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Greece: Independent volunteers are not responsible for violence

"We, the independent volunteers of the Shorba Crew and other groups in Idomeni have not been starting protests in the camps and strongly resent accusations by the media that we are 'fake volunteers'. Since January, The Shorba Crew have cooked over 500,000 meals and served them in and around Idomeni camp. Media and police has accused volunteers of starting the protests in camp which have been responded to with the sickening and indiscriminate violence of the FYROM border forces. As a result volunteers have been subject to intensified police harassment.

Yesterday (12/04/16) three volunteers were illegally detained while driving to the Idomeni camp. The reason given was to provide identification - something that we all do regularly on site....

A female member of the group was illegally forced to strip for a complete search, again without pretext. Phones were taken. The owner of the car was beaten then handcuffed and taken to another room by four other police and loudly threatened with more violence while his friends had to listen outside. He has since been taken to Kilkis and remains in police custody until at least tomorrow morning. No reason has been given for this violent detainment and violation."

EU Cracks Down on Independent Volunteers in Greece (Megaphone Valkyrie, link):

"2016 began with a move to have all volunteers registered with the police. In a crisis where immigration law criminalises vital humanitarian work, this is a recipe for disaster. And it is not just about elbowing out the political activists; to ‘allow authorities time to organise the registration process’, entire flights chartered for volunteers have been cancelled. Even Clowns Without Borders were barred from the camps. The same thing is now happening in France, where independent volunteers are being barred from the camps at Dunkirk and Calais, reduced to watching months of work burned to the ground by authorities branding them ‘uncaring’ and ‘dangerous’.

There’s another glaring cause for concern on the Greek front: over half their police are Golden Dawn supporters. So, fifty-fifty chance you’re registering sensitive information with an armed fascist. That wasn’t an abstract danger to any of us: we had witnessed the racism and brutality. One night, we were so afraid of the police in our building, we slept in the car....

It was the beginning of a crackdown ordered from the highest levels. The Council of the European Union is preparing plans to equate humanitarian assistance with people trafficking, criminalising those saving lives at sea and caring for survivors on land. “We feel as if we are in the resistance in World War Two,” said Lara. “We were ‘randomly’ checked for papers and passports and told not to feed the hungry. Every move we make is being watched.”

See Statewatch coverage: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control and Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers

EU-GREECE: Commission adopts assessment of Greece’s Schengen Action Plan while relocation targets are left behind (New Europe, link): "Numbers show that the EU – Turkey deal agreement implementation is still unable to reach relocation targets." and Commission gives Greece two weeks to fix its borders - Brussels also warns about missed targets on relocation of refugees.(Politico, link)

and: Greece gets two-week deadline for border plan (euobserver, link): “The commission requests that Greece provide the additional elements and clarifications by 26 April and offers its continuous support to Greece,” the EU executive’s statement said. If, however, deficiencies persist, the commission will present a proposal to allow member states to extend border controls beyond an initial six-month period"

See: Communication: Assessment of Greece's Action Plan to remedy the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border (COM 220-16, pdf)

News (13.4.16)

Greece: She thought she'd seen the worst of the refugee camps. Then she went to Idomeni (, link)

Europe migrants: Austria builds Brenner border centre despite criticism (BBC News, link): "Austria says it has begun work to tighten immigration controls at a key north-south European crossing point."

Did Finland kowtow to Russia’s border demands? ”Golden visas” for foreign investors, and refugees’ volunteering opportunities (link)

Greek coast guard rescues 120 migrants off Lesvos, Samos (, link): "Greek coast guard officers rescued 120 refugees and migrants in three separate incidents off Lesvos and Samos, authorities said on Wednesday morning. Officials said that between Tuesday and Wednesday morning there had been 101 arrivals on the Aegean islands. There are currently 3,644 people at the Lesvos hotspot, 1,827 in Chios and 516 on Samos, according to authorities."

Commission defends plan to deport Afghans to ‘safe’ regions (euracttiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission has confirmed the existence of a plan that would see 80,000 Afghans deported back to their homeland and stressed that it is still in line with the spirit of European migration policy.."

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