further limiting free speech and free press, and ostracizing those who speak out about important issues / Report shows most of the people crossing the Channel fall under international refugee criteria, contrary to Patel’s statements / Situation at the border with Belarus; Poland to build a wall in December / Calls for feedback, reports and other good reads

Madina Hussiny

FEATURED

On the morning of publishing this News Digest, just a couple of days before the anniversary of the tragic death of a little girl, Madina Hussiny, the European Court for Human Rights did the job Croatian courts didn’t dare to do: they condemned the perpetrators and served some justice for the family of a girl who died during a pushback from Croatia to Serbia.

From the text of the verdict:

The case concerned the death of a six-year-old Afghan child, MAD.H., who was hit by a train after allegedly having been denied the opportunity to seek asylum by the Croatian authorities and ordered to return to Serbia via the tracks. It also concerned, in particular, the applicants’ detention while seeking international protection. The Court found in particular that

the investigation into the death had been ineffective, that the applicant children’s detention had amounted to ill-treatment, and that the decisions around the applicants’ detention had not been dealt with diligently.

It also held that some of the applicants had suffered a collective expulsion from Croatia, and that the State had hindered the effective exercise of the applicants’ right of individual application by restricting access to their lawyer among other things.

In today’s judgment in the case of M.H. and Others v. Croatia (applications nos. 15670/18 and 43115/18) the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been:

(1) unanimously, a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned the investigation into the death of the Afghan family’s daughter

(2) by six votes to one, a violation of Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment) in respect of the applicant children

(3) unanimously, no violation of Article 3 in respect of the adult applicants

(4) unanimously, a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to security and liberty) in respect of all the applicants

(5) unanimously, a violation of Article 4 of Protocol №4 to the Convention (prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens) in respect of the applicant mother and her five children, and

(6) unanimously, a violation of Article 34 (right of individual petition) in respect of all the applicants

This is not an isolated decision that has to do only with the family of the girl and all those who have been involved, one way or another, in the case.
A big issue that has intensified in the past years and is very much discussed these days through the ongoing trial in the cases of the IUVENTA crew, Sarah Mardini, Sean Binder, has been the criminalization of human rights defenders. This leads us back to the case of a volunteer connected to the Madina Hussiny’s family case. The Croatian Ministry of Interior pressed misdemeanor charges for “facilitating illegal migration” because he was present at a time when, following the death of the little one, with several other small children and minors, Madina Hussiny’s family was about to approach the Croatian police and request international protection. He was accused of signaling to the family in order to assist with their crossing from Serbia to Croatia. He has, however, shared detailed accounts, written evidence, as well as three recorded geo-locations related to the specific event with the police, and the charges were proven false during the court hearing. In the official charges, MOI asked for the highest prescribed penalty, including imprisonment, a 43,000 EUR fine and a ban of work for the legal entity, meaning AYS. In September 2018, the court found the volunteer guilty on the grounds of “unconscious/inadvertent negligence”, but rejected the recommended penalties, and issued a smaller (but still substantial) 8,000 EUR fine. We have challenged this decision and are awaiting the outcome of the appeal.

The decision of the ECHR is not the only big decision these days regarding Croatia that was supposed to have taken place in our own courts, but sadly did not.
On another note, bringing up this decision and this tragedy on 18 November in the context of Croatia opens up a wider context as it coincides with the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar, where our politicians always swear to do everything so nobody need ever go through such tragedy again. So, we are recalling that “the image of a crying Vukovar girl in a blue coat from 1991, the photo of the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi from 2015, and now the image of Madina are

strong symbols of the tragedy of thousands of unnamed victims to whose suffering Europe hasn’t responded or didn’t want to respond to. During those war years Croats angrily looked toward the European Union, hoping they would help us out somehow, yet today we are the forefront of its borders, preventing some new victims of war from finding security on European land.”

GREECE

Parliament adopts government’s restrictions of media freedom

This past week, the Greek parliament adopted an amendment to its penal code that allows the government to prosecute journalists for their work if the government deems it “fake news.” According to the new criminal code, spreading fake news is punishable with up to five years in prison, further limiting free speech and free press, and ostracizing those who speak out about important issues. While the new provision clearly states the penalties for individual reporters and owners of publications or media agencies,

the exact definition of “fake news,” the standards according to which it’s judged, and how to measure the resulting “harm” are still undefined.

Media freedom organizations and journalist unions across Greece and the EU have denounced the new provision and are calling for it to be revoked for being too vague and an obvious attempt to silence and place sanctions on dissent.

In tandem with the government’s promise to censor those who critique the government, Stavros Malichudis, the award-winning journalist known for his reporting on migration, recently found himself under surveillance by the Greek secret service (EYP). Malichudis has consistently shown how the Greek government simultaneously punishes the people it is obligated to support while financially benefiting from the misuse of its infrastructure, and publishes his work under his full name, with full transparency. This surveillance calls into question how the EYP defines “national security” and the future implications of these patterns.

