14 protesters detained and in danger of deportation for putting imaginary tents on saphous square

14 protesters are still detained at the pre-removal center in Moria camp. Only two people were released. Among the 14 detainees there is one cancer patient and one suffering from epilepsy. We are very worried that their health will deteriorate if they are not immediately released and can access sufficient medical care outside of the prison.

All of the 14 arrested protesters are North-Africans and therefore subjected to an accelerated asylum procedure. We expect that they will be detained for the entire course of their procedure and then deported. This accelerated procedure is very biased and does not guarantee that each persons case is considered properly. All of them will most likely be rejected on the prejudice that all North-Africans are “economic migrants” and do not deserve international protection.

In the last days IOM staff has been visiting the people in prison and pressured them to sign for so called “voluntary return”. The choice they are given by IOM is barely a choice though. Either they sign, spend months in prison and will be deported….or they do not sign, spend months in prison and will be deported.

What is most outrageous about all of this is that their arrest itself was based on a lie. They are charged with illegally occupying saphous square by putting tents. Just… there were NO TENTS! We are at the moment collecting evidence that can prove that the accuse is simply wrong.
Will it change anything? Probably not. Even though the protesters arrest is based on a lie, we do not expect them to be released from detention. In the end, on Lesvos, the law is not respected. Human rights are not respected. The only thing that seems to count is to get as many people as possible deported as fast as possible.

We demand the release of the remaining 14 protesters.
We demand that the two sick people can access sufficiant health care outside of the prison immediately.
We demand that the charge of illegally occupying the square is dropped.

We demand freedom of movement and a life in dignity for all!

Nigerian man deported despite serious health condition on November 30th

Two brothers from Nigeria who made the deadly crossing from Turkey to Lesvos in a rubber dinghy were immediately detained in the pre-removal prison inside the so-called “Hotspot camp”, Moria. For almost three months they were isolated from society, adequate legal assistance or support structures. All refugees from countries with less than 33% acceptance rate (which are more than 28 countries including Syrian single men) can currently be detained immediately after their arrival on Lesvos, for the entire duration of their asylum procedure. While the two brothers were held in detention, their asylum application was rejected twice under the fast-track border procedure implemented on the Greek islands since the EU-Turkey statement of March 18th 2016. It has been repeatedly pointed out by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and lawyers such as those from the Legal Centre Lesbos that the fast-track procedure tramples roughshod over human rights. In practice, individuals are targeted because of their nationality and stripped of their legal right to a fair and proper asylum hearing.

Together with eight fellow detainees, the two brothers were deported back to Turkey on November 30th by ferry from Mytilene. They only experienced Europe from behind the barbed wire and blank walls of a detention centre, guarded by policemen subject to a constant feeling of isolation and suffering inhuman treatment.

“The conditions in the closed Section B of Moria Centre [are] particularly poor and could be considered as inhuman and degrading,” one Council of Europe researcher reported.

Inmates are stripped of their personal possessions, denied blankets and often live among flooded sewage. Some can only be seen by a doctor at the discretion of the prison guards.

Thanks to these conditions and a lack of medical support, one of the brothers got seriously sick. A video of his deportation shows that he was not even able to walk on his own when he was brought handcuffed on the ferry. Obviously, this condition was no reason for FRONTEX and the Police to postpone his deportation – as we have seen in several similar incidents across recent months.

In Turkey, the two brothers will be detained in prison for an unknown period of time under even more inhumane conditions. By law they can be detained up to one year. Experiencing racism as a person of colour will be a cruel inevitability. One brother said: “It’s even better to be in prison in Greece, then to go back to Turkey.”

Many of the people who are deported from Greece to Turkey will, after the detention period, eventually be deported once again to home countries that they fled due to persecution in the first place.. The story of the two brothers is just one example out of thousands, as people flee suffering only to face the brutal detention and deportation politics of this so-called bastion of human rights, the European Union.

