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PROTECT DIGNITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS: CALL FOR SOLIDARITY GATHERING IN SUPPORT OF PIKPA, 14/10/2020

Photograph by Paul McNeill (@pauldmcneill)

Ας προστατεύσουμε την ανθρωπιά και τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα: Κάλεσμα σε συγκέντρωση αλληλεγγύης προς το ΠΙΚΠΑ την Τετάρτη, 14 Οκτωβρίου 2020.

(ENGLISH & SIGNATORIES BELOW) Η ελληνική κυβέρνηση ετοιμάζεται να κλείσει ένα ιστορικό καταφύγιο για ευάλωτους αιτούντες άσυλο και πρόσφυγες, χωρίς καμία φροντίδα για το μέλλον των φιλοξενούμενων της. Ο Γενικός Γραμματέας Κοινωνικής Αλληλεγγύης και Καταπολέμησης της Φτώχειας του Υπουργείου Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Υποθέσεων ζήτησε από την αστυνομία να εκκενώσει το χώρο του ΠΙΚΠΑ, στη Νεάπολη της Μυτιλήνης, έως τις 15-10-2020.

Το ΠΙΚΠΑ δεν χρειάζεται συστάσεις, άρχισε τη λειτουργία του το 2012 ως η μόνη ανοιχτή δομή υποδοχής προσφύγων του νησιού, σε πλήρη αντίθεση με τον καταυλισμό της Μόριας, ο οποίος τότε λειτουργούσε ως κλειστό Κέντρο Κράτησης. Για χρόνια, φορείς της κοινωνίας των πολιτών εντός και εκτός των συνόρων συνέρρεαν στο ΠΙΚΠΑ για να προσφέρουν υποστήριξη σε ευάλωτους ανθρώπους στο νησί, μεταξύ αυτών η Αλληλεγγύη Λέσβου που ιδρύθηκε το 2016. Όπως επισημαίνεται και σε πρόσφατη ανακοίνωση της Ύπατης Αρμοστείας του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες για την υποστήριξη του ΠΙΚΠΑ,[1]  η Έφη Λατσούδη, μια εκ των ιδρυτικών μελών του ΠΙΚΠΑ, έλαβε το βραβείο Nansen της Υ.Α. ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες, στη Γενεύη, το 2016.

Σήμερα, το ΠΙΚΠΑ φιλοξενεί 94 εξαιρετικά ευάλωτα άτομα (ασυνόδευτα παιδιά, θύματα βασανιστηρίων, άτομα με σοβαρές κινητικές δυσκολίες και σοβαρά ιατρικά προβλήματα). Η παραπομπή τους στη δομή αυτή πραγματοποιήθηκε από  τις αρμόδιες κρατικές αρχές (τα ασυνόδευτα παιδιά από την Εισαγγελία, οι υπόλοιπες περιπτώσεις από  την Υπηρεσία Υποδοχής του Υπουργείου Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου, σε συνεργασία με την Υ.Α. ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες).

Ο χαρακτηρισμός της εγκατάστασης ως δομής που «έχει καταληφθεί παρανόμως», όπως αναφέρεται στην επιστολή που εστάλη από το Υπουργείο Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Υποθέσεων για την εκκένωση της δομής,[2] δεν έχει καμία βάση.

Δεν πέρασε ένας μήνας από τις πυρκαγιές στον καταυλισμό της Μόριας, που για άλλη μια φορά ανέδειξαν τις άθλιες συνθήκες υπό τις οποίες φιλοξενούνται οι αιτούντες άσυλο στα ελληνικά νησιά, και η πρώτη βροχή κατέδειξε την πλήρη ανεπάρκεια της νέας προσωρινής εγκατάστασης, όπου μεταφέρθηκαν οι εκτοπισμένοι αιτούντες άσυλο και πρόσφυγες. Δεδομένων αυτών των συνθηκών αλλά και της  πανδημίας COVID-19, το κλείσιμο μιας από τις πιο αξιοπρεπείς για την ανθρώπινη διαβίωση εγκαταστάσεις στην Ελλάδα και δη στα ελληνικά νησιά, μοιάζει να στερείται λογικής και ανθρωπιάς και έρχεται σε κατάφωρη αντίθεση με το καθήκον της Ελλάδας και της ΕΕ να παρέχει κατάλληλες συνθήκες υποδοχής στους αιτούντες άσυλο, ιδιαίτερα στους πιο ευάλωτους.

Σε αλληλεγγύη προς τους πρόσφυγες και τις οργανώσεις που προσπαθούν να τους βοηθήσουν ακόμη και κάτω από τις πλέον αντίξοες συνθήκες, όπως αυτές που χαρακτηρίζουν τους καταυλισμούς των ελληνικών νησιών, καλούμε τις ελληνικές αρχές να αναθεωρήσουν την εντολή εκκένωσης του ΠΙΚΠΑ.

Την Τετάρτη, 14-10-2020, θα είμαστε στο πλευρό του ΠΙΚΠΑ για την υπεράσπιση της ανθρωπιάς και της αξιοπρέπειας που όλοι δικαιούνται. Καλούμε όλους όσοι υποστηρίζουν την ανθρωπιά και την αξιοπρέπεια να έρθουν μαζί μας την Τετάρτη, 14 Οκτωβρίου στις 10:00 π.μ.*, σε ένδειξη αλληλεγγύης στη δομή ΠΙΚΠΑ.

* Σεβόμαστε τα υγειονομικά μέτρα και τους πλέον ευάλωτους συνανθρώπους μας. Φοράμε μάσκες και τηρούμε τις προβλεπόμενες αποστάσεις.


[1] https://www.unhcr.org/gr/16647-month-moria-fires-unhcr-warns-worsening-conditions-ahead-winter.html

[2] https://stonisi.gr/post/11720/ekkenwste-to-pikpa-ews-tis-15-oktwvrioy


The Greek government is about to close a historic shelter for vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees, with no care for the future of its residents. The Secretary General of Social Solidarity and Poverty Alleviation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs asked the Police to evacuate the PIKPA Shelter in Neapoli Mytilene before 15-10-2020.

PIKPA shelter is a well-known facility operating since 2012. At the time, it was the only open reception facility on the island, in stark contrast to Moria camp, which operated as a Detention Centre.  For years, many actors have come together at the PIKPA shelter to support some of the most vulnerable people in the island, including Lesvos Solidarity, founded in 2016. As also highlighted in UNHCR’s recent announcement in support of PIKPA,[1] Efi Latsoudi, one of the founders, was awarded the UNHCR Nansen Award in Geneva, in 2016.

PIKPA currently hosts 94 highly vulnerable persons (unaccompanied minors, victims of torture, severely handicapped persons, persons with serious illnesses) who have been referred there for accommodation by the competent state authorities (Public Prosecutor for the unaccompanied minors and Reception and Identification Service in collaboration with UNHCR for the rest of the cases).

Characterising PIKPA an “illegally squatted” facility, as was done by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in the letter calling for the facility’s evacuation,[2] lacks any grounding.

One month after the fire in Moria, which once more accentuated the squalid conditions under which asylum seekers are hosted on the Greek islands, the first rain proved the inadequacy of the temporary facility in which Moria’s displaced asylum seekers and refugees were transferred to. Particularly amid these circumstances and the COVID-19 pandemic, the evacuation of one of the most humane facilities in Greece and particularly the Greek islands seems to lack reasoning and humaneness and is directly at odds with Greece and the EU’s obligation to respect human rights and provide proper reception conditions to asylum seekers, particularly the most vulnerable.

In solidarity with refugees and the organizations that strive to assist them even under the most deplorable conditions, especially on the Greek islands, we call on the Greek authorities to reconsider the order to evacuate PIKPA.

On Wednesday, 14-10-2020, we will stand by Pikpa in defense of the humanity and dignity that everyone deserves. We call on everyone supporting humanity and dignity to join us in solidarity at PIKPA camp on Wednesday 14 October at 10:00am.*

*We respect hygiene measures and those most vulnerable amongst us. We wear a mask and keep social distancing measures.

Signatories

ANTIGONE – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non Violence

Changemakers Lab

CRWI Diotima

Ecological Movement of Thessaloniki

Europe Must Act

Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

Greek Forum of Migrants

Greek Housing Network 

Hellenic League for Human Rights (HlHR)

Help Refugees/Choose Love

HIAS Ελλάδος

HumanRights360

INTERSOS Hellas

InterVolve

Legal Centre Lesvos

Médecins Sans Frontières (MsF)

METAdrasi

Mobile Info Team

Network for Children’s Rights

Odyssea 

SolidarityNow

Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece 

Terre des hommes Hellas 


[1] https://www.unhcr.org/gr/16647-month-moria-fires-unhcr-warns-worsening-conditions-ahead-winter.html

[2] https://stonisi.gr/post/11720/ekkenwste-to-pikpa-ews-tis-15-oktwvrioy

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS DEMAND THAT GREECE INVESTIGATE PUSHBACKS AND VIOLENCE AT ITS BORDERS

© 2020 Turkish Coast Guard

(Athens) – Members of Greece’s parliament should urgently establish an inquiry into all allegations of unlawful returns of migrants to Turkey by law enforcement officers and others, 29 human rights and humanitarian aid organizations said in an open letter released today. These returns are carried out mainly through pushbacks and collective expulsions and are often accompanied by violence.

Parliament should exercise its oversight authority to investigate the allegations of these illegal acts by state agents and proxies on Greece’s sea and land borders with Turkey. The parliament’s inquiry should examine whether any illegal acts identified are part of a de facto government policy at odds with international, European, and Greek law.

Over the years, nongovernmental groups and media outlets have consistently reported the unlawful return, including through pushbacks, of groups and individuals from Greece to Turkey by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men, who appear to be working in tandem with border enforcement officials.

Reports from 2020 recorded multiple incidents in which Greek Coast Guard personnel, sometimes accompanied by armed masked men in dark clothing, unlawfully abandoned migrants – including those who had reached Greek territory. They abandoned the migrants at sea, on inflatable vessels without motors; towed migrant boats to Turkish waters; or intercepted, attacked, and disabled boats carrying migrants.

Nongovernmental organizations and the media have also reported persistent allegations that Greek border guards have engaged in collective expulsions and pushbacks of asylum seekers through the Evros land border with Turkey.

On June 10, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was “closely monitoring” the situation at the Greek border and reported receiving “persistent reports” of migrants being arbitrarily arrested in Greece and pushed back to Turkey. The IOM said that Greece should investigate.

On August 21, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was “deeply concerned by an increasing number of credible reports indicating that men, women, and children may have been informally returned to Turkey immediately after reaching Greek soil or territorial waters in recent months,” and urged Greece to refrain from such practices and to seriously investigate these reports. The agency had released a statement making similar calls on June 12.

On July 6, during a debate at the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on fundamental rights at the Greek border, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said those incidents should be investigated. In its new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented on September 23, the European Commission recommended to member states to set up an independent monitoring mechanism, amid increased allegations of abuse at the EU’s external borders. But no such system has been instituted.

Confronted during a CNN interview with an August 14  New York Times article documenting pushbacks, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “It has not happened. We’ve been the victims of a significant misinformation campaign,” suggesting instead that Turkey was responsible.

Greek lawmakers should conduct a prompt, effective, transparent, and impartial investigation into allegations that Greek Coast Guard, Greek police, and Greek army personnel, sometimes in close coordination with uniformed masked men, have been involved in acts that not only violate the law but put the lives and safety of displaced people at risk.

Any officer found to have engaged in such illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers and officials who have command responsibility over such forces, should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as applicable. The investigation should seek to establish the identity and relationship of the masked men and other unidentified officers to law enforcement and take steps to hold them to account. The investigation should cover events surfaced in 2019 and 2020, the groups said.

The following quotes may be attributed to members of the groups involved:

“Despite government denials, over the years many witnesses and victims have told us about pushbacks from land and sea that put migrants’ lives at risk,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Parliament should step up now and do all it can to put an end to this life-threatening practice.”

“The continued failure to address the serious allegations of pushbacks and violence against people on the move at Greece’s borders can no longer be tolerated,” said Adriana Tidona, migration researcher at Amnesty International. “We call on the Greek parliament to exercise its powers in the interest of all those who have been harmed by these actions and to ensure that there is no repetition.”

“Over the years, we have filed a score of complaints about or related to pushbacks at Greece’s borders, including deaths, that Greek prosecutors seem to ignore,” said Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson for the Greek Helsinki Monitor. “Greece needs to act quickly to set up an independent border monitoring mechanism to investigate violations, as proposed by the European Commission, and end these abuses once and for all.”  

“The right to seek asylum must be upheld at all times,” said Josie Naughton, chief executive officer of Help Refugees. “The Greek parliament should urgently conduct an inquiry to examine the well-documented and illegal practices of pushbacks and mass expulsion, which endanger the lives of men, women, and children seeking asylum in Greece.”

“We have documented the pushback of more than 1,150 asylum seekers from Greek territory in the past three months alone,” said Natalie Gruber, spokesperson for Josoor. “These are not isolated incidents but systematic violations of national, EU, and international law that the parliament cannot shrug off as fake news anymore.”

“Greek authorities are systematically expelling migrants, including those who have reached Greek territory, and abandoning them in open water,” said Amelia Cooper from Legal Centre Lesvos. “The Greek parliament should not only open an investigation of these events, but must also decree and enforce – immediately – the cessation of illegal collective expulsions at all Greek borders.”

“In order to break with the current failures to hold member states like Greece accountable for their pushbacks and rights violations at borders, the European Commission must step up its efforts and quickly put in place an appropriate monitoring mechanism,” said Marta Welander, executive director at Refugee Rights Europe. “Such efforts must also involve civil society, NGOs, and national human rights institutions to ensure that available evidence is taken seriously and leads to timely investigation and redress.”

“The protection of the borders, of vital importance in itself, can be in compliance with international law and human rights standards,” said Antigone Lyberaki, SolidarityNow’s general manager. “The Greek parliament has both the means and a constitutional obligation to oversee and investigate the alleged infringement of international human rights obligations by the Greek state.”

“As a child protection organization, Tdh Hellas is particularly worried about the fact that among those reported to have been violently expelled across EU borders are children, including babies,” said Melina Spathari of Terre des hommes Hellas. “The Greek government should stop such acts and try instead to address the chronic gaps in the reception and protection system for families and unaccompanied children.”

Signatories:

Human Rights Watch

ActionAid Hellas

Amnesty International

ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth

Danish Refugee Council

Equal Rights Beyond Borders

Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid

Greek Council for Refugees

Greek Forum of Refugees

Greek Helsinki Monitor

Hellenic League for Human Rights

Help Refugees

HIAS Greece

HumanRights360

International Rescue Committee

INTERSOS Hellas

Josoor

Legal Centre Lesvos

Lesvos Solidarity

Medecins Du Monde – Greece

Mobile Info Team

Network for Children’s Rights

PRAKSIS

Refugee Legal Support

Refugee Rights Europe

Refugees International

Refugee Support Aegean

SolidarityNow

Terre des hommes Hellas

FIRE DESTROYS MUCH OF MORIA CAMP, FOLLOWING FOUR YEARS’ EUROPEAN TOLERANCE OF FATAL RISKS TO MIGRANTS

Photo credit: Yousif Al Shewaili (@yousif_alshewaili)

 In the early hours of this morning, a large fire broke out in Moria Refugee Camp, which has left much of the camp destroyed, and many of the approximately 13, 000 residents displaced.

