AYS Digest 21/09: Boat with 600 people capsizes off Egyptian coast

Another boat capsizes, this time off the Egyptian coast. Refugees continue to arrive in Lesvos. Help needed for makeshift camps surrounding Izmir. No asylum applications accepted for one month in Rome.

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Photo by Marco Panzetti. Taken between Italy and Libya.

4 medics killed near Aleppo

Al Araby reports that four medics were killed and a nurse was critically injured by airstrikes near Aleppo, just days after at least 20 people were killed in the attack on a UN aid convoy. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports 3,000 Russians have arrived in the past four weeks in support of regime forces, as the battle for Aleppo rages on.

At least 43 dead after boat capsizes off Egyptian coast

At least 43 are dead after a boat with 600 people capsized off the north Egyptian coast. 150 people have been rescued and hundreds more are missing. A senior security official said the dead were mostly Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali nationals.

Given the chaos in Libya, a rising number of refugees is now setting out from Egypt, with the number of refugees reaching Italy through Egypt nearly 70% higher than the same period of last year.

Help needed for makeshift camps around Izmir

The Worldwide Tribe has visited makeshift camps on some of the farmlands surrounding Izmir, where “many Syrian families (who are not legally allowed to work in Turkey), desperately take up the offers from local farmers to work illegally, picking things like tomatoes and chilis, in the hope of saving enough money for the crossing to Europe”. Everyone in these families is working, including the children, with the farmers providing them with very basic food and shelter. In a form of modern day slavery, they are paid at the end of the season, with farmers deducting money from their final wages for food and shelter, or sometimes do not pay them at all. Their small medical team administered basic healthcare during their stay — “young girls brought in their despondent newborn babies and the camp residents coughed around me, waiting to be treated for the back problems and muscle aches they suffered from being bent over all day, or for the allergies and rashes from the pesticides used in the fields”.

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Photo by the Worldwide Tribe
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Photo by the Worldwide Tribe
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Photo by the Worldwide Tribe

The Tribe has launched its “The Five Pound Project” to address some of the short term, basic needs in these makeshift camps:

Hat and sunglasses (£5 a pair)
Mosquito repellent (£5 per family)
Mattresses and Mosquito nets (£5 each)
Shoes: (Flip-flops (£5) or Boots (£20))
Basic food and hygiene products (£10 per household per week)

No Border Kitchen statement on Moria fire

In a statement, the No Border Kitchen in Lesvos said “Moria camp is completely overcrowded, now housing double its intended capacity. The people are forced to stay in overcrowded tents or outside, there is not enough food or water, and hygienic conditions are very bad.

On September 19th, the day the fire broke out, there had been no lunch
and the water had been cut for hours (as usual). Some refugees started
protesting and some managed to set their imprisoned friends free. They
protested in front of the EASO offices to ask for their asylum requests
to be processed and to demand answers about the reasons for their
deportation. The EASO staff left the camp from a back door without
responding. At that point the peoples’ anger grew; they gathered in front
of the camp in protest and in the spirit of the recent demonstrations,
started marching towards Mytilini town.

There are a lot of stories of what actually happened on Monday. Some say
the people wanted to march to Mytilini town to protest against the
border and Moria camp, others said that they heard about the fascist
gathering in Moria village and wanted to make a counter demonstration.
No matter what is true, it was a common protest of people from different
origins and language groups together against the borders, the bad
conditions in Moria camp and fascism and racism in Lesvos. It is unclear
whether they were stopped by the police or if they returned
voluntarily, but the people turned around and went again to Moria camp.
In any case anger grew even more and soon people started clashing with
the police.

During the fighting a fire started spreading through the camp. It is
unclear who set the fire, but as far as we know the flames started in
the dry fields outside Moria camp close to one of the unofficial entries
to the camp and because of the strong wind quickly expanded inside the
camp. The structures and tents in Moria camp are made of highly
flammable material, so together with the piles of trash lying around in
the camp everything took fire. Fortunately no one got seriously
injured in the flames, but the firefighters didn’t reach the camp in time
to save the belongings of the people. Hundreds of people lost all they
had but what they were wearing at the time of the fire: passports,
documents they need for their asylum process, diplomas, money, clothes,
tents, sleeping bags — all gone.

The statement concludes:

We want it to be known that the fire in Moria was not just an accident. And
the fight was not just a food fight. People were fighting for their
rights to be treated like the human beings they are. Furthermore it is
out of question who has to take the responsibility for the fire in
Moria. Its the people that close the border, the people that force
people into overcrowded camps built from plastic and lacking even water
or food. Camps that lack conditions suitable for human beings will
always be a tinder box.