 

Fascists on Saphous square and attempted illegal deportation

“Concerned citizens” and angry shop owners formed part of a 40-strong fascist mob at Saphous Square last Tuesday, gathered in an attempt to evict refugee protesters from their month-long occupation of the site. They were soon joined by police. After extensive negotiations between the protestors, the mayor, and the police, the protestors agreed to pack up their tents. Verbal abuse and the threat of physical attack from the surrounding mob left the protestors with little choice but to do so. They were promised a night in a ‘warm place’ in return, but this was never delivered, and instead of decent government-provided shelter they were brought to sleep in tents at House4Humanity.

Following this, the protestors returned to the square the next morning, welcomed again by the fascist mob. Police in full riot gear showed up to separate the parties and to begotiate again. After some time the protestors were offered a three-day stay in Pikpa, an independent refugee camp, with the obvious question of what will happen once the three days are up left unanswered. The protestors announced to return to the square if not offered any solutions after this time. During the negotiations the gathered fascists shouted violent verbal abuse, directed at the protestors and those in solidarity with them. At one point this broke out into a physical attack, with 25 men attempting to assault 4 women attending the protest in solidarity. In the end, luckily, no one was hurt.

Currently Saphous Square lies empty, save for a handful of bored police. For now we wait to see where this leads us, with a verdict promised by Saturday.

The importance of the Saphous Square protest, and the need for it to continue, was demonstrated again this morning. Despite one individual’s lawyer appealing his deportation order, we learned today that this man remained on the list for deportation to Turkey. The deportation has been stopped for now, by pressure from the lawyer, activists, and journalists on the police.

However, the question remains: what if this individual had not been one of the lucky few represented by a decent lawyer? Most likely, he would right now be in a Turkish detention centre, and in a few months, on a plane back to Kabul.

Nearly every week between 7-20 people are forcefully deported to Turkey. The situation is almost impossible to monitor, as access to the prisons is strictly limited to lawyers and close family members, and there are nowhere near enough lawyers on Lesvos to provide access to legal aid for the detainees. We know that today was not the only attempt to illegally deport someone, and we can be sure that the cases we hear about are the very tip of the iceberg.

General strike and demonstration

Today there is general strike and a demonstration called by the major. Although they demand the refugees to be able to leave the island we should not follow a racist argumentation that demands to decongest the island because refugees are a “burden” for the local population. Our demands are to open all borders and decent living conditions for all people, on the islands, on the mainland and in the rest of Europe.

Open the islands- Open the Borders-Free Hesam!

27 days of protest on saphous square and demonstration in front of Moria

The occupation of saphous square in Mytilini is now happening for the 27th consecutive day. For almost one month now refugees from different countries of origin, different age and gender have stood together against the conditions on the island and for their right to freedom of movement.

On Tuesday afternoon, the protesters called for a demonstration in front of Moria. The reason for the protest was the arrest of Hesam, one of the occupants of saphous square. His asylum was rejected and he faces deportation to Turkey and then Iran. He is afraid that he will face further religious persecution upon his return to Iran.

At 4.30 in the afternoon around 30 people gathered at first in front of Moria. Quickly they were joined by many people living in Moria camp that formed a loud and powerful yet peaceful gathering.

20th day of protest for freedom and opentheislands

Refugees have been protesting against the unsafe conditions in Moria and for Freedom of movement for 20 days now, for 19 days they have been occupying the central square in Mytilini.

Despite harassment by the police and nights that always get colder, they are still present and continue to fight for their rights. Some of the protesters started a hungerstrike several days ago.

The protest was started by mostly families after an outburst of violence inside Moria camp on October 20th.

At the same time in Athens, several people are on hungerstrike. They demand to be reunited with their families in Germany and protest the delays of family reunification by the German government, letting people wait for months before being united with their loved ones.

Follow our facebook and twitter for more updates.

Call for Donations: NoBorderKitchen Lesvos needs your support!

Once again we are almost broke and urgently need money to continue our work.

We are an anti-hierarchical, self-organized group of activists with and without papers from all over the world, with the shared aim of overcoming the borders and restrictions that impede freedom of movement.
As well as providing food in order to support the autonomy of those living outside of the state-run camps, we do other political work to resist the border regime, and fight together for a world where we are all recognised equally as humans.

