Author: Lorraine Leete

Press release: Justice for Amir and Razuli!

Ελληνικό κείμενο

The organizations Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, Borderline Europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean demand freedom for two young refugees.

The two men from Afghanistan were seeking safety in Europe, but were instead arbitrarily convicted to 50 years imprisonment. The Appeal Trial will take place on 17 March 2022 in Lesvos.

Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Amir and Razuli tried to reach Greece on a rubber boat in March 2020. They testified that the Greek coast guard attacked them and tried to push them back to Turkey by force. The attack caused the boat to sink and the coast guard had to take them on board. Amir and Razuli were arbitrarily charged with “facilitating illegal entry” and “provoking a shipwreck”, in addition to their own entry. On the 8th of September 2020 they were sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Amir and Razuli, 25 and 23, fled from Afghanistan trying to reach Europe in search of a life in safety. With Europe’s ever-increasing closure of borders and the lack of safe and legal ways to enter Europe and claim asylum, they were forced to embark on the dangerous journey on a rubber boat across the Aegean Sea. Amongst the other people in the boat was also Amir’s young daughter and his heavily pregnant wife.1

They made their journey in March 2020, the month in which the Greek government announced the suspension of one of the most fundamental human rights – the right to apply for asylum, and consequently charged people seeking protection with their own “illegal entry”, blatantly contradicting EU law and the Geneva Convention.

In their first trial, Razuli and Amir testified that the Greek coast guard attacked the boat as soon as they had entered Greek waters and tried to push it back into Turkish waters using metal poles. In doing so, they punctured the boat, causing water to enter and putting the life of the people onboard at risk.2 As the boat was about to sink, the coast guard eventually took them on board.

Following this deeply traumatizing experience, the coast guard proceeded with heavily beating up Amir and Razuli, arbitrarily accusing the two of being the smugglers. According to Amir’s wife who had to witness all of this together with her daughter, they only stopped when she held up their young child in front of her husband begging the men to stop.

As soon as they arrived at the Greek island of Lesvos, Amir and Razuli were separated from the rest of the group and brought to the police station. The coast guard accused them of their own entry, of facilitating the unauthorized entry of the other people on the boat and of having endangered the people’s lives.

They were since held in pre-trial detention and sentenced to 50 years in prison on 8th of September 2020. Although there is no evidence against them except for the statement of the coast guards, they were only acquitted of the accusation of “provoking a shipwreck”.

The Appeal Trial will take place on 17 March 2022 on Lesvos and lawyers from the Legal Centre Lesvos and the Human Rights Legal Project on Samos will defend Amir and Razuli in the upcoming trial.

Almost every day, people seeking protection are criminalized for their own flight and arbitrarily sentenced to lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. Recently, a survivor of a shipwreck has even been criminalized for the death of his six-year-old son, who died when they tried to cross from Turkey to Greece (see the campaign Free the #Samos2). Suspects, or what we would deem ‘victims’ of this unjust legislation, usually have limited access to legal assistance. Judgments are often pronounced despite lack of evidence and poor quality of translation. In Greece, the average trial in these cases lasts only around 30 minutes, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines over 370.000 Euro. According to official numbers by the Greek ministry of justice, almost 2.000 people are currently in Greek prisons for this reason. However, the fates of these people are seldom known. Arrested immediately upon arrival, most of them are locked away unnoticed, without their names known and no access to support from outside.

  • We demand a thorough investigation, justice and the release of Amir and Razuli, as well as the dropping of all charges against them!
  • We demand freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” and the end of criminalization of people on the move!
  • The European Union must stop the arbitrary incarceration of refugees and migrants!

Press Contacts:

  • Marion Bouchetel, Legal Centre Lesvos, marion@legalcentrelesvos.org, Phone: +30 697 761 9003
  • Kim Schneider, You can’t evict Solidarity, cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net, Phone: +49 152 19255205

1 Amir’s wife has meanwhile given birth to their second child. After the trial, Amir met his two-month-old baby for the first time and as he held his child for the first time in his arms, the police shouted at him to give the infant back to the mother, causing his family extreme distress.

2 In the past months, numerous reports emerged bearing testimony to the Greek coast guard’s illegal and cruel practice of violent pushbacks, destroying the engine of refugee boats, disabling the boats, and then leaving the people to their fate in the middle of the sea. Read more about this in the New York Times, the Deutsche Welle and the Spiegel.

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Δελτιου Τυπου: Δικαιοσυνη για τους Amir και Razuli!

Οι οργανώσεις Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, Borderline Europe e.V, You can’t evict solidarity και Deportation Monitoring Aegean απαιτούμε ελευθερία για δύο νέους πρόσφυγες.

Οι δύο άνδρες από το Αφγανιστάν αναζητούσαν ασφάλεια στην Ευρώπη, αλλά αντιθέτως καταδικαστήκαν αυθαιρέτως σε 50 χρόνια φυλάκιση. Το Εφετείο θα διεξαχθεί στις 17 Μαρτίου 2022.

Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Όταν οι Amir και Razuli προσπάθησαν να φτάσουν στην Ελλάδα με πλαστική βάρκα, το Μάρτιο του 2020, δέχθηκαν επίθεση από την ελληνική ακτοφυλακή που προσπάθησε να τους ωθήσει βίαια πίσω στην Τουρκία. Η επίθεση είχε ως αποτέλεσμα τη βύθιση της βάρκας και η ακτοφυλακή αναγκάστηκε να πάρει τους επιβαίνοντες στο δικό της σκάφος. Εκτός από τις δικές τους κατηγορίες για παράνομη είσοδο στη χώρα, ο Amir και ο Razuli κατηγορήθηκαν επιπλέον και αυθαίρετα για “διευκόλυνση παράνομης εισόδου” και “πρόκληση ναυαγίου”. Στις 8 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020 καταδικάστηκαν σε 50 χρόνια φυλάκισης.

Ο Amir και ο Razuli, 25 και 23 χρονών αντίστοιχα, έφυγαν από το Αφγανιστάν προσπαθώντας να φτάσουν στην Ευρώπη αναζητώντας μια ζωή με ασφάλεια. Με το συνεχώς αυξανόμενο κλείσιμο των συνόρων της Ευρώπης και την έλλειψη ασφαλών και νόμιμων τρόπων εισόδου στην Ευρώπη και αναζήτησης ασύλου, αναγκάστηκαν να ξεκινήσουν το επικίνδυνο ταξίδι με πλαστική βάρκα στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος. Μεταξύ των άλλων ανθρώπων στη βάρκα ήταν επίσης η μικρή κόρη του Amir και η γυναίκα του σε προχωρημένη εγκυμοσύνη1.

Έκαναν το ταξίδι τους τον Μάρτιο του 2020, τον μήνα κατά τον οποίο η ελληνική κυβέρνηση ανακοίνωσε την αναστολή ενός από τα πλέον θεμελιώδη ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα – το δικαίωμα να υποβάλει κανείς αίτημα ασύλου – και, κατά συνέπεια, κατηγόρησε για «παράνομη είσοδο», τους ανθρώπους που ζητούν προστασία, η στάση αυτή είναι κατάφωρα σε αντίθεση με το Δίκαιο της ΕΕ και τη Σύμβαση της Γενεύης.

Στην πρώτη του δίκη, ο Razuli και ο Amir κατέθεσαν ότι Η ελληνική ακτοφυλακή επιτέθηκε στη βάρκα μόλις μπήκε στα ελληνικά χωρικά ύδατα και προσπάθησαν να την ωθήσουν πίσω στα τουρκικά νερά χρησιμοποιώντας μεταλλικές ράβδους. Με αυτόν τον τρόπο, τρύπησαν την πλαστική βάρκα, η οποία άρχισε να παίρνει νερά, και έθεσαν σε κίνδυνο τη ζωή των επιβαινόντων2. Καθώς το σκάφος βυθίζονταν, η ακτοφυλακή τελικά πήρε τους επιβαίνοντες στο δικό της σκάφος.

Μετά από αυτή τη βαθιά τραυματική εμπειρία, η ακτοφυλακή προχώρησε στον ξυλοδαρμό των Amir και Razuli, κατηγορώντας τους αυθαίρετα τους ως διακινητές. Σύμφωνα με τη σύζυγο του Αmir, που έπρεπε να τα ζήσει όλα αυτά μαζί με την κόρη της, οι άντρες της ακτοφυλακής σταμάτησαν μόνο όταν σήκωσε το μικρό παιδί τους μπροστά από τον σύζυγό της, παρακαλώντας τους να σταματήσουν.

Μόλις έφτασαν στο ελληνικό νησί της Λέσβου, οι Amir και ο Razuli χωρίστηκαν από την υπόλοιπη ομάδα και μεταφέρθηκαν στο αστυνομικό τμήμα. Η ακτοφυλακή τους κατηγόρησε για τη δική τους παράνομη είσοδο στη χώρα, για τη διευκόλυνση παράνομης εισόδου των άλλων ανθρώπων στη βάρκα και για έκθεση σε κίνδυνο της ζωής των επιβαινόντων.

Οι δυο τους κρίθηκαν προφυλακιστέοι μέχρι τη δίκη τους και εντέλει καταδικάστηκαν σε ποινή φυλάκισης 50 ετών, στις 8 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020. Παρόλο που δεν υπάρχουν αποδεικτικά στοιχεία εναντίον τους, εκτός από τη δήλωση των ακτοφυλάκων, απαλλάχθηκαν μόνο από την κατηγορία της «πρόκλησης ναυαγίου».

Το Εφετείο θα πραγματοποιηθεί στις 17 Μαρτίου 2022 οι δικηγόροι από το Legal Centre Lesvos και το Human Rights Legal Project θα είναι οι συνήγοροι υπεράσπισης των Amir και Razuli στην επικείμενη δίκη.

Σχεδόν κάθε μέρα, τα άτομα που ζητούν προστασία ποινικοποιούνται για τη φυγή τους και καταδικάζονται αυθαίρετα σε μακρόχρονες ποινές φυλάκισης και βαριά πρόστιμα Προσφάτως ένας επιζών ενός ναυαγίου ποινικοποιήθηκε ακόμη και για το θάνατο του ίδιου του εξάχρονου γιου του, ο οποίος πέθανε όταν προσπάθησαν να περάσουν από την Τουρκία στην Ελλάδα (βλ. Free the Samos 2). Οι ύποπτοι, ή καλυτέρα, τα «θύματα» αυτής της άδικης νομοθεσίας, έχουν συνήθως περιορισμένη πρόσβαση σε νομική συνδρομή. Οι αποφάσεις συχνά εκδίδονται παρά την έλλειψη αποδεικτικών στοιχείων και την κακή ποιότητα της μετάφρασης. Στην Ελλάδα, ο μέσος όρος διάρκειας μια δίκης είναι μόνο περίπου 30 λεπτά, οδηγώντας έναν μέσο όρο ποινών 44 ετών και πρόστιμα άνω των 370.000 ευρώ. Σύμφωνα με επίσημους αριθμούς του ελληνικού υπουργείου Δικαιοσύνης, σχεδόν 2.000 άτομα βρίσκονται σήμερα στις ελληνικές φυλακές για αυτόν τον λόγο. Ωστόσο, η τύχη αυτών των ανθρώπων είναι σπάνια γνωστή. Συλλαμβάνονται αμέσως κατά την άφιξη τους, οι περισσότεροι από αυτούς είναι φυλακισμένοι και απαρατήρητοι, χωρίς να γίνονται γνωστά τα ονόματά τους και χωρίς πρόσβαση σε υποστήριξη από έξω.

  • Απαιτούμε πλήρη έρευνα, δικαιοσύνη και την απελευθέρωση των Amir και Razuli, όπως καθώς και την απόσυρση όλων των κατηγοριών εναντίον τους!
  • Απαιτούμε την απελευθέρωση όσων φυλακίστηκαν με την κατηγορία της «οδήγησης με βάρκα» και το τέλος της ποινικοποίησης των ανθρώπων που μετακινούνται.
  • Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση πρέπει να σταματήσει την αυθαίρετη φυλάκιση προσφύγων και μεταναστών!

Επικοινωνία:

  • Marion Bouchetel, Legal Centre Lesvos, marion@legalcentrelesvos.org, Phone: +30 697 761 9003
  • Kim Schneider, You can’t evict Solidarity, cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net, Phone: +49 152 19255205

1 Σε αυτό το διάστημα η σύζυγος του Amir γέννησε το δεύτερο παιδί τους. Μετά τη δίκη, ο Αmir συνάντησε το δύο μηνών μωρό του για πρώτη φορά και καθώς κράτησε το παιδί του για πρώτη φορά στην αγκαλιά του, η αστυνομία του φώναζε να δώσει το βρέφος πίσω στη μητέρα, προκαλώντας σε όλη την οικογένειά τρομερό πόνο.

