• Greece is planning a €40m automated surveillance system at borders with North Macedonia and Albania

    The European Commission wants Greece to build an automated wall to prevent some people from leaving the country. Locals are not enthusiastic, but their opinion counts for little.
    Many people holding Syrian, Afghan, Somalian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani passports seeking asylum in the European Union move out of Greece when they have the feeling that their administrative situation will not improve there. The route to other EU countries through the Balkans starts in northern Greece, onward to either North Macedonia or Albania. Greek police, it is said, are quite relaxed about people leaving the country.

    “We have many people who pass our area who want to go to Europe,” says Konstantinos Sionidis, the mayor of Paionia, a working-class municipality of 30,000 at Greece’s northern border. “It’s not a pleasant situation for us,” he adds.

    But leaving via Paionia is getting more difficult. In May 2023, Frontex guards started patrolling at North Macedonia’s border. Near the highway, one young woman from Sierra Leone said she and her friend tried to leave four times in the past month. Once, they got as far as the Serbian border. The other times, they were arrested immediately in North Macedonia at night, coming out of the forest, by Frontex officers asking “Do you want to go to Germany?” (No.) “They don’t want us here [in Greece],” she says. “Let us go!”

    However, the European Commission has plans to make it harder for people to travel through North Macedonia (and other parts of the Western Balkan route). According to a national programming document for the 2021 - 2027 EU “border management” funding for Greek authorities, €47m are budgeted to build an “automated border surveillance system” at Greece’s borders with North Macedonia and Albania. The new system shall explicitly be modeled on the one already deployed at the land border with Türkiye, along the Evros river.
    The virtual border wall

    Evros is described as a surveillance “testing ground.” (https://www.dw.com/en/is-greece-failing-to-deploy-eu-funded-surveillance-system-at-turkish-border-as-intended/a-63055306) In the early 2000s, police used thermal cameras and binoculars to spot people attempting to cross the border. As Greece and other Member-States increased their efforts to keep people out of the EU, more funding came in for drones, heartbeat detectors, more border guards – and for an “automated border surveillance system.”

    In 2021, the Greek government unveiled dozens of surveillance towers, equipped with cameras, radars and heat sensors. Officials claimed these would be able to alert regional police stations when detecting people approaching the border. At the time, media outlets raved about this 24-hour “electronic shield” (https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/561551092/ilektroniki-aspida-ston-evro-se-leitoyrgia-kameres-kai-rantar) that would “seal” (https://www.staratalogia.gr/2021/10/blog-post_79.html#google_vignette) Evros with cameras that can see “up to 15 km” into Türkiye (https://meaculpa.gr/stithikan-oi-pylones-ston-evro-oi-kamer).

    Greece is not the first country to buy into the vision of automated, omnipotent border surveillance. The German Democratic Republic installed automated rifles near the border with West-Germany, for instance. But the origin of the current trend towards automated borders lies in the United States. In the 1970s, sensors originally built for deployment in Vietnam were installed at the Mexican border. Since then, “the relationship between surveillance and law enforcement has been one between salespeople and officers who are not experts,” says Dave Maas, an investigator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Somebody buys surveillance towers, leaves office and three administrations later, people are like: ‘Hey, this did not deliver as promised’, and then the new person is like: ‘Well I wasn’t the one who paid for it, so here is my next idea’.”

    At the US-Mexico border, the towers are “like a scarecrow,” says Geoff Boyce, who used to direct the Earlham College Border Studies Program in Arizona. His research showed that, in cases where migrants could see the towers, they took longer, more dangerous routes to avoid detection. “People are dying outside the visual range of the towers.”

    No data is available that would hint that the Greek system is different. While the Greek government shares little information about the system in Evros, former minister for citizen protection Takis Theodorikakos mentioned it earlier this year in a parliamentary session. He claimed that the border surveillance system in Evros had been used to produce the official statistics for people deterred at the Evros border in 2022 (https://www.astynomia.gr/2023/01/03/03-01-2022-koino-deltio-typou-ypourgeiou-prostasias-tou-politi-kai-ellinik). But thermal cameras, for example, cannot show an exact number of people, or even differentiate people from animals.

    In Evros, the automated border surveillance system was also intended to be used for search-and-rescue missions. Last year, a group of asylum-seekers were stranded on an islet on the Evros river for nearly a month. Deutsche Welle reported that a nearby pylon with heat sensors and cameras should have been able to immediately locate the group. Since then, authorities have continued to be accused of delaying rescue missions.

    “At the border, it is sometimes possible to see people stranded with your own eyes,” says Lena Karamanidou, who has been researching border violence in Evros for decades. “And [they] are saying the cameras that can see up to 15 kilometers into Türkiye can’t see them.”
    Keeping people in

    In contrast to the system in Evros, the aim of the newly planned automated border surveillance systems appears to be to stop people from leaving Greece. Current policing practices there are very different from those at Evros.

    At Greece’s border with North Macedonia, “we’ve heard reports that the police were actively encouraging people to leave the country,” says Manon Louis of the watchdog organization Border Violence Monitoring Network. “In testimonies collected by BVMN, people have reported that the Greek police dropped them off at the Macedonian border.”

    “It’s an open secret,” says Alexander Gkatsis from Open Cultural Center, a nonprofit in the center of Paionia, “everybody in this area knows.”

    Thirty years ago, lots of people came from Albania to Paionia, when there were more jobs in clothing factories and agriculture, many of which are now done by machines. These days, the region is struggling with unemployment and low wages. In 2015, it drew international media attention for hosting the infamous Idomeni camp. Sionidis, the Paionia mayor, says he didn’t know anything about plans for an automated border system until we asked him.

    “The migration policy is decided by the minister of migration in Athens,” says Sionidis. He was also not consulted on Frontex coming to Paionia a few years ago. But he readily admits that his municipality is but one small pawn in a Europe-wide negotiation. “[Brussels and Athens] have to make one decision for the whole European border,” says Sionidis, “If we don’t have the electronic wall here, then we won’t have it at Evros.”

    https://algorithmwatch.org/en/greece-is-planning-a-e40m-automated-surveillance-system-at-borders-w

    #Albanie #Macédoine_du_Nord #frontières #migrations #réfugiés #barrières #fermeture_des_frontières #Grèce #frontières_terrestres #surveillance #contrôles_frontaliers #technologie #complexe_militaro-industriel #Paionia #militarisation_des_frontières #Frontex #border_management #automated_border_surveillance_system #Evros #efficacité #inefficacité #caméra_thermiques

  • Un mémoriel pour les mort·es aux frontières (région de l’Evros, Grèce) détruit

    Thread de Lena K. sur X :

    In August 2011, activists of the Welcome to Europe network & solidarians built a memorial for people who died while crossing the #Evros border: a water fountain at the village of Provatonas. The fountain now lies in ruin - visual proof of local hostility to border crossers.