What we need the money for:

Food provision is only one of many parts of our work, but it is by far the area in which we spend the majority of our money. Every month we support more than 300 people with food boxes which enable them to live and cook autonomously. For most, our support allows them the possibility of living outside the miserable, state-run camp, and making their homes in their own flats and squats instead. The demand for the boxes is huge and we currently have a long waiting list. We always hope to be able to support more people in future, but even continuing to support those we already provide for demands more funds than we currently have!

For people we cannot currently support with food boxes, and for those who don’t have cooking facilities, we also organise a daily distribution of hot food of around 80 meals a day. This is also important as an opportunity for meeting each other and chatting over a nice cup of rice and salad, and building networks of solidarity on the island.

Delivering foodboxes and meals involves a lot of driving which means we spend a lot of money on fuel, car repairs etc. At the moment we are also readying the kitchen for winter and so urgently need to buy building materials.

Food is not everything – we also support people in other ways when we have the financial means. This includes a range of things, for example providing support to our friends in detention.

If you cannot donate yourself, you could help us by doing solidarity-parties or other fundraisers in your hometown and sending us the proceeds. Even just spreading the info about NoBorderKitchen can be very useful!

Please contact us for the bank details via noborderkitchen@riseup.net or on facebook.

Follow our Facebook (“No Border Kitchen Lesvos”) and our Twitter (“@noborderkitchen”) for information on the situation on Lesvos and for updates on the work your support will enable.

#OpenTheIslands

New campaign for Freedom of Movement and against EU-Turkey deal. Share, Retweet, Sign and check out the blog opentheislands.wordpress.com!

JOINT STATEMENT

Open the islands – No more dead from cold

Solidarity groups and organisations call for urgent action as winter is coming for refugees in Greece

12 October 2017

Over 40 solidarity groups and organisations are calling for urgent action from the Greek local and national authorities to prevent more refugees from dying in the cold as winter sets in once again. They expect more groups and organisations to join them over the next days and weeks.

Several places woke up on Thursday 12 October to find their neighbourhoods plastered with the emblematic picture of Moria camp on Lesvos, covered in snow last winter, while the collective has also launched a campaign on social media with the hashtag #opentheislands.

Six people who were seeking refuge and protection in Europe died in Moria last winter, their deaths linked to inhumane winter living conditions. Their families are still waiting for answers from the authorities as to how and why their relatives died, and for those who are responsible to be held accountable. Only last Sunday 8 October, a five-year-old Syrian girl died in Moria. The cause of death is yet unknown.

The collective of solidarity groups and organisations, expresses their shock and outrage at the current situation in the islands as winter sets in. Approximately 5000 people currently live in Moria camp, which has a capacity of around 2000. This includes the seriously ill, the disabled, pregnant women, many children including unaccompanied minors, and survivors of torture and other trauma. Many now live in woefully inadequate summer tents and have to sleep on the floor on thin sleeping mats or blankets. Likewise, the other Greek hotspot islands – Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros – are dramatically overcrowded, leaving 8000 more asylum seekers without appropriate shelter. The so-called hotspots are currently uninhabitable and to date a clear plan to prevent the tragedies of last winter from being repeated has not been released.

A refugee forced to stay in Moria camp reports about the conditions:

Living in Moria makes us all sick. In the morning you wake up in a cramped tent or container between other people. It smells disgustingly and I hate that I cannot wash myself properly. In winter it is freezing. Everything is soaked. When you wake up you cannot move your limbs. And you’re covered in ashes. Last winter we burned paper and plastic to stay warm. It is as if we were not human beings.”

The collective stresses that the current situation is not caused by the onset of winter or a sudden increase of arrivals. Rather, it is a direct result of the EU-Turkey Statement and EU asylum and migration policies of exclusion. These policies keep people trapped on the islands for prolonged periods of time, prevent people from ever reaching Europe, and prevent people who are eligible for relocation and family reunification from moving on to other countries in a reasonable time.

