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AYS Weekend Digest 27–28/2/2021 People left on the streets as Filoxenia shuts down

15 lives lost in the central Mediterranean — 363 rescued by SeaWatch wait for safe port — New lockdown measures in Samos and Greece — UK to expand women’s detention — Denmark attempts to move reception centres to third countries…

Featured — People left on the streets as Filoxenia shuts down

Several evictions are planned for Monday 1st of March from IOM structures throughout the country, part of the ‘Filoxenia’ project, which is shutting down. It is estimated that in total around 7,000 people will be evicted.

As reported by Vasilika Moon, organisation operating in Corinth:

the Filoxenia program provided temporary accommodation to asylum seekers at state-leased hotels. Seventy-nine hotels were leased under Filoxenia in the last 15 months. It provided 6,898 places to asylum seekers. The hotels hosted vulnerable groups from the reception and identification centres of the islands, including families with children.

So what’s the result? almost 7000 people in the streets in distress. Among them many many families and children.

We are receiving dozens of calls of desperate people looking for a place to stay and for food. The majority of them still don’t have the official documents yet and so they can’t travel or be included in other help programs.

Evictions already took place over the last month and have left people on the street in Thessaloniki, Athens and Corinthos (Agioi Theodoroi).

Viktoria Solidarity report about the situation in the Athenian Platia Victoria, where people started gathering, in a cold reminder of the situation of last summer.

Since Friday night there have again been people sleeping on the square after having been evicted from an IOM hotel in Thessoloniki. The hotel was part of a recently terminated government-run program called FILOXENIA that temporarily housed people transferred from the islands.

We have been told that on Monday an IOM hotel in Nea Makri, that houses up to 500 people will also be evicted.

People do not have adequate food, water, warm clothes or access to healthcare.

As the number of families in the square grew from Friday to Sunday police presence and harassment increased, against both people on the move and solidarians.

On Saturday night cops shouted at the people to show their papers. As we were standing there bringing some food, the cops came over to us and fined us for breaking the curfew. Throughout, the argument and language of the cops was racist, dehumanizing, and threatening. They shouted at the seated families again, and left.

On Sunday, authorities took people sleeping in Platia Victoria to the Amygdaleza detention centre. There is no reason for their detention and no information has been given on the duration of their detention.

The closing of the Filoxenia accommodation programme is part of the restructuring of the Greek refugee support system. Now, only the Helios accommodation program is available for people leaving the camps. As we previously reported, registering for Helios in normal times is difficult; during lockdown it becomes impossible.

At every step of the asylum process people are forced to rely on temporary benefits, designed to never be enough, and designed to shift people around. This is an intentional structure of fear designed to separate people from society.

In Sparta, an eviction of 70 people is taking place at the time of writing. We have been informed that police gave the residents an ultimatum before cutting water and electricity supplies at 11am.

It is also reported that the Migration Ministry has shared lists with the names of people evicted with camp managers in the country, banning them from accessing the structures.

Greece carries on its unabated descent into authoritarianism. In these last days, Dimitris Koufountinas is risking his own life in a 52 day long hunger strike to demand the respect of the country’s prison laws and its transfer out of the maximum security prison to which he has recently (and illegally) been transferred. The government has repeatedly announced that they won’t go back on their decision, in what feels like a personal vendetta. Greek prisons and detention centres, as we reported several times, have been sanctioned by national and international observers as lacking safety, hygiene and as a place of arbitrary abuse and violence. A recent article by John Washington, which includes a reconstruction by Forensic Architecture, points at the racial profiling embedded in the practice of illegal pushbacks to Turkey, and frames “migrant detention in unknown places as enforced disappearance”.

8 people illegally deported from Lesvos to Turkey shortly after they landed on the Greek island, have signed, along with the Greek Helsinki Monitor and Josoor, a letter to Greek and European authorities, demanding their return to Greece to exercise their rights.

But violence, abuse of rights and illegal deportations don’t apply to every migrant:

SEA

Another tragic weekend in the central Mediterranean

At least 15 people have drowned in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast on Sunday. Alarm Phone had received a first distress call from the 125 people on the deflating boat in the early morning, reporting people in the water. They immediately reached out to European and Libyan authorities, which at first refused to intervene. Only hours later the EU-funded Libyan coast guard decided to intervene. It was already too late for 15 of them. The other 95 people were returned to Libya.

