|Statewatch article: RefNo# 36285
|Statewatch News Online, April 2016
|- Macedonian police teargas, pepper spray refugees at Greek border: who supplied the "crowd control equipment"?
Idomeni: Children teargassed as FYROM goes against refugees in Greece (keeptalkinggreece.com, link) "There has never happened before: that police of one country fires teargas on the soil of another country. FYROM police made extensive use of teargas and sound flares against refugees and migrants who are on Greece’s soil."
Macedonian police use teargas on migrants at Greek border (Reuters, link): "Macedonian police used teargas to push back hundreds of migrants from a border fence on Sunday at a sprawling refugee camp on the Greek border, a Reuters witness said. Teargas was fired on a crowd of more than 500 people who had gathered at the frontier at the makeshift camp of Idomeni. A Greek police source said there was "tension" in the area but declined to comment further."
Macedonia police deploy tear gas on refugees at Idomeni (DW, link): "For the first couple of hours the protests were calm. After speaking with Greek police, five refugees even agreed to go to the border to negotiate with the Macedonian authorities. "We are not the ones who keep the borders closed," a Macedonian police officer said with the help of an English-speaking interpreter. "We are following Europe's orders. Please remain calm and peaceful and do not try to break the fence."
One of the representatives responded: "We understand, and we want to be peaceful. But behind me there are 10,000 people - refugees who are fleeing war - and they have been here for months now. We want a solution."" Ten minutes later the clashes broke out."
See: Leaked Skopje letter exposes ‘closed borders’ coalition (7.3.16, euractiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / A list of requests to protect external borders recently sent to several member states by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has exposed the weaknesses of the group of countries blocking an EU-wide solution of the refugee crisis... Balkan states met in Vienna on 24 February to discuss possible solutions to the refugee crisis in the Western Balkans region, including closing borders. Greece was not invited. Hosted by Austria’s EPP-affiliated foreign and interior ministries, the meeting, attended by Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia...
A week later (1 March), police chiefs from four Balkan countries — Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia — along with Austria, the Dutch presidency and Hungary, met in Belgrade...The former Yugoslav republic sent a detailed 12-page letter to several member states describing its needs, in order to have its southern border under full control....It also asks for equipment to be used for crowd control, and the monthly expenses for personnel, vehicles, and the technical capability of an army to be fully covered....In Annex No 3, “Equipment for crowd control”, Macedonia requests special bombs (shock, with rubber balls) pepper spray and crowd control dispensers."
See Annex 3: Equipment for crowd control (pdf) which countries suppled: "crows control dispenser" "pepper sprays", "Tasers", "rubber bullets", "acoustic device to break up mob", "Launcher (grenade with rubber balls"? (and see Footnote).
Note: The table contains individual and collective equipment for a platoon to deal with crowd"
See: Electra (link)
"We kindly request Médecins du Monde Greece, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save The Children, and volunteer doctors on Idomeni camp, once they finish treating people / referring them to hospitals, to communicate with me. A massive appeal for investigation, accountability and urgent respect to fundamental rights has been addressed to Greek and F.Y.R.O.M.'s authorities concerning today's events at Idomeni and the teargas bombing of vulnerable persons (among which thousands of children, and persons with compromised health and disabilities) in tents, who did not participate in any hostile act towards border's officials.
The report and urgent request to FYROM, submitted by me as authorized by - among others- 26 single refugee mothers with seventy children- is also being sent to the Office of the Special Representative of the European Union and the Delegation of the European Commission in Skopje, and to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - OSCE in Skopje.
All those holding documentation (pictures, videos, testimonies etc.) concerning today's events are also invited to send us relative information, with a note that we can use it in front of national and supra-national authorities, in the email email@example.com."
See also: Migrants clash with police on Greece-FYROM border (ekathimerini.com, link): "Clashes continued into the afternoon, and the wind brought tear gas fumes into a nearby makeshift camp on the Greek side of the border holding over 11,000 stranded migrants. Many people, including small children, who were not involved in the clashes, were suffering from respiratory problems.
Volunteer doctors were treating several dozen migrants with respiratory problems, slight injuries from the plastic bullets and facial injuries from close quarter clashes when the fence was temporarily breached, Achilleas Tzemos, deputy field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders told The Associated Press. He said three were referred to hospitals."