Everybody knows that winter is coming. 700 million Euros have been made available to the Greek authorities to manage the situation. As a collective, we want details as to how and where this money is being spent. We also urgently demand that the several relevant actors in the Greek government, at national and local level, assume and clearly communicate their responsibilities. They must then be held accountable for what will happen to refugees and migrants this winter in Greece. The ongoing practice of dodging blame and responsibility for the systematic violation of refugees’ rights in the Greek hotspots is unacceptable and has to stop. It is the role of the prime minister to ensure that all levels of the government function and are held accountable. We call on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to clarify the responsibilities of different actors both locally and nationally, and to present a plan for winter.

Likewise, we condemn all the European governments who have created the EU-Turkey Statement and who put pressure on Greece to implement the EU-Turkey Statement, through the European Commission and other channels. The Statement prioritises maintaining Fortress Europe over all else, trampling roughshod over international human rights law. All European governments share the responsibility for the human rights violations suffered by refugees in Greece today, for those deaths that have already occurred, for those which could follow this winter.

It is with great interest that we have taken notice of the various statements by UNHCR, municipalities, and RIC staff, sounding the alarm over the current situation in the Greek islands. But without action, these statements are empty. We need solutions and immediate action from all responsible actors, including UNHCR, whose mandate is to provide international protection and seek permanent solutions for problems faced by refugees.

We call on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to:

clarify the responsibilities of different actors both locally and nationally, and to present a plan for winter.

We call on the Greek government, at local and national level, to:

  • Close the hotspots and decongest the islands by ending restrictions on the freedom of movement of asylum-seekers arriving on the Greek islands and provide them with adequate reception on the mainland outside of detention facilities.

  • In the meantime, provide appropriate, winter-proof shelter for refugees staying in camps throughout Greece.

  • Stop returning asylum-seekers to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal, since they cannot fully access their right to apply for international protection in Turkey. Therefore, Turkey cannot be considered a “safe third country” or a “safe first country of asylum.”

  • Examine all asylum claims on their merits in a full and fair asylum process with all procedural and substantial safeguards.

  • Stop arbitrary detention. Stop the current practice of generalized detention of asylum-seekers based on nationality with the intention of returning them to Turkey. Children must never be detained.

  • Ensure access to medical care (including mental health care) and legal aid for asylum-seekers.

We call on the European Commission to:

  • Revise the recommendations made in quarterly reports and joint actions plans, and remove recommendations to increase security forces and detention facilities for people seeking protection in the European Union.

  • Remove recommendations to legalise the detention of minors, as outlined in the recommendations of the European Commission on 7th of March 2017, as the detention of minors violates the rights of children.

  • Remove recommendations for limiting the number of appeal steps and for including vulnerable asylum applicants as well as those with family links in the EU under the EU-Turkey deal.

We call on the European Union Member States to:

  • End all returns to Greece from other European States of refugees and asylum seekers under EU Regulation No. 604/2013 (Dublin III), due to the inhumane conditions in Greece.

  • Increase the number of available relocation places by allowing access to the scheme for those who have arrived after the conclusion of the EU-Turkey deal, and swiftly match relocation requests in order to ensure that the minimum reception conditions to safeguard human dignity can be met, as required by EU Directive 2013/33/EU.

  • Expedite the Dublin III reunification of families, many of whom have been forcibly separated by war and persecution and have been waiting years to be reunited.

  • Cancel the inhuman EU-Turkey deal.

For more information, including press materials and the list of signatories so far, please visit: https://opentheislands.wordpress.com

List of solidarity groups and organisations signing on to the joint statement

“Open the islands – No more dead from cold”:

