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Legal Centre Lesvos Quarterly Newsletter: January – March 2022

Since the start of the year, the Greek Government has further obstructed access to asylum for most migrants seeking protection in Greece, through the implementation of unfair policies and dysfunctional asylum procedures. In doing so, Greece (like all other EU Member States) has unashamedly adopted a racist double-standard of protection and treatment towards people from the global South seeking safety in the EU compared with the swift provision of protection to Ukrainians. In stark contrast to the opening of borders to Ukrainian nationals, evidence continues to emerge showing that Greek authorities systematically perpetrate violent and illegal pushbacks in the Aegean, with the complicity of EU institutions and agencies. As a result, only a limited number of migrants have reached the Greek islands and managed to exercise their right to seek international protection, without being violently thrown back at sea on floating motorless liferafts. 

In parallel, the population in the Reception and Identification Centre of Lesvos (Lesvos RIC or camp) steadily declined since the start of the year. Despite this, the reception and living conditions imposed on migrants forced to live in Lesvos RIC over the winter remained inadequate to protect people from freezing winter temperatures and a dangerous and destructive series of fires. Under the pretext of COVID-19 prevention, arbitrary and unjustified restrictions on movement continue to be imposed on migrants trapped in Lesvos: amounting to effective detention. Such conditions have also increasingly gone unreported and unnoticed given the gradual exodus of major humanitarian organisations working in Lesvos, now re-focusing their funding and work towards the war in Ukraine. 

In this context, Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL) carried out its usual activities, including information sessions and individual legal consultations to improve people’s access to information and ability to exercise their rights in their asylum interviews, on appeal, or for subsequent applications for asylum. In addition, LCL continued documenting human rights violations through the publication of updates and reports denouncing the dreadful conditions imposed on hundreds of people forced to live in the Lesvos RIC. LCL lawyers also represented several migrants before national and international courts. For instance, interim measures filed by LCL on 14 February were partially granted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), preventing the illegal removal of 11 unregistered asylum seekers from Greek territory and ensuring their access to basic needs. LCL also represented one of the two criminalised young Afghan men (Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli) – wrongfully convicted of smuggling, despite being refugees themselves subject to smuggling operations, and sentenced them to 50 years in prison in the first instance. Their appeal trial before Greek criminal courts, was shamelessly interrupted and then postponed, leaving both unjustifiably in detention.

The month of March was also marked by the shocking news of the death of seven migrants, whose bodies were found by passersby, washed up on the beach in Mytilene. Despite several requests from civil society, Greek authorities have yet to publish an official report or announcement about the causes and circumstances of those seven persons’ deaths, leaving many questions unanswered. The fact that the tragedy received only passing attention in a few national and international media outlets, only demonstrates once again that such deaths have become part of an accepted normality at Europe’s borders. Tragic crossings like this one are not accidents. Subjecting people to danger and death is the inevitable – and therefore intentional – consequence of the European Union’s refusal to create safe and legal migration routes for racialised people from the global South. The rapid creation of safe, legal routes for people fleeing Ukraine only underlines how easily things could be different, how senseless the loss of those seven lives. We stand in solidarity with all those who loved these seven people and others missing or lost at sea, and we continue our struggle against Europe’s murderous border imperialism in their memory.

1. Updates on the situation for migrants in Lesvos

Children inside one of the prefabricated shelter structures of the “health quarantine” in the Lesvos RIC. February 2022, Photograph by a camp resident.

The population of the Lesvos RIC has continued to progressively decrease since the start of the year. Despite this, the living conditions imposed on people forced to live in the camp have not significantly improved. With the start of the war in Ukraine, most civil society actors, and in particular international NGOs, have either drastically reduced their capacity or closed their programmes and left Lesvos. This, alongside the Greek government’s imposition of onerous registration requirements for NGOs, has drastically limited the ability of civil society actors to bear witness to the Greek state’s inhumane treatment of migrants, let alone hold authorities to account. As a result, the deplorable and dangerous living conditions in the camp have gone widely unnoticed and undocumented during the winter months. 

  • 23 February 2022 – Winter months in deplorable conditions for those forced to live in the Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre

In Lesvos, the few asylum seekers who now manage to reach the island without being illegally pushed back to Turkey by Greek authorities, are brought to the Lesvos RIC, where they are systematically detained in deplorable conditions, unsuitable for medical isolation, in the so-called “COVID-19 health quarantine area” of the camp, before they are even officially registered as asylum seekers by the authorities. 

The lives and well-being of other residents of the Lesvos camp have also repeatedly been put at risk in this period, as several domestic fires (caused by dangerous electrical installations and lack of a centralised heating system) destroyed or damaged many of the unsafe and unwinterised rubhall shelters of the Lesvos RIC. 

  1. The “COVID-19 quarantine” area or the shameful jail of the Lesvos RIC

LCL has documented conditions in this “health quarantine area” of the Lesvos RIC, which were in no way compliant with COVID-19 preventive measures, unfit for medical isolation and left people exposed to extreme weather and inhumane conditions during the winter months. LCL has also reported on other parts of the Lesvos RIC where several rubhall structures, unfit for human habitation (especially in the winter) were destroyed by domestic fires, repeatedly putting people’s lives at risk.  

Picture of the prefabricated shelters of the quarantine prison in the Lesvos RIC,
February 2022, Photograph by a camp resident.

The “COVID-19 health quarantine” of the camp is a closed area under police and camera surveillance, surrounded by double fences with barbed wire, where new arrivals on the island are normally held for at least 10 days. In February, however, at least 19 unaccompanied minor children remained detained there for around 20 days – together with unrelated adults – despite the fact that they had completed their quarantine period and did not have COVID-19 – under the pretext that there was no space for them in either the “Safe Area” of the RIC or housing for unaccompanied minors provided by the NGO Iliaktida.

The living conditions for people effectively detained in this area over the winter months were deplorable. As shown in several pictures, new arrivals were forced to share prefabricated units with unrelated individuals living in the Lesvos RIC who were suspected to be infected with COVID-19. 

Various clients of the LCL, who had been detained in this quarantine area, explained that they were forced to sleep on the floor with their children, without a mattress or bed, and that they suffered from the cold, especially at night (see picture above). Contrary to the promises about preparing for winter made by European authorities last Spring no heating system had been installed in living units in the RIC by the start of the winter of 2021-2022, leaving residents no choice but to use individual heating systems.

Many LCL clients explained that there were no individual heaters available while they were detained there in December 2021.

Moreover, when temperatures have reached as low as 0 degrees celsius in Lesvos in January, the prefabricated units housing people in quarantine were not adequately winterised and unsuitable to protect people from the harsh weather conditions. People effectively detained there have been forced to hang blankets around the walls in an effort to insulate their otherwise non-winterised shelters. 

Apart from one week in the month of January, there was no hot water available during the whole winter for people to shower in the shower cabins – which are outside – despite near-freezing temperatures. People detained in the quarantine area also explained that no hygiene packs, no soap, shampoo or protective masks were distributed to them, leaving them without access to adequate hygiene and sanitation, or to effective protection from Coronavirus for themselves and others detained there.

Given the awful conditions of the quarantine area, clients of LCL revealed that many residents of the camp were deterred from mentioning that they were sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to the health services in the camp, for fear of being detained in such conditions. In the past, police officers operating in the camp have been known to forcibly transfer families from their containers to the quarantine area, where they were held in the conditions described above. 

During their time in “health quarantine”, new arrivals officially have no legal status in Greece and are not in a position to access external support, including access to legal information. Apart from one employee of the RIC and the public health agency EODY, no one was allowed access to this zone, not even UNHCR protection and detention officers, NGO medical staff, or authorised lawyers wishing to visit their clients. Until recently, the authorities were also refusing to provide people detained there with the list of lawyers and legal organisations available in Lesvos to support them in the asylum procedure. The detention of asylum seekers in this quarantine area for at least 10 days, added to the over-acceleration of the asylum procedure, which is highly problematic and unfair because it de facto denies asylum seekers access to individual information or legal advice after their release from quarantine, and before a final decision is taken in their case by the Regional Asylum Service. 

The Greek authorities have been using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to expand detention-like conditions in refugee camps throughout Greece, including discriminatory restrictions on movement in and out of camps and unjustified curfews. 

Our full report on these conditions included the publication of pictures of the so-called ‘health quarantine’ and was based on our regular communications with people detained there. As a result of such publications and the filing of this information in the context of interim measures before the European Court of Human Rights, residents of the camp reported that the living conditions and equipment within the quarantine area have slightly but notably improved, including through the delivery of bunk beds with mattresses. 

2. Dangerous fires destroying one rubhall after the other in the Lesvos RIC

Pictures of the 28 January 2022 fire which destroyed rubhall RH6 and damaged RH5 in the yellow zone of the Lesvos RIC at around 8pm leaving 49 persons without a shelter.

On 14 and 28 January 2022, severe and rapid fires broke out, once again in the Lesvos RIC, destroying entirely and in a matter of minutes, several of the large rubhall shelters accommodating hundreds of people in the “yellow zone”of the camp. This zone is where (most) single men who have had their asylum claim rejected are forced to live, and where living conditions remain most miserable and precarious. Most of the shelters there are large rubhalls (see picture) which only offer very rudimentary living conditions, without protection from the winter’s near-freezing temperatures or heavy rains. In case of fire, the polyester covering those rubhalls is capable of melting very rapidly, leaving only a very short amount of time for the 50 to 100 people living there to exit through one of the two openings at each end of the central corridor. 

As for the last series of fires that happened on 15 and 18 of November and destroyed two large rubhalls of the yellow zone in a matter of minutes, the rapidity of the January fires shows once again that these rubhalls constitute an unsafe and hazardous shelter. In all cases, the causes of the fires seemed to be linked to the use of individual heaters (inevitable given the lack of centralised heating) as well as repeated cuts of electricity due to the insufficient capacity of generators in the camp. 

Luckily, in those recent fires, no one was reported to have been hurt or harmed, except in the incident of 14 January where at least one resident was brought to the hospital due to toxic smoke inhalation during the fire. Until now, the men living in those rubhalls have managed to escape in extremis, however leaving most of their belongings behind them, including some of their personal documents which are crucial for their asylum claims. 

In most instances, people who were housed in the destroyed rubhalls were not immediately offered alternative housing by camp authorities but were told to find a place in someone else’s container.

Just like in the former Moria camp, where since March 2016 at least 6 people had died in container or tent fires or from carbon monoxide poisoning, such incidents have become routine in the Lesvos RIC since its construction in October 2020. Many of the residents of Lesvos RIC previously resided in Moria camp and were displaced by the massive fires that destroyed the site in September 2020. They have already experienced the fear and psychological trauma arising from the blaze and its aftermath, and families have reported how their children’s repeated exposure to such dangers has had a deleterious effect on their mental health. As per UNHCR data, children constitute a fourth of the population in the Lesvos RIC, out of whom nearly 4 out of 5 are younger than 12 years old. Instead of taking into account this reality, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum has continued to concentrate its efforts on the closure of all existing alternative and safe accommodations available in Lesvos, including for minors, families and people with vulnerabilities or medical conditions. Neither the Greek nor the European Union authorities have taken any measures to host people in safe and dignified places, continuing to tolerate the fatal risk that camps like the Lesvos RIC represent for migrants. 

It should be recalled that the Ministry of Migration and Asylum has received at the end of 2020 an additional 5.36 million euros in emergency funding from the EU to upgrade the “Installations and infrastructures of temporary reception facility in the region of Kara Tepe – Mavrovouni, Municipality of Mytilene” in 2021. Yet, at the same time, in several cases filed by the Legal Centre Lesvos, the European Court of Human Rights has in 2021 repeatedly found that the living conditions in the Lesvos TRIC were “not compatible with Article 3 of the Convention”. That is to say, not guaranteeing the European standards on the prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, for over 25 clients of the LCL with health conditions or in need of specific healthcare. 

Read more about our report on those topics here.

  • 4 March – What happened to the 7 persons found dead on Lesvos shores? 
Picture of messages and candles left in Sappho square, Mytilene, on 1 March 2022, in memory of the persons found dead on Lesvos shores. Photo Credits: Women in Solidarity House – WISH Lesvos

In the morning of 1 March, Lesvos witnessed the shocking death of at least seven migrants, whose bodies without life jackets, were found by passersby, washed up on the beach of Epano Skala, a neighbourhood of Mytilene, just north of the centre, on the way to Lesvos´ Reception and Identification Centre, where migrants have been housed in effective detention since the fire that destroyed the notorious Moria camp. While search and rescue operations and investigations were deployed at land and sea to find survivors or other victims, no information about a proper investigation is known, and no official report has yet been released by the Greek authorities about the circumstances and cause of their death at sea which remain a mystery. 

