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AYS News Digest 20/10/21: More heat in the EU - calls for infringement procedures and court cases for Frontex

Pushing for infringement proceedings against Greece, Croatia and Poland / Frontex being brought to court / The situation at the border with Belarus / Search and rescue at sea / & a number of good reads, reports and calls to action

This emerges from a letter from the Socialist Group in the European Parliament to the EU Commission, who say that EU funds should only flow again towards the EU Member states in question when “the Commission has sufficient evidence that pushbacks are no longer being carried out”.
Such a common action from the Social Democrats raises many interesting issues regarding the future positioning of the Danish Social Democrat government within the given context and their decisive stance on not only securitisation, refusal of asylum seekers and hard policies, but also that of returns of people to danger and war-torn areas.

While the EU Commissioner and other official bodies are “concerned”, “shocked” and “appalled” by what they have already been warned about many times, a way to circumvent any possible “punishment” of these practices now flows through the idea of the so-called independent monitoring mechanism, but the questionable modus operandi of putting this idea into practice in the case of Croatia and now Greece as well is already very well known and we don’t intend to stop reporting on it, hoping those who are in power to request another approach will also do their part.

Bringing Frontex to court!

Omar B. and his family were deported to Turkey by the EU border guard in 2016, even though he had applied for asylum in Greece. Now he is suing the EU border protection agency Frontex at the ECJ for damages. His lawsuit should not remain an isolated case.

In an unprecedented step, a Dutch firm of human rights lawyers announced on Wednesday that it had filed a lawsuit against Frontex that operated the flight, and was seeking damages on behalf of the family.

Read more on the latest Frontex controversies in our “worth reading” section.

Our Lives Are Like Death — Syrian returnees

Syrian refugees who voluntarily returned to Syria between 2017 and 2021 from Lebanon and Jordan faced grave human rights abuses and persecution at the hands of Syrian government and affiliated militias, including torture, extra-judicial killings, and kidnappings, as confirms the newest report from Human Rights Watch. Based on 65 interviews with Syrians who returned to Syria from Jordan and Lebanon or their family members, this shows why Syria is not safe for return.
Arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, torture, extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, and widespread bribery and extortion at the hands of the Syrian security agencies and government-affiliated militias are just some of the things people return to in Syria.

According to the latest findings of the 2020 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, only 20 percent of Syrian refugees have legal residency, making the majority of refugees vulnerable to harassment, arrest, and detention, particularly at checkpoints.

“No one will be safe in Syria until they stop the security agencies from terrorizing people”

— said a 38-year-old refugee in Lebanon who went back to his hometown of Qunaitra in Syria.

Despite the findings, countries in the region and some in Europe continue to promote returns.

Read the entire report here:

The Aita Mari rescue ship saved the lives of 105 people, including two children, adrift in a wooden boat near to the Italian island of Lampedusa after they were alerted to the distress case by a fishing boat. Meanwhile, the Italian coastguard evacuated three women with severe fuel burns from the Sea-Watch 3, which is currently carrying 409 people the crew rescued from the Libyan SAR zone in less than 48 hours since Sunday, the Civil Fleet reported.

Mediterranea reports that the Agrigento Public Prosecutor’s Office has asked the Judge for Preliminary Investigations for the complete acquittal from all charges raised against the Commander of the ship, Mare Jonio, and the Head of Mission of MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans for a rescue operation carried out on 9 May 2019.

Two people found dead in a van

Twenty-six people, thought to be from Syria and Kurdish lands, were reportedly found alive and two were found dead in the area known as Burgenland in Austria. It is thought that the two men who died were between 25 and 30 years of age and in “poor physical condition”, scarce media reports say.

Antiracist gathering countering the racist attacks at an exhibition

A rally against racist acts in Puerto de la Cruz was held this Wednesday, 20 October, where the exhibition was reconstructed in solidarity with locals.

Photo: Radio Pimienta

Smugglers in a case that involved the family of little Mwda, fatally shot by a Belgian police officer, were convicted in a trial in Bruxelles.