    I found out about the fountain online, by chance. Like many aspects of the past of the local border regime and resistance to it, it’s been forgotten. I didn’t have time to investigate when, how and why it was destroyed (next time!) but one source suggests it was by locals:

    “Here we had built a fountain, as Greek tradition would have it, for travellers. To drink water, wash and rest before continuing their journey. Today this tap has been destroyed, they don’t even want the refugees to pass through here. On the one hand, I understand them

    A lot of people crossed then and never stopped crossing. People are tired. On the other hand, however, with what various people say and do, they have made people lose its humanity. I hope this broken fountain reminds us that we were human."

    https://www.avgi.gr/politiki/344653_ebros-thraysmata-pliroforisis

    The names of people who died crossing the #Evros were inscribed on the fountain. Its destruction erased them, rendering the dead nameless, dehumanising border crossers once again.

    https://athens.indymedia.org/post/1329456

    https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1692824778153787769

    #monument #mémoriel #mémoire #morts_aux_frontières #mourir_aux_frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #frontières #destruction #Welcome_to_Europe #Provatonas

    • Μια βρύση-μνημείο των χαμένων μεταναστών-ριών στον Προβατώνα/Τυχερό Έβρου

      Όνομα και Αξιοπρέπεια για τους νεκρούς μετανάστες των συνόρων Μια βρύση-μνημείο των χαμένων μεταναστών-ριών στον Προβατώνα Έβρου

      Την Τρίτη 30 Αυγούστου με πρωτοβουλία του πανευρωπαϊκού δικτύου Welcome to Europe και πολλών αλληλέγγυων ανθρώπων, δημιουργήσαμε ένα μνημείο για τους χαμένους μετανάστες στα σύνορα του Έβρου. Για την Τζέιν και τον Μπασίρ που πνίγηκαν τον περασμένο χρόνο στο ποτάμι, αλλά και για τους εκατοντάδες άλλους, ανώνυμους νεκρούς και αγνοούμενους των συνόρων και των ναρκοπεδίων. Θελήσαμε να δώσουμε πίσω το Όνομα και την Αξιοπρέπεια, το σεβασμό που πρέπει σε κάθε νεκρό. Θελήσαμε, σε πείσμα των καιρών, να εκφράσουμε την Φιλοξενία και την αγωνία μας για τις διαστάσεις του εγκλήματος που λαμβάνει χώρα στα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα. Θελήσαμε να πούμε όχι σε μια Ευρώπη που οχυρώνεται πίσω από το φόβο και χτίζει τείχη, σε μια Ευρώπη που μετατρέπει τους μετανάστες και μετανάστριες σε αποδιοπομπαίους τράγους της κρίσης. Να πούμε όχι σε μια Ευρώπη που μετατρέπει τους χιλιάδες νεκρούς των συνόρων σε αριθμούς και στατιστικές και που εξακολουθεί να τους μεταχειρίζεται ως ανεπιθύμητους ακόμη και μετά θάνατον. Όπως ανακαλύψαμε το 2010, υπάρχει ένας χώρος ταφής στο Σιδηρώ, που σε καμιά περίπτωση δεν μπορεί να χαρακτηριστεί νεκροταφείο, που προσβάλει τους νεκρούς και τους συγγενείς τους που έρχονται να τους αναζητήσουν. Από το 1995 μέχρι και το 2009, 104 άνθρωποι έχασαν τη ζωή τους από νάρκες και 187 ακρωτηριάστηκαν. Μόνο το 2011 έχουν σκοτωθεί στα σύνορα του Έβρου 70 άνθρωποι, 47 από τους οποίους δεν έχουν ταυτοποιηθεί. Λίγες ημέρες πριν, ένας ακόμη μετανάστης έπεφτε νεκρός όταν περιπολία της συνοριοφυλακής και της Frontex άνοιξε πυρ εναντίον ομάδας που διέσχιζε το ποτάμι. Πρόκειται για ένα έγκλημα που μένει ατιμώρητο, για μια βαρβαρότητα που ωστόσο δικαιολογούν και υποθάλπουν κυβερνήσεις και αξιωματούχοι. Στις 30 Αυγούστου βρεθήκαμε μαζί με συγγενείς και αγαπημένους δύο ανθρώπων που έχασαν τη ζωή τους στην περιοχή του Έβρου, με κατοίκους της περιοχής, με αντιρατσιστές-ριες που ήρθαν έπειτα από το Νο Border camp της Βουλγαρίας. Φτιάξαμε μια βρύση και τοποθετήσαμε μια επιγραφή με τα ονόματα των νεκρών, ένα μνημείο για όλους και όλες που έχουν χαθεί άδικα στα σύνορα. Η βρύση βρίσκεται στον Προβατώνα, στο δρόμο για το Τυχερό. Δίκτυο Welcome to Europe

      https://athens.indymedia.org/post/1329456

  • More than 1,000 unmarked graves discovered along EU migration routes

    Bodies also piling up in morgues across continent as countries accused of failing to meet human rights obligations.

    Refugees and migrants are being buried in unmarked graves across the European Union at a scale that is unprecedented outside of war.

    The Guardian can reveal that at least 1,015 men, women and children who died at the borders of Europe in the past decade were buried before they were identified.

    They lie in stark, often blank graves along the borders – rough white stones overgrown with weeds in Sidiro cemetery in Greece; crude wooden crosses on Lampedusa in Italy; in northern France faceless slabs marked simply “Monsieur X”; in Poland and Croatia plaques reading “NN” for name unknown.

    On the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, one grave states: “Migrant boat number 4. 25/09/2022.”

    The European parliament passed a resolution in 2021 that called for people who die on migration routes to be identified and recognised the need for a coordinated database to collect details of the bodies.

    But across European countries the issue remains a legislative void, with no centralised data, nor any uniform process for dealing with the bodies.

    Working with forensic scientists from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other researchers, NGOs and pathologists, the Guardian and a consortium of reporters pieced together for the first time the number of migrants and refugees who died in the past decade along the EU’s borders whose names remain unknown. At least 2,162 bodies have still not been identified.

    Some of these bodies are piling up in morgues, funeral parlours and even shipping containers across the continent. Visiting 24 cemeteries and working with researchers, the team found more than 1,000 nameless graves.

    These, however, are the tip of the iceberg. More than 29,000 people died on European migration routes in this period, the majority of whom remain missing.

    –—

    What is the border graves project?
    Hide

    About the investigation

    The Guardian teamed up with Süddeutsche Zeitung and eight reporters from the Border Graves Investigation who received funding from Investigative Journalism for Europe and Journalismfund Europe.