Several media outlets already mentioned the hypothesis of another fatal shipwreck of a dinghy trying to reach the European shores in the hope to seek asylum, as the Greek islands have witnessed so often in the past years. However, no official explanations were yet provided and many questions remain unanswered: if those persons arrived on a dinghy from Turkey, where is their boat now ? Were those seven people accompanied by others, as is commonly the case for dinghies crossing from Turkey to Greece ? And if so, where are the others ? Who were these seven people whose lives were taken so unnecessarily?

These questions arise just after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, published a statement warning about the increased level of violence and human rights violations documented by their agency at European borders, and in particular at Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey. This statement which directly and specifically targets Greece also reveals that “UNHCR has interviewed thousands of people across Europe who were pushed back and reported a disturbing pattern of threats, intimidation, violence and humiliation. At sea, people report being left adrift in life rafts or sometimes even forced directly into the water, showing a callous lack of regard for human life. At least three people are reported to have died in such incidents since September 2021 in the Aegean Sea, including one in January.”

As highlighted by the UNHCR as well as recent major media reports, pushbacks are well documented and have already led to several fatal incidents over the last months. The policy of pushbacks is also shown in UNHCR official numbers: whereas in 2021 arrivals registered in the Greek islands have decreased by 93% compared to 2019, the number of deaths and missing persons have remained the same on average from 2019 to 2021. 

Although the exact circumstances of the death of the seven migrants found on the Lesvos shore remain uncertain, there is no doubt that their deaths are the direct consequence of the inhumane and dangerous border regime implemented by Greece and the European Union. No person would drown at sea attempting to reach Greece, if legal and safe routes were available. 

The facility with which legal routes of migration can be established, if there is political will, has been demonstrated by the swiftness with which the Ministry of Migration established procedures for Ukrainian nationals to gain access to Greece via airport or road, who upon entry to Greece are eligible for Temporary Protection by the Asylum Service for one year, and have the right to access accommodation, work and medical care. The establishment of this procedure for Ukrainian nationals has also exposed the underlying white supremacy defining European migration policies.

Instead of ensuring that people can safely and legally access refuge and asylum via the Turkish border, Greece has over the last six years focused its efforts on deterring migration of racialised migrants from the global south, at any cost to human life or dignity, through the creation of “hotspots” on the Greek islands. Institutional violence and cruel disregard for the lives of migrants in border regions such as Lesvos have been silently tolerated in the European Union for years, if not directly caused by the European Union’s migration policies such as the EU-Turkey Deal. Given this tacit support, it is no surprise that Greece continues to escalate its cruel methods of maintaining its borders, through increased use of pushbacks. A radical reform to European migration policies, that would allow for nondiscriminatory legal and safe routes of migration for all, is needed if we hope to end the ongoing attack against migrants’ lives at Europe’s borders, which led to the tragedy we witnessed in Lesvos.

2.  Continued work to advocate for fair asylum proceedings

On 19 January 2022, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) was replaced by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) with “the aim to achieve convergence of asylum and reception practices in the EU” and the attribution of a new mandate and mission as a European agency. Despite the agency’s continuous and major involvement in the asylum process in Greece over the last years, the asylum procedures implemented in Greece remain unfair and dysfunctional as shown below. 

  • 7 February 2022 – Resumption of the rights to file second and following subsequent application in Lesvos after 6 months disruption.

On 7 February, the Lesvos Regional Asylum Office (RAO) finally resumed the registration of second and following subsequent applications for international protection in Lesvos which had stopped for at least 6 months (from September 2021). For that entire time period, the RAO of Lesvos had stopped registering such applications, restricting access to international protection and impeding asylum seekers in Lesvos presenting any new or fresh evidence for their asylum case, in violation of the principle of legal certainty and Article 6 par. 1 of Directive 2013/32/ΕU. 

Individuals affected by this disruption were also left outside of any legal status and procedures, which in turn obstructed their access to social rights on the island, as well as forcing them to live in the Lesvos camp without remedies or alternatives. These people were forced into inhuman and degrading conditions for several months given that after the final rejection of their previous application and consequent deactivation of their social security number (P.A.A.Y.P.A.), they were deprived of access to healthcare and were not receiving even the inadequate financial support granted to asylum applicants, while being deprived of any other means of subsistence and facing the risk of arrest, administrative detention and deportation. Several months later, and without any information provided to those affected, RAO Lesvos resumed the registration of the aforementioned applications, however with new requirements and obstacles.

  • 2 March 2022 – Imposition of a 100 euros fee to access asylum from the second and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors

Once the registration of second and following subsequent applications for international protection resumed, further obstacles were implemented by the Asylum Service, including the introduction of a new requirement to pay a 100 euro fee for each individual wanting to file their second and every following subsequent application (legislative regulation of par. 10 of Article 89 of Law 4636/2019). In fact, based on the Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) no. 472687/2021. If the application is submitted on behalf of several members of one family, a separate deposit for each family member is required, including minor children. This translates to the fact that for a family of five – two parents with three minor children – a fee of 500 euros is required.

On 2 March, the Legal Centre Lesvos together with 19 other civil non-profit organisations providing legal support in Lesvos co-signed a statement denouncing this development and reminding the Greek state of its obligation to provide unhindered and effective access to asylum procedures. The legislative provision making payment of fees a prerequisite is yet another obstacle for people who are otherwise eligible for international protection, and is be especially prohibitive for large families, and undermines the right of access to asylum, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and Articles 6 par. 1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU.

Restrictions on free and unhindered access at any stage of the asylum procedure is to the detriment of the fair and effective nature that must characterise the procedure as a whole. In 2021, a JMD defined Turkey as a “safe third country” for applicants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia. The full implications of this decision can be read here. In short, applicants from these countries whose cases were rejected on the basis that Turkey is a safe third country, in particular should not be obliged to apply for international protection for the third time and pay 100 euros for this purpose, when they have never had the opportunity to have their asylum claims examined. Moreover, the fee also applies to asylum seekers from countries where a substantial change of circumstances has taken place, such as Afghanistan, despite the fact that there are clearly new and essential elements of their application.

LCL and the other signatories call on the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum to abolish the legislative regulation of par. 10 of Article 89 of Law no 4636/2019 and JMD No. 472687/2021, as their content is contrary to the provisions of Article. 6 par.1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU, which prohibit rules that will “render impossible the access of applicants to a new procedure or result in the effective annulment or severe curtailment of such access”. In addition, it conflicts with the provisions of Articles 25 par. 2 and 20 par. 1 of the Constitution of Greece, Articles 18, 47 and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of EU law and the relevant case law of the ECtHR regarding the provisions of Articles 3, 8 and 13 of the ECHR, since it effectively makes it impossible for those refugees who do not have the financial means to pay the fee of  100 euros per person/family member.

We call on the competent authorities and  the RAO Lesvos to respect the European fundamental right to seek asylum and to refrain from actions that violate the rights of asylum seekers, violate national and EU law and may cause serious and irreparable harm to asylum seekers, violating the principle of non-refoulement fundamental to international law.

  • 8 March 2022 – Greece’s continuous implementation of the ‘safe third country’ concept is violating EU law and migrants’ rights

Legal Centre Lesvos together with other 27 civil society organisations addressed a joint letter to the EU commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, denouncing the implementation by Greece of the “safe third country” concept and urging the Commissioner to promptly take the necessary measures against Greece. 

Since the adoption on 7 June 2021 of a Joint Ministerial Decision 42799/2021 by the Minister of Migration and Asylum and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Greek asylum authorities arbitrarily and systematically consider that Turkey is safe for persons originating from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, without an examination of the merits of their asylum claim – i.e. the reason they left their home country. This Joint Ministerial Decision exposes applicants for international protection to a legal limbo whereby they are never granted access to an examination of their asylum applications on the merits, contrary to the purpose of the Geneva Convention and of the Asylum Procedures Directive. It also leads to their exclusion from reception conditions and to cater for their basic subsistence needs, including health care and food. 

It should also be mentioned that especially for Syrian citizens, the above procedure was in force even before the implementation of the Joint Ministerial Decision and resultantly, there are cases of applicants who had not been able to access a safe legal status for 3 years, as their claims were repeatedly rejected as inadmissible. 

As further described in the joint letter, this led to a large number of claims for international protection being rejected as inadmissible on this ground, and applicants being ordered to return to Turkey, without any prospect for such readmission. It should be recalled that Turkey is not a safe third country for migrants: most migrants are unable to access any form of protection in Turkey, owing to a geographic restriction that Turkey imposed to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and migrants there are at grave risk of exploitation, inhumane detention, and deportation. Only Syrian nationals are able to obtain a form of temporary protection, which falls far short of refugee protection and, in practice, provides little protection against refoulement.

Through this joint letter, the co-signatories requested that asylum seekers to whom the ‘safe third country’ concept has been applied, see their international protection applications promptly examined on the merits and be provided with respective legal status and adequate reception conditions.

It is not the first time that the legality of this Joint Ministerial Decision is being challenged: on 8 October 2021, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) had already requested the judicial review and annulment of the Joint Ministerial Decision before the Greek Council of State. The joint letter to the EU Commissioner Johansson can be downloaded here.  Further publication of LCL on the same topic can be found here.

  • Overview of the legal support provided by Legal Centre Lesvos between January and March 2022
Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers represented: 

★ 25 individuals in the asylum procedure, including cases of family reunification; 
★ 17 individuals on appeal of their asylum claims; 
★ 8 detained individuals facing criminal charges. 

Volunteer caseworkers with the Legal Centre Lesvos carried out: 

Between January and March of 2022, volunteer caseworkers, under the supervision of Greek attorneys, supported 43 new cases, and actively worked on over 267 cases over the course of three months. 

Legal aid in the above cases included:

★ 205 individual legal consultations; 
★ 34 interview preparations and preparation of legal memos in 33 cases; 
★ 24 referrals to alternative housing services or protection services;
★ 19 persons attended information sessions on the asylum procedure and asylum interview.

Over the reporting period, LCL also provided training on the asylum procedure in Greece to other solidarity groups and civil society organisations working on the island. Those training sessions were attended by around 20 volunteers and staff.

Legal Centre Lesvos filed 1 petition for interim measures on 14 February 2022 before the European Court of Human Rights, which was partially granted, and ensured that 11 unregistered asylum seekers newly arrived in Lesvos could finally – after 24 hours in the woods without assistance – access food, water and shelter, as well as be officially registered as asylum seekers by the Greek authorities. 5 of the adults represented before the ECtHR were also supported by LCL in their asylum procedure and have since then received subsidiary protection.

As shown on the diagram above, people who received legal aid from the Legal Centre this period were mainly from Somalia and Afghanistan and included people from throughout the Middle East and African continent, some of whom have been trapped on the island of Lesvos for 5 years without legal status since the EU-Turkey deal. The number of asylum seekers from Somalia arriving on the island continued increasing over the reporting period and around 30% of the new cases supported by the Legal Centre in this period concerned individuals from Somalia. 

In light of this, as well as the increasingly unfair asylum procedures applied specifically to Somali nationals (see above), LCL worked on translating two of the “Know your Rights” Info sheets to Somali, specifically regarding rights in the asylum interview and rights after receiving a negative decision. LCL also published two new Infosheet “Know your Rights” to provide basic information about Family reunification in the European Union as well as Rights after a negative decision. All info sheets are available online here and in our office in four languages. 

The info sheets are not intended to be a replacement for direct and in-person legal assistance, they – in the present circumstances – represent an additional opportunity to reach out and provide information to more people in need of legal assistance. The Legal Centre Lesvos will continue to publish additional info sheets over the next months.

3. Litigation and criminal defence for the respect of migrants’ rights

  • 15 February 2022 – European Court of Human Rights acknowledges once again the imminent risks of irreparable harm faced by unregistered asylum seekers newly arrived to Greece
Picture of the 11 asylum seekers represented by the Legal Centre Lesvos before the ECtHR after their arrival on the island on 14 February 2022.
On 14 February 2022, the Legal Centre Lesvos made an emergency petition for interim measures to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) under Rule 39 of the Court, on behalf of 11 unregistered asylum seekers recently arrived on the island of Lesvos, given the imminent risk they faced of collective expulsion, or ‘pushback’ to Turkey. The next day the ECtHR partially granted the petition, recognising that the Applicants were at risk of irreparable harm - the standard used by the Court in granting interim measures.

The group of 11 asylum seekers, including 5 unaccompanied minors, had arrived in Lesvos from Turkey on a dinghy in the early hours of 14 February. The Greek authorities, including the Coast Guard police, the Reception and Identification Centre of Lesvos (RIC) and the Greek asylum service – as well as UNHCR – were informed about the group’s presence on the island and about their desire to seek asylum from the early afternoon of 14 February. Nonetheless, the group was left without assistance, including medical assistance, food or water, until 15 February in the afternoon – nearly 24 hours after the authorities were informed about the exact location of the Applicants and their need for assistance, and after the group had to resort to filing interim measures with the European Court of Human Rights.