2 Τους τελευταίους μήνες, εμφανίστηκαν πολλές αναφορές που μαρτυρούν την παράνομη και σκληρή πρακτική της ελληνικής ακτοφυλακής να πραγματοποιεί βίαιες επαναπροωθήσεις, καταστρέφοντας τον κινητήρα των προσφυγικών σκαφών, αδρανοποιώντας τα σκάφη και στη συνέχεια αφήνοντας τους ανθρώπους στη μοίρα τους στη μέση της θάλασσας. Διαβάστε περισσότερα για αυτό στους New York Times, στη Deutsche Welle και στο Spiegel.

Legal Centre Lesvos Quarterly Report: October – December 2021

Download full report here.

Inside a burnt down rubhall in the Lesvos RIC, which used to host 80 to 100 people and was entirely destroyed after one of the fires that broke out in November 2021. Photograph taken by a camp resident.
  1. Advocacy and accountability for collective expulsions and other systemic human rights violations   
  • 29 October Interim measures granted by the European Court of Human Rights to ensure protection of the rights of newly arrived asylum seekers to Lesvos   
  • 20 December – European Court of Human Rights to examine 32 cases filed against Greece concerning illegal collective expulsions   
  • 13 October – One year after the “Golden dawn trial”, No room for complacency towards racist violence   
  • 8 December – Continued unjustified rejections from the NGO Registry in Greece       
  1. Abysmal conditions in Lesvos’ Reception and Identification Centre persist   
  • 1 October – An end to food distribution and cash assistance for many migrants stuck in the Greek camps   
  • 15 and 18 November – Fires a common occurrence in the Lesvos RIC   
  • 5 December – Migrants’ forbidden from leaving Lesvos’ RIC during the Pope’s visit to Lesvos   
  1. Continued work to advocate for fair asylum proceedings   
  • Overview of the legal support provided by Legal Centre Lesvos between October and December 2021   
  • 8 October – Legal Centre Lesvos participates in Expert Hearing on the European Union’s new Pact on Migration, arranged by MEP Cornelia Ernst   
  • 12 November – LCL reports on “Family reunification from Greece: a few hard wins among many bureaucratic and systemic obstacles”   

1. Advocacy and accountability for collective expulsions and other systemic human rights violations

  • 29 October – Interim measures granted by the ECtHR to ensure protection of the rights of newly arrived asylum seekers to Lesvos.

On 29 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered Greece to guarantee adequate living conditions and access to medical care to a group of newly arrived Somali and Ethiopian asylum seekers at imminent risk of collective expulsion, in response to an urgent request for interim measures filed by LCL. 

The group arrived in Lesvos in the early hours of 29 October, and contacted LCL to request legal assistance in accessing registration and asylum procedures in Greece. Several members of their group were in need of urgent medical care, including a ten-year-old girl who had a pre-existing heart condition and who had not had food or water for over twenty-four hours. In turn, LCL informed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and competent Greek authorities of the group’s presence, and requested an ambulance to attend to them.

In light of both a delay in provision of needed medical care, and the Greek authorities’ extensively documented systematic practice of illegally expelling unregistered migrants who arrive to Greek territory, LCL made an urgent application to the ECtHR. Four hours later, the ECtHR ordered Greece to provide the group with “adequate living conditions and health care compatible with their state of health as per Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.” 

The grant of interim measures on 29 October was a rare, and welcome, success: all of the named applicants were registered and have entered the asylum procedures following the Court’s decision. From this 29 October arrival to Lesvos, at least two women from Somalia, who were later assisted and represented by the LCL in their asylum procedure, have now been granted refugee status in Greece.

  • 20 December – European Court of Human Rights to examine 32 cases filed against Greece concerning illegal collective expulsions

On 20 December 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced that 32 cases filed between December 2020 and August 2021 concerning the illegal collective expulsion of 47 asylum seekers from its territory were communicated to Greece. Among those cases, two were filed and are represented by Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers. These are among the first cases to be communicated to Greece since overwhelming evidence began emerging in March 2020 of a widespread and systematic practice of illegal expulsions, or ‘pushbacks’, in the Aegean Sea region. 

The ECtHR’s notification of these cases to Greece means that the Greek State is now required to respond to the extensive evidence submitted in both cases, which show that the Applicants were attacked, arbitrarily detained, psychologically and physically abused, and ultimately expelled from Greek territory, without having their asylum claims individually examined. A Chamber of judges within the ECtHR is expected to take a decision on the cases as early as summer 2022.

The first case, H.T. and Others v Greece (app. no. 4177/21) concerns the repeated illegal expulsion of a Syrian family. The family – parents and their three young children – submitted evidence to the Court that they had entered Greek territory on at least four occasions, with the intent to seek asylum. However, as demonstrated through their testimony and corroborated evidence, they were repeatedly denied access to registration and asylum procedures, and ultimately were subjected to illegal and life-threatening collective expulsions in the Aegean and Evros regions, together with other asylum seekers. 

The second case, S.A.A. and Others v Greece (app. no. 22146/21) concerns an extensively documented and massive collective expulsion of approximately two hundred people that began near the island of Crete. After being caught in a storm at sea, instead of being rescued, the Applicants demonstrate through their submitted evidence that they were held under surveillance at sea for several hours with assurances that they would soon be taken to shore in Greece, before being violently assaulted at night, transferred by force to vessels identified as Hellenic Coast Guard vessels, transferred over 200 km towards Turkish waters, and finally abandoned at sea on inflatable, motorless life rafts.

On a near-daily basis, evidence emerges of Greek authorities carrying out violent and illegal expulsions of people on the move in the Aegean Sea and across the Evros River, often with evidence showing the assistance or complicity of international agencies like Frontex.  It is not uncommon to hear testimonies of people who have been pushed back from Greece six, seven or eight times, each incident both constituting a manifest risk to their lives and compounding the trauma of prior expulsions.   

A positive decision in these two cases could bring partial redress for the named Applicants. However, given the ECtHR’s structural and procedural limitations, the proceedings are insufficient to condemn the systematic nature of collective expulsions, which, as the Legal Centre Lesvos has previously demonstrated, amounts to Crimes Against Humanity

Nonetheless, the communication of these cases to Greece marks an important step in what necessarily must be a coordinated effort to obtain accountability for and an end to the ongoing cruel and violent attack against migrants, inherent in maintaining Europe’s borders.

  • 13 October 2021 – One year after the “Golden dawn trial”, No room for complacency towards racist violence

One year after the historic conviction of Golden Dawn, Legal Centre Lesvos, as part of the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN), warned that there is no room for complacency in resisting organized and racist violence, as its modus operandi continues to severely affect social life and cohesion in Greece.

In 2020, despite the landmark decision convicting Golden Dawn, the RVRN recorded an escalating number of racist attacks as compared to the recent past, noting in particular the increased attacks against migrants and human rights defenders.

RVRN continues to call State and local government representatives, as well as media representatives, to refrain from engaging in the racist rhetoric that normalizes and encourages racist reactions. It also calls on the Greek authorities to urgently enhance the protection provided by law to every person and every community member that is being targeted by persons or groups with a racist motivation. 

No crime, motivated solely or cumulatively by bias, should remain unpunished. Read more in the joint press release here

Magda Fyssa, the mother of murdered musician Pavlos Fyssas after the conviction of the Golden Dawn, 11 October 2020. Photo Credit: Lemesos Blog.
  • 8 December 2021 – Continued unjustified rejections from the NGO Registry in Greece

The Legal Centre Lesvos joined 18 other organisations active in Greece to express its great concerns regarding the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum denial to register the non-profit civil society organisation “Refugee Support Aegean” (RSA) on the official NGO Registry.

The substantive ground used by the Ministry for such rejection cited that the “development of activity” “in support of persons under deportation” is contrary to Greek legislation”. The provision of mainly legal support to persons facing deportation is part of the daily work of civil society organisations active inter alia in free legal assistance, including several organisations already registered on the NGO Registry. Persons under deportation who are in need of protection in the wider sense as persons of concern, in particular in light of international law provisions prohibiting deportation of foreigners such as Articles 31 and 33 of the Refugee Convention, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture, as well as other provisions mandating assistance to vulnerable cases on humanitarian grounds. Even rejected asylum seekers are persons to whom it is required to provide assistance under EU and domestic legislation, namely Articles 28(3)-(4) and 31(4)-(5) of Law 3907/2011 and the provisions of Directive 2008/115/EC. Activities in support of persons facing deportation are fully in line with applicable legislation, as they ensure the safeguards and rights of persons at risk of deportation and return.

The Ministry of Migration and Asylum rejection decision sets a major negative precedent calling into question the activity of legal assistance to migrants by civil society organisations. It also causes reputational damage to Greece for poor implementation of refugee law, as well as international, EU and domestic law more broadly. For those reasons, the Greek administration is expected to take the necessary steps to correct the aforementioned decision in line with the law.

Read our joint statement on the rejection of RSA from the Greek NGO registry here.

2. Abysmal conditions in Lesvos’ Reception and Identification Centre persist

On 1 October 2021, the Greek state started implementing a new policy depriving both recognised refugees and migrants considered to be “outside of the asylum procedure” from accessing food in state-run facilities on the Greek mainland. As a consequence, organizations estimated that almost 60% of the residents of refugee camps on the Greek mainland no longer had access to either sufficient or suitable food. 

Among those deprived of access to food are persons who have had their asylum claim rejected on appeal, including nationals from five countries (Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), who may not have even had the opportunity to express the reasons for leaving their country of origin before having their asylum claim rejected, as the concept of the safe-third country has been applied to these individuals following the June 2021 Joint Ministerial Decision adopted by the Greek Government. These asylum seekers who are officially considered to be “outside of the asylum procedure” find themselves in a legal limbo, without access to legal status, rights and basic services, and since October also without access to food. 

The Legal Centre Lesvos joined over twenty-five other civil society organisations to resist the Greek State’s policies and reiterate that no one, irrespective of their legal status, should be deprived of food.

This policy follows the decision by the Greek government in March 2021 to automatically discontinue all material reception conditions, including housing, food and cash assistance provided  for recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection as soon as their protection status was granted. According to this provision, beneficiaries of protection had to leave government run housing facilities (including camps or State-provided apartments) in the first 30 days after the granting of protection. Following this decision, thousands of recognized refugees found themselves without shelter, living in public squares for prolonged periods of time. Without access to integration support or any viable housing alternative, many were thus compelled to return to camps in order to have access to the bare minimum – that is, water, food, and some form of shelter. 

Family of four forced to live with their children in the Lesvos RIC without any financial support since September 2021, Photograph by Fellipe Lopes.

With the termination of the cash assistance programme provided by UNHCR effective since the end of September 2021, all asylum seekers in Greece are left without a minimum financial support to cover their basic needs and subsistence, particularly while being forced to live in camps such as the Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), unable to leave the island due to geographic restrictions, and not having legal access to any work (as asylum seekers do not have permission to work for the first six months after they register their application for asylum). Although the Greek government took over the management of the cash assistance programme as of 1 October, only in December the government announced that Christian Relief Services had been contracted to distribute cash assistance in Greece, and to date, no cash assistance has been provided to asylum seekers. 

Those policies and voluntary lack of action are criminal as they lead to food deprivation, enforced homelessness, and legal limbo that deny migrants’ basic rights and confine them to inhuman and degrading conditions. For further information, read the two letters co-signed by LCL that call upon the Greek government and the European Commission to guarantee migrants’ access to food here and here

On 15 and on 18 November 2021, large fires broke out among the rub halls in Lesvos’ Reception and Identification Centre (RIC). Two burnt to the ground in a matter of minutes. Dozens of people lost their personal possessions, documents, and allocated shelter. In the immediate aftermath, camp authorities merely instructed the displaced to “stay with friends” – presumably in the other rub halls, tents and containers that make up the RIC.

Rub halls are large, marquee-like structures covered with polyester fabric, that host up to 80 to 100 persons in “rooms” sub-divided by blankets and thin walls. These are common in Lesvos RIC, and serve as accommodation both for single men and for families who have received rejections on their asylum applications. The rub halls are highly flammable, and susceptible of melting in a matter of minutes, as the events of 15 and 18 November demonstrated (see picture below), and yet the authorities have failed to provide adequate evacuation routes or other fire safety measures. There are only two entrances to the structure – one at each end of a central corridor – meaning that, in the event of an emergency, all residents have a few minutes to flee through a shared exit route.

On top of being hazardous, the conditions in those rub halls are wholly inadequate for human habitation. In the event of rain, which is very common in winter in Lesvos, the rub halls frequently flood. Several minors (who had been wrongly registered as adults when they arrived on the island, in yet another example of the dystopian nature of life for migrants in Lesvos) living in one such structure, told LCL that they had to leave their allocated rooms, as leaks and flooding had ruined all of their bedding and possessions. The flimsy plastic structure offers little protection from the near freezing temperatures, and sporadic access to electricity makes it impossible to adequately heat the sleeping areas. Moreover, the heavy winds that have hit the island in recent months batter the rub halls at night, the flimsy walls flapping loudly and making it near-impossible to sleep. The camp’s location, directly facing the sea, only makes matters worse. 

