|Statewatch article: RefNo# 36263
|Statewatch News Online, April 2016
|- Greece: Aid agency denounces ‘politicisation’ of humanitarian assistance (euractiv, link):
"UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi invited representatives from 92 countries to a special summit in Geneva last week in order to address the ongoing crisis. EurActiv Germany spoke to Oxfam’s Robert Lindner, whose organisation presented an update on the current situation at the summit.
Oxfam has withdrawn from Lesbos, like other aid agencies have from other hotspots in Greece. Why?
The hotspots have been converted into detention centres because of the EU-Turkey agreement. Therefore, other aid agencies have withdrawn from Lesbos and Idomeni. We can no longer operate simply on humanitarian principles. These camps are now run by officials from the Greek Ministry of the Interior. It’s no longer about supplying these people with the basic necessities, it’s a matter of deporting them as soon as possible back to Turkey. We are not talking about humanitarian agencies here, but the police. Outside of these detention centres, we are of course still active."
- First "easy cases" arrive in Turkey after deportation from Greek islands begins
On the day the EU-Turkey deal comes into force, over 130 people have been deported from Greece. They arrived in the port of Dikili this morning after being deported from the islands of Lesvos and Chios on boats staffed by Frontex officers, Turkish officials and Greek riot police. Those on board were "mostly Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Moroccans who were already being deported to Turkey before the deal's creation," according to a report in The Guardian, but there were also apparently two Syrians on board, "including a woman who had volunteered to return." The BBC reports that Sri Lankan nationals were also deported.
- BORDER GUARD: European Parliament Study: The proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard: evolution or revolution in external border management? (pdf):
"The proposal significantly reinforces Frontex’s regulatory and operational tasks and provides the Agency with an additional supervisory role. The proposal does not amend the fundamental premise of operational cooperation at the external borders, reserving executive enforcement powers to the Member States. Nonetheless, the concept of shared responsibility in the absence of shared accountability increases existing fundamental rights concerns."
And see: Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Statewatch European Documentation Centre (SEMDOC) Full documentation of Commission, Council and EP documents.
Also: EU border guard: Council documents including "guidance for further work, new European Parliament study
- "EU started biggest official human trafficking in human history!" Turkish campaigners protest today's deportations" (link)
- Facebook: Electra (link): "Greece has not ratified the ECHR Protocol forbidding collective explulsions. Most countries participating in Frontex, though, HAVE. Our governments must be held accountable for this crime."
Comment: Steve Peers: "Every other EU country except the UK has ratified the Fourth Protocol. And surely Greece is covered by the ban on collective expulsion where there is a link to EU law (as there is in asylum cases), due to the EU Charter."
- FORCED RETURNS TO TURKEY: Welcome
"Returnwatch monitors risks that forced returnees from the European Union face upon arrival in Turkey. We are an initiative of volunteers and researchers who operate under the umbrella of the Post-Deportation Monitoring Network.
This website aims to be an accessible and practical tool for people to reach us after having been forcibly returned to Turkey. We seek to connect returnees to Turkey with lawyers and human rights NGOs in Turkey, as well as to document the procedures implemented by Turkish authorities.
Forced returns to Turkey are expected to start on the 4th of April from Greece and by the 1st of June 2016 from other European Union member states."
- Greece: 'No-one intends to go peacefully' (BBC WS, link with video): "Greece is preparing to deport hundreds of migrants back to Turkey today. Their deportations from the islands of Chios and Lesbos is part of a deal between Turkey and the European Union to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. Under the deal, migrants arriving illegally in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected. But questions remain as to how the arrangement is going to be implemented. Electra Koutra is a Greek asylum lawyer working with refugees in the camps in Greece"
- Greece begins refugee deportations under EU plan (ekathimerini.com, link): "Under heavy security, authorities on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios deported 202 migrants and refugees on boats bound for Turkey – the first to be sent back as part of a controversial European Union plan to limit the amount of migration to Europe.
The operation that started at dawn, as migrants were escorted onto small ferries by officers from the EU border protection agency, Frontex, to nearby ports on the Turkish coast, under the program which has been strongly criticized by human rights groups.
"All of the migrants returned are from Pakistan except for two migrants from Syria who returned voluntarily," Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for a government refugee crisis committee, told state TV....
""This is the first day of a very difficult time for refugee rights. Despite the serious legal gaps and lack of adequate protection in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead with a dangerous deal," Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece, told the Associated Press from Lesvos.
"Turkey is not a safe third country for refugees. The EU and Greek authorities know this and have no excuse.""
See also: The final EU/Turkey refugee deal: a legal assessment (EU Law Analysis, link) and: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (pdf)
- Report from Lesvos: 2 April 2016: Electra (FB, link)
"The new law has passed last night. Mass deportation of 750 by tomorrow. 148 detained Pakistanees in Moria (although they are PRE-21 May arrivals).
They thought they were waiting in detention to be transfered to Germany. When some realized they were going to be returned to Turkey, they tried to ask for asylum but were anounced "it is forbidden". Local lawyer had to threaten with reporters to achieve some "expressions for wish to request asylum" registered. The local Asylum Office (reportedly functioning with 2 officers for registrations of asylum claims) is already "booked until the end of May".