At the time of filing the request for interim measures, the 11 Applicants had already stayed outside for at least 15 hours, without any assistance, without water and food, they felt cold and dehydrated, their clothes were wet from the crossing at sea and they did not have any change of clothes or blankets. Some had already suffered pushback to Turkey after previous crossings to Greece, and their situation of uncertainty and fear was causing them additional stress and anxiety which exacerbated their risk of dehydration and hypothermia. The temperatures in Lesvos, which ranged from 8 to 11 degrees celsius on that day, were dropping as night fell. This situation was putting their health and lives at risk as the only prospect for them in that situation was to spend another night outside in woods, without blankets, shelter, food or water supply.

In the present case of interim measures, the Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers argued that the lives and health of the 11 Applicants were at risk due to a lack of assistance by Greek authorities, and that they were at imminent risk of being illegally removed from the Greek territory, in light of the overwhelming evidence and reports demonstrating that Greece has systematically pushed back migrants to Turkey over the last years.

In its initial decision on 15 February, the ECtHR partially granted the measures, ordering Greece to provide the Applicants with “food, water, clothing, adequate medical care and temporary shelter until 22 February 2022”. It further suspended its decision until 18 February on the potential risk of expulsion from Greece, requiring that the parties provide updated information about the whereabouts and situation of the 11 Applicants. Fortunately, following the filing of interim measures with the ECtHR, the 11 asylum seekers were finally attended by the Greek authorities and taken to the Lesvos RIC  ‘Health quarantine area” on 15 February. Although the Applicants had still not officially been registered as asylum seekers, they had been provided with a very minimum of assistance including a provisionary shelter, food and water, as well as medical check for a few of them.  

Additionally, in its 15 February decision, the ECtHR required the Greek State to provide information about what steps “[have] Greek authorities taken regarding the allegations of pushbacks that the applicants refer to?”. In response to this question of the Court, the counselor of the Greek government asserted that “[t]he Greek authorities do not carry out any illegal “push back” expulsions”, and claimed that the allegations are “based on various unsubstantial publications”. This position is concordant with the denial of truth that Greek officials have repeatedly adopted while talking publicly about accusations of pushbacks. In response to the latest public statement of the UN High Commissioner for refugees, Filipo Grandi, warning about the increased level of violence and human rights violations documented by their agency at European borders, and in particular at Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey, the Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum expressed his “surprise” at UNHCR concerns

Despite this continued denial by Greek authorities, the trend of the ECtHR shows that the Court is taking the abundant evidence of pushbacks from Greece to Turkey seriously. The order issued in this case is the third interim measure brought by the Legal Centre Lesvos on behalf of recently arrived asylum seekers, following a successful petition filed in October 2021.  In all three cases brought by the Legal Centre, the individuals represented were subsequently registered in the Reception and Identification Centre, and allowed to apply for asylum. Additional successful interim measures were brought on behalf of asylum seekers who had recently entered Greece in the Aegean and the Evros regions, demonstrating the very real and alarming risk of ill treatment asylum seekers face upon entering Greece.

  • 17-18 March 2022 – Justice for Amir and Razuli! #FreeAmirAndRazuli

In March, the lawyers of LCL and of the Human Rights Legal Project on Samos represented Amir Zahiri (27 years old) and Akif Razuli (24 years old) in their appeal trial initially scheduled to take place on 17 March 2022 in Mytilene Court in Lesvos. Both young Afghan men had been sentenced to 50 years in prison in a summary and unfair first instance trial on 8 September 2020, for “facilitating illegal entry” and “illegal entry” to Greece, while they were only trying to reach Europe in search of a life in safety.

With Europe’s ever-increasing closure of borders and the lack of safe and legal ways to enter Europe and claim asylum, both men were forced to embark on the dangerous journey on a rubber boat across the Aegean Sea in March 2020. At that time, the Greek government had announced the suspension of one of the most fundamental human rights – the right to apply for asylum, and consequently charged people seeking protection with their own “illegal entry”, blatantly contradicting EU law and the Geneva Convention

In their first trial, on 8 September 2020, Amir and Akif testified that the Greek coast guard attacked their boat as soon as they had entered Greek waters and tried to push it back into Turkish waters using metal poles. In doing so, they punctured the boat, causing water to enter and putting the life of the people onboard at risk. As the boat was about to sink, the coast guard eventually took them on board. Following this deeply traumatising experience, the coast guard proceeded with heavily beating up Amir and Razuli, arbitrarily accusing the two of being the smugglers. According to Amir’s wife who had to witness all of this together with her daughter, they only stopped when she held up their young child in front of her husband begging the men to stop. As soon as they arrived at the Greek island of Lesvos, Amir and Razuli were separated from the rest of the group and brought to the police station. The coast guard accused them of their own entry, of facilitating the unauthorised entry of the other people on the boat and of having endangered the people’s lives. They were since then held in pre-trial detention and sentenced to 50 years in prison despite the absence of any evidence against them, apart from a statement of one officer of the Hellenic coast guard, accusing both defendants of “provoking a shipwreck”- accusation for which they were acquitted.

For the appeal trial scheduled on 17 March 2022, Amir and Akif were brought from their respective prisons in Chios island and Nigrita Serres (Greek mainland), where they had already been detained since their arrival in Greece, that is for nearly two years. While waiting for their appeal trial to take place, both defendants were seated handcuffed in the courtroom and were not given any information about if or when the trial would happen, in violation of the Greek criminal procedural law. After two days of waiting the appeal trial finally opened on 18 March at around 2:30 pm, just to be halted immediately after, due to the workload and limited working hours of the Court Secretary. A new date was scheduled to resume the trial 20 days later, on 7 April 2022. This postponement of their appeal trial constitutes a denial of justice and perpetuated the chain of injustice both defendants have been the victims of since their arrival in Greece. In addition, despite the Legal Centre Lesvos’ lawyers request for their client Akif Razuli to stay in Lesvos until the new date of trial (20 days later), he was unjustifiably and unnecessarily transferred all the way back to Nigrita Serres prison on the Greek mainland. He was taken on 21 March out of Lesvos police station and passed through different detention places in Athens and Thessaloniki before finally arriving in Nigrita Serres prison, 8 days later, on 29 March. He stayed only two days in detention there before being taken back again to Mytilene, Lesvos, on 31 March, where he arrived only on 2 April. 

The Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have and will continue to closely followed the trial and demand:

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

Almost every day, people seeking protection are criminalised for their own flight and arbitrarily sentenced to lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. Recently, a survivor of a shipwreck has even been criminalised for the death of his six-year-old son, who died when they tried to cross from Turkey to Greece (see the campaign Free the #Samos2). Suspects, or what we would deem ‘victims’ of this unjust legislation, usually have limited access to legal assistance. Judgments are often pronounced despite lack of evidence and poor quality of translation. In Greece, the average trial in these cases lasts only around 30 minutes, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines over 370.000 Euro. According to official numbers by the Greek ministry of justice, almost 2.000 people are currently in Greek prisons for this reason. People charged with similar smuggling offences constitute the second largest prison population in Greece. However, the fates of these people are seldom known. Arrested immediately upon arrival, most of them are locked away unnoticed, without their names known and no access to support from outside. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it will take to achieve justice for Amir and Razuli.Our press releases on this trial can be read here and here.

May 19: Trial in Kalamata – Criminalization against people on the move in Greece continues!

Common statement by Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe, Can’t Evict Solidarity, Iuventa-Crew, Legal Center Lesvos and Watch the Med Alarm Phone.

Source: watchthemed

Criminalization efforts in Greece continue: two migrants have to appear in front of the court in Kalamata, Greece, on May 19, 2022. Shortly after the trials against the Paros 3 and the Samos 2, two more people face trial in Greece. Over a year ago, in the evening hours of May 3rd, 2021, a group of around 180 people was brought to the Greek port of Kalamata after spending seven days at sea. On arrival, several people were arrested and accused of smuggling. Two of the accused have been imprisoned since the arrest and face trial next week. This is yet another story that shows the systematic attacks on people’s freedom by the Greek state. 

Ibrahim*, a Syrian man and one of the accused in Kalamata, defends himself with clear words against the accusation:

No, I did not try to repair the engine as I don’t know how to do it. I was not driving the boat. I got the money for the trip from my sons and friends. I spend six years in Turkey.  My children are all boys and grown up – I did not want them to go to war and get killed. In Syria I was a builder.” 

When the group of 180 was at sea, they reached out to the Alarm Phone as the motor stopped working. They were stuck in Greek waters on their way to Italy and had run out of water and food. For several days, however, the people refused help by the Greek Coast Guard as they were afraid of what would await them in Greece. They reported the following – (full report here): 

“The Greek Coast Guard – You will be shocked about the story you will hear about their aggression and inhumanity. Some people from our group were caught by them earlier, about two weeks ago. They tied them up with cable ties and threw them in the water, just like that. You might not believe this, but there are people with me here who can tell you the same story. We refuse any help from Greece, because they will torture us, they always play games on us.” 

This fear was justified: Several among the group had previously been pushed back and brutalized by the Hellenic Coast Guard, and several passengers said they would prefer to die at sea than to enter into the hands of the Hellenic Coast Guard again.

For Ibrahim, it was neither his first trip, nor his first traumatizing experience with Greek authorities:

I still feel dizzy from the previous boat trip and I can not see well, especially with my left eye. Four to five months ago, I had first tried to travel [to Europe] but they pushed us back. I had no life vest. Only a few had one. We sincerely risked to drown.” 

Until today, these systematic pushbacks and attacks against people on the move continue to happen, while the ones who are responsible for these crimes face no retribution.

On the contrary, Greek authorities systematically criminalize people on the move: For most boats that arrive in Greece, several people are arrested and afterwards legally prosecuted for steering the boat or for helping in other ways during the journey. The trials are often over very quickly, with decisions reached in a short time, and the sentences are draconic. Without sufficient evidence, people are usually arrested upon arrival and kept in pre-trial detention for months. When their case finally comes to court, their trials average only 38 minutes in length, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines over 370.000 Euro.

To us it is clear: boat driving and crossing borders can never be a crime. It’s a fundamental right – and one we will continue to uphold and support. The real crime is the border regime put in place by the EU and its partners along the different migration routes. 

WE DEMAND:

  • All charges against the accused to be dropped;
  • Freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” despite the fact that there is no alternative to reach the European Union;
  • An end to the criminalization of migration and the incarceration of people on the move.

For media requests write to media(att)alarmphone.org

* name has been changed

Cruel and unjustified postponement of Amir and Razuli appeal trial

Press statement of the initiatives Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean

#FreeAmirAndRazuli

The appeal trial of Amir Zahiri (27) and Akif Razuli (24) scheduled for today in Mytilene court, was, once again, postponed to a later date, 8 December 2022.

After being interrupted on 18 March due to the caseload of the court, the trial has now been postponed under the pretext that a witness, an officer from the Hellenic Coast Guard, was absent in court.

This witness was already absent from the first instance trial and had provided a written report which only related to charges of “causing a shipwreck”, for which both defendents were acquitted in the first instance. It is therefore highly questionable why his irrelevant testimony was a sufficient excuse to postpone the trial once again. Furthermore, the court had the authority to read his written testimony in court, rather than postpone the trial, as they had in the first trial.

Despite a request by the lawyers to free both men until their trial date in December,  with which the Public prosecutor agreed, the Court of three judges finally denied the petition, ordering that they remain in prison. 

Following today’s hearing, Amir and Razuli will thefore be forced back into prison for at least eight more months, away from their families and friends. To date they have already spent over two years behind bars, despite the lack of evidence against them. Razuli and Amir have already been transferred twice back and forth between Lesvos and detention centres in Serres and Chios respectively, each time with the hope of having a final decision in their case and being released. Causing extreme and uncessary distress, each postponement is an obstacle to the a fair and speedy administration of justice. This further delay is a denial of justice.

The repeated criminalisation of migrants, such as in this case, stands in stark contrast to the complete impunity for violence against migrants at Greece’s borders, despite the insurmountable evidence of systemic pushbacks carried out by the Hellenic Coast guard in coordination with the Greek police.

Vicky Angelidou, from the Legal Centre Lesvos, and one of the lawyers for the accused, stated “with shocking decisions such as today’s and the decision in the first trial, Greek courts are destroying the lives of people who only wanted a better future in Europe, showing their total detatchment from reality, and the lives of the people they are judging.”

