Author: Maya Thomas-Davis

GREEK GOVERNMENT INSTRUCTED BY EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO GUARANTEE LIVING CONDITIONS COMPATIBLE WITH ARTICLE 3 ECHR FOR LCL CLIENT A.J.

On Tuesday 2 March 2021, the Legal Centre Lesvos submitted an urgent request for interim measures pursuant to Rule 39 of the Rules of the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of A.J., to stop her inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of the Greek state in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Today, 4 March 2021, the Court granted our request and indicated to the Government of Greece its obligation to guarantee to A.J. living conditions compatible with Article 3 of the Convention having regard to her state of health, and to provide her with adequate healthcare compatible with her state of health.

A.J., is a heavily pregnant woman and a survivor of war, with shrapnel inside her body in multiple locations. She suffers frequent seizures, numbness, immobility and pain as a result. Despite this, A.J. is currently accommodated by the Greek state in Mavrovouni Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) – ‘Moria 2.0’ – in living conditions unfit for human habitation which exacerbate her physical and mental suffering and present an imminent risk of irreparable harm both to her and to her unborn child. A.J. and her family lived in the notorious Moria refugee camp before the fire in September 2020, which left her and her family – including their then 15 month old daughter – in the street for approximately a week, trapped behind police barricades, without food, water, shelter and basic amenities and exposed to tear gas from the police. The inhuman and degrading conditions the family now endure in Moria 2.0 include exposure to lead poisoning, which poses a disproportionate risk to A.J. as a pregnant woman, as well as to the development of her unborn baby and infant child. 

Now in her ninth month of pregnancy, A.J. is understandably terrified at the prospect of having to give birth in Moria 2.0 or having to return to live in the camp with her newborn child. Last week, a heavily pregnant woman in Moria 2.0 facing imminent childbirth set herself on fire in desperation at this prospect.

In August 2020, A.J. was referred by the General Hospital in Mytilene for healthcare which cannot be provided in Lesvos. Both UNHCR and the Head of the RIC were aware of A.J.’s medical needs since at least August 2020, yet they systematically failed to transfer A.J. to appropriate accommodation or lift A.J. ‘s geographical restrictions, in violation of their responsibilities to do so for A.J. as a vulnerable person in need of special reception conditions who cannot be provided with appropriate support on the island. Similarly, the Reception and Identification Service (RIS), which since January 2021 has had competency for facilitating transfers to the mainland, has failed to facilitate A.J. ‘s transfer to appropriate accommodation and medical support on the mainland. 

It should not require an application to the European Court of Human Rights for the Greek state to comply with its own laws: laws which are already insufficient to secure the conditions of human dignity, self-determination and flourishing that A.J., and everyone subject to Europe’s violent border regime, deserves. 

However, in light of today’s decision by the Court, the Greek government must immediately act to:

  1. Facilitate A.J. and her family’s immediate transfer to the mainland prior to her giving birth.
  2. Facilitate her access to the healthcare she requires on the mainland.
  3. Provide A.J. and her family appropriate living conditions in decent housing on the mainland.

GREEK AUTHORITIES MUST URGENTLY TRANSFER ‘VULNERABLE’ MIGRANTS TO THE MAINLAND IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR OWN LAWS: LCL SUBMITS COMPLAINT TO GREEK OMBUDSMAN URGING ACTION ON BEHALF OF 21 INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES.

Mavrovouni / Kara Tepe ‘Reception and Identification Centre’ (RIC) Lesvos – better known as ‘Moria 2.0’ – is not fit for human habitation. Nobody should be forced to live in the mud, in a tent, by the sea, exposed to all elements. Nobody should have to live in a shelter they are forced to rebuild multiple times a day because it repeatedly collapses or floods in the current conditions of strong wind, heavy rain, hail and snow. In recent days, a cold front has brought near freezing temperatures to Lesvos, yet the Asylum Seekers Reception General Secretary, Manos Logothetis, had the gall to claim: “No one is in danger from the weather in Kara Tepe.”[1]

7,198 people currently live in Moria 2.0. There is insufficient healthcare, privacy, food, electricity, running water, hot showers and other hygiene facilities. Only 269 toilets are operational. Measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are inadequate and physical distancing is impossible, given that camp residents have to queue to access all basic necessities. 

Moria 2.0 was a military firing range from 1926 until its hasty transformation into a camp in September 2020, and the Greek government recently admitted that a high concentration of lead was found in a soil sample taken from the site.[2] There is no level of lead exposure known to be without harmful effects.[3] Lead poisoning causes organ damage, cancer, death. It affects the development of the nervous system and the brain, making lead exposure particularly harmful during pregnancy and for young children – who make up 37% of camp residents. 

In these conditions, it is clear that far from “provid[ing] asylum seekers with an adequate standard of living that guarantees their subsistence and promotes their physical and mental health”, as required by Article 55(1) of the Greek International Protection Act (IPA), 4636/2019 and Articles 17-18 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU, reception conditions on Lesvos reach the level of inhuman and degrading treatment. [4] Far from “ensuring that specialised care and protection will be provided to those who belong to vulnerable populations”, or that their “special reception conditions” will be covered, as mandated by Articles 39(5)(d) and Article 58(2) of IPA 4636/2019 implementing Articles 21-22 2013/33/EU, reception conditions on Lesvos amount to an attack on “vulnerable” migrants’ non-derogable right to life. 

The Head of the Reception and Identification Centre is legally obliged to lift geographical restriction to Lesvos for “vulnerable persons or persons who need special reception conditions[…] if they cannot be provided with appropriate support” on the island. [5] Yet Greek authorities are systematically failing to transfer “vulnerable” people to the mainland where their specific needs can be met. For this reason, on Tuesday 9 February, LCL submitted a complaint to the Greek Ombudsman urging action to redress the denial of healthcare and adequate reception conditions for 21 LCL clients and their families, whose urgent medical needs have been systematically ignored by the Greek authorities. This complaint follows months of requests for transfer, months of emails to the vulnerability focal point, months of abject failure to attend to the urgent needs of people with acute and deteriorating health conditions. 

COVID-19 is no excuse. The restrictions on movement related to the pandemic contain clear exceptions for medical care, meaning Greek and EU nationals are able to travel to the mainland in this way. [6] Administrative status is no excuse, since the right to life is non-derogable under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 5 of the Greek Constitution, which explicitly guarantees “all persons living within the Greek territory shall enjoy full protection of their life, honour and liberty irrespective of nationality, race or language and of religious or political beliefs.”

The categories of people applying for international protection the Greek state considers to be “vulnerable” are listed at Article 39(5)(d) of IPA 3646/2019, as amended by Article 2 of 4686/2020: “minors, unaccompanied minors,  direct relatives of shipwreck victims, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, victims of human trafficking, persons with serious illnesses, persons with mental disorders and survivors of torture, rape or other forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence or exploitation, such as victims of female genital mutilation.” 

‘Vulnerability’ is not a static category even in law. Prior to the entry into force of the IPA in January 2020, the previous asylum law included people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the above list, under Article 14(8) of Greek Law 4375/2016. Among other regressive changes hardening Greek asylum law, [7] including the removal of protections precluding ‘vulnerable’ individuals from fast-track border procedures, the state quietly removed people with PTSD from the list. These changes in Greek asylum law came after roughly 80% of asylum seekers in Lesvos in 2018 were designated ‘vulnerable’. 

Harm is caused by the specific forms of violence you have survived not being recognised, either because they are not legible to the law, or because the authorities assessing your vulnerability question your credibility and deny that you have survived such trauma. Harm is also caused by having to constantly re-live and perform trauma before state authorities, in order to fit into one of these categories. Harm is caused by the fact that even where people clearly fall into one of these vulnerability categories it changes nothing about their material conditions, given the constant lack of medical actors to identify people’s specific needs and the systematic failure of Greek authorities to act even where such needs are identified. 

This list of ‘vulnerable’ categories – which implements a very similar list mandated by EU Directive [8] – makes it sound as though people who fall within them are somehow inherently weak. It functions, as law generally does, to distribute both resources and values in accordance with a hierarchy created by its categories: deserving, less deserving, undeserving; victim to be saved, criminal to be deported – categories which come with gendered and racialized notions of who needs Europe’s ‘protection’ and who should be excluded. “Vulnerable” points to the individual, where it is more accurate to point to the deliberately violent and inhumane material conditions people are forced to live in here in Lesvos, and in the other Greek island ‘hotspots’, which expose them disproportionately to harm.

Pregnant women, for example, are not inherently vulnerable in warm, safe homes, with access to sanitation, hygiene facilities, and medical support. But living in Moria 2.0 pregnant women have to stand up all day in queues to access food, or to use a toilet, or to consult a doctor; and all the while they are exposed to toxic lead poisoning known to particularly harm the development of foetuses. One client of the Legal Centre Lesvos who currently lives in Moria 2.0 is 8 months pregnant and suffers from seizures related to nerve damage caused by shrapnel in her mouth, back, legs and arms – a war injury. She has a referral from the General Hospital of Mytilene for medical examination in Athens. She has been waiting for months to be transferred. She previously had a miscarriage and is understandably terrified that this will happen again if she cannot access the treatment she has been referred for. She experiences numbness down the right side of her body approximately every other day and has seizures around every 2 weeks. Instead of transferring her and her family to the mainland, the camp authorities recently moved the family into another tent in Moria 2.0, shared with more people.

Children are not inherently vulnerable either, living in safety, with access to education, adequate nutrition and care. But the dangerous living conditions in Moria 2.0 pose a disproportionate risk of harm to children. Lead poisoning particularly harms children’s development. One child whose family are LCL clients lives in Moria 2.0, in a tent by the sea. Since the family’s traumatic sea crossing and arrival in Greece, the child has been attempting self harm. He is 6 years old. At night, alone, he wanders out of the tent and walks towards the sea. His parents do not sleep at night so that they can watch over him, to prevent this from happening. Instead of being provided appropriate accommodation the family were recently moved to a tent within Moria 2.0 situated even closer to the sea. 

Nobody should be forced to live in a camp, not here in Lesvos, not anywhere, not ever. Everyone’s specific needs should be recognised and provided for. The provisions and categories that exist in both Greek and European law are manifestly inadequate. But the Greek state’s failure to even act in accordance with these laws, to transfer people who are disproportionately exposed to danger and death in the inhuman conditions of Moria 2.0 to appropriate medical care and accommodation on the mainland, amounts to an attack on migrants’ lives.


[1] StoNisi, ‘«Δεν κινδυνεύει κανείς από τα καιρικά φαινόμενα στον Καρά Τεπέ»’, 16 February 2021, available at <https://www.stonisi.gr/post/15030/den-kindyneyei-kaneis-apo-ta-kairika-fainomena-ston-kara-tepe-synenteyksi>.
[2] Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, ‘Αναλυτική συζήτηση με τους εκπροσώπους ΜΚΟ και φορέων για τα αποτελέσματα της έρευνας στην προσωρινή δομή του Μαυροβουνίου είχαν ο Γενικός Γραμματέας Υποδοχής Αιτούντων Άσυλο και ο Προϊστάμενος του τμήματος Γεωχημείας και Περιβάλλοντος της ΕΑΓΜΕ’, 2 February 2021, available at: <https://migration.gov.gr/kato-apo-ta-diethni-oria-ta-epipeda-molyvdoy-sto-mavrovouni/>; Human Rights Watch, ‘Greece: Government Downplays Lead Risk at Migrant Camp,’ 17 February 2021, available at: <https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/17/greece-government-downplays-lead-risk-migrant-camp>.
[3] World Health Organisation, ‘Lead poisoning and health’, 23 August 2019, available at: <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/lead-poisoning-and-health>; Medecins Sans Frontieres Greece, ‘Δήλωση των Γιατρών Χωρίς Σύνορα για την έκθεση προσφύγων που ζουν στο προσωρινό ΚΥΤ Μαυροβουνίου Λέσβου σε μόλυβδο’, 23 January 2021, available at:<https://www.msf.gr/magazine/dilosi-ton-giatron-horis-synora-gia-tin-ekthesi-prosfygon-poy-zoyn-sto-prosorino-kyt>.
[4] Greek Council for Refugees, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), ‘Country Report: Conditions in Reception Facilities: Greece’, 30 November 2020, available at: https://asylumineurope.org/reports/country/greece/reception-conditions/housing/conditions-reception-facilities/, accessed 3 February 2021; Equal Rights Beyond Borders and HIAS Greece, ‘Press Release – European Court of Human Rights Examines Living Conditions in 4 EU Hotspots’, 20 January 2021, available at: <https://www.equal-rights.org/post/press-release-european-court-of-human-rights-examines-living-conditions-in-4-eu-hotspots>; H.A v. Greece, no. 59670/19, ECHR 2020, available at:<https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-207702%22]>.
[5] Article 2(d) of Ministerial Decision 1140/2019, Government Gazette 4736/Β/2019.
[6] ΦΕΚ 4899/Β/6-11-2020, Article 4 para b available at: <https://www.e-nomothesia.gr/kat-ygeia/astheneies/koine-upourgike-apophase-d1a-gp-oik-71342.html>.
[7] Oxfam and Greek Council for Refugees, ‘Diminished, Derogated, Denied’, 1 July 2020, available at: <https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/greeces-new-asylum-system-designed-deport-not-protect-warn-greek-council-refugees>.
[8]  Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU.

