The month of July

Covid-19 in Greece and Lesvos

Since Monday July 26th, children ages 12-15 are now eligible to be vaccinated in Greece. Around 47% of Greeks are fully vaccinated. 10 out of 11 million Greek nationals have received at least one shot. In July, infection rates were comparable with those from April, just before Greece opened its borders for the summer season. On Lesvos, Samos and Chios, vaccinations began for people living in the camps in June. In Leros and Kos the process has yet to start. Even though most of the regulations are lifted, the residents of the camp are still only allowed to leave the camp a few times per week. While the rest of the island moves freely, goes to restaurants and the gym, the official reason for the very limited movement of the people living inside the camp is still ‘prevention of the spread of covid’.

Further intimidation of NGOs

The Greek government reported the uncovering of a smuggler gang in July. The charges are aiding and abetting illegal entry, violation of migration law and espionage. Four of the ten accused are NGO members of the Aegean Boat Report, from whom we at OHF regularly receive information. The NGOs themselves learned that they were being charged from the Greek media. As in 2020, this seems to be another attempt to silence NGOs. The documentation of illegal push backs by Aegean Boat Report caused a lot of stir and harsh criticism of the Greek government from the UN and EU in recent months.

Stop illegal push backs

At the beginning of July, following the publication of a UN report on push backs in the Mediterranean Sea, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Yval Johansson, also called on Greece to stop illegal push backs. This is a long overdue step, but nevertheless a welcome development which finally recognises the practices of both Frontex and the Greek Coast Guard as facts and violations of international law.

Numbers in July

The number of people who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean nearly doubled in the first half of 2021 compared to that same period last year, according to the IOM. At the same time, very high numbers of reports of push backs keep coming in every single week. In the last three weeks, 36 boats were stopped and only 4 rafts with 59 people made it to the shores of the Aegean Islands. 

In the last few months many people have left the island. The current population of the Mavrovouni Camp (Moria 2.0) is now down to less than 5,000 people. However, this is not necessarily good news, as many people have left due to receiving their second rejection and have very little to no support on the mainland.

70 Years of Refugee Convention

On July 28th, 1951, the Refugee Convention was signed in Geneva. “Thanks to the Convention, millions of lives have been saved,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on July 28th, 2021, 70 years later. But many governments are trying to disregard it today.  He criticized the illegal push backs in the Mediterranean Sea and the punitive approaches of the UK and Denmark’s proposals to send their asylum seekers back to third countries to assess their asylum applications. 

Inflatable boat accident 

Three people are missing and ten have been rescued in an inflatable boat accident on the border in the sea area between northern Lesbos and the Turkish coast. The rescue operation is currently (30.7., noon) still underway. 

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