This comes a week after the first person tested positive for COVID-19 in the camp, which was immediately followed by the government’s official initiation of works to transform Moria refugee camp to a closed controlled centre. In the days that followed, at least 30 other people have tested positive for COVID-19 – in a camp that is currently at four times’ its stated capacity, where basic preventative measures are a practical impossibility and where there was no functioning COVID-19 isolation clinic.

The dehumanisation of migrants at the European border and apparent indifference to the impact of this protracted, unsustainable situation on the local population have had repeatedly devastating consequences. Migrants have been consistently confined to overcrowded, insecure and fundamentally inhuman conditions, where fires – often fatal – are a regular occurrence. This was not the first fire in Moria camp; it was not even the first fire in the camp this year. Such fatal risks to – and loss of – migrant lives are instead tolerated as part of the European border regime.

Following the near destruction of Moria Camp, this morning the Greek government placed the island of Lesvos under a four month state of emergency. The police and army have been on the streets around Moria camp since the fire broke out, and three riot police squads (known as the Units for the Reinstatement of Order) were flown in from Athens this morning. As far as we know, no additional medical capacity or humanitarian aid has been mobilised or provided. The government’s immediate dispatch of security forces, before or without humanitarian assistance, continues their policy of framing migrants as a question of public order – and prioritising their securitisation as opposed to the provision of urgent assistance.

The Greek authorities’ main priority so far seems to be the prevention of migrants’ access to Mytiline: a police blockade was established next to Kara Tepe camp in the early hours of this morning, to prevent migrants who had fled the fire from reaching the city, and it remains there to this point. Police units have also blocked the main access road to Moria camp. People who had been living in the camp are spread out on the roads around Moria camp, in the surrounding forests, and in the car park of a nearby supermarket. From what migrants have told us, there have been no state provisions – whether of essentials such as food or water, or other necessities such as hygiene facilities – in those locations.

There has never been an evacuation plan for Moria Camp residents, and when the fire broke out last night, people were left to flee on their own – including those who had been held in the pre-removal detention centre inside Moria Camp (PRO.KE.KA.). Some of those living in the sections for vulnerable people (including unaccompanied children and single women) were woken up by police, but given no instruction of where they could or should go. At present, there remains a profound lack of information regarding the safeguarding or protection response for such groups. When we spoke with vulnerable individuals supported by Legal Centre Lesvos in the early hours of this morning, they were scattered in the forests and roads surrounding the camp, without any state support.

There is still no official confirmation of casualties, or even hospitalisations.

Those who have returned to Moria camp this morning have sent photos of the destroyed camp, including the remains of their tents and shelters. Residents have emphasised that the many of the facilities – including toilets and sanitation spaces – have been burnt. The already-inadequate provisions to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19 among the camp’s population have now been destroyed, and given that over thirty residents of the camp have tested positive for the virus in recent days, a failure to implement a rapid and health-oriented response for displaced residents will no doubt increase the number of cases – and will likely overwhelm the stretched public healthcare system.

“This fire is a visceral manifestation of European policies, which have for years tolerated the containment of migrants in dangerous, overcrowded and insecure conditions,” said Amelia Cooper, of the Legal Centre Lesvos. “Repeated fatal incidents – including the death of a seven-year-old child in a fire in Moria camp, just six months ago – have not been enough to prompt the evacuation of Moria refugee camp; neither has been the outbreak of a global pandemic, nor the detection of positive cases, nor the Greek government’s instrumentalisation of these facts to impose mass detention on camp residents. Residents of Moria camp, and migrants in hotspots across Europe, are in situations of manufactured and state-sanctioned vulnerability. This fire was not an accident, it was an inevitability.”

Please note: This statement was prepared at 14.45 on 09/09/2020.

For further information please contact: Amelia Cooper, amelia@legalcentrelesvos.org

CONFIRMATION OF COVID-19 IN MORIA CAMP LEADS TO IMMEDIATE TRANSFORMATION TO A CLOSED CENTRE, FOLLOWING FIVE MONTHS OF DELIBERATE FAILURE OF EUROPEAN MEMBER STATES TO RESPOND TO FORESEEABLE AND PREVENTABLE DISASTER

Photo credit: Yousif Al Shewaili (@yousif_alshewaili)

Greek authorities yesterday announced the total lockdown of Moria refugee camp, with entry and exit explicitly prohibited for the next 14 days for all those other than security personnel, after the first person has tested positive for COVID-19 in the camp. This follows over five months of effective lockdown of Moria Camp, where only a limited number of people were granted permission to leave the camp each day, for specific and authorized reasons. This move is directly contrary to UNHCR’s global call to release asylum seekers from arbitrary detention amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Migration has used this opportunity to confirm the government’s plans to transition Moria refugee camp to a closed controlled centre, and yesterday, a contract was signed between the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and AKTOR, the construction branch of multinational company ELLAKTOR Group  – worth almost a million euros – to initiate preparatory work. The Minister stated that the closure of the camp is an “ongoing process” that will “enhance the feeling – not only health, but security – both of the residents and the local communities.” 

These announcements follow the forced closure of Medecins Sans Frontieres COVID-19 isolation unit, adjacent to Moria camp, despite multiple warnings of the devastating risks that this would pose to residents’ health. A clinic, managed by the Greek state and funded by the Dutch government, was subsequently inaugurated in Moria refugee camp by the President of the Hellenic Republic, the Minister of Migration, and the Dutch ambassador – but two weeks have since passed, and it is yet to be operative.

COVID-19 RELOCATION PLEDGES HIGHLIGHT SYSTEMIC ISSUES 

Earlier this year, as news of the COVID-19 pandemic spread, European-wide campaigns called on Greece and Member States to evacuate the refugee camps in Greece, due to their unpreparedness to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Several European Union Member States made limited offers to relocate vulnerable individuals from the Aegean hotspots or to make arrangements for the timely transfer of those with accepted family reunification cases. Such declarations, while ostensibly benevolent, cast light on systemic issues: the hostility of European states to migration from the Global south, and the lack of robust and fair relocation programmes, including of those individuals eligible for reunification with their family members. 

The introduction of the “hotspot approach” in 2015, and the codification in Greek law of the EU-Turkey Statement in 2016, which underpinned the creation of Moria refugee camp and other sites across the Aegean islands, was presented alongside two initiatives: first, an encouragement from the European Commission to Member States to show their solidarity with countries of first arrival, including by offering relocation spaces; and second, a mandatory relocation scheme, that would allow some 160, 000 people to relocate to second European Member States. The aforementioned solidarity never materialised, while the relocation effort itself stuttered to a halt in 2017, after less than a fifth of the intended number of people were able to relocate

Since then, ad hoc relocation initiatives have been instrumentalized to boost Member States’ public relations, while those same States quietly refuse any regional responsibility-sharing mechanism and rely on a restrictive and bad-faith implementation of the European family reunification framework (as established by EU Regulation 604/2013, the “Dublin Regulation”) to deny people their right to join family members elsewhere on the continent. 

EU MEMBER STATES’ BAD FAITH APPLICATION OF EU LAW CONTINUES TO DENY FAMILY UNITY

During the lockdown of refugee camps across Greece, the Dublin Unit did not extend deadlines for the submission or reconsideration of family reunification applications. Requests submitted outside of the deadline are often rejected out of hand, without consideration of the merits or extenuating factors; for example, the failure to meet deadlines is not only due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown of the camps, but often also due to the non-provision of legal aid for Applicants, including unaccompanied minors. The burden of proof demanded often goes far beyond that which is required by law, often introducing additional delays (such as to obtain DNA evidence) to a process which ostensibly provides for the timely reunification of separated families. 

Furthermore, and despite the Dublin Regulation asserting that the best interests of the child (EU Reg. No. 604/2013, Recital 13) and respect for family life (ibid, Recital 14) should be primary considerations in its application, child asylum seekers are often denied the right to reunite with family members who arrived to Europe after them, despite the fact they have been granted legal status in the receiving Member State. Such was the case of A, a twelve-year-old boy from Afghanistan, who lives in state care in Germany. A’s mother, his sole carer since A’s birth, is an applicant for international protection in Greece, where she lives with A’s two older sisters. Their application to join him in Germany was rejected, due to the fact A’s status in Germany is not considered as a grant of international protection. It is important to note that, were their roles reversed – and A’s mother held this form of protection in Germany, while A was alone in Greece – he would be entitled to reunify with her, owing simply to her legal presence in that State. 

In fact, Germany systematically flouts the substantive principles of the Dublin Regulation, and instead relies on the stringent application of deadlines and selective interpretation of technical requirements to deny the right to family reunification. German authorities issue the highest number of rejections to “take charge requests” sent from Greece, frequently ignoring the practical challenges faced by applicants to lodge their requests in a timely manner or to provide the stringent evidence required to demonstrate their family bonds. 

Across Europe, court decisions have further restricted the ability of family members to reunite . In Sweden, for example, the Supreme Migration Court ruled that the rejection of a request for family reunification made under Article 17.2 of the Dublin Regulation (which includes, inter alia, humanitarian and family considerations) cannot be appealed. 

In this challenging context, the Legal Centre Lesvos has represented over 50 families in the Dublin proceeding since the initiation of the lock-down in March. Many of those are still pending, but the cases of at least sixteen families – including those who had already received rejections on the above grounds – were approved in the last four months after the intervention of the Legal Centre. These acceptances have led, or will lead, to reunions in eight different Member States, and include:

  • H, an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan, who was accepted for reunification with his older brother in Germany. During his time in Lesvos, H lived alone – like many unaccompanied minors – in the olive groves surrounding Moria refugee camp. While his case was initially rejected, the Legal Centre Lesvos’ request for re-examination and the provision of additional information (with the support of his relatives and their assistants in Germany) resulted in the ultimate acceptance of his case. H travelled earlier this month, and is now happily residing in Berlin;
  • S, a stateless member of the Bidun community from Kuwait, and her four minor children, will reunite with her husband – the children’s father – in England. S’s case was first rejected due to errors in her application, which she submitted without legal aid, and ensuing difficulties to trace her husband. A subsequent request was made under Article 17.2, which was again rejected – but, after taking her case at that point, a re-examination request sent by the Legal Centre Lesvos ultimately led to an acceptance. The family were delighted – however, S has since been waiting for over three months to travel to England; 
  • K, his wife F, their four minor children, and their adult daughter S, who will travel to Switzerland to join their minor son/brother. Given that S in an adult, her case had to be lodged separately under Article 17.2 – but we were delighted that she was accepted at first instance. The family have been living in Moria refugee camp since November last year: none of the children have accessed schools during that time, and F’s health is deteriorating. Despite the acceptance of their case three months ago, they are still awaiting news of their transfer. 

REUNIFICATION OR THE LOTTERY OF RELOCATION

In at least one case, a family denied reunification under the Dublin Regulation were subsequently reunited by a COVID-prompted relocation programme. J, a single mother living in Greece with her chronically ill minor son, applied for reunification with her minor daughter and son, who were living in Germany. In a situation reminiscent of A’s case described above, J and her son were rejected, as J’s children in Germany are not classed as beneficiaries of international protection. However, J later benefitted from a COVID-prompted relocation programme for vulnerable asylum seekers in Greece to travel to Germany – and has now travelled to the State. While a happy accident to say the least, the trauma that J and her son experienced while living in Moria refugee camp and the emotional distress of being rejected for family reunification with the minors in Germany will not be erased by her ultimate transfer to that state. J’s case instead demonstrates the restrictive praxis used by States to refuse their legal responsibilities towards asylum seekers – including vulnerable families – and the lottery that such limited relocation programmes introduce. 

Information surrounding the COVID-prompted relocation programmes has been scarce to say the least. There has been limited information about the implementation of each programme, no publication of the required criteria, and no opportunity granted to migrants themselves to sign up for such initiatives. 

The joint coordination of Member States’ offers to relocate unaccompanied children from the islands led to hundreds of best interests assessments conducted by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the office typically charged with conducting asylum interviews. EASO staff had not been given adequate training in child-sensitive approaches to interviews, nor in child protection. Minors were not informed of whether their relocation was guaranteed, let alone given the choice to travel to States of their preference. In fact, in the midst of the programme, Germany withdrew its participation – and no efforts were made to inform children who had expressed their will to travel to Germany, often due to the presence of relatives in that state, of this withdrawal. 

Some minors have since been relocated to a number of European countries, but those who completed interviews and have not been transferred are unsure of whether their case has been effectively rejected. Moreover, children who were accepted for relocation to France were subsequently transferred to Athens, where asylum eligibility interviews were conducted in the French embassy. Those who were deemed provisionally eligible for asylum have since been transferred. 

Relocation programmes are typically framed as benevolent efforts, offering a safe route for the most vulnerable migrants to leave the Aegean hotspots. Yet the COVID-prompted relocation programmes have so far lacked transparency and had limited impact, instead feeding the narrative that only the most vulnerable migrants – and those pre-selected by State authorities – deserve to enter mainland Europe. 


EU COMPLICIT IN GREEK AUTHORITIES’ MOVE TO MASS DETENTION

It has been known, for months, that COVID-19 would reach Moria refugee camp. It has been widely documented that residents there (including hundreds of vulnerable people, who have not been evacuated) live in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions – as they have done for years – where basic preventative measures are a practical impossibility. It has become evident, particularly in recent weeks, that the Greek state’s hostility towards organisations operating in solidarity with migrants has further restricted residents’ already-limited access to healthcare. 

The response of European Member States, in light of this dire reality, has been abysmal – and unsurprisingly so. Member States are complicit in the systematic abuse of human rights at the European border, whether those violations manifest in Moria refugee camp, in the asylum procedure and associated family reunification mechanism, or in the deadly practice of the border itself. In the context of a global pandemic, Member States chose to push forward a limited relocation effort that serves their public image rather than engaging with these substantive issues. As the Greek authorities now openly instrumentalise the pandemic to pursue their pre-existing objective of expanded detention of asylum seekers, the silence from other Member States and European institutions is no longer just conspicuous – but expected. 

DESPITE THE DISCRIMINATORY LOCKDOWN ON CAMPS AND HOSTILITY TOWARDS MIGRANTS AND THOSE IN SOLIDARITY WITH THEM, RESISTANCE GROWS

Photograph by Yousif Al Shewaili, Mytiline, Greece, 14 July 2020.

In the past month, Greek authorities have extended the discriminatory lockdown on migrant camps for a seventh time, depriving residents of Moria and Kara Tepe refugee camps in Lesvos of respite outside the camps or access to basic services – and further paving the way towards closed camps, for which the European Commission has approved €130 million funding. Illegal collective expulsions continue in the Aegean, while new arrivals are quarantined with little access to legal support or other services, and then hurried through the hostile border procedure. The ongoing harassment of non-governmental organisations continues, and administrative fines combined with the threat of criminal charges has forced Médecins Sans Frontières’ COVID-19 isolation unit outside Moria refugee camp to close. Protests, organised across the political spectrum, have increased – while police violence against migrants, and particularly migrant-led protests, goes on. 

