AYS Weekend Digest 20–21/2/2021: Child abuse in Greece

Are You Syrious?
Feb 22 · 12 min read

Chaotic weekend in the central Med // Updates from the Greek islands, the Italian/French border and Germany // More evictions in Calais // Concerns over government-run hotel in the UK.

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Frozen tents in the refugee camp in Arsal, Lebanon (photos via Moria White Helmets). “More than 15,000 Syrian refugees in Arsal are experiencing their second winter since a 2019 order from the Higher Defence Council, which is chaired by the president and responsible for implementing national defence strategy, required them to dismantle their shelters. The order has forced them to live without adequate roofs and insulation, exposed to harsh winter conditions, including subzero temperatures and flooding.” (Read more HERE)

FEATURED: Child abuse in Greece

The sexual exploitation of refugee children in Athens is not a new phenomenon and was highlighted, researched and reported on a number of times in the past years.

While the new case is developing by the day, Greek media have rushed to focus their attention on two large NGOs in the country, ActionAid and Solidarity Now, which are accused of having ‘supplied’ children for this purpose. With the information available at the moment, it is nonetheless still unclear whether the NGOs knew what was happening.

As journalist Stavros Malichudis points out, blaming NGOs is a well-established tactic of the Greek authorities, attempting to hide the network of connections and corruption through which they appoint high officials (like Lignadis, appointed by the current minister of culture) or grant extremely lucrative deals. This was confirmed by the most recent statement of culture minister Lina Mendoni, who went from labelling such accusations as rumours to distancing herself from Lignadis, in an arrogant attempt to “blame everyone other than herself.” As Lena K. report, “all this was going on for years, very likely covered up by the authorities or otherwise people turning a blind eye. There were reports before, and evidence of many missing unaccompanied minors.”

It is important that all those involved in these brutal abuses are held accountable, without falling into this very Greek ‘game of narratives’. This blaming game is the least helpful thing in encouraging survivors of abuse to speak out. Child safety should be at the very centre of this case.

We’ll keep following the development of this case, to the extent it falls under the daily digest’s remit. Here are some further readings on the extent of predatory abuses experienced by children in Greece:

  • A thread on the silence of Greek Ombudsmen and Child Safety authority.
  • A long an important thread on the coverage of this case so far.
  • The Children and the State, a series of articles written by investigative journalists at The Manifold.

SEA

Extremely chaotic weekend in the central Mediterranean. Journalist Sergio Scandura talks of more than 750 people at sea on Saturday. Rescues involved Italian navy, commercial vessels and humanitarian ships. Between Friday and Saturday around 850 people were returned to Libya, while dead “bodies continue to wash ashore.” Of the 350 people returned on Friday, more than 150 managed to flee once ashore, media report.

More than 3,000 people have been returned to Libya in 2021.

157 people were returned to Tunisia between Saturday and Sunday.

Jeff Crisps and Omer Shatz (check the whole thread) pointedly question the role of IOM and UNHCR in aiding and abetting these returns:

Updates from Friday

Distress calls, rescues and shipwrecks this weekend

  • On the night between Friday and Saturday, one boat capsized near Lampedusa. Italian coastguard rescued 45 people, but at least 7 are still missing and feared dead.
  • Two boats arrived in Lampedusa on Friday night, carrying 105 and 232 people respectively. 80 more people arrived at dawn on Saturday.
  • 77 people (other sources say 89) in one boat were rescued and brought to Lampedusa on Sunday night. Moonbird spotted the inflatable boat on Saturday and called on the commercial vessel Vos Thalassa, which confirmed it was heading to rescue them. It did not. The people on board were rescued only when they reached Italian territorial waters near Lampedusa. It is reported that one baby girl was born during the crossing and is now on the Italian island.
  • 63 people (55 according to Maltese media) arrived autonomously on Malta.
  • Another 77 people are on board of Vos Triton, now headed to Porto Empedocle, Sicily. It is reported that people on board thwarted the attempt of the commercial ship’s crew to return them back to Libya, protesting until the crew decided to make route to Italy. The Vos Triton was already responsible for a pushback in 2019, as well as the Vos Thalassa in 2018, which is owned by the same person. Italian authorities are blocking the people on board from disembarking, as they are investigating the events on board the ship.
  • On Saturday night, Alarm Phone reported of a distress call coming from a boat with 110 people on board. Their engine was not working anymore. No more updates were published about it.
  • 83 people arrived autonomously in Lampedusa on Sunday, after at least two days at sea.
  • On Sunday, Aita Mari arrived in Augusta, Sicily, with 102 people onboard, disembarkation should take place on Monday. Aita Mari was welcomed by Ocean Viking, still anchored in port.
  • 232 people and one dead body are on board the commercial vessel Asso30, headed towards Porto Empedocle, Sicily.

GREECE

Greece applies for more deportations

As media report, migration minister Mitarachi announced the request to the EU’s border service Frontex and the Commission while adding that border countries like Greece are expecting the new EU migration and asylum agreement to provide “a powerful mechanism and the necessary legal framework for expulsions and returns.”

Lesvos

Another fire in Moria 2.0

Yesterday, Sunday 21st, another fire was reported in the camp. One woman was injured and taken to hospital.

Moria Media Team reported that the fire was extinguished — again — by residents. Eric Maddox, from Latitude Adjustment Podcast, reported that “police were hostile towards those attempting to film.”

