AYS Digest 02/04/17: Greece looks to accelerate returns of refugees to Turkey

Large mosaic depicting people arriving on Lesvos by sea. Photo by Dirty Girls of Lesvos

Asylum-seekers waiving their right to appeal could receive €500 “cash bonus” for repatriation. Europe keeps its boats far from the rescue zone off the coast of Libya. Report on the situation in Romania and on the situation of female refugees in Switzerland.

Greece

Ekathimerini reports police on the islands are increasing efforts to locate and detain refugees who could face deportation to Turkey, with the No Border Kitchen Lesvos saying that people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Morroco and Algeria are especially targeted. Ekathimerini also says that a new detention centre has opened on Kos to facilitate deportations, as AYS reported earlier. Police however faces problems on Chios, which has seen arrivals from Turkey intensify in recent days. Local residents vehemently oppose the creation of a new detention center, despite the main police precinct being according to the paper, “already full of migrants”.

Greek Reporter quotes Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas as saying that “without closed centres the decisions at second instance can’t be enforced,” adding that “we will undertake additional measures to prevent abuse of asylum”.

Mouzalas is therefore expected to issue a circular incentivising refugees not to appeal a negative asylum decision. Spiegel reports that refugees currently receive 500 euros for “voluntary” repatriation and that under the new rules, refugees who have been denied asylum will have five days to chose whether to receive an additional 500 euro cash bonus and “voluntarily” leave Greece or whether to appeal the decision. Mouzalas has said that refugees are abusing the system by lodging appeals, causing a bottleneck in the procedure and leading to overcrowded camps.

Human Rights Watch notes that in an Action Plan published in December 2016, the European Commission already recommended tougher measures aimed at increasing the number of returns to Turkey, including expanding detention on the islands and curbing appeal rights.

HRW also says that while Greece could facilitate transfers to the mainland in order to alleviate overcrowded reception centres, “EU and Greek officials cite implementation of the (EU-Turkey) deal as a justification for the containment policy”. The group adds that “even if transferring asylum seekers to the mainland would complicate possible returns to Turkey, this is an unacceptable excuse for condemning people to conditions that threaten their health and cause huge anxiety”.

Refugee communities will reportedly hold a demonstration outside Kara Tepe tomorrow 3rd of April at 10am.

Information on cash assistance

Again, we strongly oppose the decision not to distribute cash cards to people living in squats, that is imposed by the government and obeyed by the organizations distibuting cards. It is absurd and a discriminatory practice that should not take place.

Beach trips for refugees

Photo by schwizerchrüz.ch Michael Räber

Bulgaria

Church famous for sheltering refugees set on fire

Tomorrow it could be us”. The Syrian family had arrived in the city of Belene under the relocation program and was granted asylum. Novonite says the Catholic church offered them lodging and helped them learn Bulgarian, but locals soon started to protest against the presence of refugees in their town, forcing the family to leave.

Romania

Report on Giurgiu camp

All of the residents have limited freedom of movement, meaning that they can leave the camp after 11am and have to be back by 8pm. They do not have information about how long they have to stay in this kind of accommodation or what will happen when they go out. Once or twice a week they have doctors in the camp, rarely some volunteers come by and most of the time they spend only with two guards.

As residents we were in touch with told us, they did not have access to anything for three days after arriving in the camp, including food or blankets.

News Deeply says that while their exact numbers are unknown, around 5,000 people have been granted refugee protection by Romania since 1991 — one of the smallest refugee populations in Europe — and only 2,584 people with protected status currently hold Romanian residency permits, according to UNHCR. This suggests at least half of Romania’s refugees left at some point. It also notes that many relocated under the EU scheme consider leaving due to a lack of jobs and poor language classes.

Sea

Europe keeps its boats far from the rescue zone

The news of further rescue operations comes as the Intercept publishes two major articles on the EU’s operations in the Mediterrenean. The first article says that the EU “has deliberately chosen to keep their coast guard patrol boats far from where the shipwrecks happen” as according to their logic “saving more lives will only encourage more refugees to come”. The second article show evidence that undermines a Frontex report accusing charities operating in the Mediterranean of colluding with people smugglers. Ruben Neugebauer of Sea Watch says leaking the report to the Financial Times has been “the start of a new strategy to criminalize NGOs”.

France

Three refugees rescued on the border with Italy

Belgium

Difficult situation for refugees in Brussels and Zeebrugge

Austria

Attacks on refugee shelters almost double

Switzerland

Situation of female refugees

Another major issue is that, according to a Terre des Femmes report, female asylum seekers claiming gender-based persecution are not granted refugee status, as the asylum authorities thoughtlessly assume that there is a willingness to provide protection on the part of the local authorities.

Ireland

Six children resettled from France

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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