    We worked with researchers at the International Committee of the Red Cross who shared exclusively their most up-to-date findings on migrant and refugee deaths registered in Spain, Malta, Greece and Italy between 2014 and 2021.

    Other partners included Marijana Hameršak of the European Irregularized Migration Regime at the Periphery of the EU (ERIM) project in Croatia, Grupa Granica and Podlaskie Humanitarian Emergency Service (POPH) in Poland and Sienos Grupė in Lithuania. The journalist Maël Galisson provided data for France.

    Reporters and researchers also checked death registers, interviewed prosecutors and spoke to local authorities and morgue directors, as well as visiting two dozen cemeteries to track the number of unidentified migrants and refugees who have died trying to cross into the EU in the past decade and find their graves.

    –—

    The problem is “utterly neglected”, according to Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, who has said EU countries are failing in their obligations under international human rights law.

    “The tools are there. We have the agencies and the forensic experts, but they need to be engaged [by governments],” she said. The rise of the hard right and a lack of political will were likely to further impede the development of a proper system to address “the tragedy of missing migrants”, she added.

    Instead, pockets of work happen at a local level. Pathologists, for example, collect DNA samples and the few personal items found on the bodies. The clues to lives lost are meagre: loose change in foreign currency, prayer beads, a Manchester United souvenir badge.

    The lack of coordination leaves bewildered families struggling to navigate localised, often foreign bureaucracy in the search for lost relatives.

    Supporting them falls to aid organisations such as the ICRC, which has recorded 16,500 requests since 2013 for information to its programme for restoring family links from people looking for relatives who went missing en route to Europe. The largest number of requests have come from Afghans, Iraqis, Somalians, Guineans and people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Syria. Only 285 successful matches have been achieved.

    And now even some of this support is about to disappear. As governments cut their aid budgets, the ICRC has been forced to refocus its reduced resources. National Red Cross agencies will continue the family links programme but much of the ICRC’s work training police and local authorities is being cut.
    A race against time

    The mini set of scissors and comb worn on a chain were unique to 24-year-old Oussama Tayeb, a small talisman that reflected his job as a barber. For his cousin Abdallah, they were the hope that he had been found.

    Tayeb set sail last year from the north-west of Algeria just before 8pm on Christmas Day. Onboard with him were 22 neighbours who had clubbed together to pay for the boat they had hoped would take them to Spain.

    His family has been searching for him since. Abdallah, who lives in France, fears it is a race against time.

    Spanish police introduced a database in 2007 in which data and genetic samples from unidentified remains are meant to be logged. In practice, the system breaks down when it comes to families searching for missing relatives, who have no clear information about how to access it.

    The family had provided a DNA sample soon after Tayeb’s disappearance. With no news by February, they travelled to southern Spain for a second time to search for him. At the morgue in Almería, a forensic doctor reacted to Tayeb’s photo, saying he looked familiar. She recalled a necklace, but said the man she was thinking of was believed to have died in a jet ski accident.

    “It was a really intense moment because we knew that Oussama was wearing a jet ski lifejacket,” Abdallah said.

    Even with the knowledge that Tayeb’s body may have been found, his cousin was unable to see the corpse lying in the morgue without a police officer. Abdallah remembered the shocking callousness with which he was greeted at one of the many police stations he tried. “One policeman told us that if ‘they don’t want to disappear, they shouldn’t have taken a boat to Spain’.”

    Looming over Abdallah’s continuing search is a practical pressure mentioned by the Spanish pathologist: bodies in the morgue are usually kept for a year and then buried, whether identified or not. “We only want an answer. If we see the chain, this would be like a death certificate. It’s so heartbreaking. It’s like we’re leaving Oussama in the fridge and we can’t do anything about it,” he said.
    ‘Here lies a brother who lost his life’

    The local authorities that receive the most bodies are often on small islands and are increasingly saying they cannot cope.

    They warn that an already inadequate system is going backwards. Spain’s Canary Islands have reported a record 35,410 men, women and children reaching the archipelago by boat this year. In recent months, most of these vessels have sought to land on the tiny, remote island of El Hierro. In the past six weeks alone, seven unidentified people were buried on the island.

    The burial vaults of 15 unidentified people who were found dead on a rickety wooden vessel in 2020, in the town of Agüimes on Gran Canaria, bear identical plaques that read simply: “Here lies a brother who lost his life trying to reach our shores.”

    In the Muslim section of Lanzarote’s Teguise cemetery, the graves of children are marked with circles of stones. They include the grave of a baby believed to have been stillborn on a deadly crossing from Morocco in 2020. Alhassane Bangoura’s body was separated from his mother during the rescue and was buried in an unmarked grave. His name is only recorded informally, engraved on a bowl by locals moved by his plight.

    It is the same story in the other countries at the edge of the EU; unmarked graves dotted along their frontiers standing testament to the crisis. Along the land borders, in Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, the numbers of unmarked graves are fewer but still they are there, blank stones or sometimes an NN marked on plaques.

    In France, the anonymous inscription “X” stands out in cemeteries in Calais. The numbers seem low compared with those found along the southern coastal borders: 35 out of 242 migrants and refugees who died on the Franco-British border since 2014 remain unidentified. The high proportion of the dead identified reflects the fact that people spend time waiting before attempting the Channel crossing so there are often contacts still in France able to name those who die.
    Fragments of hope

    Leaked footage of Polish border guards laughing at a young man hanging upside down, trapped by his foot, stuck in the razor wire on the top of the 180km (110-mile) steel border fence separating Belarus from Poland caused a brief social media storm.

    But the moment he is caught in the searchlights, his frightened face briefly frozen, has haunted 50-year-old Kafya Rachid for the past year. She is sure the man is her missing child, Mohammed Sabah, who was 22 when she last saw him alive.

    Sabah had flown from his home in Iraqi Kurdistan in the autumn of 2021 to Belarus, for which he had a visa. He was successfully taken across the EU border by smugglers but was detained about 50km (30 miles) into Poland and deported back to Belarus.

    Waiting to cross again, his messages suddenly stopped. The family had been coming to terms with the fact he was probably dead. Then the video surfaced. With little else to go on, fragments such as this give families hope.

    Sabah’s parents, as so often happens, were unable to get visas to travel to the EU. Instead, Rekaut Rachid, an uncle of Sabah who has lived in London since 1999, has made three trips to Poland to try to find him.

    Rachid believes the Polish authorities lied to him when they told him the man in the video was Egyptian, and this keeps him searching. “They are hiding something. Five per cent of me thinks maybe he died. But 95% of me thinks he is in prison somewhere in Poland,” he said, adding: “My sister calls every day to ask if I think he is still alive. I don’t know how to answer.”
    Shipping container morgues

    In a corner of the hospital car park in the Greek city of Alexandroupolis, two battered refrigerated shipping containers stand next to some rubbish bins. Inside are the bodies of 40 people.

