The Summer of 2023 was marked by particularly deadly events at the EU’s external borders, with the massacre of over 600 people on the move in the tragic Pylos shipwreck. The capsizing of the Adriana boat and the mounting evidence indicating the non-rescue and life-threatening sea operations by the Hellenic Coast Guard are once again exposing the criminal policies implemented in Greece against migrants. If this was not enough, the dangerous and criminal operations carried out by Greece’s border guards at sea were fully captured on video and broadcasted by the New York Times, in a publication which shows the full process of a pushback operation from Lesvos island, including the illegal and clandestine abduction of migrants, followed by their abandonment at sea. Despite all this, pushbacks in the Aegean have continued.
The systematic criminalisation of migrants arriving to Greece as “smugglers” has also continued, despite noticeable civil society and political efforts to denounce the current laws and procedures often used to cover up the state’s own crimes. In the Pylos massacre, instead of launching serious and independent investigations into the circumstances of the shipwreck, the Greek authorities have prioritised the arrest and imprisonment of nine survivors, who are currently being held in pre-trial detention facing serious felony charges. In this context, and as further described within this newsletter, the Legal Centre Lesvos’ lawyers have taken over the criminal defence of two of the accused of the ‘Pylos9’.
Meanwhile in Lesvos, the population of the current Closed Controlled Access Centers (CCAC) in Kara Tepe has continued to grow and conditions worsened due to policies of detention, denial of food, and arbitrary application of geographic restrictions. In August and September, thousands of migrants were unlawfully detained for weeks in appalling conditions while waiting for their registration as asylum seekers, due to the lack of preparedness of the authorities.
Unfortunately, the practice of systematic detention of migrants is nothing new in the EU-funded CCACs. The continuation of the construction work of the massive EU-funded CCAC in Vastria is a further proof of this policy objective. Construction is ongoing in the remote Vastria CCAC despite the August 2023 decision to revoke its construction permit by the Greek Council of State due to the lack of a proper environmental impact assessment. Even before it begins operating as a CCAC, problems continue to emerge with this centre, including a recent report which exposes how migrants were employed at extremely low wages for the construction of their ‘own prison’ in Vastria.
The plans on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum resuming in Brussels unsurprisingly confirm this ‘model’ of detention of migrants in camps. LCL and other organisations are challenging this new Pact, and in Lesvos we will continue to work to document and expose the detrimental effects of concentrating migrants in camps. In August 2023, in collaboration with the Feminist Autonomous Centre for research, LCL published an extensive report based on three years of research, ‘A Pandemic of Abuses’, in which we documented how Greece used the COVID-19 pandemic to further generalise its policies of detention of migrants, which we demonstrate lead to severe human rights violations to which member States and institutions will have to respond.
For updates on the situation on Lesvos island over the last six months and our work to defend and advance the rights of migrants, see linked below our full newsletter, covering the following topics:Table-of-Contents-Page