Another year ends with sad facts

A monster of a refugee centre
It is one year since the first closed controlled centre on the island of Samos opened. Funded by the EU with 43 million euros, the centre is intended to be a model for other reception structures. Looking like a prison from the outside, with fences and x-ray scanners at the entrance, in combination with its very restrictive facility rules, it is hard to imagine that these structures will no further harm ‘the mental health of the already weakened people.’
After a visit to the centre and exchanges with people living there, a volunteer from the local NGO “Samos Volunteers” pointed out that the facility’s location, several kilometres outside of Vathy, the capital of Samos, also makes people in the centre more isolated – a curfew is imposed at night and the distance from the capital is too far for people to walk, while taking a bus is costly for the centre residents, who only receive 75 Euros per month. ‘The isolation was hard, there wasn’t enough food and the location was challenging,’ described a woman who left the closed controlled centre after a positive asylum decision. Read more here.

People rescued
About 400 to 500 people drifting on a big, rusty fishing boat were rescued by the Greek Coast Guard on the 22 of November. While this is compatible with international sea law and, for once, good news, the reports about push backs around the Aegean islands continue to surface.

Leak about Frontex’s Human Rights Abuse
In October, a paper on Frontex from OLAF (EU’s Anti-Fraud Agency) was leaked. The report, written 8 month back and classified as sensitive, contains several testimonies of people who were pushed back by Frontex. It concludes that the European border control institution failed to comply with internal procedures and committed a series of human rights violations which were intentionally brushed under the carpet. While first allegations of illegal pushbacks were already noted in 2016, Frontex successfully reduced the access of its oversight institution in 2018 and changed its Serious Incident Reports as classified information. Moreover, officers who reported incidents seem to have been “relocated” or intimidated by Greek authorities, the report finds. The apparently only consequence of the OLAF report until today seems to be the resignation of former Frontex Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, in May this year. The European Commission should enhance its oversight and impose an end to the pushback illegal practice. More information here.

The harassment of NGOs continues
The Greek government keeps accusing migration sector NGOs in Greece of illegal practices. Athens-based Human Rights 360, for example, faces now investigations by the Greek authorities. The NGO, which is active in the region of Evros, is accused of money laundering. Greek Minister of Migration, Notis Mitarakis, even went so far as to accusing NGOs and advocacy groups of repeating “Turkish Propaganda”. This keeps intensifying the political tension around the topic.

According to The New Humanitarian, an average of four people have died each day this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean.
During the past 3 weeks, a total 123 boats with 3,407 people were stopped and illegally pushed back, while 1,133 arrived on the Aegean islands in the same period. This leaves a total population of 4,211 people on the Aegean islands by November 20, 2022.