AYS Daily Digest 17/12/19 — Denmark Denies Asylum Claims to Syrians Despite Precarious Security Situation

Yazidis in Mount Sinjar Camp Not Receiving Basic Humanitarian Needs///Report Published on Overcrowded Conditions in Samos///Balkan Weather Report///Swedish Red Cross Warns Against Deportations to Afghanistan

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The Samos hotspot. Photographer:a volunteer for Project Armonia

The Danish Refugee Board rejected asylum claims of Syrian nationals in three separate decisions, citing that neither general conditions in Syria nor their individual cases were enough to justify asylum.

International pundits and diplomats have declared the conflict in Syria effectively over. This influenced the decision of the board, which has refused to grant asylum claims based on general conditions in Syria since June, citing the improved security situation. While asylum claims were usually granted on the basis of one’s individual status, this time the board refused to grant residence permits altogether.

Even if the war is technically over, that does not mean Syria is a safe country. There is still substantial war damage that shows no sign of being repaired soon as reconstruction money flows into the pockets of Assad and his cronies. Additionally, returnees are at a risk of violence and reprisals for leaving Syria. Last week, 174 people who returned to Syria from Al-Rukban camp in Jordan were arrested by the Syrian state police and tried in special “terrorist courts” that are notorious for human rights abuses, even though they were only accused of defection, not terrorism. The people, mostly young men, were arrested despite guarantees of “personal settlement” from the regime that they would receive safe conduct and amnesty if they returned to Syria. Many people fled Syria to avoid army conscription in the first place, so they face arrest if they return despite whatever promises the Assad regime makes.

Even if people are not arrested upon their return to Syria, it is not certain they will be able to return to their homes. In a report published in April, Adopt a Revolution noted that most people who fled Syria do not have the deeds to their property with them or are barred from accessing their homes if they cannot pay significant bribes or several years’ worth of missed electricity bills. If they cannot return to their own homes, there is a real possibility that people deported to Syria may wind up in IDP camps, where conditions are horrible. There is no heating, insulation or protection from the weather. Children do not have access to education or to healthy food.

The decision by the Danish Refugee Board should not be examined in isolation but as part of a growing trend of the Western world washing its hands of Syria and the Syrian people by declaring the conflict over.

IRAQ

Yezidis in Mount Sinjar Camp Need Basic Humanitarian Aid as Winter Sets In

There are over 14,000 IDPs in the Mount Sinjar camp living without shelter, electricity, medical care or other basic needs.

Conditions on the mountain are cold and rainy, but most people are living in tents that have not been repaired in the six years since the camps have been open and offer little protection from the weather. Additionally, residents of the camp have been without electricity for over 15 days. There is also a shortage of water and food.

Most people desperately want to return to their homes in the town of Sinjar and surrounding areas, where they lived before ISIS attacked their community, killing and enslaving thousands. However, the Iraqi government has been slow in resolving the political situation. People are beginning to lose hope and faith in the government as well as non-governmental organizations that promise assistance but do not deliver. Murad Khame, a resident of the camp, says:

Most of the humanitarian organizations come here and offer nothing, but take advantage of the situation for their publicity.

SEA

Unsafe Conditions at Sea Continue

One person died after a shipwreck in the Alboran Sea. Their body, along with 46 survivors, was transferred to the port of Motril.

In addition to dangerous weather conditions, crossings are made even more unsafe by the lack of adequate safety facilities in many smuggler’s boats. Most do not even provide life jackets.

GREECE

Samos Camp Over Capacity, Arrivals Continue

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Photographer: Project Armonia volunteer

The hotspot on Samos was built to house 648 people. Today, there are 7,600 people who live there, about as many as the permanent population.

Most people also live in thin tents with little protection from the weather and the rocky ground. Some built shacks in an informal shantytown that surrounds the official hotspot, however, it is even harder for them to access crucial resources such as water.

Although Medicins Sans Frontieres installed 80 emergency chemical toilets in November, many people still live far away from toilets and other sanitary facilities. This is especially dangerous for women, who are too afraid to use the toilets at night due because they feel unsafe.

I am scared. Every woman is scared. There are no toilets near our tents. Because of fear during the night, you cannot go to the toilet. There are enough people around here and there is a lot of noise. We do not feel at ease and we do not feel secure.

The unsanitary conditions mean disease is widespread in the camp. Many children suffer from diarrhea, skin problems, and respiratory illnesses. There are only two doctors for seven thousand people on Samos who are unable to deal with the demand and treat epidemics or people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Psychiatric assistance is even rarer.

People have difficulty accessing medical assistance elsewhere in Greece as well. Doctors in Sparta refused to see people who did not speak Greek despite the presence of translators.