In essence, the Greek government – with the varying complicity or active support of European Union Member States – continues the violent assault on migrants, illegal and life-threatening expulsions, and the harassment of civil society organisations to further its fundamental goals: the detention, deportation and deterrence of migration from the global South to Europe. 

FROM LOCKDOWN TO DETENTION

The unlawful lockdown on migrant camps, described by MSF as “toxic,” “blatant discrimination,” and “absolutely unjustified from a public health point of view”, has been extended until 31 August – despite national movement restrictions ending some three months ago, and tourists, many coming from western European countries with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, being welcomed to Greece. The increased number of visitors has been linked to a rise in COVID-19 infections – and yet the lockdown continues to apply only to migrant camps, despite the fact that MSF and others have confirmed there is no public health justification for such measures. In Lesvos, in fact, no cases have been documented in Moria refugee camp. Such flagrant discrimination violates national, regional and international law, including Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. 

Migrants living in Moria and Kara Tepe refugee camps still require authorities’ permission to leave the sites. Permission, granted by the Reception and Identification Services, is given to just 120 people each day – less than 1% of the Moria refugee camp’s population – and for specified purposes (such as accessing medical support). Requests must be made the day before the individual wishes to leave camp. Same-day permissions can only be granted by the Hellenic Police, for individuals with urgent medical issues.

Those found outside without authorization face fines of €150, and there has been a notable increase in police street presence and discriminatory racial profiling and conducting such checks on migrants – including outside the Legal Centre Lesvos’ offices. Rather than serving any public health objective, the prolonged lockdown ensures two things: migrants’ isolation from support services, and their removal from public view. 

Moreover, the lockdown has exacerbated tensions in Moria refugee camp, where two people were fatally stabbed in July. There are currently over 17, 000 people living in and around the camp, including 6, 000 children, who – due to movement restrictions – are now deprived of any respite away from the site. The ongoing disregard for migrant lives – whether manifest in the inhumane, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the hotspots; authorities’ failure to intervene in fatal fights, or investigate arbitrary losses of life; or the inhibition of migrants’ access to adequate healthcare facilities – further demonstrates the insincerity of any attempt to justify ongoing restrictions to the camps by reference to COVID-19 prevention.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only being instrumentalised to detain migrants, but it also appears that the continued prolongation of the lockdown is paving the way towards the Greek government’s long and publicly-held objective of creating closed centres for migrants. Conveniently, on 3 August the European Commission approved €130 million in funding for “closed controlled centres” that will be constructed in Samos, Leros and Kos. The first, in Samos, is expected to open in late September. 

QUARANTINE AND HOSTILE ASYLUM PROCEDURES 

There remains a profound lack of information regarding the conditions of quarantine camps in Northern Lesvos, where new arrivals are quarantined – ostensibly for fourteen days, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – before being transferred to Moria refugee camp.

The quarantine camps have included at least four temporary sites on arrival beaches, where Mare Liberum report that ‘the authorities sometimes took several days to install tents and portable toilets.’ The practice of detaining people at unprepared sites adjacent to their arrival, documented in Lesvos since March, has consistently deprived new arrivals of the basic necessities for their safety and personal hygiene – again exposing the fallacy of the government’s COVID-19 response. Furthermore, many individuals have been detained in the Northern camps for over a month, without any justification. Not only does this result in unnecessary delays to the registration of their asylum claim, but it further isolates individuals and deprives them of access to legal support and other services around Mytiline and Moria refugee camp.

Several individuals have contacted Legal Centre Lesvos upon their release from quarantine, having been given a date for their personal asylum interview in just a matter of days. Under Article 12 of EU Directive 2013/32, the recast Asylum Procedures Directives (rAPD), Member States should guarantee that asylum seekers’ access to organisations providing legal aid is not inhibited – yet it is almost impossible for such new arrivals in Lesvos, who have been quarantined and are then subjected to an ongoing and discriminatory lockdown, to access such support. Denied the time or opportunity to prepare for their interviews, they are instead hurried through an accelerated, hostile and mismanaged asylum procedure. 

ONGOING HARASSMENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS WORKING WITH MIGRANTS

Following the Greek government’s administrative assault on civil society groups working with migrants earlier this year, which had the effect of de-registering or limiting the operations of several groups working with migrants in Lesvos, the harassment of non-governmental organisations working with migrants has taken a new and practical turn.

Pressure, including unannounced visits from government inspectors to several organisations, including the Legal Centre Lesvos, is rising. There has also been a regular police presence around the Legal Centre Lesvos’ offices, resulting in arrests of and fines issued to people seeking access to our services – and more broadly, intimidating clients and inhibiting them from accessing legal support, to which they have a right. The authorities’ imposition of over €35, 000 in fines and threatened criminal charges on MSF is a particularly egregious example of this harassment, and has forced the closure of the only COVID-19 isolation centre accessible to residents of Moria refugee camp. Should an outbreak happen in the camp, where simple prevention measures such as handwashing and social distancing remain inaccessible, the health infrastructure in Lesvos simply will not be able to cope. 

Last week, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants released a report, which condemns the global “toxic narrative” surrounding the work of organisations in solidarity with migrants, and notes authorities’ misuse of administrative, legislative and legal tactics to inhibit such organisations’ free operation – with dangerous results. 

“Where civil society organizations step back from provision of services to migrants because of fear of the legal consequences or harassment,” he wrote, the risks to migrants’ increase – and “criminal groups and traffickers step in.” The parallels to Lesvos, and the risks to migrants that this will pose, are evident. 

GROWING PROTESTS, ACROSS THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM, IN LESVOS

Following the lifting of movement restrictions for the general population, the last month has seen an increase of protests across the political spectrum, by locals and migrants alike.

On July 21st, between fifty and sixty far-right supporters gathered near the power station on the road between Mytiline and Moria refugee camp – a site that was frequently used for attacks earlier this year – after online posts blamed migrants for a large forest fire several kilometres away from the camp. The identities of some drivers passing the power stations were reportedly checked, though no formal roadblocks were established. 

On August 1st, a call was made by locals to gather in protest of the expansion of Moria refugee camp. Prior to the announced time of the gathering, police patrolled the road adjacent to the camp, instructing not only non-governmental organisations but also journalists to leave the area, in a clear violation of press freedom. Police buses ultimately blocked the protestors’ access to Moria refugee camp, and protestors dispersed after several hours.

POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST MIGRANTS AND MIGRANT PROTESTORS 

Police have used excessive force to disperse migrant-led protests in Moria refugee camp and in Mytiline, which were organised in response to the fatal stabbing of a teenager from the Ivory Coast, and subsequently regarding the hostile asylum procedure and ongoing confinement of migrants to Lesvos. 

On July 6 and 7, the African community in Moria Camp organized protests in the aftermath of the killing of nineteen-year-old Karamoko Namori. Some 200 individuals gathered outside the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Moria camp, calling for safety and an end to their containment in Moria. EASO remained closed for some days, before police violently dispersed the protests, shooting volleys of tear gas, and sound and flash grenades into the crowd. At least two people had to be carried away from the protest, owing to their injuries. The mobilisation of such immense and violent resources to disperse protestors, following the police’s failure to act and prevent Karamoko’s death, thrust policing priorities in Lesvos into clear view once again. 

On July 14, approximately fifteen Syrian families and several Iraqis gathered in Mytiline in protest of the systematic rejection of Syrians’ applications for asylum (based on the untenable assumption that Turkey is a safe country for them) and the containment of migrants on Lesvos. The demonstration began in the ferry port of Mytiline, but police soon resorted to physical violence to forcibly remove protestors from the area. A video circulated that shows a police officer dragging and hitting a pregnant woman. The protestors then moved through Mytiline, and were intercepted by police at various locations; they were ultimately prevented from accessing the town’s main square, and corralled by at least fifteen riot police officers onto a waiting bus. 

Protestors were informed that their protest was shut down due to the lack of prior police permission (as required by a draconian bill passed by the Greek government in July 2020). However, given the sharp contrast between the police’s muted response to the aforementioned local gatherings – which took place undisturbed by references to the restrictions on protest – and the police’s violence and intimidation towards migrant protestors, it suggests that this new law will become a tool in the authorities’ arsenal of discrimination. 

One of the protestors, Z, summarised the event: “We went in protest of the recent decisions by the Greek government to reject Syrians’ asylum applications…The Greek police came and assaulted the men, and beat the women, and forcibly brought us back to [Moria] camp. We are Syrians – we have only one country, which is Syria. It is not safe there, and it is not safe to deport us to Turkey. We suffered a lot in Turkey, we lost our relatives and our children in Turkey, and because of that we came to Greece, asking for international protection. These were and still are our demands: we ask the European Union to save us from a slow death in Greece.

Οργανώσεις στην Ελλάδα αλλά και εθνικοί και διεθνείς φορείς υγείας προειδοποιούν: Οι διακρίσεις δεν προστατεύουν από τον COVID-19

Photograph by Yousif Al Shewaili, Moria Camp, Lesvos

[Click here for English]

Σε συνέχεια επιστολής που έστειλαν στις αρχές Ιουλίου στις ελληνικές αρχές, οι οργανώσεις που εργάζονται με πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες στην Ελλάδα εκφράζουν την ανησυχία και αντίθεση τους στην απόφαση της κυβέρνησης να επιβάλει για άλλη μια φορά μέτρα περιορισμού κυκλοφορίας σε όλες τις δομές φιλοξενίας αιτούντων άσυλο στην Ελλάδα, στο γενικότερο πλαίσιο της πρόληψης εμφάνισης και διασποράς κρουσμάτων του κορωνοϊού COVID-19.

Αν και οι περιορισμοί στην ελευθερία κίνησης με στόχο την προστασία της δημόσιας υγείας δύναται να είναι απαραίτητοι και δικαιολογημένοι, οι οργανώσεις υποστηρίζουν ότι θα πρέπει εντούτοις να βασίζονται σε επιστημονικές ενδείξεις, και να μην επιβάλλονται με αυθαίρετα κριτήρια που παραπέμπουν σε κοινωνικές διακρίσεις, δεδομένου ότι ο περιορισμός κυκλοφορίας έχει αρθεί για τους υπόλοιπους κατοίκους της χώρας. Σε κάθε περίπτωση, για την επιβολή περιορισμού της ελευθερίας της κίνησης στους κατοίκους των εν λόγω δομών φιλοξενίας, δεν μπορεί να γίνει επίκληση λόγων δημόσιας υγείας, καθώς κάτι τέτοιο δε θα εδραζόταν σε καμία επιστημονική βάση. Μάλιστα, σε κάποιες περιπτώσεις τα μέτρα παραβιάζουν την οδηγία της ΕΕ σχετικά με τις απαιτήσεις για την υποδοχή αιτούντων (2013/33, άρθρο 8 περί κράτησης).

Συγκεκριμένα, όπως έχει τονιστεί σε δηλώσεις ή οδηγίες από διεθνείς οργανισμούς, πανεπιστημιακούς φορείς και οργανώσεις της κοινωνίας των πολιτών -κάποιες εκ των οποίων παρατίθενται στο τέλος αυτής της ανακοίνωσης- δεν υπάρχει καμία ένδειξη ότι η απομόνωση ολόκληρων δομών φιλοξενίας ή η εφαρμογή περιοριστικών μέτρων στην κυκλοφορία επιδρούν αποτελεσματικά στη μετάδοση του ιού στις δομές φιλοξενίας αιτούντων άσυλο και μεταναστών, ή παρέχουν πρόσθετα προστατευτικά αποτελέσματα για το γενικό πληθυσμό, εκτός εκείνων που επιτυγχάνονται με συμβατικά μέτρα περιορισμού και προστασίας που ισχύουν καθολικά για όλον τον πληθυσμό. Ως εκ τούτου, μια ορθολογική στρατηγική για την πρόληψη και την προστασία του προσφυγικού πληθυσμού από την εξάπλωση του Covid-19 πρέπει να επικεντρώνεται στη βελτίωση των συνθηκών επισφαλούς στέγασης, εκείνων που καθιστούν αδύνατη την κοινωνική απόσταση (social distancing) στα υπερπληθή κέντρα φιλοξενίας. Έως σήμερα, ωστόσο, δεν έχουν υπάρξει επαρκείς κινήσεις σ’ αυτή την κατεύθυνση. Μάλιστα, πολλές οργανώσεις που εργάζονται σε κέντρα όπου έχουν εφαρμοστεί μέτρα περιορισμού της ελευθερίας της κίνησης, έχουν διαπιστώσει αυξημένη ψυχολογική πίεση και άγχος που δύνανται να οδηγούν στη γενικότερη επιδείνωση της υγείας των αιτούντων άσυλο. Επιπλέον, ο περιορισμός της κυκλοφορίας θέτει εμπόδια στην πρόσβαση των αιτούντων άσυλο σε υπηρεσίες ζωτικής σημασίας (ιατρικές, νομικές κ.λπ) που βρίσκονται έξω από τις δομές όπου διαμένουν.

Σύμφωνα με τους υπογράφοντες αυτή την ανακοίνωση, η κυβέρνηση θα πρέπει να αξιολογεί αυστηρά τις όποιες πολιτικές προστασίας δημόσιας υγείας υιοθετεί σύμφωνα με τις αρχές της αναγκαιότητας, αναλογικότητας και σεβασμού της αρχής της μη διάκρισης και να απέχει από τη μονιμοποίηση των προσωρινών μέτρων μέσω καταχρηστικής επίκλησης έκτακτων αναγκών. Επίσης, θα πρέπει να εφαρμόζονται μέτρα που πραγματικά διασφαλίζουν την υγεία του προσφυγικού πληθυσμού και κατά συνέπεια και του συνολικού πληθυσμού της χώρας, ήτοι:

  • Αποσυμφόρηση όλων των υπερπληθών δομών
  • Ορθή και ευέλικτη χρήση των διαθέσιμων από την ΕΕ κονδυλίων για βελτίωση των συνθηκών διαβίωσης με τη μέγιστη δυνατή διαφάνεια
  • Συμπερίληψη στην πρωτοβάθμια φροντίδα υγείας όλων των μεταναστευτικών ομάδων,-συμπεριλαμβανομένων των μη καταγεγραμμένων αιτούντων άσυλο και αυτών σε “λίμπο”.
  • Εξασφάλιση υπηρεσιών ύδρευσης, απολύμανσης, υγιεινής (WASH)
  • Διανομή ειδών προσωπικής υγιεινής
  • Παροχή εκτενούς και κατανοητής πληροφόρησης στις προσφυγικές κοινότητες.
  • Εκτενής ενημέρωση των πολιτών για θέματα δημόσιας υγείας, μάλιστα σε σχέση με τη φιλοξενία του μεταναστευτικού πληθυσμού.

