AYS DAILY DIGEST 25/09/18: STATEMENT ON A UNJUST VERDICT AGAINST AYS VOLUNTEER

Moroccan NGOs statement on pushbacks // EU anti-fraud watchdog investigating Greek misuse of refugee funds // Colibri patrols the Mediterranean alone // Greek police strip asylum seekers naked in pushback to Turkey // Sudanese refugees’ statement after months of protest in Italy // Solidarity worker convicted for a tweet in Calais // Over 1000 asylum seekers back in Grande-Synthe region // Sweden upholds “high school act” //

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Madina, whose death at the hands of border guards last November has lead to an ongoing battle between AYS and the Croatian Government.

Feature — AYS statement on politically motivated, unjust guilty verdict for our volunteer

Acts of solidarity towards refugees and asylum seekers are routinely criminalized across Europe, often using laws meant to stop human trafficking — recent high-profile cases include a French farmer accused of feeding and giving people lifts in the Roya Valley, and two young volunteers on Lesvos. An act as innocent as giving someone a ride in the back of your truck so that they don’t have to walk along a busy and dangerous motorway can be prosecuted, And, of course, there is Hungary’s infamous “Stop Soros” law, which would punish any group or individual who helps an asylum seeker in any way with a prison sentence. Criminalizing solidarity is a clever tactic that works to sap aid organizations’ energy and resources, while publicly distracting from the real scandal: the endemic, state-sponsored human rights abuses experienced by asylum seekers.

The case against Dragan is an especially flagrant example of this strategy, given that Dragan had not met or communicated directly with the refugees he is accused of helping smuggle across the border until after they were picked up by police — and the government provided absolutely no evidence to support their charge that he did so. They claim he used light signals to navigate them over the border — but at that time they were already in Croatia, and Dragan was standing with three police officers at the police checkpoint. Now, a day before the verdict on Dragan’s case is officially published by the court, the Croatian media is parroting a story that was likely leaked by the government itself. Please read AYS’s statement on the matter below.

State revenge for the little Madina case — ays volunteer convicted, perpetrators walk free

It is not at all common to issue comments on a pending verdict, especially if judicial reasoning is yet to be given, and the verdict has yet to be published on the notice board of the court in charge. However, given that the information on the pending verdict in the case of our volunteer Dragan Umičević has been leaked to the media through unknown channels, we find it pertinent to clarify several allegations and put them in context.

We believe that the public is well acquainted with the case of little Madina, a six-year-old girl who was killed during an illegal expulsion from Croatia on the night of 21st November 2017. Unknown perpetrators in the Croatian police were reported to the State’s Attorney Office of the Republic of Croatia following Madina’s death. Later investigation found the potentially incriminating thermographic camera recording of the controversial incident mysteriously missing. No-one took responsibility for the loss of the little girl’s life — not those who had ordered Madina and her family to follow the freezing tracks back into Serbia, nor those who had ordered the illegitimate expulsion or whose support had been implicit.

Not four months later, the night of 20th March 2018, little Madina’s family contacted AYS through Facebook. The night was unusually cold for that time of the year and a storm raged outside. Madina’s elder sister told us that there were a total of 11 children and juveniles freezing in a field near the Strošinci village, and that they were frightened another tragedy would strike. Despite it all, they wanted to apply for asylum in Croatia. By submitting their geolocation, they confirmed to us that they were in Croatian territory. The volunteers on duty did the only thing legally and humanly possible — they contacted the police to inform them of an unregistered family of refugees in the territory of the Republic of Croatia claiming to seek asylum.

Given the extremely harsh weather conditions, as well as the fact that it was a family that had previously experienced an unimaginable tragedy in similar circumstances, we asked our volunteer Dragan (who lives closest to the location where all of this was occuring) to go out in the field and find the nearest police patrol, in order to stress the fact that according to our info, there was a family with many small children in a field near Strošinci who wanted to seek international protection.

He did just that — he went to the police posting near the border and handed over all the information we had. He was never in direct contact with Madina’s family. He saw them for the very first time later that night, when the police took them to a nearby police station. This is why we were very unpleasantly surprised when the MOI subsequently made an indictment against him, claiming that Dragan “assisted in [Madina’s family’s] illegal crossing of the border.” This grotesque accusation can only be interpreted as a tool of political pressure on AYS, who were the first organisation to bring to light the information on the death of little Madina, and has continuously been speaking out on the issue of the illegal treatment of refugees on the borders of Croatia, enacted by the Croatian police, which is also the context in which our government is being talked about in the European Parliament lately.

It’s curious that the indictment against our volunteer comes in a time when we started speaking out about the violence happening on our borders. Additionally, it’s interesting that in the indictment motion, the MOI, among other things, asked for “the prohibition of work in Croatia for the legal entity.” Taking into consideration the fact that Dragan is not a legal entity, this could only mean the prohibition of work for AYS. It is also interesting to note that the pending verdict, which the court hasn’t published on it’s official bulletin board yet (meaning it’s not publicly available) has been published by a state-owned news agency.

