AYS Daily Digest 25/08/17: How far will we go down the shame road?

Jugend Rettet update / More arrivals in Greece and new asylum figures / Solidarity with refugees in Italy / Paris still with little support allowed after fivedays / Festival recoveries in the UK / Volunteers needed / And more news…

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Da Ventimiglia a Roma: i diritti non hanno confini — From Ventimiglia to Rome: rights have no boundaries: Progetto20k

Feature

After many weeks of repression of the NGOs working in the Mediterranean sea and news or suggestions about possible agreements between certain European Union states, such as France and Italy that have sent delegations to Libya to try to settle the migration crisis, now there are more suggestions that these agreements, especially those concluded by Italy, have involved, not only the weak UN-recognized Libyan government but also armed militias operating in the country. Libya has been, since the fall of Gaddafi, controlled by many armed groups fighting for land and resources.

For many years, the migration route through the country has been a huge source of wealth and these groups have been profiting from the crisis, but lately the numbers of refugees crossing has fallen significantly. A place called Zawiya, west of Tripoli, was the crossroads for much of Libya’s human trafficking until recently but in the last few weeks, the trade has come to a standstill. There are reports that armed groups are now preventing migrant boats from setting off from this town and according to the Middle East Eye, armed groups are receiving pay-offs to stop the boats leaving Libya, in exchange for aid, aircraft hangars and large sums of money.

Local sources in the nearby city of Sabratha are quoted as saying:

“It is not possible to think that an area that for years has been the crossroads of human traffic is suddenly calm.

“The calm was brought about by economic agreements made with local militias. There is no possible negotiation, except with militias”

These sources believe that European intelligence agencies have been negotiating with the Sabratha municipality, acting on behalf of local militias, giving them substantial amounts of money to keep the route closed. Also, last week, an Italian government foreign aid body delivered 11 tons of supplies to the University Hospital of Sabratha. There are also unconfirmed reports of a meeting in Sabratha between Italian intelligence officials and members of the Anas Dabbashi militia, which controls the nearby Mellitah Oil and Gas compound. It has also been reported that these militias work in complicity with the Libya coast guard, since it would not be possible for them to operate without being seen and all sides are interested in the high profits that this crisis brings; in this case it would be the “bribes” being paid to the armed groups. These corruption reports have recently been released by the UN. Another report from the UN states that crossings from North Africa to Italy have remained at around the same level as last year at 83,752 people as of end June but since the end of this month the rate of arrivals has been reduced and this has happened at the same time as the crackdown on the NGOs and the “negotiations” between certain European states and Libya intensified.

Whether we shall see a drastic fall in the number of crossings between Libya and Italy, only time will tell, but for now what is clear is that thousands of vulnerable refugees are getting stuck in Libya in terrible conditions, having to submit themselves to the criminal operations and will of different armed groups that use them and trade them for money. European countries continue to insist on the primitive response of closing their doors to migration, rather than looking at the cause and trying to solve it. Having people risking their lives at sea trying to reach safety is a terrible situation, but keeping them trapped is not just wrong, it is shameful.

Sea

Today the official Spanish rescue team SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO‏ has reported the rescue of 30 refugees near Alborán who have been transfered to the Spanish town of Almería.

Also today our friends from Jugend Rettet e.V. have issued an update on their situation and asked for support.

We would like to briefly summarize what is happening to us and why we are a bit quieter at the moment. We are currently looking at about 500 pages from the Italian prosecutor’s office, which describe the investigation of our activities. We will not let this document pass without comment. Together with our translators and legal team, we are going through everything and working out the allegations. We are reconstructing various missions, going through logbooks and photos, which takes a lot of time. In the meantime, we are also planning our next steps, working out actions, and sitting together day and night to change the situation we are faced with. That’s why we need you more than ever. Because especially now, when we want to scream, we must remain quiet. Therefore, be loud for us. Your actions count. Do anything you can: Write to your ambassador; to your representative; declare your solidarity, and above all, remain strong. You are our voice! #freeIUVENTA

These guys, among others groups, deserve our full support since without them out there, the number of victims at sea would have been a lot higher than the already big numbers we see every time we look at the updates.

Recently, IOM published another report on the numbers around the Mediterranean sea.

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Image by IOM‏

Greece

The arrivals on the Greek islands remain high and today the official numbers show 56 refugees being registered on Samos and 44 on Kos.

After many arrivals in the last few days on Lesvos, the island is regressing to almost double the numbers of people it hosted five months ago. According to a statement made by the Ministry of Interior’s National Coordination Center for Border Control, Migration and Asylum, there are now a total of 5,111 refugees on the island, which is a number as high as the one at Christmas of 2016. So far this month, more than 2,000 refugees have landed on Greek shores from smuggling vessels coming out of Turkey and this is putting further pressure on the already overcrowded facilities. There are constant scenes of violence due to the numbers of people and the bad conditions they live in.