People in wheelchair, children and adults, many sleeping on blankets they put on the floor, are all within the population to be deported. The authorities don't announce WHO of these persons will be among the first 750. Noone has been specifically notified that they are "leaving tomorrow".
Lesvos is currently an island. Not only in geophysical terms. It is a space where the rule of law, where respect for fundamental rights does not apply. We call Europe to stop this crime before it is too late." [emphasis added]
- Wrong counts and closing doors: The reception of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe (AIDA, pdf):
"The year 2015 has been marked as a turning point in Europe’s struggle to find adequate responses to the predicament of refugees. The unprecedented number of refugees and migrants arriving irregularly to the continent via the Mediterranean Sea, surpassing one million, and the piecemeal, reactive, often irrational response of Member States, led to coining the term “refugee crisis” as currently one of the most critical tests for the European Union (EU) and its broader region. Against this backdrop, one main issue of concern has been the ability – or lack thereof – of states to receive those seeking refuge in appropriate, dignified conditions as mandated by their protection obligations."
- Greece: Symbolic first step for EU deportation deal – but true test is still to come (Guardian, link):
"Operation to remove 202 people from Greece to Turkey passes unexpectedly calmly, but observers say these were easy cases...
Journalists and activists were caught off-guard by police deploying buses to collect detainees on Lesbos and Chios at the crack of dawn, several hours earlier than announced.
“It is absolutely mind-boggling that neither the media nor human rights organisations had access to the detention facilities to monitor the asylum procedures,” said a Human Rights Watch spokesman, Wenzel Michalski, at the main port on Lesbos where, hours earlier, 136 “non asylum seekers” had been put on boats and expelled to Turkey. “What do they have to hide?” he asked....
Monitors with Amnesty International on Lesbos said the test would come in the weeks ahead when the eyes of the global media were no longer on Lesbos or Dikili across the sea.
“The most important thing now is what happens to those in Moria who have applied for asylum and fear that they are next,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty’s deputy Europe director. “It’s what happens when the media is not looking that will matter most.”
- UNHC Report (1.4.16)
"Slovenia is subject to criticism over the handling of refugees in a report by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). The human rights body took issue in particular with the erection of the razor wire fence, expansion of army powers, and tighter rules for asylum seekers. In its periodic report on Slovenia's implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UNHRC recommended that Slovenia "regularly review the necessity and proportionality of the measures adopted". The Committee also stated that the Slovenian government should ensure it does not discriminate against any asylum applicants solely on the basis of country of origin and safeguard individual processing of asylum applications."
- Are You Srious reports (link): "According to volunteers, there were no new arrivals on the shores of Lesvos today.
However, there have been arrivals in the past few days and volunteers report that the Moria camp is so overcrowded that even families with children and pregnant women now sleep on the ground outside the compound, while Pakistani are being separated and taken away. Volunteers on Lesvos are asking for tents to accommodate them.
Lesvos Solidarity Camp (Pikpa) is a unique volunteer and refugee run camp, which was created in 2012 and is now under threat of closure. It has shelter to the most vulnerable refugees and supported the humanitarian needs of refugees all over the island and other parts of Greece. Following the EU Turkey Deal, the Mayor of Lesvos announced the closure of the camp, along with other solidarity built structures. Refugees will instead be held in closed detention centres run by the army and police. The camp hosts vulnerable refugees, including people with disabilities, lone women and children, and the families of shipwreck survivors. Over the past six months, around 2000 people have been sheltered at the camp. There are currently not enough reception facilities in Greece to look after fit and healthy refugees, let alone those in need of immediate care.
For this reason, volunteers have started a petition to save the Pikpa camp. If you would like to find out more and sign the petition, please visit: http://bit.ly/1ZVGG4
- News (4.4.16)
Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey (BBC link)
British judge says trial of Channel Tunnel refugee will go ahead (BBC, link): "A judge refused on Friday to halt the criminal damage trial of a refugee from Darfur who walked through the Channel Tunnel in one of the most dramatic attempts to reach Britain since Europe's migration crisis began.
Abdul Haroun's case has prompted debate in Britain between critics who want him prosecuted to deter others from attempting the 50-km walk through the railway tunnel from France, and supporters who say he should be free to start a new life."
EU refugee expulsion plan under fire from UN (FT, link): “Across Greece numerous aspects of the systems for receiving and dealing with people who may need international protection are either not working or absent,” the UN told reporters in Geneva."
Dispatches: Asylum Seekers Stuck Outside Transit Zones in Hungary (HRW, link): “The [Hungarian] police haven’t given us information, they [authorities] haven’t even spoken to us but the UN has told us to be patient…there is no system for admission, they just pick people at random.”
As temperatures rise, so too will the refugee death toll (independent.ie, link): "This is the time of year when the bodies begin to wash up on the sandy beaches of western Libya. During winter, rough weather conditions make the Mediterranean crossing from Libya more difficult for those desperate for a new life in Europe. The flow never stops completely, and with the approach of better spring weather and calmer seas, more rickety boats crammed with migrants will set off."
