AYS Daily Digest 15/12/17: More responsibility for Libya in sea rescues, Italy suggests

Number of transfers from Greek islands still lower than arrivals / HRW reports on the dire situation for women in Moria / Crossing via the Mediterranean Sea increasing again / Demonstration in Gorizia on Saturday / UK relocates first vulnerable child from Greece / Germany brings back unlawfully deported man / EU sets deadline for new relocation deal

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ProActiva during a rescue mission. Credits: ProActive Open Arms

Feature: Responsibility for the irresponsibles

Italy’s Coast Guard aims to hand over the responsibility for search-and-rescue-operations to the Libyan Coast Guard by 2020, Reuters found out. The plan was already presented to the EU’s anti-trafficking mission, Sophia, in November behind closed doors.

The EU will spend 44 million Euros to equip the Libyan Coast Guard to operate a rescue coordination center for a much bigger region. With a bigger fleet they will also be better enabled to intercept boats. Italy would like to hand over one tenth of the Mediterranean for SAR-missions. The plan goes even further to set up a monitoring center on Libya’s southern border in a pilot project.

Some 20,000 people have already been brought back to Libya in 2017. But according to the spokeswoman of the International Maritime Organization, the Libyans have withdrawn their current SAR-area, which they submitted this summer, saying they would notify the organization about a new area soon.

Libya is still a country without a stable government. They have two parties claiming they govern the country, one of them recognized by the United Nations. Gangs and militias rule not only parts of the country, but also parts of the coastline. Such groups reportedly have also been held responsible for the sharp decrease of people crossing the Mediterranean, preventing people from entering boats. This has caused new violence and an increase of arrivals in Spain.

During the last weeks, reports about the slave trade, sexual abuse, violence and dire conditions in the camps have caused an international outcry and led the UNHCR to start an emergency programme to resettle at least voulnerable people. The Libyan government further admitted that it only controls a few of the refugee camps, but far more people are accommodated in unofficial ones. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded in November: “The increasing interventions of the EU and its member states have done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants. Our monitoring, in fact, shows a fast deterioration in their situation in Libya.” Refugees International adds that more than 16,000 people have been returned to their home countries from Libya.

The Libyan Coast Guard has become infamous for firing warning shots at rescue boats, in one incident even a German marine ship. NGOs continually criticize the authorities for putting at risk the lives of people by the way they operate. In one incident in November, reportedly 50 people died because of the unprofessional behavior of the authorities. Italy has already supplied Libya with four refurbished vessels and promised six additional ones. The EU has trained 220 coast guards to operate professionally. “From the testimony we hear from the migrants, we know that people intercepted at sea have then re-entered the circle of violence and imprisonment and abuse that they were fleeing,” said Nicola Stalla, search-and-rescue chief for SOS Mediterranee, speaking to Reuters.

To this Coast Guard and country Italy wants to give more responsibility to protect people.

Greece

The number of transfers from the Eastern Aegean Islands is still lower than the number of new arrivals. Especially on Lesvos, where some 3000 people were supposed to be transferred, the situation remains tense. Only half of this number has been reached as yet, while in the recent weeks alone more than 600 people have arrived on the island, keeping the count inside Moria at more than 6100 poeple. The hotspot is meant to accommodate a maximum of 2330 people, according to the Greek Ministry, whilw the European Commission puts the total reception capacity of the island at 1500 people.
Today 59 new arrivals were reported on Lesvos, 91 on Chios and 53 on Samos.

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For the people, who are still stuck on Moria, nothing has changed. Credits: Lesvos Solidarit — Pipka

At the same time, the Greek government aims to accelerate deportations from the islands to Turkey within the framework of the EU-Turkey deal, Ekathimerini reports. Details of the bill seem to be unkown yet, but apparently it is designed to deal with appeals of rejected asylum seekets. Reportedly Prime Minister Tsipras will inform his EU partners of this during a meeting this weekend. The bill is expected to go to Parliament next week.

In a new report, Human Rights Watch investigated the situation for women and girls in Moria. The 25 interviewed residents described “harassment, the threat of gender-based violence, and health risks. Human Rights Watch found that these conditions resulted from insufficient security, poor hygiene and sanitation facilities, and failures in the system to identify and address the needs of vulnerable people,” HRW said. Sexual harrasment and violence, as well as approaches to be paid for sex by male residents, are making them afraid to leave their tents. Complaints to authorities are being unanswered, even though they seem to be well aware of the threats. Furthermore, they refused to hand out items such as flashlights to use in the nights.