Fatal and non-fatal fires have repeatedly occurred in State-managed accommodation facilities for migrants in Lesvos – both in the present RIC and in the former Moria camp on the island. Many of the residents of Lesvos’ RIC previously resided in Moria camp, and were displaced by the massive fires that destroyed the site in September 2020. These people have already experienced the fear and psychological trauma arising from the blaze and its aftermath, and families have reported how their children’s repeated exposure to such dangers has had a deleterious effect on their mental health. These people’s repeated exposure to life-threatening fires not only compounds the trauma of each event, but also manifests the Greek government and European Union’s fundamental disregard for migrants’ lives and safety. 

The remaining metallic structure of a rubhall of the Lesvos RIC after the fires of November 2021, Photograph by a camp resident.
  • 5 December – Migrants’ forbidden from leaving Lesvos’ RIC during the Pope’s visit to Lesvos 

On 5 December, five years after his first visit to Lesvos, Pope Francis visited the island again and spent about an hour in the Reception and Identification Center (RIC) where he also gave a speech to a select audience. In preparation of the visit, the Lesvos RIC had been under intensive construction and cleaning works for several weeks. As LCL has consistently reported, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Moria RIC and later Kara Tepe’s RIC (and other camps across Greece) have been subjected to disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions such as curfews, restricted number of exits per week, and ongoing movement certification requirements. Public holidays such as Christmas and New Year, and high profile visits further are used as arbitrary excuses to restrict the movement of those who have no option but to reside in these camps. The visit of the Pope was no exception. 

In addition to the usual disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions of movement imposed on the residents of Lesvos RIC, the camp remained totally closed during 48 hours, preventing its residents from entering or leaving the camp because of the high security visit. Unlike the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Yvla Johansson, who had landed in the camp with an helicopter in March 2021 and did not leave her car afterwards, the Pope arrived by car in the camp surrounded by security guards and walked a few metres down a specially prepared and cleaned aisle of the camp, before settling down and holding a speech under a tent erected on a stage-like level, built only for the occasion and overlooking the ‘blue zone” of the camp. 

Before arriving at the staged tent for his speech, the Pope shook hands and touched the heads of migrants and their children held behind barriers inside the RIC. Empty prefabricated shelters, with no residents inside, had been placed in decoration on the Pope’s path beforehand. 

In his speech before Ms. Sakellaropoúlou, the President of Greece, and Mr. Mitarakis, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, the Pope acknowledged that “after all this time, we see that little has changed with regard to the issue of migration” and that “with deep regret, we must admit that this country, like others, continues to be hard-pressed, and that in Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them. This is tragic.” He also denounced the conditions imposed on migrants in particular in hotspots like Lesvos: “How many conditions exist that are unworthy of human beings! How many hotspots where migrants and refugees live in borderline conditions, without glimpsing solutions on the horizon! Yet respect for individuals and for human rights, especially on this continent, which is constantly promoting them worldwide, should always be upheld, and the dignity of each person ought to come before all else.”

Although the visit did not change the situation for any migrant in Greece and people forced to live in the detention-like RICs, the visit allowed to draw some media attention around the inhuman situation of migrants in Greece and Europe, which Pope Francis qualified as a “shipwreck of civilization”.

Further details on the Pope’s visit in Lesvos are available in the press.

Pope Francis arriving to the Lesvos RIC followed by a dozen of cars where he was welcomed by the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Panagiotis Mitarakis, 5 December 2021, Photo Credit: ERT 1

3. Continued work to advocate for fair asylum proceedings

  • Overview of the legal support provided by Legal Centre Lesvos between October and December 2021
Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers represented: 
★ 34 individuals in the asylum procedure, including cases of family reunification; 
★ 13 individuals on appeal of their asylum claims; 
★ 5 detained individuals facing criminal charges. 

Volunteer caseworkers with the Legal Centre Lesvos carried out: Between October and December of 2021, volunteer caseworkers, under the supervision of Greek attorneys, supported 96 new cases, and actively worked on over 350 cases over the course of three months. 

Over half of the people who received legal aid from the Legal Centre this period are from Afghanistan and over 15% are from Syria, and included people from throughout the Middle East and African continent, some of whom have been trapped on the island of Lesvos without legal status for over five years – since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. In the reporting period, due to an increase in arrival on the island this winter of Somali asylum seekers, over 15% of the new cases supported by the Legal Centre in this period are concerning individuals from Somalia.

Legal aid in the above cases included:
★ over 170 individual legal consultations; 
★ 56 interview preparations and preparation of legal memos in 43 cases; 
★ 50 referrals to alternative housing services or protection services;
★ 61 persons attended information sessions on the asylum procedure and asylum interview. 

Legal Centre Lesvos filed 3 petitions for interim measures before the European Court of Human Rights, of which two were granted. One of the successful applications ensured that a five-year-old child with urgent medical needs was transferred, with her family, to Athens; the other ensured a group of new arrivals’ access to the asylum procedure and emergency medical care (see more details above).

On 16-18 October, LCL visited the town of La Garriga in Catalonia and presented in the Seminar “Abramos puertas, construyamos puentes” which gathered several of the migrant solidarity groups networks active in the Mediterranean region. The seminar allowed a space for exchange of experiences and ideas among different groups and individuals in solidarity with migrants, who work in different border zones to advocate and provide social and legal support to migrants.
  • 8 October – Legal Centre Lesvos participates in Expert Hearing on the European Union’s new Pact on Migration, arranged by MEP Cornelia Ernst

In October, and ahead of the deadline for proposed legislative amendments, LCL joined Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), civil society representatives, and other officials to discuss the urgent changes required to the EU’s proposed Pact on Migration.

Far from a “fresh start on migration,” the legislative proposals contained within the ‘new’ EU Pact replicate many of the worst aspects of the policies of containment, obstructed access to asylum procedures, returns and refoulement tested in the laboratory of Lesvos and other Aegean islands over the past five years. 

The legislative proposal for a Screening Regulation, on which LCL’s intervention was focussed, is largely modelled on the existing Greek reception and identification procedures. It includes a mandatory ‘pre-entry screening’ procedure, throughout which people will not be deemed ‘legally present’ in EU territory. This pre-entry screening seems set to amount to arbitrary detention on arrival, without due process guarantees such as access to legal advice, effective remedy, and no clear process for identifying ‘vulnerable’ individuals. 

For the screening procedure to take place, it is almost inevitable that States will introduce measures of detention while people are being processed. Articles 4 and 6(1), read together, imply that persons undergoing screening will be, as a rule, deprived of their liberty, although the operative part of the Regulation is silent on that point. For the duration of the pre-screening procedure, moreover, persons will be denied access to the asylum procedure and to the concomitant guarantees in it. 

In Lesvos, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greek authorities’ disproportionate and discriminatory use of quarantine measures resulted in vulnerable applicants being denied access to registration and asylum procedures for up to two months and held in effective detention – in a legal situation allegorical to that of persons pending a pre-screening procedure. Those confined in quarantine areas, and denied access to vulnerability assessments, medical care, or the asylum procedure, included an amputee, three children with hereditary blood diseases, sixteen unaccompanied minors, and at least four children with serious physical or cognitive disabilities. They had limited access to legal information, medical care, or other forms of support, were held in overcrowded and unsanitary accommodation, and were therefore at grave risk of physical and psychological deterioration. The suspension of access to the asylum procedure placed them in a situation of legal vulnerability which, in turn, led to their isolation in conditions of physical and practical precarity. It is likely that the implementation of the new Pact could give rise to similar situations.

During this likely period of detention, people will most likely lack adequate access to information on their rights and the procedures that they are subjected to. However, the proposed new Pact seems to suggest that the competent pre-screening authority (whether the police or another agency) could collect information that would strongly affect one’s chances to be granted asylum, and furthermore, pursuant to Article 14(2), read in conjunction with Recitals 9, 15, 16 and 24 and the Annex to the proposed new Pact, that such information may be used in the asylum procedure, for the purposes of both referral or not to accelerated or border procedures, and assessment of the admissibility and substance of the claim. That is to say, information which could have a determinant influence on persons’ access to protection could be collected before they have had access to even basic information on their rights and the prevailing procedures, let alone specific legal counsel. 

Moreover, the proposed Screening Regulation undermines the protections guaranteed to vulnerable applicants and foresees identification of vulnerability only “where relevant” (Article 2). This lowers the prevailing standards set out in the current asylum acquis (see Article 22(1) Reception Conditions Directive; Article 24(1)-(2) Asylum Procedures Directive), which includes a mandatory vulnerability assessment – but which, in any case, is rarely adhered to. 

In Lesvos, and despite being bound by these prevailing standards, Greek and European authorities persistently fail to recognise vulnerabilities – whether that is Frontex’s systematic refusal to register unaccompanied children’s minority status, the ongoing failure to adequately recognise survivors of torture and other forms of sexual, psychological, and gender-based violence, or the continued failure to recognise medical vulnerabilities – and therefore to ensure these applicants’ access to requisite reception and procedural safeguards, as mandated under both Greek and European law. To further debase the provisions and procedures through which vulnerable applicants can be recognised and supported will only compound the trauma to which these persons are exposed and impede their prospects of obtaining protection or necessary support.

The proposals contained in the New Pact – whether on the Screening Procedure or otherwise – are not new, but rather perpetuate the failures that we have already seen at Greece’s borders. The New Pact was proposed alongside a promise of “no more Morias,” but the legislative framework provides for the exact opposite: the multiplication of hotspot camps, the expansion of the fiction of non-entry, and the continued export of migration control to third countries, all constituting and embedded within an ever-more tolerated violent border. 

In a new report released in November, LCL documents some of the obstacles faced by migrants in accessing family reunification in Europe, and details several hard-won successes that have led, in recent months, to migrants finally leaving Greece to join relatives in other countries. 

The right to a private and family life is enshrined in European and international law – but in practice, migrants are often denied this right or face numerous challenges to access it. These arise from, among other things, flaws in the asylum procedure, Greek authorities’ failures to identify and submit family reunification requests within relevant deadlines, or by other European States’ bad-faith implementation of family reunification legislation. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to additional challenges to reunification – but has also been used as a catch-all excuse for bureaucratic delays and administrative failures.

Nonetheless, this year, at least ten families represented by the Legal Centre Lesvos have had their family reunification requests accepted or, following an earlier acceptance, have finally travelled to join relatives in other European countries.

These include:

  • Mohammed, an unaccompanied minor from Syria, who reunited with his aunt and uncle in Germany after almost two years alone in Greece, in which Greece failed to submit his timely request for reunification or transfer him within the allotted time period, therefore requiring appeals and extensive advocacy efforts;
  • Samir, an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan who was first registered as an adult in Greece, and who – after months of living in a rub hall with unrelated adults in Lesvos’ Temporary Reception and Identification Centre – was ultimately given an age assessment, recognised as a minor, and granted reunification with his brother in Germany;
  • Ziad, an unaccompanied minor from the Bidoon (stateless) community in Kuwait, who faced numerous challenges in proving his relationship to his brother in the UK due to their lack of official documentation, and whose transfer was then unduly complicated by Brexit.

Despite the eligibility of each applicant and the compelling reasons for reunification, these cases have typically required over a year of assistance from LCL. Most requests were refused in the first instance and required appeals, litigation, and/or other forms of advocacy.

In any case, the EU’s family reunification legislation cannot be seen in isolation from the region’s wider policies of violent exclusion, control of migrants’ movement, and denial of migrants’ rights. The Dublin Regulation itself is an instrument of the Common European Asylum System that seeks to contain migrants at Europe’s peripheries, and prevent their free movement throughout the continent.

To redress the failures outlined in this report and the associated, ongoing trauma inflicted upon migrant families, calls for reform or abolition of the EU’s asylum system and must look beyond the Dublin Regulation itself and engage with its wider operational context.

Read the report in full on our website or download it here.

European Court of Human Rights to examine 32 cases filed against Greece concerning illegal collective expulsions

PRESS RELEASE

[Ελληνικα]

On 20 December 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced that 32 cases were communicated to Greece concerning the illegal collective expulsion of migrants from its territory.  

Among those, two cases were filed earlier this year and are represented by Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers. The 32 cases – all filed between December 2020 and August 2021 – are among the first on this subject to pass this preliminary procedural step in Strasbourg since overwhelming evidence began emerging in March 2020 of a widespread and systematic practice of illegal expulsions, or ‘pushbacks’, in the Aegean region.

The ECtHR’s notification of these cases to Greece means that the Greek State is now required to respond to the extensive evidence submitted in both cases, which show that the Applicants were attacked, arbitrarily detained, psychologically and physically abused, and ultimately expelled from Greek territory, without having their asylum claims individually examined. A Chamber of judges within the ECtHR is expected to take a decision on the cases as early as summer 2022.

The first case, H.T. and Others v Greece (app. no. 4177/21), concerns the repeated illegal expulsion of a Syrian family. The family – parents and their three young children – submitted evidence to the Court that they had entered Greek territory on at least four occasions, with the intent to seek asylum. However, as demonstrated through their testimony and corroborated evidence, they were repeatedly denied access to registration and asylum procedures, and ultimately were subjected to illegal and life-threatening collective expulsions in the Aegean and Evros regions, together with other asylum seekers. 