    The border from Turkey into Greece over the Evros River nearby is only a 10- to 20-minute crossing, but people cross at night when their small rubber boats can easily hit a tree and capsize. Corpses decompose quickly in the riverbed mud, so that facial characteristics, clothing and any documents that might help identify them are rapidly destroyed.

    Twenty of the corpses in the containers are the charred remains of migrants who died in wildfires that consumed this part of Greece during the summer’s heatwave. Identification has proved exceptionally difficult, with only four of the dead named to date.

    Prof Pavlos Pavlidis, the forensic pathologist for the area, works to determine the cause of death, to collect DNA samples and to catalogue any personal effects that might help relatives identify their loved ones at a later date.

    The temporary container morgues in Alexandroupolis are on loan from the ICRC. The humanitarian agency has loaned another container to the island of Lesbos, another migration hotspot, for the same purpose.

    Lampedusa does not have that luxury. “There are no morgues and no refrigerated units,” said Salvatore Vella, the Sicilian head prosecutor who leads investigations into shipwrecks off its coast. “Once placed in body bags, the bodies of migrants are transferred to Sicily. Burial is managed by individual towns. It has happened that migrants have sometimes been buried in sort of mass graves within cemeteries.”

    The scale of the problem was becoming so acute, said Filippo Furri, an anthropologist and an associate researcher at Mecmi, a group that examines deaths during migration, that “there have been cases of coffins abandoned in cemetery warehouses due to lack of space, or bodies that remain in hospital morgues”.
    ‘It’s not only a technical difficulty but also a political one’

    “If you count the relatives of those who are missing, hundreds of thousands of people are impacted. They don’t know where their loved ones are. Were they well treated, were they respected when they were buried? That’s what preys on families’ minds,” said Laurel Clegg, the ICRC forensic coordinator for migration in Europe. “We have an obligation to provide the dead with a dignified burial; and [to address] the other side, providing answers to families through identification of the dead.”

    She said keeping track of the dead relied on lots of parts working well together: a legal framework that protected the unidentified dead, consistent postmortems, morgues, registries, dignified transport and cemeteries.

    The systems are inadequate, however, despite the EU parliament resolution. There are still no common rules about what information should be collected, nor a centralised place to store this information. The political focus is on catching the smugglers rather than finding out who their victims are.

    A spokesperson for the European Commission said the rights and dignity of refugees and migrants had to be addressed alongside tackling people smuggling. They said each member state was responsible individually for how it dealt with those who died on its borders, but that the commission was working to improve coordination and protocols and “regrets the loss of every human life” .

    In Italy, significant efforts have been made to identify the dead from a couple of well-reported, large-scale disasters. Cristina Cattaneo, the head of the laboratory of forensic anthropology and odontology (Labanof) at the University of Milan, has spent years working to identify the dead from a shipwreck in 2015 in which more than 1,000 people lost their lives.

    Raising the wreck to retrieve the bodies has cost €9.5m (£8.1m) already. Organising the 30,000 mixed bones into identifiable remains of 528 bodies has been a herculean task. Only six victims have so far been issued official death certificates.

    As political positions on irregular migration have hardened, experts are finding official enthusiasm for their complex work has diminished. “It’s not only a technical difficulty but also a political one,” Cattaneo said.

    In Sicily, Vella has been investigating a fishing boat that sank in October 2019. It was carrying 49 people, mostly from Tunisia. Just a few miles off shore, a group onboard filmed themselves celebrating their imminent arrival in Europe before the boat ran out of fuel and capsized. The Italian coastguard rescued 22 people but 27 others lost their lives.

    Coastguard divers, using robots, captured images of bodies floating near the vessel, but were unable to recover all of them. The footage circulated around the world. A group of Tunisian women who had been searching for their sons contacted the Italian authorities and were given permits to travel to meet the prosecutor, who showed them more footage.

    One mother, Zakia Hamidi, recognised her 18-year-old son, Fheker. It was a searing experience for both her and Vella: “At that moment, I realised the difference between a mother, torn apart by grief, but who at least will return home with her child’s body, and those mothers who will not have a body to mourn. It is something heartbreaking.”
    The torture of not knowing

    The grief that people feel when they have no certainty about the fate of their missing relatives has a very particular intensity.

    Dr Pauline Boss, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota in the US, was the first to describe this “ambiguous loss”. “You are stuck, immobilised, you feel guilty if you begin again because that would mean accepting the person is dead. Grieving is frozen, your decision-making is frozen, you can’t work out the facts, can’t answer the questions,” she said.

    Not knowing often has severe practical consequences too. Spouses may not be able to exercise their parental rights, inherit assets or claim welfare support or pensions without a death certificate. Orphans cannot be adopted by extended family without one either.

    Sometimes relatives are left in the dark for years. A decade on from a shipwreck disaster in 2013, bereaved families continue to gather in Lampedusa every year, still searching for answers. Among them this year was a Syrian woman, Sabah al-Joury, whose son Abdulqader was on the boat. She said that not knowing where he ended up was like having “an open wound”.

    Sabah’s family said the torture of not being able to find out what happened to him was “like dying everyday”. Abdallah thinks he must make another trip from Paris to southern Spain before the end of the year. “What is difficult is not to have the body, not to be able to bury him,” he said.

    Rituals around death were indicative of a deep human need, said Boss. “The most important thing is for the name to be marked somewhere, so the family can visit, and the missing can be remembered. A name means you were on this Earth, not forgotten.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2023/dec/08/revealed-more-than-1000-unmarked-graves-discovered-along-eu-migration-r

    #migrations #asile #réfugiés #frontières #mourir_aux_frontières #tombes #fosses_communes #Europe #morts_aux_frontières #enterrement #cimetières #morgues #chiffres

    • The Border Graves Investigation

      More than 1,000 migrants who died trying to enter Europe lie buried in nameless graves. EU migration policy has failed the dead and the living.

      A cross-border team of eight journalists has confirmed the existence of 1,015 unmarked graves of migrants buried in 65 cemeteries over the past decade across Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, Poland, Lithuania, France, and Croatia. The reporters visited more than half of them.

      Unidentified migrants lay to rest in cemeteries in olive groves, on hilltops, in dense forests, and along remote highways. Each unmarked grave represents a person who lost their life en route to Europe, and a fate that will remain forever unknown to their loved ones.

      This months-long investigation underlines that Europe’s migration policies have failed more than a thousand people who have died in transit and the families who survive them.

      In 2021, the European Parliament passed a resolution recognsing the need for a “coordinated European approach” for “prompt and effective identification processes” for bodies found on EU borders. Yet in 2022, the Council of Europe called this area a “legislative void”.