The Legal Centre Lesvos and Front-Lex call upon FRONTEX to immediately suspend or terminate its activities in the Aegean Sea region / Legal Center Lesvos et Front-Lex demandent à FRONTEX de suspendre ou de mettre fin immédiatement à ses activités dans la mer Égée.

Street Art in Lesvos
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This morning, Legal Centre Lesvos and Front-Lex sent a formal request to suspend or terminate Frontex operations in the Aegean Sea to Fabrice Leggeri, the Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), pursuant to Article 265 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. 

The request is based on an accumulation of evidence showing Frontex and its Executive Director have failed to act, in infringement of European Treaties, in relation to fundamental rights and international protection obligations in the Aegean Sea region, including:  

Failure to decide against launching Frontex’s Rapid Border Intervention Aegean in March 2020. Frontex decided to launch a “rapid border intervention” providing further material assistance to the existing Frontex operation in the Aegean sea region, in response to Greece’s request on 1 March 2020. This Frontex activity was approved a day later, on 2 March, despite the fact that the Greek state had by that time already implemented a set of violent anti-migrant measures, including:

  • Unilateral suspension of the right to asylum in flagrant violation of EU asylum law and international law on 1st March;
  • Systematically pressing criminal charges against asylum seekers for unlawful entry in violation of Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention;
  • Summarily and arbitrarily detaining migrants across the Aegean islands in ports, buses, ships, beaches, where they were denied access to asylum procedures, adequate shelter, sanitation facilities, and medical attention in violation of fundamental rights;
  • Increased violence at sea, with at least one instance in which the Greek authorities fired at a rubber dingy.

As such, it was clear there were “serious reasons at the beginning of the activity to suspend or terminate it because it could lead to violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations of a serious nature”, per Article 46 (5) of EU Regulation 2019/1896 on the European Border and Coast Guard Regulations. 

Failure to suspend or terminate ongoing Frontex operations in the Aegean (Joint Operation Poseidon) despite well-documented, systematic, collective expulsions. There is insurmountable evidence of Greek authorities systematically conducting collective expulsions, which from March 2020 until the present have been perpetrated pursuant to a consistent modus operandi. This practice has been repeatedly documented and denounced by numerous media outlets, migrant solidarity collectives and human rights organisations, including the Legal Centre Lesvos. As set out in our most recent report at section 3, the constituent elements of the operational pattern of pushbacks on the part of the Greek authorities in the Aegean violate numerous fundamental rights and international protection obligations, and amount to crimes against humanity. The involvement of Frontex vessels in persistent pushbacks in the Aegean sea has been documented by independent investigations. Pursuant to Article 46(4) of EU Regulation 2019/1896, Leggeri in his capacity as Executive Director of Frontex, after consultation with the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer, is required to suspend or terminate the activity of Frontex in a context where violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations related to the Frontex activities are of a serious nature and are likely to persist. 

Failure to give a transparent, truthful and accurate account of the circumstances and number of pushback incidents recorded in the Aegean sea in which Frontex has been implicated, notably during hearings before the European Parliament. 

Ongoing and inherent failure of Frontex’s internal reporting and monitoring mechanisms in relation to fundamental rights violations. The internal investigation launched following the Frontex extraordinary Management Board meeting on 10 November 2020 and the creation of a specific Working Group to review evidence of Frontex’s involvement in fundamental rights violations, highlights the longstanding and ongoing deficiencies of the European agency. It demonstrates its inability to operate with transparency, efficient and effective reporting and monitoring mechanisms for fundamental rights violations. In addition to this internal investigation, there are two ongoing investigations into Frontex by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the European Ombudsman. 

In light of the above failures and the evidence of its direct and indirect involvement in pushbacks, Frontex is complicit in documented state violence against migrants in the Aegean sea region in particular and in Greece more broadly.

As a European Agency systematically failing to act in accordance with European law, with its governing regulations and internal monitoring mechanisms, Frontex must immediately suspend or terminate its operations in the Aegean sea region. 


These failures are inherent to the functioning of Frontex, its direction and management. Frontex operates with impunity in contexts of flagrant fundamental rights and international protection obligations violations, across Europe’s borders. In the absence of independent and efficient transparency and accountability mechanisms, justice for survivors of collective expulsions in the Aegean must include defunding, demilitarising and dismantling Europe’s violent Border and Coast Guard Agency.

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Hier, Legal Centre Lesbos et Front-Lex ont adressé une demande officielle de suspension ou de fin des opérations de Frontex en mer Égée à Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur exécutif de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes (Frontex), conformément à l’article 265 du Traité sur le fonctionnement de l’Union européenne.

La demande est fondée sur une accumulation de preuves démontrant que Frontex et son directeur exécutif n’ont pas agi, en violation des traités européens, concernant les droits fondamentaux et les obligations de protection internationale dans la région de la mer Égée, et notamment:

Le défaut de renoncer au lancement de l’intervention rapide aux frontières de Frontex dans la mer Égée en mars 2020. Frontex a décidé de lancer une « intervention rapide aux frontières » fournissant une assistance matérielle supplémentaire à l’opération Frontex déjà existante dans la région de la mer Égée, en réponse à la demande de la Grèce le 1er mars 2020. Cette activité de Frontex a été approuvée un jour plus tard, soit le 2 mars, malgré le fait que l’État grec mettait déjà en œuvre un ensemble de violentes mesures anti-migrants, comptant notamment:

  • La suspension unilatérale du droit de demander l’asile le 1er mars, en violation flagrante du droit d’asile de l’Union Européenne et du droit international;
  • L’initiation systématique de poursuites pénales à l’encontre de tout demandeur d’asile pour entrée illégale dans le pays en violation de l’article 31 de la Convention de 1951 relative au statut des réfugiés;
  • La détention sommaire et arbitraire de migrants sur les îles de la mer Égée, dans des ports, des bus, des bateaux, sur des plages, où ils se sont vu refuser l’accès aux procédures d’asile, à un abri convenable, à des installations sanitaires et à des soins médicaux en violation de tous droits fondamentaux;
  • L’augmentation de la violence à la frontière maritime, incluant au moins un cas dans lequel les autorités grecques ont tiré sur un canot pneumatique de migrants. 

Ainsi, il était clair qu’il “exist[ait] déjà, dès le commencement de l’activité, des raisons sérieuses de la suspendre ou d’y mettre un terme parce que cette activité pourrait conduire à des violations graves des droits fondamentaux ou des obligations en matière de protection internationale”, conformément à l’article 46 §5 du Règlement (UE) 2019/1896 relatif au corps européen de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes.

Le défaut de suspendre ou mettre fin aux opérations de Frontex en cours dans la mer Égée (“opération Poséidon”) malgré des expulsions collectives systématiques et bien documentées. Il existe des preuves indéniables que les autorités grecques ont systématiquement procédé à des expulsions collectives, qui, de mars 2020 à aujourd’hui, ont été perpétrées selon un mode opératoire cohérent. Cette pratique a été à plusieurs reprises documentée et dénoncée par de nombreux médias, collectifs en solidarité avec les migrants et organisations de défense des droits de l’Homme, y compris le Legal Centre Lesbos. Comme indiqué dans notre rapport le plus récent, les éléments constitutifs du mode opératoire des “pushbacks” par les autorités grecques dans la mer Égée constituent une violation de nombreux droits fondamentaux et obligations de protection internationale et constituent des crimes contre l’humanité. L’implication des navires de Frontex dans les “pushbacks” persistants en mer Égée a été documentée par des enquêtes indépendantes. En vertu de l’article 46 § 4 du Règlement de l’UE 2019/1896, Fabrice Leggeri, en sa qualité de directeur exécutif de Frontex est tenu, après consultation avec l’officier aux droits fondamentaux de Frontex, de suspendre ou de mettre fin à l’activité de Frontex dans un contexte où les violations des droits ou obligations de protection internationale liés aux activités de Frontex sont de nature sérieuse et susceptibles de perdurer.

Le défaut de compte-rendu transparent, véridique et précis sur les circonstances et le nombre d’incidents de pushbacks enregistrés en mer Égée dans lesquels Frontex a été impliqué, notamment lors d’auditions devant le Parlement européen.

Le défaut continu et intrinsèque de mécanismes internes de signalement et de contrôle de Frontex, propres à empêcher les violations des droits fondamentaux. L’enquête interne lancée à la suite de la réunion extraordinaire du conseil d’administration de Frontex le 10 novembre 2020, et la création d’un groupe de travail dédié à l’examen des preuves de l’implication de Frontex dans des violations des droits fondamentaux, met à nouveau en évidence les carences de longue date et persistantes de l’agence européenne. Cela démontre son incapacité à fonctionner avec des mécanismes de signalement et de contrôle transparents et efficaces des violations des droits fondamentaux. Outre cette enquête interne, Frontex fait l’objet de deux enquêtes en cours devant l’Office européen de lutte antifraude (OLAF) et le Médiateur européen.

Au regard des carences mentionnées ci-dessus et des preuves de son implication directe et indirecte dans les pushbacks, Frontex est complice des violences étatiques documentées contre les migrants dans la région de la mer Égée et plus largement en Grèce.

En tant qu’agence européenne agissant en violation systématique du droit européen, de ses propres règlements et de ses mécanismes de contrôle interne, Frontex doit immédiatement suspendre ou mettre fin à ses opérations dans la région de la mer Égée.

Ces défauts sont inhérents au fonctionnement de Frontex, à sa direction et à sa gestion. Frontex opère en toute impunité dans des contextes de violations flagrantes des droits fondamentaux et des obligations de protection internationale, à travers les frontières de l’Europe. En l’absence de mécanismes de responsabilité et de transparence indépendants et efficaces, la justice pour les survivants d’expulsions collectives dans la mer Égée doit inclure l’arrêt du financement, la démilitarisation et le démantèlement de la violente agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes.

PRESS RELEASE – NEW REPORT ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN THE AEGEAN / ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ – ΕΓΚΛΗΜΑΤΑ KATA ΤΗΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΤΗΤΑΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΕΡΙΟΧΗ ΤΟΥ ΑΙΓΑΙΟΥ / COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE – NOUVEAU RAPPORT CONCERNANT DES CRIMES CONTRE L’HUMANITE DANS LA MER EGEE / بيان صحفي تقرير جديد عن الجرائم المرتكبة ضد الإنسانية في منطقة إيجة

Since March 2020, collective expulsions in the Aegean Sea have been perpetrated with impunity. 

Legal Centre Lesvos’ new report contributes to the growing body of evidence, media coverage, civil society reports and other investigations which have documented how Greek authorities are deliberately and systematically abandoning hundreds of migrants in the middle of the Aegean sea, without means to call for rescue, on unseaworthy, motorless dinghies and liferafts. It is intended to serve as a resource for survivors of collective expulsions and solidarity actors. 

Following the Legal Centre Lesvos’ first report, the present report is based on evidence shared by over fifty survivors of collective expulsions, and underscores the widespread, systematic and violent nature of this attack against migrants. Beyond being egregious violations of international, European and national human rights law, this report argues that the constituent elements of the modus operandi of collective expulsions in the Aegean amount to crimes against humanity within the definition of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 

Despite overwhelming evidence of collective expulsions in the Aegean, the national and European response has been to turn a blind eye: failing to even attempt to hold the responsible Greek authorities to account, let alone other public and private actors directly or indirectly involved. On the contrary, the European Commission has praised the violent “border and migration management” practices implemented in Greece and underwritten its support with substantial financial and material assistance. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented Greece carrying out “official” deportations to Turkey, collective expulsions have conveniently served as an unofficial implementation of the “EU-Turkey Deal” and other bilateral “readmission” agreements with Turkey, which form part of fortress Europe’s border externalisation drive. 