But also the sanitary situation is dire for female residents, “with feces in some showers and toilets, and a lack of running water, forcing them to venture further from their tents to use alternate bathrooms. Human Rights Watch researchers have visited a number of toilets and showers in Moria and have confirmed these conditions.” Especially during their periods they struggle with these conditions, and the interviewed residents reported that camp authorities provide too few supplies for those times.

Even the most vulnerable among the Moria residents are lacking in support. HRW talked to two pregnant women who have been sleeping on the ground in tents for nine months. These people, especially women, are suffering from the cold. But also the medical support is insufficent. “Neither woman had received comprehensive pre-natal medical care or had information about whom to contact when she went into labor or where she could deliver her baby.”

According to “Free The Moria 35”, the judicial council has decided to continue the pre-trial dentetion for 30 of the 37 people. Most of them were detained after clashes in Moria in July and are detained in different jails across the country. Others have to stay in Moria and are obligated to show up at the police station twice a month.

Mainland

People who do not arrive in Greece via the islands struggle to submit their asylum applications. According to one source, they have to call a Skype hotline which is only available between one and five hours a week and can only process eight people per hour. This leaves people in limbo: without this pre-registration they cannot use official accomodation, financial support or get access to medical healthcare in public hospitals. Furthermore, they are at risk of being detained for being in Greece illegally.

Refugee Support Greece have finished setting up their clothes shop in Katsikas camp. Around 450–500 people are expected to arrive in the re-opened camp from the islands next week.

Sea

The Mediterranean route seems to be more frequented recently. Since the number of new arrivals dropped to less than 10,000 in August, they rose to almost 17,000 in November again, according to UNHCR data. As of now, some 6000 people have arrived in December. The rescue ship of ProActiva saved more than 600 people in the past week according to their own account, only 100 today. Salvamento Maritimo reported the rescue of five and 72 people with two of their boats.

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The Guardamar Concepción Arena rescueing people in distress. Credits: SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO

Meanwhile the Libyan Coast Guard has intercepted up to 419 people during the last 48 hours.

Italy

“Humanity Welcome”. Activists in Gorizia are calling for a transnational demonstration on Saturday at 3pm. Their appeals can be found here.

Germany

Germany has taken back an Afghan who had been unlawfully deported to Bulgaria and from there back to Pakistan, Tagblatt reports. The administrative court in Sigmaringen ruled that the Bamf has to bring him back to Germany. The 23-year-old man is now back in Tübingen, where he will be processed again. The asylum office has now withdrawn its rejection and taken the case upon themselves. Supporters of the man assume that this is a political step, so the court will not deal with the asylum procedure in Bulgaria. They hope the asylum office will do the same with other cases, so people will not be deported to Bulgaria any more.

UK

More than a year after the Dubs amandment was installed, the first refugee child from Greece was transfered to the UK, the Guardian reports. Under this scheme, unaccompanied minors who live in poor conditions in France, Italy, Greece and other countries, can safely arrive in the UK. There are more than 3,000 unaccompanied children in Greece, 11,000 in France and 13,000 in Italy. Before arriving in the UK, this child spent more than one year in psychiatric clinics, almost half a year in shelters for unaccompanied minors and six weeks in police detention.

At the same time in Greece, more than 2,000 unaccompanied children are on the waiting list for safe shelters, according to a new report by 12 organizations, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Jana Frey, Country Director for the International Rescue Committee, said: “Of paramount concern is the safety and wellbeing of the over 3,000 children who are without their family and on their own in Greece. Only about 1,000 are staying in shelters set up to accommodate them. The rest are on a waiting list, with potentially hundreds of children sleeping on the streets or in squats. These children are at grave risk.”

The boy had been accepted as vulnerable and eligible for transfer by the Home Office one and a half years ago. The UK has already transferred 13 children from France under the Dubs scheme.

EU

The countries supporting a fixed quota of relocation have increased pressure on the opposing countries. If no deal is found by June 2018, they want to hold a vote on the issue with a qualified majority — which they probably have. As of now, only Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are refusing to relocate people from Greece or Italy at all, Reuters reports.

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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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