Θα πρέπει να γίνει ευρύτερα κατανοητό πως δεν δύναται να υπάρξει δημόσια υγεία χωρίς την προστασία της υγείας προσφύγων και μεταναστών. Η δαιμονοποίηση του προσφυγικού πληθυσμού που παρατηρείται το τελευταίο διάστημα -μάλιστα τη στιγμή που θα έπρεπε να καταβάλλονται προσπάθειες για την ομαλή ένταξή τους στον κοινωνικό και εργασιακό ιστό της χώρας- δεν προασπίζει τα πραγματικά συμφέροντα των πολιτών και πλήττει ανεπανόρθωτα τις δημοκρατικές αρχές της χώρας.

Προς επίρρωση των ανωτέρω, έχουν επισημανθεί τα εξής:

Παγκόσμιος Οργανισμός Υγείας:

«Το δικαίωμα στην ετοιμότητα, την πρόληψη και τον έλεγχο του COVID-19 για πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες πρέπει να ασκείται μέσω ολοκληρωμένων νόμων και εθνικών πολιτικών και πρακτικών χωρίς διακρίσεις, με ιδιαίτερη μέριμνα στα παιδιά και σε θέματα φύλου. Οι συνθήκες υγείας που βιώνουν πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες, συμπεριλαμβανομένων εκείνων με COVID-19, δεν πρέπει να χρησιμοποιούνται ως δικαιολογία για την επιβολή αυθαίρετων περιορισμών, στιγματισμού, κράτησης, απέλασης και άλλων μορφών διακρίσεων». (Απόσπασμα από Προσωρινή Οδηγία, 17 Απριλίου 2020)

Ευρωπαϊκό Κέντρο Πρόληψης και Ελέγχου Νόσων:

«Ενώ δεν υπάρχουν στοιχεία που να δείχνουν ότι η μετάδοση SARS-CoV-2 είναι υψηλότερη μεταξύ των μεταναστών και προσφύγων, περιβαλλοντικοί παράγοντες, όπως ο υπερπληθυσμός σε κέντρα υποδοχής και κράτησης αυξάνουν την έκθεσή τους στην ασθένεια. Μπορεί επίσης να εξαπλωθούν κρούσματα σε κέντρα υποδοχής και κράτησης γρήγορα απουσία κατάλληλων μέτρων πρόληψης.»

Σε άλλο σημείο: «Δεν υπάρχουν ενδείξεις ότι η απομόνωση ολόκληρων καταυλισμών περιορίζει αποτελεσματικά τη μετάδοση του SARS-CoV-2 στα κέντρα υποδοχής και κράτησης, ή παρέχει πρόσθετες προστατευτικές εγγυήσεις για το γενικό πληθυσμό, εκτός εκείνων που θα μπορούσαν να επιτευχθούν με συμβατικό περιορισμό και προστατευτικά μέτρα. (Aποσπάσματα από Τεχνική Αναφορά, 15 Ιουνίου 2020)

Γιατροί Χωρίς Σύνορα

«Η παράταση του μέτρου για τον περιορισμό κυκλοφορίας των αιτούντων άσυλο που ζουν στα κέντρα υποδοχής θα μειώσει περαιτέρω την ήδη περιορισμένη πρόσβασή τους σε βασικές υπηρεσίες και ιατρική περίθαλψη και, στην τρέχουσα φάση της επιδημίας COVID-19, δεν δικαιολογείται σε καμία περίπτωση από άποψη δημόσιας υγείας. Μέχρι στιγμής, δεν υπάρχει επιβεβαιωμένο περιστατικό σε κανένα από τα κέντρα υποδοχής των νησιών, πράγμα που σημαίνει ότι αυτός ο πληθυσμός δεν αποτελεί κίνδυνο. Αντίθετα, διατρέχει κίνδυνο. Τέτοιου είδους διακρίσεις στιγματίζουν και περιθωριοποιούν τους πρόσφυγες, τους αιτούντες άσυλο και τους μετανάστες, δεν δικαιολογούνται από άποψη δημόσιας υγείας και αυξάνουν την ευαλωτότητα αυτού του πληθυσμού απέναντι στην επιδημία. Τα μέτρα για τη δημόσια υγεία θα πρέπει να προστατεύουν τους ανθρώπους, ειδικά τα άτομα που ανήκουν σε ομάδες υψηλού κινδύνου, όπως οι ηλικιωμένοι και οι ασθενείς με χρόνιες παθήσεις. Δεν πρέπει να τους παγιδεύουν σε υπερπλήρεις καταυλισμούς με περιορισμένη πρόσβαση σε νερό και τουαλέτες, όπου είναι προφανώς αδύνατο να εφαρμοστούν τα μέτρα πρόληψης και προστασίας για τη νόσο COVID-19. Οι Γιατροί Χωρίς Σύνορα συνεχίζουμε να ζητάμε την μεταφορά των ατόμων που ανήκουν σε ευπαθείς ομάδες (ηλικιωμένοι, άτομα με χρόνιες ασθένειες) από τα κέντρα υποδοχής σε ασφαλή καταλύματα, όπου θα μπορούν να εφαρμόσουν τα μέτρα προστασίας της δημόσιας υγείας.»

Γιατροί του Κόσμου:

“Παρά την διαδεδομένη αντίληψη ότι υπάρχει σύνδεση ανάμεσα στους μετακινούμενους πληθυσμούς και την εισαγωγή ή/και διάδοση μεταδιδόμενων ασθενειών, δεν υπάρχει συστηματικός συσχετισμός ανάμεσα στα δύο. Σε “κλειστούς πληθυσμούς”, όπως είναι τα ΚΥΤ και οι δομές φιλοξενίας, ο ιός μπορεί να μεταδίδεται ταχύτατα σε σχέση με τον υπόλοιπο πληθυσμό. Αυτό οφείλεται στον συγχρωτισμό και τις κακές συνθήκες υγιεινής και αναδεικνύει ακόμα πιο καθαρά την ανάγκη αποσυμφόρησης και την μεταφορά των ανθρώπων αυτών σε εναλλακτικές μορφές διαμονής.”

Ηλίας Κονδύλης, Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής ΠΦΥ – Πολιτικής Υγείας και Αλέξης Μπένος, Καθηγητής Υγιεινής, Κοινωνικής Ιατρικής και ΠΦΥ – Εργαστήριο Πρωτοβάθμιας Φροντίδας Υγείας, Γενικής Ιατρικής και Έρευνας Υπηρεσιών Υγείας, Τμήμα Ιατρικής Α.Π.Θ.:

“Η απαγόρευση κυκλοφορίας στα κέντρα υποδοχής και τις δομές φιλοξενίας προσφύγων, μεταναστών και αιτούντων ασύλου για συνολικά 125 μέρες εν μέσω πανδημίας (η αντίστοιχη απαγόρευση στο γενικό πληθυσμό διήρκησε 43 ημέρες) και η συνεχής παράταση της χωρίς καμία επιστημονική τεκμηρίωση, δεν αποτελεί ενδεδειγμένο μέσο για τον έλεγχο της επιδημίας Covid-19. Αντιθέτως, συνιστά πράξη η οποία αναπόφευκτα αυξάνει το στίγμα, την περιθωριοποίηση και απομόνωση των ήδη αρκετά βεβαρημένων και ευάλωτων προσφυγικών πληθυσμών στη χώρα μας, αυξάνοντας ταυτόχρονα περαιτέρω τους κινδύνους μαζικής εξάπλωσης της νόσου covid-19 στους έγκλειστους αυτούς πληθυσμούς. Βασικά μέσα, σε ατομικό επίπεδο, για την πρόληψη από τη νόσο covid-19 παραμένουν η τήρηση των κανόνων υγιεινής και η τήρηση των αποστάσεων με αποφυγή του συγχρωτισμού. Οι βασικοί αυτοί κανόνες ατομικής πρόληψης είναι φύσει αδύνατον να τηρηθούν εντός των ΚΥΤ, λόγω των συνθηκών διαβίωσης σε αυτά. Η άρση των αδικαιολόγητων περιορισμών κυκλοφορίας στα ΚΥΤ, η αποσυμφόρηση τους και η άμεση μετεγκατάσταση των πλέον ευάλωτων προσφύγων/μεταναστών σε ασφαλείς δομές στην κοινότητα είναι οι μόνες επιστημονικά ενδεδειγμένες πολιτικές πρόληψης της νόσου covid-19 τόσο για την προστασία των προσφυγικών/μεταναστευτικών πληθυσμών όσο και τη προστασία του γενικού πληθυσμού».

DemelzaHaurat και NoorRijnberg, ιατροί

“Aς επιχειρήσουμε να φανταστούμε ποια μπορεί να είναι η ψυχική κατάσταση κάποιου που ζει περιορισμένος, μαζί με 17.000 άλλους ανθρώπους, σε θερμοκρασίες 33 βαθμών, μέσα σε καταυλισμούς όπως η Μόρια, όπου οι εντάσεις είναι ήδη υψηλές. Ο περιορισμός της ελευθερίας κίνησης επιδεινώνει την ψυχολογική δυσφορία, την απελπισία και τη βία. Το ζούμε καθημερινά στην κλινική μας όπου καταγράφουμε αύξηση των περιστατικών διαταραχής πανικού και της σεξουαλικής και ενδοοικογενειακής βίας».

Oι υπογράφουσες οργανώσεις:

Αctionaid Hellas


Amnesty International -Διεθνής Αμνηστία

Are you Syrious?


ΑΝΤΙΓΟΝΗ-Κέντρο Πληροφόρησης και Τεκμηρίωσης για το Ρατσισμό, την Οικολογία, την Ειρήνη και τη Μη Βία

AΡΣΙΣ – Κοινωνική Οργάνωση Υποστήριξης Νέων

Γιατροί του Κόσμου – Ελλάδα

Defence for Children International – Eλλάδα

Δίκτυο για τα Δικαιώματα του Παιδιού

Ελληνικό Παρατηρητήριο των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι

Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες

Εqual Rights Beyond Βorders

Help Refugees


HIAS Ελλάδας

HumanRights360

ΙΑΤΡΙΚΗ ΠΑΡΕΜΒΑΣΗ- MEDIN


INTERSOS
 Hellas

Κέντρο Ημέρας Βαβέλ

Legal Centre Lesvos


Mobile Info Team Thessaloniki

Οικολογικό Κίνημα Θεσσαλονίκης


Refugee Legal Support


SolidarityNow


Συμβίωση – Σχολή Πολιτικών Σπουδών στην Ελλάδα, Δίκτυο Συμβουλίου της Ευρωπης

Terre des hommes Hellas


Thalassa of Solidarity


PRESS RELEASE

Organisations in Greece, local and international health bodies warn: “discrimination does not protect against COVID-19”

Athens, 17 July 2020

Following the letter sent to the Greek authorities in early July, these organisations which work with refugees and migrants in Greece would like to express their concern and opposition to the decision of the government to once again impose confinement measures on all the accommodation facilities for asylum-seekers in Greece, in the general context of preventing the emergence and spread of cases of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Although restrictions on free movement aimed at the protection of public health can be necessary and justified, these organisations argue that they should nevertheless be based on scientific evidence, and that they should not be imposed on the basis of arbitrary criteria which allude to social discrimination, considering the fact that restrictions on movement have been lifted for other residents of the country. Public health reasons can in no way be invoked for the imposition of measures restricting free movement for residents in the specific accommodation facilities, as they would not be grounded on any scientific reasoning. In fact, in some cases the measures violate the EU directive on the standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (2013/33 article 8 on detention).

In particular, as highlighted in communiques and guidelines from international organisations, academia and civil society organisations – some of which are listed at the end of this statement – there is no evidence that isolating entire accommodation facilities or applying restrictive measures on movement are effective in limiting the transmission of the virus in accommodation facilities for asylum-seekers and migrants, or result in additional protective effects for the general population, other than those achieved by conventional containment and protection measures which apply to the population as a whole. Therefore, a sensible strategy for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the refugee population should focus on the improvement of precarious housing conditions, which make social distancing impossible in the overcrowded accommodation centres. To date, however, the efforts made to this end have been insufficient. In fact, many organisations which work in centres where measures limiting free movement have been applied, have identified an increase in psychological pressure and stress which can lead to the general deterioration of the health of asylum-seekers. Moreover, movement restrictions impede asylum-seekers’ access to vital services (medical, legal etc.) which are located outside of the camps where they reside.

According to the signatories of this statement, the government should rigorously evaluate any public health policies it adopts in accordance with the principles of necessity, proportionality and in conformity with the principle of non-discrimination, and should refrain from ‘normalising’ exceptional measures through abusive appeals to a state of emergency. Equally, the measures implemented should be aimed at the actual protection of the health of the refugee population and as a result the population of the country as whole, namely:

-Decongestion of overcrowded facilities

-Proper and flexible use of available EU funds for the improvement of living conditions with the utmost transparency

-Inclusion in primary health care of all migrant populations, including un-registered asylum-seekers and those in “limbo”

-Secure the provision of water, disinfection, and health services (WASH)

-Distribution of personal hygiene items

-Provision of comprehensive and comprehensible information to refugee communities

-Promote the public understanding of public health issues, especially in relation to accommodation of the immigrant population.

There needs to be generally understood that there can be no public health without the protection of the health of refugees and migrants. The demonisation of the refugee population which has been observed lately – especially at a time when efforts should be made for their smooth integration into the social fabric and labour market of the country – does not defend the real interests of citizens and irreparably harms the democratic principles of the country.

World Health Organisation

“The right to COVID-19 preparedness, prevention and control for refugees and migrants should be exercised through non-discriminatory, child- and gender- sensitive comprehensive laws and national policies and practices. The health conditions experienced by refugees and migrants, including those with COVID-19 infections, should not be used as an excuse for imposing arbitrary restrictions, stigmatization, detention, deportation and other forms of discriminatory practices.” (Excerpt from WHO interim guidance, 17 April 2020).

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

“Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 transmission is higher amongst migrants and refugees, environmental factors such as overcrowding in reception and detention centres may increase their exposure to the disease. Outbreaks in reception and detention centres can also spread quickly in the absence of adequate prevention measures.”

“There is no evidence that quarantining whole camps effectively limits transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in settings of reception and detention, or provides any additional protective effects for the general population, outside those that could be achieved by conventional containment and protection measures.” (Excerpts from Technical Report, 15 June 2020)

Médecins Sans Frontières

“The extension of the measures restricting the movement of asylum-seekers who live in accommodation centres will further reduce their already limited access to basic services and medical care and, in the current phase of the COVID-19 epidemic, it cannot be justified from a public health perspective. So far, there have been no confirmed cases in any of the island reception facilities, a fact which means that their population is not a danger. On the contrary, it is in danger. This kind of discrimination stigmatises and marginalises refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants, it is not justified from a public health perspective and it increases the vulnerability of this population in the face of the epidemic. Measures for public health should above all protect people, especially those in high-risk groups, such as the elderly and patients with chronic diseases. They should not trap them in overcrowded camps with limited access to water and toilets, where it is clearly impossible to implement prevention and protection measures for the COVID-19 virus. Médecins Sans Frontières continues to demand the transfer of people belonging to vulnerable groups (the elderly, people with chronic diseases) away from the reception centres to safe accommodation, where they can apply public health protection measures.”

