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AYS Weekend Digest 23–24/5/2020: Illegal deportations kill, Keerfa report

GREECE: one man reportedly died during an illegal pushback from Greece to Turkey / LIBYA: UNHCR publish misleading statements / Several boats in distress in the CENTRAL MED

Vasilis Dimakis, a prisoner in Greek prison system is being systematically denied access to education, despite being awarded with a scholarship at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of the School of Economics and Political Sciences of the University of Athens since the academic year 2017–2018. Αλληλεγγύη στον κρατούμενο φοιτητή Βασίλη Δημάκη — Artwork by Yorgos

Illegal deportations kill, Keerfa report

According to the Greek antiracist and antifascist organisation Keerfa, Mohammed Rafik is a victim of the murderous policy of illegally deporting people on the move to Turkey.

The complaint was made in KEERFA, with a sound document from immigrant prisoners at the detention centre of Paranesti Drama.
Mohammed Rafik had been held there for 18 months. About five days ago he received a communication by PRO.KE.KE.KA Paranesti administration stating that he would be released. When he got out of the detention centre, police approached him and told him to get on a specific bus. Once on the bus, he found that this was heading to Evros, instead of to Thessaloniki. At the border, he and the other passengers were brought by boat to Turkey.

Mohammed Rafik is now dead. This information was reported by his former cellmates, who were on on the same bus and the same boat, as the police proceeded with this illegal push-back.
Mohammed Rafik lived several years in Greece and is the father of five children, he was the owner of two shops in Athens and he had lost his residence permit.

As it has been widely reported in the last few weeks illegal and arbitrary pushbacks are becoming a daily occurrence. Amid the confrontation with Turkey in February/March and the pandemic, the government has stepped up its brutality towards people on the move.

In Paranesti, Amygdaleza, Corinth detention centres, as well as in many police stations, thousands of people on the move are stuck without papers and mass deportations are being carried out.


Over the weekend UN Refugee Agency Head of Mission for Libya Jean Paul Cavalieri published a video, taking credit for the release of 200 prisoners of the detention centre in Zawiya. This is a different account from one of the “released”, stating that they had to break out and escape with no help, after months of neglect from UNHCR:


Alarm phone reported on Sunday of a boat in distress in Maltese waters, with around 78 people on board. They have lost contact with the boat during the night, and Maltese authorities communicated that they are monitoring the boat from the sky, but they don’t consider it in distress, so they won’t take any action for the time being.

At the time of writing, other three boats are known to be in the central mediterranean:

~55 people whose contact broke down on 24/05 at 18.13h

~85 people whose contact broke down on 23/05 at 5.26h

~91 people fleeing Libya contacted Alarm Phone on Monday morning. They said they are desperate and need immediate rescue! They are 60nm from Ak Khoms. We informed EU and Libyan authorities via email, but they do not pick up the phone.

Over the weekend, one boat with around 50 people landed in Sicily (it was initially reported as carrying 400 people). One more boat (52 people) landed on Saturday in the small island of Linosa and one was intercepted off the coast of Lampedusa. A last boat was reportedly arriving yesterday on the western coast of Sicily.


Racist Greek tabloids blame people on the move for Coronavirus

When things go bad, many media outlets prefer to play the blame game with easy targets, instead of actually doing any real journalism. This is what is happening regarding the situation in Kranidi, in the Peloponnese. In late April, 150 people tested positive in a IOM-run hotel that is home to around 450 asylum seekers. Since then, the hotel is still under quarantine. It is still unclear how they caught the virus. Some of the hotel residents resorted to sex work, and tabloids like Espresso have been publishing disgusting and sexist articles blaming them for transmitting the virus to “innocent” Greek family fathers.

Read more in this piece by Katja Lihtenvalner

Abuse and deception against evicted residents of Themistokleous squat

Solidarity Demonstration in Exarchia, Athens (Photo by Anarcha Feminism)

Following the eviction of the Themistokleous 58 squat in Exarchia, Athens at the beginning of last week, local solidarity groups have been contacted by some of the ex-residents of the squats, who stated that they were deceived into signing deportation papers by being told that they were asylum applications. Despite the fact that such actions are obviously illegal, this practice is quite common, and has already been denounced on several occasions over the last years.

Amid increasing internal violence, lockdown in Moria camp on Lesvos is extended to June 7

We have wrote countless times that “Moria is hell”, we have reported about the unhealthy living conditions, the lack of medical care, overcrowding, tensions within the camp in which around 20,000 people are now locked in for two more weeks. Only in the last week, one woman lost her life after having been stabbed by a neighbour and on Saturday a man was also stabbed and is in critical condition. These are the tragic consequences of EU-sponsored policies that use inhumane living conditions to deter migration.