A spokesperson for CPT-Aegean Migrant Solidarity said: “People charged with smuggling offences constitute the second largest prison population in Greece. We are glad that the spotlight is finally being put on these unjust procedures, but as today’s decision has shown, even this is not enough. On a regular basis migrants are swallowed into the prison system, convicted without anybody knowing or caring who they are.”

Annina Mullis, a representative of the Swiss Democratic Lawyers’ Association, who was observing today’s trial stated, “an 8 month postponement for no reason is a clear violation of procedural rights – based on the European Convention on Human Rights, courts are obliged to move procedures forward expeditiously, especially when defendants are in prison. What we have witnessed today was an arbitrary show of force in a politicised court room.”

Kim Schneider, spokesperson for the solidarity initiative You can`t evict Solidarity, pointed out: “It is unbelievable. Once again, the trial of Amir and Razuli has been postponed. We are so furious that we are speechless. We cannot explain this to the young men nor their families whose lives are being destroyed. We need to take political action now.”

The Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have closely followed the trial. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it will take to achieve justice for Amir and Razuli.

Press contacts:

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

National Transparency Authority should publish the full investigation regarding pushbacks in accordance with the principle of transparency / Να δημοσιευθεί η έρευνα της Εθνικής Αρχής Διαφάνειας για τις επαναπροωθήσεις σε συμμόρφωση με την αρχή της διαφάνειας

Logo of the Greek National transparency Authority, source: https://aead.gr/en/

7 April 2022

On the 29th of March, the Greek National Transparency Authority (NTA) issued a press release announcing the conclusion of a 3-month investigation on the management of migration flows to the Greek territory as well as the relevant international journalistic reports on informal forced returns (pushbacks).

It is recalled that NTA’s investigation was launched at the request of the Minister of Migration and Asylum, following the publication of an 8-month journalistic investigation by Lighthouse Reports and nine more European media platforms, which referred to a “system” of illegal forced returns in Greece and Croatia and the direct involvement of special units of security forces assigned with the task to “chase asylum applicants away from the E.U.”.

It is also recalled that the issue of pushbacks in Greece has caused multiple interventions by the European Commission, which, in September 2021, vetoed the release of a € 15,83 million emergency fund to Greece, setting as a prerequisite the establishment of an independent mechanism for the investigation of allegations on human rights violations at the country’s borders. More recently, the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) decided by a qualified majority to postpone the decision on the discharge of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) 2020 accounts. CONT’s decision invoked, inter alia, the failure of the Agency to create a serious incidents reporting mechanism, as well as the fact that the Agency’s management was aware but deliberately avoided to report violations of fundamental rights at the EU’s external borders and specifically in Greece, as per the summary of a report by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which was presented before the CONT on the 28th of February**.

In this context, it is deeply concerning that the NTA decided to announce the findings of its investigation through a press release, thus leaving a large amount of questions unanswered, such as if and to what extent it took into consideration the 540 cases of illegal pushbacks recorded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Greece, the range of actors that were approached for the purposes of the investigation, as well as the broader methodology used to corroborate its findings. On the contrary, unexpectedly, NTA conducted part of the investigation with “the support of the Forensic Science Division (FSD)”, i.e. with the support of a Central Office of the Hellenic Police, officers of which, similarly to the Coast Guard’s, are the alleged perpetrators of the illegal pushbacks at the borders and in the Greek territory. Furthermore, it should also be mentioned that dozens of illegal pushback cases against Greece are pending before the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Committee of the UN.

Consequently, the NTA failed to provide essential information which might have provided an answer on the issue of pushbacks in Greece, as required from an independent authority. It is also noted that NTA is not a constitutionally established independent authority, does not meet the ten requirements/points of the UN institutions and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) for the establishment of an independent and effective national border monitoring mechanism of fundamental rights at the Greek borders, while, as highlighted in a recent study, it does not have the required specialization on border issues.

In any case, while the NTA does not meet the criteria to conduct an independent investigation on the allegations regarding pushbacks, we request the publication of the full report of this investigation, in order for its methodology and conclusions to be available for evaluation, to ensure the accountability of the implicated actors and to preserve the public’s trust to national authorities*****.

** European Parliament, “MEPs withhold discharge of EU border control agency Frontex’ accounts”, 31 March 2022: https://bit.ly/3J8ZdGD and “EP committee asks for part of Frontex budget to be frozen”, 27 September 2021: https://bit.ly/38uSgTF; Marquardt, Question for written answer E-000861/2022 to the Commission, https://bit.ly/3uTGLfV; EfSyn, “They are hiding the findings on Frontex”, 2 April 2022, available (Greek): https://bit.ly/3j9J7C6; Der Spiegel, “Pressure Growing on Frontex Chief from Pushbacks Investigation”, 21 March 2022: https://bit.ly/37jdGT7

***** According to the relevant case-law of the ECtHR on the elements of an effective investigation,, “[t]here must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny of the investigation or its results to secure accountability in practice as well as in theory, maintain public confidence in the authorities’ adherence to the rule of law and prevent any appearance of collusion in or tolerance of unlawful acts” [Anguelova v. Bulgaria, no. 38361/97, § 140, ECHR 2002-IV]

Signatory Organizations

Action for Women

Amnesty International

Changemakers Lab

Diotima Centre

ECHO100PLUS 

Europe Must Act

Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

Greek Forum of Migrants

Greek Forum of Refugees

Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR)

HIAS Greece

HumanRights360

Human Rights Legal Project 

I HAVE RIGHTS (IHR)

International Rescue Committee Hellas (IRC)

Irida Women’s Center

Legal Centre Lesvos

Melissa Network of Migrant Women in Greece

Mobile Info Team

Refugee Legal Support (RLS) 

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)

Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece, Council of Europe Network

Still I Rise

The HOME Project

7 Απριλίου 2022

Με δελτίο τύπου της στις 29 Μαρτίου, η Εθνική Αρχή Διαφάνειας (ΕΑΔ) ανακοίνωσε την ολοκλήρωση 3μηνης έρευνας που διεξήγαγε ως προς τη διαχείριση των μεταναστευτικών ροών στην ελληνική επικράτεια και τα διαλαμβανόμενα σε διεθνή δημοσιογραφική έρευνα περί άτυπων αναγκαστικών επιστροφών (επαναπροωθήσεων).

Υπενθυμίζεται πως η έρευνα της ΕΑΔ ξεκίνησε με αίτημα του Υπουργού Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου, μετά τη δημοσίευση 8μηνης δημοσιογραφικής έρευνας της ομάδας Lighthouse Reports και 9 ακόμη ευρωπαϊκών μέσων ενημέρωσης, η οποία έκανε λόγο για ένα «σύστημα» παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων στην Ελλάδα και την Κροατία και για την άμεση εμπλοκή σε αυτό ειδικών μονάδων των υπηρεσιών ασφάλειας, επιφορτισμένων να «κυνηγούν αιτούντες άσυλο από την ΕΕ». 

Υπενθυμίζεται, επίσης, πως το ζήτημα των επαναπροωθήσεων στην Ελλάδα έχει προκαλέσει επανειλημμένως τις παρεμβάσεις της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής, η οποία τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2021 έθεσε βέτο στην αποδέσμευση εκτάκτων κονδυλίων  ύψους € 15,83 εκατομμυρίων προς την Ελλάδα, θέτοντας ως προϋπόθεση την ίδρυση ενός ανεξάρτητου μηχανισμού διερεύνησης των καταγγελιών για παραβιάσεις ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων στα σύνορα της χώρας. Προσφάτως, δε, η Επιτροπή Ελέγχου του Προϋπολογισμού του Ευρωκοινοβουλίου (CONT) αποφάσισε με αυξημένη πλειοψηφία την αναβολή της απόφασης εκκαθάρισης των λογαριασμών του 2020 του Ευρωπαϊκού Οργανισμού Συνοριοφυλακής και Ακτοφυλακής (Frontex). Μεταξύ των επικαλούμενων λόγων για αυτή την απόφαση της CONT ήταν η αποτυχία του Οργανισμού να δημιουργήσει έναν μηχανισμό αναφοράς σοβαρών περιστατικών, αλλά και το ότι η Διοίκηση του Οργανισμού γνώριζε και σκοπίμως απέφυγε να αναφέρει τις παραβιάσεις των θεμελιωδών δικαιωμάτων στα εξωτερικά σύνορα της ΕΕ και δη στην Ελλάδα, σύμφωνα και με σύνοψη έκθεσης της  Ευρωπαϊκής Υπηρεσίας Καταπολέμησης της Απάτης (OLAF), η οποία παρουσιάσθηκε ενώπιον και της CONT στις 28 Φεβρουαρίου**.

Σε αυτό το πλαίσιο, προβληματισμό γεννά η επιλογή της ΕΑΔ να ανακοινώσει τα πορίσματα της έρευνάς της μέσω ενός δελτίου τύπου, αφήνοντας έτσι σωρεία αναπάντητων ερωτημάτων, όπως το αν και σε τι βαθμό έλαβε υπόψη τις 540 περιπτώσεις παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων που έχει καταγράψει η Ύπατη Αρμοστεία του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες στην Ελλάδα, το εύρος των δρώντων στους οποίους απευθύνθηκε για τους σκοπούς της έρευνας, όπως και την ευρύτερη μεθοδολογία που ακολουθήθηκε προς επίρρωση των πορισμάτων. Απεναντίας, εντύπωση προκαλεί ότι η ΕΑΔ διεξήγαγε μέρος της έρευνας «με τη συνδρομή της Διεύθυνσης Εγκληματολογικών Ερευνών (ΔΕΕ)», δηλαδή με Κεντρική Υπηρεσία της Ελληνικής Αστυνομίας, στελέχη της οποίας, όπως και του Λιμενικού, αποτελούν τους φερόμενους ως δράστες των παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων στα σύνορα και στο ελληνικό έδαφος. Σημειωτέον, δε, ότι δεκάδες υποθέσεις παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων κατά της Ελλάδας εκκρεμούν ενώπιον του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων και της Επιτροπής Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων του ΟΗΕ.

Κατά συνέπεια η ΕΑΔ απέτυχε να παρέχει απαραίτητες πληροφορίες που ενδεχομένως να μπορούσαν να παρέχουν μια απάντηση επί του θέματος των επαναπροωθήσεων στην Ελλάδα, ως απαιτείται στις ανεξάρτητες αρχές. Επισημαίνεται, δε, πως η ΕΑΔ δεν είναι συνταγματικώς κατοχυρωμένη ανεξάρτητη αρχή, δεν πληροί τα δέκα σημεία/συστάσεις οργανισμών του ΟΗΕ και του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικτύου Εθνικών Θεσμών Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (ΕΝNHRI) για τη δημιουργία ενός ανεξάρτητου και αποτελεσματικού εθνικού μηχανισμού παρακολούθησης θεμελιωδών δικαιωμάτων στα σύνορα στην Ελλάδα, ενώ όπως επισημαίνεται και σε πρόσφατη μελέτη, δεν διαθέτει την απαραίτητη ειδίκευση σε θέματα συνόρων.

Σε κάθε περίπτωση, καίτοι η συγκεκριμένη Αρχή δεν πληροί τις προϋποθέσεις για έναν ανεξάρτητο έλεγχο των καταγγελιών σχετικά με τις επαναπροωθήσεις, αιτούμαστε τη δημοσίευση της εν λόγω έκθεσης έρευνας στο σύνολο της, προκειμένου να μπορεί να αξιολογηθεί η μεθοδολογία και τα αντίστοιχα πορίσματα αυτής, να διασφαλιστεί η λογοδοσία των εμπλεκόμενων φορέων αλλά και η διατήρηση της εμπιστοσύνης του κοινού στις αρχές****.

** Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο, “MEPs withhold discharge of EU border control agency Frontex’ accounts”, 31 Μαρτίου 2022: https://bit.ly/3J8ZdGD και “EP committee asks for part of Frontex budget to be frozen”, 27 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021: https://bit.ly/38uSgTF; Marquardt, Question for written answer E-000861/2022 to the Commission, https://bit.ly/3uTGLfV; ΕφΣυν, «Κρύβουν το πόρισμα για Frontex», 2 Απριλίου 2022: https://bit.ly/3j9J7C6; Der Spiegel, “Pressure Growing on Frontex Chief from Pushbacks Investigation”, 21 Μαρτίου 2022, διαθέσιμο (αγγλικά): https://bit.ly/37jdGT7.