There are only so many times legal and civil society actors can list and table such human rights violations and be met with deafening silence and inaction before this itself becomes evidence of Greek and European liability for collective expulsions as an egregious attack on migrants’ lives. Such inaction also reveals how migrants’ lives are increasingly treated as disposable, in a manner that has historically accompanied the commission of atrocity crimes. 

While the systematic violence of pushbacks in the Aegean is scandalous, it is also the logical endpoint of a dehumanising and punitive European border regime that has systematically obstructed access to territory and the right to asylum by prioritising and funding the ‘hotspot’ containment system, accelerated procedures, detention, deportations, border militarisation and externalisation through deals of questionable legality with third countries; as well as by prosecuting migrants and solidarity actors in a manner that successfully obscures Europe’s own violent, imperialist role in many of the reasons people migrate. 

The absence of serious investigations, let alone practical steps to redress violations are a clear sign that collective expulsions form part of a Greek and European migration policy: instrumentalising human suffering in acts of spectacular state violence for the purpose of deterring migration, at any cost. 

In this context, it is important to ask what justice might look like for survivors of crimes against humanity in the Aegean, many of whom experience ongoing psychological trauma and distress as a result of these crimes. Survivors who have been in contact with the Legal Centre Lesvos have spoken about justice in terms of being able to safely reach Europe. Justice for collective expulsions as crimes against humanity must therefore include safe and legal routes to Europe, as well as defunding, demilitarising and dismantling Europe’s violent border regime.

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Από τον Μάρτιο του 2020, οι ομαδικές απελάσεις στο Αιγαίο έχουν μείνει ατιμώρητες.

Η νέα αναφορά του Legal Centre Lesvos συνεισφέρει στην αύξηση των αποδεικτικών στοιχείων, στην κάλυψη από τα μέσα ενημέρωσης, στις εκθέσεις της κοινωνίας των πολιτών και σε άλλες έρευνες που έχουν τεκμηριώσει πώς οι ελληνικές αρχές εγκαταλείπουν σκόπιμα και συστηματικά εκατοντάδες μετανάστ(ρι)ες στη μέση του Αιγαίου, χωρίς τη δυνατότητα να καλέσουν για διάσωση, σε αχρηστευμένες, χωρίς κινητήρα λέμβους και σωσίβιες σχεδίες. Περαιτέρω η παρούσα έκθεση προορίζεται να χρησιμεύσει ως πηγή σχετικά με τους επιζώντες ομαδικών απελάσεων και φορέων αλληλεγγύης.

Σε συνέχεια της πρώτης αναφοράς του Legal Centre Lesvos, η παρούσα βασίζεται σε στοιχεία που παρείχαν περισσότεροι από πενήντα επιζώντες ομαδικών απελάσεων και υπογραμμίζει τον εκτεταμένο, συστηματικό και βίαιο χαρακτήρα αυτής της επίθεσης κατά των μεταναστών. Πέρα από τις σοβαρές παραβιάσεις του διεθνούς, ευρωπαϊκού και εθνικού δικαίου κατά των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων, η παρούσα αναφορά υποστηρίζει ότι τα χαρακτηριστικά του modus operandi των ομαδικών απελάσεων στο Αιγαίο ισοδυναμούν με εγκλήματα κατά της ανθρωπότητας σύμφωνα με τα όσα ορίζει το άρθρο 7 του Καταστατικού της Ρώμης του Διεθνούς Ποινικού Δικαστηρίου.

Κάντε κλικ εδώ για ολόκληρη την αναφορά

Παρά τις αδιάσειστες αποδείξεις ομαδικών απελάσεων στο Αιγαίο, η εθνική και ευρωπαϊκή κοινότητα κάνουν τα “στραβά μάτια”, αποτυγχάνοντας να φέρουν τις αρμόδιες ελληνικές αρχές προ των ευθυνών τους, πόσο μάλλον άλλους φορείς που εμπλέκονται άμεσα ή έμμεσα στις ομαδικές απελάσεις. Αντιθέτως, η Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή συντάχθηκε με τις βίαιες πρακτικές «διαχείρισης συνόρων και μετανάστευσης» που εφαρμόστηκαν στην Ελλάδα και επισφράγισε την υποστήριξή της με σημαντική οικονομική και υλική βοήθεια. Στο πλαίσιο της πανδημίας COVID-19 που εμπόδισε την Ελλάδα να πραγματοποιήσει «επίσημες» απελάσεις στην Τουρκία, οι ομαδικές απελάσεις λειτούργησαν ως ανεπίσημη εφαρμογή της συμφωνίας «ΕΕ-Τουρκίας» και άλλων διμερών συμφωνιών επανεισδοχής με την Τουρκία, οι οποίες αποτελούν μέρος της προσπάθειας ελέγχου των εξωτερικών συνόρων της Ευρώπης.

Είναι τόσες πολλές οι φορές που τόσο νομικές όσο και οργανώσεις υπεράσπισης των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων έχουν απαριθμήσει και καταγράψει τέτοιου είδους παραβιάσεις. Παρόλα αυτά έχουν αντιμετωπιστεί με εκκωφαντική σιωπή και αδράνεια, τρανό παράδειγμα της ελληνικής και της ευρωπαϊκής ευθύνης για τις ομαδικές απελάσεις. Μια τέτοια αδράνεια αποκαλύπτει πώς οι ζωές των μεταναστ(τρι)ών αντιμετωπίζονται όλο και περισσότερο ως αναλώσιμες, με έναν τρόπο που προσιδιάζει ιστορικά με τη διάπραξη θηριωδών εγκλημάτων.

Παρόλο που η συστηματική βία των pushbacks στο Αιγαίο είναι σκανδαλώδης, είναι ταυτόχρονα η λογική κατάληξη ενός απάνθρωπου και τιμωρητικού ευρωπαϊκού συνοριακού καθεστώτος, που εμποδίζει συστηματικά την πρόσβαση στην επικράτεια και το δικαίωμα στο άσυλο, που προτεραιοποιεί και χρηματοδοτεί το σύστημα περιορισμού σε «hotspot», κράτησης, απελάσεων, στρατιωτικοποίησης των συνόρων και αναπομπής, μέσω συμφωνιών αμφισβητήσιμης νομιμότητας, σε τρίτες χώρες. Ταυτόχρονα το ίδιο σύστημα διώκει τους μετανάστ(ρι)ες και τις οργανώσεις αλληλεγγύης με τρόπο που θολώνει τον βίαιο και ιμπεριαλιστικό ρόλο της Ευρώπης ως προς τις αιτίες μετανάστευσης.

Η απουσία εμπεριστατωμένων ερευνών, πόσο μάλλον πρακτικών βημάτων για την απόδοση ευθυνών όσον αφορά στις παραβιάσεις, αποτελεί σαφές σημάδι ότι οι ομαδικές απελάσεις καθίστανται μέρος της ελληνικής και ευρωπαϊκής μεταναστευτικής πολιτικής και εργαλειοποιούν τον ανθρώπινο πόνο με πράξεις ωμής κρατικής βίας με σκοπό την μείωση των μεταναστευτικών ροών, με οποιοδήποτε κόστος.

Σε αυτό το πλαίσιο, είναι σημαντικό να αναρωτηθούμε πώς θα μπορούσε να αποδοθεί δικαιοσύνη για τους επιζώντες εγκλημάτων κατά της ανθρωπότητας στο Αιγαίο, πολλοί από τους οποίους βιώνουν μέχρι και σήμερα ψυχολογικό τραύμα ως αποτέλεσμα αυτών των εγκλημάτων. Οι επιζώντες που έχουν έρθει σε επαφή με το Legal Centre Lesvos μιλούν για την ανάγκη ύπαρξης ασφαλούς διόδου προς την Ευρώπη. Η απόδοση δικαιοσύνης για τις ομαδικές απελάσεις ως εγκλημάτων κατά της ανθρωπότητας πρέπει να περιλαμβάνει τη δημιουργία ασφαλών και νόμιμων οδών προς την Ευρώπη, καθώς και την αποδυνάμωση, αποστρατιωτικοποίηση και διάλυση του βίαιου συστήματος των συνόρων της Ευρώπης.

Depuis le mois de mars 2020, des « pushbacks » ou expulsions collectives de migrants sont perpétrées en toute impunité en mer Égée. 

Le nouveau rapport du Legal Centre Lesbos contribue au nombre croissant de preuves, d’articles de presse, de rapports de la société civile et d’autres enquêtes ayant documenté comment les autorités grecques abandonnent délibérément et systématiquement des centaines de migrants en pleine mer Égée, sans moyen d’appeler au secours, sur des canots pneumatiques et radeaux de sauvetage sans moteur et hors d’état de naviguer. Ce rapport est destiné à servir de ressource aux survivants d’expulsions collectives et aux acteurs en solidarité.   

À la suite du premier rapport du Legal Centre Lesbos, le présent rapport se fonde sur des preuves fournies par plus de cinquante survivants d’expulsions collectives et souligne le caractère généralisé, systématique et violent de ces attaques contre les migrants. Au-delà de constituer une violation flagrante du droit international, européen, national et des droits de l’homme, ce rapport met en avant les éléments constitutifs du mode opératoire des expulsions collectives dans la mer Égée démontrant qu’ils constituent des crimes contre l’humanité au sens de l’article 7 du Statut de Rome de la Cour pénale internationale.

Cliquez ici pour consulter le rapport complet

Malgré des preuves accablantes d’expulsions collectives en mer Égée, l’unique réponse aux niveaux national et européen a été de fermer les yeux: sans même tenter de demander aux autorités grecques responsables, ni aux autres acteurs publics et privés impliqués directement ou indirectement dans ces pratiques illégales, de rendre des comptes. Bien au contraire, la Commission européenne a salué les pratiques violentes de « gestion des frontières et de la migration » mises en place par la Grèce et a confirmé son soutien par une aide financière et matérielle substantielle. Dans le contexte de la pandémie de COVID-19, la Grèce n’ayant pu expulser les migrants de manière « officielle » vers la Turquie, les expulsions collectives ont servi de mise en œuvre non officielle de l’accord entre l’Union Européenne et la Turquie, ainsi que d’autres accords bilatéraux de « réadmission » avec la Turquie, qui forment partie intégrante de la logique d’externalisation des frontières de l’Europe « forteresse ».

L’identification et la dénonciation de ces violations des droits de l’homme par les avocats et acteurs de la société civile ne peuvent continuer d’être confrontées aux silence et à l’inaction assourdissants des autorités, sans que cela ne devienne une preuve supplémentaire de la responsabilité de la Grèce et de l’Europe dans ces expulsions collectives portant atteinte à la vie des migrants. Cette inaction révèle également à quel point la vie des migrants est de plus en plus considérée comme « jetable », d’une manière qui a historiquement accompagné la commission des crimes de masse.

Si la violence systématique des refoulements en mer Égée est scandaleuse, elle est aussi la conséquence logique d’une politique européenne des frontières déshumanisante et punitive qui a systématiquement entravé l’accès au territoire et au droit d’asile, donnant la priorité et finançant le système de confinement des « hotspots », les procédures accélérées, la détention, les expulsions, la militarisation des frontières et l’externalisation par des accords d’une légalité douteuse avec des pays tiers. Elle est aussi la conséquence d’une politique qui poursuit en justice les migrants et les acteurs en solidarité d’une manière parvenant à occulter le propre rôle violent et impérialiste de l’Europe dans de nombreuses raisons pour lesquelles les gens migrent.

L’absence d’enquêtes sérieuses, et encore moins de mesures pratiques pour réparer les violations commises, est un signe clair que les expulsions collectives font partie d’une politique migratoire grecque et européenne qui vise à instrumentaliser la souffrance humaine dans des actes de violence étatique spectaculaire dans le but de dissuader la migration, à tout prix.

Dans ce contexte, il est important de se demander à quoi pourrait ressembler la justice pour les survivants de crimes contre l’humanité dans la mer Égée, dont beaucoup souffrent encore de traumatismes psychologiques et sont en détresse à la suite de ces crimes. Pour les survivants en contact avec le Legal Centre Lesbos la justice serait de pouvoir atteindre l’Europe en toute sécurité. Dans le cas d’expulsions collectives constituant des crimes contre l’humanité, la justice doit donc inclure un accès sûr et légal à l’Europe, ainsi que l’arrêt du financement, de la militarisation et le démantèlement du violent régime frontalier de l’Europe.