Despite the dire situation, people keep trying to create for themselves and their children moments of ‘normality’:

The strike of the ‘Moria White Helmets’ of last week seems to have produced some results, as Lesvos authorities promised to support the cleaning activities of the group.

Nea Kevala turns permanent

Journalist Giorgos Christides reported on the recent transformation of Nea Kevala, a camp 20km from the border with North Macedonia. New prefab structures have been brought in, despite the opposition of Frontex and the reduction of border guards in the area. It is suggested that this could be a move to facilitate crossings towards North Macedonia and the balkan route.

Psychosocial support for people on the move

Mental health organisation EPAPSI and UNHCR have established a psychosocial support helpline, in order to provide immediate psychosocial help and access to services for people on the move. The helpline is operated by Community Psychosocial Workers (CPWs) (trained refugees/asylum-seekers) and is available from Monday to Friday from 11 am to 7 pm in Arabic and Farsi.

For support in Arabic, please use this number: 6936514113 (available for Whatsapp, Viber calls, with the option to call you back) — Read more in Arabic HERE.
For support in Farsi, please use this number: 6936514120 (available for Whatsapp, Viber calls, with the option to call you back) — Read more in Farsi HERE.


Updates from Bira and Lipa camps

No Name Kitchen published a text from Y., who has been forced to live in Bira camp in Bihac.

“If there is enough space in Bira, can they force people to go to Lipa (Lipa is a new camp very far from any city and where many people live in a small spot)?

Also, I never saw rules like here. Today, the owner of the house where I used to live wrote me a message to inform that they voted and they made the decision that no one can stay in private apartments.

I never saw policies like here in my whole life… they use the rights of migrants to fill their pockets.

They also published an update on their distribution activity in Velika Kladusa. Read it HERE.


On the closure of the Transit Zone

As we reported in our last digest, the Hungarian government has closed its Transit Zones detention on the border with Serbia following a ruling of the ECJ. Maximilian Steinbeis, writing for Verfassung blog, described the context of this decision:

At the beginning of [last] week, the government had struck a completely different note: Viktor Orbán had accused the ECJ of being in cahoots with the European Parliament and the “bureaucrats” in Brussels in order to “trick Hungarian laws and the Hungarian constitution” and force Hungary to “have to accept migrants against its will”. Using all sorts of football metaphors, the Prime Minister has declared it “obvious” that the Luxembourg Court’s verdict was “contrary to the Hungarian constitution”. But then, all of a sudden: hush, not a word more about it.

The swift change in policies and rhetoric is described as a product of two different factors. On one side, the ECJ ruling is a preliminary ruling procedure: “It was a Hungarian court which had referred the case to Luxembourg and which will now decide on this basis.” On the other hand, the change is an attempt to minimise the exposure to critiques by the EU when negotiations over the budget are approaching.

Read the full article HERE.


RNLI respond to recent media criticism over rescues in the Channel

Over the last weeks the Royal National Lifeboat Institution has been involved in a number of rescues of people on the move in the Channel. As usual, this has attracted media coverage and criticism. RNLI published a statement reminding everyone that:

“We have always rescued those in trouble at sea, no matter who they are or why they need our help. We have been doing this since 1824. We do not judge those we rescue — knowing that someone is in trouble and needs to be rescued is enough.

Please, read the full statement HERE.


Trans-European mobilisation for unconditional European residence permit

Coordinamento Migranti Bologna, the Collectif the Travailleurs sans papier de Vitry and Al Manba Collectif soutien 13 Marseille launched a day of action on the 30th of May. In Bologna, Paris, and in other cities across Europe, migrants and refugees will hold demonstrations and symbolic actions, depending on the conditions imposed by containment measures, to claim, among other things, an unconditional and unlimited European residence permit, which is not linked to family status, income and labor.

…to break the silence over the racism and the exploitation of migrant labor strengthened during the coronavirus pandemic all across Europe and beyond. We will demonstrate to break the isolation of out struggles and our lives. We will speak with one voice. For those who have been living under the blackmail of residence permit for years; for those who are still undocumented after many years; for those who will become illegal because of the pandemic; for those who have just arrived and saw their asylum application denied; for those who are fighting against borders’ violence inside and outside of Europe; for those who suffered and are still suffering sexual violence in the Libyan camps and elsewhere: it is time to assert out freedom against exploitation, we claim an unconditional and unlimited European residence permit, which is not linked to family status, income and labor.

Read the full statements:

Demonstrations in Europe

Over the weekend, Seebrucke organised several demonstrations in German cities, asking for local governments to step up and welcome people on the move stranded in Greece.

They are promoting a Leave No One Behind petition directed to German states authorities, find it HERE.

Europe Must Act held an international day of action on Saturday:

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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.