On Chios, the number of refugees amounts to 2,814, with 1,104 of them staying at the infamous Vial camp in the village of Halkios. This facility has an official capacity of just 894 people and is the sole hotspot taking in people with the unofficial Souda camp now winding down its operations. In Samos there are 2,514 refugees at the moment, with 2,145 of them staying in a camp that officially is supposed to house just 700 people.

To add to this Greek tragedy, other European countries are due to start sending some refugees back to the country, following the Dublin agreements, next month. Migration minister, Yiannis Mouzalas even said he did not know where they would be hosted when they got back to Greece and that it could be in Athens or in Thebes.

Mobile Info Team for refugees in Greece — الفريق المتنقل لمعلومات اللاجئين has published the Asylum Application Statistics in Greece between July 2013 and July 217.

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Photo by Mobile Info Team for refugees in Greece — الفريق المتنقل لمعلومات اللاجئين

The statistics include information on the number of applications each year, the country of origin, gender and age range of applicants and the rates of recognition.
The number of applications for asylum in Greece has increased dramatically, from 4,814 in the second half of 2013 to 51,092 in 2016. In 2013 there was an average of 688 applications each month from June to December. In 2016 this monthly average increased to 4,258, and so far 2017 has the highest monthly average on record with 4,568 applications each month.
There have been 110,505 applications in total from 2013 to July 2017. Nearly half of these applications (54,251) were submitted by people aged 18–35, and over 25,000 applicants were aged 0–13. A total of 4,908 applications were made by unaccompanied minors.
There are statistics for 17 regions of registration across Greece. The biggest region of registration is Athens with 37,659 applications, followed by Thessaloniki with 17,921. On the islands, the number of applications has varied — for example, there have been over 11,000 on Lesvos, 4,362 on Samos and 1,374 on Kos.
The rate of recognition was highest in 2015, with 47.4% of applications for asylum in Greece accepted. In 2016 the rate dropped to 29.1%, but this was partly affected by a large number of applications being classified as inadmissible because people were eligible for family reunification or relocation to other EU countries. As relocation and reunification rates decrease, the rate of recognition for asylum applications in Greece has risen again, to 44% so far in 2017.
Rates of recognition vary dramatically according to the country of origin. Applications with Syria as the country of origin have the highest recognition rate, at 99.5%, followed by Palestine at 93%. Iraq has a recognition rate of 72.8%, Afghanistan 63.6% and Iran 54.1%. Countries with low rates of recognition include Egypt at 6.4%, Pakistan with 2.2% and Algeria with 2.2%.
You can find full details of these Asylum Service statistics by following

Volunteering

The Mobile Info Team is looking for an Arabic-English translator to start ASAP. The group offers food and accommodation with the team in Thessaloniki and MAY consider a stipend. The person has to be able to provide a super accurate and detailed translation, since they deal with legal information and wrong phrasing can be very harmful. Ideally they are looking for someone for a minimum of three months. If you know someone who might be interested, please get in touch here.

Earth Refugee is also looking for volunteers and if you are going to be in Athens for 3 weeks or more please consider getting in touch. The work includes helping people to write their CV, help them discover the jobs market in Europe, and accompany them in their job research. Also, if you have some teaching and educational skills, have experience in teaching English as a second language and like sports or working with children, this might be a great opportunity to get involved. You need to be over 21 years old, have an advanced English level (verbal & written) and teaching experience. Fill in the form here and send it to the team.

Lavrio Asylum Centre, one of the two camps south of Athens, is asking for supplies since the NGOs are stopping their support. With the withdrawal of the Red Cross and the failure to find a solution on the part of the Government, the result is that 400 refugees do not have a regular food supply anymore. They are kindly asking for rice, sauces, pepper, sugar, tea, flour, arabic peas, baby milk, sweetened milk, toasted bread pancakes, wipes, sanitary napkins, toilet paper, soaps, creams, biscuits, alcohol, benthacin, children’s antibiotics and, for adults, chlorine and waste bags. You can also get in touch with Pamperaiki group here to support this camp.

Italy

After the violence yesterday in Rome, more details of what happened are coming to light, such as the police being told to break the arms of the protesters.

Police used violence and water cannons to evict a group of squatters, predominantly refugees, in Rome on August 24, 2017. The Italian authorities should conduct a serious and transparent investigation into the use of force by police in yesterday’s events. Hundreds of people who had been living in the building on the Piazza Indipendenza urgently need alternative accommodation.
The police said the action was “urgent and necessary” because the presence of gas tanks, used for cooking inside the building, posed a risk, and that water cannons were used to “prevent fires and flammable liquids from being lit.” Video footage disseminated on social media show the police pointing the water cannon directly at people, as well as individuals throwing objects at police officers. The police issued a statement saying that four people were under investigation for violent resistance, including throwing a gas canister and rocks at the police.
In the course of the afternoon, all of those from inside the building were taken to a police station, while many of those dispersed from the square in front of the building are protesting near the central train station, not far away. A video published by the daily newspaper La Repubblica shows police in anti-riot gear chasing demonstrators in the parking lot in front of the train station, with audio allegedly of the officer in charge saying, “They have to disappear…if someone throws something, break his arm.”
Residents have rejected alternatives offered over the past few days because they are temporary, inadequate, or far from their established social networks. Families with children in school are particularly anxious to remain in the neighborhood, with the beginning of the school year just two weeks away. In any event, the alternatives offered would benefit only a small fraction of the hundreds who had been living in the nine-story building.

