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.
In the frame of a research project coordinated by the University of Utrecht on the impact of the EU-Turkey Statement for refugees in Turkey and Greece a new policy paper was published! This part focuses on the situation for refugees once returned to Turkey:
“This policy brief examines whether asylum seekers readmitted from Greece to Turkey after the EU-Turkey Statement as of April 2016 were able to access effective protection in Turkey thereafter. The EU has long collaborated with countries of origin and transit in the form of migration compacts, readmission agreements and Memoranda of Understanding. The EU-Turkey Statement is different from prior forms of agreements because of the use of the safe-third-country concept. As a result, Greece can reject asylum applications of people who passed through Turkey as being inadmissible and shift the responsibility of merit assessments to Turkey.”
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 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.
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.”
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→
Via Bianet– In its meeting of 2018 budget, the European Union (EU) has decided to cut 105 million Euros in funds to Turkey due to the “political developments in Turkey”. The European Parliament (EP), which advocates cut to Turkey, attended the meeting as well. Continue reading EU Decides to Cut Funds to Turkey→
Via Birgün (link in Turkish) – The EU who said to give 3 billion Euro to Turkey in the frame of the EU-Turkey day for refugees, has recently paid its 2.9 billion. 1.6 billion Euro of this amount were allocated for education, health, municipality infrastructure, socioeconomic programs and migration governance. 300 million Euro were given to the Ministry of National Education and another 300 million Euro of its was given to Ministry of Health. UNICEF claims that although a large amount of money was allocated for education, 390 billion school-age refugees are still not provided with educational opportunities. 2
Via Sea-Watch – BREAKING: Turkish Coast Guards attack refugees!
On Friday morning, members of the Turkish Coast Guard fired gunshots and physically attacked refugees outside of their territorial waters in a clear violation of Maritime and International Law. Instead of helping those in distress at sea according to UNCLOS regulations, they stirred panic and forced 20 refugees back to Turkish shores. Greek Coast Guards called a volunteer rescue team to help transfer 17 people to Lesvos. Richard Heard was one of the Refugee Rescue crew members present that night. This is what he witnessed: Continue reading Sea-Watch: Additional info on pushback incident report by Refugee Rescue→
Via Refugee Rescue – This morning (10th November) at 3.47am, Refugee Rescue boat ‘Mo Chara’ received a request by the Hellenic coastguard to assist in transitioning 17 very distressed and hypothermic people to port.
Several arrivals reported that their dinghy – originally carrying 37 people – was intercepted by the Turkish coast guard in Greek waters. It is alleged that a Turkish official fired multiple gun shots into the air before retreating, and then returned to fire shots into the water close to the dinghy, while ramming the boat with their vessel on a number of occasions. Continue reading Pushback, Violence and Separation of Families in Greek Waters!→