The second case, S.A.A. and Others v Greece (app. no. 22146/21) concerns an extensively documented massive collective expulsion of approximately two hundred people that began near the island of Crete. After being caught in a storm at sea, instead of being rescued, the Applicants demonstrate through their submitted evidence that they were held under surveillance at sea for several hours with assurances that they would soon be taken to shore in Greece, before being violently assaulted at night, transferred by force to vessels identified as Hellenic Coast Guard vessels, transferred over 200 km towards Turkish waters, and finally abandoned at sea on inflatable, motorless life rafts.

On a near-daily basis, evidence emerges of Greek authorities carrying out violent and illegal expulsions of people on the move in the Aegean Sea and across the Evros River, often with evidence showing the assistance or complicity of international agencies like Frontex.  It is not uncommon to hear testimonies of people who have been pushed back from Greece six, seven or eight times, each incident both constituting a manifest risk to their lives and compounding the trauma of prior expulsions.   

Given the ECtHR’s structural and procedural limitations, a positive decision in these two cases would be limited to the facts of these individual cases and bring partial redress only for the named Applicants. The proceedings are therefore insufficient to condemn the systematic nature of the crimes being committed, which the Legal Centre Lesvos has previously demonstrated amount to Crimes Against Humanity. Nonetheless, the communication of these cases to Greece marks an important step in what necessarily must be a coordinated effort to obtain accountability for and an end to the ongoing cruel and violent attack against migrants, inherent in maintaining Europe’s borders.

Press Contact: Natasha Ntailiani, natasha@legalcentrelesvos.org (Greek, English)
Amelia Cooper, amelia@legalcentrelesvos.org (English)

*****

ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ: Το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων θα εξετάσει 32 υποθέσεις κατά της Ελλάδας σχετικά με παράνομες ομαδικές απελάσεις.

22 Δεκεμβρίου 2021

Στις 20 Δεκεμβρίου 2021, το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (ΕΔΑΔ) ανακοίνωσε ότι κοινοποιήθηκαν στην Ελλάδα 32 υποθέσεις σχετικά με την παράνομη ομαδική απέλαση μεταναστών από το έδαφός της

Μεταξύ αυτών, δύο υποθέσεις σχηματίστηκαν νωρίτερα φέτος και εκπροσωπούνται από δικηγόρους του Legal Centre Lesvos. Οι 32 υποθέσεις – όλες που κατατέθηκαν από τον Δεκέμβριο του 2020 έως τον Αύγουστο του 2021 – είναι από τις πρώτες για το θέμα αυτό που πέρασαν αυτό το προκαταρκτικό διαδικαστικό βήμα στο Στρασβούργο, δεδομένου ότι τον Μάρτιο του 2020 άρχισαν να εμφανίζονται συντριπτικά στοιχεία για μια εκτεταμένη και συστηματική πρακτική παράνομων απελάσεων ή “επαναπροωθήσεων” στην περιοχή του Αιγαίου. Η κοινοποίηση των υποθέσεων αυτών από το ΕΔΔΑ στην Ελλάδα σημαίνει ότι το ελληνικό κράτος υποχρεούται πλέον να απαντήσει στα εκτεταμένα αποδεικτικά στοιχεία που υποβλήθηκαν και στις δύο υποθέσεις, τα οποία δείχνουν ότι οι προσφεύγοντες δέχθηκαν επιθέσεις, κρατήθηκαν αυθαίρετα, υπέστησαν ψυχολογική και σωματική κακοποίηση και τελικά απελάθηκαν από το ελληνικό έδαφος, χωρίς να εξεταστούν ατομικά τα αιτήματά τους για άσυλο. Ένα τμήμα δικαστών του ΕΔΔΑ αναμένεται να λάβει απόφαση επί των υποθέσεων ήδη το καλοκαίρι του 2022.

Η πρώτη υπόθεση, H.T. και άλλοι κατά Ελλάδας (αριθ. προσφυγής 4177/21), αφορά τις επανειλημμένες παράνομες απελάσεις μιας συριακής οικογένειας. Η οικογένεια – γονείς και τα τρία μικρά παιδιά τους – κατέθεσε στο Δικαστήριο αποδεικτικά στοιχεία ότι είχαν εισέλθει στο ελληνικό έδαφος τουλάχιστον τέσσερις φορές, με σκοπό να ζητήσουν άσυλο. Ωστόσο, όπως καταδεικνύεται από την κατάθεσή τους και τα αποδεικτικά στοιχεία, τους αρνήθηκαν επανειλημμένα την πρόσβαση στις διαδικασίες καταγραφής και ασύλου και τελικά υποβλήθηκαν σε παράνομες και απειλητικές για τη ζωή τους ομαδικές απελάσεις στις περιοχές του Αιγαίου και του Έβρου, μαζί με άλλους αιτούντες άσυλο.

Η δεύτερη υπόθεση, S.A.A. και άλλοι κατά Ελλάδας (αριθ. προσφυγής 22146/21) αφορά μια εκτενώς τεκμηριωμένη μαζική ομαδική απέλαση περίπου διακοσίων ατόμων που ξεκίνησε κοντά στο νησί της Κρήτης. Αφού βρέθηκαν σε μια καταιγίδα στη θάλασσα, αντί να διασωθούν, οι προσφεύγοντες καταδεικνύουν μέσω των στοιχείων που κατέθεσαν ότι κρατήθηκαν υπό επιτήρηση στη θάλασσα για αρκετές ώρες με διαβεβαιώσεις ότι σύντομα θα μεταφέρονταν σε ακτή στην Ελλάδα, προτού δεχθούν βίαιη επίθεση κατά τη διάρκεια της νύχτας, μεταφερθούν με τη βία σε σκάφη που αναγνωρίστηκαν ως σκάφη του Ελληνικού Λιμενικού Σώματος, μεταφερθούν πάνω από 200 χιλιόμετρα προς τα τουρκικά ύδατα και τελικά εγκαταλειφθούν στη θάλασσα σε φουσκωτές σωσίβιες σχεδίες χωρίς μηχανή.

Σε σχεδόν καθημερινή βάση, προκύπτουν στοιχεία για τις ελληνικές αρχές που πραγματοποιούν βίαιες και παράνομες απελάσεις ανθρώπων που βρίσκονται σε κίνηση στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος και στον Έβρο, συχνά με βοήθεια ή συνενοχή διεθνών οργανισμών όπως η Frontex. Δεν είναι ασυνήθιστο να ακούει κανείς μαρτυρίες ανθρώπων που έχουν απωθηθεί από την Ελλάδα έξι, επτά ή οκτώ φορές, με κάθε περιστατικό να αποτελεί έκδηλο κίνδυνο για τη ζωή τους και να επιτείνει το τραύμα των προηγούμενων απελάσεων.  

Δεδομένων των διαρθρωτικών και διαδικαστικών περιορισμών του ΕΔΔΑ, μια θετική απόφαση σε αυτές τις δύο υποθέσεις θα περιοριζόταν στα γεγονότα αυτών των μεμονωμένων περιπτώσεων και θα επέφερε μερική αποκατάσταση μόνο για τους εν λόγω προσφεύγοντες. Συνεπώς, οι διαδικασίες δεν επαρκούν για να καταδικάσουν τη συστηματική φύση των εγκλημάτων που διαπράττονται, τα οποία το Legal Centre Lesvos έχει ήδη καταδείξει ότι ισοδυναμούν με εγκλήματα κατά της ανθρωπότητας.  Παρ’ όλα αυτά, η κοινοποίηση αυτών των υποθέσεων στην Ελλάδα σηματοδοτεί ένα σημαντικό βήμα στο πλαίσιο μιας συντονισμένης προσπάθειας για την απόδοση ευθυνών και τον τερματισμό της συνεχιζόμενης σκληρής και βίαιης επίθεσης κατά των μεταναστών, η οποία είναι συνυφασμένη με τη διατήρηση των ευρωπαϊκών συνόρων.

Επαφή με τον Τύπο:

Αναστασία Νταϊλιάνη, natasha@legalcentrelesvos.org, info@legalcentrelesvos.org (ελληνικά)

Amelia Cooper, amelia@legalcentrelesvos.org (αγγλικά)

𝗙𝗔𝗠𝗜𝗟𝗬 𝗥𝗘𝗨𝗡𝗜𝗙𝗜𝗖𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡 𝗜𝗡 𝗚𝗥𝗘𝗘𝗖𝗘: 𝗔 𝗙𝗘𝗪 𝗛𝗔𝗥𝗗 𝗪𝗜𝗡𝗦 𝗔𝗠𝗢𝗡𝗚 𝗠𝗔𝗡𝗬 𝗕𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗨𝗖𝗥𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗖 𝗔𝗡𝗗 𝗦𝗬𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗠𝗜𝗖 𝗢𝗕𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗖𝗟𝗘𝗦

LCL_Family-Reunification_Nov-2021-FINAL

The family reunification procedure under the European Union’s (EU) Dublin Regulation is one of the only safe and legal routes protecting family unity and allowing legal migration from Greece to other EU countries.

It provides for applicants or beneficiaries of international protection in Greece to reunite with their family members, where the relationship is that of spouses (or unmarried partners in a stable relationship), parents and their minor children, and for unaccompanied asylum seeking children with a wider range of persons. In addition, some dependency and discretionary criteria are applied that allow family members who do not meet these strict criteria to be reunited on humanitarian or other grounds – though, as will be demonstrated, success in such cases is particularly rare.

The fundamental right to a private and family life is recognised under international and European law. In practice, however, migrants’ enjoyment of their right to family life is often denied or obstructed by flaws in registration and asylum procedures, authorities’ failures to ensure the timely identification, substantiation and submission of family reunification requests, and, most critically, by the continued and knowing bad faith of other EU Member States in their implementation of the Dublin Regulation, through ungrounded or unfair rejections of family reunification requests coming from Greece.

Furthermore, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has both exacerbated many of these issues and been used by domestic and regional authorities to justify their own, independent failings.

Nonetheless, in recent months, ten families represented by the Legal Centre Lesvos have either had their family reunification requests accepted or, following an earlier acceptance, have finally travelled to join relatives in other European countries. These include:
– Mohammed*, an unaccompanied minor from Syria, who was reunited with his uncle and aunt in Germany after almost two years alone in Greece, in which Greece failed to submit his timely request for reunification or transfer him within the allotted time period, therefore requiring extensive advocacy efforts;
– Samir, an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan who was first registered as an adult in Greece, and who – after months of living in a rub hall with unrelated adults in Lesvos’ Temporary Reception and Identification Centre – was ultimately given an age assessment, recognised as a minor, and granted reunification with his brother in Germany;
– Ziad, an unaccompanied minor from the Bidoon (stateless) community in Kuwait, who faced numerous challenges in proving his relationship to his brother in the UK due to their lack of official documentation, and whose transfer was then unduly complicated by Brexit.

These successes have been hard won. From the Legal Centre’s experience, the Greek Dublin Unit was generally collaborative and proactive in its approach to family reunification cases.

However, it has become – particularly over the past two years – an increasingly uphill battle for families applying to be reunited, with issues often stemming from Greek authorities themselves.

In the majority of the cases discussed in this report the Legal Centre has supported families for more than a year, with most requests refused in the first instance and requiring appeals, litigation, and/or other forms of advocacy.

The shortcomings of the Dublin Regulation itself, while both acute and at the crux of many of the issues discussed here, are outside the scope of this report. Instead, it will provide an overview of the challenges faced by migrants in accessing their rights to family life and the sources of these long delays in reunification, based on the Legal Centre’s experiences and the testimonies of those we have supported in their efforts to join relatives elsewhere in Europe.

Read the report in full by clicking through the PDF above, or download it here.

* All names have been changed to protect the individuals’ identities.

𝐍𝐨 𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐦 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲 𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐯𝐢𝐨𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐆𝐨𝐥𝐝𝐞𝐧 𝐃𝐚𝐰𝐧

Image: Magda Fyssa at the conviction of the Golden Dawn, 11 October 2020. Photo: Lemesos Blog.

One year after the historic conviction of Golden Dawn, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) calls to mind the importance of the judicial decision that sent a clear message against the criminal organization and organized racist violence. In parallel, the Network warns that there is no room for complacency, as the modus operandi of organized violence continues to severely affect social cohesion.

In October 2020, RVRN welcomed the landmark decision convicting Golden Dawn, which protected respect for the rule of law in Greece, while recalling at the same time that the fight against violent, racist groups and their modus operandi through legal means is a matter of strengthening human rights and respect for the rule of law. The determining factor for the establishment of the Network in 2011 was, to a great extent, the decision by the representatives of civil society organizations and
communities of the victims affected by the organized activity of Golden Dawn to urgently respond in a coordinated manner. The aim was to document the increase in racist attacks and organized violence as well as to advocate for the necessary changes that would put an end to the climate of impunity that had been cultivated for a long time.