As the MMT underlines, it is a miracle that fires don’t happen more often and this fire did not extend further.

But without protection, proper heating systems this is going to happen again for sure and is horrible. (MMT)

On Mitarachi’s last visit to the camp

As NBK highlights, for the minister and his colleagues “the ‘community’s normality’ of Moria 2.0 is not a problem, but a solution. Requirements and rights ‘guaranteed’ by the same governments and organisations that break them on a routine basis without fear of repercussions in the end only serve as public relations tools.”

The alternative reality constantly portrayed by Mitarachi during his public speeches serves one specific purpose: to shift, with time, what is considered ‘normal’.

They, with the help of our EU politicians and the UN, create, maintain and sustain both the camp as a structure and a narrative. For them, it serves their practical and narrative interest to not only maintain the current border structures but make them even harsher. And this is how it can happen that the minister of Asylum and Immigration can visit a place like Moria 2.0, by now as notorious for its inhuman conditions as old Moria, stand there for a while and subsequently conclude that there is nothing wrong. This while knowing full well the temperature at night has gone close to zero accompanied by an icy wind, that in other parts of the country this has already proven fatal to people in similar circumstances. He knows that the food is bad and the electricity system is insufficient. That sexual violence is an ever present threat. That the toilets are filthy and there are still insufficient showers. To him, the only thing that matters how strong the fences are.

… But this neither is a surprise anymore. None of this is anymore really a surprise. The policies continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives, exposed to the continued stress of awaiting their asylum decisions in an undignified camp with improper facilities and no possibility to protest. The fundamental intent of “controlling the flows of migration” is to keep our Nation-states exclusive, and to keep worldwide inequality intact. The fundamental intent of “refugee camps” is to create a space where laws and standards can be circumvented, and people can be treated like cattle.

Read their full statement HERE.

Chios:

Local resistance is stalling new camp plans

As an alternative, local authorities have proposed the creation of a small temporary camp in which to house new arrivals before their transfer to the mainland.

Leros:

A dark history of detention

Kos:

Recognised refugees left homeless on the island (and throughout the country)

FRENCH/ITALIAN BORDER

Update from the French Italian border

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(Photo Credit: Progetto20k)

Progetto20k report that the numbers of people at the border have dropped to 50–60 people per day.

The news of the last few weeks is the rejection of non-communitarix [non-EU] citizens in possession of all the documents necessary for the deportation, but without any of the COVID tests. They are also taken to the border police post, detained in containers and then released in Ponte San Luigi.

In short, the practice of French police at this time seems to be to reject non-Community [non-EU] citizens, using the health excuse to legalize it and make it systematic.

Train checks at Menton-Garavan station continue as usual, mainly on an ethnic basis. During car checks from Italy to France you are asked why you’re going to France and have to show the written attestation, so there are often queues. In the reverse direction (France > Italy), on the other hand, the checks seem less thorough. Train checks at Ventimiglia station by Italian-French patrols are still happening at least once a day.

Progetto20k’s current needs list is: shoes, blankets, jackets, underwear, sweatpants, hygienic-sanitary material like razors and shaving foam. You can also support them HERE.

In this period more than ever it’s essential to be able to carry on our activities, to the forced isolation we respond with active solidarity, weaving politically generative alliances.

FRANCE

50 people deported from Vincennes CRA

More evictions in Calais

(This morning in #Calais 7 evictions were carried out from informal places of life — 3 tents, 3 tarpaulins, 1 bag and 1 bicycle were seized. At the #frontière, everything is organized: daily evictions, violence, police pressure, discrimination)

GERMANY

German court rules use of force was unlawful

Info Migrants reports that:

The court determined that the “identification of the claimant, the entering and searching of the claimant’s room, as well as searching and pinning down the claimant while using one-time handcuffs” were unlawful.

The court case was brought by a Cameroonian to the administrative court of Stuttgart regarding a raid which took place in May 2018 at the state reception facility (Landeserstaufnahmeeinrichtung or LEA) in the town of Ellwangen east of Stuttgart.

Two of the police officers who participated in the raid denied taking the Cameroonian’s mobile phone and defended tying him up on the ground as “common”.

Deportation threat for Afghanis

UK

Mainstream media raise concerns over government run hotels

Maybe Priti Patel should try doing a 12 hour night shift looking after someone with complex needs for minimum wage before she makes any further decisions about people’s right to remain.

Coming over here… and looking after the elderly…

Young man accused of piloting boat, jailed

Of course, none of this would be necessary if there were safe pathways to the UK for asylum seekers. It is not a crime to seek asylum.

Worth Reading

Worth Attending

  • National meeting Wednesday 3 March 6pm — 8pm Zoom meeting open to all who want to change the immigration bail reporting (signing) system in Britain. Hosted by Migrants Organise and These Walls Must Fall organisers from Right to Remain. Register HERE.
  • A series of workshops on migrants’ rights! These are free, everyday Feb 22–24, 1–3pm. Learn the wider context of the ‘hostile environment’ and what your rights are as a migrant in the UK. Gain access to knowledge and confidential support from experts on how to deal with issues affecting you

Worth Watching

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

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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?

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

Are You Syrious?

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

Are You Syrious?

Written by

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

Are You Syrious?

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

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