*****  Σύμφωνα και με σχετική νομολογία του ΕΔΔΑ για τα στοιχεία μίας αποτελεσματικής έρευνας, “[t]here must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny of the investigation or its results to secure accountability in practice as well as in theory, maintain public confidence in the authorities’ adherence to the rule of law and prevent any appearance of collusion in or tolerance of unlawful acts” [Anguelova v. Bulgaria, no. 38361/97, § 140, ECHR 2002-IV]

Οι Υπογράφουσες Οργανώσεις

Διεθνής Αμνηστία

Ελληνική Ένωση για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου (ΕλΕΔΑ)

Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες (ΕΣΠ)

Ελληνικό Φόρουμ Μεταναστών

Ελληνικό Φόρουμ Προσφύγων

Ίριδα Κέντρο Γυναικών

Κέντρο Διοτίμα

Μέλισσα – Δίκτυο Μεταναστριών στην Ελλάδα

Συμβίωση-Σχολή Πολιτικών Σπουδών στην Ελλάδα, Δίκτυο Συμβουλίου της Ευρώπης

Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο (RSA)

Action for Women

Changemakers Lab

ECHO100PLUS 

Europe Must Act

Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid

HIAS Ελλάδος

HumanRights360

Human Rights Legal Project 

I HAVE RIGHTS (IHR)

International Rescue Committee Hellas (IRC)

Legal Centre Lesvos

Mobile Info Team

Refugee Legal Support (RLS) 

Still I Rise

The HOME Project

Appeal trial against Amir and Razuli interrupted until 7 April 2022 after two days of waiting / Το Εφετείο κατά των Amir και Razuli διακόπηκε για τις 7 Απριλίου 2022 μετά από δύο μέρες αναμονής

“Justice for Amir and Razuli, Free them now!”
Family members and supporters carrying a sign for the two defendants in front of the Mytilene Court, Lesvos

The appeal trial of the two young Afghan men convicted in first instance of “facilitating illegal entry” and “illegal entry” to Greece has been interrupted. The defendants Amir Zahiri (27) and Akif Razuli (24) were brought respectively from Chios and Serres prisons, to Mytilene on Lesvos and forced to wait for two days. In violation of the Greek criminal procedural law, they were seated  handcuffed in the court room while awaiting their own trial. They were not given any information about if or when the trial would happen, until it was finally opened today, 18 March at 2:30 pm- just to be halted immediately after. All witnesses and international trial observers who had travelled to Mytilene from different European countries and the Greek mainland were also forced to wait along with Amir and Razuli, among them Amir’s wife and their two children. Also three Members of European Parliament came to testify and observe the trial, as well as the sea rescuer Iasonas Apostolopoulos.

The trial will resume in 20 days, on 7 April 2022. Thereby, the chain of injustice that Amir and Razuli were confronted with over the last years continues: Amir and Razuli were arbitrarily arrested on 12 March 2020, kept in pre-trial detention for seven months and convicted in September 2020 to 50 years imprisonmment without any evidence against them. Now their appeal trial was interrupted.

A Greek trial observer from Aegean Migrant Solidarity stated:

“The last two days were very difficult, especially for the people who are in detention without any evidence for so long. For these two days nobody knew if the trial will start or not. The court decided to start the trial today and continue at 7 of April 2022, because they acknowledged the fact that the trial must start in a reasonable time. Lets all be there on 7th of April!”

Marco Aparicio, trial observer from the Spanish Observatori DESC (ESCR Observatory) noted:

“Prolonging the process is prolonging the suffering, Amir and Razuli, their relatives and friends have the right to know about their future. This trial, indeed, shows that Europe is used not to criminalize those who cause the suffering but the people who suffer.”

Lorraine Leete from Legal Centre Lesvos, who defended Akif Razuli, explains:

“Amir and Razuli should never have been arrested, let alone convicted and imprisoned, given the lack of evidence that they committed the crime they are accused of. While Amir and Razuli will never get back the two years they’ve spent in prison, we hope this miscarriage of justice is rectified at the continuance of their appeal trial next month.”

The Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have closely followed the trial. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it will take to achieve justice for Amir and Razuli.


Press contacts:

Marion Bouchetel

Legal Centre Lesvos

marion@legalcentrelesvos.org Phone: +30 697 761 9003


Kim Schneider

You can’t evict Solidarity

cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net Phone: +49 152 19255205

Twitter: @cantevict; @lesboslegal #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Το Εφετείο κατά των Amir και Razuli διακόπηκε για τις 7 Απριλίου 2022 μετά από δύο μέρες αναμονής

#FreeAmirAndRazuli


Το Εφετείο των δύο νεαρών Αφγανών που είχαν καταδικαστεί σε πρώτο βαθμό με τις κατηγορίες περί «διευκόλυνσης παράνομης εισόδου» και «παράνομη είσοδο» στην Ελλάδα διακόπηκε. Οι κατηγορούμενοι Amir Zahiri (27 ετών) και Akif Razuli (24 ετών) μεταφέρθηκαν από τις φυλακές Χίου και Σερρών αντίστοιχα, στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα Μυτιλήνης, όπου αναγκάστηκαν να περιμένουν επί δύο μέρες για την πραγματοποίηση της δίκης τους. Κατά παράβαση του ελληνικού ποινικού δικονομικού δικαίου, οι κατηγορούμενοι κάθισαν με χειροπέδες μέσα στην αίθουσα του δικαστηρίου, περιμένοντας την έλευση της δίκης τους. Δεν τους δόθηκε καμία ενημέρωση για το αν και πότε θα γίνει η δίκη τους, μέχρι που τελικά ξεκίνησε στις 18 Μαρτίου, στις 14:30 μ.μ και να διακοπεί αμέσως. Όλοι οι μάρτυρες όπως και οι διεθνείς παρατηρητές της δίκης που είχαν ταξιδέψει στη Μυτιλήνη από διάφορες ευρωπαϊκές χώρες όπως και διάφορα μέρη της Ελλάδας, αναγκάστηκαν επίσης να περιμένουν μαζί με τον Amir και τον Razuli, μεταξύ των οποίων και η σύζυγος του Amir μαζί με τα δύο ανήλικα παιδιά τους. Επίσης, στην δίκη ήρθαν τρία μέλη του Ευρωπαικού Κοινοβουλίου, καθώς και ο διασώστης Ιάσονας Αποστολόπουλος, για να καταθέσουν και να παρακολουθήσουν την διαδικασία.

Η δίκη θα συνεχιστεί σε 20 μέρες, στις 7 Απριλίου 2022. Με τον τρόπο αυτό, η αλυσίδα της αδικίας με την οποία ήρθαν αντιμέτωποι τα τελευταία χρόνια οι Amir και Razuli συνεχίζεται. Οι Amir και Razuli συνελήφθησαν αυθαίρετα στις 12 Μαρτίου 2020, προφυλακίστηκαν για επτά μήνες και καταδικάστηκαν τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020 σε 50 χρόνια φυλάκισης χωρίς κανένα στοιχείο εναντίον τους. Τώρα το Εφετείο τους διακόπηκε. 

Μια ελληνίδα παρατηρήτρια της δίκης από την οργάνωση Aegean Migrant Solidarity δήλωσε:

«Οι δύο τελευταίες μέρες ήταν πολύ δύσκολες, ιδιαίτερα για τους ανθρώπους που βρίσκονται υπό κράτηση χωρίς κανένα στοιχείο για τόσο πολύ καιρό. Δύο μέρες τώρα, κανείς δεν γνώριζε αν η δίκη θα ξεκινήσει ή όχι. Το δικαστήριο αποφάσισε να ξεκινήσει η δίκη σήμερα και να συνεχιστεί στις 7 Απριλίου 2022, επειδή αναγνώρισε το γεγονός ότι η δίκη πρέπει να ξεκινήσει σε ένα εύλογο χρονικό διάστημα. Ας είμαστε όλοι στις 7 Απρίλη!»

Ο Marco Aparicio, παρατηρητής δικών από το Ισπανικό Παρατηρητήριο DESC (ESCR Observatory) σημείωσε:

«Η παράταση της διαδικασίας παρατείνει τα βάσανα για τον Amir και των Razuli, των συγγενών και των φίλων τους που έχουν το δικαίωμα να γνωρίζουν για το μέλλον τους. Αυτή η δίκη, πράγματι, δείχνει ότι η Ευρώπη συνηθίζει όχι να ποινικοποιεί αυτούς που προκαλούν τον πόνο, αλλά τους ανθρώπους που υποφέρουν».

Η Lorraine Leete από το Legal Centre Lesvos, η οποία υπερασπίζεται τον Akif Razuli, εξηγεί: 

«Οι Amir και Razuli δεν θα έπρεπε ποτέ να έχουν συλληφθεί, πόσο μάλλον να καταδικαστούν και να φυλακιστούν, δεδομένης της έλλειψης αποδεικτικών στοιχείων ότι διέπραξαν το έγκλημα για το οποίο κατηγορούνται. Παρόλο που ο Amir και ο Razuli δεν θα πάρουν ποτέ πίσω τα δύο χρόνια που πέρασαν στη φυλακή, ελπίζουμε ότι αυτή κακοδικία θα αποκατασταθεί κατά τη συνέχιση της δίκης τους τον επόμενο μήνα».

Οι οργανώσεις Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline – europe e.V, You Can’t Evict Solidarity και η Deportation Monitoring Aegean παρακολούθησαν στενά τη δίκη. Θα συνεχίσουμε να στεκόμαστε αλληλέγγυοι στους κατηγορούμενους, ανεξάρτητα από το πόσος χρόνος θα χρειαστεί για να αποδοθεί δικαιοσύνη για τον Amir και τον Razuli.


Επικοινωνία:

Marion Bouchetel
Legal Centre Lesvos
marion@legalcentrelesvos.org Τηλ: +30 697 761 9003


Kim Schneider
You can’t evict Solidarity
cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net Τηλ: +49 152 19255205

Twitter: @cantevict; @lesboslegal #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Joint civil society letter to Yvla Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs

Greece’s implementation of the ‘safe third country’ concept is violating EU law and migrants’ rights

Download the joint letter here

Today a joint letter was sent by 27 civil society organisations to the European Commissioner Yvla Johansson denouncing the implementation by Greece of the “safe third country” concept and urging the Commissioner to promptly take the necessary measures against Greece.

Since the adoption on 7 June 2021 of a Joint Ministerial Decision 42799/2021 by the Minister of Migration and Asylum and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Greek asylum authorities arbitrarily and systematically consider that Turkey is safe for persons originating from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, without an examination of the merits of their asylum claim – i.e. the reason they left their home country. As further described in the joint letter, this led to a large number of claims for international protection being rejected as inadmissible on this ground, and applicants being ordered to return to Turkey, without any prospect for such readmission.

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

This Joint Ministerial Decision exposes applicants for international protection to a legal limbo whereby they are never granted access to an examination of their asylum applications on the merits, contrary to the purpose of the Geneva Convention and of the Asylum Procedures Directive. It also leads to their exclusion from reception conditions and to cater for their basic subsistence needs, including health care and food.

Through this joint letter, the co-signatories request that asylum seekers to whom the ‘safe third country’ concept has been applied see their international protection applications promptly examined on the merits and be provided with respective legal status and adequate reception conditions.

It is not the first time that the legality of this Joint Ministerial Decision is being challenged: on 8 October 2021, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) had already requested the judicial review and annulment of the Joint Ministerial Decision before the Greek Council of State.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM ? ΤΙ ΤΟΥΣ ΣΥΝΕΒΗ;

“Shipwrecks in the Aegean are not accidents” and “Shame on you EU”
Picture of messages and candles left in Sappho square, Mytilene, on 1 March 2022, in memory of the persons found dead on Lesvos shores
Photo Credits: Women in Solidarity House – WISH Lesvos
https://www.facebook.com/…/a.62161364…/1308474419663237/

In the morning of 1 March, Lesvos witnessed the shocking death of at least seven migrants, whose bodies without life jackets, were found by passersby, washed up on the beach of Epano Skala, a neighbourhood of Mytilene, just north of  the centre, on the way to Lesvos´s Reception and Identification Centre, where migrants have been housed in effective detention since the fire that destroyed the notorious Moria camp. While search and rescue operations and investigations have since been deployed over the last days at land and sea to find survivors or other victims, no official report has yet been published by the Greek authorities about the circumstances and cause of their death at sea which remain a mystery. 

Several media outlets already mentioned the hypothesis of another fatal shipwreck of a dinghy trying to reach the European shores in the hope to seek asylum, as the Greek islands have witnessed so often in the past years. However, no official explanations were yet provided and many questions remain unanswered: if those persons arrived on a dinghy from Turkey, where is their boat now ? Were those seven people accompanied by others, as is commonly the case for dinghies crossing from Turkey to Greece ? And if so, where are the others ? Who were these seven people whose lives were taken so unnecessarily?

These questions arise just after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, recently published a statement warning about the increased level of violence and human rights violations documented by their agency at European borders, and in particular at Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey.