Progetto20k has issued a statement in support of the refugees affected by yesterday’s eviction and violence and condemning the police response.

We express solidarity with those who have been evicted and violently attacked by police in Piazza Indipendenza in Rome.
We strongly denounce the repression that now seems to be the only answer to social problems: the defense of rights can not be considered merely a matter of public order.

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Photo by Progetto20k

In Ventimiglia the situation continues to be very difficult, and a group called Opentheborders. Storie oltre muri, recinti e confini has also made a comment on the overall situation and the implications of this bottleneck that continues to trap so many refugees.

Ventimiglia is a padlock with a pop lock to jump to make your dreams a bit more real when you leave from Africa or the Asian countries in great difficulty.
Turning the key means opening a door called Europe.
To lock the lock, however, there is a crooked lock. There is the French border, armed and unbreakable: hence you do not pass.
It was the summer of 2015 when the whole world witnessed a real detention of hundreds of people locked in on the cliff at the French border. The heat, the hunger, the thirst and the police charges will not stop just for the summer season.
Over the last couple of years, several NGOs, voluntary associations, and the solidarity experienced by the Church of the Gianchette have been trying to improve the living conditions of dozens of people trying to overcome the barrier.
Between police checks and the French gendarmerie, on trains and along the roads connecting to Menton, for migrants life is not easy. Many trying to cross the border through the railway tunnel by night or tempting fate by hiding under the trains have lost their lives. Others, however, as reported many times by Amnesty International, have suffered abuse and violence by the Italian police. Neither the French gendarmes nor the Italian police forces take more than half a second to send minors back to Italy and put them on buses to the Taranto hotspot. And in Puglia, another ping-pong game begins: either repatriated or sent around the boot without a penny in their pocket and with just a handwritten sheet in Italian, incomprehensible to them who do not speak our language.
So, away from the eyes of distracted tourists, busy looking at ideas and visions, in the middle of, but hidden by the luxury of the Cinque Terre and the Cote d’Azur, those who flee in search of a better future find themselves sleeping on the banks of the Roja river.
Some football or dominoes to try to deceive time waiting for a meal does not erase the desire to jump beyond the great obstacle and run away, free.
It is very sad to know that a human being is forced to live and sleep like a beast only because his presence on European territory depends on a piece of paper for him not to be labelled as “illegal.”
It is a surprise, then, to realize how racial hatred is invading the general way of thinking, and to see, in the eyes of those in front of us, humanity asking us to determine whether or not it is possible to be entitled to a more serene life.
Perhaps the handshakes, the smiles, the hope of those who sleep in a sleeping bag will save us, and despite the river’s shore being a humid and inhospitable place, the number of people does not go down. Perhaps these little brotherly gestures will help us to topple this wall which divides us into “us” and “them”, helping us to understand how the interweaving of cultures is synonymous with wealth and solidarity.

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Photo by Opentheborders. Storie oltre muri, recinti e confini
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Photo by Opentheborders. Storie oltre muri, recinti e confini

Maybe one day.. we can dream…

France

After last Friday’s evacuation at Porte de la Chapelle, in Paris, the streets are cleared and all that remains is a heavily armed police presence. This has sent a lot of people into hiding and prevented new arrivals from accessing any food or information. The police are still not letting people ‘gather’ so that they can pretend that there are no refugees in the area, reports Solidarithé.

We have decided to hold off on static distributions to avoid putting refugees and volunteers at risk of arrest

Yesterday Solidarité migrants Wilson was finally allowed to serve a heavily policed breakfast to the approx 300/400 people hiding at Porte de la Chapelle. That’s five days people have gone without food.

Calais

Help Refugees reports that the police is destroying blankets three times a week, so distribution teams in Calais have continued providing essential items such as sleeping bags, clothing and hygiene to the estimated 750 refugees currently located here.

With the help of their partners they’ve managed to distribute over 10,000 items during a tough week. You can support their work clicking here.

Care4Calais has done a small update of the situation at various points in France: Their Calais warehouse is now fully open again. In Dunkirk there has been yet another clearance and the police continues to take the refugees’ possessions, an even harsher blow than normal in this wet weather. The group cooperates with Dunkirk women and children’s centre, Salam and the recently formed Dunkirk Refugees Ground Support Network.

UK

Campaigns from different groups to recover tents and sleeping bags left behind at festivals in the UK continues and on the 28th of August, after the end of Reading Festival Dunkirk Refugee Ground Support Network will be there trying to save what they can to take to France where it is desperately needed. Please consider giving them a hand if you are in the area. You can get in touch here.

We strive to echo correct news from the ground, through collaborationand fairness, so let us know if something you read here is not right.

Anything you want to share — contact us on Facebook or writeto:areyousyrious@gmail.com

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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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