Médecins du Monde

“Despite the widespread perception that there is a link between migrating populations and the introduction or spread of infectious diseases, there is no systematic correlation between the two. In “closed populations”, such as Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) or accommodation facilities, the virus can be transmitted very quickly relative to the rest of the population. This is due to concentration and bad health conditions and further highlights the need for decongestion and the transfer of those people to alternative forms of accommodation.”

Ilias Kondilis, Associate Professor ΠΦΥ (Primary Health Care) – Public Health, and Alexis Benos, professor of Health, Social and ΠΦΥ – Laboratory of Primary Health Care, General Medicine and Health Services Research, Faculty of Medicine Α.Π.Θ (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki):

“The ban on movement in reception centres and accommodation facilities for refugees, immigrants and asylum-seekers for a total of 125 days during the pandemic (the corresponding ban in the general population lasted 43 days) and its continuous extension without any scientific evidence is not an appropriate means for controlling the COVID-19 epidemic. On the contrary, it is a practice which inevitably increases the stigma, the marginalisation and isolation of those already heavily vulnerable refugee populations in our country, at the same time further increasing the risks of mass spread of the COVID-19 virus to those incarcerated populations. The fundamental means, on an individual level, for the prevention of COVID-19, remain the respect of hygiene rules and the observance of social distancing, by avoiding crowds. These basic rules of personal prevention are by nature impossible to comply with in RIC’s, due to the living conditions. The removal of unjustified movement restrictions in RICs, or their decongestion and the immediate relocation of the more vulnerable refugees/immigrants to safe facilities in the community are the only scientifically proven policies to guard against COVID-19, both as concerns the protection of refugee/immigrant populations and the protection of the general population”.

Demelza Haurat and Noor Rijnberg, doctors

“Let’s try to imagine what will be the psychological state of someone who lives under confinement, together with 17.000 other people, in temperatures of 33 degrees, in camps like Moria, where tensions are already high. The limiting of free movement exacerbates psychological discomfort, despair and violence. We experience it everyday in our clinic where we record an increase in cases of panic disorder, sexual and domestic violence”

The undersigned organisations:

Αctionaid Hellas

Amnesty International -Διεθνής Αμνηστία

Are you Syrious?


ΑΝΤΙΓΟΝΗ-Κέντρο Πληροφόρησης και Τεκμηρίωσης για το Ρατσισμό, την Οικολογία, την Ειρήνη και τη Μη Βία

AΡΣΙΣ – Κοινωνική Οργάνωση Υποστήριξης Νέων

Γιατροί του Κόσμου – Ελλάδα

Defence for Children International – Eλλάδα

Δίκτυο για τα Δικαιώματα του Παιδιού

Ελληνικό Παρατηρητήριο των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

Εqual Rights Beyond Europe

Help Refugees


HIAS Ελλάδας

HumanRights360

ΙΑΤΡΙΚΗ ΠΑΡΕΜΒΑΣΗ- MEDIN


INTERSOS
Hellas

Κέντρο Ημέρας Βαβέλ

Legal Centre Lesvos


Mobile Info Team Thessaloniki

Οικολογικό Κίνημα Θεσσαλονίκης


Refugee Legal Support

SolidarityNow

Συμβίωση – Σχολή Πολιτικών Σπουδών στην Ελλάδα, Δίκτυο Συμβουλίου της Ευρωπης

Terre des hommes Hellas

Thalassa of Solidarity

Press Release: New Legal Centre Lesvos report details collective expulsions in the Aegean Sea

In a photo taken by Legal Centre Lesvos from Lesvos island on 17 June 2020, two Greek vessels surround a migrant boat, which GPS coordinates sent to Alarm Phone confirmed was in Greek territorial water. For several hours, the migrant boat was left without assistance. The Turkish Coast Guard later collected the occupants of the boat, returning them to Turkey. Collective expulsions carried out in this manner are contrary to international law, violate individuals’ right to life and right to be free from cruel and degrading treatment, and are in violation of international maritime law obligating rescue at sea. For full report click here.

[Ακολουθεί κείμενο στα ελληνικά]

Greek authorities are unlawfully expelling migrants who have arrived in Greece, and abandoning them at sea on motorless, inflatable vessels. In a report released today by Legal Centre Lesvos, testimonies from 30 survivors detail the systematic, unlawful and inherently violent nature of these collective expulsions.

Since the Greek authorities’ one month suspension of the right to seek asylum on 1 March 2020, the Greek government has adopted various unlawful practices that are openly geared towards the deterrence and violent disruption of migrant crossings, with little regard for its obligations deriving from international law and specifically from the non refoulement principle – and even less for the lives of those seeking sanctuary.

While collective expulsions from Greece to Turkey are not new, in recent months Greek authorities have been using rescue equipment – namely inflatable, motorless life rafts – in a new type of dystopic expulsion. Migrants are violently transferred from Greek islands, or from the dinghy upon which they are travelling, to such rafts, which are then left adrift in open water.

In addition to the well-documented practice of non-assistance to migrant dinghies, the Greek authorities have damaged the motor or gasoline tank of migrant dinghies before returning the vessel – and the people on board – to open waters, where they are subsequently abandoned.

These collective expulsions, happening in the Aegean region, are not isolated events. Direct testimonies from survivors, collected by the Legal Centre Lesvos, demonstrate that they are part of a widespread and systematic practice, with a clear modus operandi implemented across various locations in the Aegean Sea and on the Eastern Aegean islands.
The information shared with the Legal Centre Lesvos is from 30 survivors, and testimonies from 7 individuals who were in direct contact with survivors, or were witness to, a collective expulsion. These testimonies, related to eight separate collective expulsions, were collected between March and June 2020, directly by the Legal Centre Lesvos.

Collective expulsions are putting peoples’ lives at risk, are contrary to Greece’ international legal obligations and violate survivors’ fundamental and human rights, including their right to life and the jus cogens prohibitions on torture and refoulement. When carried out as part of a widespread and systematic practice, as documented in our report, these amount to a crime against humanity.

Collective expulsions should undoubtedly be condemned, in the strongest possible terms; however, this is not sufficient: it is only through the immediate cessation of such illegal practices that the protection of human rights and access to asylum will be restored at the European Union’s external borders.

Click Here for Full Report / Πατήστε εδώ για την πλήρη αναφορά

Lorraine Leete, attorney and one of the Legal Centre Lesvos’ coordinators, said that:
“The Greek authorities are abandoning people in open water, on inflatable and motorless life rafts – that are designed for rescue – with no regard for their basic safety, let alone their right to apply for asylum. Such audacious acts show the violence at the core of the European border regime, and the disregard that it has for human life.

Greek authorities have denied reports of collective expulsions as “fake news”, despite a plethora of undeniable evidence, from survivors and various media outlets. This is untenable: evidence shared with the Legal Centre has shown that collective expulsions are happening in the Aegean sea, with a systematic and widespread modus operandi that amounts to crimes against humanity. They are being carried out in the open, in plain view – if not with the participation – of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. European Authorities are complicit in these crimes as they have thus far failed to act to prevent further pushbacks, or hold Greek authorities accountable.”

****************************************************************

ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ

Οι ελληνικές αρχές προβαίνουν σε παράνομες απελάσεις μεταναστών που έχουν φτάσει στην Ελλάδα και τους εγκαταλείπουν στη θάλασσα σε φουσκωτές βάρκες χωρίς κινητήρα. Σε έκθεση που δημοσιεύθηκε σήμερα από το LegalCentreLesvos, μαρτυρίες από 30 επιζώντες περιγράφουν λεπτομερώς τη συστηματική, παράνομη και ιδιαίτερα βίαιη μορφή αυτών των ομαδικών απελάσεων.

Αφότου οι ελληνικές αρχές ανέστειλαν τα αιτήματα ασύλου, την 1η Μαρτίου 2020, η ελληνική κυβέρνηση έχει υιοθετήσει ποικίλες παράνομες πρακτικές που αποσκοπούν ευθέως στην αποτροπή και τη βίαιη διακοπή των μεταναστευτικών ροών, με ελάχιστο σεβασμό στις υποχρεώσεις που απορρέουν από το διεθνές δίκαιο και συγκεκριμένα από την αρχή της μη επαναπροώθησης – και ακόμη λιγότερο για τη ζωή εκείνων που αναζητούν καταφύγιο.

Ενώ οι ομαδικές απελάσεις από την Ελλάδα στην Τουρκία δεν είναι κάτι νέο, τους τελευταίους μήνες οι ελληνικές αρχές χρησιμοποιούν εξοπλισμό διάσωσης – δηλαδή φουσκωτές, σωσίβιες σχεδίες – στο πλαίσιο ενός νέου τύπου τρομακτικής απέλασης. Οι μετανάστες μεταφέρονται βίαια από ελληνικά νησιά, ή από τη βάρκα στην οποία ταξιδεύουν, σε τέτοιες σχεδίες, οι οποίες στη συνέχεια αφήνονται στο νερό.

Επιπλέον εκτός από την καταγεγραμμένη πρακτική της μη παροχής βοήθειας σε βάρκες μεταναστών, οι ελληνικές αρχές έχουν καταστρέψει τον κινητήρα ή την δεξαμενή βενζίνης των λέμβων πριν επιστρέψουν τη βάρκα – και τους ανθρώπους που βρίσκονται σε αυτό -, όπου στη συνέχεια εγκαταλείπονται.

Αυτές οι ομαδικές απελάσεις, που συμβαίνουν στην περιοχή του Αιγαίου, δεν είναι μεμονωμένα γεγονότα. Οι άμεσες μαρτυρίες επιζώντων, που συλλέχθηκαν από το Legal Centre Lesvos, αποδεικνύουν ότι αποτελούν μέρος μιας διαδεδομένης και συστηματικής πρακτικής, με ένα σαφές modus operandi που εφαρμόζεται σε διάφορες τοποθεσίες στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος και στα νησιά του Ανατολικού Αιγαίου.

Οι πληροφορίες που κοινοποιούνται στο Legal Centre Lesvos προέρχονται από 30 επιζώντες και μαρτυρίες από 7 άτομα που ήρθαν σε άμεση επαφή με τους επιζώντες ή ήταν μάρτυρες μιας ομαδικής απέλασης. Αυτές οι μαρτυρίες, που σχετίζονται με οκτώ ξεχωριστές ομαδικές απελάσεις, συλλέχθηκαν μεταξύ Μαρτίου και Ιουνίου 2020, απευθείας από Legal Centre Lesvos.

Τέτοιες ομαδικές απελάσεις είναι ξεκάθαρα βίαια γεγονότα. Οι ομαδικές απελάσεις είναι αντίθετες με τις διεθνείς νομικές υποχρεώσεις της Ελλάδας και παραβιάζουν τα θεμελιώδη και ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα των επιζώντων, συμπεριλαμβανομένου του δικαιώματος στη ζωή τους και την juscogensαπαγόρευση των βασανιστηρίων και επαναπροώθησης. Όταν πραγματοποιείται ως μέρος μιας διαδεδομένης και συστηματικής πρακτικής, όπως τεκμηριώνεται στην έκθεσή μας, αυτά ισοδυναμούν με εγκλήματα κατά της ανθρωπότητας. Οι ομαδικές απελάσεις πρέπει αναμφίβολα να καταδικάζονται με τον πιο εμφατικό τρόπο. Ωστόσο, αυτό δεν αρκεί: μόνο με την άμεση παύση τέτοιων παράνομων πρακτικών θα αποκατασταθεί η προστασία των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων και η πρόσβαση στο άσυλο στα εξωτερικά σύνορα της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης.

Πατήστε εδώ για την πλήρη αναφορά

Η Lorraine Leete, δικηγόρος και μία από τις συντονίστριες του Legal Centre Lesvos, δήλωσε ότι:

«Οι ελληνικές αρχές εγκαταλείπουν τους ανθρώπους σε ανοιχτή θάλασσα, σε φουσκωτές βάρκες χωρίς μηχανή – που έχουν σχεδιαστεί για διάσωση – χωρίς να λαμβάνεται υπόψη η θεμελιώδης ασφάλειά τους, πόσο μάλλον το δικαίωμά τους να υποβάλλουν αίτημα ασύλου. Τέτοιες ριψοκίνδυνες πράξεις δείχνουν τη βία στον πυρήνα του ευρωπαϊκού συνοριακού καθεστώτος και την αδιαφορία που έχει για την ανθρώπινη ζωή.

Οι ελληνικές αρχές έχουν αρνηθεί τις καταγγελίες ομαδικών απελάσεων ως “fakenews”, παρά την πληθώρα αδιαμφισβήτητων στοιχείων, από επιζώντες και διάφορα μέσα ενημέρωσης. Αυτό είναι αβάσιμο: τα στοιχεία που οι ανωτέρω μοιράζονται με το LegalCentre κατέδειξαν ότι οι ομαδικές απελάσεις συμβαίνουν στο Αιγαίο, με ένα συστηματικό και διαδεδομένο τρόπο λειτουργίας που ισοδυναμεί με έγκλημα κατά της ανθρωπότητας. Διεξάγονται φανερά – εάν όχι με τη συμμετοχή του Ευρωπαϊκού Οργανισμού Συνοριοφυλακής και Ακτοφυλακής, Frontex. Τα Ευρωπαϊκά Όργανα είναι συνένοχα σε αυτά τα εγκλήματα, καθώς μέχρι στιγμής δεν κατάφεραν να ενεργήσουν για να αποτρέψουν περαιτέρω επαναπροωθήσεις (“pushbacks”) ή να λογοδοτήσουν οι ελληνικές αρχές.

Εκπρόσωπος Τύπου: Lorraine Leete, lorraine@legalcentrelesvos.org, +30 6955074724

Hostility towards migrants and those working to support them continues as state policy in Lesvos

LEGAL CENTRE LESVOS UPDATE: Police fines for migrants seeking legal aid, the prolonged lockdown on refugee camps, the detention of new arrivals in the Mytiline port (again), and government measures targeting organizations working with migrants are four recent threads in the Greek authorities’ growing hostility towards migrants and those working to support them.

Last week, the asylum services opened in Lesvos after two months’ closure due to COVID-19. During their closure, at least 1400 individuals were issued with first instance rejections to their asylum claims. If they wish to challenge this negative decision, which is their right, they are required to file an appeal within the first 10 days’ of the asylum services’ reopening.

The successful lodging of so many appeals is, in practical terms, impossible. Not only did the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) cap the number of people allowed to appeal at 100/day, which would require at least 14 days’ operation – four days over the deadline – to meet the need, but the practicalities of lodging an appeal further thwart individuals’ opportunities.

The lockdown continues for Moria refugee camp. Only 70 permissions to leave the camp are given per day, in addition to permission for those with medical appointments. This limited number of permissions is obviously insufficient in a camp of approximately 20,000 individuals who have various reasons to leave, in addition to seeking legal aid.

Under Article 71(3) of Greek asylum law Law 4636/2019, asylum seekers “shall be provided, upon their request, with free legal assistance in the procedures before the Appeals Authority.” This right, also protected in Article 20 of EU Directive 2013/32/EU, has been systematically denied since July 2017 in Lesvos. Despite the denial of legal aid, the Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos (RAO) has stated that it will not extend the deadline of 10 days for individuals to appeal, practically guaranteeing that the majority of these 1400 individuals will be unable to challenge their negative decision.

