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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
23-20.3.16
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Keep in touch: Statewatch Observatory: Refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: Daily news (updated through the day), commentaries and official documents
Turkey ‘safe country’ sham revealed as dozens of Afghans forcibly returned hours after EU refugee deal (AI, link):

"Turkey’s forcible return of around 30 Afghan asylum seekers just hours after the European Union (EU)-Turkey refugee deal came into force shows that implementing the deal would risk refugees’ lives from the word go, Amnesty International said.

The organization has received credible information indicating that Turkey violated European and international law by forcibly returning the asylum-seekers, who fear attacks by the Taliban, to Kabul without granting them access to an asylum procedure.

H.R. said that he had been part of a group trying to reach Greece by boat. They were apprehended by the Turkish coastguard and then detained in the western coastal city of Izmir.

After five days in detention, he said he was physically forced to put his thumbprint on a document “agreeing” to a voluntary return to Afghanistan. He was not given a copy of the document. H.R. told Amnesty International by phone:

“We don’t want to go back because we are in danger in Afghanistan. If we go back, we will be killed by the Taliban.”"

Your Human Rights Being Destroyed! (Eric Kempson, Lesvos, video link): All corncerned about human rights and the rights of refugees should watch.

Turkey will not give in to EU on refugee laws (euobserver, link):

"Greece this week is signing off legislation to designate Turkey a “safe third country” to allow Greek authorities to return nationalities like Afghans and Iraqis back to Turkey. Turkey does not apply the Refugee Convention to non-Europeans, so EU officials want Ankara to enact legislation or other rules to make sure it applies an “equivalent” protection level."

Chios, Greece: On the Refugee Trail: “This is not a camp, it’s a prison!” (link):

"Since yesterday, refugees arriving on the Greek islands have been detained to have them ready for deportation. They don’t know what’s happening to them, volunteers are mostly banned from assisting and the police doesn’t have instructions on how to register and manage the new arrivals. Now they must wait behind barbed wire fences, because Europe was in a hurry to stop them coming. The police doesn’t know how to take their asylum requests, which breaches the refugee convention, and the UNHCR has told the EU that the authorities have crossed a red line; it won’t deliver refugees to them anymore.!" and

Refugees in the detention camp for refugees (FB link) "after their arrival in Chios island of Greece. Borders are closed and after the new deal of Europe with Greece and Turkey they fear deportation. "Distributing sanitary products and biscuits in the Chios hotspot, where refugees who just arrived are waiting to be deported. "We get food three times a day. But sometimes we are hungry, especially the children."" also

Yesterday we went to the Vial hotspot in Chios. [with video] Refugees are imprisoned there, waiting to be deported. They don't have enough water, food or blankets. They don't have electricity or SIM cards and only limited internet. Many can't get in touch with their families. The police told us not to talk with them through the fence. People who want to apply for asylum can't, because the police has no idea what the new procedures are supposed to be. This is in breach of the refugee convention, the international regulation of refugees' rights. As I walked away, having been told off by police, a refugee called out: 'Tell people about this!' [emphasis added]

Greece PRESS RELEASE: LESVOS SOLIDARITY: PIPKA

"PIKPA is an open, self-organised refugee camp in Mytilene, Lesvos. We distribute food & clothes to the port, Kara Tepe, Moria & to other refugee groups"

A few hours after the EU agreed on the barbaric measures of the EU/Turkey deal, a massive movement of refugees from the island of Lesvos towards the mainland started. The refugees received no clear information about where they were heading or about their rights. It was apparent that the government did not and does not have a plan on how shelter and health care services can be provided in the new destinations.

At the same time, the mayor of Mytilene announced to a group of representatives of Lesvos Solidarity that the space of PIKPA has to be evacuated. This means that the vulnerable cases that the camp is giving shelter to (people with long term health conditions, disabilities, single parent families, elderly etc) will have to leave immediately so that the mayor can transform the space into a children'’s camp and a sports center. After the new measures he said, there will be no need for
solidarity shelter camps....