Almost ten years after, as documented in its annual report for 2020, the Network continues to record attacks. While reduced in number since 2013, this is nonetheless still ongoing and extremely worrying, with features of a structured organization or committed by organized groups based on farright ideas. RVRN noticed the escalation of the phenomenon in 2020, compared to the recent past, mostly as regards the frequency of organized attacks against targeted groups, such as refugees or
migrants, as well as human rights defenders.

In light of the recent violent incidents that took place within the school environment, among other places, RVRN reminds of its standing recommendations on the effective prevention, already in schools, of the spread of ideas promoting intolerance. Measures that would act as a deterrent to the spread of ideologies disrupting social cohesion and educational institutions’ operation would be to ensure equal access and attendance of children to public education, without discrimination and without being the object of hate speech, and to reinforce the regulatory framework for combating racist violence at school, with the participation of all involved actors (teachers, students, parent teacher associations).

In parallel, RVRN continues to call State and local government representatives, as well as media representatives, to refrain from engaging in the racist rhetoric that normalizes and encourages racist reactions. It also calls on the authorities to urgently enhance the protection provided by law to every person and every community member that is being targeted by persons or groups with a racist motivation. No crime, motivated solely or cumulatively by bias, should remain unpunished.

PRESS RELEASE: Greece suspends deportation following European Court of Human Rights’ grant of interim measures

Image: A shared tent in the “blue zone,” for vulnerable persons, in
 Lesvos’ “Temporary” Reception and Identification Centre in Kara Tepe (otherwise known as Moria 2.0 or Mavrovouni). Photo taken by a camp resident, August 2021.

English.

ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ: Η Ελλάδα αναστέλλει την απέλαση μετά τη χορήγηση προσωρινών μέτρων από το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων

Στις 30 Αυγούστου 2021, το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (ΕΔΑΔ) διέταξε τη λήψη προσωρινών μέτρων για τον εντολέα του Legal Centre Lesvos MH, έναν Σύρο με αναπηρία και χρόνια προβλήματα υγείας, και διέταξε τις ελληνικές αρχές να του εξασφαλίσουν συνθήκες διαβίωσης και ιατρική περίθαλψη κατάλληλες για την κατάσταση της υγείας του, προκειμένου να αποτραπεί επικείμενη ανεπανόρθωτη βλάβη.

Μετά την απόφαση αυτή, στις 9 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021, η Περιφερειακή Αστυνομική Διεύθυνση Βορείου Αιγαίου ανέστειλε την απέλαση του MH για έξι μήνες. Η αίτηση ασύλου του MH είχε απορριφθεί κατόπιν προσφυγής, με τη νομικά αβάσιμη αιτιολογία ότι η Τουρκία είναι ασφαλής τρίτη χώρα γι’ αυτόν. Ως εκ τούτου, θεωρήθηκε, από τις ελληνικές αρχές, ότι βρίσκεται εκτός της διαδικασίας ασύλου (και, ως εκ τούτου, στερείται ιατρικής περίθαλψης και κινδυνεύει με απέλαση).

Επιπλέον, μετά την απόφαση του ΕΔΔΑ, το αστυνομικό τμήμα ήρε τους γεωγραφικούς περιορισμούς του ΜΗ, οι οποίοι τον εμπόδιζαν να εγκαταλείψει το νησί της Λέσβου από την άφιξή του στο νησί πριν από ένα χρόνο, και στις 20 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021, μεταφέρθηκε τελικά στην Αθήνα μαζί με τον κύριο φροντιστή του, έναν άλλο Σύρο που είχε προηγουμένως εμποδιστεί να εγκαταλείψει το νησί, τόσο λόγω της πολιτικής περιορισμού που εφαρμόστηκε μετά τη δήλωση ΕΕ-Τουρκίας του 2016, όσο λόγω ότι η αίτηση του για άσυλο είχε απορριφθεί με την αιτιολογία ότι η Τουρκία είναι ασφαλής.

Κατά τη διάρκεια του περασμένου έτους, σε ένα καταδικαστικό κατηγορητήριο για τις απάνθρωπες συνθήκες που επικρατούν για τους μετανάστες στη Λέσβο, το ΕΔΔΑ έχει χορηγήσει προσωρινά μέτρα σε δεκατρείς υποθέσεις που υποβλήθηκαν από το Legal Centre Lesvos για λογαριασμό ευάλωτων ατόμων που ζουν στο “Προσωρινό” Κέντρο Υποδοχής και Ταυτοποίησης (ΚΥΤ) της Λέσβου στο Καρά Τεπέ (γνωστό και ως Μόρια 2.0 ή Μαυροβούνι). Σε κάθε περίπτωση, το ΕΔΔΑ διέταξε τις ελληνικές αρχές να εγγυηθούν κατάλληλες συνθήκες διαβίωσης και ιατρική περίθαλψη, προκειμένου να αποτραπεί αποδεδειγμένα ο άμεσος κίνδυνος βασανιστηρίων ή απάνθρωπης ή εξευτελιστικής μεταχείρισης ή τιμωρίας.

Παρά τις σταθερές αυτές εντολές του Δικαστηρίου, οι ελληνικές αρχές έχουν επανειλημμένα αποτύχει να διασφαλίσουν την έγκαιρη συμμόρφωσή τους. Τον Μάρτιο του 2021, η χορήγηση προσωρινών μέτρων από το ΕΔΔΑ στην υπόθεση της ΑΜ προκάλεσε τη μεταφορά της – εντός 48 ωρών – στην Αθήνα, όπου θα έπρεπε να έχει στη διάθεσή της εξειδικευμένη ιατρική περίθαλψη. Κατά την άφιξή της, ωστόσο, της αρνήθηκαν την πρόσβαση σε νοσοκομεία – και, ως εκ τούτου, στην ιατρική περίθαλψη που τόσο επειγόντως χρειαζόταν – για περισσότερους από τέσσερις μήνες. Οι δημόσιες υγειονομικές αρχές το δικαιολόγησαν αυτό με την αιτιολογία ότι δεν είχε αριθμό κοινωνικής ασφάλισης, παρά το γεγονός ότι η απόφαση του ΕΔΔΑ είχε τονίσει το δικαίωμά της σε ιατρική περίθαλψη.

Το γεγονός ότι η απέλαση του MH έχει (προσωρινά) ανασταλεί και ότι ο ίδιος, ο φροντιστής του και η ΑΜ έχουν μεταφερθεί στην Αθήνα είναι μικρές νίκες σε ένα κατά τα άλλα εχθρικό και βίαιο συνοριακό καθεστώς. Ωστόσο, η επιτυχία σε μια υπόθεση προσωρινών μέτρων -ακόμη και όταν ακολουθείται από αποφασιστική δράση των ελληνικών αρχών, όπως η πρόσβαση του MH στην υγειονομική περίθαλψη ή η αναστολή της μελλοντικής απέλασής του- είναι συχνά λίγο περισσότερο από την επαρκή εκπλήρωση των υφιστάμενων νομικών υποχρεώσεων του κράτους. Το γεγονός ότι το Legal Centre Lesvos αναγκάζεται να προσφύγει επανειλημμένα στο ΕΔΔΑ, προκειμένου να επιτύχει επείγουσα περίθαλψη για ευάλωτα άτομα, είναι ενδεικτικό του εξαιρετικού χαρακτήρα που πρέπει να αποδειχθεί στις ευρωπαϊκές αρχές πριν αναγνωριστεί το δικαίωμα των μεταναστών σε στοιχειώδη περίθαλψη ή ασφάλεια.

PRESS RELEASE: Greece suspends deportation following European Court of Human Rights’ grant of interim measures

On 30 August 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered interim measures for Legal Centre Lesvos client MH, a Syrian man with disabilities and chronic health issues, and ordered the Greek authorities to guarantee him living conditions and medical care appropriate to his state of health, in order to prevent imminent irreparable harm. 

Following this decision, on 9 September 2021, the Regional Police of the Northern Aegean suspended MH’s deportation for six months. MH’s application for asylum had been rejected on appeal, on the legally untenable grounds that Turkey is a safe third country for him. He was therefore considered, by Greek authorities, to be outside of the asylum procedure (and therefore denied medical care, and at risk of deportation).

Furthermore, following the ECtHR’s decision, the police department lifted MH’s geographic restrictions, which had prevented him from leaving the island of Lesvos since his arrival to the island over a year ago, and on 20 September 2021, he was finally transferred to Athens together with his primary caregiver, another Syrian man who had previously prevented from leaving the island, both due to the containment policy in place since the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement, and because he also had his asylum application rejected on the grounds that Turkey was safe. 

Over the past year, in a damning indictment of the inhumane conditions for migrants in Lesvos, the ECtHR has granted interim measures in thirteen cases submitted by the Legal Centre Lesvos on behalf of vulnerable individuals living in Lesvos’ “Temporary” Reception and Identification Centre (TRIC) in Kara Tepe (otherwise known as Moria 2.0 or Mavrovouni). In each case, the ECtHR has ordered Greek authorities to guarantee appropriate living conditions and medical care in order to prevent a proven imminent risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

Despite these firm Court orders, the Greek authorities have repeatedly failed to ensure their timely compliance. In March 2021, the ECtHR’s grant of interim measures in AM’s case prompted her transfer – within 48 hours – to Athens, where specialist medical care should have been available to her. Upon arrival, however, she was denied access to hospitals – and therefore to the medical care that she so urgently needed – for more than four months. Public health authorities justified this on the grounds that she did not have a social security number, despite the fact that the ECtHR’s order had emphasised her right to medical care.

The fact that MH’s deportation has been (temporarily) suspended, and that he, his caregiver, and AM have been transferred to Athens are small victories in an otherwise hostile and violent border regime. However, success in an interim measures case – even when it is followed by decisive action by Greek authorities, such as MH’s access to healthcare or the suspension of his prospective deportation – is often little more than adequate fulfillment of the State’s existing legal obligations. That the Legal Centre Lesvos is forced to take recourse to the ECtHR on a repeated basis, to obtain urgent treatment for vulnerable persons, is indicative of the exceptionalism that must be proven to European authorities before migrants’ entitlement to basic care or safety is recognised.

ONE YEAR OF MAVROVOUNI CAMP

There is nothing more permanent than the temporary – Ουδεν μονιμοτερον του προσωρινου

In September 2020, in the aftermath of the Moria fires, the European Commission announced that a dedicated task force would be established with the ostensible purposes of  “implement[ing] a joint pilot with the Greek authorities for new reception facilities” and ensuring “adequate living conditions, more certainty through faster procedures and more balanced responsibility-sharing and solidarity.” Far from these stated objectives, the reality in Lesvos and on the other Aegean islands has been the extension of the European Union’s existing hotspot approach through the knowing creation and perpetuation of inhumane living conditions into effective prison camps and the continued sacrifice of fundamental rights to expedited and summary asylum procedures. 

The hasty establishment of Mavrovouni Temporary Reception and Identification Centre (TRIC) in October 2020 – on land that was leased for five years, calling in to question the camp’s alleged temporariness (see here, here, and here) – has, since then, given way to constant construction works, despite knowledge that the site is contaminated with lead and therefore poses an acute health risk to all contained there. Fires, heavy winds, flooding and ongoing building works have forced the camp residents’ constant relocation from one tent or shelter to another, while prospects of moving outside of the camp (to accommodation in shelters for vulnerable people, for example) have progressively closed. Some families told the Legal Centre Lesvos that they were forcibly moved from their tents or containers, at least, once per month, due to the constant – and disorientating – re-shaping of the camp’s infrastructure. They also complained about the frequent presence of dust in the air created by the permanent construction works and movement of trucks passing through the camp, which also contaminates their food and water.

Mavrovouni’s neatly aligned rows of nearly 500 UNHCR-branded tents, containers, and rub-halls might appear, at first glance, better organised than the olive groves that sprawled around the former Moria RIC. But this image, satisfactory only for politicians’ brief visits or organisations’ promotional videos, belies a fundamentally different reality: the effective detention of migrants in shelters battered by extreme weather conditions, with scarce and inaccessible sanitation facilities, and under ever-increasing police surveillance – yet facing chronic insecurity. 

Mavrovouni camp is organized around four main zones – blue, yellow, green and red – which hosts people dependent on their profile (vulnerable, single men, families) and the capacity of each zone given the ongoing construction works. Crucially, people are also grouped into the different sections of each zone depending on their status in the asylum procedure. For instance, both people whose asylum claims have been rejected on appeal and recognised refugees – who are all currently considered to be “outside of the asylum procedure” by the Greek authorities and therefore ineligible for the “housing” and cash assistance provided to asylum seekers – are often hosted within the same rows or group of tents, containers or rubhalls in the camp, including in less “comfortable” shelters and more remote areas. Families with children whose asylum claims have been rejected on appeal are being concentrated in large rubhalls hosting 80 to 100 persons of the “green zone”, which is also the most remote and one of the dirtiest areas of the camp (see picture below). Families hosted there complain about the lack of space and safety for their children, given the absence of an escape route in case of fire of the rubhall and the dirt, rats and bed bugs which they are exposed to. 

