Are You Syrious?
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Are You Syrious?

AYS Daily Digest 03/07/2020 : FEATURE — Where Does the Money Go in Libya?

Greek NGO Registry Violates Human Rights/// Ocean Viking Declares State of Emergency/// Spanish Government Plans to Build New CIE/// & More News

Protest against a new CIE by APDHA Campo de Gibraltar

FEATURE

The EU and Italy Pledged Millions of Euro to Libya. Where is the Money Going?

Since 2017, Italy has paid out over €450 million to Libya, including EU funds (when adding up equipment, supplies, and other forms of aid). The EU’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa has paid out an additional €318 million. In exchange for aid, Libya agreed to stop departures of people on the move on their way to Europe by any means necessary. However, nobody knows where that money went.

For example, about €18 million of this money went to something called the “Projects of the Libyan Municipalities,” which was supposed to help strengthen crucial infrastructure such as waste collection and hospitals. However, very little of that money actually trickles down to the communities it’s supposed to help. For example, over €1 million was allocated to buy supplies for Abu Surra Village Hospital, which is actually “little more than a dispensary.”

Most of the money is probably lining the pockets of various human traffickers and warlords, some of whom are on international blacklists. Do the Italian taxpayers know their money is being used to further enrich war criminals?

Italy and the EU’s deal with Libya is little more than blood money—essentially a bribe to war criminals to prevent crossings to Europe, so the EU itself doesn’t have to get its hands dirty. None of that money is helping ordinary Libyans, and it most certainly isn’t helping the thousands of people on the move being tortured in Libya. Conditions have worsened consistently, yet over 5,000 people have been returned to Libya so far this year. Not only is Italy and the EU’s deal with Libya a waste of money, it’s also causing needless death and suffering.

IOM graphic, via Mediterranea Saving Humans

GREECE

NGO Registry Violates European Convention on Human Rights, Council of Europe Says

The Council of Europe said the Greek Ministry of Immigration Policy’s plan to register all NGOs and NGO workers would violate human rights.

The process of registration would put undue cost and time burdens on NGOs, especially for small organizations. The requirements for registration are very strict, require disclosure of very personal information, and applications have been arbitrarily rejected by authorities, all of which would greatly impede civil society’s ability to function. Thus, it violates the right to privacy and the right to assemble freely, which are both protected in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Hopefully the EU’s action in this case can help NGOs in Greece continue their vital work in an increasingly hostile environment.

More people in distress in Greek waters contacted AlarmPhone on Friday night. Water was entering their boat and they needed to be rescued urgently. AlarmPhone alerted the Greek Coast Guard and a boat was on the scene, but they did not conduct a rescue. AlarmPhone unfortunately lost contact with the boat in distress and they fear the worst. This inaction, especially a few days after 4 people died in the Aegean, is unacceptable!

Rising temperatures are affecting people on the move across Greece. In Patras, people squatting in an abandoned building can only access running water from a pipe in a field near the factory. However, the police started attacking and arresting them whenever they went to get water, even though nobody else is using the pipe or the field. Denying people access to water, especially during the hot Greek summer, is a violation of human rights.

The situation in Greece is taking an unimaginable toll on the mental health of people on the move. A 45-year-old Afghan man died by suicide in a camp in Viotia. After three years of waiting in Greece, his asylum application was rejected. The man had previously experienced mental health issues and the prospect of deportation back to a war-torn country probably seemed too much. Several other people living in Greek camps have attempted or died by suicide recently. The instability and degrading nature of the Greek asylum system is causing irreparable emotional damage to people and is needlessly cruel.

The Greek government’s scheme to expel registered refugees from camps is causing unimaginable levels of homelessness and distress. In Victoria Square in Athens alone, 240 people are camping with no access to toilet facilities and running water. This is a tragedy that could easily be avoided, as Greece receives EU funding to provide safe housing for people on the move.

An official investigation found that the warehouse fire in Chios in March was caused by arson. Arsonists also targeted a van used by volunteers. However, the police have not found the perpetrators even after four months.

