AYS Daily Digest 14/04/2017: Thousands rescued from the sea

New evacuation in Syria // More violence and arrests on Chios // New makeshift camp at Dunkirk and donations needed // Poland seeks to copy Hungary on detentions // Shooting in Manus detention centre

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Photo by MSF Sea

Feature

It was a very busy day today in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast which ended with 2074 refugees rescued by several NGOs and others. This happens just one day after reports that 97 refugees might have drowned off the coast of Libya. MSF with their two boats started very early in the morning and by dawn one of their boats, Aquarius, had already rescued the people traveling on three rubber boats. This one and Prudence, their other boat managed to find 9 boats during the day and save more than 1000 people from the sea. Unfortunately a teenager was found dead on one of the rubber boats but everyone else was ok and above all happy to be alive.As usual, they kept updating the situation on tweeter and showed what was happening today at the gates of Europe.. again…

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Photo by MSF Sea

The Italian Guard Coast stated that they registered 19 rescue operations where 16 overcrowded rubber boats and 3 small wooden boats were found.

The other teams operating in the rescues today were the Coast Guard, the Pheonix — run by the Maltese Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), the German NGO Sea Eye and the German Jugend’s Iuventa. In one rescue operation by MOAS, desperate refugees struggled to stay afloat after they slid off their rubber boat and rescuers had to jump into the water to help them.

At the same time, Frontex, the EU’s border control agency accuses these groups of doing more harm than good and some Italian prosecutors have even suggested that they may have connections with human traffickers in Libya, accusations that the rescue groups deny. Considering the Frontex approach of keeping to a minimum the rescues at sea as a deterrent, tactics that have time and time again proven wrong since more people keep coming, it’s ludicrous and appalling that independent groups that try to save lives and in reality do the work governments should be doing, are portrayed as criminals with these insinuations.

One of the NGOs targeted is the Spanish group Proactiva Open Arms that has now responded to the allegations and accused Frontex of trying to discredit their actions and erode their donors’ trust but the organisation said it had nothing to hide.

“We have 35,000 donors. Some are well known — like Pep Guardiola, the current manager of Manchester City — others are anonymous”

They rely on donations to continue operating and these activities are extremely expensive as one day at sea costs between 5000 and 6000 euros a day.

The head of the NGO, Riccardo Gatti, criticised also the deal signed recently between Italy and Libya to try to stop the influx of refugees coming to Europe from Libya as it will only create worse conditions for the growing numbers of people stuck in that country vulnerable to the internal conflict and criminals that try to take vantage of them and make easy money like it was also reported in the last few weeks by IOM and others.

“Everything is controlled by the militias in Libya, even the coast guard, and 30 percent of the financial flows in the country come from human trafficking”

Gatti said the deal was made with only part of the 1,700 militias he said control Libya and would therefore be ineffective. Human rights watchers have also warned the accord would put the lives of those fleeing persecution and war in greater danger. The deal is in doubt after it was suspended in March by Tripoli’s Court of Appeal.

It does sound ironic that institutions like Frontex and even judges accuse independent groups of teaming up with criminals when governments try to make deals with armed tribal groups in a country heavily divided and practically in civil war where there is no real control of the situation on the ground.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), nearly 32,000 asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea so far this year. More than 650 have died or are missing. Today we had one more victim.

Syria

Once more an evacuation of rebel fighters and civilians is being done in Syria in an agreement to swap around besieged populations of both factions. In this move more than 2,350 people were bused out of the twin rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus, and another 5,000 from the pro-government towns of Foua and Kfraya in the country’s north. Not everyone left the areas but refugees displaced hope that the fighting will ease for the ones that stayed behind. Madaya town became famous in the past for the worse reasons has the long siege caused mass starvation of the population and many people died including many children. Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortars.

One man leaving Madaya has reportedly said they were forced to leave and have lost everything so this deal is obviously controversial amongst the population. Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines. The United Nations is not supervising the evacuations.

Zabadani is to be depopulated and the town’s last 160 hold outs believed to be fighters or medical workers will evacuate to Idlib on Saturday. The fates of Fuoua and Kfraya are less clear. Most of the towns combined population of 26,000 will leave or have already left for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a government stronghold but there were conflicting accounts of what will happen next. Unfortunately these moves are only a reorientation of the war and in reality don’t contribute for it’s end as the people moved will still be targeted by shelling and air strikes wherever they go.

Greece

An Iraqi refugee has to be taken to a hospital in Athens today after he was attacked by another group of refugees, reportedly from the afghan community. He wasn’t able to receive the adequate treatment on Chios where he is leaving so he had to be airlifted to the capital late on Thursday to receive treatment for stab wounds on his head and body. The police has been looking for the responsibles that are thought to be around Souda camp. Fights between refugees are common as the tension keep rising in an environment where life conditions are bad and people live in limbo without knowing where they will be taken and when.

Also on Chios refugees reported today that police went into Vial detention centre and detained 25 refugees using disproportionate violence to do so. They reportedly broke the doors of the rooms and arrested people from different nationalities without any reason. They were then taken to the police station and after two hours of humiliation they were released. Refugees reported the police was extremely aggressive and racist saying that they weren’t welcome there and why wouldn’t they go back to Syria. These photos were taken by one of the targeted refugees after it happened:

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Photo on Midnight Helpers
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Photo on Midnight Helpers

There is a call for donations on the island for home equipment like couches, tablets and chairs.