Picture: Plastic rubhalls shared among 80 to 100 persons hosting families with children who have been rejected at least twice in the asylum process – in the remote area of the “green zone” of Mavrovouni RIC. Picture taken by a camp resident, August 2021. 

Vulnerable persons (including among others people with physical disabilities, chronic health conditions, single parents with minor children and pregnant women) are mostly hosted in the “blue zone” of Mavrovouni camp, which alternates between tents shared among eight persons and ISO box containers. However, at present, this part of the camp lacks sufficient capacity to host all persons with vulnerabilities. Some of the Legal Centre Lesvos’ clients with severe medical conditions and physical disabilities are forced to live in other zones, where they sleep on the floor of tents shared with unrelated persons. Furthermore, the shower facilities adapted for persons with disabilities (which have running water, as opposed to the bucket showers found across the rest of the camp) were built outside of the blue zone – and at approximately five minutes’ walking distance. This means that they are in practice very difficult to access for people with limited mobility or in wheelchairs.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has, since the start of the year, repeatedly held that the living conditions in Mavrovouni RIC put people with severe medical conditions at imminent risk of irreparable harm and breach the prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment found in Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Despite the ECtHR’s repeated instructions to the Greek government to urgently transfer war wounded persons, pregnant women, victims of torture, children with epilepsy or autism, and other vulnerable people into appropriate and safe accommodation and ensure their access to adequate medical care, many – both those named in these cases and other hundreds in analagous situations – are still left without assistance in Mavrovouni camp. 

Picture: Lines of tents in the “blue zone” of Mavrovouni RIC hosting vulnerable people including people with limited mobility and in wheelchairs who are sleeping on the floor in shared tents among 8 other persons. Picture taken by a camp resident, August 2021. 

In any case, however, the shelters available in Mavrovouni camp (whether tent, container or rub hall) are invariably inadequate to ensure people’s health or safety. Among all the ISO boxes containers, rubhalls and tents installed in Mavrovouni camp, only the ISO box containers relocated in the “blue zone” from the former municipality-run Kara Tepe camp (which was used to host vulnerable individuals and families, and forcibly closed by Greek authorities in April this year) are equipped with air conditioning. This means that during the summer, where temperatures reached 40°C, the vast majority of people living in the camp were left without proper ventilation. This also means that people will most certainly be left without proper heating during the upcoming winter, where temperatures will drop below freezing and snow may well fall.

New lightweight “plastic containers” have now been installed as accommodation for families in the “red zone” of the camp and have space for five to eight persons sleeping on the floor. The manufacturers of these containers, a partner of UNHCR, describe these as short-term accommodation “to house families for a couple of nights” (emphasis added). Those containers have fire safety guidelines on the doors, instructing residents that they have only two minutes to escape in case of a blaze, due to the highly flammable nature of the material. The instructions further stipulate that there must be at least five metres between each container. In Mavrovouni, however, there is only approximately one to two meters between each unit (see picture below). 

Despite the well known risks of fires, the Greek authorities continue to pile highly flammable and unheated containers close to each other, with no regard for the health, safety or lives of the people forced to live there. 

Pictures: New light-weight plastic structures called by the camp residents “plastic containers” and their fire safety guidelines, Picture taken by a camp resident, September 2021.

The inhumane living conditions imposed on people in Mavrovouni camp are coupled with pervasive  anxiety and uncertainty created by de facto detention, mass rejections and accelerated assessments of residents’ claims

As of August, almost half of the camp population had already had their asylum claim rejected on appeal, and are therefore officially considered to be “outside of the procedure”. This means in practice that they no longer have access to UNHCR cash assistance, nor legal aid support from state lawyers, nor social security services, such as health care (with the exception of emergency services). 

In any case, UNHCR has announced the termination of its cash assistance programme as of the 15 September 2021, the date in which all persons eligible are requested to withdraw their last cash allowance. There has been no official announcement by the Greek State confirming that this programme will in fact be continued, or if so, under which eligibility criteria. Clients of the Legal Centre Lesvos explained that they are extremely worried as to how they will be able to cover their basic needs, particularly while being forced to live in Mavrovouni camp and not having access to any work. Some clients stated that they are “working” three shifts for different non-governmental organisations operating inside the camp and survive on the 20-euros supermarket coupons and 12-euros mobile top up cards given to them in exchange for their services, such as interpreting, helping to move tents or building ISO box containers, cleaning the bins, or gathering empty bottles. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Mavrovouni RIC (and other camps across Greece) have been subjected to disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions such as curfews, restricted exits per week, and ongoing movement certification requirements. In August, exit and entrance restrictions were finally lifted for the Mavrovouni camp residents, but every person leaving the camp was forced to undergo a rapid COVID test each time they want to leave – even vaccinated persons who could present a COVID vaccine certificate. Since 11 September, harsh police controls and movement restrictions have been reimposed under the justification of “protection measures of public health from the spread of COVID-19,” whereas the rest of the local population on the island is not subjected to any restriction – let alone an enhanced restriction – at the moment. As a consequence, the camp management has resumed the publication of daily notices listing residents’ file numbers, to determine who is allowed to leave the camp “for the cover of basic needs” – such as medical appointments, asylum interviews, appointment with lawyers or public services under the presentation of a document proving those appointments.

Furthermore, the National Public Health Organisation (EODY), which operates a clinic in the camp,  announced in the last week of August that the State would no longer provide COVID-19 vaccinations for people “outside of the asylum procedure”, under the pretext that the State could not issue a vaccine certificate for those without legal status. People who already had appointments with EODY in the camp, but had since received a second instance rejection on their asylum claim, were therefore refused vaccination when they came to their appointment. Legal status has no bearing on public health imperatives, and the exclusion of migrants from the vaccination programme on this basis is a violation of the fundamental principle of non-discrimination. 

For a full year, people have now been forced to live in the “temporary” Mavrovouni camp in horrendous conditions, with the poor excuse that people’s stay there would be temporary. As confirmed by the Greek proverb, “there is nothing more permanent than the temporary” (Ουδέν μονιμότερον του προσωρινού). 

NO CAMPS, NO PRISONS, NOT HERE, NOT EVER!

𝐒𝐮𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝟐𝟕-𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫-𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐌.𝐌. 𝐭𝐨 𝐆𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟕 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐬’ 𝐞𝐟𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐬

Photograph: Damaged tents in Mavrovouni RIC, August 2021.

Ελληνικά.

M.M, a 27-year-old Afghan beneficiary of subsidiary protection, who attempted to self-immolate in the Mavrovouni Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) of Lesvos on February 21, 2021, has been safely relocated to Germany with her family. The transfer to Germany was made possible by a new order of the Investigating Judge of the First Instance Court of Mytilene, which allowed for her exit from the country, under the condition that M.M. reports at a Greek consular authority in Germany once a month, until a final ruling on the criminal charges pending against her is made.

In February, M.M. – then pregnant – attempted to take her life inside Mavrovouni temporary Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), in Lesvos. As a result of the attempted self-immolation, M.M. sustained injuries on several parts of her body, including her head, both hands, back, and legs, and inhaled smoke that caused her to lose consciousness for a short period of time. M.M. was rescued by the residents of the neighbouring tents and was transferred to the hospital immediately after.

M.M. and her family had lived for more than a year in the inhuman conditions of Moria and Mavrovouni RICs before she attempted to take her life. For this act of desperation, she was later charged with “arson with intent, endangering life and the objects of others”, as well as with “damage of an object of common utility by means of fire.” Τhe case is still pending at the pre-trial-stage.

HIAS Greece and Legal Centre Lesvos express their satisfaction with the positive outcome regarding the family’s relocation. The decisions taken by the Judicial Authorities as well as those of the Central Asylum Service were instrumental in making the family’s transfer possible. At the same time, we hope that the Judicial Authorities will recognize M.M.’s act of desperation as self-harm, which is not punishable according to Greek penal code. This criminal case constitutes another example of misguided use of criminal law mechanism against refugees, and simultaneously reveals the failure of the state to provide adequate living conditions for persons seeking international protection in Greece.

Μεταφέρθηκε στη Γερμανία η 27χρονη Μ.Μ. που είχε προσπαθήσει να θέσει τέλος στη ζωή της στο ΚΥΤ Μαυροβουνίου της Λέσβου

Η 27χρονη αναγνωρισμένη δικαιούχος επικουρικής προστασίας από το Αφγανιστάν που προσπάθησε να αυτοπυρποληθεί στις 21 Φεβρουαρίου 2021, μεταφέρθηκε από τη Λέσβο με ασφάλεια στη Γερμανία μαζί με την οικογένειά της, στο πλαίσιο του προγράμματος μετεγκατάστασης. Η μεταφορά της κατέστη εφικτή ύστερα από τη νέα διάταξη του Ανακριτή Πρωτοδικών Μυτιλήνης κατόπιν πρότασης της εισαγγελέα, με την οποία ορίστηκε ως μοναδικός περιοριστικός όρος η εμφάνιση στην πλησιέστερη ελληνική προξενική αρχή μια φορά το μήνα, μέχρι την οριστική εκδίκαση της σε βάρος της κατηγορίας.

Υπενθυμίζουμε ότι, τον Φεβρουάριο του τρέχοντος έτους, η 27χρονη έγκυος γυναίκα αποπειράθηκε να θέσει τέλος στη ζωή της εντός του προσωρινού Κέντρου Υποδοχής και Ταυτοποίησης στο Μαυροβούνι της Λέσβου. Ως αποτέλεσμα, η πρόσφυγας υπέστη πολλαπλά εγκαύματα στο κεφάλι, την πλάτη, τα χέρια και τα πόδια και έχασε τις αισθήσεις της μετά από εισπνοή καπνού. Η Μ.Μ. διασώθηκε από τους κατοίκους των γειτονικών σκηνών και αμέσως μετά μεταφέρθηκε στο νοσοκομείο λόγω των πολλαπλών τραυμάτων που έφερε από τη φωτιά. Σημειώνουμε ότι η γυναίκα μαζί με την οικογένεια της ζούσαν για περισσότερο από ένα χρόνο σε απάνθρωπες συνθήκες του κέντρου Υποδοχής και Ταυτοποίησης της Μόριας και στη συνέχεια του Μαυροβουνίου. Για αυτήν την πράξη απελπισίας, της αποδόθηκαν κατηγορίες για «εμπρησμό από πρόθεση από τον οποίο προέκυψε κίνδυνος για ξένα πράγματα και για ανθρώπους» και «φθορά πράγματος που χρησιμεύει για κοινό όφελος η οποία έγινε με φωτιά» ενώ η υπόθεση εκκρεμεί ακόμα στο στάδιο της προδικασίας.

Οι οργανώσεις ΗΙΑS Eλλάδος και Legal Centre Lesvos εκφράζουν την ικανοποίηση με την θετική εξέλιξη της υπόθεσης αναφορικά με την μετεγκατάσταση της οικογένειας καθώς τόσο οι Δικαστικές Αρχές όσο και η Κεντρική Υπηρεσία Ασύλου συνέδραμαν αποτελεσματικά με τις αποφάσεις τους ώστε να καταστεί εφικτή η μεταφορά της οικογένειας στη Γερμανία. Παράλληλα, στην περίπτωση της εντολέως μας, ευελπιστούμε και στην θετική έκβαση της ποινικής υπόθεσης, με την απόσυρση των κατηγοριών σε βάρος της από τις δικαστικές αρχές,  αξιολογώντας ορθά την πράξη απελπισίας της ως αυτοπροσβολή, ατιμώρητη κατά το ποινικό δίκαιο. Η υπόθεση αυτή αποτελεί δυστυχώς ένα ακόμη παράδειγμα άστοχης ενεργοποίησης του ποινικού μηχανισμού σε βάρος των προσφύγων καταδεικνύοντας παράλληλα την αδυναμία του κράτους να εξασφαλίσει κατάλληλες συνθήκες διαβίωσης για τους ανθρώπους που αναζητούν προστασία στη χώρα μας.

ΔΗΛΩΣΗ ΤΩΝ ΣΥΝΗΓΟΡΩΝ ΥΠΕΡΑΣΠΙΣΗΣ ΤΩΝ ΤΕΣΣΑΡΩΝ ΚΑΤΗΓΟΡΟΥΜΕΝΩΝ ΓΙΑ ΤΟΝ ΕΜΠΡΗΣΜΟ ΤΗΣ ΜΟΡΙΑΣ / FREE THE MORIA 6: A STATEMENT FROM THE DEFENCE LAWYERS ON THE UNFAIR TRIAL OF FOUR OF THOSE ACCUSED OF THE MORIA FIRES

Police officer outside the Court in Chios, 11 June 2021. Photo credit: Free The Moria Six Campaign, @freethemoriasix.

ENGLISH BELOW.

Την Παρασκευή 11/06 και Σάββατο 12/06 έγινε στη Χίο, ενώπιον του Μικτού Ορκωτού Δικαστηρίου, η δίκη τεσσάρων νεαρών Αφγανών, οι οποίοι είχαν κατηγορηθεί από τις Ελληνικές αρχές για τον εμπρησμό στη Μόρια τον περασμένο Σεπτέμβριο, που είχε σαν αποτέλεσμα την ολοκληρωτική καταστροφή του στρατοπέδου.