      These failures mean that the responsibility of memorialising unidentified victims often ends up falling to individual municipalities, cemetery keepers and local good Samaritans, with many victims buried without any attempt at identification.

      https://twitter.com/Techjournalisto/status/1733100115781386448

      In the absence of official data from European and national governments, the Border Graves Investigation collaborated with The Guardian and Suddeutsche Zeitung to count 2,162 unidentified deaths of migrants across eight countries in Europe between 2014 and 2023.

      The cross-border team conducted over 60 interviews in six languages. They spoke with families of the missing and deceased, whose loved ones left for Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Algeria and Sri Lanka.

      They revealed the institutional and bureaucratic hurdles of searching for bodies and burying the remains of those that are found. One mother compared her unresolved grief to an “open wound,” and an uncle said it was like “dying every day”.

      To understand the complex legal, medical and political landscape of death in each country, the journalists spoke with coroners, grave keepers, forensic doctors, international and local humanitarian groups, government officials, a European MEP and the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner.

      The in-depth investigation reveals that the European Union is violating migrants’ last rights. The stories below show how.
      The team

      The Border Graves Investigation team consists of Barbara Matejčić, Daphne Tolis, Danai Maragoudaki, Eoghan Gilmartin, Gabriela Ramirez, Gabriele Cruciata, Leah Pattem, and is coordinated by Tina Xu. The project was supported by the IJ4EU fund and JournalismFund Europe.

      Gabriele Cruciata is a Rome-based award-winning journalist specialising in podcasts and investigative and narrative journalism. He also works as a fixer, producer, journalism consultant, and trainer.

      Gabriele Cruciata IG @gab_cruciata

      Leah Pattem is a Spain-based journalist and photographer specialising in politics, migration and community stories. Leah is also the founder and editor of the popular local media platform Madrid No Frills.

      X @leahpattem
      IG @madridnofrills

      Eoghan Gilmartin is a Spain-based freelance journalist specialising in news, politics and migration. His work has appeared in Jacobin Magazine, The Guardian, Tribune and Open Democracy.

      X @EoghanGilmartin
      Muck Rack: Eoghan Gilmartin

      Gabriela Ramirez is an award-winning multimedia journalist specialising in migration, human rights, ocean conservation, and climate issues, always through a gender-focused lens. Currently serving as the Multimedia & Engagement Editor at Unbias The News.

      X @higabyramirez
      Linkedin Gabriela Ramirez
      Instagram @higabyramirez

      Barbara Matejčić is a Croatian award-winning freelance journalist, non-fiction writer and audio producer focused on social affairs and human rights

      Website: http://barbaramatejcic.com
      FB: https://www.facebook.com/barbara.matejcic.1
      Instagram: @barbaramatejcic

      Danai Maragoudaki is a Greek journalist based in Athens. She works for independent media outlet Solomon and is a member of their investigative team. Her reporting focuses on transparency, finance, and digital threats.

      FB: https://www.facebook.com/danai.maragoudaki
      X: @d_maragoudaki
      IG: @danai_maragoudaki

      Daphne Tolis is an award-winning documentary producer/filmmaker and multimedia journalist based in Athens. She has produced and hosted timely documentaries for VICE Greece and has directed TV documentaries for the EBU and documentaries for the MSF and IFRC. Since 2014 she has been working as a freelance producer and journalist in Greece for the BBC, Newsnight, VICE News Tonight, ABC News, PBS Newshour, SRF, NPR, Channel 4, The New York Times Magazine, ARTE, DW, ZDF, SVT, VPRO and others. She has reported live for DW News, BBC News, CBC News, ABC Australia, and has been a guest contributor on various BBC radio programs, Times Radio, Morning Ireland, RTE, NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’, and others.

      X: https://twitter.com/daphnetoli
      Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/daphne_tolis/?hl=en
      Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/daphne-tolis

      Tina Xu is a multimedia journalist and filmmaker working at the intersection of migration, mental health, socially engaged arts, and civil society. Her stories often interrogate the three-way street between people, policy, and power. She received the Excellence in Environmental Reporting Award from Society of Publishers in Asia in 2021, was a laureate of the European Press Prize Innovation Award in 2021 and 2022, and shortlisted for the One World Media Refugee Reporting Award in 2022.

      X: @tinayingxu
      IG: @tinayingxu

      https://www.investigativejournalismforeu.net/projects/border-graves

    • 1000 Lives, 0 Names: The Border Graves Investigation. How the EU is failing migrants’ last rights

      What happens to those who die in their attempts to reach the European Union? How are their lives marked, how can their families honor them? How do governments recognize their existence and their basic rights as human beings?

      Our cross-border team confirmed 1,015 unmarked graves of migrants in 65 cemeteries buried over the last 10 years across Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, Poland, Lithuania, France, and Croatia. We visited over half of them.

      Each unmarked grave represents a person who lost their life en route to Europe, and a fate that remains painfully unknown to their loved ones.

      In 2021, the European Parliament passed a resolution recognizing the need for a “coordinated European approach” for “prompt and effective identification processes” for bodies found on EU borders. Yet last year, the Council of Europe called this area a “legislative void.”

      In the absence of official data from European and national governments, the Border Graves Investigation counted 2,162 unidentified deaths of migrants across eight countries in Europe from 2014-2023.

      Our cross-border team conducted over 60 interviews in six languages. We spoke with families of the missing and deceased, whose loved ones left for Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Algeria, and Sri Lanka. They spoke about the institutional and bureaucratic hurdles of searching for, and if found, burying a body.

      One mother compared the unresolved grief to an “open wound,” and an uncle said it was like “dying every day.”
      Here is how Europe violates the “last rights” of migrants.

      https://unbiasthenews.org/border-graves-investigation

    • Widowed by Europe’s borders

      “No water, I think I’ll die, I love you.” This is the last text Sanooja received from her husband, who disappeared after a pushback into the dense forest that stretches between Belarus, Lithuania, and Poland. For families searching for missing loved ones, the EU inflicts a second death of identity and acknowledgment.

      Samrin and Sanooja were high school classmates. Both born in 1990, they grew up together in Kalpitiya, a town of 80,000 on the tip of a small peninsula in Sri Lanka. When Samrin first asked Sanooja out in the ninth grade, she said no. But years later, when her roommates snuck through her diary, they asked about the boy in all her stories.

      When they turned 20, Sanooja was studying to be a teacher, while Samrin left town for work. After six years of video calls and heart emoji-laden selfies, Samrin returned home in 2017 and they got married, her in a white headscarf and indigo-sleeved dress, him in a matching indigo suit. Their son Haashim was born a year later. They called each other “thangam,” or gold.