This statement which directly and specifically targets Greece also reveals that “UNHCR has interviewed thousands of people across Europe who were pushed back and reported a disturbing pattern of threats, intimidation, violence and humiliation. At sea, people report being left adrift in life rafts or sometimes even forced directly into the water, showing a callous lack of regard for human life. At least three people are reported to have died in such incidents since September 2021 in the Aegean Sea, including one in January.”

As highlighted by the UNHCR as well as recent major media reports, pushbacks are well documented and have already led to several fatal incidents over the last months. The policy of pushbacks is also shown in UNHCR official numbers: whereas in 2021 arrivals registered in the Greek islands have decreased by 93% compared to 2019, the number of deaths and missing persons have remained the same on average from 2019 to 2021. 

Although the exact circumstances of the death of the seven migrants found on the Lesvos shore this week remain uncertain for now, there is no doubt that their deaths are the direct consequence of the inhumane and dangerous border regime implemented by Greece and the European Union. No person would drown at sea attempting to reach Greece, if legal and safe routes would be available. 

The facility with which legal routes of migration can be established, if there is political will, has been demonstrated by the swiftness with which the Ministry of Migration established procedures for Ukrainian nationals to gain access to Greece via airport or road, who upon entry to Greece are eligible for Temporary Protection by the Asylum Service for one year, and the right to access accommodation, labour and medical care. The establishment of this procedure for Ukrainian nationals has also exposed underlying white supremacy defining European migration policies.

Instead of ensuring that people can safely and legally access refuge and asylum via the Turkish border, Greece has over the last six years focused its efforts on deterring migration of the largely non-white migrants from the global south, at any cost to human life or dignity, through the creation of “hotspots” on the Greek islands. Institutional violence and cruel disregard for the lives of migrants in border regions such as Lesvos have been silently tolerated in the European Union for years, if not directly caused by the European Union’s migration policies such as the EU-Turkey Deal. Given this tacit support, it is no surprise that Greece continues to escalate it’s cruel methods of maintaining its borders, through increased use of pushbacks. A radical reform to European migration policies, that would allow for nondiscriminatory legal and safe routes of migration for all, is needed if we hope to end the ongoing attack against migrants at Europe’s borders, which led to the tragedy we witnessed this week in Lesvos. 

ΤΙ ΤΟΥΣ ΣΥΝΕΒΗ;

Το πρωί της 1ης Μαρτίου, η Λέσβος έγινε μάρτυρας του σοκαριστικού θανάτου τουλάχιστον επτά μεταναστών, τα πτώματα των οποίων βρέθηκαν χωρίς σωσίβια από περαστικούς, ξεβρασμένα στην παραλία της Επάνω Σκάλας, κοντά στο κέντρο της πόλης, στο δρόμο προς το Κέντρο Υποδοχής και Ταυτοποίησης της Λέσβου, όπου οι μετανάστες διαμένουν στην ουσία σε καθεστώς κράτησης μετά την πυρκαγιά που κατέστρεψε τον περιβόητο καταυλισμό της Μόριας. Την ίδια στιγμή που επιχειρήσεις έρευνας και διάσωσης διενεργούνται έκτοτε σε στεριά και τη θάλασσα για τον εντοπισμό επιζώντων ή άλλων θυμάτων, δεν έχει ακόμη δημοσιευθεί καμία επίσημη έκθεση από τις ελληνικές αρχές σχετικά με τις συνθήκες και τα αίτια του θανάτου τους που παραμένουν μυστήριο. 

Αρκετά μέσα ενημέρωσης έχουν ήδη εκτιμήσει ότι πρόκειται για ένα ακόμη μοιραίο ναυάγιο λέμβου που προσπάθησε να προσεγγίσει τις ευρωπαϊκές ακτές, ένα συχνό φαινόμενο τα τελευταία χρόνια στα ελληνικά νησιά. Ωστόσο, δεν έχουν δοθεί ακόμη επίσημες εξηγήσεις και πολλά ερωτήματα παραμένουν αναπάντητα: Αν τα άτομα αυτά έφτασαν με λέμβο από την Τουρκία, πού βρίσκεται η λέμβος; Τα επτά αυτά άτομα συνοδεύονταν από άλλα άτομα, όπως συμβαίνει συνήθως σε λέμβους που περνούν από την Τουρκία στην Ελλάδα ; Και αν ναι, πού βρίσκονται; Ποιοι ήταν αυτοί οι επτά άνθρωποι των οποίων η ζωή αφαιρέθηκε τόσο άσκοπα;

Τα ερωτήματα αυτά ανακύπτουν λίγο αφότου ο  Ύπατος Αρμοστής των Ηνωμένων Εθνών για τους Πρόσφυγες, Filippo Grandi, εξέδωσε ανακοίνωση προειδοποιώντας για το αυξημένο επίπεδο βίας και παραβιάσεων των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων που καταγράφει η υπηρεσία του στα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα, και ειδικότερα στα χερσαία και θαλάσσια σύνορα της Ελλάδας με την Τουρκία.

Αυτή η δήλωση που στοχεύει ευθέως και συγκεκριμένα την Ελλάδα αποκαλύπτει επίσης ότι “η Ύπατη Αρμοστεία του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες έχει καταγράψει τις μαρτυρίες χιλιάδων ανθρώπων σε όλη την Ευρώπη που απωθήθηκαν και έκαναν αναφορά σε ένα ανησυχητικό μοτίβο απειλών, εκφοβισμού, βίας και εξευτελισμού. Στη θάλασσα, οι άνθρωποι αναφέρουν ότι αφήνονται σε σωσίβιες σχεδίες ή μερικές φορές αναγκάζονται ακόμη και να πέσουν απευθείας στο νερό, κάτι που δείχνει παντελή έλλειψη σεβασμού για την ανθρώπινη ζωή. Τουλάχιστον τρεις άνθρωποι φέρονται να έχουν χάσει τη ζωή τους σε τέτοια περιστατικά από τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2021 στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος, εκ των οποίων ένας τον Ιανουάριο”.

Όπως τονίζεται τόσο από την Ύπατη Αρμοστεία του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες, όσο και σε  πρόσφατες αναφορές μεγάλων μέσων ενημέρωσης, η πολιτική των επαναπροωθήσεων είναι καλά τεκμηριωμένη και έχει ήδη οδηγήσει σε αρκετά θανατηφόρα περιστατικά τους τελευταίους μήνες. Η πολιτική των επαναπροωθήσεων αποτυπώνεται και στους επίσημους αριθμούς της Ύπατης Αρμοστείας του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες: ενώ το 2021 οι αφίξεις που καταγράφηκαν στα ελληνικά νησιά έχουν μειωθεί κατά 93% σε σύγκριση με το 2019, ο αριθμός των νεκρών και των αγνοουμένων παρέμεινε ο ίδιος κατά μέσο όρο από το 2019 έως το 2021. 

Παρόλο που οι ακριβείς συνθήκες θανάτου των επτά μεταναστών που βρέθηκαν στην ακτή της Λέσβου αυτή την εβδομάδα παραμένουν προς το παρόν αβέβαιες, δεν υπάρχει αμφιβολία ότι ο θάνατός τους είναι άμεση συνέπεια του απάνθρωπου και επικίνδυνου συνοριακού καθεστώτος που εφαρμόζουν η Ελλάδα και η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση. Κανείς άνθρωπος δεν θα πνιγόταν στη θάλασσα προσπαθώντας να φτάσει στην Ελλάδα, αν υπήρχαν νόμιμες και ασφαλείς διαδρομές

Η ευκολία με την οποία μπορούν να δημιουργηθούν νόμιμες οδοί μετανάστευσης, αν υπάρχει πολιτική βούληση, αποδείχθηκε από την ταχύτητα με την οποία το Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης καθιέρωσε διαδικασίες για την πρόσβαση Ουκρανών υπηκόων στην Ελλάδα αεροπορικώς ή οδικώς, οι οποίοι κατά την είσοδό τους στη χώρα δικαιούνται προσωρινή προστασία από την Υπηρεσία Ασύλου για ένα έτος και δικαίωμα πρόσβασης σε στέγαση, εργασία και ιατρική περίθαλψη. Η καθιέρωση αυτής της διαδικασίας για τους Ουκρανούς υπηκόους εξέθεσε επίσης τον τρόπο άσκησης πολιτικής ασύλου με βάση το εθνοτικό ή άλλο υπόβαθρο των αιτούντων άσυλο.

Αντί να διασφαλίσει ότι οι άνθρωποι μπορούν να βρουν ασφαλές καταφύγιο και να έχουν νόμιμη πρόσβαση στο άσυλο, η Ελλάδα τα τελευταία έξι χρόνια έχει επικεντρώσει τις προσπάθειές της στην αποτροπή της μετανάστευσης, με οποιοδήποτε κόστος για την ανθρώπινη ζωή ή αξιοπρέπεια, μέσω της δημιουργίας “hotspots” στα ελληνικά νησιά. Η θεσμική βία και η σκληρή αδιαφορία για τις ζωές των μεταναστών σε παραμεθόριες περιοχές, όπως η Λέσβος, έχουν γίνει σιωπηρά ανεκτές στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση εδώ και χρόνια, ή καλύτερα έχουν ενθαρρυνθεί με συγκεκριμένες μεταναστευτικές πολιτικές της, όπως η συμφωνία ΕΕ-Τουρκίας. Δεδομένης αυτής της σιωπηρής υποστήριξης, δεν αποτελεί έκπληξη το γεγονός ότι η Ελλάδα συνεχίζει να κλιμακώνει τις σκληρές μεθόδους επιτήρησης των συνόρων της, μέσω της αυξημένης εφαρμογής των επαναπροωθήσεων. Μια ριζική μεταρρύθμιση των ευρωπαϊκών μεταναστευτικών πολιτικών, που θα θεσπίζει νόμιμες και ασφαλείς μεταναστευτικές διαδρομές, χωρίς διακρίσεις, είναι απαραίτητη αν θέλουμε να ελπίζουμε ότι θα τερματιστεί η συνεχιζόμενη επίθεση κατά των μεταναστών στα σύνορα της Ευρώπης, η οποία οδήγησε στην τραγωδία που ζήσαμε αυτή την εβδομάδα στη Λέσβο. 

“Τα ναυάγια στο Αιγαίο δεν είναι ατυχήματα”, Φωτογραφία (Women in Solidarity House – WISH Lesvos): μηνύματα και κεριά στην πλατεία Σαπφούς, Μυτιλήνη, την 1η Μαρτίου 2022, στη μνήμη των ανθρώπων που βρέθηκαν νεκροί σε ακτή της Λεσβου.

Press release: Justice for Amir and Razuli!

Ελληνικό κείμενο

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

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

Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press Contacts:

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

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

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

**********

Δελτιου Τυπου: Δικαιοσυνη για τους Amir και Razuli!

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

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

Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Επικοινωνία:

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

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

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

Επιβολή παραβόλου ύψους 100 ευρώ για την πρόσβαση στο άσυλο από τη 2η και κάθε επόμενη μεταγενέστερη αίτηση στους/στις αιτούντες/ούσες διεθνούς προστασίας, συμπεριλαμβανομένων των ανηλίκων! / Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!

Μυτιλήνη, 2 Μαρτίου 2022

Κατόπιν επίσημης ενημέρωσης που λάβαμε ως  Ομάδα Εργασίας για τη Νομική Βοήθεια στο νησί της Λέσβου, το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου, ύστερα από πολύμηνη άρνησή του να καταγράψει 2ες και μετέπειτα μεταγενέστερες αιτήσεις διεθνούς προστασίας, την 7η Φεβρουαρίου 2022 ξεκίνησε να καταγράφει εκ νέου τις ανωτέρω αιτήσεις από αιτούντες/ες διεθνούς προστασίας που βρίσκονται τους τελευταίους 6 μήνες σε αδυναμία πρόσβασης στη διαδικασία διεθνούς προστασίας χωρίς υπαιτιότητα των ιδίων. Ωστόσο, η διαδικασία αυτή επανεκκινεί, υπό την απαραίτητη προϋπόθεση για την υποβολή της 2ης μεταγενέστερης αίτησης, της κατάθεσης παραβόλου ύψους 100 ευρώ ανά αίτηση(νομοθετική ρύθμιση της παρ. 10 του άρθρου 89 του Ν. 4636/2019). Μάλιστα βάσει της υπ’ αριθ. 472687/2021 ΚΥΑ, εφόσον η αίτηση υποβάλλεται και για λογαριασμό μελών της οικογένειας του αιτούντος, απαιτείται η κατάθεση παραβόλου ίσου ποσού, για κάθε μέλος ξεχωριστά συμπεριλαμβανομένων και των ανήλικων τέκνων. Αυτό μεταφράζεται στο γεγονός ότι για μία πενταμελή οικογένεια -δύο γονείς με τρία ανήλικα τέκνα- απαιτούνται παράβολα ύψους 500 ευρώ!