عمليات الإبعاد القسري الجماعي في بحر إيجه تستمر بالحدوث منذ آذار 2020 وحتى الان ودون عقاب

يساهم التقرير الجديد لمركز ليسفوس القانوني في زيادة مجموعة الأدلة ، التغطية الإعلامية ، تقارير المجتمع المدني وغيرها من التحقيقات والتي وثقت كيف تتخلى السلطات اليونانية عمداً وبشكل منهجي عن مئات المهاجرين في وسط بحر إيجه دون أي وسيلة لطلب المساعدة أو الإنقاذ بعد أن يتم وضعهم على زوارق وأطواف نجاة غير صالحة للإبحار وبلا محرك. والغرض من هذا التقرير أن يكون بمثابة مصدر معلومات للناجين من الإبعاد القسري وايضاً للجهات المتضامنة

في أعقاب التقرير الأول للمركز القانوني في ليسفوس ، يستند التقرير الحالي إلى أدلة إضافية حديثة شاركها أكثر من خمسين ناجياً من عمليات الإبعاد القسري ، ويؤكد الطبيعة الواسعة النطاق والمنهجية والعنيفة لهذا الهجوم ضد المهاجرين. بالإضافة إلى كونه انتهاكات جسيمة للقانون الدولي والأوروبي والوطني لحقوق الإنسان ، يجادل هذا التقرير بأن العناصر المكونة لطريقة عملية الإبعاد القسري في بحر إيجة ترقى إلى جرائم ضد الإنسانية في تعريف المادة 7 من نظام روما الأساسي للمحكمة الجنائية الدولية

على الرغم من الأدلة الدامغة على عمليات الإبعاد القسري في بحر إيجة ، فإن الاستجابة الوطنية والأوروبية كانت تغض الطرف : فشل في محاولة محاسبة السلطات اليونانية المسؤولة ، وأيضاً السماح للجهات العامة والخاصة الأخرى المشاركة بشكل مباشر أو غير مباشر. على العكس من ذلك فقد أشادت المفوضية الأوروبية  بالعنف الذي تمارسه “إدارة الحدود والهجرة” في اليونان وضمنت دعمها بمساعدة مالية ومادية كبيرة . في سياق جائحة كوفيد – 19- الذي منع اليونان من تنفيذ عمليات الترحيل “الرسمية” إلى تركيا ، كانت عمليات الإبعاد القسري بمثابة تنفيذ غير رسمي لـ “اتفاقية الإتحاد الأوروبي وتركيا” واتفاقيات “إعادة القبول” الثنائية الأخرى مع تركيا ، والتي تشكل جزءاً من حملة تحصين حدود أوروبا الخارجية

عدد المرات التي تمكنت فيها الجهات الناشطة في المجال القانوني والمجتمع المدني سرد مثل هذه الانتهاكات لحقوق الإنسان وجدولتها محدود جداً، وقابله صمت يصم الآذان وتقاعس وهذا بحد ذاته دليلاً على المسؤولية اليونانية والأوروبية للإبعاد القسري باعتباره هجوم فاضح على حياة المهاجرين. ويكشف هذا التقاعس أيضاً عن كيفية التعامل بشكل متزايد مع حياة المهاجرين على أنها شيء يمكن التخلص منه، بطريقة ترافقت تاريخياً مع ارتكاب الجرائم الفظيعة

في حين أن العنف المنهجي المتمثل في عمليات الصد في بحر إيجة فاضح ، إلا أنه يمثل أيضاً نقطة النهاية المنطقية لنظام حدودي أوروبي غير إنساني وعقابي، والذي أعاق بشكل منهجي الوصول إلى الأراضي اليونانية والحق في اللجوء من خلال إعطاء الأولوية لتمويل نظام “النقاط الساخنة”، الإجراءات السريعة ،الاحتجاز ،الترحيل، عسكرة الحدود من خلال صفقات قانونية مشكوك فيها مع دول ثالثة ؛ وكذلك من خلال محاكمة المهاجرين والجهات المتضامنة بطريقة أخفت بنجاح الدور الإمبريالي العنيف لأوروبا في العديد من أسباب الهجرة البشرية

يُعد غياب التحقيقات الجادة ، ناهيك عن الخطوات العملية لمعالجة الانتهاكات علامة واضحة على أن عمليات الإبعاد القسري تشكل جزءاً من سياسة الهجرة اليونانية والأوروبية :حيث تقوم الدولة بتسخير المعاناة الإنسانية في أعمال عنف فظيعة بغرض ردع الهجرة بأي ثمن

في هذا السياق من المهم أن نسأل كيف يمكن أن تبدو العدالة بالنسبة للناجين من الجرائم ضد الإنسانية في بحر إيجة، والتي تسببت بحدوث صدمات نفسية وحزن للعديد منهم. تحدث الناجون الذين كانوا على اتصال بالمركز القانوني في ليسفوس عن حقهم القانوني في التمكن من الوصول بأمان إلى أوروبا. وبناء على اعتبار حالات الإبعاد القسري جرائم ضد الإنسانية ولتحقيق العدالة يجب تأمين طرق آمنة وقانونية للوصول إلى أوروبا ، فضلاً عن وقف التمويل ونزع السلاح وتفكيك نظام الحدود العنيف في أوروبا

Press contacts / Στοιχεία επικοινωνίας υπεύθυνης τύπου / Contacts presse:

Marion Bouchetel, marion@legalcentrelesvos.org, + 30 697 761 9003 (French, Spanish, English)
Natasha Dailiani, natasha@legalcentrelesvos.org, +30 694 425 1704 (Greek, German, English)



Σταματήστε να παίζετε με τις ζωές ανθρώπων: επείγει η διασφάλιση της υγείας φιλοξενουμένων και εργαζομένων στο ΚΥΤ της Λέσβου

Άμεση εκκένωση της προσωρινής δομής στο Μαυροβούνι Λέσβου ζητούν 20 οργανώσεις, μετά και την επιβεβαίωση του Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου για συγκέντρωση μολύβδου ανώτερη των αποδεκτών ορίων σε τμήμα της δομής.

Αθήνα, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2021: Με ανακοίνωσή του στις 23 Ιανουαρίου[i], το Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου απαντά σε δημοσιεύματα της Aljazeera και της διεθνούς οργάνωσης Human Rights Watch, που ήδη από τον Οκτώβριο του 2020, επεσήμαιναν τον δυνητικό κίνδυνο μόλυνσης από μόλυβδο για τους εργαζόμενους και φιλοξενούμενους της προσωρινής δομής στο Μαυροβούνι, Λέσβου, λόγω της πρότερης λειτουργίας 21 εκ των συνολικά 341 στρεμμάτων της δομής ως στρατιωτικού πεδίου βολής.

Δυστυχώς, η ανακοίνωση του Υπουργείου αφήνει ελάχιστα περιθώρια καθησυχασμού. Aντ’ αυτού, γεννά και νέα ερωτήματα ως προς τη σημασία και βαρύτητα που δίδεται στην προστασία της υγείας ανθρώπων που διαβιούν ή/και εργάζονται στην προσωρινή δομή. 

Όπως επισημαίνεται στην ανακοίνωση, σε σύνολο δώδεκα δειγμάτων εδάφους που εξέτασε η Ελληνική Αρχή Γεωλογικών & Μεταλλευτικών Ερευνών (ΕΑΓΜΕ) στα τέλη Νοεμβρίου 2020, τα έντεκα, τα οποία ελήφθησαν από χώρους διαμονής αιτούντων άσυλο, παρουσίασαν συγκέντρωση μολύβδου κατώτερη των διεθνών ορίων για οικιστική χρήση, ενώ το δωδέκατο, που ελήφθη «από χώρο [της] διοίκησης», παρουσίασε συγκέντρωση μολύβδου ανώτερη της αποδεκτής. Περαιτέρω, το Υπουργείου ενημέρωσε πως προχωρά σε επιπλέον έργα, όπως η «κατασκευή τσιμεντένιας βάσης στις περιοχές διοίκησης, υποδοχής και καταγραφής», με στόχο να «περιορίσει περαιτέρω τον όποιο δυνητικό κίνδυνο» για την υγεία φιλοξενουμένων και εργαζομένων. Με την ολοκλήρωση των έργων, θα ακολουθήσει και νέα δειγματοληψία, «ώστε να διασφαλισθεί ότι κανείς δεν εκτίθεται σε κίνδυνο».

Τρία καίρια ζητήματα, που προκύπτουν από την ανακοίνωση του Υπουργείου, γεννούν ιδιαίτερο προβληματισμό:

  1. Από τα μέσα Σεπτεμβρίου, όταν η νέα δομή στο Μαυροβούνι, Λέσβου, τέθηκε σε λειτουργία, εργαζόμενοι ή/και φιλοξενούμενοι της δομής ενδέχεται να έχουν εκτεθεί σε επίπεδα μολύβδου «πάνω από τα ανώτερα αποδεκτά όρια». Την έντονη αντίδρασή τους στην ανακοίνωση του Υπουργείου εξέφρασαν και οι Γιατροί Χωρίς Σύνορα[ii], λόγω των πολλαπλών επιπτώσεων που μπορεί να έχει στην υγεία η έκθεση σε μόλυβδο, όπως: αναιμία, νεφρική και εγκεφαλική βλάβη, ακόμη και θάνατος, ενώ, γενικά, η έκθεση σε μόλυβδο επηρεάζει περισσότερο τα παιδιά, σύμφωνα με τα αναφερόμενα στην ιστοσελίδα των Κέντρων Ελέγχου και Πρόληψης Ασθενειών (CDC). Σημειώνεται πως πάνω από 30% του πληθυσμού της δομής είναι παιδιά.
  2. Σήμερα είναι ανέφικτο να διασφαλισθεί η υγεία του συνολικού πληθυσμού της δομής. Σύμφωνα με τον Παγκόσμιο Οργανισμό Υγείας, «δεν υπάρχει επίπεδο έκθεσης σε μόλυβδο, το οποίο να είναι γνωστό πως δεν έχει επιβλαβείς επιπτώσεις»,[iii] ενώ ακόμη και τα χαμηλά επίπεδα μολύβδου σχετίζονται με καρδιαγγειακό θάνατο, σύμφωνα με έρευνα που δημοσιεύθηκε στο επιστημονικό περιοδικό Lancet.[iv] Αξίζει δε να επισημανθεί πως ο χρόνος ολοκλήρωσης των «εν εξελίξει» έργων για τον περιορισμό –και όχι την εξάλειψη– του όποιου πιθανού κινδύνου, δεν προσδιορίζεται από το Υπουργείο.
  3. Ότι εν πλήρη γνώση των ως άνω, το Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και η Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, η οποία ήταν ενήμερη της κατάστασης, σύμφωνα με την ανακοίνωση του Υπουργείου, προτεραιοποιούν την υφιστάμενη πολιτική εγκλωβισμού προσφύγων και μεταναστών, παρά το ρίσκο έκθεσης της ζωής και της υγείας όσων ζουν και εργάζονται στη δομή σε κίνδυνο.

Καθώς η προστασία της ανθρώπινης ζωής και αξιοπρέπειας αποτελούν αδιαπραγμάτευτες αξίες και δικαιώματα, η προάσπιση των οποίων δεν μπορεί να επαφίεται σε  πορίσματα που θα διατεθούν κάποια απροσδιόριστη στιγμή στο μέλλον, καλούμε το Υπουργείο και την Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, με τη συνδρομή και των κρατών μελών:

  1. Να διασφαλίσουν, λαμβάνοντας κάθε αναγκαίο μέτρο, πως η ζωή και η υγεία του πληθυσμού δεν κινδυνεύει.
  2. Να προβούν στην άμεση εκκένωση του καταυλισμού και τη μεταφορά του συνόλου του πληθυσμού σε κατάλληλες δομές στην ενδοχώρα και αλλού (π.χ. ξενοδοχειακές μονάδες).
  3. Να προβούν στην άμεση διερεύνηση της περιοχής από ειδική επιστημονική ομάδα και στη δημοσίευση των αποτελεσμάτων της όποιας περαιτέρω, όπως και της προηγούμενης έρευνας, στο πνεύμα της διαφάνειας.

Οι υπογράφουσες οργανώσεις:

Actionaid Ελλάς

Choose Love

Δράση για την Εκπαίδευση

Δίκτυο για τα Δικαιώματα του Παιδιού

ECHO100PLUS

Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες (ΕΣΠ)

Ελληνικό Φόρουμ Μεταναστών

Equal Rights Beyond Border

Θάλασσα Αλληλεγγύης

Κέντρο Διοτίμα

Legal Centre Lesvos

Lesvos Solidarity

Mobile Info Team

Odyssea

Refugee Rights Europe (RRE)

Samos Volunteers

Terre des hommes Hellas

Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid

HIAS Ελλάδος

HumanRights360


[i] Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου, Απάντηση σε δημοσιεύματα: Kάτω από τα διεθνή όρια τα επίπεδα μόλυβδου στους χώρους φιλοξενίας στο προσωρινό ΚΥΤ Μαυροβουνίου Λέσβου, 23 Ιανουαρίου 2020, διαθέσιμο στο: https://bit.ly/2Ybj0A0.