      She hoped the birth of their son meant that Samrin would stay close by from now on. They took their son to the beach, to the zoo. Then the 2019 economic crisis hit, the worst since the country’s independence in 1948. There were daily blackouts, a shortage of fuel, and runaway inflation. In 2022, protests rocked the country, and the government claimed bankruptcy.

      Samrin was a difficult person to fall in love with, says Sanooja, because he was so ambitious. Sanooja smiles bitterly over a video call from her home in Kalpitiya. The sun filters through the mango tree in the yard, where the two often sat together and made plans for their future.

      But part of loving him, she explains, meant supporting him even in his hardest decisions. One of these decisions was to take a plane to Moscow, then to travel to Europe and send money home. “He went to keep us happy, to make us good.”

      Their last day together, Sanooja surprised him with a cake: Sky blue icing, an airplane made of fondant, ascending from an earth made of chocolate sprinkles. In big letters: “Love you and will miss you. Have a safe journey, Thangam.” In their last photos together, Haashim sits laughing on Samrin’s lap as he cuts the cake. That night, Samrin squeezed his son and wept. The next day he put on a pair of blue Converse All-Stars, packed a black backpack, and set out. It was June 26, 2022. He had just turned 32 years old.

      Things did not go according to plan. He boarded a bus from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, but the fake Schengen visa they paid so much for was rejected at the Finnish border. Sanooja told him he could always come home. But in order to finance the journey, they had sold a plot of Samrin’s land and Sanooja’s jewelry, and borrowed money from friends. Samrin decided there was no turning back. He pivoted to plan B: He could go to Belarus, where he didn’t need a visa, and cross the border to Lithuania, in the Schengen zone.

      When Samrin checked into the Old Town Trio Hotel in Vilnius on August 16, 2022, the first thing he did was call home: He had survived the forest. Sanooja was relieved to hear his voice. He told her about the eight days crossing the forest between Belarus and Lithuania, the mud up to his knees. Days without food, drinking dirty water. He told her especially about the pains in his stomach as he walked in the forest, due to his recent surgery to remove kidney stones. Sometimes he would urinate blood.

      But he was in the European Union. He bought a plane ticket for a departure to Paris in four days, the city where he hoped to make his new life. What happened next is unclear. This is what Sanooja knows:

      On the third day, Samrin walked into the hotel lobby, and the manager called security. Plainclothes officers shuttled him into a car and whisked him 50 kilometers back once more to the Belarusian border. In less than 72 hours, Samrin found himself trapped again in the forest he had fought to escape.

      It was already dark when Samrin was left alone in the woods. He had no backpack, sleeping bag, or food. His phone was running out of battery. The next morning, Samrin came online briefly to send Sanooja a final message on WhatsApp: “No water, I think I’ll die. Trangam, I love you.”

      That was the beginning of a deafening silence that stretched four and a half months. When she gets to this part of the story, Sanooja, ever talkative and articulate, apologizes that she simply cannot describe it. Her eyes glaze and flit upward.

      The Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović asserts that families have a “right to truth” surrounding the fates of their loved ones who disappear en route to Europe. In 2021, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for “prompt and effective identification processes” to connect the bodies of those who perished to those searching for them. Two years on, Mijatović tells us not much has been done, and the issue is a “legislative void.”

      As part of the Border Graves Investigation, conducted with a cross-border team of eight freelance journalists across Europe in collaboration with Unbias the News, The Guardian and Sueddeutche Zeitung, we followed the stories of those who have disappeared in the forest that covers the borders in Eastern Europe, between Belarus and the EU (Lithuania, Poland, Latvia).

      We spoke with their families, as well as over a dozen humanitarian workers, lawyers, and policymakers from organizations in Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus, to piece together the question of what happens after something goes fatally wrong on Europe’s eastern border—and who is responsible.
      Who counts the dead?

      The forest along the Belarussian border is a dense landscape of underbrush, moss and swamps, and encompasses one of the largest ancient forest areas left in Europe.

      Spanning hundreds of square kilometers across the borders with Lithuania and Poland, the forest became an unexpected hotspot when Belarus began issuing visas and opening direct flights to Minsk in the summer of 2021. This power play between Belarussian President Lukashenko and his EU neighbors has been called a “political game” in which migrants are the pawns.

      Since 2021, thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, have sought to enter the EU from Belarus via its borders in Poland and Lithuania. Hundreds of people have been caught in a one-kilometer no man’s land between Belarusian territory and the EU border fence, chased back and forth by border guards on both sides under threat of violence. Belarusian guards reportedly threatened to release dogs, and photographs emerged of bite wounds.

      Since 2021, Poland and Lithuania have ramped up on “pushbacks,” in which border guards deport people immediately without the opportunity to ask for asylum, a process that is growing in popularity across Europe despite violating international law. Poland reports having conducted 78,010 pushbacks since the start of the crisis, and Lithuania 21,857. Samrin was apparently one of these cases.

      While these two countries publish precise daily statistics for pushbacks, they do not publish data for deaths at the border, nor people reported missing.

      “National states want to do this job secretly,” explains Tomas Tomilinas, a member of the Lithuanian Parliament. “We are on the margins of the law and constitution here, any government pushing people back is trying to avoid publicity on this topic.”

      Official data is an intentional void. Both the Polish and Lithuanian Border Guards declined to share any numbers with us. However, there are organizations striving to keep count: Humanitarian groups in Poland, including Grupa Granica (“Border Group” in Polish) and Podlaskie Humanitarian Emergency Service (POPH), have documented 52 deaths on the Poland-Belarus border since 2021, and are tracking 16 unidentified bodies.

      In Lithuania, the humanitarian group Sienos Grupė (“Border Group” in Lithuanian) has documented 10 deaths, including three minors who died while in detention centers, and three others who died in car accidents when chased by local authorities after crossing the border region. In Belarus, the NGO Human Constanta reports that 33 have died according to government data shared with them, but it was not recorded whether these bodies have been identified, and whether or where they are buried.

      On the borders between Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, humanitarian groups have compiled a list of more than 300 people reported missing. The organizations emphasize that their numbers are incomplete, as they have neither the access nor the capacity to monitor the full extent of the problem.

      Where to turn?

      It was already past midnight in Sri Lanka when Samrin stopped responding to messages. From 8,000 km away, Sanooja tried to call for help. She found his last known coordinates on Find My iPhone, a blue dot in Trokenikskiy, Grodno region, just across the Belarus side of the border, and tried to report him missing.

      The Lithuanian and Belarussian border guards picked up the phone. She begged them to find him, even if it meant arresting or deporting him. They responded that he had to call himself. It was baffling: How can a missing person call to report themselves?