  1. ΑΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΥΗ ΚΩΣ (Kos Solidarity / Αλληλεγγύη-Κως)
  2. Αλληλέγγυοι Χίου / Chios Solidarity (fb: https://www.facebook.com/chiossolidarity/ )
  3. Αλληλεγγύης στους Πρόσφυγες Ρεθύμνου/ Solidarity to Refugees in Rethumno
  4. ΑΝΤΙΦΑΣΙΣΤΙΚΗ ΚΙΝΗΣΗ ΚΩ/ Antifascist Movement Kos
  5. Κίνηση αλληλεγγύης  Περνάμε τα Σύνορα. Κατερίνη/ We Cross the Border Solidarity Movement
  6. Κοινωνικό Στέκι-Στέκι Μεταναστών Χανίων/ Social Centre- Migrant Centre of Chania
  7. Ομάδα ΌΑΣΙΣ Ρόδος
  8. Ομάδα στήριξης μεταναστών και προσφύγων Καλύμνου /Kalymnos Support Group for Migrants and Refugees
  9. Πρωτοβουλία Έμπρακτης
  10. Πρωτοβουλία Ηρακλείου για τους Πρόσφυγες/Μετανάστες /Heraklion Initiative for Refugees and Migrants
  11. A Drop in the Ocean / Dråpen i Havet
  12. Agora
  13. Are you Syrious (AYS)
  14. Borderline Europe/ Borderline Lesvos http://www.borderline-europe.de/
  15. Christian Peacemakers Team Europe (CPT)
  16. Collettivo Fotosocial (www.collettivofotosocial.com)
  17. ConAction – Joliba e.V. Berlin
  18. Enough is Enough
  19. FFM (Research Society Flight and Migration)
  20. HarekAct http://harekact.bordermonitoring.eu/
  21. Heimatstern
  22. InterEuropean Human Aid Association Germany e.V.
  23. Joinda Production
  24. Khora Athens http://www.khora-athens.org/
  25. Kritnet (Network Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies)
  26. Legal Centre Lesbos (www.legalcentrelesbos.org)
  27. Lesvos Solidarity (www.lesvossolidarity.org)
  28. MissingLink e.V.
  29. Mobile Flüchtlingshilfe e.V. – Mobile Refugee Relief
  30. Moving Europe http://moving-europe.org/
  31. NISYROS SUPPORTS REFUGEES
  32. No Border Kitchen Lesvos ( http://noborderkitchenlesvos.noblogs.org/)
  33. One Happy Family
  34. Outreach Service Athens
  35. Refucomm e.V Munich
  36. Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza
  37. Refugee Empowerment Awareness Task Force
  38. SAO Association
  39. Sea Watch https://sea-watch.org/en/project/about-us/
  40. The International Refugee Assistance Project
  41. Volunteers for Lesvos
  42. Watch the Med – Alarm Phone http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/page/index/12
  43. Welcome to Europe (W2EU)
  44. Maritta Gudrun Efthimiadis (since March 2015  volontary assistant in Polykastro /Thessaloniki)

 

28 REASONS FOR ARBITRARY DETENTION

The Greek government have recently introduced a way to abitrarily detain even more people in Moria. They will expand their practice of detaining people with citizenships of countries with low asylum acceptance rates, undermining the already barely existent right to a fair asylum procedure even more than before.

For several months the government has been detaining people of certain nationalities with very low acceptance rates based solely on their citizenship. The most targeted groups were people from Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco and Bangladesh. Although this is illegal regarding EU law as it is clearly discrimination based on a persons nationality and leads to a lot of racial profiling, it has been used by the government to force people to apply for asylum instead of travelling on, to get rid of “troublemakers”, to coerce people to sign for so called “voluntary return” with IOM and to make sure that as many people as possible get negative decisions on their admissability interviews and thus can be deported back to Turkey.

Since these nationality-based raids and checks have started, fear and anxiety have spread through the affected communities. We have friends and comrades who, already scared by the constant police presence and violent raids in the camps, are now also afraid to go to the city and walk in the streets. Many people have been deported in recent months, and the ones remaining live in constant fear and uncertainty, leading to constantly high levels of psychological stress.

Now the government will expand this practice. The first change is that they now plan to detain people from all countries with less than 25% acceptance rates on their asylum applications; at the moment there are 28 nationalities that fit this criteria. We don’t know yet which the 28 nationalities are but know that it will newly include, among others, people from African countries like Cameroon and Ethiopia.

The second change is that people will be detained and processed directly upon arrival. During recent months the police have often targeted people staying on the island for some months without applying for asylum. What is new now is that they want to not only detain detain and register, but also process people, directly upon arrival. The implementation of this pilot project will have severe consequences. People will

– not have time to understand the admissability and asylum procedure1 in the hotspot on Lesvos and prepare properly for their interviews

– not have proper access to legal help and be even more poorly informed about their rights

Already now the government have detained people far longer than the maximum permitted 25 days without them having received a decision on their interview. It remains to be seen how EASO, already completely overwhelmed, is supposed to provide decisions within a few weeks to new arrivals.