Και οι τέσσερις καταδικάστηκαν, ομόφωνα, σε ποινή κάθειρξης δέκα ετών, χωρίς  να τους αναγνωριστεί κανένα ελαφρυντικό και χωρίς η έφεσή τους να έχει ανασταλτική δύναμη και για το λόγο αυτό οδηγήθηκαν πίσω στη φυλακή Αυλώνα, όπου βρίσκονταν προφυλακισμένοι για δέκα σχεδόν μήνες.

Η διαδικασία που θα ακολουθούνταν από το δικαστήριο είχε διαφανεί από την πρώτη στιγμή. Κατά την είσοδο και με εντολή του προέδρου του δικαστηρίου, ελέγχθηκαν και οι συνήγοροι υπεράσπισης, στους οποίους ανοίχτηκαν οι φάκελοι της δικογραφίας και τα προσωπικά αντικείμενα (πορτοφόλια κ.λ.π.). Στη συνέχεια απορρίφθηκε το αίτημα τεσσάρων δημοσιογράφων (δύο από ελληνικά και δύο από διεθνή μέσα) καθώς και το αίτημα των συνηγόρων υπεράσπισης που αφορούσε σε δύο διεθνείς παρατηρητές (δικηγόρους διαπιστευμένους από διεθνείς ενώσεις νομικών) να παρευρίσκονται στη διαδικασία, ώστε να εξασφαλιστεί στο ελάχιστο η δημοσιότητα της δίκης, με το πρόσχημα των μέτρων για τον covid, ενόσω καθόλη τη διάρκεια της διαδικασίας παρόντες στην αίθουσα ήταν 7-9 αστυνομικοί, για την τήρηση μη αναγκαίων μέτρων τάξης. Αξίζει να σημειωθεί ότι από την παρακολούθηση της δίκης αποκλείστηκε και εκπρόσωπος της Ύπατης Αρμοστείας του ΟΗΕ για τους ίδιους λόγους.

Η διαδικασία ξεκίνησε με την υποβολή ένστασης αναρμοδιότητας του δικαστηρίου, βασισμένη σε επίσημα έγγραφα από τις χώρες καταγωγής, που ήδη από το στάδιο της ανάκρισης είχαν προσκομισθεί από τους 3 κατηγορούμενους, τα οποία αποδείκνυαν ότι οι κατηγορούμενοι ήταν ανήλικοι κατά την υποτιθέμενη τέλεση της πράξης και τα οποία, σύμφωνα με την Κοινή Υπουργική Απόφαση 9889/2020 άρθρο 1 παρ. 12 αίρουν κάθε αμφιβολία υπέρ της ανηλικότητας χωρίς καμία επιφύλαξη ενώ σταματά οποιαδήποτε διαδικασίας διαπίστωσης ανηλικότητας. Η συγκεκριμένη ένσταση θα είχε, στην περίπτωση που είχε γίνει δεκτή, καταλυτική σημασία στην ποινική αντιμετώπιση των 3, καθόσον θα έπρεπε να παραπεμφθούν σε δικαστήριο ανηλίκων. Παρόλα αυτά το δικαστήριο αποφάσισε την απόρριψη της ένστασης, άνευ ουσιαστικής αιτιολογίας, στηρίζοντας την απόρριψη σε μία αμφίβολης προέλευσης, ποιότητας, αξιοπιστίας και εγκυρότητας πραγματογνωμοσύνη, ενός αναρμόδιου πραγματογνώμονα (όχι γιατρού, αλλά κοινωνικού επιστήμονα –εγκληματολόγου/ανθρωπολόγου), ο οποίος υποτίθεται ότι κατάφερε να διαβάσει ακτινογραφίες και να διαπιστώσει ότι είναι ενήλικοι και επιπλέον παραβιάζοντας την εκ του νόμου προβλεπόμενη διαδικασία για την εκτίμηση της ηλικίας. Το δικαστήριο δεν έλαβε υπόψη του ούτε το ευεργέτημα της αμφιβολίας για την ηλικία των κατηγορούμενων, όπως αυτό προβλέπεται από τη Διεθνή Σύμβαση για τα Δικαιώματα του Παιδιού.

Περαιτέρω απορρίφθηκε παραχρήμα και η ένσταση περί επίδοσης όλων των εγγράφων της κατηγορίας στους κατηγορούμενους στα ελληνικά, χωρίς ούτε στοιχειώδη μετάφραση αποσπασμάτων του κατηγορητηρίου σε γλώσσα που να κατανοούν, παρόλο που αυτό προβλέπεται τόσο στις οδηγίες 2010/64/ΕΕ του ευρωπαϊκού κοινοβουλίου και του συμβουλίου της 20/10/2010 και 2012/13/ΕΕ του ευρωπαϊκού κοινοβουλίου και του συμβουλίου της 22/05/2012, όσο και στο άρθρο 237 ΚΠΔ.

Το τεκμήριο της αθωότητας των κατηγορουμένων και κάθε έννοια του κράτους δικαίου είχε καταλυθεί από την πρώτη στιγμή. Καίτοι από τα επίσημα έγγραφα της προανάκρισης σαφέστατα προκύπτει ότι όλοι συνελήφθησαν στις 15/09/2020 μεταξύ 22:50 και 23:00 (το βράδυ δηλαδή), εμφανίζονται (και πάλι στα επίσημα έγγραφα) να απολογούνται στις 15/09/2020 μεταξύ 13:00 και 13:30 (το μεσημέρι δηλαδή), πριν συλληφθούν. Την ίδια μέρα και πριν τη σύλληψή τους υπήρξαν δηλώσεις δύο υπουργών της κυβέρνησης, ότι οι δράστες του εμπρησμού της Μόριας συνελήφθησαν, κρατούνται, θα καταδικαστούν και θα απελαθούν. 

Η καταδίκη των κατηγορούμενων στηρίχθηκε αποκλειστικά στη γραπτή κατάθεση στην αστυνομία ενός και μοναδικού μάρτυρα-κατοίκου του στρατοπέδου, ο οποίος κλήθηκε (χωρίς συγκεκριμένο κριτήριο) αυτός και μόνο και κανένας άλλος κάτοικος, στον οποίο δόθηκε το δικαίωμα να καταθέσει χωρίς να δηλώσει μόνιμη κατοικία, ώστε να καταστεί ανέφικτος ο εντοπισμός του στα μεταγενέστερα στάδια της διαδικασίας. Περαιτέρω δεν έγινε καμία προσπάθεια ανεύρεσής του από την εισαγγελία, μέσω της υπηρεσίας ασύλου ή της αστυνομίας που έχει πρόσβαση στα στοιχεία της υπηρεσίας ασύλου, όπου κάθε αιτών άσυλο ή έχων καθεστώς πρόσφυγα είναι υποχρεωμένος να δηλώνει τη μόνιμη διεύθυνσή του. Η εισαγγελία αρκέστηκε να τον θεωρήσει ως αγνώστου διαμονής, να τον απαλλάξει από τη βάσανο της προφορικής διαδικασίας, με αποτέλεσμα να αναγνωσθεί η κατάθεσή του στο δικαστήριο, απορριφθείσας (χωρίς αιτιολογία) της σχετικής ένστασης που προτάθηκε από τους συνηγόρους υπεράσπισης, περί καταστρατήγησης του υπερασπιστικού δικαιώματος των κατηγορούμενων. Στη συγκεκριμένη κατάθεση, ο μοναδικός μάρτυρας κατηγορίας που ενοχοποιεί τους κατηγορούμενους, τους «αναγνωρίζει» μόνο με τα μικρά τους ονόματα, χωρίς να τους περιγράφει ή να δίνει κάποιο άλλο χαρακτηριστικό που να τους ταυτοποιεί. Ως εκ θαύματος, η αστυνομία του επιδεικνύει πέντε συγκεκριμένες φωτογραφίες (μολονότι τα μικρά ονόματα που αναφέρει είναι ιδιαίτερα κοινά στην αφγανική κοινότητα), από τις οποίες αναγνωρίζει ανεπιφύλακτα και με τον τρόπο αυτό καθιστά τους συγκεκριμένους ανθρώπους κατηγορούμενους. Μόνο αυτός και με αυτό τον τρόπο, καθώς πολλοί άλλοι μάρτυρες κατηγορίας, αστυνομικοί και πυροσβέστες, δεν ήταν σε θέση να τους αναγνωρίσουν, παρόλο που ήταν αυτόπτες μάρτυρες στην πυρκαγιά. Αξίζει να σημειωθεί ότι η κατάθεση του εν λόγω μάρτυρα ανατρέπεται με τον πλέον ξεκάθαρο και αξιόπιστο τρόπο από την ίδια την Έκθεση της Πυροσβεστικής Υπηρεσίας Μυτιλήνης, καθώς ο ίδιος εμφανίζεται να «αναγνωρίζει» άτομα να βάζουν φωτιά σε συγκεκριμένη μέρα και περιοχή του ΚΥΤ, που σύμφωνα με την Έκθεση όχι μόνο δεν είχε καεί την κρίσιμη ημέρα αλλά την επομένη και μάλιστα όχι από ανθρώπινη ενέργεια αλλά εξαιτίας της φοράς του ανέμου.

Κατά τη διάρκεια της διαδικασίας υπήρξαν και άλλες μείζονες παραβιάσεις (διερμηνείας, προσβολής των μαρτύρων υπεράσπισης, δικαιώματος στην απολογία των κατηγορουμένων κ.λ.π.) και άλλα διάφορα παράδοξα (δόθηκε η πολυτέλεια σε μάρτυρα κατηγορίας, του οποίου το κτήμα είχε σε άλλη χρονική στιγμή καεί να περιγράφει με λεπτομέρειες  την απώλεια της περιουσίας του, μολονότι δεν υπήρχε κατηγορία για τους συγκεκριμένους κατηγορούμενους επ’ αυτού).

Τέλος, δεν αναγνωρίστηκε ομόφωνα από το δικαστήριο στους κατηγορούμενους κανένα ελαφρυντικό, ούτε καν αυτό του νεαρού παραβάτη, καίτοι η ελληνική πολιτεία ήδη τους είχε αναγνωρίσει ως τέτοιους προφυλακίζοντάς τους σε ειδικό κατάστημα κράτησης, πόσο μάλλον αυτό των μη ταπεινών αιτίων, στηριζόμενης της επ’ αυτού κρίσης στις πραγματικά απάνθρωπες συνθήκες διαβίωσης των κατηγορούμενων στο «κολαστήριο» της Μόριας, όπως αναγνωρίστηκε από όλους μετά την καταστροφή του.

Όλα τα παραπάνω καταλείπουν την αδιαμφισβήτητη εντύπωση ότι, η συγκεκριμένη δίκη κάθε άλλο παρά δίκαιη θα μπορούσε να χαρακτηριστεί και ότι η σκοπιμότητα και η πολιτική εκμετάλλευση σε ζητήματα εθνικού ενδιαφέροντος και τέρψης της κοινής γνώμης, υποσκελίζουν το οποιοδήποτε δικαίωμα των κατηγορουμένων.

Οι Συνήγοροι Υπεράσπισης

FREE THE MORIA 6: A STATEMENT FROM THE DEFENCE LAWYERS ON THE UNFAIR TRIAL OF FOUR OF THOSE ACCUSED OF THE MORIA FIRES

On Friday 11 and Saturday 12 June 2021, the trial of four young Afghans, accused by the Greek authorities for the fire in Moria which resulted in the camp’s total destruction in September 2020, took place in Chios before a Mixed Jury Court.

All four were unanimously sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, without recognition of any mitigating circumstances, and without their appeal having a suspensive effect. They were therefore taken back to Avlona prison, near Athens, where they have already been held in pre-trial detention for almost ten months.

The court’s intended procedure was evident from the outset of the trial. Upon entry to the court and on the order of the President of the Judges, the defence lawyers were first searched, including the case files and their personal belongings (wallets, etc.). After that, the request of four journalists (two from Greek press and two from international media) and two international trial observers (lawyers accredited by international legal associations) to attend the trial in order to ensure a minimum level of public oversight, were rejected under the pretext that COVID-19 measures prohibited the presence of more than 15 persons inside the court. At the same time, 7 to 9 police officers were present inside the courtroom throughout the proceedings, in order to maintain unnecessary order. It is worth noting that a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was also excluded from attending the trial for the same reasons.

The trial started with an objection, launched by defence lawyers, related to the court’s lack of jurisdiction. Three of the four defendants were minors at the time of the alleged commission of the crime, and provided the Public Prosecutor’s office with official documents from their country of origin that demonstrated their minority. Pursuant to Joint Ministerial Decision 9889/2020, Article 1, para. 12, this is sufficient to prove their juvenile status. Consequently, their case should have been heard before juvenile court. However, the court rejected this objection, without any substantial reasoning, based  on the “expert” opinion of dubious quality, reliability and validity issued by a social scientist with a criminology and anthropology background (instead of a competent doctor) who claimed, based on X-rays of the defendants’ hands, that the three were adults. This is in stark violation of the procedure for age assessment provided for by law (i.e. the aforementioned Joint Ministerial Decision). The court also failed to take into account the presumption of minority regarding the defendants’ ages, as provided for by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The trial continued with an objection, again launched by defence lawyers, concerning the issuance of the defendants’ indictment in Greek. No translation was offered to them, not even of the essential parts of the indictment. This objection was also rejected, despite the fact that EU Directives 2010/64/EU and 2012/13/EU, in addition to Article 237 of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure, require indictment documents to be served in a language that the defendants understand.