Sea Watch has been involved in 6 different rescues over the weekend. 363 people had already been rescued in the first 5 operations, when the crew found 90 more people in critical situation and transferred them on the Sea Watch life raft. Only this morning, the Italian coast guard arrived to transport them in Lampedusa. The Sea Watch and its 363 passengers now await a port of safety.

Sea-Eye 4 baptised

GREECE

Lesvos — Hand grenade found in Moria 2.0

Dunya Collective report that the hand grenade in this photo “was found yesterday by a resident of #Moria2. It was found at the recreational area on the hill of the camp. Right here many do sports and children play. This camp is not a safe place. The grenade was buried by the finder.” This happens one week after minister Mitarakis commented that the camp had no problems… This is the last of several pieces of weaponry and unexploded ordnances which have been found in the camp (part of it was a former firing range).

Lesvos — Protest against new superstructure in Mytilene

A motorised protest took place in Mytilene on Sunday in protest with the new closed camp which is being built on the island.

Lockdown measures extended

The lockdown and curfew measures have been extended for one more week. Attica, Athens and other parts of the country are still classed as ‘deep red’, with forms of ‘hard lockdown’ in place while Samos, Corinth and other towns have been now classed as ‘increased risk — red’. In Samos, which had been so far exempted of some measures due to the consequences of the recent earthquakes, now has a night curfew from 6pm to 5am every day. “During daytime, traffic is allowed for 6 warrant reasons — by sending SMS to 13033 (from Greek phone) OR exhibiting ‘extraordinary movement permit’ OR written self-certification.” For more information about Samos, read HERE. For more information about the changes in the country, HERE.

The impact of COVID-19 on people on the move

Not surprisingly, a recent study published by The Lancet reveals that “compared to the general population the risk of COVID-19 infection among migrants in reception facilities was 2.5 to 3 times higher; the risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection was higher among migrant populations in reception structures on the Greek mainland, but higher still among migrant populations in RICs in the Greek islands and the land border with Turkey.”

CROATIA

Croatian Pushbacks continue

HUNGARY

9385 Pushbacks in 73 days

In the 73 days since the EU Court of Justice ruled that pushbacks breach EU law 9385 pushbacks have been carried out. Here they are represented by 1160 pins on the above map. There have been more that 65,000 pushbacks since 2016.

DENMARK

9 NGOs warn against Danish Government’s proposed bill

The Danish Government is trying to pass a bill that will move reception centres to third countries. NGOs are concerned that this will not in fact prevent the dangerous journeys people take to Europe, as people will still have to claim asylum in Denmark, and will lead to rights violations far from the view of the Danish public.

Experience has shown that in these situations there is less access to legal advice, courts, medical care, rehabilitation for traumatized refugees, and that accommodation conditions are often inadequate. Even if Denmark succeeds in establishing a reception center where basic human rights would be respected, asylum case processing would take place very far away from the Danish public, and the regulatory control and monitoring functions in Denmark.

UK

Home Office to continue and increase the detention of women

The Home Office is building a new detention centre to lock up women in County Durham and is planning more small centres and areas within existing detention facilities despite previously promising an end to this practice.

Sign the petition to stop the detention of women HERE.

COVID cases in UK Detention Centres

Detention Action has reported that there have been nearly 200 COVID cases in detention centres in the UK since January, unsurprising since up to 28 people share one room. They have started a petition to close them HERE.

WORTH READING

  • Italy’s Failed Migration Fix Has Led to Chaos in Libya. In a moment in which a 6-year-long trial against Eritrean migrants accused of ‘aiding illegal migration’ is revealing the inconsistency of the charges, and in which ex-minister Marco Minniti, responsible for the agreements between Libya and Italy on migration, is hired by the arms company Leonardo, this article looks into the role of Italy in destabilising the north African country.
  • No More Morias. Lesvos and the European policy of isolation. The Saxon Refugee Council eV and DunyaCollective have published a 65 page long brochure on the situation on the Greek island. You can request it HERE.
  • Toxic: Impunity and Deterrence: “The authorities don’t give a damn about the living conditions of the refugees here [Samos]. You would need to be living on another planet not to know this.” Published by Samos Chronicles

WORTH ATTENDING

Campaign against immigration reporting — A UK based meeting will be held on Wednesday 3 March from 6pm — 8pm on Zoom. Hosted by Migrants Organise and These Walls Must Fall organisers from Right to Remain.

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

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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.