Tag Archives: Aegean Islands

Lesvos Fights Against its Role as Europe’s “Open Air Prison”

Author: Valeria Hänsel

The Greek island of Lesvos is going through a period of strong protests. Across all political camps, the people on the island refuse to carry out the European policy measures which are transforming Lesvos into an open-air prison for refugees on the edge of Europe. Groups that are strongly divided by ideological convictions, including local left wing, moderate and right wing groups, refugees and international activists share one concern: They oppose the situation created by the EU-Turkey statement.

While right wing groups are driven by racist sentiments, the majority of protesters does not longer accept the dehumanizing living conditions in the European “Hotspot Camp” Moria.  More than 6.000 people are forced to live in overcrowded containers or in small summer tents and are exposed to wind and weather without adequate protection. Some have been forced to live under these conditions for more than 18 months and six people have died in Moria during the last winter.

To make this situation visible and fight for freedom of movement, there have been several protests marches and refugees have occupied space on the central Sappho Square in Lesvos’ capital Mytilene for the whole of November. When the police evicted the square, they occupied the local office of the ruling party SYRIZA with the support of local antifascists.

Continue reading Lesvos Fights Against its Role as Europe’s “Open Air Prison”

Memorial to drowned refugees vandalised on Greek island

Via Middle East Eye – Vandals have damaged a memorial on the Greek island of Lesbos to refugees who lost their lives trying to reach safety in Europe, rights groups said on Thursday.

Black paint was poured on the memorial, which was erected in 2013 on the east coast of Lesbos after 20 refugees drowned trying to reach the island in the winter of 2012. In 2015, hundreds more would die in the Aegean Sea as over a million people – mainly fleeing the Syrian civil war – crossed to Greece from Turkey.

“One can only wonder what the perpetrators were thinking of, insulting the memory of people who were so unjustly lost”

– Iva Vougiouka-Frangou, head of local support group Continue reading Memorial to drowned refugees vandalised on Greek island

Dubious Deportations to Turkey Prevented!

Author: Valeria Hänsel

On Thursday, 23rd November 2017, the deportation of two migrants was stopped last minute. The two men from Iran and Afghanistan were held in detention on Lesvos Island. Shortly before they were transported to the harbour of Mytilene to be quietly deported to Turkey via ferry, lawyers and activists managed to intervene and stop the deportation of the two men. Eight other people from Haiti, Tunisia, Afghanistan and Pakistan were however deported and will be detained in Turkey, among them a family with a small child.

For the two cases that were stopped, there were serious doubts about the lawfulness of the deportation practice. Alireza Kamran[1] from Iran is suffering from severe health problems while Tarik Chian from Afghanistan was prevented from exhausting his legal remedies in Greece. The names and cases of the other deportees were not known to the lawyers and activists monitoring the deportation. Therefore the legality of their deportation cannot be assessed but it is doubted that the persons concerned have received sufficient support to challenge second instance rejections.

Continue reading Dubious Deportations to Turkey Prevented!

Human rights violations by design : EU-Turkey statement prioritises returns from Greece over access to asylum

In the frame of a research project coordinated by the University of Utrecht a new policy paper was published on the impact of the EU-Turkey Deal:

“The EU-Turkey-Statement proposes to reduce arrival rates and deaths in the sea by subjecting individuals who arrive on Greek islands after 20 March 2016 to fast-track asylum procedures and, in the case of negative decisions, to returns to Turkey. In exchange, EU member states have agreed to take one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian readmitted from Greece to Turkey. The Statement builds on the deterrent effect of returns and turns high return rates into an indicator for a successful border policy. This policy brief examines the impact of the Statement’s focus on returns for people seeking asylum in Greece. The analysis draws on interviews with asylum seekers and practitioners, phone interviews with people who were returned from the Greek islands following the EU-Turkey Statement, as well as on participant observations at refugee camps and inter-agency meetings on Lesbos and Chios in July and August 2017.”

10-year-old Afghan boy dies during migrant boat evacuation by Frontex vessel

Via Keep Talking Greece – A 10-year-old Afghan boy with disabilities was found dead in a boat carrying 66 migrants from Turkey to the island of Lesvos. The migrant boat was stopped by a Bulgarian Frontex vessel within the Greek territorial waters off Lesvos on Saturday morning. According to the parents, the boy was trampled by other passengers during the evacuation by the Frontex vessel. Continue reading 10-year-old Afghan boy dies during migrant boat evacuation by Frontex vessel

Tension breaks out in Lesvos public square over protesting Afghans

Via Ekathimerini  – Fresh tension broke out in the capital of Lesvos on Wednesday after a small group of Afghan asylum seekers attempted to set up camp on one of the island’s public squares in demand that they be transferred to the Greek mainland.

Migrant rights groups ring alarm over approaching winter

Via Ekathimerini  – With winter fast approaching and migrant camps on the Greek islands reaching breaking point due to overcrowding, 20 human rights group have written a letter to the Greek government calling for immediate action.

Greece should act to end a “containment policy” that forces asylum seekers arriving on the Greek islands to remain in overcrowded and unsafe facilities, the human rights and aid groups said in the letter, 19 months after a similar open letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged the government to move migrants to the mainland, where better conditions and services are available. Continue reading Migrant rights groups ring alarm over approaching winter

Bodies of two refugee children washed ashore on Lesvos island

Via Keep Talking Greece – Authorities on the island of Lesvos stand before a mystery as the bodies at least two children were washed ashore in the less than 24 hours. A third body was discovered later on Saturday. No information about age or sex so far, as coast guard members were heading to the area as this post was written. Continue reading Bodies of two refugee children washed ashore on Lesvos island

EU Parliamentarians Warn Refugees May Die on Greek Islands

Via Greek Reporter – Council and the European Commission must work urgently with Greece to prevent a humanitarian crisis this winter, according to the he Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament.

The group called for a debate in the parliament’s plenary session next week in Strasbourg. “Thousands of people seeking asylum on the Greek islands still do not have adequate protection for the coming cold months,” said S&D Group President Gianni Pittella. Continue reading EU Parliamentarians Warn Refugees May Die on Greek Islands

Anger rises in Lesbos over crowded refugee camps

Via The Guardian – A surge in refugee arrivals has led to soaring tensions on Greece’s outlying Aegean islands, with Lesbos’s mayor accusing the government in Athens of allowing it to become a giant prison camp.

Boycotting celebrations on Wednesday marking the 105th anniversary of Lesbos’s liberation from Ottoman Turkish rule, local officials gave the leftist-led coalition in Athens an ultimatum: either it took immediate action to decongest the island or risked mass protests from an increasingly unruly population. Continue reading Anger rises in Lesbos over crowded refugee camps