And finally, some organizations that could use support:

Mazi Housing Project helps displaced young men find housing and start their path towards an independent life. You can learn more, including how to donate to them, here.

Refugees 4 Refugees on Samos is continuing their vital work by donating supplies to the Samos Social Market and preparing for more distributions. If you would like to learn more about their work and how to join them, check out their Facebook post.

This post has a list of organizations in Greece looking for volunteers (be sure to check the comments).

SEA

State of Emergency on Ocean Viking

After days stuck at sea amid deteriorating conditions, the Ocean Viking declared a state of emergency and called for immediate disembarkation. There are over 180 people on board in overcrowded conditions. Some survivors have been on board since June 25th.

Declaring a state of emergency is unprecedented, but the crew feel that they are unable to guarantee the safety of everyone on board. In the past 24 hours, six people have attempted suicide. Many others have expressed suicidal thoughts and other signs of mental distress. The people on board started a hunger strike in protest of their treatment.

In the past week, Ocean Viking sent seven requests for a Place of Safety, all of which were ignored or denied outright. They also requested a transfer just of the 44 survivors suffering the most mental distress, but even that was denied. As MEP Erik Marquardt explains, this callous treatment of people in distress is due to racism, pure and simple.

Instead of providing any meaningful aid, Italy sent—a psychiatrist. No amount of talk therapy or antidepressants can improve the mental health situation of people that have suffered unspeakable trauma and have now been stuck on a ship for over a week in worsening weather conditions. The solution is simple—provide a safe port for the people on board to disembark and receive the physical and mental health treatment they need and a safe place to rebuild their lives.

Otherwise, there will be more blood on Europe’s hands.

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

Suspect Arrested in Murder of 21-Year-Old

A 21-year-old man from Afghanistan was murdered yesterday in the Bosnian village of Kulen-Vakuf, near Bihać. The police arrested a 68-year-old man, who shot the young man in the back, and he has been charged with murder.

We will continue following this case as more information is released to the public.

HUNGARY

Fidesz MEP Calls for More Aggressive Deportations of Rejected Asylum Seekers

Balázs Hidvéghi said the EU needs more laws to enforce return of rejected asylum seekers and that they should legally be forced to leave Europe.

He also complained about “pro-migration political forces and NGOs” wanting to reward illegal entry with permanent residency.

Unfortunately, xenophobia and attacks on NGOs is nothing new from members of Fidesz.

MALTA

Rescue Coordination Center Refuses to Coordinate Rescues

ITALY

Will Italy Be Prosecuted for its Role in the Easter Tragedy?

Following the example of their Maltese counterparts, a group of Italian human rights advocates asked Italian prosecutors to investigate their government’s role in the Easter Tragedy.

The Easter Tragedy refers to an incident that unfolded over Easter weekend, where AlarmPhone received word of a ship in distress in the Mediterranean. The NGO alerted the Maltese authorities, because the ship was in Maltese SAR, and the Italians, because it was only a few kilometers off the coast of Lampedusa. The authorities did nothing, and the people on board were only “rescued” and taken back to Libya (against their will) four days later. In the meantime, 12 people died.

Even though the ship was in Maltese SAR, Italy could have easily rescued those on board, but made no effort to do so.

Since June 1st, over 80,000 applications for regularization of immigration status have been submitted in Italy. The vast majority of these applications came from domestic care workers.

SPAIN

Government Closes CIE in Tarifa, Planning New One in Algeciras

Activists are criticizing government policy as “more of the same”, despite announcements about the definitive closing of the CIE in Tarifa. The CIEs are detention centers for people on the move that have been widely denounced for their human rights violations.

Not only is the government pledging to restart deportations, they are planning to build a new CIE center in Algeciras which would be big enough to hold 500 people. It will cost taxpayers over €20 million, even though the recent pandemic has exposed serious issues with the health infrastructure in the region.

The CIEs have have been closed during the state of emergency, yet there’s been no serious threat to public safety by giving people on the move freedom of movement. This shows that the center is clearly unnecessary and only serves to intimidate and hurt people on the move.

