AYS NEWS DIGEST 22/06: New challenges as refugees remain stuck in Greece

Jordan closes its borders to Syria and Iraq. Update on EU relocation program. Construction of new settlements with houses instead of tents to begin later this month.

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Nea Kavala. Photo by Aida Kristina Ničija


Frontex demands more legal rights to identify terrorists

Frontex CEO Fabrice Leggeri said to RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland that increasing staff and budgets is not enough: “We need more legal power.”

He added that in order to identify terrorists and criminals among people in Greek and Italian hotspots, Frontex needs to see personal data. But they don’t currently have the necessary access, Leggeri says.

The European Commission wants to increase Frontex staff from 300 today to 1,000 by 2020 and increase its budget.

Leggeri states that arrivals to Italy who originated in Africa are going to be the focus this year, adding that 47,000 people have been saved by Frontex since the beginning of the year. He also calls for legal ways to enter Europe — “the best situation would be if people can avoid distress at sea. If there are legal ways of entering Europe — for people seeking refuge but also for those who emigrate for economic reasons”.


Air strikes in Raqqa kill 18 civilians

Activists say at least 18 civilians have been killed in air strikes in the Syrian city of Raqqa, while dozens more people were injured in the raids on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

There were further air strikes on Raqqa on Wednesday, this time reportedly by the US-led coalition against IS. Six children were among those killed, the UK-based monitoring group said.

Fighters from the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are also besieging IS-held Manbij, 110km (70 miles) to the north-west.
At least three suicide bombers attacked SDF positions outside the town on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory.


Jordan closes borders to Iraq and Syria

Deutsche Welle reports that Jordan closed its borders with Iraq and Syria late Tuesday, cutting off its last open gate to Syrian refugees in the wake of a suicide bombing that killed six soldiers. The move has raised humanitarian concerns about the tens of thousands stranded in the desert, dependent on deliveries of food and water from Jordan, but Amman said its citizens’ safety is the first priority.


Update on relocation program

EASO clarified that the relocation mechanism only applies to those nationals who have an average EU-wide asylum recognition rate equal to or higher than 75%, on the basis of EUROSTAT statistical data for the previous quarter — the nationalities that meet the eligibility threshold are communicated by the European Commission to member states and EASO.

Applicants who have already been identified as people who could be relocated remain in the program, even the applicant’s nationality does not meet the eligibility threshold anymore.

EASO will therefore continue to work on the basis of the eligible nationalities, as last notified by the Commission.

Construction of new settlements with houses instead of tents begins end of June

The Greek Reporter reports that Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said the construction of new settlements with houses instead of tents on the model of Eleonas will begin at the end of June and the majority of temporary accommodation structures will be knocked down in September.

Mouzalas underlined that the government’s next priority is the transfer of refugees from the former Elliniko airport. He explained that the asylum process is in motion for these people, adding that 50 cases are examined every day. The minister referred to the long delays in the accommodation of unaccompanied minors and promised 800 new positions by the end of June.

Call for cooperation to address new challenges following EU-Turkey deal

The Leros Solidarity Network (LSN) held a meeting focused on how to best manage Pikpa, a humanitarian refugee centre, following the EU-Turkey deal.

Four major challenges were identified, challenges that are present all across Greece and which are a good indicator of the new roles of volunteers. LSN noted that Greece was formerly a transit country and volunteers were called to respond to the immediate physical needs of refugees.

Now that they are held in limbo waiting to find out if they will qualify for asylum, volunteers might need to address the psychological trauma of refugees (if so desired by the refugees themselves).

Tens of thousands of refugee children are also being “lost” to the criminal underworld through incompetent state agencies/procedures, which means that volunteers must now assume roles of protection and vigilance usually associated with specialized agencies.

Access to asylum procedures is also extremely complicated at the moment and volunteers must search out legal solutions and information for refugees.

Finally, in their defense of human rights for refugees, volunteers must confront mounting xenophobia and political extremism. They must continually seek new ways to sustain dignity, hope, respect, and empathy within the refugee centers and between them and the local environment.

LSN wants to improve coöperation between refugee camps across Greece and Turkey to address these challenges and seek out new solutions.

An update on Hope Centre Elpis

The EOT Ministry of Culture and Tourism (Licensing Committee) has decided not to give the Hope Center a seven day extension to evacuate Hotel Elpis. The Licensing Committee had previously said that the hotel needs to be evacuated and imposed a €10,000 fine. The building will have to be evacuated on the 27th of June.

The only good news is that thanks to the efforts of different volunteer teams, a lot of aid was transported to other places that need it. Team ERCI brought a huge truck along with lots of manpower and is going to store most of the aid at their depot in Mytilene so that it can be distributed to camps and other teams that need it.

Team Pikpa and the Christian Peacemaker Teams also brought a van with a fridge, freezer, dishwasher, kettles, and much more. The supplies will be used at camp Pikpa.

Finally, the Boat Refugee Foundation took much-needed medical supplies to help with their work in Moria camp, while other medical equipment will be taken to the hospital in Mytilene.

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Two full trucks were filled with aid. Photo by The Hope Project

Refugees moved from the Piraeus E1 camp

Gate E1 at the Piraeus port got emptied by the police today, and refugees will be moving to Stone House.

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Photo by Joao Pequeno
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Photo by Joao Pequeno

“Together for Better Days” needs volunteers

The group that founded the “Better Days for Moria” camp next to the official Moria registration center in Lesvos is looking for new volunteers for a new camp it created near Thessaloniki. All volunteers are welcome to help over the next two weeks to get everything ready. Teachers and volunteers with building experience are also needed, with a minimum stay of one week. You can find out more on their website: http://togetherforbetterdays.org/volunteer/

More volunteers are needed all across Greece. Please check out http://greecevol.info.

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Photo by Together for Better Days
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Photo by Together for Better Days

73 new people arrived to Samos

The arrivals to the detention center included several vulnerable people including a disabled child, an older lady and a very pregnant woman. Hopefully each of them will be settled somewhere more comfortable soon.

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Art exhibition in the Samos camp today, including flowers, butterflies and turtles the children made from recycled plastic bottles. Photo by Samos Volunteers

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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