The mayor of Eastern Samos has threatened to quit if the Greek government goes ahead with plans to build a closed center on the island. Human rights organizations such as Refugee Support Aegean and ProAsyl are also opposed to the closed centers being planned across Greece, which will just be used to detain people excessively and violate their rights to asylum.

These conditions are nothing new. For years, NGOs and the media have been reporting on unsanitary conditions in Samos and other camps in Greece, but nothing has been done. Transfers from islands to the mainland and to other countries in Europe have actually decreased while arrivals continue, making the problem worse.

This year, around 68,000 people came to Greece from the Turkish border alone, despite agreements on return. Only about 34,000 people have been able to reach the mainland while the rest remain stuck on the islands. This year, most people are coming from Afghanistan (30%), while Syrians only make up about 14% of people seeking asylum. This shows that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse.

If you would like to help, you can donate to Project Armonia’s winter fundraiser here.

Aegean Boat Report published its summary of last week’s arrivals to Greece. About 1,839 people arrived in at least 30 boats.

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BALKANS

Balkan Weather Report for 18/12

MONTENEGRO
Mostly cloudy and dry. In the north, in the morning or in the afternoon, in the lower valleys fog. Wind in northern areas and coastal areas in some places, moderate to high, south and southeast. Morning air temperature -1 to 13, highest daily 9 to 19 degrees.

BOSNIA
Tomorrow is expected to be moderately to mostly cloudy in western and southwestern areas. In other parts, light to moderate clouds. Fog or low clouds are possible in the valleys and along river basins. In the afternoon, stronger clouds from the west will gradually move towards the central parts. The wind is weak to moderate southeast, and stronger in mountainous areas. Morning temperature from 3 to 9, in the south from 9 to 13, and the highest daily from 11 to 17 degrees.

SERBIA
Sunny and very warm for this time of year. However, there will be fog in the morning, which will sometimes stay longer throughout the day. Morning temperatures from -2 to 8, during the day from 8 in the east to 18 degrees in the west. In Belgrade in the morning on the outskirts of the city -1 degrees and fog, in the central regions 6 degrees. During the day mostly sunny with a temperature of about 15 degrees.

CROATIA
Still warmer than average. In most parts, it will be partly cloudy and mostly in the northern Adriatic and Gorski kotar with some rain. In the central and eastern regions sunnier. Inland, the wind is weak and moderate southwest, in the highlands with severe and occasional thunderstorms. Wind will blow moderately and very southerly on the Adriatic, towards the open sea with storm surges. Lowest morning air temperature from 0 to 5 in the far east, 7 to 12 elsewhere on the mainland, and 12 to 17 ° C in the Adriatic. Highest daily temperature generally between 15 and 20 ° C.

LIBYA

16 Different NGOs Call on the International Community to Remember Libya at the Global Refugee Forum

The NGOs, who together make up the Libya INGO Forum, want the international community to create alternatives to detention centers and work harder to protect people from the dangerous security situation in Libya.

The organizations reminded the world that Libya is not a safe country and that 140,000 people have been displaced from Tripoli alone since April and that refoulements to Libya should be stopped. People on the move in Libya face unsanitary and overcrowded conditions in detention centers and arbitrary arrest and detention in urban areas. The group urges governments to release people from detention centers, citing the recent release of 500 people from Abu Salim and Tarik al Sikka as a positive first step. Other actions they proposed was reforming Libyan migration law and increasing resettlement in the European Union. The full statement can be found here.

MALTA

Norwegian Volunteers Help in Maltese Camps As Protest Against Their Government

A group of 40 volunteers from the NGO Røst went from Norway to Malta in order to help renovate three different family centers there. Volunteers also brought 25,000 euros in donations as well as clothes, blankets and shoes. In Norway, the organization works on raising awareness about the dangers faced by people on the move and what a rejected asylum claim actually means for someone.

The team was organized by readers of journalist Kristina Quintano’s work, who shares news about people on the move on her personal Facebook page. She and others were galvanized by the widespread silence surrounding this issue in Norwegian media as well as the government’s refusal to accept asylum seekers or help in any meaningful way. She says:

This is our way of giving back. Norway has said no to all burden-sharing and we are furious.

While conditions in Malta are better than they are in Greece, people in camps still struggle daily. Many remain stuck indefinitely while they wait for asylum claims to be processed and hope for resettlement in Northern Europe. Growing racism and xenophobia make integration into local life, which was already difficult, even harder.

ITALY

Revolts in Turin Against Inhumane Living Conditions Continue

The protests started yesterday at CPR di Corso Brunelleschi in Torino as people who lived there burned mattresses and expressed their discontent with the way the Italian state treated them. It continued today with a demonstration of solidarity from people living outside of the center. Turin was the site of a different protest in November that saw two areas of the center destroyed.