And has been published at the exact time when AYS warned of another child, the five-year-old Allsa, who fell victim to the illegal practices of the Croatian police.

The only, very unpleasant, conclusion that we can reach is that it was the Ministry of Interior itself who released this information to the public, in order to draw attention away from its own illegal acts, while discrediting human rights defenders in the public eye. Our volunteer is of course not guilty of the charges filed against him, and we will not stop until we’ve exhausted all legal instances to prove this. Sharing this post will help the truth in reaching a wider circle of people, and it would mean the world to us. A big thank you to everyone for all your support. The fight continues!

#supportAYS #supportDragan

Morocco

Meanwhile:

Yet another Alarm Phone member was violently deported today, according to Watch the Med — Alarmphone.

One woman is dead and four people injured after the Royal Moroccan Navy opened fire on a boat of migrants that was allegedly refusing to respond to their signals. Ali Zoubedi reports that the the woman was only 20 and had been studying law in Martil.

The bodies of two migrants were found on the beach in Marina Smir.

Turkey

Sea

With the Aquarius permanently docked, the rescue plane Colibri is now the last humanitarian rescue operation left in the Mediterranean. This afternoon, Pilotes Volontaires tweeted out an image of around 100 people crammed onto a small rubber dinghy, nearly all waving to catch the pilots’ attention. They claim that both military and commercial ships ignored Colibri when they put out a mayday alert.

Greece

The Ministry of Migration has been hit with two massive fines totalling 100,000 euros because of its reluctance to improve sewage and sanitation systems on the Greek islands’ two largest hotspots: Chios’s Vial Camp and Moria on Lesvos, Ekathimerini reports.

In the wake of the bombshell Fileleftheros piece alleging widespread misuse of funds earmarked by the EU for refugees in Greece, the EU anti-fraud commission (OLAF) is investigating, Politico reports.

Once more, winter is coming and there is no concrete adaptation plan in place on Lesvos. Supplies and donations needed — find out more here.

Italy

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Source: Melting Pot Europa.

Melting Pot Europa published a statement from the Sudanese Refugees of Scorticabove, whose page can be found here. The group has been protesting on the street since the eviction of their residence three months ago.

Let us not flinch from what we have conquered.
Let us move forward, aware that many are citizens and solidarity networks around us; aware that our battle concerns all this city and indeed all our country.
Yes, because this country is ours too and we want to change it together.

The statement can be read in full below (note: In Italian).

Serbia

Bulgaria

If you are a refugee or asylum seeker in need of legal aid, please send an email to office@farbg.eu or message the organization’s Facebook page.

France

The head of Amnesty International in France, Nicholas Krameyer, responded to Torondel’s conviction: “This outrageous decision sets a dangerous precedent for anybody attempting to document the disproportionate use of force employed by the police in Calais and throughout the country.” Specifically with regards to the charge of defamation, he said, “Criminal defamation laws that inhibit legitimate criticism of public officials are contrary to the right to freedom of expression. The authorities must stop harassing human rights defenders through the courts.”

The Refugee Info Bus, which has worked with Loan, put out a statement:

Our good friend Loan, a former long-term volunteer with l’Auberge des Migrants, who brought the Info Bus back to Calais in 2017, was convicted today of defamation against the police for a tweet he posted in January 2018. This sets an extremely dangerous precedent for the work of volunteers and refugee rights activists, and for the treatment of refugees themselves, in France.

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Two children amidst a makeshift camp in the woods of Grande-Synthe. Source: L’Auberge des Migrants.

Meanwhile, in the Grande-Synthe region, winter is coming and the situation is getting worse. L’Auberge des Migrants reports that over 1000 people turned up for their food distribution this afternoon. The organization noted that since the police evacuated roughly 500 people less than a month ago, over twice that many have returned to the area. In a Facebook post, they questioned the media’s total lack of interest in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region, writing, “The survival of a thousand people depends entirely on associations whose resources are low, because of the total ignorance in which the public is kept!”

Germany

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By Omar Perez. Source: Art Against Borders.

Sweden

“It’s not a good law and it’s difficult to interpret, but it is not and has not been breaking the constitution,” said Thomas Rolén, chamber-law president of the Migration Supreme Court, according to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

This development means that several thousands of young asylum seekers who are either already enrolled or planning to enroll in high school have a new chance to stay in Sweden. Complications arise because some of these young people are also “permission seeking” — as in, applying for another chance to have their asylum case tried. AYS has previously mentioned that this has led to homelessness in some cases, as municipalities are not required to provide those over 18 with accommodation while they are waiting for their case to be decided.

We strive to echo correct news from the ground through collaboration and fairness.

Every effort has been made to credit organizations and individuals with regard to the supply of information, video, and photo material (in cases where the source wanted to be accredited). Please notify us regarding corrections.

If there’s anything you want to share or comment, contact us through Facebook or write to: 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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