HarekAct Newsletter V – April, May, and June 2018

Developments on the Greek Islands

In mid-April, after a court decision, the news that the restriction of movement to the mainland for all migrants arriving on the Greek islands from then on had been lifted made the headlines. Hopes were high of these developments among refugees and their supporters. However, the Greek government quickly issued an administrative decision only a couple of days later, reinstating the former policy, known as the “containment policy” that is responsible for the terrible conditions many migrants face.

Meanwhile, in the four-day trial against the #Moria35 in April, 32 of the 35 defendants were collectively convicted of injuring police officers. The process was politically motivated from the very beginning with almost no proof against the defendants. They were collectively convicted to a 26 months suspended prison sentence, though this penalty is temporarily suspended, since their lawyers lodged an appeal against the decision. Valeria Hänsel, who contributes to HarekAct, drawing on her insights on the situation of refugees on Lesvos and focusing on their detention and deportations, wrote a report about the trial, that we published on HarekAct (in German).

In yet another trial aiming at the criminalization of migrants and their supporters, the four lifeguards from Team Humanity and Proem-Aid have finally been acquitted of the charge of attempting to traffic asylum seekers after two years of waiting.

borderline-europe published a travel report (in German) from their research trip to Lesvos in April, sharing their insights into the current situation for migrants on the islands. In the same month, the tensions on Lesvos reached a daunting level, when far-right militants violently attacked refugees and supporters gathering on Lesvos’ main square for several hours without the police intervening. Instead, the officers forcible evicted the refugees afterwards and sent them back to the overcrowded Moria camp.

At the end of May, the difficult living conditions in the Moria camp on Lesvos again culminated in violent attacks between Kurdish and Arab refugees over Kurds’ non-observance of the Ramadan fast. Since then more than 1,000 Kurds have left Moria as they weren’t save in the camp. They found a temporary save space and great support by civil society in the self-run Pikpa camp and a former sports arena. The police threatened to delete their asylum claims and collectively deport them to Turkey if they refused to return to the Moria camp. The Kurdish community answered with a letter demanding that the Greek and EU authorities should respect their rights. In the meantime the North Aegean regional governor threatened with the closure of Pikpa. As a reaction the Pikpa camp published a call for solidarity.

The Dying at Sea Continues

In our last newsletter, we already reported about the shipwreck off Agathonisi, when 16 people lost their lived. In the aftermaths, a relative of the victims reconstructs how his brother – already on Samos island at the time – had persistently but unsuccessfully tried to convince the authorities to send out a rescue mission. In a solidarity statement, the Watch the Med Alarm Phone rightly asks whether they have been “Left to Die in the Aegean Sea”.

On 24th of April, rescue teams and activists on Lesvos carried out a memorial-ceremony to remember the 22 people that had died in a similar shipwreck one year ago.

Despite all this outrage, the dying at sea continues caused by the dangerous routes that many people take due to the restrictive EU migration politics: On 15th May seven people, among them three children, died in a shipwreck according to the Turkish Coast Guard and on 3rd of June another nine people lost their lives in another shipwreck.

Ruthless deportation to Afghanistan

A debate has been stirred in Turkey about rising numbers of refugees from Afghanistan, although they are quite low compared to the 3.5 million refugees from Syria living in the country. According to officials, 27,000 Afghan migrants have entered Turkey since the beginning of the year, fleeing violence, conflict and persecution. In April Amnesty International has reported of mass-deportations and forced ‘voluntary returns’ from Turkey to Afghanistan: “The scale of this crackdown is extraordinary. In recent weeks the Turkish authorities have escalated a ruthless deportation drive which has seen thousands of Afghans rounded up, packed onto planes and returned to a warzone. Thousands more are in detention, being treated more like criminals than people fleeing conflict and persecution.” Turkish media regularly report about these deportations. In April alone more than 7,000 were deported, with 2,000 migrants in detention at imminent risk of being deported as well.

Turkish-Greek readmission agreement suspended

In the beginning of June Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavuşoğlu announced the suspension of the Greek-Turkish bilateral readmission agreement after continued tensions regarding the eight soldiers that had fled to Greece after the failed coup. There is conflicting information on whether the agreement is only applicable to migrants who had crossed the land border and how many migrants have so far been deported under this agreement. However the readmission agreement under the EU-Turkey statement is still being applied. Therefore the suspension does not mean a stop to deportations from Greece to Turkey.

HarekActs latest blog-contributions

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on 15th May that Turkey has joined the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). A week later we published an analysis explaining the European think tank’s political agenda of “migration management” and its Western-centered attempts to control and govern migration as well as Turkey’s possible motives for joining.

In mid-April we published an article by Garib Mirza, a freelance researcher focusing on the ongoing conflict in Syria and on the Syrian refugees. For HarekAct Mirza wrote about counter narratives to the ‘European Dream’ and searched for some answers to the question why Syrians decide to stay in Turkey.

HarekAct participated in the last kritnet conference in Göttingen

The HarekAct editorial board attended the 16th kritnet conference in Göttingen last month – a good occasion to share and exchange knowledge, meet our friends and colleagues again and discuss future projects and plans. We took part in the workshop on the “Post 2015 Border Regime – Re-Stabilization of the European Border Regime after the ‘Long Summer of Migration.’” We discussed the extension of borders into the cities following the example of Istanbul, the state of the border regime and the public debate on migration in Turkey, and the impact and future of the EU-Turkey statement for both Greece and Turkey. We will soon share our presentations and inputs as blog posts on HarekAct.