AYS News Digest 6/5/22: Survivors of a shipwreck in Greece facing 439 years in prison
Frontex involved in serious crimes against people seeking protection with its drone operations since 2015/Tunisian coastguard retrieved 24 more bodies of people drowned after boats sank in April, death toll reaches 67, more victims are feared/Worrying camp conditions in Preševo, south of Serbia/Inhumane conditions of detention, 2,500 asylum seekers in Lithuania continue to face for 9 months/ & more news
On May 5, Kheiraldin, Abdallah and Mohamad — survivors of the shipwreck that took place near Paros island on Christmas Eve — were sentenced to a total of 439 years in prison by a Greek court on Syros island.
Kheiraldin was sentenced to 187 years as the “captain”, Abdallah and Mohamad each to 126 as the “mechanic” and the “assistant”. Even though the court, who acknowledged that they are not smugglers that acted for profit, dropped the charges of “being part of a criminal organization” and did not impose life sentences, the three fathers were still convicted for “facilitating unauthorized entry”. In the case of Kheiraldin, he tried three times to reach Greece by land but was turned back each time by EU border guards, which led him to take the boat, states Borderline Europe.
Despite the fact that a court expert testified that not smugglers but refugees steer boats to escape to the EU, and whilst the prosecutions only witness didn’t show up, a scandalous sentence was still passed, says Mare Liberum.
Systematic criminalization of people on the move and violent pushbacks continue across the country
A group of 40 Syrians who have been pushed back twice and who had been stuck in a violent crossfire between Greek and Turkish border guards on the island of Evros, describe in EfSyn newspaper how they’ve been tortured by the Greek guards.
The group finally crossed the Greek border for the third time on Friday, May 6. Together with a group of 14 Palestinians, they filed for interim measures at the European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR), which has already approved five of them. The latest one is awaiting approval.
The Court has ordered the Greek government not to remove the refugees from the country’s territory and to provide them with food, water and proper medical care. According to EfSyn newspaper, the Prosecutor of Orestiada has instructed the Orestiada Police Directorate to conduct an operation to locate the refugees, and to ensure that they are included in the legal reception and asylum procedures.
Worrying camp conditions in Preševo
Transbalkanska Solidarnost reports on the deteriorating conditions of people living in the camp of Preševo, about 10 kilometres from the Macedonian-Serbian border.
In striking contrast to this reality, UNHCR has evaluated the camp in Preševo as adequate in terms of shelter, hygiene, level of privacy, medical treatment, and security in a report on camps in Serbia, published at the end of March (see p. 14 of the report). And, it mentions that the camp host 319 refugees, mostly of an Afgan origin, however, according to people who stay inside, currently there are 1000 people.
Deaths mount off Tunisian coast
Tunisian coastguard retrieves 24 more bodies of people drowned after boats sank in April, death toll reaches 67, more victims are feared
Tunisia’s coastguard has discovered 24 more bodies of people who were aboard boats that sank off the coast near the city of Sfax in late April, a judicial official told Reuters on May 4.
The confirmed death toll has now reached 67 from last month’s sinking of four boats as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy. More than 50 people are still missing.
Sea surveillance: Frontex involved in serious crimes with its drone operations since 2015
Frontex’s own data indicates that at least 13,000 people have been spotted using drones in 300 cases, according to Sea-Watch International.
From Malta, the European Border Agency monitors and tracks boats in distress using a Heron 1 drone.
Read more on this here.
100 people reach shore, and two dead in southern Italy
The Italian coast guard rescued more than 100 people and recovered two bodies after their boat ran aground in Siderno, southern Italy, on May 6.
Overall 111 people had been aboard, including 12 women and 10 minors when the boat hit an old disused pier on the coast of Siderno, according to local media.
For 9 months 2,500 asylum seekers in Lithuania continue to face inhumane conditions of detention
More than 2,500 people on the move continue to live under inhumane and degrading conditions for 9 months now, despite a report published by the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office (SOO) at the beginning of the year, which revealed how Lithuania treats refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrant groups — which is equivalent to detention.
Being arbitrarily detained and with no access to a fair asylum process, survivors of torture and sexual abuse experience mental health distress as health and protection conditions are inadequate and no specialised support for a psychiatric disorder is provided, reports MSF.
60% of people examined by psychologists from MSF in Lithuania between January and March 2022 have complained of anxiety. The majority of these patients indicated that their fears were related to the conditions of detention in the detention camps, states journalist Franziska Grillmeier on Twitter.
“I used to sleep in the night, now I cannot sleep. I am very small, I have lost weight, I don’t have vitamins. A lot of people are sick, but they are not [physically] sick. They do not have covid [or] something like this, they are sick mentally,” says a man detained from Mali.
More on the topic here.
Group of lawyers in Krakow: Providing assistance to asylum seekers is legal!
Through the website, Prawo na granicy (Law on the border), a group of lawyers — attorneys-at-law, prosecutors, judges, experts with the Krakow Institute for Criminal Law — Foundation, and employees and students of the Criminal Law Department of Jagiellonian University, raise awareness on the legality of providing assistance to people crossing borders, as well as the unconstitutionality of the law prohibiting the right to stay in the border area.
As a response to border violence and prosecution of activists or ordinary people helping people on the move, Grupa Granica invites everyone to read the materials and deepen their knowledge of the law.
“The knowledge gathered can be extremely useful and helpful both for people living in border regions and for volunteers from all over Poland wishing to support refugees on the spot”, states Grupa Granica on Facebook.
Silmutaneus evictions in Calais and Grande Synthe
On May 5, French authorities destroyed tents and left people on the streets in Calais and Grande Synthe, according to Human Rights Observers.
At the same time in Paris, 27 young people were refused access to the Clichy accommodation centre and returned to the street while others see makeshift camps as the only solution.
More specifically, around 300 people — mostly Afghan asylum seekers — are forced to survive in any way they can in the outskirts of Paris, reports InfoMigrants. Read the article here.
UK’s government cuts overseas foreign aid to leave 40,000 Syrian children out of school
More than 40,000 Syrian children in northern Syria will be forced out of school amid cuts in the British government’s foreign aid to the UK-based charity Syria Relief as of 30 April, reports the Guardian.
Syria Relief based in Manchester is one of the largest Syria-focused non-governmental organizations, and currently operates 133 schools in Northern Syria. However, with the decision of the British government to cut its total foreign aid spending from its commitment of 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%, the number of schools might be reduced to just 24 and, potentially, zero by August 2022. More on this here.
In other more positive news from Manchester, Afgan women enjoy cycling for the first time with the support of the Care4Calais organization and the British Cycling organisation.
On 10 May, don’t miss the free webinar “From the ashes to Europe’s audience: the creation of The Logbook of Moria”, on the award-winning investigation into Europe’s most notorious refugee camp, by We are Solomon news media.
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