Υπενθυμίζουμε  ρητά και εμφατικά πως η απρόσκοπτη και αποτελεσματική πρόσβαση στις διαδικασίες ασύλου αποτελεί υποχρέωση του Ελληνικού κράτους και είναι απαραίτητη προϋπόθεση προκειμένου οι αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο να έχουν πραγματική και ουσιαστική πρόσβαση στις διαδικασίες και να μπορούν να ασκήσουν τα νόμιμα δικαιώματά τους. Καθίσταται σαφές ότι η νομοθετική ρύθμιση που ορίζει την καταβολή του παραβόλου ως αναγκαία προϋπόθεση για την υποβολή μεταγενέστερης αίτησης διεθνούς προστασίας σε έναν οικονομικά και όχι μόνο ευάλωτο πληθυσμό όπως οι αιτούντες/ες άσυλο και ειδικά σε πολυμελείς οικογένειες καθιστά απαγορευτική την κατάθεση του αιτήματος. Ως αποτέλεσμα η προϋπόθεση αυτή υπονομεύει το δικαίωμα πρόσβασης στο άσυλο, όπως κατοχυρώνεται στο άρθρο 18 του Χάρτη Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων, καθώς η ρύθμιση αντίκειται στα άρθρα 6 παρ.1 και 40-42 της οδηγίας 2013/32/Ε.Ε.

Ειδικότερα, το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου είχε αναστείλει τη διαδικασία καταγραφής 2ων και μετέπειτα μεταγενέστερων αιτήσεων διεθνούς προστασίας άτυπα και κατά παραβίαση της αρχής της ασφάλειας του Δικαίου από τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2021 και κατά παραβίαση του άρθρου 6 παρ.1 της οδηγίας 2013/32/Ε.Ε. Ως αποτέλεσμα όσοι/ες αιτούντες/σες έχουν απορριφθεί τελεσίδικα στην 1η μεταγενέστερη αίτησή τους έχουν περιέλθει επί μακρό χρονικό διάστημα, συνεπεία της αδυναμίας κατάθεσης νέας μεταγενέστερης αιτήσεως, σε καθεστώς νομικού κενού και πλήρους επισφάλειας. Επιπλέον οι συγκεκριμένοι/ες αιτούντες/σες διαβιούν ήδη εδώ και αρκετούς μήνες υπό απάνθρωπες και εξευτελιστικές συνθήκες, δεδομένου ότι μετά την τελεσίδικη απόρριψη της προηγούμενης αίτησης τους και την συνακόλουθη απενεργοποίηση του Π.Α.Α.Υ.Π.Α. στερούνται την πρόσβαση σε υγειονομική περίθαλψη και δεν λαμβάνουν το οικονομικό επίδομα που χορηγείται στους/ις αιτούντες/σες, ενώ παράλληλα στερούνται οποιωνδήποτε οικονομικών πόρων και κινδυνεύουν με σύλληψη, διοικητική κράτηση και απέλαση. Αρκετούς μήνες μετά, και χωρίς να έχει υπάρξει καμία ενημέρωση προς τους/τις αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο, το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου επανεκκινεί την καταγραφή των εν λόγω αιτημάτων.

Η έλλειψη δωρεάν και απρόσκοπτης πρόσβασης σε κάθε στάδιο της διαδικασίας αποβαίνει εις βάρος του δίκαιου και αποτελεσματικού χαρακτήρα που πρέπει να διακρίνει τη διαδικασία ασύλου στο σύνολό της. Από την από 25.1.2022 απάντηση της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής σε σχετικό ερώτηµα που της ετέθη µε τη διαδικασία του κατεπείγοντος από τον Γερµανό ευρωβουλευτή Erik Marquardt προκύπτει ότι η Επιτροπή έχει επισημάνει στις ελληνικές αρχές ότι η άνευ όρων υποβολή παραβόλου 100 ευρώ για τις δεύτερες μεταγενέστερες αιτήσεις εγείρει ζητήματα όσον αφορά στην αποτελεσματική πρόσβαση στη διαδικασία ασύλου.

Ιδιαίτερες προβληματικές δημιουργούνται για τις αιτήσεις διεθνούς προστασίας  που συμπεριλαμβάνονται στην ΚΥΑ που ορίζει την Τουρκία ως «ασφαλή τρίτη χώρα» για αιτούντες/σες με χώρα καταγωγής τη Συρία, το Αφγανιστάν, το Πακιστάν, το Μπαγκλαντές, τη Σομαλία, όπου, οι προγενέστερες αιτήσεις τους έχουν εξεταστεί μόνο ως προς το παραδεκτό βάσει του αρ. 86 παρ. 1 ν. 4636/2019 (Τουρκία ασφαλής τρίτη χώρα) και έχουν απορριφθεί ως απαράδεκτες,  χωρίς να  έχουν εξεταστεί ποτέ στην ουσία τους.  Μάλιστα οι αιτήσεις αυτές έχουν απορριφθεί ως απαράδεκτες, παρά το γεγονός ότι η Τουρκία έχει αναστείλει τις επανεισδοχές εδώ και σχεδόν 2 χρόνια,  λόγω της συνεχιζόμενης άρνησης των Ελληνικών Αρχών να εφαρμόσουν το άρθρο 86 (5) του Ν. 4636/2019, σύμφωνα με το οποίο όταν η τρίτη χώρα δεν επιτρέπει στον αιτούντα να εισέλθει στο έδαφός της, η αίτησή του εξετάζεται επί της ουσίας από τις Αρμόδιες Αρχές Απόφασης. Στο σημείο αυτό πρέπει να αναφερθεί ότι ειδικά για τους πολίτες Συρίας η ανωτέρω συνθήκη ίσχυε και πριν την εφαρμογή της ΚΥΑ που ορίζει την Τουρκία ως «ασφαλή τρίτη χώρα» με αποτέλεσμα να υπάρχουν περιπτώσεις αιτούντων/σών που επί 3 χρόνια δεν έχουν καταφέρει να έχουν πρόσβαση σε ασφαλές νομικό καθεστώς, καθώς απορρίπτονται διαρκώς επί του παραδεκτού. Για τους αιτούντες/σες , των οποίων η αίτηση για παροχή διεθνούς προστασίας ουδέποτε έχει εξεταστεί στην ουσία της, η Διοίκηση οφείλει από μόνη της να τους/τις καλέσει σε προφορική ακρόαση επί της ουσίας βάσει του άρθρου 86 παρ. 5 ν. 4636/2019 και όχι να τους/τις οδηγήσει στο να αιτηθούν για τρίτη φορά διεθνή προστασία, υποχρεώνοντας τους/τες ταυτόχρονα να καταβάλουν παράβολο ύψους 100 ευρώ προς τούτο. Επιπλέον στη διάταξη αυτή εμπίπτουν και αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο από χώρες όπου έχει λάβει χώρα ουσιαστική μεταβολή των συνθηκών, όπως το Αφγανιστάν, παρά το γεγονός ότι η ύπαρξη νέων και ουσιωδών στοιχείων και η μη καταχρηστικότητα της αίτησης είναι δεδομένη. 

Καλούμε το Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου να καταργήσει τη νομοθετική ρύθμιση της παρ.10 του άρθρου 89 του Ν.4636/2019 και την υπ’ αριθ. 472687/2021 ΚΥΑ, καθώς το περιεχόμενο τους εισάγει κανόνα µη επιτρεπτό από τις διατάξεις των άρ. 6παρ.1 και 40-42 της Οδηγίας 2013/32/ΕΕ και, µάλιστα, δεν περιλαµβάνει εξαιρέσεις από την υποχρέωση καταβολής του παραβόλου. Επιπλέον, προσκρούει στις διατάξεις των άρθρων 25 παρ. 2 και 20 παρ. 1 του Συντάγµατος της Ελλάδος, στα άρθρα  18, 47 και 52 του Χάρτη Θεµελιωδών Δικαιωµάτων της ΕΕ και τη σχετική νοµολογία του ΕΔΔΑ αναφορικά µε τις διατάξεις των άρθρων 3,8 και 13 της ΕΣΔΑ, καθότι ουσιαστικά καθιστά αδύνατη την πρόσβαση στη διαδικασία ασύλου σε όσους πρόσφυγες δεν έχουν  την οικονομική δυνατότητα να καταβάλουν το παράβολο των 100 ευρώ για κάθε άτομο/μέλος της οικογένειας.

Καλούμε τις αρμόδιες αρχές και το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου να σεβαστούν το θεμελιώδες για το ευρωπαϊκό κεκτημένο δικαίωμα στο άσυλο και να απόσχουν από ενέργειες που καταστρατηγούν τα δικαιώματα των αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο και αντίκεινται στην αρχή της αναλογικότητας. Αυτές οι ενέργειες δεν συνάδουν με το νομικό μας κεκτημένο, παραβιάζουν το εθνικό και ενωσιακό δίκαιο και δύνανται να προκαλέσουν σοβαρή και ανεπανόρθωτη βλάβη σε αιτούντες/ουσες άσυλο, οδηγώντας στην παραβίαση της θεμελιώδους για το διεθνές δίκαιο αρχής της μη επαναπροώθησης.

Υπογράφουσες Οργανώσεις

ΔΙΟΤΙΜΑ – Κέντρο για τα Έμφυλα Δικαιώματα και την Ισότητα

Defence for Children International Greece

Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες (ΕΣΠ)

European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL)

FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid

HIAS Ελλάδος

Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL)

ΜΕΤΑδραση – ΔΡΑΣΗ ΓΙΑ ΤΗ ΜΕΤΑΝΑΣΤΕΥΣΗ ΚΑΙ ΤΗΝ ΑΝΑΠΤΥΞΗ

PRAKSIS

Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο (RSA)

Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!

Mytilene, 2 March 2022

Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!

Following an official  information we received as a Working Group on Legal Aid on the island of Lesvos, RAO of Lesvos after many months of refusal  to register 2nd and following subsequent applications for international protection, on 7 February 2022  started to re-register the aforementioned applications of asylum seekers who have been unable to access the international protection procedure for the last 6 months without their own fault. However, this procedure restarts with a necessary condition for the submission of the second and subsequent application, the deposit of a fee of 100 euros per application  (legislative regulation of par. 10 of article 89 of Law 4636/2019). In fact, based on JMD no. 472687/2021, if the application is submitted on behalf of several members of the applicant’s family, the deposit of an equal amount for each member separately is required, including   minor children. This translates to the fact that for a five member’s family – two parents with three minor children – a fee of 500 euros is required!

We explicitly and emphatically remind  that the unhindered and effective access to asylum procedures is an obligation of the Greek state and is a necessary condition for asylum seekers to have real and effective access to the (asylum) procedures and to be able to exercise their legal rights. It is clear that the legislative provision based on which  the payment of the fee constitutes a prerequisite for the submission  of a subsequent application for international protection for a financially deprived and vulnerable population, such as asylum seekers and especially for  big families, constitutes the submission of the asylum application prohibitive. As a result, this condition undermines the right of access to asylum, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights [1], as the provision  is contrary to articles 6 par. 1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU[2,3].

In particular,   RAO Lesvos in violation of the principle of legal certainty from September 2021 and in violation of article 6 par. 1 of Directive 2013/32 / ΕU, had informally suspended the registration process of 2nd  and following subsequent applications for international protection and iU. As a result, those applicants who had their 1st subsequent application rejected have found themselves for a long time, as a result of the inability to submit a new subsequent application, in a legal limbo  and extremely  precarious situation. In addition, the aforementioned applicants have been living in inhuman and degrading conditions for several months now given that after the final rejection of their previous application and the consequent deactivation of PA.A.Y.P.A. they are deprived of access to health care and they are not receiving the financial benefits granted to the applicants, while at the same time they are deprived of any other financial resources and are at risk of arrest, administrative detention and deportation. Several months later, and without any information provided to the asylum seekers,  RAO Lesvos resumes the registration of the aforementioned applications.

The lack of free and unhindered access  at every stage of the  procedure is to the detriment of the fair and effective nature that must characterize the asylum procedure as a whole. From the  European Commission’s reply of 25.1.2022[4] to a relevant question  put  under the urgent procedure by the German MEP Erik Marquardt,  it appears that the Commission has pointed out to the Greek authorities that the unconditional submission of a fee of EUR 100 for the second subsequent applications raises  issues regarding the effective access to the asylum procedure.