In this case, the presumption of innocence of the accused and the rule of law were  dismantled from the very first moment. Official documents of the preliminary investigation state that all the defendants were arrested on 15 September 2020 between 22:50 and 23:00 (i.e. in the evening), and yet they appear (again in the official documents) to have been interrogated by the police on 15 September 2020 between 13:00 and 13:30 (i.e. at noon), before they were arrested. Furthermore, on the same day of their arrest and prior to their interrogation, the Minister of Migration and the Minister of Citizen Protection stated that the perpetrators of the fire in Moria had been arrested and detained, and that they would be tried and deported. 

The conviction of the defendants was solely based on the written testimony to the police of a single witness, who was another resident of the Moria camp. This person – and no other resident of Moria – was called (without any specific justification) and given the right to testify without declaring a permanent residence, which made it impossible to locate him in the later stages of the proceedings. Furthermore, no attempt was ever made by the public prosecutor’s office to locate this “witness,” be it through the asylum service or the police, before which all asylum seekers or refugees are obliged to declare their  permanent address. The Public Prosecutor’s office was content to consider him as an “unknown resident”, thus relieving him of the burden of the oral procedure before the court (and shielding him from cross-examination). The court rejected the defence counsels’ objection that this violated the defendants’ right of defence, admitted his testimony and read it aloud in court. 

In his written testimony, this man – the sole witness for the prosecution incriminating the defendants – “identified” them only by mentioning their first names, without offering a physical description or any other identifying characteristics. Even though the first names he mentioned are some of the most common ones in the Afghan community, the police miraculously showed him five specific photographs of the defendants based on which he unreservedly confirmed their identities, thereby making these people the accused. None of the other prosecution witnesses, be it police officers or firefighters, were able to identify the defendants, although they were eyewitnesses to the fire. 

Furthermore, this “witness” testimony is in direct contradiction to the report prepared by  the Mytilene Fire Service itself. The “witness” identified the defendants as setting fire to a specific area of Moria camp on a specific day – which, according to the Mytilene Fire Service, did not burn on that day and, in any case, was not set alight by people. Instead, that area of the camp was destroyed solely by fires spread by the wind. 

During the trial, other major procedural violations were documented, including: erroneous or incomplete interpretation; insults to and harassment of defence witnesses; violations of the rights of the defence witnesses; and violations of the right of the defendants to make a statement. Various other paradoxes manifested during the trial: for instance, a prosecution witness who had lost property in a separate fire to those in Moria camp on September 8 was given the luxury of describing, in detail and without interruption, this loss, even though it had no relation to the trial and there were no associated charges against the defendants. 

Finally, the court unanimously decided to reject all mitigating circumstances in the defendants’ sentencing. This included a refusal to recognise their young age, despite the fact that the Greek state had already recognised this vulnerability by incarcerating them in a specific juvenile prison. Not even the inhumane living conditions of the defendants in the “hell” of Moria – otherwise recognised by all – were taken into account by the court to reduce the defendants’ sentence. 

All of the above leaves the undeniable impression that the trial in question was anything but fair, and that in matters of national interest and public opinion, such as the Moria fire, expediency and political exploitation subordinate the rule of law and the rights of the accused.

THE DEFENSE LAWYERS

GREEK AUTHORITIES DECLARE TURKEY SAFE FOR AFGHAN, BANGLADESHI, SYRIAN, SOMALI AND PAKISTANI NATIONALS / ΟΙ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΈΣ ΑΡΧΈΣ ΚΗΡΎΣΣΟΥΝ ΤΗΝ ΤΟΥΡΚΊΑ ΑΣΦΑΛΉ ΓΙΑ ΤΟΥΣ ΥΠΗΚΌΟΥΣ ΑΦΓΑΝΙΣΤΆΝ, ΜΠΑΓΚΛΑΝΤΈΣ, ΣΎΡΙΟΥΣ, ΣΟΜΑΛΟΎΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΑΚΙΣΤΑΝΟΎΣ

Photo Credit: Deportation Monitoring Aegean

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ

Yesterday, the Greek authorities furthered Europe’s border externalisation policy through the formal designation of Turkey as a safe country for Afghan, Syrian, Somali, Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals. 

Announced in a new Joint Ministerial Decision,* this means that all new asylum claims made by people of these nationalities may face expedited examination of their claim, and likely will have their application for asylum rejected as ‘inadmissible’ on the grounds that Turkey is a safe country for them – meaning that they could be “readmitted” (deportated) to Turkey, without an examination of the merits of their asylum claim – i.e.  the reason they left their home country. The populations targeted are by no means surprising: as of April 2021, the majority of the migrant population on the Aegean islands are from Afghanistan (50%), Syria (15%) and Somalia (8%). 

Turkey is not a safe third country for migrants. Most migrants are unable to access any form of protection in Turkey, owing to a geographic restriction that it imposed to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and migrants there are at grave risk of exploitation, inhumane detention, and deportation. Only Syrian nationals are able to obtain a form of temporary protection, which falls far short of refugee protection and, in practice, provides little defence against refoulement.  

The EU-Turkey Statement had a clear mandate to exclude all new arrivals from obtaining international protection in Europe, and to confine those who did arrive in liminal European territory until they could be returned. However, since the codification of the EU-Turkey Statement into Greek law in 2016, only Syrian nationals have been found “inadmissible” on the (objectively erroneous) grounds that Turkey is a safe country from which they could seek and obtain international protection. This was despite political pressure from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to reject all asylum claims as inadmissible since the EU-Turkey Statement’s implementation. 

Yesterday’s decision expanding the notion that Turkey is “safe” for five additional nationalities is indeed a step further in “the full and unconditional implementation” of the EU-Turkey Statement, as confirmed by Minister of Migration and Asylum N. Mitarachis. Moreover, it is an explicit and unapologetic endorsement of Europe’s drive to exclude migrants from its territory, which are manifest in its policies of systematic violence and continued, fatal disregard for migrant lives.

* Αριθμ. 42799, Καθορισμός τρίτων χωρών που χαρακτηρίζονται ως ασφαλείς και κατάρτιση εθνικού καταλόγου, κατά τα οριζόμενα στο άρθρο 86 του ν. 4636/2019 (Α’ 169).

ΟΙ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΈΣ ΑΡΧΈΣ ΚΗΡΎΣΣΟΥΝ ΤΗΝ ΤΟΥΡΚΊΑ ΑΣΦΑΛΉ ΓΙΑ ΤΟΥΣ ΥΠΗΚΌΟΥΣ ΑΦΓΑΝΙΣΤΆΝ, ΜΠΑΓΚΛΑΝΤΈΣ, ΣΎΡΙΟΥΣ, ΣΟΜΑΛΟΎΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΑΚΙΣΤΑΝΟΎΣ

Χθες, οι ελληνικές αρχές επέκτειναν την πολιτική της Ευρώπης για την διεύρυνση των εξωτερικών συνόρων με τον επίσημο χαρακτηρισμό της Τουρκίας ως ασφαλούς χώρας για τους Αφγανούς, Σύρους, Σομαλούς, Πακιστανούς και Μπαγκλαντεσιανούς υπηκόους. 

Αυτό σημαίνει ότι όλες οι νέες αιτήσεις ασύλου που υποβάλλονται από άτομα αυτών των εθνικότητων μπορεί να αντιμετωπίσουν ταχεία εξέταση του αιτήματός τους, και πιθανότατα η αίτησή τους για άσυλο θα απορριφθεί ως “απαράδεκτη” με την αιτιολογία ότι η Τουρκία είναι ασφαλής χώρα γι’ αυτούς – πράγμα που σημαίνει ότι θα μπορούσαν να “επιστραφούν” (απελαθούν) στην Τουρκία, χωρίς να εξεταστεί η βασιμότητα του αιτήματός τους για άσυλο – δηλαδή ο λόγος για τον οποίο εγκατέλειψαν την πατρίδα τους. Οι πληθυσμοί στους οποίους απευθύνονται δεν αποτελούν καθόλου έκπληξη: από τον Απρίλιο του 2021, η πλειοψηφία του μεταναστευτικού πληθυσμού στα νησιά του Αιγαίου προέρχεται από το Αφγανιστάν (50%), τη Συρία (15%) και τη Σομαλία (8%). 

Η Τουρκία δεν είναι μια ασφαλής τρίτη χώρα για τους μετανάστες. Οι περισσότεροι μετανάστες δεν έχουν πρόσβαση σε καμία μορφή προστασίας στην Τουρκία, λόγω του γεωγραφικού περιορισμού που επέβαλε στη Σύμβαση του 1951 για το Καθεστώς των Προσφύγων, και παράλληλα εκεί διατρέχουν σοβαρό κίνδυνο εκμετάλλευσης, απάνθρωπης κράτησης και απέλασης. Μόνο οι υπήκοοι της Συρίας είναι σε θέση να αποκτήσουν μια μορφή προσωρινής προστασίας, η οποία υπολείπεται κατά πολύ της προστασίας των προσφύγων και, στην πράξη, παρέχει ελάχιστη άμυνα κατά της επαναπροώθησης.  

Η Δήλωση ΕΕ-Τουρκίας έχει σαφή πρόθεση να αποκλείσει όλους τους νεοαφιχθέντες από την απόκτηση διεθνούς προστασίας στην Ευρώπη και να περιορίσει όσους έφταναν σε οριακό ευρωπαϊκό έδαφος μέχρι να μπορέσουν να επιστραφούν. Ωστόσο, από την κωδικοποίηση της Δήλωση ΕΕ-Τουρκίας στο ελληνικό δίκαιο το 2016, μόνο οι Σύριοι υπήκοοι έχουν κριθεί “απαράδεκτοι” με την (αντικειμενικά λανθασμένη) αιτιολογία ότι η Τουρκία είναι μια ασφαλής χώρα από την οποία θα μπορούσαν να ζητήσουν και να λάβουν διεθνή προστασία. Αυτό συνέβη παρά τις πολιτικές πιέσεις της Ευρωπαϊκής Υπηρεσίας Υποστήριξης για το Άσυλο (EASO) να απορρίψει όλες τις αιτήσεις ασύλου ως απαράδεκτες μετά την εφαρμογή της δήλωσης ΕΕ-Τουρκίας. 

Η χθεσινή απόφαση που επεκτείνει την έννοια ότι η Τουρκία είναι “ασφαλής” για πέντε επιπλέον εθνικότητες αποτελεί πράγματι ένα βήμα προς την “πλήρη και άνευ όρων εφαρμογή ” της δήλωσης ΕΕ-Τουρκίας, όπως επιβεβαίωσε ο υπουργός Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου Ν. Μηταράκης. Επιπλέον, αποτελεί ρητή και αδιαμαρτύρητη έγκριση της προσπάθειας της Ευρώπης να εξοστρακίσει τους μετανάστες από το έδαφός της, η οποία εκδηλώνεται με τις πολιτικές της συστηματικής βίας και της συνεχούς, μοιραίας περιφρόνησης των ζωών των μεταναστών. 

H εφαρμογή της δήλωσης ΕΕ-Τουρκίας απέχει πολύ από τους αρχικούς στόχους της Ευρώπης. Ενώ οδήγησε σε βίαιες τουρκικές υποχωρήσεις και μέτρα απαγόρευσης που προκάλεσαν μείωση του αριθμού των νέων αφίξεων στα νησιά του Ανατολικού Αιγαίου από το 2016 και χρησιμοποιήθηκε ως πρόσχημα για τη συστηματική απόρριψη των αιτήσεων ασύλου που υπέβαλαν εκεί Σύροι υπήκοοι, δεν μπόρεσε -μέχρι στιγμής- να λειτουργήσει ως η γενικευμένη οδηγία επιστροφής που η ΕΕ σκόπευε να είναι. 

Τώρα, όπως προκύπτει από τις δηλώσεις του ίδιου του κ. Μηταράκη, η νέα αυτή απόφαση θα διευρύνει και θα επιταχύνει τους αρχικούς στόχους της δήλωσης ΕΕ-Τουρκίας. Σύμφωνα τόσο με αυτή όσο και με τις ευρύτερες συνοριακές πολιτικές της Ευρώπης, η Κοινή Υπουργική Απόφαση προβλέπει τον αυξημένο περιορισμό των μεταναστών σε μη ασφαλείς τρίτες χώρες και τον αποκλεισμό τους από τη διεθνή προστασία στην Ευρώπη – ανεξάρτητα από το κόστος που αυτό έχει για τη ζωή τους.