      She called the migrant detention camps, where people are often detained without access to a phone for months. Maybe he was locked up somewhere. As soon as she said “hello,” they responded, “no English,” and hung up. She emailed them instead, no response. She emailed UNHCR and the Red Cross Society. Both institutions said they had no information about the case. She emailed the police, who responded a week later that they had no information.

      Sanooja had run into the rude reality that there is no authority responsible for nor prepared to respond to such inquiries. Even organizations dedicated to working with migrants, such as the migrant detention camp staff, would or could not respond to basic queries in English.

      International humanitarian organizations, too, are almost absent in the region. Compared to the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy, and Greece, which have had a decade to organize to respond to mass deaths on their border, the presence of formal aid in Eastern Europe is much smaller.

      Weeks passed, and in the terrible silence, every possibility behind her husband’s disappearance invaded Sanooja’s mind. Four-year-old Haashim began to cry out for his father every night, who used to wake him up with kisses. When they lost contact, Haashim often wet the bed and refused to go to school. “He must have had some intuition about his father,” said Sanooja.

      Then Sanooja began to wonder if he could be in another country in the region: Latvia? Poland? She broadened her search to all four countries. There was no Sri Lankan Embassy in Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, or Latvia, so she emailed the closest one in Sweden. Then, she went on Facebook. That’s how she found the account of Sienos Grupė, and sent them a message.

      Like many local humanitarian groups across the region, Sienos Grupė is a small team of four part-time staff and around 30 volunteers. The group banded together in 2021 to respond to calls for help through WhatsApp and Facebook and drop off vital supplies in the forest, such as food, water, power banks, and dry clothes.
      “There is a body, please go”

      Local volunteer groups were doing their best to aid the living, but it wasn’t long before they were being contacted to find the missing or the dead.

      On the Polish border, everyone has heard of Piotr Czaban. A local journalist and activist, his contact is shared among migrants attempting to cross the border. He is known as the man who can help find the bodies of people left behind in the woods, a reputation he has lived up to many times. The demands of the work have led him to leave his full-time job.

      He sits on the edge of a weathered log in a forest near Sokolka, a city near the Poland-Belarus border region where he lives. Navigating the thick undergrowth with ease in jeans and trekking boots, he recounts the first search he coordinated back in February 2022. He received a message on Facebook from a Syrian man in Belarus: “There is a body in the forest, here is the place, please go.”

      Piotr was taken off guard. He asked his friends in the police what to do, and they told him the best way was to go himself, take photos, and then call the police. However, the border guards had closed the border region to all non-residents, including journalists and humanitarian workers, so he couldn’t pass the police checkpoints for the area where the body lay.

      So Piotr made another call. This time to Rafal Kowalczyk, the 53-year-old director of the Mammal Research Institute, who has worked in the Bialowieza Forest for three decades. (“In my previous TV job, I interviewed him about bison, and thought he was a good man,” said Piotr by way of introduction).

      Rafal was up for the task. As a wildlife expert, he had access to the restricted forest area, and now he ventured into the woods not to track bison, but to follow the clues sent by a despairing Syrian man.

      In the swamp, Rafal found 26-year-old Ahmed Al-Shawafi from Yemen, barefoot and half-submerged in the water, one shoe in the mud nearby.

      It was difficult for Rafal to point his camera at the face of a dead man, but he did, and this image still haunts him. Piotr forwarded the photos Rafal had taken to the police, with a straightforward message: “We know there’s a body there. Now you have to go.”

      But what if Ahmed could have been found earlier, even alive?

      “The police have no competence”

      Until there is a photo of a dead body, police and border guards have often declined to search for missing or dead migrants.

      Ahmed’s traveling companions, including the man who contacted Piotr, had personally begged Polish border guards for emergency medical aid for Ahmed. They had left Ahmed by the river in the throes of hypothermia to ask for help. Instead of calling paramedics, or searching for Ahmed at all, the border guards pushed the group back to Belarus, leaving Ahmed to die alone in the forest.

      In our investigation, we heard of at least three other deaths that are eerily similar to Ahmed’s: Ethiopian woman Mahlet Kassa, 28; Syrian man Mohammed Yasim, 32; and Yemeni man Dr. Ibrahim Jaber Ahmed Dihiya, 33. In all three cases, traveling companions approached Polish officers for emergency medical attention, but instead got pushed back themselves. Help never arrived.

      Each time the activists receive a report of a missing or dead person, they first share this information with the police. Piotr says he has received responses from the police, including, “We’re busy,” or “Not our problem.”

      After police were provided with the photos and exact GPS location of Ahmed’s body, they called back to say they still couldn’t find him. When Rafal turned his car around to personally lead the police to his body, he found out why: The police had ventured into the swamp without waterproof boots or even a GPS to navigate in a forest where there is often no cell connection.

      “The police are unequipped,” said Rafal, full of disbelief. Two years on from the crisis, the police still do not have the proper basic equipment nor training to conduct searches for people missing or dead in the forest. He recounts that in one trip to retrieve a body with police, they could only walk 300 meters in one hour, and one officer had lost the sole of his shoes in the mud.

      The Polish police responded to our email, “The police is not a force with the competence to deal with persons illegally crossing borders.” As a result, eight of 22 bodies found this year on the Polish side of the border were discovered by volunteers like Piotr and Rafal.

      On the Lithuanian side, Sienos Grupė says there are no such searches. “We are afraid there are many bodies in Lithuanian forests and the area between the fence and Belarus, but we are not allowed there,” says Aušrinė, a 23-year-old medicine student and Sienos Grupė volunteer in Lithuania. “Nobody is looking for them.”
      “In two weeks, there is nothing there”

      Rafal sits down in a wooden lodge on the edge of the forest and orders tea for himself while his two young children play on a tablet. It was his turn with the kids, he explains in a deep voice. His wife came home at four in the morning, after spending the whole night volunteering with POPH on a search for a man with diabetes in the forest.

      He feared that time was running out. We met with Rafal on Thursday evening. The man was found on Saturday morning, already dead. He is the 51st death recorded in Poland this year.

      In the forest, each search is a race against both time and wild animals.

      The winter may preserve a body for two months, but in the summer, the time frame is much shorter. A few times, Rafal has come across mere skeletons. He explains, “When there is a smell, the scavengers go immediately. When you’ve got summer and flies, probably in two weeks, it’s done, there’s nothing there.”

      In such advanced stages of decomposition, the body is exponentially more difficult to identify. However, DNA can be collected from bone fragments, in case families come searching. If they’re lucky, there are objects found close by: glasses, clothes, or jewelry. In one case, a family portrait found near the body was the key to identification.