Particular concerns  arise in relation to applications for  international protection falling under the JMD which defines  Turkey as a “safe third country” for applicants  whose country of origin is  Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, where their  previous  applications have been examined only on admissibility under Article 86 par. 1 Law no 4636/2019 (Turkey safe third country) and have been rejected as inadmissible, without ever  having been examined on their merits. Moreover, despite the fact that Turkey has suspended readmission for almost 2 years, these applications have been rejected as inadmissible due to the continued refusal of the Greek authorities to enforce Article 86 (5) of Law 4636/2019, according to which when the third country does not allow the applicant to enter its territory, his/her application shall be examined on the merits by the Competent Authorities. At this point it should be mentioned that especially for  Syrian citizens the above procedure was in force  even before the implementation of the JMD which defines Turkey as a “safe third country”  and as a result  there are cases of applicants who for 3 years have not been able to access  a safe legal status, as they are constantly rejected on admissibility. For the applicants whose application for international protection has never been examined on its merits , the Administration must according to article 86 par. 5 of law 4636/2019 invite them to an oral hearing on the merits   on the basis of  and not to lead them to apply for international protection for a third time, while obliging them to pay a fee of 100 euros for this purpose . Moreover, this provision also includes asylum seekers from countries where a substantial change of circumstances has taken place, such as Afghanistan, despite the fact that the existence of new and essential elements and the non-abusability  of the application  are  given.

We call on the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum to abolish the legislative regulation of par. 10 of article 89 of Law no 4636/2019 and JMD No. 472687/2021, as their content introduces a not permitted rule   by  the provisions of article. 6 par.1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU and, in fact, does not include any exceptions to the obligation to pay the fee. In addition, it conflicts with the provisions of articles 25 par. 2 and 20 par. 1 of the Constitution of Greece, articles 18, 47 and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of EU law and the relevant case law of the ECtHR regarding the provisions of Articles 3, 8 and 13 of the ECHR,  since it effectively makes it impossible for those refugees who do not have the financial means to pay the fee of  EUR 100 per person/family member.

We call on the competent authorities and  the RAO Lesvos to respect the European fundamental  right to seek asylum and to refrain from actions that violate the rights of asylum seekers and  contradict the principle of proportionality. These actions are not in line with our legal acquis, violate national and EU law and may cause serious and irreparable harm to asylum seekers, violating the principle of non- refoulement fundamental to international law.

English translation: Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid

Signatories

DΙΟΤΙΜΑ

Defence for Children International Greece

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL)

FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid

HIAS Greece

Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL)

ΜΕΤΑdrasi

PRAKSIS

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)

Prison quarantine and dangerous fires: Updates from the Lesvos camp

Children inside one of the prefabricated shelter structures of the “health quarantine” in the Lesvos RIC.
February 2022, Photograph by a camp resident.

Given the persistent and established practice of pushbacks carried out by the Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea for nearly two years now, only a limited number of migrants have successfully managed to effectively exercise their right to seek asylum after arriving in Greece by sea. 

In Lesvos, the “lucky ones” – that is the few asylum seekers who are not illegally pushed back to Turkey – are brought to the Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) by the authorities, where they are first detained in a so-called “health quarantine area” of the camp.

I. The “COVID-19 quarantine” area or the shameful jail of the Lesvos RIC

This zone of the camp which is meant to be the medical quarantine for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, is casually called by other residents of the RIC “zendan”, Farsi for jail, describing best the actual conditions imposed on people in this prison quarantine.

Until today, the quarantine area of the camp remains under police and camera surveillance, surrounded by double fences with barbed wire. New arrivals on the island are normally held in this closed area for at least 10 days, in deplorable conditions, sharing prefabricated units together with unrelated individuals, who are living in the Lesvos RIC and are suspected to be infected with COVID-19.

This month, at least 19 unaccompanied minor children also remained detained in the quarantine area for around 20 days – together with unrelated adults – despite the fact that they had completed their quarantine period and did not have COVID-19 – with the excuse that there is no space for them in either the “Safe Area” of the RIC or housing for unaccompanied minors provided by the NGO Iliaktida.

The prison quarantine of the Lesvos RIC is exposing people forced to stay there to deplorable living conditions which are in no way compliant with COVID-19 preventive measures and unfit for medical isolation.

The fenced quarantine area counts around 15 prefabricated shelters which are usually shared between 5 to 8 persons, sometimes even unrelated individuals (see picture on the right).

Various clients of the LCL who were themselves detained in this quarantine area explained that they were forced to sleep on the floor with their children, without a mattress or bed, and that they suffered from the cold, especially at night (see picture above). In fact, at the start of the winter of 2021-2022, no heating system was installed in those units, leaving their residents only the option to use individual heating systems. Many of LCL clients explained that there were no individual heaters available for them while they were detained there in December 2021. 

Moreover, whereas the winter temperatures have reached as low as 0 degrees celsius the last months in Lesvos, the prefabricated units hosting people in quarantine are not adequately winterised and unsuitable to protect people from the cold temperatures and the harsh weather conditions. People detained there have been forced to use blankets to hang around the walls in an effort to insulate as much as possible their otherwise non-winterised shelter (see picture above).

Picture of the prefabricated shelters of the quarantine prison in the Lesvos RIC, February 2022, Photograph by a camp resident.

Similarly, apart from one week during the month of January, no hot water was available during the whole winter for people to shower in the shower cabins – which are outside – despite the near-freezing temperatures. Recent quarantine detainees explained to the LCL that those shower cabins were even removed (and not replaced) since the start of February leaving them with the only option to wash themselves, their hands or their clothes, either inside the toilets cabins (see picture) or in front of everyone with the one and only outdoor water tap available in the whole area (see picture). 

People detained in this area also explained that no hygiene packs, no soap, shampoo or protective masks were distributed to them during their time in quarantine. As a result, while in the COVID-19 quarantine area, people have no possibility to access adequate hygiene and sanitation nor to effectively protect themselves and others from the virus while being detained there.

Given the awful conditions of the quarantine area, clients of the LCL revealed that many residents of the camp were deterred from mentioning that they are sick or present symptoms of the COVID-19 to the health services available in the camp, out of fear of being detained again in such conditions. In the past, police officers operating in the camp have been escorting families by force from their containers to the quarantine area, where they are held in the circumstances described above. 

During their time in quarantine, new arrivals have officially no legal status in Greece and are not in a position to access support from the outside.

Even before their registration as asylum seekers by the Regional Asylum Service, new arrivals to the island are locked up in the quarantine area, without being able to leave, and without access to any information, to the exterior, nor to adequate basic services, including for hygiene or health services. Apart from the one employee of the RIC and public health agency EODY, no one is allowed access to this zone, not even the UNHCR protection and detention officers, NGOs medical staff, or authorised lawyers wishing to visit their clients.

Until recently, the authorities were also refusing to provide people detained there with the list of lawyers and legal organisations available in Lesvos to support them in the asylum procedure. At the same time, people released from quarantine are commonly rushed within a few days through a registration and asylum interviews, impeding them de facto to access legal support or information about their basic rights. Even now that quarantined people have access to the list of lawyers and legal NGOs to contact on the island, the access to legal support remains in practice extremely limited or nearly impossible, as people have only a few days to arrange an appointment, for many leaving time only for a group session about basic information instead of the option of an individual consultation with a lawyer about their specific case, and representation in the interview. 

The detention of asylum seekers in quarantine added to the over-acceleration of the asylum procedure just after their release, is highly problematic and unfair because it de facto denies asylum seekers a real option to access individual information or advice before a final decision is taken in their case by the Regional Asylum Service.

Such measures have been implemented in Lesvos since the creation of the Lesvos Temporary Reception and Identification Centers and have already violated the rights of thousands of asylum seekers unable to access legal aid and exercise their right to consult a lawyer, let alone the time needed to gather the necessary documentation, and physical and mental health assessments (including certifications that they are victims of torture), which could be determinative when assessing their asylum claims. It is unfortunately part of a broader tactic by the Greek authorities to reject as fast as possible a maximum number of asylum applications, over unfair procedures, without any procedural safeguards available.

II. In other parts of the Lesvos RIC: dangerous fires are destroying one rubhall after the other

On 14 and 28 January 2022, important fires broke out, once again, destroying entirely and in a matter of minutes, several of the rubhall shelters accommodating hundreds of asylum seekers in the “yellow zone”of the Lesvos RIC. Just like in the former camp of Moria, which was ultimately destroyed by fires, such  incidents have become routine in the unsafe Lesvos RIC since its construction in October 2020. 

Despite the repetition of those dangerous fires, neither the Greek nor the European Union authorities have taken any measures to host people in safe and dignified places, continuing to tolerate the fatal risk that camps like the Lesvos RIC represent for migrants. 

The fires which took place in January 2022, just like the November 2021 fires happened in the yellow zone of the camp, where single men who (for most of them) have had their asylum claim rejected, are forced to live. As of today, it also is the zone of the Lesvos RIC where living conditions remain most miserable and precarious, given that most of the shelters there are rubhalls – metallic structures covered by a polyester skin – which only offer a very rudimentary living conditions, without isolation from the winter’s near-freezing cold temperatures or heavy rains. 

As the last series of fires have shown, rubhalls also constitutes an unsafe and hazardous shelter, in particular given that electricity is provided through cables passing along the metallic structure, hanging from the roof, and that the lack of centralised heating system is forcing people living under such structures to use individual heaters under an highly inflammable polyester roof.

In case of fire, the material covering those rubhalls is capable of melting very rapidly, leaving only a very short amount of time for the 50 to 100 people living there to exit through one of the two openings at each end of the rubhall central corridor. In all cases, the causes of the fires seemed to be linked to the use of individual heaters as well as repeated and unprompted cuts of electricity due to the insufficient electricity generators of the camp. 

Luckily, in those recent fires, no one was reported to have been hurt or harmed, except in the incident of 14 January where at least one resident was brought to the hospital due to the inhalation of toxic smoke during the fire. Until now, the men living in those rubhalls have managed to escape in extremis, leaving however most of their belongings behind them, including some of their personal documents which are crucial for their asylum claims. In most instances, people who were hosted in the destroyed rubhalls were not immediately offered alternative housing by the camp authorities but were told to find a place in someone else’s container.

As for the fires of 15 and 18 of November which destroyed two rubhalls of the yellow zone in a matter of minutes, the rapidity of the January fires forced its residents and the residents of the neighbouring rubhalls to intervene with water buckets and fire extinguishers to control the flames, as well as with the duty to save and evacuate others. The pictures and videos of the fires also appear to show how police push people away who are trying to extinguish the fire, and shout and kick buckets over to impede people from coming nearer. 

Those fires are not new phenomena and have already in the past threatened or cost the lives of migrants forced to live in the Greek “hotspots” camps, be it in the present camp, or in the former Moria where since March 2016 at least 6 persons had died in container or tents fires or from carbon monoxide poisoning. Those incidents are a reminder that migrants arriving to Greece to seek asylum continue to be forced to live in miserable conditions and kept in unadapted and dangerous RIC structures which put their lives at risk and expose them to repeated and indelible traumas, including to the many children forced to live there. As per UNHCR data, children currently constitute a fourth of the population in the Lesvos RIC, out of whom nearly 4 out of 5 are younger than 12 years old. Many of the residents of Lesvos RIC previously resided in Moria camp and were displaced by the massive fires that destroyed the site in September 2020. These people have already experienced the fear and psychological trauma arising from the blaze and its aftermath, and families have reported how their children’s repeated exposure to such dangers has had a deleterious effect on their mental health.

Instead of taking into account this reality, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum has continued to concentrate its efforts on the closure of all existing alternative and safe accommodations available in Lesvos, including for minors, families and people with vulnerabilities or medical conditions. As a result, people seeking asylum are concentrated in undignified and dangerous camps, under a cruel policy of geographic restriction impeding them from leaving the island irrespective of their situation or potential vulnerabilities. 

The Greek authorities have been using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to expland detention-like conditions in refugee camps throughout Greece, including discriminatory restrictions of movement and unjustified curfews, be it in the quarantine area or for the wider camp population impeding its residents to enter and leave when they want. The opening and management of the Lesvos RIC have so far been sponsored and praised by the European Commission, which sees the camp as a positive alternative to Moria’s notorious camp, disregarding the reality of the living conditions for the people forced to stay in there, and the danger that this entails for them, which remained vastly unreported.

It should be recalled that the Ministry of Migration and Asylum has received at the end of 2020 an additional 5.36 million euros in emergency funding from the EU to upgrade the “Installations and infrastructures of temporary reception facility in the region of Kara Tepe – Mavrovouni, Municipality of Mytilene” in 2021. Yet, at the same time, the European Court of Human Rights has in 2021 repeatedly found that the living conditions in the Lesvos TRIC were “not compatible with article 3 of the Convention”, that is to say not guaranteeing the European standards on the prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, for over 25 clients of the LCL with health conditions or in need of specific healthcare. 

The lack of political reactions in Greece and in the European Union to change the realities described above shows, once more, the complicit and silent tolerance for the fatal risk to which migrants are deliberately exposed to serve the sole purpose of upholding Europe’s violent borders.