[ii] MsF, «Δήλωση των Γιατρών Χωρίς Σύνορα για την έκθεση προσφύγων που ζουν στο προσωρινό ΚΥΤ Μαυροβουνίου Λέσβου σε μόλυβδο», 23 Ιανουαρίου 2021, διαθέσιμο στο: https://bit.ly/3a1ERiP

[iii] WHO, “Lead poisoning and health”, 23 Αυγούστου 2019, διαθέσιμο στα αγγλικά στο: https://bit.ly/39iCtW4.

[iv] Lanphear Β. P. et.al, Low-level lead exposure and mortality in US adults: a population-based cohort study, στο Lancet Public Health, 12 Μαρτίου 2018, διαθέσιμο στα αγγλικά στο: https://bit.ly/2LVlLmN. Σύμφωνα με το ίδιο δημοσίευμα, περισσότεροι από 400.000 θάνατοι στις ΗΠΑ μπορεί να σχετίζονται με την έκθεση ακόμη και σε χαμηλά επίπεδα μολύβδου.

The Workings of the Screening Regulation: Juxtaposing proposed EU rules with the Greek reception and identification procedure

The European Commission proposal for a Screening Regulation is largely modelled on the “reception and identification procedure” (διαδικασία υποδοχής και ταυτοποίησης), which applies to everyone irregularly arriving in Greece. The majority of its provisions correspond to provisions of Greek legislation in relation to key elements of the process such as restrictions on liberty, identification, registration, medical check, vulnerability assessment, and referral to asylum or other procedures. An in-depth understanding of the existent Greek procedure is therefore essential to identifying pitfalls and concerns with the Screening Regulation proposal at an early stage of negotiations within the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to preventing the entrenchment of failed and violent border policies in the ‘new‘ EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.

To this end, the correlation table presented in the document below provides a point-by-point comparison of the main provisions of the Screening Regulation proposal with relevant domestic legislation, namely L 4375/2016 and L 4636/2019 (IPA). It also offers a detailed analysis of the implementation of the reception and identification procedure in practice, drawing on up-to-date information complemented by observations from civil society organisations. The information provided in the correlation table has been collected through the collaborative effort of Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), HIAS Greece, Greek Council for Refugees, Danish Refugee Council, Legal Centre Lesvos, FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid, ActionAid Hellas and Mobile Info Team, and legal practitioners.

The case of the Moria 35: a 15-month timeline of injustice and impunity

Διαβάστε εδώ στα ελληνικά.

On Thursday 18th October, the last of the Moria 35 were released from detention. Their release comes one year and three months – to the day – after the 35 men were arbitrarily arrested and subject to brutal police violence in a raid of Moria camp following peaceful protests, on July 18th 2017.

While the Legal Centre Lesbos welcomes the fact that all 35 men have finally been released, we maintain that none of them should ever have been imprisoned to begin with –– let alone for the 10 to 15 months the majority of the Moria 35 spent in punitive, unlawful incarceration.

And while freedom from unjust imprisonment is one thing, freedom in any broader sense is a different matter. The legal status of all 35 men is precarious. Six of them have been granted asylum in Greece, but the majority are now fighting the rejection of their asylum cases; on appeal or through subsequent applications which are subject to admissibility. Three individuals have been deported. One individual was illegally deported without having exhausted his legal remedies in Greece, while another individual, having spent 9 months in pre-trial detention only to be subject to a gross miscarriage of justice at criminal trial, signed up for so-called ‘voluntary’ deportation.

Despite an abject lack of evidence against any of them, 32 of the Moria 35 were convicted of the crime of Dangerous Bodily Harm against police officers in grossly unjust criminal trial proceedings that took place in Chios in April 2018. Although their criminal conviction is being appealed, these men now live under the shadow of 26-month suspended prison sentences. By contrast, despite numerous videos, reports and eyewitness testimonies evidencing brutal police violence against the Moria 35, the public prosecutor decided to closed its investigation into police brutality in June 2018. Their basis for closing the investigation was that any use of force on the part of the police was justified, because the Moria 35 had resisted arrest. This despite the fact that all 35 men had just been found innocent on the charge of resisting arrest.

From the Greek police’s brutally violent, racist mass-arrest of these 35 men; through the grossly unjust, punitive criminal procedure that they were subject to; to their release from pre-trial detention in April only for the majority to be transferred directly into immigration detention in Moria; the case of the Moria 35 over the past 15 months constitutes a catalogue of the forms of institutional racism and gross human rights abuses with impunity that are enabled by the intersection of violent immigration and criminal justice systems in Europe. The following timeline sets these out to the best of our knowledge, with links to more detailed reports.

           

  • 18 July 2017: Police brutality and arrests

At approximately 10:00 on Tuesday 18th July 2017, refugees of different nationalities gathered in Moria for the second day in a row of peaceful protests, denouncing inhumane living conditions and demanding the right to freedom of movement for everyone trapped in Lesvos. The protest remained peaceful and calm until police arrived at around 13:00 and began to use tear gas. Many refugees were trapped outside the camp, some were trapped inside, there was confusion and inside Moria there were clashes between a handful of protesters and police officers shooting teargas and throwing rocks. By 15:00 the camp was calm. However, at approximately 16:00 several dozen riot police who had just arrived on the scene entered Moria and violently raided the African section of the camp. They pulled people out of the iso-box containers they lived in, brutally assaulted seemingly anyone they encountered including a pregnant woman, and by 16:15 had made 35 arrests. 34 of the 35 individuals arrested were black. One of the arrestees was urgently hospitalized due to severe injuries sustained at the hands of arresting officers.

=> Detailed reports, video footage, and an Amnesty International report urging investigation into police violence amounting to possible torture can be found here: https://freethemoria35.wordpress.com/media-reports/

  • 19 July: Criminal proceedings initiated

The 34 individuals who had spent the night in Mytilene police station were brought into Mytilene court in order for the public prosecutor to initiate criminal proceedings against them. The individual who had spent the night in hospital due to police violence remained in hospital. Arrestees reported having been beaten by the police again in the police station overnight. Some of the men were still bleeding from visible injuries and had been denied medical attention. Many were brought into the courthouse barefoot. Criminal proceedings against the Moria 35 were initiated by the public prosecutor, on a catalogue of identical charges:

  1. Arson with intent to endanger life – contrary to Article 264 of the Greek Penal Code
  2. Dangerous bodily harm – contrary to Article 309
  3. Damage of foreign property – contrary to Article 382
  4. Using or threatening violence to force an authority or public official to execute an act within his capacities or to refrain from a legitimate act – contrary to Article 167

=> http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2017/07/20/hearing-tomorrow-at-mytilene-court-for-moria35/

  • 21-22 July: Preliminary inquiry

Interrogations by the Investigating Judge took place over the course of two days. Four of the Moria 35 had this procedure postponed due to the state’s inability to produce translators in their languages. The procedure was also postponed for the individual who remained hospitalized.

There were solidarity protests outside the courthouse on both days. Many of the 35 arrested had not even been present at the morning’s peaceful protest, let alone the clashes between a small number of protesters and riot police that ensued following the police’s excessive use of tear gas. This led witnesses to conclude the arrests were arbitrary: that people were targeted because of race, nationality, and location within the camp at the time of the police raid; which itself seemed intended to collectively punish refugees for organised, peaceful resistance. There was an absolute lack of evidence against any of the Moria 35.

However, despite all this, the 30 individuals who were interrogated by the Investigating Judge were formally indicted on the catalogue of exaggerated crimes detailed above and the case was referred to trial. Many still had visible injuries and their access to food, water and medical care had been limited. Given the 48-hour window between arrests and preliminary inquiry, and the lack of lawyers on Lesvos, all 30 defendants were represented by one lawyer from the Legal Centre.

12 of the defendants filed official complaints in court against the police for excessive use of force. Many had vulnerability status and/or serious mental and physical health conditions that should have precluded pre-trial incarceration, which in any case should be a matter of last resort under both Greek and International law. Yet pre-trial detention was ordered for all 30 men pursuant to Article 282 of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure due to the gravity of the charges and their deemed lack of appropriate address, despite all being registered residents of Moria camp.

=> http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2017/07/30/free-the-moria-35/

  • 25-26 July: Transfer to prisons outside Lesvos

Amidst misinformation, lack of translation and defendants’ reports of police intimidation and racism, the 30 individuals for whom pre-trial detention had been ordered were transferred from Lesvos and divided between a prison on the island of Chios, and Korydallos and Avlona prisons in Athens, which were ill equipped to deal with non-Greek speakers and made visits from friends, family and lawyers extremely difficult.

  • Late July: Preliminary inquiry

Immediately upon being discharged from hospital, the individual hospitalized for a week due to police violence faced the investigating judge. Though indicted with the same charges, he was not given a pre-trial detention order and was released pending trial – though confined to the island of Lesvos with reporting conditions.

  • September – November: Conclusion of pre-trial proceedings

The right to free trial under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) makes it an obligation on the state to provide translation in a language a defendant understands. However, given the Greek state’s continued failure to do so in the case of 4 of the Moria 35, by the end of September, the Wolof-speaking defendant himself produced a translator and was interrogated by the Investigating Judge. By November, the 3 Bambara-speaking defendants had done the same. Thanks to arguments from the defense team coordinated by the Legal Centre and HIAS, regarding residency in Moria, health conditions, and the fact that these men had duly showed up to court once a month for as long as the state had failed to produce appropriate translators, the 4 defendants were released with restrictive conditions pending trial.

All 5 defendants – including the individual hospitalized by police violence – who had been given restrictive measures were forced to remain within the open-air prison of Lesvos, and to live in Moria camp: the very place they had been subject to brutal police violence.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2017/09/30/september-report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance-in-lesvos/ Section 5

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2017/11/09/october-report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance-in-lesvos/ Section 6

  • 13 December: Pre-trial detention extended

Despite applications for release on the basis of severe health conditions being made by defense lawyers, the Municipal Court renewed the pre-trial detention conditions for 30 defendants for a further 6 months. There was no legal basis for denying the 30 defendants their right to liberty and presumption of innocence (Article 5 and Article 6(2) ECHR) by ordering pre-trial detention to begin with, particularly given that none of the defendants had previous convictions and the prison-like character of the island of Lesvos itself precludes flight. Pre-trial detention is disproportionately used against foreign national defendants in Greece. Renewing such pre-trial detention was unduly harsh and unlawful. The trial date had still not been announced.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/02/10/january-2018-report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance-in-lesvos/

  • Late February 2018: Trial date and location announced

The trial date was finally set for 20 April 2018, before a ‘mixed jury Court’ in Chios. There was no apparent explanation for authorities’ decision to move the trial of the Moria 35 to the island of Chios: away from the solidarity groups that had been supporting them and the many witnesses to the events on the day of their arrest present in Lesvos.

  • 14 March: Joint statement

The five members of the Moria 35 under restrictive measures on the island of Lesvos released a collective statement ahead of their trial.

[Excerpt]:

 “Our humanity has been denied since we stepped foot in Europe, the supposed cradle of democracy and human rights. Since we arrived we have been forced to live in horrible conditions, our asylum cases are not taken seriously, and most Africans are denied residency in Europe and face deportation. We are treated like criminals, simply for crossing a border that Europeans can freely cross.

Now 35 of us have been accused of rioting, destroying property, and violence, however it was actually the police who attacked us in a violent and racist raid on the African section of Moria… It was the police in full riot gear who attacked unarmed migrants with stones, batons and tear gas… It was the police who damaged property by breaking the windows and doors of the containers where we were living. Without concern for people who were inside they threw tear gas into the closed containers. They dragged people by their hair out of the containers. They beat anyone they found with batons, their boots, their fists, including a pregnant woman. It seems we were targeted only because of our skin colour – because we are black.”

 => https://freethemoria35.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/statement35en.pdf

  • 10-17 April: International solidarity

In the week running up to the Moria 35 trial there were events, protests and documentary screenings in solidarity with the Moria 35 across Europe, using the hashtag #FreetheMoria35.