EU

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) called out Poland and Hungary again for their prevention of safe passage for migrants, criminalization of civilian groups and the NGOs assisting them, and for giving judges and ministers too much power without enough accountability. Their treatment of people on the move and dissemination of power directly violates EU laws, further contributing to their ongoing structural dispute over the judicial independence of member states.

FRONTEX

Slovenia helping Frontex potentially mess up the so- called Western Balkans even more

A joint meeting between Frontex and the Slovenian Council Presidency was held on 16 November, with the goal of being able to plan definitively how to strengthen the Balkan “buffer zone” to reduce migration. The EU specifically calls on Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro to collaborate with Frontex by investing in border-monitoring systems and to formally ratify their joint efforts.

FRANCE

Evacuation of more than a thousand people to a camp in Grande-Synthe

Evacuees’ property was destroyed and they were given shelters ill-suited for the weather conditions. Law enforcement gave them no prior information about why they were being evicted and where they were going.

Related, the annual report that tracks expulsions of temporary encampments recorded 1,330 expulsions this year, with 77% of these just in Calais and Grande-Synthe.

PORTUGAL

210 Afghans have just arrived in Portugal, flying into Lisbon’s airport on 16 November. They’ll be sent to different reception centers in the country depending on local capacity and prior arrivals of family members or familiar connections. According to Migration Minister, Francisco Andre, the recent group of 210 joins 266 previously evacuated shortly after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August, and while there is currently no cap or goal for the amount of people resettled, the Portuguese government says they plan to keep working to airlift more groups of people especially vulnerable to the Taliban’s regime.

POLAND

Polish border forces fired water cannons and tear gas at people on the move along the Polish-Belarusian border, further exacerbating an already life-threatening condition in the freezing cold. The Polish Defense Ministry claims it was responding to “migrant aggression” as they attacked the border fence while the Belarusian side watched.

In the meantime, the pressure on media, press crews and other independent monitoring individuals and organisations is growing:

Poland starts building walls on 15 December

There are currently more than 1000 people on the move at the logistic centre on the Belarussian side of the border right now. Around 800 are at the Kuznica border post.
Additionally, four buses of people will be residing in another reportedly warm place.

A little Syrian boy was found alone on the border unconscious from hypothermia.

He was taken to the hospital and his condition is better in so much as he is no longer in critical condition.

Four more children are reportedly being treated in hospital (for gastritis, bronchitis etc.), as well as several adults.

BELARUS

In Minsk, residents are out in front of the UNHCR office, demanding help for people. Nobody will be deported by force from Belarus.
The Iraqi authorities allegedly counted 300 people who wish to return home. The flight will reportedly take off on Thursday, 19 November.
In November, Belarussian hospitals reportedly treated people from Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Cuba, Iraq, Congo, Ivory Coast and Sudan.
We have received information that vaccination of people on the move in Belarus will start soon (on a voluntary basis) because a case was found at the logistic centre where more than 1,400 people are staying at the moment. More people came to the warehouse over the past 24 hours from the Kuznica border post.

374 people were reportedly flown to Iraq from Minsk airport. There are people on the list for the next flight. Some people are seeking possibilities to request asylum in Belarus. As we previously said, people are now in three places: the majority are at the logistic centre, the second group is sleeping outdoors at the Kuznica/Bruzgi border post, the third group was transported to a heated place.

It was reported that Belavia cancelled the boarding of people from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon on planes taking off from Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

UK

Home Office’s own data shows claims that people crossing the Channel aren’t “real refugees” to be false

Priti Patel recently claimed in the House of Lords that in the last year alone, over two-thirds of people on the move who arrive in the UK via the Channel are “not genuine asylum seekers,” rather that they’re single men coming as economic migrants who discredit the plight of people who come to the UK to seek refuge in earnest. But analysis using Home Office data and other publicly available statistics shows that this is false; roughly 61% of Channel arrivals are deemed asylum seekers by international definitions and are likely to be allowed to stay in the UK after arrival.

Moreover, this year alone, only about five people who arrived by small boat on the Channel were sent back to another European country according to the Dublin Convention. According to Home Office data itself, they’re simply removing fewer people.

Yesterday evening, around 40 people arrived on Hastings Beach, assisted by the RNLI, including five unaccompanied minors, after having been at sea for roughly 20 hours.

WORTH READING

  • Our network, the BVMN has issued the most recent report with much essential information:
  • Lighthouse Reports’ latest collaborative journalism project highlights the intersection of public health measures and immigration discourse, and how vaccinating people on the move or who are otherwise undocumented has largely been left out of the equation entirely. The “policy scorecard” ranks access to vaccinations and pandemic-related public health benefits according to country and according to demographic, showing each country’s level of difficulty and level of willingness.
  • The New Humanitarian breaks down search and rescue in the central Mediterranean, and how the confusing relationship and shifting of blame between the EU and Libya have made this region of SAR activity “not a tragic anomaly” and a significant deviation of how SAR is supposed to function.

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

If you wish to contribute, either by writing a report or a story, or by joining the info gathering team, please let us know.

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.