AYS Daily News Digest 18/1: EU member states want to send refugees back to Greece but not relocate them from there

While EU member states want to start sending back refugees to Greece under the Dublin agreement by March, they are slow to accept relocation and family reunion requests / New emergency center close to Belgrade opened, but still many people sleep in warhouses and makeshift camps / EU Commissioner Avramopoulos sees the problem on Greek islands but not the cause / Refugees being abandoned in mainland camp in terrible conditions

Refugees in Belgrade lining up for food distribution. Photo: Mikel Konate / Santi Palacios

Dublin deportations yes, promised relocations no

Part of the in general still active Dublin agreement is the right of family reunification. In 2016 the Greek authorities sent 4,886 requests to other EU member states. Of these, 2,462 have been accepted up to now and 1,001 have been rejected. In 1,107 cases the people continued their way on their own to avoid long waiting times.

The report reveals that in more than 44 percent (5144 out of 11,511) of the international protection claims on the Aegean islands made within the framework of the EU-Turkey deal it was judged that the asylum seekers in question would remain in Greece. The number of claims rejected in the first instance was 3,756.


Leaving Belgrade to Obrenov. Photo: Refugee Aid Serbia

Also Borderfree Association arrived in Belgrade to support the people living in the streets. They found some 70 homeless, sleeping unprotected in a car park in temperatures of zero degrees. Volunteers distributed the first sleeping bags and ordered 300 more which should arrive in the next few days. Other volunteers managed to deliver donations especially for vulnerable children, as well as winter clothes for men and women and emergency blankets to Serbia, which will be distributed in the coming days. Refugee Foundation Serbia has already brought some items to Krnjača, where 1000 people, among them 550 children, live. RFS is still looking for volunteers for English classes and to animate the kids. If you want to join them, please contact them.

It’s what they call their shelter and bed: a car park. Photo: Borderfree Association

At the moment there are around 300 children in the city, Help Refugees reports. Alice Aedy, the Help Refugees spokesperson for Serbia said: “The conditions here are unimaginable. No toilets or hot water. They feel they’re living like animals.” It should be added that in Europe millions of animals sleep in warm flats and houses with their own beds and sometimes even toilets. And people who take care of their well-being. Of course the people stuck in Serbia are aware of this fact, so it’s not astonishing that a refugee told some volunteers, “In Europe you wouldn’t let your dogs sleep outside in this weather. Why are we being treated like this?” According to Help Refugees around 1200 people are sleeping in an abandoned warehouse and an estimated 1000 more people in makeshift shelters around it. This would mean that a total of around 2200 is without appropiate shelter in Belgrade. In its report of 15th January, UNHCR only mentioned the 1200 homeless refugees, including 200–300 boys.


The situation on Lesvos and other islands is still desperate. Photo: Movement On The Ground

Meanwhile the Greek Ministry of Health published an updated map with sites in the country, which can be found here.

As volunteers on the mainland report, they visited a shelter on Sunday and found terrible conditions. People are left alone without proper supplies and with frozen water pipes and toilets, no electricity, no heating in apartment blocks in Northern Greece. To get water, they have to go to the sea. Most of the people have left and gone back to freezing camps, but there are still about 20 families inside. All the children are sick.

No kitchen, no water, no heat in Northern Greece. Photo: Geo Messmer

After days of being abandoned by the UNHCR and other NGOs “due to bad weather”, in which they did not have running water or information about what would happen to them, the relocation to Athens and Thessaloniki started when the sun came out again, Eko Project reports. The 600 residents of Alexandreia were not that lucky. The temperatures may be around zero, but they are expecting new arrivals.

Vasillika. Photo: Eco Project

In a new critical report, Human Rights Watch points out that “Refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrants with disabilities are not properly identified and do not enjoy equal access to services in reception centers in Greece.” They have particular difficulties getting basic services and have limited access to mental health care. Several NGOs told HRW they have few or no targeted programs to respond to the rights and needs of disabled people.

In Athens dozens of people have stormed a school which planned to offer after school classes to 25 children of refugee families in a camp nearby, various media report. The group was reportedly led by Yiannis Lagos, a member of the Greek Parliament for the far-right party “Golden Dawn”. Some party members were reported to be with him. According to Greek officials, they were threatening the staff. They also punched teachers and parents who wanted to discuss the plans.

For volunteering opportunities in Athens check this post.


Furthermore, the 1000 Red Cross volunteers promised by the Mayor have not been seen on the ground so far.

People still sleeping in the streets of Paris. Photo: Paris Refugee Ground Support




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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