The mobilisations in Greece linked the case of the Moria 35 to the case of the Petrou Ralli 8, which was on trial the week after the Moria 35 and which shared many characteristics: refugees detained in inhumane conditions in a notorious detention centre peacefully raising questions in protest at their conditions, a police response of brutal violence causing serious injury (broken bones, head injuries), followed by seemingly arbitrary arrests, indictment on a catalogue of extreme criminal charges, and dispersal across prisons in Greece for unlawfully lengthy periods of pre-trial incarceration. These cases were also linked to a further analogous case known as the ‘Moria 10’, which involved 10 individuals indicted for clashes in Moria one week before the Moria 35 arrests. The patterns of state violence and institutional racism in these cases, which shared similar timelines, were seen as evidencing the systematic nature of repression and criminalization of migrant resistance to border violence in Greece.

=> https://musaferat.espivblogs.net/en/2018/03/13/call_for_solidarity/

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/04/16/release-of-documentary-moria-35/

=> https://www.facebook.com/pg/freemoria35/posts/

=> https://cantevictsolidarityenglish.noblogs.org/post/2018/09/07/petrou-ralli-8-a-conversation-with-the-8-of-petrou-ralli/

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/05/10/a-second-trial-to-begin-in-chios-in-continued-criminalization-of-asylum-seekers-in-lesvos/

  • 20-27 April 2018: Trial in Chios

The Moria 35 trial finally began on 20th April 2018, before the ‘Mixed Jury Court’ on Chios. There were only 4 days of proceedings, which ended on 27th April. The Legal Centre Lesvos coordinated the defense and at trial the legal defense team was made up of 6 lawyers from the Legal Centre, Musaferat, HIAS, Lesvos Solidarity, and Aitima. All defendants were acquitted of the following charges:

Arson with intent to endanger life – contrary to Article 264 of the Greek Penal Code

Damage of foreign property – contrary to Article 382

Using or threatening violence to force an authority or public official to execute an act within his capacities or to refrain from a legitimate act – contrary to Article 167

However, 32 defendants were found guilty of the following charge:

Dangerous bodily harm – contrary to Article 309

All convicted defendants were given a 26-month suspended prison sentence.

A trial observation committee representing 6 international human rights organisations attended proceedings, and published a detailed Trial Observation Report of their findings. Greece is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and is therefore obliged under international law to ‘secure to everyone within (its) jurisdiction the rights and freedoms’ contained therein. The Trial Observation Committee found gross breaches of the ECHR to have taken place in respect of the defendants in the Moria 35 trial. In brief these were as follows––

Article 3 – Prohibition of inhuman treatment

The Committee found the treatment of the Moria 35 defendants to breach the prohibitions of inhumane treatment under Article 3 ECHR. During the trial the defendants were given no breaks when they had to go to the toilet the trial continued without them. They were not provided with food by the authorities during the duration of each long trial day.

Article 6  – Right to a fair trial

The disproportionate 9 month delay that the Moria 35 were subject to between arrests and trial constituted a breach of Article 6(1) of the ECHR, particularly given that 30 of them were subject to detention conditions which should entail prioritization.

The Greek state systematically failed to provide competent interpreters in a language the Moria 35 defendants understood. This was the case from the preliminary inquiry and through the course of proceedings at trial. At no point were any of the defendants ‘informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail of the nature and cause of the accusation against him’ Article 6(3)(a) and Article 5(2) ECHR. At the trial stage, none of the defendants were accorded their right to ‘have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court’ as per Article 6(3)(e) ECHR. Translation was grossly inadequate throughout proceedings. It was not individual: there was, for example, one translator for 20 French-speaking defendants; and it was not competent: none of the interpreters were trained or professional. At one point in proceedings the English translator left and was replaced by a police officer. There was no Bambara translator provided for the Bambara-speaking defendant, who was expected to understand the Wolof translator, himself a refugee, despite not speaking Wolof.

Lack of translation restricted defendants’ other rights under the right to free trial, such as their ability to present their case, equality before the law and equality of arms. These rights under Article 6(1) ECHR were further violated at trial by the shockingly limited amount of time each defendant was given to present their testimony. The president of the court only asked three questions of each of the 35 defendants and prevented them from saying more. Despite letting the prosecution witnesses speak for 45 minutes each on average, each of the 35 defendants was only given an average of 7 minutes to speak. Some spoke for only 3 minutes. Given that all 35 defendants faced maximum prison sentences of 10 years, and that half of the minutes they were permitted were taken up with translation; this was deeply unjust. In addition, the 35 defendants shared 6 lawyers. Each lawyer was limited to 11 minutes for the multiple clients they were representing. This amounted to an average of 108 seconds of legal defense per defendant.

The report also evidences breaches of the presumption of innocence under Article 6(2) and impartiality of the tribunal per Article 6(1) ECHR stemming from the fact that there was no prosecution case against individual defendants. Evidence on individualized circumstances and alibis was not permitted. Prosecution witnesses could produce no proof of the involvement of individual defendants. In the verdict, defendants were not mentioned individually. Instead the Moria 35 were treated throughout proceedings as a “guilty group”.

Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination

Such treatment as a “guilty group” also goes to breaches of the prohibition of discrimination under Article 14 ECHR. The Committee report raises concerns that the police raid of solely the ‘African section’ of Moria despite individuals of various nationalities having participated in protests was racially biased. Official guidelines for identification and recognition of suspects were not followed. The report cites evidence of racist remarks made by the police during arrests: “black dog”, “this is not Africa”; and racist remarks made by police officers giving evidence at trial: “they all looked much the same”. In its conclusion, the Trial Observation Committee report states that “The 35 defendants were not treated in the way other defendants are treated before the Greek courts, or in the way the ECHR specifies that defendants should be treated in Europe”.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/04/28/the-moria-35-trial-results-in-conviction-of-32/

=> Trial Observation Report of the Moira 35 case: http://legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Observation-report-Moria-35-VERSION-COMPLETE-AVEC-LES-ANNEXES.pdf

  • 28 April: From pre-trial incarceration to immigration detention

Following the trial, 5 individuals who had been in prison in Avlona were transferred to Petrou Rally in Athens. 25 were transferred directly to detention in Moria, and the 5 who had been confined to Lesvos awaiting trial traveled back to the prison-like island of Lesvos. The Legal Centre took on the representation of the men in their asylum cases, with some support from HIAS.

  • 5 May: Release subject to immigration status

Only the 4 individuals among the Moria 35 who had been granted refugee status were freed from incarceration. All others were transferred from penal detention to administrative detention, with recommendations for their continued detention as asylum seekers because they were seen as a threat to public security, despite the fact that the court had granted suspended sentences for all individuals convicted.

  • 10 May 2018: Attempted deportations

The 7 individuals among the Moria 35 whose cases had been rejected on appeal were scheduled for deportation on 10th May. This despite the fact that: two of them had been denied legal representation on appeal, which is a right under Article 44(3) of Greek law 4375; none of them had exhausted their legal remedies; their criminal convictions were being appealed; and all of them had claims to residence permits on humanitarian grounds as victims and/or important witnesses to a serious crime (police brutality) that was the subject of ongoing proceedings, as per Article 19A of the amendments to Greek Law 4521 detailed in Law 4332.

However, the deportations of all 7 men were halted at the last minute thanks to a mobilization of the Legal Centre, the Free the Moria 35 campaign, interventions of the Ombudsman office and the UNHCR, and petitions to file subsequent asylum applications being made by the legal team.

=> http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/05/05/moria35-update-26-of-the-35-remain-detained/

  • 17 May: ‘Voluntary’ deportation

Having spent 9 months incarcerated only to be subject to a gross miscarriage of justice, one of the Moria 35 gave up on the Greek ‘justice’ system altogether, signed for ‘Assisted Voluntary Return’ and was deported to Turkey.

  • 13 June: Deportations

Another 2 of the Moria 35 were deported to Turkey on the morning of 13th June. Both men were had not exhausted their legal remedies in Greece. One individual was deported on this day despite still having the legal recourse of appealing in administrative court open to him. He had received new evidence in the form of original documents corroborating his claim for asylum or subsidiary protection. The other individual had been declaring his express desire to exercise his right to appeal the rejection of his asylum claim to police for days preceding his deportation. Lawyers had also spoken to the police department informing them of their intention to submit an appeal to the asylum service on his behalf. Yet despite this, both men were deported to Turkey and within a few weeks to their home countries.

=> http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2018/06/14/report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance/

  • June: Impunity in the police brutality case

Despite the fact that all of the Moria 35 had been found innocent on the charge of resisting arrest, and despite extensive evidence of police violence; in June the public prosecutor closed the investigation into the police brutality that took place on 18th July 2017, on the basis that there was a lack of evidence, and that the individuals who had submitted claims against the police had been resisting arrest so the police’s use of force was necessary.

  • May – July: Gradual release

In the months that followed the trial, 16 of the Moria 35 were gradually released. All of the individuals released within a year of their initial arrest still had pending asylum cases, either at first instance or on appeal. The 7 who remained incarcerated had cruelly had their imprisonment due to criminal proceedings seamlessly substituted for imprisonment due to asylum proceedings: one man whose case had been closed while he was in prison and unable to reopen it, and 6 who had been rejected at second instance, but had submitted subsequent applications.

  • 1 September

One of the Moria 35 was finally released, on his asylum case finally being reopened.

  • 5 September

Of the 6 of the Moria 35 who remained imprisoned in September, 2 men were particularly vulnerable. They were desperate, suicidal, and had both attempted suicide on different occasions during the 14 months they had been incarcerated. One of the individuals was quoted as saying; “We are not alive in here, so why would we continue to live?”

Both men were finally released on 5th September.

  • 9 – 18 October 2018

The final 4 of the Moria 35 were released over the course of 10 days.

 

The Legal Centre Lesvos will continue to document the institutionalized racism, impunity and gross human rights violations associated with this case, and to fight for justice for the Moria 35. The criminal convictions of 32 of the Moria 35 have been appealed. At the time of writing an appeal date has not yet been given.

…the authorities can not stop the truth from coming out about how Greece and Europe treat migrants in Lesvos. It is the violent attack by the police against African migrants which must be investigated. It is the police who must be brought to justice.”

(Statement of 5 of the Moria 35, March 2018)

September Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

  1. Inhumane and dangerous conditions in Moria camp
  2. Afghan community protest
  3. Anti-fascist demonstration in Mytilene
  4. EU Co-ordinator of the EU-Turkey Statement meets with resistance on his visit to Lesvos
  5. Legal Centre Lesvos Legal Updates

    • Family Reunification
    • Moria 35
  6. General Legal Updates
    • Decision of Greek Council of State sets dangerous precedent for forcible returns to Turkey under EU-Turkey Deal
    • Returns to Greece begin from Germany and other European States
    • Detention of 28 nationalities in accelerated procedure

  1. Inhumane and dangerous conditions in Moria camp

Living conditions in Moria camp have become unbearable over the past month as a dramatic increase in arrivals coincides with a deterioration in the weather and inadequate provision of food, shelter, healthcare and hygiene. Between the 1st and 26th of September 2017, 2,238 people risked their lives crossing the Mytilene Strait from Turkey to Lesvos, while during September 2016, 1068 people made this journey. Authorities have given estimates that the number of new registrations is over 200 people per day, which is the highest since March 2016. Moria camp is now at over double its capacity: at least 4,831 people are living in a camp equipped to accommodate no more than 1,800. In recent days, tents – which are fundamentally unfit for winter weather or long term accommodation – have been flooded from the rain.

Clients visiting the Legal Centre report that summer camping tents are crammed into every available space in Moria to accommodate new arrivals, that there are up to 20 people housed in containers meant for 5, that access to water gets cut off for days at a time, that there is no access to healthcare, that there are particularly vulnerable individuals – heavily pregnant women, people in wheelchairs, survivors of sexual, psychological, physical violence and torture, unaccompanied minors and pregnant minors – among those living in conditions unfit for human habitation; that there is widespread despair and mounting unrest.

In the winter of 2016-2017, in similarly crowded and inhumane conditions at least five people died in the cold in Moria Camp. When questioned about plans for ‘winterization’ of the camp for the approaching winter, a UNHCR representative responded that one solution would be increased returns to Turkey. Return to Turkey of asylum seekers violates the basic tenets of rights guaranteed to refugees and is clearly not a solution to the inhumane treatment that asylum seekers currently face in Lesvos.

The current reception conditions in Lesvos are in abject violation of the provisions of the Recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU, Recital 11 of which demands “Standards for the reception of applicants that will suffice to ensure them a dignified standard of living”, and Article 17(2) of which mandates:

“Member States shall ensure that material reception conditions provide an adequate standard of living for applicants, which guarantees their subsistence and protects their physical and mental health. Member States shall ensure that that standard of living is met in the specific situation of vulnerable persons, in accordance with Article 21, as well as in relation to the situation of persons who are in detention.”