Several individuals came to the Legal Centre Lesvos last Monday – the first day the asylum office opened – seeking legal advice following the rejection of their asylum claim, and the police were quick to close off the street in order to trap people waiting outside our offices. They issued fines of 150€ (which we have challenged) to the fourteen migrants then queuing outside for assistance who had not obtained permission to leave the camp.

Although visiting a lawyer was recognised as a reason for individuals to obtain permission to leave the camps since the previous Friday – the relatively small number of people allowed to leave, and the period of time that they are granted to leave the camp, again limited their practical ability to receive legal assistance. Furthermore, police continued to visit our offices nearly every day, reprimanding people for standing less than 2m apart or for gathering in groups larger than 9 people – despite the fact that distancing is impossible inside the overcrowded refugee camps, and that since the lifting of movement restrictions for the general population across Greece, the streets, beaches and squares are thronged with other groups of people left undisturbed by police.

Despite such ongoing and targeted harassment, LCL assisted over 130 people in lodging their appeal last week. While we also have limited capacity to take on cases for representation on appeal, if people are able to lodge the appeal, their case will be reviewed by the Appeals Committee, and they can gather and submit supporting documentation and potentially find legal representation before their appeal is examined. At least two individuals – one from Mali, and one from Afghanistan, were granted residency in Greece on appeal, after the Legal Centre assisted them in lodging their appeal. Both these individuals were detained when we assisted them with lodging the appeal, and received no other legal assistance on appeal.

Among those assisted last week include families, in which one spouse is granted status and the other is rejected, and survivors of torture and sexual violence in their countries of origin. Furthermore, multiple individuals have been rejected without an interview. These few examples demonstrate that numerous valid asylum cases are being overlooked under the accelerated procedure implemented since January 2020, and many errors will likely remain unchallenged given the lack of legal aid. These individuals include:

  • A, from Afghanistan, who married his wife R in Iran – as they were married outside of their country of origin, they have not been recognised as a family unit under Article 2 of the present Greek asylum law, 4636/2019. She is now seven months’ pregnant with their first child, and has been granted refugee status, but A has been rejected. Given that latest statistics from the Appeal Committee showed over 95% rejection rate, there is a very real possibility that A will be deported back to Afghanistan, separating him from his wife, and leaving R to raise their baby alone in Greece;
  • K, from Afghanistan, and his wife N. They have three small children together, and N is now seven months’ pregnant with their fourth child. She and the three children were granted refugee status, but K has been rejected – as K´s application was considered separately under Article 2 of Law 4636/2019, since they were married in Iran. N, while an Afghan national, was born in Iran, met her husband in Iran, and she and K started their family in Iran. The family link between K and his wife was denied simply because of their place of marriage, indicative of the cruel and methodical application of the current asylum law;
  • M, from Syria, and his wife and two children. They have been deported from Turkey to Syria multiple times – in clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement – and yet the asylum service has ruled that Turkey is a safe country for them, and has therefore deemed their application in Greece inadmissible. Despite the increase in unlawful deportations from Turkey to Syria, and Turkish aggression within Syria – itself a cause of mass displacement – Greece and the EU continue to consider it a safe country for Syrians;
  • M, from Afghanistan, and his family. They faced a violent and unlawful pushback at the northern border of Greece, in which their passports and possessions – including the milk that they were carrying for their young baby – were stolen, before crossing successfully to Lesvos several months later. They did their interview within two weeks of arriving, without legal assistance, and were rejected two months later. They have not had an opportunity to challenge their unlawful pushback, and could be deported again before being able to do so;
  • N, from Afghanistan, who left Lesvos without permission after being sexually assaulted in Moria refugee camp, and therefore did not renew her asylum seeker’s card on its expiry date – which resulted in her case being closed and her asylum claim rejected as unfounded, under Article 81 of L 4636/2019, without her having done a substantive interview.

None of the individuals mentioned, nor the vast majority of those that LCL assisted this week, had received any legal assistance at any stage of their asylum procedure thus far. Most were interviewed within a few weeks of arriving on the island, after making the inherently traumatizing journey from Turkey, and being forced to live in the overcrowded and inhumane Moria Refugee Camp. Those who made it to our offices in Mytilene after Monday´s fines were issued were among the few given permission to leave the camp.

Restriction on the movement of residents of refugee camps in Greece (Moria and Karatepe Camps in Lesvos) remains in place at least until the 7th of June, ostensibly to prevent the spread of Covid-19 – despite the fact that there has not been a single case in either camp. Furthermore, two months after Covid-19 movement restrictions were enacted throughout Greece, thousands of vulnerable individuals in refugee camps have yet to be evacuated or provided protection from Covid-19. Meanwhile, on Monday bars and restaurants opened across Greece, and the previous restriction on travel to the Greek islands for non-residents and island workers was also lifted.

This discriminatory treatment of migrants is preventing people from seeking legal aid, and is simultaneously fulfilling the goal of local right wing groups of keeping migrants out of public spaces away from public view. In February and March, local right wing groups set up roadblocks targeting migrants and those in solidarity with them, and preventing migrants from reaching Mytilene. Now, migrants’ effective restriction to Moria and Kara Tepe Camps has become state policy.

The Greek government’s open pursuit of migration policies with a single goal – to deter arrivals and facilitate mass deportations – continues, and will be further accelerated by the application of amendments to the asylum law next month.

These amendments, in addition to further stripping migrants rights, also place onerous accounting obligations and restrictions on the operation of non-governmental organizations working with migrants – obligations and restrictions which are not required of organizations working in other fields. In February and March, NGO workers and those in solidarity with migrants were targeted and physically attacked by local right wing groups, both at civilian-organized roadblocks and in isolated attacks to NGO cars and personnel. Now the targeting of NGOs working with migrants has been enacted into law, threatening the freedom of association of political organizations, and the continued operation of small grassroots organizations.

Beyond the decimation of migrants’ rights within the legal procedure and continued movement restrictions on the island, migrant lives continue to be instrumentalised from their moment of arrival to Lesvos.

Sixteen people who arrived from Turkey last week – eleven adults and five children (of which two are unaccompanied) from Syria, Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo – are currently detained on a bus in the Mytiline port, where they have been held since Thursday night. When they first arrived, they were not given any food for over twenty-four hours, until an intervention by LCL and No Border Kitchen Lesvos, who also brought blankets and diapers to the detainees. The group have no information as to why they are being held or for how long they will be kept in the port, but have expressed their fear of being collectively expelled to Turkey – a practice that has become increasingly well-documented in recent weeks. Moreover, although everyone in the group has tested negative for Covid-19, the police have dispersed people trying to communicate with the new arrivals through the fence – even at a Covid-19 safe distance – continuing the practice of isolation and information deprivation of new arrivals that was initiated in March and April.

The Mayor of Mytiline, Stratis Kytelis, reportedly suggested that the group be held in the port – as opposed to being transferred to a quarantine-prepared building, where non-governmental organisations were prepared to assist – to raise “awareness” of Lesvos’ inability to cope with the arrival of new asylum seekers. The subjugation of this group does not, however, speak to the resource challenges faced by the island (as mentioned above, a building was prepared to receive them) or the burden that it bears in relation to the rest of the EU. Instead, it demonstrates the authorities’ willingness to ignore their moral, legal and international obligations, and to use inhumane treatment to punish migrants, deter new arrivals, and capitulate to the far-right.

IRAQI INFANT’S DEATH AT SEA OFF COAST OF LESVOS UNREPORTED BY GREEK AUTHORITIES, EXPOSED BY AL JAZEERA

Since the beginning of March, at least four children and one adult have died in Lesvos or trying to reach the island. The youngest was just fifteen days’ old.

They are the latest victims of Greek and European policies that show no regard for human life. Numerous migrant deaths – the majority of which are foreseeable and preventable – occur each year in Greece, and yet the political decisions that force people on life-threatening journeys across borders or contain thousands of individuals in inhumane and desperately insecure conditions remain unchanged. The vast majority of their deaths go uninvestigated or unrecognized by authorities, shielding the State from accountability and denying migrants dignity in death as so many are denied it in life.

Two of the children – a young boy from Syria, and a baby from Iraq – died at sea on 2 March 2020. Migrants reported that the Greek Coast Guard menaced their dinghy, causing the passengers to fall overboard and subsequently refusing to provide them with timely assistance. Ultimately two children who had been on the dinghy drowned. The little boy’s body was transferred to Mytiline and his death was soon reported, which prompted an audacious allegation from the Hellenic Coast Guard that his family and the migrants with them had capsized their own boat. However, it was not until an investigation by Mohamed Errammach and Olivia Dehez for قناة الجزيرة مباشر – Aljazeera Mubasher Channel (here with English subtitles) that the baby’s death was discovered, and confirmed by several people who had made the crossing from Turkey together with the infant. According to the other passengers, his body was lost at sea. To date, Greek authorities still have not publicly recognized his death.

Two other children, both from Afghanistan, died in Moria refugee camp. A little girl died in a fire on 16 March 2020, the second fire of the past six months’ to claim the lives of people residing in the camp. A teenage boy was stabbed to death yesterday, 8 April 2020; at least two other children were hospitalised. He is the third person from Moria refugee camp to die of stab wounds this year. Neither of them were the first child to die in such circumstances, nor will they be the last.

The mental health crisis among the migrant community in Lesvos has long been reported. Three years’ ago, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) wrote that it ‘the conditions they face in Greece, including the continued violence and the lack of appropriate services…are pushing them into hopelessness and are greatly compounding their mental health suffering.’ It described their continued containment as ‘untenable, inhumane and dangerous.’ Despite these warnings, the EU-Turkey Deal’s confinement of migrants continues – and in the past six weeks alone, one man has committed suicide, and at least one other has attempted to do so. In Moria’s Pre-Removal Detention Centre, (PROKEKA), where one man was found hanged in January of this year, reports of attempted suicide are common. Detainees who feel they have been abandoned in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, started a hunger strike several days ago demanding their freedom, but were forced to stop due to violence and threats from the police.

This week, there have been well-documented reports of egregious illegal pushbacks in the Aegean, again demonstrating the State’s flagrant disregard for migrants’ lives. The Greek Coast Guard has returned them to international waters after apprehending them either in Greek waters or after they arrived to Greek land, forced them into motorless life-rafts, and left them adrift at sea. The movement restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have made monitoring human rights violations, whether on land or at sea, increasingly difficult – and it seems that the Greek state, like many others, is using the cover that it provides to pursue pre-existing policy objectives, with little attention paid to their human cost. The lack of State transparency around the causes and circumstances of each death is grave and disturbing, but far more so is the widespread tolerance – if not instrumentalisation – of these fatalities as part of the European Union’s border regime. This is not ‘migration management’: this is state-sanctioned murder.

DISCRIMINATORY RESTRICTIONS ON MOVEMENT FURTHER CONTAIN MIGRANTS IN UNSANITARY CONDITIONS – AND AT RISK OF COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Ελληνικά

Castellano

A nationwide ban on “all unnecessary movement” has been introduced in Greece, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the national measures fall far short of the disproportionate restrictions imposed on the migrant community three days earlier – which have effectively facilitated their mass detention in camps where hygiene conditions are dire, and where few measures have been taken to prepare for, let alone prevent, an outbreak.

Restrictions on movement are a necessary response to the virus, when applied systematically and in combination with robust healthcare measures. In Lesvos, neither of these conditions are met.

Across Greece, those leaving their place of residence must carry a paper or send an SMS that indicates – from a set of reasons, including personal exercise, visiting the bank or going to the supermarket – why they are outside the house. Yet reasons that are valid across the country are, unsurprisingly, abandoned in favour of far stricter rules for migrants.

Since 19 March, migrants must gain police or security authorities’ written permission before leaving the refugee camps in Moria and Kara Tepe – the two main state run refugee camps in Lesvos. Only one member of each family can leave the camps per week, a measure that is strictly enforced – despite the fact that no such restriction exists for people living in towns and cities across Greece. Those without written permission will be blocked from leaving by police – either at the camps’ exits, or at checkpoints on the roads that lead to the city of Mytiline – and will not be able to board public buses. An increased number of police units have been deployed around the camps, to enforce these restrictions.

Furthermore, the restrictions on migrant mobility have not been paired with any preventative healthcare measures. Instead, they have led to multiple human rights abuses, and exposed the community to far greater risk of the spread of COVID-19:

– The ability to practice “social distancing” in Moria camp is impossible: over 20, 000 people are now detained together, in facilities designed for a seventh of that number, crowding together in lines for food, the bathroom, and within their own living structures. Beyond the physical risks, containment in such dire conditions has led to a well-documented mental health crisis, and on Friday, a twenty-year-old man apparently commit suicide in the camp. The expansion of the camp’s detention infrastructure will further isolate the migrant community, with foreseeable and devastating consequences.

– On Wednesday, a national holiday, one individual residing in Moria camp was suffering from a high fever – a known symptom of COVID-19. He could find no open health clinic in Moria Camp, yet when he attempted to leave the camp in order to visit a doctor, he was refused by police who said that he first needed a referral from an internal clinic. He was sent back into the camp. Thanks to coordination between Legal Centre Lesvos and Medical Volunteers International, he was visited by a volunteer doctor who happened to be inside the camp at the time. Without such collaboration, he had no prospect of timely assistance.

– In Kara Tepe camp, residents must request permission from camp security to leave the site, which will be granted for an allotted time – for example only one hour is allowed to leave the camp for shopping for food. Trips to a specified supermarket (located outside of Mytiline) are allowed every seven days; those who need to visit a pharmacy in town must show their prescription, before they are allowed to leave; and those who wish to see a doctor or visit the hospital have been told that, instead, they will be treated in the camp’s clinic. Those who have a fever and who visit the camp’s clinic are reportedly given paracetamol, and told to return to their containers.

– Prior to restrictions being imposed on the camps, approximately ten families were transferred from Kara Tepe camp to mainland Greece. The containers they had lived in remain empty, as all transfers into Kara Tepe camp have stopped since the imposition of limits on migrant movement. Hundreds of vulnerable individuals are living in chronically overcrowded Moria camp, including families with newborn children and immuno-compromised elderly folk. Transfer to Kara Tepe, where movement restrictions apply but where living conditions are far superior, would transform their quality of life – and protect them from the risks of a COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, those containers remain empty.

– The Greek government announced this week that financial support, provided through the UNHCR cash assistance program, would be delayed until ATMs can be constructed inside camps – furthering the infrastructure for the isolation and containment of the migrant community. There appear to be no plans to make up for the loss of cash assistance, which – though minimal (approximately 90€/month) – allowed individuals to cover their basic needs, such as hygiene products, child-specific food, clothing or bedding, all of which are limited in camp.

Conditions for new arrivals to Greece are even bleaker. Those who manage to survive the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey – under increasingly hostile surveillance by the Hellenic Coast Guard – are immediately detained upon arrival in make-shift detention areas guarded by police. There have so far been two mass transfers of post-1 March arrivals to two main detention camps on mainland Greece: Malakassa and Serres.

