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AYS News Digest 21/09/2022: EU proposes suspending the right to asylum due to ‘instrumentalisation’.

Detention centres in Turkey under scrutiny // More women and children are in need in Serbia // Pushbacks from Lithuania causes mental and physical harm // Court case continues: associations against the City of Calais // A safe port assigned, but it’s almost two days away


Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

EU proposes suspending the right to asylum due to ‘instrumentalisation’.

The European Council is discussing a mechanism whereby individual countries can suspend the right to asylum in order to mitigate the risks of ‘instrumentalisation’.

This term, which the EU Commission is seeking to define, refers to a situation like that in Belarus, when people seeking safety were encouraged to enter the country in order to “attack” the European Union.

ProAsyl delves deeper into potential problems, whilst civil groups have issued statements against the proposals. A long list of NGOs, including the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) to which AYS belongs, appear at the bottom of this letter which clearly outlines all the problems. An in depth analysis can be found here which describes how a ‘Screening Regulation’ would see third country nationals treated as though they hadn’t fully entered the country. The full text from the European Commission can be found here.


Detention centres in Turkey under scrutiny

The International Refugee Rights Association has published a report on the conditions for people in Turkey. The country hosts around 4 million people, the most of any country world-wide. The detention centres in the country vary in standards considerably, and IRRA and Global Detention Project call for those standards to be raised, ensuring that everyone has access to legal advice and representation and that the detention of unaccompanied minors, mothers with children and pregnant women is stopped — this is against international law. Read the full statement here.


More women and children are in need in Serbia.

Photo Credit: Collective Aid and @abdul_saboor079

The border town of Subotica has seen an increase in people on the move over the last few months. The rise in numbers has also led to an increase in women and children, whose needs are struggling to be met. Collective Aid reported that a child as young as four years old was beaten by Hungarian border authorities. They also call for donations to better attend to injuries and other needs.


Pushbacks from Lithuania causes mental and physical harm

Medical organisation MSF have issued a report describing conditions at the border between Lithuania and Belarus. Their teams met people who were pushed between both countries for days on end.

“People who already faced several traumas such as sexual violence and torture in their country of origin are now faced with the new trauma of violent pushbacks,” Heidi Berg, MSF psychologist in Lithuania.

One group were in the border area for 30 days, crossing between the countries 10 times, unable to settle and provided with poor and insufficient food.

The Lithuanian government has no intention of halting the practice of pushbacks, but rather is seeking to formalise it into law (see EU section below on this). Approximately 4,200 people entered Lithuania from Belarus last year.


Restraints used on deportation flights from Switzerland

The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) has reported on the continued use of physical restraints during “forced repatriations”. 33 deportation flights took off from Switzerland from April to December 2021, restraints were used in 62% of cases.

These restraints were full or partial using handcuffs or belts, with the most shocking of incidents being that of a mother who had to breastfeed her baby in the presence of her other children whilst handcuffed. Described as “degrading and inhumane”, the NCPT seek to remind authorities that restraints should only be used when the individual is likely to harm themselves or others.


Court case continues: associations against the city of Calais.

Two years ago, the provision of food and water in certain areas of the city was outlawed. Since then, a group of organisations working in the area have made legal challenges to regain permission to provide basic necessities to up to 1,000 people in need in the area. The court case was to resume on 20th September, the same day as a mass eviction took place at dawn in Loon-Plage.

The August report from the Human Rights Observers in northern France has been published. The report, which is divided into the two key geographic areas, documents multiple evictions, destruction of property, as well as lack of access to water and hygiene measures. Available in multiple languages here.

This comes as Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin denounces the living conditions for people on the move in northern France. The question about the terrible conditions, as well as the harassment of organisations attempting to help came from Left Member of Parliament Benjamin Lucas. Darmanin denied the truth of living conditions, which are clearly documented, and his response is in turn denounced by Utopia 56.


The Balearic Islands: undocumented people can receive financial support.

This thread gives an overview of the monetary support available to people in different areas of Spain. COVID measures have remained in place in some regions, allowing support to reach people without bank accounts.

The report into the support available in other countries is available here.


Do you have experience of being undocumented in the UK?

Then the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants wants to hear from you. You could help to influence future campaigns.


A safe port assigned, but it’s almost two days away

Almost 400 people rescued from the sea face further distress. As reported in the our digest rescue vessel Humanity 1 took onboard the first of the 398 people more than two weeks ago. The ship has now been given a port of safety, however, the port of Taranto is 42 hours away. The crew started the journey immediately, but two more days at sea is an unnecessary pressure for all involved.

This comes as the vessel Open Arms Uno still hosts 400 people and the body of a young man. Some of those onboard were rescued thanks to collaborative efforts by different organisations — Alarm Phone alerted Pilotes Volontaires before Open Arms Uno attended the scene.

“His name was Wegihu, he was 20-years-old, and he was Eritrean,” Open Arms.

The number of people dying in the Mediterranean waters is uncountable, yet every number has a name.

The sad death of four year old Loujin Ahmed Nasif reminds us of this. The Maltese Times examines how her death could have been prevented, and that authorities were in full knowledge of her boat. ASGI also examine events and call for changes.


In June this year, lives were lost at the Spanish border with Morocco (reported here). The events surrounding this deadly incident have come under scrutiny due, not least to people now facing criminal charges. This detailed paper examines the law surrounding illegal pushbacks in reference to specific policy.

“The violence directed at those trying to enter Melilla in June lays bare the concrete results of the idea that human rights protections do not apply at European borders to those whose movement may be deemed “culpable.”” Delphine Rodrik, legal advisor at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

Member of the European Parliament Cornelia Ernst was among a group from the Left Party who were denied access to the Nador crossing point where the incident occurred. The authorities gave no reason for the denied entry.

A freelance journalist in Italy who has been refused information by the Italian government is taking her request to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The freedom of information request concerns 46 million Euros that are sent to Libya and how this money is used. Sara Creta’s request was denied due to “risk international relations” and “put public safety at risk” but no further details were provided. ECHR will now examine how the national court responded.


Trieste, Croatian police tactics and Greece’s Eleonas Camp: The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) has issued their monthly report. 13 testimonies for illegal pushbacks accounting for over 350 people were documented. Read the full report here.

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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.