In the face of the deplorable violation of these requirements that current conditions constitute, removing geographical restrictions amounts to a binding legal obligation under Article 7(1) of the Reception Conditions Directive since the assigned area of Lesvos does not allow sufficient scope for guaranteeing access to all benefits under the Directive:

“Applicants may move freely within the territory of the host Member State or within an area assigned to them by that Member State. The assigned area shall not affect the unalienable sphere of private life and shall allow sufficient scope for guaranteeing access to all benefits under this Directive.”

Legal Centre Lesvos therefore calls on Greek and EU authorities to immediately remove geographical restrictions placed on applicants for international protection and permit free movement to mainland Greece, where other European states must respect relocation programs so that the minimum reception conditions required to safeguard human dignity can be met. The current situation in Moria only compounds the already well-documented fact that reception conditions under the Common European Asylum Procedure are being systematically violated in Lesvos.

                                                   

Photo credit: Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa Facebook

  1. Afghan Community protest

On Monday 28th August, the Afghan refugee community in Lesvos marched from Moria to Sappho’s Square Mytilene, protesting their confinement to the island for what in many cases has been over a year. Protesters wore T-shirts with their asylum status – “no decision” – and their dates of arrival in Greece marked in red pen – like the red stamp on International Protection Applicant documents that signifies geographical restriction to Lesvos. The protest echoed the demands of both the Afghan community protests in Athens the prior week, and the collective protests in Moria held on 17th and 18th of July. The Afghans participating in the protest issued the following statement:

“Today Afghan refugees are protesting our imprisonment on Lesvos. Many of us have been here for over a year trapped on this island, and we are still waiting for decisions. We join the struggle of protests held on 17 and 18 of July, and demand that the right to freedom of movement be granted for asylum seekers who have been here since 2016. We also join the call of Afghan refugees who protested last week in Athens, and call on Greece to halt all deportations of Afghans. From the recent massacres of unarmed civilians in Mirzaolang in northern Afghanistan, in which children, women, and elderly were ruthlessly killed, to the daily suicide bombings across the country, to the reckless US drone strikes in Nangarhar, Afghan Asylum Seekers in Greece say — Afghanistan is not a safe country, and all deportation should stop.”

The protesters camped in Sappho Square, waiting for the Greek Authorities respond to their demands. After police threats, harassment and detention of community leaders, two days after their protest began a representative of the European Asylum Support Office in Lesvos and the Commander of Lesvos Police met with the protesters. The representative of EASO reportedly promised them that the following Tuesday decisions would be issued for Afghans who had been waiting in Lesvos since 2016, so they decided to end their sit-in. The following Tuesday 5th September, representatives of the Afghan community were again told by EASO officials that they must wait for decisions.  The community attempted to meet with the Greek Minister of Immigration Policy – Ioannis Mouzalas – when he visited Moria Camp on 6 September, but he refused to meet with any refugees. They also submitted a letter to the Regional Greek Asylum Office, EASO, and the Greek Ministry of Migration on 7 September 2017, with two simple demands – first, the issuance of decisions and granting freedom of movement throughout Greece for all asylum seekers who arrived in Lesvos in 2016; and second, an end to all deportations to Afghanistan and Turkey. To date this letter remains unanswered and Afghan asylum seekers remain in limbo on Lesvos.

                

Photo credits: Joan Mas

  1. Anti-fascist demonstration in Mytilene

On Monday 18th September, Αντιφασιστικός Συντονισμός Λέσβου (Lesvos Antifa) organised a march through Mytilene to: “make it clear once again that any right-wing fascist logic has no place on the island of Lesvos”. The demonstration formed part of co-ordinated anti-fascist actions across Greece, commemorating four years since the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas (Killah P) was murdered on 18 September 2013 by fascist George Roupakia, who worked for and publically supported Golden Dawn – the fascist party that currently holds 17 seats in Greek parliament. At the time, Fyssas’ murder sparked a wave of anti-fascist resistance across Greece and Europe. It is now central to ‘the biggest trial of fascist criminality since Nuremberg’, in which members of the Golden Dawn party leadership stand accused of directing criminal violence including Fyssas’ murder and other violent street attacks perpetrated by fascists against migrants and leftists, including against a group of Egyptian migrants and members of a communist-affiliated trade union. Proceedings in this politically charged trial began again at the beginning of September. While a ruling on the Golden Dawn party that casts it as institutionally criminal would be significant, in a post about resistance on September 18th, Αντιφασιστικός Συντονισμός Λέσβου (Lesvos Antifa) was careful to highlight the limitations of this form of justice in the struggle against fascism; by tracing the connections between fascist ideology, the state and the violent logic of borders:

Fascism has historically never been institutionally fought by state mechanisms, as it is the most violent and oppressive form of capitalism. And that is because it is the state that builds fences and minefields at the border, evacuates the occupations of migrants, creates concentration camps, attacks those who organise resistance “from the bottom”, i.e the same subjects that are the target of the fascists.”

“In contrast to this, our world is that of equality and solidarity, and we are willing and prepared to do everything we can to defend it.”

                                             

Photo credit: Αντιφασιστικός Συντονισμός Λέσβου Facebook

  1. EU Co-ordinator of the EU-Turkey Statement meets with resistance on his visit to Lesvos

On Thursday 21st September, Mr. Maarten Verwey, EU coordinator for implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, traveled to Lesvos and met with authorities in Moria Camp, Karatepe Camp, and the Mytilene mayor’s office. He did not, however, meet with any of the individuals best placed to brief him on the impact of the EU-Turkey Statement: the refugees and asylum seekers who know all too well how refugees are treated in Turkey, and as a consequence of the ‘deal’, have been trapped on Lesvos for months and years living in inhumane and degrading conditions in perpetual fear of deportation.

Mr. Verwey visited Lesvos just a few weeks after the European Commission issued its Seventh Report on the Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement. As in previous reports, the European Commission recommends increased returns to Turkey, and notably omits information on conditions for non-Syrian refugees who are deported to Turkey under the “readmission” scheme despite clear evidence that Turkey systematically violates the rights of refugees returned from Greece.

The report also echoes previous recommendations by the European Commission to increase security, decrease risk of absconding, and recommends that Greece consider returning to Turkey vulnerable individuals and individuals applying for family reunification within European States under the Dublin III Regulation. It also recommends keeping vulnerable individuals restricted to the Greek islands throughout the asylum process. Until now, the Greek State has not returned to Turkey any individuals whose Dublin applications for transfer to a second European State have been accepted, and the Greek Asylum Service has granted freedom of movement throughout Greece to individuals who they find to be vulnerable. The European Commission putting continued pressure on Greece to refuse entry to even the most vulnerable refugees exposes their intention to prioritise maintaining Fortress Europe above respect for international human rights protections and basic humanity.

                                                                        

Local actors and refugees will continue to denounce, organize and protest against the EU-Turkey Statement and its devastating impact on the lives of individuals and families seeking protection in Europe.

 

  1. Legal Centre LesBos Legal Updates

  • Family reunification

The Legal Centre has had good news in the case of a client we have been representing for nearly a year. After rejecting the application twice, Germany has finally accepted an application for family reunification under the discretionary and dependency provisions of Articles 16 and 17 of the Dublin III Regulation 604/2013 thanks to the coordinated efforts of the Legal Centre team. The chances of success in such cases are vanishingly slim, particularly in light of Germany’s recent suspension of family reunification procedures. As such, we are very happy to announce that the client will soon travel to be reunited with her daughter and grandchildren in Germany. The case serves as an example of why it is always worth fighting to do everything possible de jure, irrespective of the de facto collapse of some parts of the applicable European legal framework.

  • Moria 35

The preliminary hearing procedure in the case of the Moria 35 has been ongoing for two months due to the Greek state’s failure to provide Bambara and Wolof language translators for four defendants. While this preliminary procedure is unconcluded, the 30 defendants interrogated by the judge in July and ordered detained awaiting trial, remain incarcerated in prisons in Chios and Athens despite a lack of credible evidence against them. However, the delay has contributed to a victory in the case of one of the four defendants. While it is the obligation of the State to provide interpreters, on 29th September 2017 the Wolof speaking defendant himself provided an interpreter and agreed to be interrogated. At conclusion of his interrogation and on application by the criminal defence team co-ordinated by the Legal Centre, the court ordered that he be released with restrictive measures awaiting trial. The defense team argued that because of his health conditions, his residence in Moria Camp, lack of any criminal history, and the fact that he has been duly reporting to authorities and showing up to court each week for two months, he should not be detained awaiting trial. Both the public prosecutor and judge agreed. The court still has not provided a Bambara translator for the remaining three defendants, which means the preliminary procedure remains unconcluded, and all 35 continue to wait for a trial date to be set.

  1. General Legal Updates

  • Decision of Greek Council of State sets dangerous precedent for forcible returns to Turkey under EU-Turkey deal

On 22nd of September, the Greek Council of State Plenary – Greece’s highest administrative court – ruled that Turkey is a safe country. By a vote of 13 to 12, the court decided not to refer the question as to whether Turkey can be considered a “safe third country” for determination by the European Court of Justice. If the ruling is enforced, the applicants in this case will be the first to be officially forcibly returned to Turkey on the basis that it is a safe third country since the EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016: setting an extremely dangerous precedent. The concept of a ‘safe third country’ for the purposes of the Common European Asylum System is set out in Article 38 of the Recast Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU, which lists five principles that competent authorities must be satisfied that applicants for international protection will be treated in accordance with:

(a) life and liberty are not threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;

(b) there is no risk of serious harm as defined in Directive 2011/95/EU

(c) the principle of non-refoulement in accordance with the Geneva Convention is respected;

(d) the prohibition of removal, in violation of the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as laid down in international law, is respected; and

(e) the possibility exists to request refugee status and, if found to be a refugee, to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention

The Legal Centre has consistently denounced the EU-Turkey deal for its hypocritical, politically expedient reliance on the notion that Turkey – not even a signatory of the 1968 protocol to the Refugee Convention – can be considered a ‘safe third country’, given overwhelming evidence that each of five principles listed above are systematically violated by Erdogan’s repressive authoritarian regime. Indeed, the Greek Council of State’s decision came just as Amnesty International released a report documenting the heightened risk of violations of the principle of non-refoulement for refugees in Turkey since the state of emergency was put in place. 

  • Returns to Greece begin from Germany and other European states

The Legal Centre is concerned at recent moves made by Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, and other European states to resume returning refugees to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, which provides that the first European member state an asylum seeker enters is responsible for the examination of her application for international protection. Transfers back to Greece have been suspended since 2011, when decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union found that returns to Greece would amount to violations of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3 ECHR, Article 4 European Charter) in combination with the right to an effective remedy (Article 13 ECHR, Article 47 EC), due to systematic deficiencies in asylum procedures and reception conditions. As systematic violations of these standards continue and conditions deteriorate, any European country returning refugees to Greece will risk acting in violation of non-derogable human rights.

  • Detention of 28 nationalities in accelerated procedure

The Legal Centre condemns the policy being used by Greek authorities that keeps applicants for international protection from countries with “low rates of recognition” detained for the duration of their asylum procedure, which is also accelerated. This policy is in violation of international human rights law: amounting to discrimination on the basis of nationality, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and precluding the right to effective access to procedures and effective remedy. The policy also violates procedural requirements of EU and Greek law, which explicitly prohibit holding people in detention for the sole reason that they have applied for international protection. Detention is only exceptionally permitted for limited time periods as a measure of last resort, under the specific circumstances set out in Article 46 of Greek Law 4375, which must be individually assessed in every case. The disturbing assumptions underlying this manifestly unlawful policy should be evident from the fact that a police circular describing the policy on 18th June 2016 termed people from “low rate of recognition” nationalities as “economic profile”, as opposed to “refugee profile” applicants.

August Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

  1. Freedom from Illegal Detention for Hunger Strikers
  2. Moria 35 Update
  3. Increase in Raids and Arbitrary Arrests
  4. One Year Anniversary of Legal Centre Lesvos
  5. Legal Updates:
    • Resumption of detention and accelerated procedure for individuals of certain nationalities
    • Continued violation of right to lawyer on appeal
    • Right to marriage for asylum seekers in Lesvos recognized

1. FREEDOM FROM ILLEGAL DETENTION FOR HUNGER STRIKERS

On Tuesday 8th August 2017, Behrooz Aresh and Kuzhin Hussein were released after enduring 35 days on hunger strike. With this victory, Arash Hampay ended his 41-day hunger strike, two weeks after his brother Amir Hampay was released from Moria Detention Centre on the 24th day of the hunger strike. The release of these three men from illegal, arbitrary detention is a victory for refugee rights in Lesvos and for the Lesvos solidarity movement. The hunger strikers victory also comes at an important time for resistance movements in Lesvos, given fear generated by authorities disproportionate response to demonstrations against human rights abuses, detailed in sections 2 and 3 below.