In Malakassa, more than 1, 300 people – including elderly people, infants and heavily pregnant women – are detained. The camp is split into three sections, separated by fences; in one section, which houses over 450 people, there is just one portable toilet to each fifteen people. Access to running water is sporadic, and hygiene products have only been distributed once in the past two weeks. Precautions to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 are therefore impossible. Furthermore, detainees have only been given a thin mat and blanket to sleep with, despite the cold weather. Many have complained that they, and their children, are becoming ill.

In Serres, detainees – including members of the same family – have been split between two sections of the camp, which are separated by fences. Conditions in both, however, are dire. There is little to no electricity, making it near impossible for detainees to charge their phones and communicate with their loved ones, solidarity groups, and lawyers. There are just seven toilets shared between over six hundred detainees, and two hours of running water per day. The camp has been visited just once by a doctor, who only saw children’s cases. Legal actors have been unable to access their clients, despite making repeated requests to management authorities. Human rights abuses are built into the structure of these detention camps.

New arrivals face the same uncertainty as those detained in the previous few weeks. At present, 24 individuals – including 5 children – are detained in the Mytiline port, where they have been caged in a small area since 22 March. They have access to one toilet, and only a public bus for shelter from the elements. Since they arrived, they have not been able to bathe, nor been provided any non-food assistance by the state.

Through coordination with other actors, including No Border Kitchen, we have distributed blankets, toothbrushes, soap and a change of clothes; however, access remains strictly restricted. Detainees have been unable to charge their mobile phones since they arrived, and therefore have not even been able to contact their loved ones – let alone legal actors. We have only been able to communicate with the detainees by shouting back and forth through the fence. Lawyers have only been granted port access to visit specific, named clients – and without knowing the identity of detainees, it is difficult for the few legal actors on the island to reach them. Moreover, despite having been held for more than a week, individuals in the port are yet to be issued a detention order that would give even a pretension of legitimacy to their confinement.

The disproportionate restrictions that apply to migrants’ movement are not being taken to protect public health. Were that the case, the immediate improvement of camps’ health and sanitation infrastructure would be underway; so too would the evacuation of vulnerable and immuno-compromised migrants. From Moria camp to Malakassa, and across Greece, migrants are being confined to inhumane conditions where they are at extreme risk of a wilfully uncontrolled – and uncontrollable – COVID-19 outbreak.

The COVID-19 outbreak is being instrumentalised by states across the world to achieve pre-existing policy objectives, which coterminously exposes the ongoing prioritisation of economic function over human life. While it has provided cover for the Greek government’s extension of the detention estate and their expanded control over migrant mobility, those who are unable to work from home – such as those in public services or in factories – are continuing to operate as normal, at great risk of exposure to and infection by COVID-19. Unless migrants and citizens alike organise to resist the subjugation of their safety to the objectives of the state, the insidious policies introduced under the cover of this pandemic will endure far beyond the virus itself.

ΟΙ ΔΙΑΚΡΙΣΕΙΣ ΣΤΟΥΣ ΠΕΡΙΟΡΙΣΜΟΥΣ ΓΙΑ ΤΗΝ ΚΥΚΛΟΦΟΡΙΑ ΕΓΚΛΩΒΙΖΟΥΝ ΜΕΤΑΝΑΣΤΕΣ ΣΕ ΑΝΘΥΓΙΕΘΝΕΣ ΣΥΝΘΗΚΕΣ, ΜΠΡΟΣΤΑ ΣΤΟΝ ΚΙΝΔΥΝΟ ΞΕΣΠΑΣΜΑΤΟΣ ΤΟΥ COVID-19

Μια πανελλήνια απαγόρευση των «περιττών μετακινήσεων» αποφασίστηκε στην Ελλάδα, για να αποφευχθεί η εξάπλωση του COVID-19. Ωστόσο, τα επακόλουθα εθνικά μέτρα απέχουν πολύ από τους δυσανάλογους περιορισμούς που επιβλήθηκαν στην κοινότητα των μεταναστών τρεις ημέρες νωρίτερα – πράγμα που διευκόλυνε αποτελεσματικά τη μαζική τους κράτηση σε στρατόπεδα όπου οι συνθήκες υγιεινής είναι δύσκολες και όπου λίγα μέτρα έχουν ληφθεί για να προετοιμάσουν το έδαφος έναντι ενός ξεσπάσματος του ιού.

Οι περιορισμοί στη μετακίνηση είναι μια απαραίτητη απάντηση στον ιό, όταν εφαρμόζονται συστηματικά και σε συνδυασμό με ισχυρά μέτρα υγειονομικής περίθαλψης. Στη Λέσβο, καμία από αυτές τις προϋποθέσεις δεν πληρείται.

Σε όλη την Ελλάδα, όσοι εγκαταλείπουν τον τόπο διαμονής τους πρέπει να φέρουν ένα χαρτί ή να στείλουν ένα SMS που δικαιολογεί – για διάφορους λόγους, συμπεριλαμβάνοντας την προσωπική άσκηση, την επίσκεψη στην τράπεζα ή στο σούπερ μάρκετ – γιατί είναι έξω από το σπίτι. Ωστόσο, οι λόγοι που ισχύουν σε ολόκληρη τη χώρα είναι, χωρίς έκπληξη, εγκαταλελειμμένοι υπέρ των πολύ αυστηρότερων κανόνων για τους μετανάστες.

Από τις 19 Μαρτίου, οι μετανάστες πρέπει να αποκτήσουν γραπτή άδεια από τις αστυνομικές αρχές ή τις αρχές ασφαλείας πριν εγκαταλείψουν τα στρατόπεδα προσφύγων στις περιοχές της Μόριας και του Καρά Τεπέ – τα δύο κύρια κρατικά προσφυγικά στρατόπεδα στη Λέσβο. Μόνο ένα μέλος κάθε οικογένειας μπορεί να βγει από τα στρατόπεδα την εβδομάδα, ένα μέτρο που εφαρμόζεται αυστηρά – παρά το γεγονός ότι δεν υπάρχει τέτοιος περιορισμός για τα άτομα που ζουν σε πόλεις σε ολόκληρη την Ελλάδα. Εκείνοι που δεν έχουν γραπτή άδεια θα εμποδιστούν να φύγουν από την αστυνομία – είτε στις εξόδους των στρατοπέδων είτε στα σημεία ελέγχου στους δρόμους που οδηγούν στην πόλη της Μυτιλήνης – και δεν θα μπορέσουν να επιβιβαστούν σε δημόσια λεωφορεία. Αυξημένος είναι ο αριθμός των αστυνομικών μονάδων γύρω από τα στρατόπεδα, για την επιβολή αυτών των περιορισμών.

Επιπλέον, οι περιορισμοί της μετακίνησης των μεταναστών δεν έχουν συνδυαστεί με προληπτικά μέτρα υγειονομικής περίθαλψης. Εν αντιθέσει, έχουν οδηγήσει σε πολλαπλές παραβιάσεις των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων και έχουν εκθέσει την κοινότητα σε πολύ μεγαλύτερο κίνδυνο εξάπλωσης του COVID-19:

• Είναι αδύνατο να ασκείται η «κοινωνική απόσταση» στον καταυλισμό της Μόριας: πάνω από 20.000 άνθρωποι κρατούνται σήμερα συγκεντρωμένοι σε εγκαταστάσεις που έχουν σχεδιαστεί για το ένα έβδομο από αυτόν τον αριθμό, συνωστίζονται σε γραμμές για φαγητό, μπάνιο και στο εσωτερικό των δομών που φιλοξενούνται. Πέρα από τους φυσικούς κινδύνους, η συγκράτηση σε τόσο δύσκολες συνθήκες οδήγησε σε μια καλά τεκμηριωμένη κρίση ψυχικής υγείας και την Παρασκευή ένας άνδρας είκοσι ετών, όπως όλα δείχνουν, αυτοκτόνησε στο στρατόπεδο. Η επέκταση της υποδομής κράτησης του στρατοπέδου θα απομονώσει περαιτέρω την κοινότητα των μεταναστών, με προβλέψιμες και καταστροφικές συνέπειες.

• Την Τετάρτη, ημέρα εθνικής εορτής, ένα άτομο που κατοικούσε στον καταυλισμό της Μόριας ανέβασε υψηλό πυρετό – ένα γνωστό σύμπτωμα του COVID-19. Δεν μπορούσε να βρει ανοικτή κλινική υγείας στο στρατόπεδο της Μόριας, αλλά όταν προσπάθησε να φύγει από το στρατόπεδο για να επισκεφτεί έναν γιατρό, δεν του επετράπη από την αστυνομία, η οποία δήλωσε ότι χρειάζεται πρώτα παραπομπή από μια εσωτερική κλινική. Εστάλη πίσω στο στρατόπεδο. Χάρη στο συντονισμό μεταξύ του Legal Centre Lesvos και του Medical Volunteers International, επισκέφτηκε έναν εθελοντή γιατρό που έτυχε να βρίσκεται μέσα στο στρατόπεδο την προκείμενη στιγμή. Χωρίς τέτοια συνεργασία, δεν υπήρχε προοπτική έγκαιρης βοήθειας.

• Στο στρατόπεδο του Καρά Τεπέ, οι κάτοικοι πρέπει να ζητήσουν άδεια από την ασφάλεια της κατασκήνωσης για να εγκαταλείψουν την περιοχή, η οποία θα χορηγηθεί για καθορισμένο χρόνο – για παράδειγμα, επιτρέπεται μόνο μία ώρα να εγκαταλείψει κάποιος το στρατόπεδο για να προμηθευτεί φαγητό. Η μεταφορές σε ένα συγκεκριμένο σούπερ μάρκετ (που βρίσκεται έξω από τη Μυτιλήνη) επιτρέπονται κάθε επτά ημέρες: όσοι χρειάζονται να επισκεφθούν ένα φαρμακείο στην πόλη πρέπει να δείξουν τη συνταγή τους, προτού τους επιτραπεί να φύγουν: και εκείνοι που επιθυμούν να δουν έναν γιατρό ή να επισκεφτούν το νοσοκομείο, τους έχουν πει ότι θα πρέπει να απευθυνθούν στην κλινική του στρατοπέδου. Όσοι έχουν πυρετό και που επισκέπτονται την κλινική του στρατοπέδου, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες, τους έχει δοθεί παρακεταμόλη, και τους συστήνεται να επιστρέψουν στα κοντέινερ τους.

• Πριν από την επιβολή περιορισμών στα στρατόπεδα, περίπου δέκα οικογένειες μεταφέρθηκαν από τον καταυλισμό του Καρά Τεπέ στην ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα. Τα κοντέινερ στα οποία διέμεναν παραμένουν άδεια, καθώς όλες οι μεταφορές στο στρατόπεδο του Καρά Τεπέ έχουν σταματήσει μετά την επιβολή περιορισμών στη μετακίνηση των μεταναστών. Εκατοντάδες ευάλωτα άτομα ζουν στον χρόνια υπεράριθμο καταυλισμό της Μόριας, συμπεριλαμβανομένων των οικογενειών με νεογέννητα παιδιά και ηλικιωμένων ανθρώπων με αδύναμο ανοσοποιητικό. Η μεταφορά στο Καρά Τεπέ, όπου ισχύουν περιορισμοί κυκλοφορίας, αλλά όπου οι συνθήκες διαβίωσης είναι πολύ καλύτερες, θα μεταμόρφωναν την ποιότητα ζωής τους και θα τους προστατεύαν από τους κινδύνους ενός ξεσπάσματος του COVID-19. Αντιθέτως, τα κοντέινερ αυτά παραμένουν κενά.

• Η ελληνική κυβέρνηση ανακοίνωσε αυτή την εβδομάδα ότι η οικονομική υποστήριξη που παρέχεται μέσω του προγράμματος παροχής βοήθειας σε μετρητά της Ύπατης Αρμοστείας του ΟΗΕ για τους πρόσφυγες θα καθυστερήσει μέχρι να είναι εφικτή η κατασκευή ΑΤΜ μέσα στα στρατόπεδα – επεκτείνοντας τη βάση για την απομόνωση και τον περιορισμό της κοινότητας των μεταναστών. Φαίνεται ότι δεν προβλέπεται να αντισταθμιστεί η απώλεια της βοήθειας σε μετρητά, η οποία – αν και ελάχιστη (περίπου 90 € / μήνα) – επέτρεπε στα άτομα να καλύπτουν τις βασικές τους ανάγκες, όπως προϊόντα υγιεινής, τρόφιμα για παιδιά, τα οποία είναι περιορισμένα στο στρατόπεδο.

Οι συνθήκες για τους νέο-αφιχθέντες στην Ελλάδα είναι ακόμα πιο ζοφερές. Όσοι καταφέρνουν να επιβιώσουν από την επικίνδυνη θαλάσσια διέλευση από την Τουρκία – κάτω από την όλο και πιο εχθρική επιτήρηση από το Ελληνικό Λιμενικό Σώμα – κρατούνται αμέσως μετά την άφιξή τους σε περιοχές κράτησης που επιτηρούνται από την αστυνομία. Μέχρι στιγμής υπήρξαν δύο μαζικές μετακινήσεις αφίξεων μετά την 1η Μαρτίου σε δύο κύρια στρατόπεδα κράτησης στην ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα: τη Μαλακάσα και τις Σέρρες. Στη Μαλακάσα, περισσότεροι από 1.300 άνθρωποι – συμπεριλαμβανομένων των ηλικιωμένων, των βρεφών και των πολύ εγκύων γυναικών – βρίσκονται υπό κράτηση. Το στρατόπεδο χωρίζεται σε τρία τμήματα, χωρισμένα από περιφράξεις. Στο ένα τμήμα, το οποίο φιλοξενεί πάνω από 450 άτομα, υπάρχει μόνο μία φορητή τουαλέτα για κάθε δεκαπέντε άτομα. Η πρόσβαση στα τρεχούμενα νερά είναι σποραδική και τα προϊόντα υγιεινής διανεμήθηκαν μόνο μία φορά τις τελευταίες δύο εβδομάδες.

Οι προφυλάξεις για την πρόληψη της εμφάνισης εστίας του COVID-19 είναι συνεπώς αδύνατες. Επιπλέον, οι κρατούμενοι έλαβαν μόνο ένα λεπτό στρώμα και μια κουβέρτα για να κοιμηθούν, παρά τον κρύο καιρό. Πολλοί έχουν παραπονεθεί ότι αυτοί και τα παιδιά τους αρρωσταίνουν.