- EU Council of the European Union: Council Decision of 23 March 2016 establishing the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union within the Joint Readmission Committee on a Decision of the Joint Readmission Committee on implementing arrangements for the application of Articles 4 and 6 of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Turkey on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation from 1 June 2016 (pdf)
This Decision brings forward the starting date on the main Agreement adopted in 2014: AGREEMENT between the European Union and the Republic of Turkey on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation (pdf)
- The EU and Turkey have struck a deal to trade refugees back and forth. (video, link). Speaking the blunt truth.
- Uncertain Future: Weaknesses Emerge in EU-Turkey Refugee Deal (Spiegel Online, link): "The EU is praising the first deportations this week from Greece to Turkey as a breakthrough for the recent refugee agreement with Ankara. But it was little more than a show. Many believe the deal will fail to survive the expected legal challenges."
- Germany: Pro Asyl: Despite subsequent improvements: EU-Turkey deal violates fundamental human rights! (link):
"“These plans are simply illegal”
Vehement criticism of the planned deal has already been voiced in the run-up to it. On 8 March Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated: “As a first reaction, I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law.” The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights found similarly clear words: “These plans are simply illegal”.
European Commission: Turkey is not a “safe third country”
The European Commission tries to play down and obfuscate the legal obstacles of the EU-Turkey deal. According to law in the European Union a “safe third country” has to have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees without reservations. The European Commission now merely talks of “equivalent protection” to the Convention. That amounts to admitting that Turkey does not meet the necessary conditions now. The required protection is not available in Turkey: The Convention does not apply to refugees from Syria, Iraq and other non-European countries.
We continue to say no to this dirty deal with Turkey! Together with our partner organizations in Europe we will advocate for protection applicants in the Aegean not to be mere objects of a European return mechanism."
- Greece: Are You Syrious (link, 9.4.16):
"According to the Government sources, at 8AM today there were 52,953 refugees stranded in Greece. There were 6,750 people stranded on the islands - 3,873 on Lesvos, 712 on Samos, 1,703 on Chios, 323 on Leros, 15 on Kos, 79 on Rodos, 15 on Kalymnos and 30 on Kastellorizo. The Government reports 14,398 in Attica region of whom 4,569 in Piraeus port. Further, there is 2,528 people in Central Greece and 340 in Southern Greece (in Kyllini Andravidas). Finally, the Government reports 28,937 in Northern Greece of whom 11,269 in Idomeni. Number of new arrivals on the islands in 24h period until 07:30am was 120, of which 116 on Lesvos and 4 on Samos...
Massive protest occurred in front of the EU 's offices in Athens. Greeks and refugees have united in their struggle against the EU-Turkey deal in Athens, flooding the streets of Greek capital with tons of positive energy and determination. Riot police with gas masks on didn't have to intervene as many kids in the rally passed by them.."
- UNHCHR on 5.4.16: 151,104 arrivals in Greece, 19,340 in Italy. 711 deaths/missing. On 8 April 2016: Arrivals in Greece: 152,981 (up 1,877) in Italy: 19,326 (down 14) and 711 dead/missing (no change) Also Arrivals in Lesvos: last seven days
UNHCR: Daily Report (8.4.16):
"Out of the approximately 6,000 people who arrived to the Greek Islands since the 20 March, following the the EU-Turkey, at least 2,870 expressed interest to apply for asylum. The Greek authorities confirmed that they will not be returned as their applications need to be filed and assessed. Consequently, returns will take place at a slower rate than envisaged." and
"Rising tension and distress have been reported across Greece. Over the past week, several protests took place at Eidomeni, Piraeus, on the Thessaloniki-Evzonoi national highway, as well as across the islands. On Chios, UNHCR reports observing noteworthy limitations of asylum claims being processed following registration of intent; both processes are experiencing significant backlog. Due to uncertainty and lack of clarity, tension on the island manifested when 800 people left the vastly overcrowded facility last week which ultimately led to a march into Chios town. Yesterday, on Samos, reports show that approximately 200 people left the hotspot and were moving towards the center of Samos where they congregated peacefully. No violence was reported."
