Volunteers document poor conditions in makeshift camps / Plans for moving people from Eastern Aegean islands to Crete in final stage / Volunteers improve conditions in Belgrade / More reports on police violence in Hungary / Italy sees 57 percent more arrivals compared to last two years / Drivers gather in Brussels to stand up for Human Rights
Volunteers today visited camps in Jordan close to the Syrian border and documented the harsh conditions people are facing there. Whether it was a 90 year old woman, a girl with down syndrome or families or teenagers — none of them had anything. People are living in makeshift camps, tents made of blankets and without any infrastructure. With Lifting Hands International, volunteers distributed small housing units for the most vulnerable, so that they could at least have an improved shelter. In one camp they also set up a mobile school room so the children there can at least get some kind of education. Lessons will be provided by volunteers.
The Worldwide Tribe has announced that from this month on they will be taking on the Eko Project in Thessaloniki. Together with former Eko volunteers they will continue to provide a place where refugees and volunteers come together on a grassroots level. If you want to support their work, have a look at their donation page.
Meanwhile, News That Moves has published a new issue of Rumours and Answers which includes information about relocation, reunification and national passports in Greece. For more information, see their website.
Months ago the Greek government announced plans to move thousands of people from the overcrowded islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos to new facilities on Crete. As Ekathimerini recently reported, this plan is now in its final stages. The mayor of Rethymno, Giorgos Marinakis, said that the island would be able to “absorb” the new people, employing them in villages. However, he complained about the timing. “We had agreed to certain things last fall,” he said. “Now we’re at the beginning of the tourist season again,” he said to Ekathimerini.
As of this morning, on the Eastern Aegean islands a total of 61 new arrivals had been registered: 3 on Lesvos, 31 on Chios and 27 on Samos. According to official figures there are still more than 14,000 people stuck on the islands.
Volunteers in Belgrade are currently working to improve conditions in the city for people living rough. Today, SoulWelders organized a big cleanup at the barracks. As temperatures rise, they want to avoid the spread of diseases caused by rotten trash and fight the lack of hygienic conditions. They counted 30 lorry loads of garbage which have to be removed.
Yesterday the Respond team, who usually operate in Thessaloniki, started setting up showers for people in the streets. You can support their work by giving a donation.
Over the last few days international media as well as Human Rights Watch have issued a series of reports about police violence in Hungary. The reports describe police practices, described by refugees, which include beating, kicking and forcing refugees to return to Serbia through the border fence. Doctors in both Belgrade and the transit area are treating the returnees. They have documented several injuries but of course can’t say who the perpetrator was. The abuses have been reported for a couple of months now.
The increase in the number of incidents follows the announcement that Hungary is planning to build a second fence on the Hungary-Serbia border. Needless to say, the aim of the fence will be to prevent people from entering the country. Replying to an email from the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the spokesperson from the Hungarian embassy in Stockholm, Marta Marko-Tisch, denied the allegations about systematic violence.
The Facebook group Italy-Refugee Crisis Database compared the number of arrivals to Italy over the last few years, relying on information from the interior ministry. They documented a massive increase in 2017 compared to the previous two years. While in 2015 and 2016 some 9,100 people had arrived in Italy by March 6th, this year more than 15,800 have already been counted. That’s an increase of more than 57 percent. The main nationalities of the new arrivals are: Guinea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Bangladesh, Senegal, Morocco, Mali, Sierra Leone and Cameroon.
Yesterday, Proactiva Open Arms rescued 122 people at sea off the coast of Libya, but five people remained missing. It was also reported by Frontex that a Norwegian ship with 503 people on board arrived in Catania. One died of chronic illness and two suspected smugglers were caught. In recent days around 1,200 people have been rescued at sea.
Hundreds of drivers gathered today in Brussels to urge the European Union to keep their promise of relocating people from Greece and Italy.