Στις Σέρρες, οι κρατούμενοι – συμπεριλαμβανομένων των μελών της ίδιας οικογένειας – έχουν χωριστεί μεταξύ δύο τμημάτων του καταυλισμού, τα οποία χωρίζονται από περιφράξεις. Ωστόσο, οι συνθήκες και στις δύο είναι κακές. Υπάρχει λίγος ή και καθόλου ηλεκτρισμός, καθιστώντας σχεδόν αδύνατο για τους κρατούμενους να φορτίσουν τα τηλέφωνά τους και να επικοινωνούν με τους αγαπημένους τους, ομάδες αλληλεγγύης και δικηγόρους. Υπάρχουν μόνο επτά τουαλέτες που μοιράζονται μεταξύ περισσότερων από εξακοσίων κρατουμένων και δύο ώρες τρεχούμενου νερού την ημέρα. Το στρατόπεδο έχει επισκεφθεί μόλις μία φορά από γιατρό, ο οποίος είδε μόνο περιπτώσεις παιδιών. Οι νομικοί φορείς δεν μπόρεσαν να έχουν πρόσβαση στους πελάτες τους, παρά το γεγονός ότι υπέβαλαν επανειλημμένα αιτήματα προς τις διαχειριστικές αρχές. Οι καταχρήσεις των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων ενσωματώνονται στη δομή αυτών των στρατοπέδων κράτησης.

Οι νέες αφίξεις αντιμετωπίζουν την ίδια αβεβαιότητα με εκείνους που βρισκόταν υπό κράτηση τις προηγούμενες εβδομάδες. Επί του παρόντος, 24 άτομα – συμπεριλαμβανομένων 5 παιδιών – κρατούνται στο λιμένα της Μυτιλήνης, όπου έχουν τοποθετηθεί σε μικρό χώρο από τις 22 Μαρτίου. Έχουν πρόσβαση σε μια τουαλέτα, και μόνο ένα δημόσιο λεωφορείο για καταφύγιο από τον καιρό. Από τη στιγμή που έφθασαν, δεν είχαν την δυνατότητα να κάνουν μπάνιο, ούτε έλαβαν κάποια επιπλέον παροχή βοήθειας εκτός φαγητού.

Με τον συντονισμό με άλλους φορείς, συμπεριλαμβανομένης της No Border Kitchen, έχουμε διανείμει κουβέρτες, οδοντόβουρτσες, σαπούνι και αλλαξιές ρούχων. Ωστόσο, η πρόσβαση παραμένει αυστηρά περιορισμένη. Οι κρατούμενοι δεν μπόρεσαν να φορτίσουν τα κινητά τους τηλέφωνα από τη στιγμή που έφθασαν και επομένως δεν μπόρεσαν καν να έρθουν σε επαφή με τους αγαπημένους τους – πόσο μάλλον τους νομικούς φορείς . Ήταν εφικτό μόνο να επικοινωνήσουμε με τους κρατούμενους φωνάζοντας πίσω και μπροστά από το φράχτη. Οι δικηγόροι έχουν λάβει πρόσβαση σε λιμάνια μόνο για να επισκεφθούν συγκεκριμένους πελάτες, και χωρίς να γνωρίζουν την ταυτότητα των κρατουμένων, είναι δύσκολο για τους λίγους νομικούς φορείς του νησιού να τους προσεγγίσουν. Επιπλέον, παρά το γεγονός ότι έχουν κρατηθεί για περισσότερο από μια εβδομάδα, τα άτομα που βρίσκονται στο λιμάνι δεν τους έχει εκδοθεί ακόμη διαταγή κράτησης, η οποία θα έδινε ακόμη και μια προοπτική νομιμότητας στον περιορισμό τους.

Οι δυσανάλογοι περιορισμοί που ισχύουν για τους μετανάστες, δεν λαμβάνονται για την προστασία της δημόσιας υγείας. Εάν συνέβαινε αυτό, η άμεση βελτίωση των υποδομών υγείας και αποχέτευσης των στρατοπέδων θα ήταν σε εξέλιξη. Το ίδιο ισχύει και για την εκκένωση των ευάλωτων και μεταναστών με εξασθενημένο ανοσοποιητικό. Από το στρατόπεδο της Μόριας στη Μαλακάσα και σε ολόκληρη την Ελλάδα, οι μετανάστες περιορίζονται σε απάνθρωπες συνθήκες όπου διατρέχουν τον κίνδυνο να εκδηλώσουν μια εσκεμμένα ανεξέλεγκτη – και μη διαχειρίσιμη- εστία COVID-19.

Η επιδημία COVID-19 εργαλειοποιείται από τα κράτη σε όλο τον κόσμο για να επιτύχει τους προϋπάρχοντες στόχους πολιτικής και εκθέτει εξ ‘ολοκλήρου την συνεχιζόμενη ιεράρχηση των οικονομικών λειτουργιών πάνω από την ανθρώπινη ζωή. Παρόλο που έχει καλυφθεί η επέκταση των δομών κράτησης από την ελληνική κυβέρνηση και ο αυξημένος έλεγχος της μετανάστευσης, όσοι δεν μπορούν να εργαστούν από το σπίτι – όπως σε δημόσιες υπηρεσίες ή σε εργοστάσια – συνεχίζουν να λειτουργούν κανονικά, με κίνδυνο έκθεσης και μόλυνσης από το COVID-19. Αν οι μετανάστες και οι πολίτες δεν οργανωθούν για να αντισταθούν στην υποταγή της ασφάλειας τους στους στόχους του κράτους, οι ύπουλες πολιτικές που εισήχθησαν κάτω από την κάλυψη αυτής της πανδημίας θα διαρκέσουν πολύ περισσότερο από τον ίδιο τον ιό.

LAS RESTRICCIONES DISCRIMINATORIAS A LA CIRCULACIÓN MANTIENE AÚN MÁS A LOS MIGRANTES EN CONDICIONES INSALUBRES – Y CON RIESGO DE BROTE DE COVID-19

En Grecia se ha introducido una prohibición nacional a “todo movimiento innecesario” para evitar la propagación del COVID-19. Sin embargo, las subsiguientes medidas nacionales distan mucho de las restricciones desproporcionadas que fueron impuestas hace tres días a la comunidad de migrantes y que, en la práctica, han facilitado su detención masiva en campamentos donde las condiciones de higiene son pésimas y donde se han adoptado pocas medidas para prepararse para un brote, y mucho menos para prevenirlo.

Las restricciones a la circulación son una respuesta necesaria al virus, cuando se aplican sistemáticamente y en combinación con medidas sanitarias sólidas. En Lesvos no se cumple ninguna de esas condiciones.

En toda Grecia, los que salen de su lugar de residencia deben llevar un papel o enviar un SMS que indique – a partir de una serie de razones, incluyendo el ejercicio personal, la visita al banco o ir al supermercado – por qué están fuera de casa. Sin embargo, las razones que son válidas en todo el país se abandonan, como era de esperar, en favor de normas mucho más estrictas para los migrantes.

Desde el 19 de marzo, los migrantes deben obtener un permiso escrito de la policía o las autoridades de seguridad antes de salir de los campamentos de refugiados de Moria y Kara Tepe, los dos principales campamentos de refugiados administrados por el Estado en Lesbos. Sólo un miembro de cada familia puede salir de los campamentos por semana, medida que se aplica estrictamente, a pesar de que no existe tal restricción para las personas que viven en pueblos y ciudades de toda Grecia. La policía impedirá que salgan de los campamentos a quienes no tengan un permiso escrito, ya sea en las salidas de los campamentos o en los puestos de control de las carreteras que conducen a la ciudad de Mitiline, y no podrán subir a los autobuses públicos. Se ha desplegado un mayor número de unidades de policía alrededor de los campamentos, para hacer cumplir estas restricciones.

Además, las restricciones a la movilidad de los migrantes no han ido acompañadas de ninguna medida de atención sanitaria preventiva. En cambio, han dado lugar a múltiples abusos de los derechos humanos y han expuesto a la comunidad a un riesgo mucho mayor de propagación de COVID-19:

– La capacidad de practicar el “distanciamiento social” en el campo de Moria es imposible: más de 20.000 personas están ahora detenidas juntas, en instalaciones diseñadas para una séptima parte de ese número, hacinadas en filas para la comida, el baño y dentro de sus propias estructuras de vivienda. Más allá de los riesgos físicos, el confinamiento en condiciones tan nefastas ha provocado una crisis de salud mental bien documentada, y el viernes, un hombre de 20 años parece haberse suicidado en el campamento. La ampliación de la infraestructura de detención del campamento aislará aún más a la comunidad de migrantes, con consecuencias previsibles y devastadoras.

– El miércoles, día festivo nacional, un residente en el campo de Moria tuvo una fiebre alta, un síntoma conocido de COVID-19. No pudo encontrar ninguna clínica de salud abierta en el campo de Moria, pero cuando intentó salir del campamento para visitar a un médico, la policía se negó a hacerlo, diciendo que primero necesitaba una remisión a una clínica interna. Fue enviado de vuelta al campo. Gracias a la coordinación entre el Legal Centre Lesvos y Medical Volunteers International, fue visitado por un médico voluntario que casualmente se encontraba en el interior del campamento en ese momento.Sin esa colaboración, no habría habido posibilidades reales de obtener asistencia médica.

– En el campamento de Kara Tepe, los residentes deben pedir permiso a la seguridad del campamento para salir , y éste se les concederá por un tiempo determinado; por ejemplo, sólo se permite una hora para salir del campo para comprar comida. Se permiten salidas a un supermercado determinado (situado fuera de Mytiline) cada siete días; quienes necesiten visitar una farmacia en la ciudad deben mostrar su receta médica antes de que se les permita salir; y a quienes deseen ver a un médico o visitar el hospital se les ha dicho que, en cambio, serán atendidos en la clínica del campamento. Se ha informado de que a los que tienen fiebre y visitan la clínica del campamento se les da paracetamol y se les dice que vuelvan a sus contenedores. �

– Antes de que se impusieran restricciones a los campamentos, se trasladó a unas diez familias del campamento de Kara Tepe a la Grecia continental. Los contenedores en los que habían vivido permanecen vacíos, ya que todos los traslados al campamento de Kara Tepe han cesado desde la imposición de límites a la circulación de los migrantes. Cientos de personas vulnerables viven en el campamento de Moria, que sufre una superpoblación crónica , entre ellas familias con niños recién nacidos y ancianos con problemas inmunológicos. El traslado a Kara Tepe, donde se aplican restricciones a la circulación pero donde las condiciones de vida son muy superiores, transformaría su calidad de vida y los protegería de los riesgos de un brote de COVID-19. En cambio, esos contenedores permanecen vacíos. �

– El gobierno griego anunció esta semana que el apoyo financiero, proporcionado a través del programa de asistencia en efectivo del ACNUR, se retrasará hasta que se puedan construir cajeros automáticos dentro de los campamentos – fomentando la infraestructura para el aislamiento y la contención de la comunidad de migrantes. No parece haber planes para compensar la pérdida de la asistencia en efectivo, que -aunque mínima (aproximadamente 90 euros/mes)- permitió a las personas cubrir sus necesidades básicas, como productos de higiene, alimentos específicos para niños, ropa o ropa de cama, todas ellas limitadas en el campamento.

Las condiciones para los recién llegados a Grecia son aún más desoladoras. Quienes logran sobrevivir a la peligrosa travesía marítima desde Turquía, bajo la vigilancia cada vez más hostil de la Guardia Costera Helénica, son detenidos inmediatamente a su llegada en zonas de detención improvisadas vigiladas por la policía. Hasta ahora ha habido dos traslados masivos de llegadas posteriores al 1 de marzo a dos campos de detención principales en la Grecia continental: Malakassa y Serres.

En Malakassa, más de 1.300 personas, incluyendo ancianos, bebés y mujeres embarazadas, están detenidas. El campamento está dividido en tres secciones, separadas por vallas; en cada sección, que alberga a más de 450 personas, sólo hay un baño portátil por cada quince personas. El acceso al agua corriente es esporádico, y sólo se han distribuido productos de higiene una vez en las dos últimas semanas. Por lo tanto, es imposible tomar precauciones para evitar un brote de COVID-19. Además, a los detenidos sólo se les ha dado una esterilla fina y una manta para dormir, a pesar del frío. Muchos se han quejado de que ellos, y sus hijos, se están poniendo enfermos.

En Serres, los detenidos, incluidos los miembros de la misma familia, han sido divididos en dos secciones del campo, que están separadas por vallas. Las condiciones en ambas, sin embargo, son terribles. Hay poca o ninguna electricidad, lo que hace casi imposible que los detenidos carguen sus teléfonos y se comuniquen con sus seres queridos, grupos de solidaridad y abogados. Sólo hay siete inodoros compartidos entre más de seiscientos detenidos, y dos horas de agua corriente al día. El campamento ha sido visitado una sola vez por un médico, que sólo veía casos de niños. Los actores jurídicos no han podido acceder a sus clientes, a pesar de que han hecho repetidas solicitudes a las autoridades de gestión. Los abusos de los derechos humanos están incorporados en la estructura de estos campamentos de detención.

Los recién llegados se enfrentan a la misma incertidumbre que los detenidos en las semanas anteriores. En la actualidad, 24 personas, entre ellas 5 niños, están detenidas en el puerto de Mytiline, donde están enjauladas en una pequeña zona desde el 22 de marzo. Tienen acceso a un baño, y sólo un autobús público para protegerse de la intemperie. Desde que llegaron, no han podido bañarse, ni han recibido ninguna ayuda no alimentaria del Estado.

Mediante la coordinación con otros actores, incluyendo No Border Kitchen, hemos distribuido mantas, cepillos de dientes, jabón y una muda de ropa; sin embargo, el acceso sigue estando estrictamente restringido. Los detenidos no han podido cargar sus teléfonos móviles desde que llegaron y, por lo tanto, ni siquiera han podido ponerse en contacto con sus seres queridos, y mucho menos con los actores legales. Sólo hemos podido comunicarnos con los detenidos gritando a través de la valla. A los abogados sólo se les ha concedido acceso al puerto para visitar a clientes concretos y nombrados, y sin conocer la identidad de los detenidos, es difícil que los pocos actores jurídicos de la isla puedan llegar a ellos. Además, a pesar de haber estado detenidos durante más de una semana, todavía no se ha emitido una orden de detención a las personas que se encuentran en el puerto, lo que daría por lo menos una pretensión de legitimidad a su confinamiento.

Las restricciones desproporcionadas que se aplican a la circulación de los migrantes no se toman para proteger la salud pública. Si así fuera, se estaría llevando a cabo una mejora inmediata de la infraestructura sanitaria y de saneamiento de los campamentos; también lo haría la evacuación de los migrantes vulnerables e inmunocomprometidos. Desde el campo de Moria hasta Malakassa, y a través de toda Grecia, los migrantes están siendo confinados en condiciones inhumanas donde corren un riesgo extremo de un brote de COVID-19 deliberadamente incontrolado – e incontrolable.

El brote de COVID-19 está siendo instrumentalizado por los estados de todo el mundo para lograr objetivos de política preexistentes, y expone de manera consustancial a la actual priorización de la función económica por encima de la vida humana. Mientras que ha dado cobertura a la ampliación del estado de alerta del gobierno griego y a su mayor control sobre la movilidad de los migrantes, aquellos que no pueden trabajar desde sus casas – como los que están en los servicios públicos o en las fábricas – siguen operando con normalidad, con un gran riesgo de exposición e infección por COVID-19. A menos que los migrantes y los ciudadanos se organicen para resistir la subyugación de su seguridad a los objetivos del Estado, las insidiosas políticas introducidas al amparo de esta pandemia perdurarán mucho más allá del propio virus.