- Greece-UK: Would YOU go as far as this mum has, to help a Facebook friend you've never met? (plymouthherald.co.uk, link):
"A year ago, Nina Coulson was a mum of six enjoying ordinary family life, until making Facebook friendships with rescuers hauling desperate refugees from the waters of the Greek island of Lesbos. The horror stories about what they've witnessed will move you and have changed Nina's life
Now, she runs a charity, UK Action for Refugees and has added remarkable teenage lifesaver Elleni Kempson to her brood. And she credits big-hearted Westcountry people for making a difference.
She says: 'I think this crisis has changed the face of charity in the UK. We're just people helping people.'"
- Greece: Fifth ICJ-ECRE Submission on the execution of M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece (AIDA, link)
"ECRE and the International Commission of Jurists presented on 24 March 2016 a joint submission on the situation of the asylum procedure and reception conditions in Greece to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The submission was presented in view of a meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the implementation by Greece of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in the case of M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece that will take place next June."
See: Joint submission (pdf)
- Europol agents deployed at Greek hot spots to filter out extremists, smugglers (ekathimerini.com, link): "European police agency Europol has deployed a team of undercover agents across Greece’s migrant registration centers, or hot spots, with the aim of stopping the infiltration of ISIS operatives and curbing the activity of other criminal networks, Kathimerini has learned.
In an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, Robert Crepinko, the Slovenian director of Europol’s newly-launched European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC), said that 10 undercover officers are currently stationed on the Aegean islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Leros, as well as the port of Piraeus, with the task of checking suspicious immigrants against Europol’s databases in the Netherlands.
“Together with the Greek authorities we are doing secondary security checks to assess the possibly dangerous migrants before they would enter the EU,” Crepinko said."
- Amnesty International: Refugees Detained Unlawfully on Greek Islands (Press Project, link):
"Refugees and migrants are detained unlawfully in dire conditions according to Amnesty International which was granted a permit by the Greek government to access the hotspots of Aegean islands, Chios and Lesvos.
“On the edge of Europe, refugees are trapped with no light at the end of the tunnel. A setup that is so flawed, rushed and ill-prepared is ripe for mistakes, trampling the rights and well-being of some of the most vulnerable people,” said Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director for Europe at Amnesty International.
“People detained on Lesvos and Chios have virtually no access to legal aid, limited access to services and support, and hardly any information about their current status or possible fate. The fear and desperation are palpable.”
The open reception centers are now closed detention centers, where migrants and asylum seekers are automatically detained in groups, which is by definition arbitrary and therefore unlawful. In fact among them, there is a large number of pregnant women, children and babies." [emphasis added]
- News (9-10.4.16)
Five migrants drawn off Samos after boat capsizes (ekathimerini.com, link): "Five migrants – four women and one child – drowned when their boat capsized off the Greek island of Samos close to Turkey’s coast, Greek coast guard officials said on Saturday. Five other migrants were rescued, the officials said, and coast guard vessels assisted by a helicopter were searching for more survivors.... Although flows have slowed, migrants continue to reach the Greek islands. Greek authorities said 149 had arrived on Lesvos, Samos and Chios in the 24 hours to Friday morning."
Erdogan warns he will ditch refugee deal if EU breaks promises (euractiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the European Union on Thursday (7 April) that Ankara would not implement a key deal on reducing the flow of refugees if Brussels fails to fulfil its side of the bargain"
Refugee crisis reaches Greece's western shores (DW, link): "The refugee crisis in Greece is making its impact felt even in areas far away from the islands of the Eastern Aegean and the country's northern borders. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from the Peloponnese."
Greece: Athens DNA lab helps trace those lost at sea on Aegean crossing (UNHCR, link): "It is an obligation of our state and a mark of civilisation," said Miniati, who was promoted last month from head of the DNA service to oversee the entire criminology service. "If someone is not found and buried, the process of mourning cannot begin. It's as though the souls continue to hover." About 4,400 people have died in the Mediterranean since 2015. The refugee crisis has meant that the DNA lab, located in an Athens suburb, has gone from dealing with about 30 cases a year on average to as many as 70 in two days, as happened last summer after two major shipwrecks in as many days. From last year up to March 20 this year, Greek authorities reported 571 people dead or missing on the route from Turkey to Greece."
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