The Legal Centre Lesvos

“condemns the policy being used by Greek authorities that keeps applicants for international protection from countries with “low rates of recognition” detained for the duration of their asylum procedure, which is also accelerated. This policy is in violation of international human rights law: amounting to discrimination on the basis of nationality, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and precluding the right to effective access to procedures and effective remedy. The policy also violates procedural requirements of EU and Greek law, which explicitly prohibit holding people in detention for the sole reason that they have applied for international protection. […] The disturbing assumptions underlying this manifestly unlawful policy should be evident from the fact that a police circular describing the policy on 18th June 2016 termed people from “low rate of recognition” nationalities as “economic profile”, as opposed to “refugee profile” applicants.”2

This practice will lead to many people not having access to a fair procedure, and thus lower acceptance rates, which can then be used again to justify their detention in the first place. This is a dangerous and irresponsible loop, using the unjust consequences of an illegal practice to rationalise its use. Furthermore the separation of economic and political migrants dangerously ignores the political reasons for the economic injustice in countries of the south and Europe’s colonial history.

A further concern is that it will lead to more deportation of vulnerable people: those who should actually be admissible for an asylum procedure in Greece and could legally not be deported back to Turkey. However, the vulnerability screenings done as part of registration very often overlook less visible vulnerabilities like severe psychological problems (often directly related to the reasons people fled their contries of origin). This will lead to an increase in unidentified vulnerabilities and therefore deportations of people who would actually be admissable for asylum procedure and maybe also eligible for international protection.

Refugees’ access to a right to asylum and to fair procedures are already basically impossible under the EU-Turkey deal. These new regulations will make it even more difficult for them.

All of this said, it should be stressed again that migrants on Lesvos are and will be increasingly detained under horrible circumstances and for unknown periods of time just because they came to Europe from a certain country of origin. Officially the detention capacity in the pre-removal centre inside of Moria camp is 210 people3 (it was recently expanded), so it can’t hold all new arrivals; a small piece of good news at an otherwise highly worrying time.

Even more shamefully, the government’s plan for an increase in deportations doubles as their excuse for not improving the living conditions in Moria camp. The “solution” of the government for preparing the camps for winter is to deport enough people that the rest can fit into the containers built this spring.

And their “solution” for solving the long waiting times until the asylum decision seems to be to detain new arrivals and fast track detention procedures, to be able to deport people faster and more effectively (albeit illegally and inhumanely).

1For more infos on the procedures in the Greek hotspots after the EU-Turkey Deal read www.w2eu.info/greece

2http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2017/09/30/september-report-on-rights-violations-and-resistance-in-lesvos/

3http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/sep/eu-com-eu-turkey-7th-rep-com-470.pdf

A Moment of victory

 

Even though we declared the protest of last Saturday as a peaceful demand  of the release of Behrooz Arash and Kozhin Hussein and all illegally  detained refugees, we have been deeply concerned about police violence  and arbitrary arrests. We had mixed feelings about mobilizing people to  join the gathering, because it was obvious that the risk of police  violence would be high. It seems that police crime entered a new level of inhumanity on this  island. People get arrested in handcuffs like criminals just to check  their papers, sometimes they get detained for one night without any  reason even if their papers are valid. After the last protest in Moria  individuals got brutally pulled out of their shelters, arrested and  charged without any evidences and are detained in different prisons all  over Greece without any legal base. In a place like Moria, where  pregnant women get beaten up by police, we expected the worst but  couldn’t resist to show our rage about the injustice and our solidarity  with people who tried to reach safety but instead of receive this right  of protection get treated like criminals. Lucky us that the police kept quiet this time. Lucky us, that it seems  like this time at least one of our common goals was achieved. Behrooz  Arash and Kozhin Hussein got released of their unlawful detention on day  41 of Arash Hampays hungerstrike. Grateful for this moment of victory we  continue our fight until human rights and justice are more than just  fictive words in Europe.