There were six convictions, three of which were by default. The driver of the truck did not appeal. His two accomplices, designated as smugglers with different roles, had been sentenced to five years in prison and three years suspended, for a third. They had appealed the decision and again challenged their role as smugglers. Before the Court of Appeal, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office did not request an increase in the level of penalties and called for the sanctions of three years and five years. The last hearing is expected for 9 November, when the defence will be able to make their arguments.

Harsh police treatment continues in the north

Activists in the area of Calais keep documenting and reporting on the indiscriminate evictions of everyone’s possessions and the basic amenities the people on the move have while sleeping in the rough. Police officers claim they have left enough time for the people to collect their belongings, justifying the confiscation of property as a part of the mission to discourage people from trying to move on and in general, stay in the area.

Reports on these actions continue:

Support their petition:

The problem seems to be that people are engaged and informed about what takes place in the border area

“It has become a ‘tendency’ that the coordinates of some migrants who enter Lithuania are passed on to the media or NGOs, instead of to the authorities,” says the Lithuanian deputy interior minister in a brilliant statement, as LRT reported. Lithuania continues with the emergency situation they announced in August, laying all the blame for the current border situation on Belarus, and now, of course, also on the NGOs and the media.
Meanwhile, people are trying to get their calls for help across to the border committee whenever possible, but the Polish border police, along the lines of EU securitisation policies, is reportedly using different methods of deterrence in their pushback process, such as the use of pepper spray and violence. Many cases are reported where people with small children are reportedly stuck in this ‘no man’s land’, without food or support, and also some where they are being separated and taken to distant locations without having been provided the basic things for survival, given the circumstances in that area at the moment.

For those in need of local legal support in Poland, or wanting to support local groups active in the border region with Belarus, make sure you follow Grupa Granica, a collective of activists and volunteer organisations helping, monitoring and reporting from the area.

Here are some more ideas on how to help:

In one of the latest tragedies in the area, the local firefighters found the body of a 19-year-old Syrian from the border river Biała Podlaska District:

In the meantime, in the European Parliament, Polish politicians are dismissing reports from the borders:

The number of people coming across the border from Belarus to the EU and further to Germany is increasing, which is something everyone could have seen coming. Now, the German politicians are also discussing measures, including stronger controls at the German-Polish border, it is reported.

Without giving more importance to those who deserve none, we just want to share with you the information passed on that the fascist party “The Third Way” is calling for a gathering this coming Saturday in and around Guben to prevent people from crossing the border (sic!).
Those wishing to counter their plans invite you to come to the 24-day vigil to counter these inhumane acts of the Neo-Nazis:

Finally, join in support of our Polish fellow activists during their next protest:

Matki na Granicę. Miejsce dzieci nie jest w lesie!

Is the Immigration Appeals Board trying to change the rules of the game in democracy when they do not get what they want?

According to NOAS, the Immigration Appeals Board is trying to limit the court’s important function in reviewing the administration’s decisions.

The doubt must benefit the complainant — this is a necessary step in order to avoid the consequences of a wrong decision that could lead to people being returned to the persecution of their faith.

In 2020, Iranian woman Leila Bayat was sentenced to 80 lashes after UNE rejected her asylum application and forcibly returned her to Tehran. In another case , a man was imprisoned and tortured after Norway sent him back to Iran. After being released on duty, he managed to escape and was granted refugee status by the UNHCR in Turkey. He was thus allowed to return to Norway as a quota refugee.

    “After six months, the only certainty we have is Frontex’s responsibility in the loss of lives at Europe’s borders. By granting the discharge, the European Parliament will be complicit with Frontex’s actions,” some of the MEPs say on the issue of Frontex.

It is not the first time that Frontex opted for a strategy of intimidation when confronted with citizens’ discontent. — Frontex: An EU agency gone rogue?

Lawsuits against Frontex — don’t miss this powerful story on the historical take of a young person in the most vulnerable position making a move against the most powerful ones:

  • LIBYA — between the Libyan hammer and the EU’s anvil
  • Rosa Luxembourg’s in-depth research on 28 progressive solidarity cities and their strategies to welcome migrants and refugees to ten European countries:
  • worth listening to:

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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.