AYS News Digest 03/05/2022: Police Operation against PoM in Thessaloniki

Life lost at Melilla Sea Wall // UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner steps down // Criminal Court Rules: abuses against migrants in Libya ARE crimes against humanity


Police Operation in Thessaloniki

The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) has published a press release detailing an operation targeting people-on-the-move in the Greek city. At least three people were arrested on their way to collect food from organisations helping there. BVMN voices concerns that arrests frequently lead to illegal incarceration and pushbacks to Turkey. A similar operation took place in Athens in March this year.

Reports collected by member organisations of BVMN include the use of unmarked red vans in Thessoloniki, which match the description of those used for illegal pushbacks in the Evros border region. The lack of transparency when using unmarked vehicles is of concern because of the “endemic police brutality” in Greece. The likelihood that the police actions in this operation lead to pushbacks to Turkey seem very high.

Read the full press release here.

This comes as the Greek government aim to recruit an additional 250 border guards to work in the Evros region.


As attention turns towards Ukraine, this piece sheds light on the Latvia/Belarus border via an interview with someone who was trapped there. Now returned to Iraq, Ahmad (name changed) tells his story in the context of the wider issues with Belarus and the EU.


Life lost at the Melilla Sea Wall

A body of a young man has been found in the sea near the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the Moroccan landmass. This comes as the borders remain shut since the beginning of the pandemic, despite assurances from Spanish authorities that they would reopen imminently. This is due to diplomatic quarrels between Spain and Morocco.

In March more than 6,000 people attempted to enter Spain, and therefore the EU, by swimming from the Moroccan port to the Spanish one. Covid-19 has impacted the Moroccan economy significantly and people used to be able to cross the border in order to work.

Hunger Strike in Gran Canaria

Several people have begun a hunger strike at the Barranco Seco detention Centre in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. The group are striking against the conditions in the centre, citing that meals were served in a way that prevented many from observing Ramadan. Other complaints include health care and food quality.

Asamblea de Apoyo a Migrantes de Tenerife are in contact with the group and following the situation.


Actions in Bavaria

The situation for Afghan refugees in Germany’s state of Bavaria isn’t acceptable. Protests and other actions are being planned. To get involved as an individual or an organisation you can find more information here.

This article explores the issues in more detail, with context from 2021.


42 Evictions in one week, Northern France.

The evictions on Sunday 1st May resulted in the seizing of 65 tents, meaning dozens of people went without shelter.

This comes as a British former volunteer is detained in Lille. The person named as ‘R’ faces 28 days in detention followed by expulsion to the UK and a 1 year ban on entering the Schengen area.

An unaccompanied minor faced a night without support when Child Protective Services refused to provide shelter. The reason was that, due to the pharmacies being closed, no Covid test was available. This is illegal, but reportedly common practice in Calais.

Meanwhile in Paris, three young men were violently arrested by police. Tensions in the capital have run high due to an attack at a camp in northern Paris, yet the three men had tear gas used against them whilst using a fire to cook on.


On Saturday the 7th May there is to be a demonstration in Liege against the unjust detention of people in Vottem Detention Centre. Since 1999, more than 20,000 people have been detained there, facing deportation and there are plans in place to increase capacity. Find out more here.


Anti-Slavery Commissioner steps down.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, and the atmosphere surrounding it, have come under heavy criticism by Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton. Thornton, who left the position on Friday with no successor, reported that the government had failed to take into account her advice, instead prioritising “political calculations”. The reality for victims of slavery and trafficking have, in fact, got worse:

“When I started in the role there was an objective to be much speedier and more assured in its decision-making, but we know the backlogs have just got longer and longer, with people waiting on average 568 days for a final decision last year,” Dame Sara Thornton.

This comes as the number of small boats crossing the Channel have actually increased. Utopia 56 report a 300% increase on this time last year.

This article describes how the deal between the UK and Rwanda to remove asylum seekers to the African country breaks various laws. The UK government faces legal challenges to the newly passed Nationality and Borders Bill and this long read delves deeper into the Rwanda deal, mentioning the timing of the announcement (when government ministers faced fines for breaking lockdown rules), and puts in the wider context of other offshore models.

SEA / Search and Rescue

Ocean Viking waiting for port for more than a week

Whilst the Geo Barents rescue ship finally has a port of safety to disembark those it rescued, the Ocean Viking is still waiting. Some of the 295 people rescued have been aboard for more than a week, including a one year old baby.

This moving video by a shipwreck survivor details why the work of rescue ships is so important.

Sea Watch have made an explainer about the European Military operation in the Mediterranean known as IRINI. It concerns the training of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.

Sea Watch also share this:

“An owl, bluebirds, and bee-eaters have joined our crew on board the #SeaWatch4. We are always happy to have some animal friends accompanying us in our fight against borders and for freedom of movement for all!”


Criminal Court Rules: abuses against migrants in Libya ARE crimes against humanity

The decision of the Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, has resulted in the possibility of prosecution for crimes committed in Libya. Previously, the Security Council limited the prosecution of war crimes to those committed after leader Gaddafi was killed in 2011.

This change has occurred thanks to the European Center for Human and Constitutional Rights, which worked with “Lawyers for Justice in Libya”, and the International Federation for Human Rights. These groups provided “credible evidence” of crimes against migrants and refugees in Libya, including killings, detention and torture.

This detailed article highlights the unequal treatment of refugees from Ukraine and those from the Middle East and Africa.

A solidarity protest has been denied in Rome

Group Fasting for Justice requested permission to demonstrate outside the Pantheon in the Italian capital in solidarity with migrants, but authorities have denied the request.

Father Alex Zanotelli, who also mentioned the role of the Greek government and Frontex, echoed the words and thoughts of so many when he said:

“It is good to see the EU’s generous welcome to Ukrainian refugees. But it is scandalous that Ukrainian refugees pass through the Polish border, but not those with black or dark skin. It is scandalous that we spend billions and billions of euros to keep refugees of color away, while we immediately welcome those with white skin.”

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Are You Syrious?

News digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and people on the move, but also for journalists, decision makers and other parties.