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GREECE: FRONTEX activities on Mytilene, Greece: Attempt to take over "open" PIPKA migrant centre, "closed" detention centre set up - FRONTEX claim that families were not expelled from their rooms refuted
30 September 2013
Earlier this month the EU’s border agency FRONTEX was accused by migrant support groups on the Greek island of Mytilene of expelling migrant families from rooms that they were occupying, in order to set up their own offices at the PIPKA "open" migrant centre. FRONTEX subsequently disputed these claims, saying that the events described never took place. Now groups on the island have issued a statement disputing FRONTEX’s statements and describing in detail their version of events.
1. "Village of All together" and w2eu contacted Statewatch with the following information:
GREECE: FRONTEX: Mytilene/Greece: European Border Agency FRONTEX invades place of solidarity
(9 September 2013, pdf):
"The people of the Greek island Lesvos (Mytilene) are famous for their solidarity to the refugees arriving on the island. In December 2012 the solidarity organized by the network "Village of Alltogether" was in the focus of international media as a seldom example of good practice showing that human rights in reality are a matter of the people and not of politicians and their empty words...European Border Agency FRONTEX, has prepared themselves to occupy two rooms in the main building with the aim to open an office for their so called “screening”. ... On the 6th of September 2013 two FRONTEX-officers from Italy and Sweden expulsed a family with small children and a pregnant woman from the rooms they were hosted in order to occupy and re-use these rooms as their offices introducing themselves as European Border Police."
2. FRONTEX Press Office contacted Statewatch to dispute the claim made in the final paragraph of the press release. A FRONTEX Press Officer, said the statement is factually incorrect and FRONTEX staff and seconded national officials on Mytilene have said that the expulsion of people from rooms in which they were staying never took place. They did not contest that FRONTEX officers had visited the Pikpa Centre or that it was planned to set up a "closed" camp on the island - as they they have done: Press release: village of all together: Morias’ prison in Lesvos has opened
(posted 26 September, link) and see: Moria: Day 2
"Moria: Reception or detention? What does it look like? One Palestinian family and 8 Afghans – among them unaccompanied minors – are being hold for he second day in the new “first reception centre” – prison in Moria, Mytilene."
3. Statewatch contacted "Village of all-Together" and Welcome to Europe (w2eu) who issued a statement refuting FRONTEX's claim: Concerning the statement of Frontex's Press Officer, disputing the claims made in the final paragraph of our press release and its denial by Frontex staff and seconded national officials on Mytilene
"The incident happened Friday [6 September]...Two Frontex officers [thought to be Swedish and Italian] entered the building and went up to the first floor where the two [Syrian] families were hosted. (The main building has two extra rooms, where the most vulnerable refugees are hosted due to better housing conditions i.e. extra bathrooms). They told the families to move out of their rooms and go out, since they wanted to open their offices there. They had to move to the wooden houses that have no extra bathrooms, they are more exposed to the weather and they are shared by more persons. At night to go to the toilets you have to walk in the dark. The refugees were afraid and followed the "orders" of the Frontex officers."
On Saturday 7 September w2eu members went to the centre and:
"We decided to speak with the responsible Frontex officers as soon as they would appear. They came in Monday morning. A female Frontex officer came to PIKPA with her translator. When she was about to go up to the first floor to claim the rooms that had been emptied by the families already on Friday we stopped her and asked where she was going. We asked them who had given them the permit to use these rooms but they couldn't answer. Only 30 minutes later another Frontex officer came accompanied by a Greek police officer, the latter remained outside of the area belonging to PIKPA. The second officer told us the Greek police had given them the permit to use the rooms. The place though does not belong to the Greek police but to the municipality. So he left saying he had to clear this up with the Greek police.
When he left we asked the Syrian families to return to the rooms in the first floor where they stayed until they left Mytilene. The families were very grateful. Before leaving they held a very touching speech to the civil society supporting them."
For the latest information see: http://lesvos.w2eu.net/
Background: See also: Statewatch visit to the Pikpa Centre for asylum-seekers in Mytilene
Tony Bunyan (Statewatch Director) and Ann Singleton (Co-Chair of Statewatch) visited the Pikpa Centre in early April 2013, an open facility run by volunteers in a building provided by the municipality. A significant number of the people in Pikpa today have been there for 17 or 18 days, not knowing if they will ever see a lawyer, be able to claim asylum, or move out of the Centre.