If you can help please contact OASIS — Rhodes Solidarity Group

Today there have been only 26 registrations on the so called Other Islands.

A volunteer has started a campaign to get diapers for babies at Khora community centre.

Families come in every day to the building [approx. 600 people] to attend language classes, get free meals, kids play area, etc. but something there is constantly a shortage of is diapers. Seeing parents holding the hands of their kids who are soaked through, and trying to customise diapers out of what we have feels heart breaking, and should be such a small simple thing to solve, but unfortunately isn’t. We do get donations of diapers, but the most common sizes always run out, and so we are constantly at a shortage. This is only a small issue compared to the other insanities and tragedies out here, but I feel it is something that is easily achievable to help something which actually makes a huge difference to parents who are already struggling with so many other things.

Please follow the link to donate here.

ΜΕΤΑδραση — METAdrasi has started a campaign to offer foster care for unaccompanied minor as many children arrive in Greece alone, from countries like Syria and Afghanistan, having lost or having been separated from their parents or relatives. It gives you the possibility to provide them with hospitality and care.

The activity “Foster Care for Unaccompanied Children” is implemented by METAdrasi in accordance with national legislation and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, in cooperation with local prosecutors and authorities.

You can find out more on bit.ly/fosteruasc

And contact them:

  • calling at 214 1008717, 6980 462271
  • sending email to foster@metadrasi.org

Hungary

SIRIUS.HELP has made a new report about the situation in the serbian — hungarian border and state that the transit zones are seeing a lot of movement and filled up much more than they anticipated as the family sector has almost reached its capacity. There are nearly 70 children there at the moment.

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Photo by SIRIUS.HELP

Please consider supporting their team donating here.

Romania

In the last few day we got some disturbing reports from refugees about a camp called Giurgiu near Bucharest where they have been living. As reported by some residents, officials make new rules for the camp all the time and recently they were told that they wouldn’t be able to go to the city(Bucharest) otherwise they would get deported back to their country. Another rule was that refugees would have to pay to continue living in the camp after the first 3 months and had to clean all the compound. They were also threatened that they would have to pay for anything they broke whilst doing so like mops or brooms. Also officials found out that refugees were using a room for prayers and disallowed it so now they complain that they don’t have a place for that either. Apart from all these restrictions and impositions they also say that volunteers are not allowed in the camp and the only staff present is a lawyer, and the camp manager as well as the security guards but they aren’t there every day.

France

After the fire and after many people being taken to shelters throughout the country, and like happened before in other places, a new camp has emerged in Dunkirk with around 300 refugees that don’t want to be taken to other parts of the country and want to keep trying to reach the UK. These 300 people have slept in the Puythouck zone in Grande Synthe and since 9 am this morning, police and gendarmerie have surrounded the camp creating a “security zone” around it.

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Photo by lepharedunkerquois
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Photo by lepharedunkerquois

There has been a huge emergency response since the fire took place and loads of donations have been sent but since everyone is scattered all over the place and there’s always new people coming, volunteers still need donations.

Help Refugees have made a request for essential items:

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Image by Help Refugees

You can help delivering these items by donating here.

And if you are able to host a collection of these specific items amongst friends, families, at uni or at work and drive them out to us ASAP please contact us on: calaisdonations@gmail.com

Also the group Calais — People to People Solidarity — Action from UK is calling for donations, particularly:

Blankets/sleeping bags
Foil blankets
Rucksacks
Bottled water
Savoury biscuits/cereal bars
Dried fruit/nuts
Tinned fish

They also state that donations should be always brought to wearhouses first and not distributed directly on the field as it was to be done in a safe and quiet way.

You can also support the group here.

Refugee Community Kitchen is also making extra efforts to feed the refugees that are now scattered around the area and have been cooking continually since the fire happened. If you can support their work please do so here.

And since the camp disappeared like at Calais when the Jungle closed, the Dunkirk / Dunkerque Refugee Women’s Centre must adapt and adapt quickly and volunteers have decided to go mobile. For that they need a vehicle as soon as possible, preferably a van, long term of course so if you are able to donate one please get in touch on the link.

Poland

Following the Hungarian example, Poland is now about to go backwards again and is working on regulations that would allow it to detain asylum seekers in border camps, the interior minister said on Thursday, arguing such a policy has served Hungary well. The minister finished his intervention saying they must be prepared for bad scenario which they hope will not happen, being that scenario “a wave of migration that could sweep across Poland.” As paranoia continues to sweep across close minded ruling heads it’s the most vulnerable ones that continue to be at risk, whether they try to move or stay stuck behind walls by these racist politics.. from a country that last year issued over a million work permits for neighboring Ukrainians, equally running away from war and misery.

Australia

The Manus island detention centre has been attacked today as an armed mob attempted to storm the compound, according to reports from security personnel and refugees inside the centre. Gunshots were fired into the compound and some refugees were reported injured. Reportedly police, navy and locals beaten up the residents after some confrontation outside the gates of the centre where asylum seekers are allowed to go under certain conditions. Relations between refugees and the locals aren’t good and there have been problems in the past when in 2014 the centre was attacked in a riot and 70 residents were seriously injured.

The Refugee Action Coalition has repeatedly said that the centre is not safe and should be closed immediately. This episode is only another proof of how dangerous the place and the whole detention system is for the refugees.

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

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