More than 5,777 people on Lesvos despite capacity for 3,500

100 people were registered on Aegean Islands in the 24 hours up to 7:30 this morning — 74 in Lesvos, 1 in Chios, 13 in Samos, 2 in Leros, and 10 in Rhodes.

The speedboat that landed in Rhodes had two Turkish families seeking protection from alleged political persecution in Turkey.

According to volunteers, one boat with 22 people landed on the north coast of Lesvos this morning and two other boats with 12 and 11 people respectively landed later during the day. More than 5,777 people are now on Lesvos, despite an official maximum capacity of only 3,500. The maximum capacity number has not been updated after the fire in the Moria camp.

The ferry that was supposed to accommodate more than 1,000 people in Lesvos will not arrive as planned, as the Greek shipping ministry has cancelled the tender. Bids are open until Friday.

Some refugees are sleeping outside Moria, with United Rescue Aid saying rain has been on and off all day, complicating the situation even more.

The New York Times reports Greek authorities have asked for more support in managing the migration crisis after the fire. Interior Ministry official Toskas is quoted calling on the EU to ‘send real, genuine aid’, as he condemned European countries that ‘build fences and then send blankets’.

Winter is approaching fast in Greece

On the mainland, the approaching winter is causing problems as well. In Oreokastro, tarps have been installed over the tents to protect them from rain.

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Photo by Mohamad Hadi Almadani

In Ritsona, ten isoboxes have been installed, certainly a more durable and practical solution.

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Photo by Eva Magkou

Notorious Amygdaleza camp reopens

Greekreporter says the notorious Amygdaleza camp for migrants and refugees opened up again by the very government that criticized its existence. Alternative Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas inaugurated its “new” settlement for 300 refugees. The website says the “new” Amygdaleza, is “essentially the same dusty facility with containers and barbed-wire fencing that Syriza had shut down due to its “horrendous living conditions.” Now, it has been reborn as a “new venue” — as though internet access and a small playground can make all the difference. The camp will host refugees wishing to return to their countries.

Update on situation in Belgrade

In Belgrade, the community centre for refugees is now offering German language courses twice a week. The shower is repaired and almost permanently in use and the centre is now equipped with a washing machine. Some refugees are coming everyday and are now involved in the day-to-day functioning of the place.

The association Rigardu says the situation remains precarious, with showers and sleeping places destroyed as part of the preparations for the Belgrade Waterfront project. Public toilets are not free to use and space for sleeping is becoming more scarce, exposing refugees to the weather. Rigardu also says that some of these refugees already reached countries like Germany, France or Austria, but were deported back to Bulgaria as part of the Dublin Regulation and are now trying the same route again.

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Photo by Rigardu

Protest over Austria’s asylum policy on Saturday

The ‘Platform for a human asylum policy’ will be holding a protest this Saturday, during the same time as the European asylum summit in Vienna. The organizers will protest against the Austrian emergency decree and upper limit on refugees and insist on the rights of refugees. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are willing to accept and help refugees, while the government is doing everything it can to stop refugees from entering the country.

Accommodation center set on fire this Monday

Several right-wing protests against refugees have shocked Germany in the past few weeks. On Monday night, a still empty accommodation centre for refugees was set on fire in Bremen. 500 individuals spontaneously marched against right-wing violence on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile Die Südddeutsche reports that Chancellor Merkel, will be meeting with leading politicians of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party CSU, in order to reach a compromise over the handling of the refugee crisis. Merkel’s comment that a refugee influx like in 2015 is a mistake that cannot be repeated, is seen as a peace offering by the CSU. Chair of the CSU Bundestag group Gerda Hasselfeldt said an upper limit of exactly 200,000 refugees might not be necessary, but insisted the CDU’s goal needs to be to limit the influx.

No asylum applications accepted for one month in Rome

Police headquarters in Rome stated that no new asylum application will be accepted for a month, in order to deal with the previous applications made.
It’s important to note that this suspension will affect just the city of Rome, but the asylum procedure and offices will work regularly in the rest of the country.
Volunteers and activists are worried that the number of residents of the Via Cupa makeshift camp will increase after this decision.

Events like this shine a light on the extremely slow Italian bureaucracy and on the failure of the country’s immigration policy. The Italian government struggles to set up a proper system to house refugees, as it still treats the situation as a temporary problem, expecting refugees to move on. However, crossing the border to France from Italy is becoming more and more difficult, leaving refugees in limbo.

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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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