Greece begins migrant deportations to Turkey (euobserver, link): "Greece has returned the first migrants to Turkey under an EU deal to ease the flow of people into Europe. According to the vice-mayor of Lesbos, 136 people left the island on Monday (4 April). He said they were mostly from Pakistan, according to the BBC. nother ferry from the island of Chios is also expected to leave later."
Greece and Turkey ready first refugee returns under EU deal (euractiv, link): "Greece is making final preparations to return hundreds of asylum seekers to Turkey, the first to be sent back under a landmark EU deal that has been slammed by human rights watchdogs."
EU to announce overhaul of ‘Dublin rules’ for asylum seekers (euractiv, link): "The EU will unveil plans to overhaul its asylum system this week following a controversial migrant deal with Turkey. But the proposals look set to trigger fresh rows in a bloc already deeply divided by the refugee crisis."
EU-Turkey refugee deal: staff shortages and rights concerns pose twin threat (Guardian, linkl): "Greece calls for 20-fold increase in asylum officials as campaigners accuse Turkey of expelling refugees back to Syria"
Greece insists refugee deportations will begin despite doubts over EU-Turkey deal (Guardian, link): "Operation due to begin on Monday on islands of Lesbos and Chios, but questions remain as to how it will be implemented,,,, Opposition to the accord was underscored by Peter Sutherland, the UN secretary general’s special representative for international migration and development, who said on Saturday that collective deportations would automatically be deemed illegal if asylum applications weren’t properly considered."
A Syrian Refugee’s Message to the European Union (The New York Times, link): "WHEN we first got here we had money to buy a little food. Now it’s gone. We stand in line for hours for a sandwich. My husband told a journalist recently: “People are fed up. Maybe tomorrow they will break down the gate and flood across the border.” The journalist said, “How many weapons do you have?” If we knew how to carry weapons or wanted to carry weapons we would not have fled Syria. We want peace. We are sick of killing.
We fled a war, and now the European Union is making war against us, a psychological war. When we hear rumors that we’ll be let into Europe, we celebrate. These leaders give us new hope, then they extinguish it. Why did you open the door to refugees? Why did you welcome people? If they had stopped it before, we would not have come. We would not have risked death, me and my children, and thousands of others, to make the crossing."
Bulgaria's vigilante migrant 'hunter' (BBC News, link): "A Bulgarian trader in spare parts for buses has become a national celebrity after starting to patrol the Turkish border "hunting" for migrants. Many Bulgarians applaud his vigilante initiative, though others are deeply troubled.
"Bulgaria needs people like me, dignified Bulgarians, willing to defend their homeland," says Dinko Valev, sipping a fresh-squeezed orange juice in a flashy cafe in his hometown, Yambol, 50km (30 miles) from Bulgaria's border with Turkey."
Profile: 500 years of Venice's Jewish ghetto (The National, link): "A POIGNANT plea on behalf of the mostly Muslim refugees seeking safety in Europe has been made by Jews marking the 500th anniversary of the world’s first ghetto on Tuesday march 29.
The remarkable call for patience and integration comes as preparations are finalised for a series of cultural events to commemorate those who lived in the ghetto, which was created in Venice on March 29, 1516, to keep the Jews separate from the mainly Christian population.
While there is no doubt the early inhabitants suffered from the segregation, over time they became integrated into the Italian community, contributing greatly to the cultural life of the country.
Now the Jews of Venice believe their history has lessons for Europe as it shows that minorities can integrate while still preserving their identity."
The refugee crisis through the eyes of refugees (Al Jazeera, link): "In December 2015, photographer Kevin McElvaney started the #RefugeeCameras project, which would allow refugees to document their own journey with single-use cameras, giving them the opportunity to tell the world their own story. McElvaney travelled along the refugee track from Izmir to Lesbos, Athens and Idomeni. At all these stations he met refugees, collected their stories and handed out cameras, some of which were returned in a pre-paid envelope. McElvaney received seven of 15 cameras back with images that show a rare glimpse into the refugee route."
EU-Turkey refugee deal: Amnesty team to visit Greek islands as returns begin (AI, link): "Amnesty International will send a delegation to Lesvos and Chios in the coming days to monitor the situation as the EU-Turkey refugee deal is set to be implemented, including the expected mass returns of those who attempt to cross the Aegean Sea. Amnesty has called the deal “a historic blow to human rights” and has researched and campaigned extensively on its broad human rights implications in both Greece and Turkey. The returns in particular are a flagrant violation of EU and international law, making a mockery of the global Refugee Convention."
Teenage refugee killed in lorry crash while attempting to reach family in UK (Guardian, link): "Mohammed Hussain, 18, becomes first casualty of crisis in Britain this year while fleeing Dunkirk camp en route to Manchester."
Turkish coastguard halts migrants as preparations for EU deal begin (Reuters, link): "Turkey's coastguard stopped nearly 200 people trying to reach Greece on Saturday, underlining the challenge security forces face in convincing migrants contemplating the voyage that they will not be allowed to enter the EU. A controversial European Union deal to return refugees and migrants who landed on the Greek islands in the last fortnight to Turkey is due to take force on Monday."
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