Amir, Behrooz, and Kuzhin are asylum seekers with cases pending in administrative court, and have committed no crime. On 28 June, after months in detention, and silenced by new restrictions limiting their contact with the outside world, the three prisoners were driven to start a hunger strike protesting their illegal detention. They were joined a day later by Amir’s brother, Arash Hampay, who made his protest in public view from the main square of Mytilene.

Over the past month activists around the world, including from Mosaik Centre and the Legal Centre, have mobilised in solidarity with Arash Hampay and the prisoners on hunger strike. Arash made daily statements on social media and for international press, communicated with the imprisoned hunger strikers and stationed himself in Sappho square around the clock with signs in Greek and English, to amplify the demand for freedom. Activists spread awareness through solidarity hunger strikes, fought to ensure hunger strikers received adequate medical attention and protection from intimidation, and put pressure on the Greek authorities to release them. Solidarity actions, including a march from Moria Detention Centre to Mytilene on 8 July, a rally on the main street of Mytilene on 1st August and a peaceful protest outside Moria Detention Centre on 5 August, led to increased coverage. One member of European Parliament issued a statement in support of the prisoners’ release.

The release of Behrooz and Kuzhin came just days after they broke their strike due to rapidly deteriorating health conditions. Behrooz had lost 30% of his body weight. Arash Hampay, whose health had been more closely monitored as he was not detained, decided to continue. He remained on hunger strike demanding the release of imprisoned hunger strikers for 41 days: breaking his hunger strike only when Behrooz and Kuzhin were finally released by court order, following petitions made by their Metadrasi lawyers.

The hunger strikers’ struggle and eventual victory has succeeded in raising local and international awareness about arbitrary detention in Lesvos. However, the unlawful practice that landed Amir, Behrooz and Kozhein in detention, of indiscriminately detaining all applicants for international protection whose cases are rejected on appeal, continues to be applied systematically. International pressure to end this practice must be maintained. As Arash said, in a statement on the day of Behroos and Kuzhein’s release:

“The heart of this victory is the people overcoming the state…The hunger strike ended today. We were victorious. [But] the struggle will always continue as long as injustice remains. Prisons still exist in our world and so do borders, which continue to separate people from each other.”

                                                                                                                 

Photo credits: Arash Hampay’s Facebook

2. MORIA 35 UPDATE

35 individuals were arrested on Tuesday 18th July 2017 in Moria Refugee Camp, Lesvos, in raids following clashes with riot police using teargas and violence. The individuals arrested have been charged with serious crimes including arson, damage to property, and rioting, which carry lengthy prison sentences and could signify exclusion from international protection. There is mounting evidence that individuals were arbitrarily arrested on the basis of their race, nationality and presence in the camp at the time of police raids. There is also considerable evidence that police used excessive force during and after the arrest of these individuals. Amnesty International Greece has urged authorities to investigate police violence possibly amounting to torture. See our previous report for further details.

The Legal Centre Lesvos, supported by Lesvos Solidarity, provided representation to all 35 in their preliminary hearings, and is now working with a larger coordinated group of organizations and criminal defense lawyers to ensure the 35 receive adequate representation both in their defense, and in their complaints against the police for excessive use of force.

                        

3. INCREASE IN RAIDS AND ARBITRARY ARRESTS

On the mornings of Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th of July, before the mass arrests, refugee communities largely from Sub-Saharan Africa organized peaceful protests in front of the European Asylum Support office in Moria, demanding freedom of movement for those who have been trapped on the island for over six months. Their demands are in line with International, EU and Greek constitutional law, which guarantee free movement rights. In fact, a recent administrative court ruling in Spain, found that restriction of asylum seekers to Ceuta (a city on the Northern coast of the African continent that was colonised and is now part of the Spanish State) was in violation of their constitutional free movement rights.

The protests calling for freedom of movement followed months of organizing peaceful resistance to state policies that continue to violate basic human rights in Lesvos. Refugee communities sent letters to European leaders, met with Greek authorities and European Parliament members and held peaceful demonstrations. Community leaders announced collective demands on Greek radio. The protests of July 17th and 18th were organised to take place during a week when an Action Camp organised by Lesvos Solidarity and Amnesty International to “shine a spotlight on the dire situation facing refugees trapped on Lesvos” had brought the attention of international media and activists to the island. Many refugee community leaders in Lesvos participated in this Action Camp, which culminated in a symbolic action denouncing the EU-Turkey deal responsible for trapping refugees on Lesvos.

On Monday 24th July, a week after the peaceful protests and subsequent mass arrests of the Moria 35, police carried out a coordinated pre-dawn raid of Moria Refugee Camp, where approximately 3000 refugees are currently living. From 5am, police surrounded the camp, preventing humanitarian workers from entering and proceeded to systematically search the ISO-box containers and tents, demanding refugees show applicant for international protection identity documents. 54 people were arrested during this raid. 21 of the arrestees were later released, while 23 were incarcerated in the detention centre in Moria. The apparently arbitrary nature of these raids and arrests raise concerns that authorities are employing a policy of intimidation calculated to instill fear and put a stop to refugees collectively organising to protest brutal conditions on the island; which is difficult enough in the face of a legal procedure that functions to divide people on the basis of nationality.

Increasing ID checks in the streets, combined with these raids and mass arrests have led to an increase in refugees seeking legal counsel in the Legal Centre as fear of arbitrary arrest grows. In the past month, we have taken on over 50 new cases, and over 80% of these new clients were referred to the Legal Centre by other refugees.

                                                              

4. ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF LEGAL CENTRE LESVOS

The Legal Centre opened its doors inside Mosaik Support Centre one year ago, in August 2016. With a small dedicated team of interpreters, Greek attorneys, and longÍ-term legally trained volunteers, we have provided individual consultation to over 500 individuals and families seeking refuge in Europe. We have always operated an open door policy, providing legal aid and information to all who seek our help, regardless of legal status or strength of claims for international protection.

Over the past year our work has evolved as the challenges facing refugees in Lesvos constantly change. To meet these challenges, we have now hired two Greek attorneys, who provide representation to refugees not only in asylum procedures, but also to advocate for refugees rights wherever they are violated, such as in criminal and administrative proceedings.

In addition to providing individualized access to legal advice, we support refugee-led activities to advocate for human rights protections in Lesvos and organised with refugee communities, local activists and solidarity groups in the fight against the long-term structural injustices of the European Asylum System.

5. LEGAL UPDATES

  • Resumption of detention and accelerated procedure for individuals of certain nationalities

Legal actors in Lesvos have raised collective concerns that authorities are detaining individuals upon arrival who come from countries with less than 25% acceptance rate for asylum. These individuals are also subject to expedited procedures for their asylum claim, sometimes to an extreme degree. In at least a few cases, the individuals arrived, had their interview the next day, were denied the day after the interview, appealed, and the examination of the appeal was scheduled a mere eight days after their arrival on the island. These individuals were detained throughout the process, with no medical attention and no access to legal services. Discrimination on the basis of nationality is prohibited by international law, while Article 46 of Greek Law 4375 provides that detention can be used only as a measure of last resort, for limited time periods, and must be individually assessed in every case. International law also mandates the right to due process and freedom from arbitrary detention.

  • Continued violation of right to lawyer on appeal

The Greek government continues to violate the rights of asylum applicants by not providing lawyers to represent them on appeal. Article 44 of Greek Law provides that “in procedures before the Appeals Authority, applicants shall be provided with free legal assistance”, transposing Articles 19-23 of the 2013/32/EU ‘Procedures Directive’, which requires the same. Though Metadrasi resumed taking cases some time in late July, with only five full-time and one part-time attorney, they are at reduced capacity. Refugees who have been denied on the first instance continue to be bounced around to all of the legal actors on the island looking for representation after being told that Metadrasi doesn’t have capacity to assist them. It appears that the situation will not improve in the near future. Metadrasi is funded at the current level through the end of 2017. The Greek government recently approved funding for 26 more lawyers to start in September nation-wide, but only one will be stationed on Lesvos. The funding level for legal aid was based on the needs assessment from 2014, before individuals arriving to Lesvos were prevented from travelling to the mainland.

Since late June 2017, the Legal Centre has consulted at least 17 individuals whose cases were rejected who have been told there is no lawyer available to represent them on appeal. Because the Legal Centre has limited capacity, we prioritize providing legal aid where people don’t have the right to a lawyer provided by the Greek State, as they do at this stage of the appeal. With only two Greek attorneys in our office, we also did not have capacity to assist these individuals. They are being denied their right to access to justice, and risk being denied on appeal and potentially deported to countries where they could face persecution.

  • Right to marriage for asylum seekers in Lesvos recognized

In late July, attorneys from HIAS won an important case regarding the right to marry. Previously, asylum seekers in Lesvos were denied marriage licenses, no matter the legal status of their intended spouse. The individuals that HIAS represented were an asylum seeker and an individual with legal residency as a refugee who had been denied a marriage license. The asylum seeker did not have a certificate of no impediment or any other document from her country of origin certifying her age. The court noted that refugees by definition have a damaged relationship with their home country, and should not be expected to provide these documents. It stated that the Greek State must be flexible and open-minded in these cases to protect the fundamental rights of refugees such as the right to family. In place of a certificate of no impediment, a statement that there is no impediment for the individual concerned is sufficient.

FREE THE MORIA 35

On Tuesday 18th July 2017, 35 refugees in Moria camp, Lesvos, were arrested. For the second day in a row, protesters sat outside the European Asylum Support Office inside the camp, holding banners denouncing dehumanising conditions, and calling for freedom of movement for those kept on the island for over 6 months. Following this peaceful exercise of the right to protest, there were clashes between a handful of protesters and Greek riot police. Police forces then carried out raids of Isoboxes, and made 35 arrests. Images and videos showing police using excessive force during clashes with protesters and brutal violence during raids and arrests including beatings with police batons and boots, have been published in international media and on social media.Many of the 35 arrested were not present at the morning’s peaceful protest, let alone the clashes between a small number of protesters and riot police that ensued. This led observers to conclude the arrests were arbitrary; people were targeted because of race, nationality, and location within the camp at the time of police raids. 34 of the 35 people arrested were black. Many of the 35 report having been brutally beaten by police during raids, arrests and/or in police custody. 11 have filed official complaints of police brutality, and forensic medical examinations have been ordered. One individual was hospitalised for over a week, and many have needed urgent medical attention. Given the mounting evidence of police brutality, Amnesty International has published a report urging Greek authorities to conduct an immediate investigation into allegations of excessive use of force amounting to possible torture: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur25/6845/2017/en/

During the preliminary hearings on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd of July, 31 of the 35 people arrested were charged with exaggerated crimes of arson, attempted assault, resisting arrest, rioting, damage to private property and disturbing the public peace. These charges carry disproportionately heavy sentences if convicted, and could additionally signify exclusion from the right to international protection. The Judge Investigator ordered pre-trial detention for 30 of those charged, with alternative restrictive measures ordered for the individual who had been hospitalised. Many of the people subject to pre-trial detention orders have vulnerability status and/or serious mental and physical health conditions which should preclude incarceration. Imprisonment pending trial, which in Greece means on average a period of over 6 months, should be a measure of last resort under Greek and international law. 4 individuals have had their preliminary hearings postponed due to the Court’s inability to find translators. On Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th of July, 20 of the individuals charged were transferred to prisons in Athens, and 2 to Chios.

Legal Centre Lesvos denounces use of excessive force, arbitrary raids and arrests, exaggerated criminal charges, lack of access to due process and punitive pre-trial detention on the part of state actors, all of which violate basic principles of international human rights law. The apparently indiscriminate nature of these arrests, charges, and pre-trial detention orders, coupled with the dawn-raids that took place in Moria camp on Monday 24th July, provide reason to believe that authorities are deploying a policy of intimidation intended to instill fear in the camps and prevent organising and protests against the realities of structural violence and dehumanising reception conditions for refugees in Lesvos. The Legal Centre will continue to advocate for the rights of the 35 arrestees and for the rights of all refugees in Lesvos, including the right to freedom of expression and to live in dignity; free from violence, discrimination and inhumane treatment.