AYS Daily Digest 13.08 — Worrying reports of sexual violence in Greek refugee camps

Sexual violence continues to be a major issue in refugee camps. Poor quality of food causes problems. Refugees asked to leave the Horgos “pre-transit zone” and register in official camps.

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Afghan grandfather sleeping in the street of Belgrade. Photo by Nima Maei

Syria/Iraq

Manbij liberated from ISIL and 200,000 refugees expected to be on the move in Iraq

Manbij has been liberated from ISIL by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. Meanwhile, the NGO Mercy Corps says at least 70,000 have fled violence in central Iraq and expects an additional 200,000 people to be on the move within the next two weeks, as forces advance on the city of Mosul, an ISIS stronghold.

Greece

One boat with 25 people arrives in Lesvos

One boat with 25 people was guided into Skala Sikamineas (northern Lesvos) by Proactiva. The Greek Reporter says 645 refugees arrived in Greece from the 5th to 12nd of August.

Thessaloniki park to be evacuated tomorrow

Police tells Thessaloniki volunteers that refugees sleeping in a Thessaloniki park will have to leave by tomorrow morning, saying that otherwise riot police will arrive around noon, close the park and take everyone to official camps. Police officers said this comes after they received complaints from residents.

A couple of hundreds people are living in parks around the city, mostly next to the train station. They mostly come from Afghanistan and Iraq. The Thessaloniki Team is currently looking for volunteers on Greece.vol, mainly for breakfast and lunch distribution — the team reports that numbers have gone up to 300 people.

Sexual violence in refugee camps

AYS is increasingly hearing rumors of sexual violence in Northern Greece refugee camps , with women afraid of walking alone, especially at night. Rape cases have so far not been confirmed by official sources but people are extremely worried and afraid.

This comes as The Guardian reports on sexual assaults on children at Softex camp, with one volunteer alleging that ‘some young girls had been effectively groomed by male gangs.’ Anna Chiara Nava of Médecins Sans Frontières said MSF is ‘in regular contact with at least 10 women from the Softex camp who had complained of sexual violence and explained that many occupants, including children, were too afraid to speak out.’ Women are hiding in their tents at night and are afraid of going to the toilet out of fear of being attacked.

A few weeks ago, we heard of similar reports from Athens, with one volunteer suggesting the use of whistles for women, in order to both surprise the attacker and attract attention to herself.

All these reports follow a similar pattern and show that women are particularly vulnerable at night and when going to the bathroom. These reports also show the lack of consequences for the attackers, with victims unable or too afraid to report attacks to the authorities.

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Photo of Softex Camp by Abdulazez Dukhan

Food issues in Oreokastro

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Food in Oreokastro camp

Refugees in Oreokastro camp say they do not want to eat food provided by the government anymore, complaining about the poor quality and sometimes rotten food. They rather throw it away than even considering eating it. The situation is similar in most of the official camps. The recent hunger strikes and protests in Softex camp were triggered in part by the quality of food, while a recent report on the Vasilika camp shows “the quality of food is extremely poor and approximately 60% of the food is thrown away uneaten on a daily basis”.

Those who can afford it are paying for food in small stalls inside the camps, while others are dependent on volunteers.

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Bulgaria

Turkey and Bulgaria agree to control refugee influx

Novinite reports Turkey and Bulgaria have agreed to set up a bilateral mechanism to control the influx of refugees to Bulgaria. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov says “we are facing an enormous crisis between Turkey and the European Union, a crisis in which our leaders make the harshest possible threats. The whole Europe is surrounded with fences at the moment. What does the threat of “We will flood Europe with refugees” mean? This means: “We will flood Bulgaria”. He also states his “big goal” is that “Turkey will treat Bulgaria differently than other countries in Europe”, suggesting Bulgaria is preparing itself in case the EU-Turkey deal falls through.

Serbia

Refugees asked to leave Horgos “pre-transit zone” and register in official camps

Only 200 refugees are left at the Horgos “pre-transit zone”, according to volunteers, with most coming from Afghanistan, Iran and North Africa. All others left after authorities closed the waiting list for refugees wanting to enter the Roszke transit zone and told them they needed to register in official camps. It is still unclear how refugees will be able to cross into Hungary once they have registered in the official camps. The fear is that once registered, refugees will be hidden from the rest of the world, without a chance to move on — a situation that reminds us of the closure of Idomeni a few months ago.

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Photos by Natali Ja
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Photos by Natali Ja

Report on Krnjaca camp

After refugees were taken from Belgrade parks to the Krnjaca camp, many escaped and went back to the parks, complaining about the lack of food and bad treatment. First reports on the camp show that it currently hosts around 600 refugees, with some having proper beds while others have to sleep on mattresses on the floor. Only registered refugees have the right to leave the camp and get access to food. People who are not registered are not allowed to enter the camp. Meanwhile, Info Park reports that the Serbian government continues to try to clear the parks of refugees. Info Park argues that refugees are in Belgrade because of the presence of smugglers, but also because of the “lack of coherent policy of the nearby camps that should be open for all and provide decent services (warm meals, beds for all)”.

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Photo by Info Park

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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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