Pikpa Solidarity camp, which has been accused by the municipality for “illegal and irregular actions”, has been for three and a half years been a strong solidarity hub, known all around the world. We will not allow our solidarity struggle to get destroyed due to the horrific and inhumane measures that the EU has decided to apply."

And: PIPKA: "We have created information sheets in Arabic and Farsi: It states that if you are in need of international protection and would be at risk on return in your home country, that you should apply for asylum. It also says family reunification (all) and relocation (Arabic only) are options. It stresses the right to claim asylum and that we advise people to do so. Please share. Thanks" Link to Information Sheets

EU-Turkey Deal: Can It Be Legally Implemented? (News that moves, link)

Press Release on Chios, Greece (link);

"Ever since the new deal between the EU and Turkey was implemented on Sunday, all refugees arriving on Greek islands are being held in detention. Here, on Chios, all people are being brought to this very place, because it is the only facility that has proper prison-like equipment to keep refugees inside and helpers and goods outside.... Most importantly, refugees do not get access to the Greek Asylum Service here. There is no official representative here, no way to claim Asylum.

Helpers are not allowed to access. Food and Supplies have been thrown over the fence or handed through under it.

There is no press there."

Why the EU-Turkey Migrant Deal Is a Moral Disaster (link): by Bridget Anderson:

"It proposes a collective expulsion that debases the value of respect for human rights that Western Europe has prided itself on since the end of World War II, and that the narrative of the EU has been constructed around. This is compounded by swapping desperate human beings one for one, treating people as if they are commensurable and tradable, which is morally bankrupt. Each of those people on boats has their own history. It is desperation—not ignorance or foolhardiness—that pushes them to risk their lives. People who have no hope of getting resettled because they are the wrong nationality will continue to risk their lives because they have no alternatives....

Legally, Turkey cannot be considered a safe haven in the same way that European states are. Turkey has ratified the U.N. Convention on the Status of Refugees, which recognizes and defines the status of “refugee” and also sets out the responsibilities of states when people make such claims. However, Turkey stipulated a “geographical limitation,” claiming only those fleeing “events in Europe” can get full refugee status....

this new agreement between Turkey and the EU goes further than just undermining law. It undermines the very idea of safe haven that goes back centuries. This agreement involves rejecting people without listening to their asylum claims, including people coming from states that we know are riven with poverty and conflict, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Europe is deeply implicated in the violence that has produced the conditions people are now fleeing.".

NGOs take step back as return of refugees by Greece approaches (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Staff from nongovernmental organizations were being withdrawn from the Idomeni refugee camp in northern Greece on Tuesday as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also said it would be taking a less active role in providing assistance on the Greek islands in the wake of the European Union’s agreement with Turkey....

“Under the new provisions, these so-called hot spots have now become detention centers,” said UNHCR spokewoman Melissa Fleming.

Until Sunday, refugees arriving on Lesvos had been free to leave the Moria hot spot and continue their journeys but under the terms of the agreement with Turkey, Greek authorities now have to hold them there or at one of four other centers set up on the Aegean islands of Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos, pending the outcome of their asylum applications." and

More aid agencies pull out of Greek camps, spurning EU deal (ekathimerini.com, link): "Aid agencies said cooperating with the Greeks at detention centers would make them complicit to a practice which was “unfair and inhumane.”:

PRELIMINARY REPORT ON REFUGEE CAMPS - "PLEIADES" HELLENIC ACTION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (link): "Refugee Camps in Northern Greece
A Brief Report on Living Conditions - Based on information available on March 21, 2016 "

News (23.3.16)

Brussels Attacks Fuel Debate Over Migrants in a Fractured Europe (INYT, link) "It did not take long. Almost as soon as the bombs went off in Brussels on Tuesday morning, the new act of terrorism in the heart of Europe was employed in the bitter debate about the influx of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.."

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