SWITZERLAND

Federal Council Receives 2400 Letters From the “Call By Name — 40,555 Victims of Fortress Europe” Campaign

The campaign was put together by 117 organizations all over Switzerland, who collected letters from ordinary people calling on the Federal Council to accept more refugees.

The campaign organized other initiatives across the country, from memorial services to photo exhibitions raising awareness about sea rescues.

GERMANY

Police Raid Apartment of Football Player Bakery Jatta

Police searched the apartment of Bakery Jatta, a player for HSV, and seized electronics belonging to him and his girlfriend. They alleged that Mr. Jatta, who fled to Europe from Gambia in 2015, lied about his identity and age.

However, Jatta was already investigated by the district office last year and the case against him was closed. The police search only came after a long, racist campaign by the tabloid BILD attacking Jatta and accusing him of having false papers.

Seebrucke Hamburg published a statement in solidarity with Bakery Jatta, calling for the return of his property, an end to the investigation against him once and for all, and that investigations by the Hamburg public prosecutor stop being dictated by the sentiments of the yellow press.

Are You Syrious echoes these sentiments. Full solidarity with Bakery Jatta and all people on the move!

NETHERLANDS

House of Representatives Votes Against Receiving Unaccompanied Children

The Dutch Council of Refugees condemned the vote not only for its humanitarian cruelty, but because the decision was justified by a plan to set up 48 reception centers on the Greek mainland. These reception centers are likely to go the way of countless other schemes to improve conditions in Greece that were sunk by the power of Greek bureaucracy. Even if they were built, they would not provide the kind of livelihood children need to thrive and the plan does nothing to save children from abuse that is currently happening.

Resettling the children in the Netherlands has broad support from local governments and ordinary people. There is no justifiable reason for refusing to help!

DENMARK

Tunisian Activist Faces Deportation Despite Danger to His Life

Nacer Amari, a vocal atheist and human rights activist, faces deportation to his home country of Tunisia. The Danish Refugee Appeals Board says Amari cannot claim asylum on the basis of his atheism and human rights activities because he will not face any issues if he returns to Tunisia. Amari fled his home country in 2012 after receiving death threats, and after initially settling in Romania had to flee from there as well.

Not only is Tunisia in general a hostile environment for dissidents, according to research conducted by Humanists International, Nacer Amari clearly faces credible threat as an individual. Sadly, this is just the latest instance of the Danish authorities rejecting asylum applications from people fleeing danger.

UK

Contracting Out Asylum System Fails to Meet People’s Basic Needs

The UK Home Office’s scheme of contracting out asylum services to private companies Mears, Serco and Clearsprings has failed those they are supposed to serve.

Instead of receiving adequate housing, people were stuck in hotel rooms for months on end living on only £35 a week. They were unable to access doctors, schools, or charities that might provide the assistance they need. People on the move were even unable to access the helpline—the private company Migrant Help only answered one fifth of its calls.

The privatization of asylum services and detention centers deprives asylum seekers of vital services and allows governments to shirk their responsibilities. The living conditions described are unacceptable for a few days, let alone months on end, and make it impossible for someone to integrate or live independently. It’s also immoral for governments to allow private corporations to make a profit off of asylum seekers.

If you want to help, Care4Calais has information about donating money, food, and volunteering. You can also sign this petition from Refugee Rights Europe to stop evictions of asylum seekers housed in temporary accommodation, which is especially dangerous during a pandemic.

WORTH READING

In a small Catalan town, a bar owner dedicates her business to serving African workers, despite pushback from her neighbors.

Refugee Rights Europe published over 20 research reports on the situation for people on the move across Europe.

The blog Forced Migration Current Awareness offers a wealth of information about the situation of people on the move around the world.

This article and video explain the dangers on the Balkan route (in Italian) and what people on the move call “the game.”

Worth Listening to: this podcast about the situation at the EU’s external borders (in German).

Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

If you wish to contribute, either by writing a report or a story, or by joining the info gathering team, please let us know.

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.

If there’s anything you want to share or comment, contact us through Facebook, Twitter or write to: areyousyrious@gmail.com

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Are You Syrious?

Are You Syrious?

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