People are protesting against their humanitarian needs not being met but also against unjust treatment by the Italian state. For more information as to how these centers, which are really prisons for people on the move, one only needs to look as far as the newly opened center of Gradisca d’Isonzo in Gorizia. The center can only hold 150 people, but it has 200 security cameras, 50 military units, and 30 law enforcement units. The Italian government subjects people in these centers to excessive surveillance and police violence in addition to not providing adequate food and shelter.

A third shelter, which was scheduled to reopen tomorrow in Sardinia, will be delayed due to a contract modification.

The Italian constitutional court ruled that judges can refuse to pursue minor legal cases against people who have already been deported. The court said that pursuing a legal case against a person who cannot be there to defend themself violates the principles of equality.

MOROCCO

Deaths in the Mediterranean Continue as States Turn to Privatized Pushbacks

Multiple people died in at least two separate incidents off the coast of Morocco yesterday. The death toll is still unclear.

One boat managed to contact Alarm Phone with a jarring distress signal.

Our boat is pierced, water is coming in! People died, among them children. We can still see the lights of Morocco. We need help!

After this call, Alarm Phone lost contact with the people. They later found out that 76 people were taken by the Moroccan Navy to Arekmane detention center, while seven bodies and eight injured people wound up in the Nador hospital.

In two separate incidents in the Mediterranean between Morocco and Spain, pateras sunk, killing twelve people in one case. In the other case off of the coast of Motril, one person drowned and five people are still missing.

Instead of focusing on helping people, European states are using illegal methods to push them back to often unsafe conditions in Northern Africa. GLAN recently revealed that between June and July 2019, there were at least 13 attempted private pushbacks, although the real number is probably much higher due to the lack of documentation. This is not a new phenomenon: Alarm Phone reported on the phenomenon back in March, where European coast guards order commercial ships sailing in the Mediterranean to pick up boats in distress and take them back to Libya. Most captains are unwilling to deal with the hassle of asking for permission to dock in Europe, which can often take days or weeks, so they participate in refoulement despite knowing that it is illegal. There is very little oversight of this phenomenon, which has already put the lives of many in danger.

Morocco’s adaptation of European attitudes towards people migrating has led to increased security and police presence, directed at migrants. The Moroccan Association for Human Rights reported that police have begun waiting at bus and train stations in Nador to arrest people from sub-Saharan Africa immediately on their arrival in the city.

GERMANY

Germany To Accept Rescued People from Italy

People from the ship “Eleonor” have been granted asylum in Germany due to the principle of burden-sharing among European states. In preparation for their move, German doctors have already gone to Crotone to examine 20 people from the Sudan. Hopefully, more and more people will see their asylum cases speedily processed and be able to move on from the hellish limbo that is living in detention centers.

FRANCE

Weather Conditions in Northern France Worsen, Authorities Evict People from Shelters

As winter sets in across northern France, the weather is becoming even more cold, rainy and windy than usual. Unfortunately, most people on the move in the region have to live in camping tents because authorities have begun destroying shelters people have built. Some have been people’s homes for over three years. Mobile Refugee Support has more information and is also calling for donations and volunteers in order to help people there.

Refugee Women’s Center is attempting to provide shelter for people arriving in Dunkirk. However, after the evictions that happened there, the only shelter they can offer people is tents to sleep in the woods. They are collecting donations to be able to pay for families’ hotel rooms on especially cold days. For more information and to find out how to donate, click here.

Last month, an asylum seeker in France was stabbed in the eye by her husband and partially blinded. The woman’s application for asylum in the United Kingdom, where her sister lives, had been denied twice. She had applied to leave France because her husband had followed her there and she was afraid he would hurt or kill her since she had been raped in Afghanistan. After the stabbing, the Home Office did agree to bring the woman and her family to the UK but she is still in France. Reasons for the delay are unclear.

SWEDEN

Swedish Red Cross Urges Sweden to Stop Deportations to Afghanistan

The organization urges the Migrant Board to examine the security situation in Afghanistan and stop considering it a safe country for deportations. They point to the increasing number of civilian victims this summer compared to the same period in 2017 as proof that there is a clear and present danger for Afghani people. Since the situation is so unpredictable and information is unclear, there is no way to establish if returnees will be safe and secure.

UNICEF also published a report detailing the special dangers children face during the Afghan conflict, considered by many experts to be the most deadly in the world today. In addition to lack of access to education, child labor, and child marriage, nine Afghan children are killed or maimed daily. This comes only a few weeks after Sweden began deportation proceedings against a young boy and his father.

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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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