The Greek borders are still closed due to Covid, however it is planned for them to be re-opened in mid-May. The number of infected people keeps growing. Vaccinations started in Greece with the 80-year-old population, followed by the 60-year-old and older. UNHCR reiterated that migrants, refugees and undocumented people also have to receive the shot, after some members of the Greek government made remarks about them getting the vaccines only after the Greek population had received it. However, temporary social security numbers are currently being issued for non-Greeks, to make refugees and migrants eligible for the free vaccine too.
Furthermore, UNHCR warned that gender inequality is on the rise due to the lockdown, affecting especially refugee women and girls.
Convicted for starting the fire in Moria
In a court case which the Legal Centre Lesvos has described as a “miscarriage of justice”, two out of six accused were sentenced to 5 years in prison. The whole case seemed to aim at dehumanizing the two young men (17 at the time of the fire), and to be “part of a systematic effort to crush any resistance to Europe’s border regime through collective punishment, by arbitrarily arresting and pressing criminal charges against migrants following migrant-led resistance”. Read all about this regrettable case here.
Arrivals / Departures
EASO announced that for the first time they processed more asylum applications than those they received. The security at the land border is currently being reinforced: a fence is being extended along the Evros border. By March 16th, 26 boats had been stopped and pushed back. This makes a total of 795 people whose right to ask for asylum in Europe was denied this month. Only three boats arrived in the Aegean Islands, one in Chios, and two in Lesvos.
198 people were transferred to Germany, which brings the total asylum seeking population in the islands to 14,561, with 8,500 people in Lesvos. Greece requested the transfer of over 1,400 people from Lesvos to Turkey; the response is still pending, it is expected to be negative.
The non-national nature of the agency allows Frontex and all its founding countries to play the blame game and not take responsibility. The internal report finds that the institution suffers from deficiencies and needs a new “culture”. While the EU EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson criticises the director of Frontex for these issues, she also retracts herself and says the EU is only responsible for political oversight. At the same time Frontex tries to hide information from the public by relabelling serious incident reports as EU Classified Information.
Bureaucracy against NGOs
Our partners Choose Love released a report about the Greek law which forces NGOs to register again in Greece when working with refugees.
The requirements of the Ministry of Asylum are almost impossible to meet, and have already cost OHF an extreme amount of time and money in the last months too.
We are still in the middle of the process, and trying our best to meet the requirements. A small group composed of members of the coordination team and the board is currently working on completing a quality manual to get ISO certified, and we have already had a chartered accountant check our books, in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry.
Read the Choose Love report about the implementation of this law, and how the government is restricting NGOs and trying to defeat them through confusing bureaucracy.
Humanitarian work is essential, but the Greek government is making it extremely hard for many groups working with refugees to operate. Civil society must be protected and respected. Read the report here: http://bit.ly/3qZk1YS
5 years of EU-Turkey Statement
This week marks 5 years of the EU-Turkey Statement. This deal is part of a bigger tactic of European politics to externalize European border-management in order to stop migration into Europe. It is one of the main reasons why so many people are stuck in inhumane conditions in the Aegean Islands’ refugee camps, a constant violation of the basic rights of people on the move – people who are seeking ways to reach safety and freedom. As the years pass by, tensions are rising, and we are witnessing the horrendous effects of the EU-Turkey deal – for the people on the move, and the local communities alike.
We strongly believe that the EU-Turkey deal and other similar agreements the EU has signed should have never been made, and they need to be replaced with policies that put human rights and well-being in the centre. The Legal Centre Lesvos is publishing every day of this week a statement on one different aspect of the legal consequences of the EU-Turkey Deal – read and share!