      However, the Suwałki Prosecutor’s Office in Poland explained to us that the Prosecutor’s Offices keep no central register of data on deceased migrants, such as DNA, personal belongings, or photographs.
      “As a wife, I know his eyes”

      Four and a half months after Samrin disappeared, Sanooja’s phone rang. It was January 5, 2023. She will never forget the voice of the man that spoke. He was calling from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka, and informed her that her husband’s DNA had been matched to a body found in the Lithuanian forest. Interpol had drawn Samrin’s biometric data from the UK.

      She considers it fate that the dots came together this way. When they were 20 years old, Samrin’s father passed away, and Samrin left for London on a student visa. Instead of studying, he washed dishes at McDonald’s and KFC, and stocked shelves at Aldi, Lidl, and Iceland. When his visa expired, he lived a clandestine existence, evading the authorities. At age 26, the Home Office arrested him, took his DNA, and deported him. This infraction turned out to be an unexpected lifeline for his identification.

      “Getting the message that my husband was no more, that was nothing compared to those four and a half months,” said Sanooja. She had begun to fear that she would have to live with “lifelong doubt” around Samrin’s fate. Now she knew that four days after Samrin sent his goodbye message, his body was pulled from a river on the Lithuanian side of the border.

      Sanooja has read the police report countless times now: On August 21, 2022, witness Saulius Zakarevičius went for a morning swim in the Neris River. After bathing, he saw something floating. Through binoculars, he was able to decipher human clothes. The river bank is covered with tall grass. At the end of the patch there was a male corpse lying face down. The surface of the skin was swollen, pale, chaotically covered with pink lines, resembling the surface of marble. The skin was peeling from the palms of the corpse…

      She was asked to identify the corpse.

      “As a wife, I know him. I know his eyes. To see them on a dead body, that was terrible.”
      Sanooja

      In photos of his personal items, she instantly recognized Samrin’s shoes: a muddy pair of blue Converse All-Stars, with the laces looped just the way he always did.

      To be able to transport a dead body from Europe to any other part of the world, families must face the financial challenge of costs up to 10,000 euros. But the decision was not only about money for Sanooja. It was about time and dreams.

      For one, she believed that he had suffered enough. “As Muslims, we believe that even dead bodies can feel pain,” she says softly. “I felt broken that he was in the mortuary, feeling the cold for four and a half months.”

      And perhaps most of all, she recites what Samrin had told her before he left: “If I go, this time I’m not coming back.” In the end, Sanooja relied on her husband’s last will. “His dream was to be in Europe. So, at least his body will rest in Europe.”
      “Graves without a plate”

      Samrin’s death was the first border death publicly recognized by the Lithuanian government. Despite being the first, he did not receive any distinctive attention, and his resting place remained an unmarked mound of earth for more than eight months.

      On a hot summer day in July, co-founder of Sienos Grupė, Mantautas Šulskus brings a green watering can and measuring tape to our visit to the Vilnius cemetery where Samrin was buried in February. Green grass is sprouting all over Samrin’s grave. But it is not the only one.

      There are three smaller graves lined in a row. Among them, an eleven-year-old, a five-year-old, and a newborn baby rest side by side, their lives cut short in 2021. “These are three minors who died in detention centers in Lithuania,” Mantautas points out somberly.

      These cases have not been officially acknowledged by Lithuanian authorities, and none of the graves of the minors bear a name, even though their identities were also known to authorities. This lack of recognition paints a haunting picture, suggesting a second, silent death—a death of identity and acknowledgment.

      Bodies are sent to municipal or village governments to bury, and if they do not receive explicit instructions to create a plate, they often opt not to. As a result, the nameless graves of migrants are scattered across cemeteries in the region.

      Yet Mantautas is here in the scorching heat to measure a stone plate nearby in the Muslim corner of the cemetery. Sanooja saw it during a video call with Sienos Grupė volunteers, so that she could pray virtually at her husband’s grave. She asked for a plate with Samrin’s name on it—“just exactly like that one there,” she pointed.

      After some months, Sienos Grupė crowdfunded around 1,500 euros to buy and place stone plates for all four graves. The graves of Samrin and the three children now have names: Yusof Ibrahim Ali, Asma Jawadi, and Fatima Manazarova.

      Resting at the feet of the grave is a plate made of stone bearing the inscription “M.S.M.M. Samrin, 1990-2022, Sri Lanka,” precisely as Sanooja has requested. She explains that, according to Islamic beliefs, this will ensure that her husband will rise when the last days come.

      Hidden graves, unknown bodies

      The chilling thing, Mantautas explains, is nobody knows how many graves of migrants there might be, except for the government, which buries them quietly, often in remote villages.

      Organizations like Sienos Grupė find themselves grasping in the dark for leads. Last month, volunteers came across the grave of Lakshmisundar Sukumaran, an Indian man reported dead in April “quite by accident,” says Mantautas. The revelation came on the Eve of All Saint’s Day, when activists preparing for a control ran into a local returning from a visit to his mother’s grave: “There is a migrant buried in town.”

      Indeed, Sukumaran’s grave stands alone in an isolated corner of a small cemetery in Rameikos, a village of 25 people on the Lithuanian-Belarus border. Set apart from crosses of various sizes, a vertical piece of wood bears the inscription: “Lakshmisundar Sukumaran 1983.06.05 – 2023.04.04.” The border fence is visible from his grave. The earth is decorated by the colorful leaves of Lithuanian autumn.

      Sienos Grupė maintains a list of at least 40 people reported missing on the Lithuania-Belarus border, information the government does not record. When bodies are found, they strive to connect the dots: Location, gender, age, ethnicity, possessions, birthmarks, anything. But if authorities do not report when a body is found, the chances of locating anybody on this list are small.

      Emiljia Śvobaitė, a lawyer and volunteer from Sienos Grupė, explains that the Lithuanian government will only confirm whether something they already know is correct. “It seems like they are hiding these kinds of stories and information unless somebody exposes it. They would only confirm the deaths after activists have said something about it.”
      “No political will”

      The Lithuanian Parliament building, known as the Seimas Palace, is an imposing glass-and-concrete building in downtown Vilnius. It is where the Lithuanians declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. From an office with a view over the square, Member of Parliament Tomas Tomilinas wryly explains that their government has legalized pushbacks essentially because Europe has not established that it’s illegal.

      “I would say Europe has no political will to make pushbacks illegal. If there were a European law, the European Commission would put a ban on it. It would put a fine on Lithuania. But nobody’s doing that.”
      Member of Lithuanian Parliament, Tomas Tomilinas

      The Polish parliament legalized pushbacks in October 2021, and the Lithuanian parliament followed suit by legalizing pushbacks in April this year.

      Emiljia raises concerns about the violence of pushbacks her clients have seen. “The government keeps telling us they do everything really nicely. They give people food, and even wave goodbye to them, in the daytime. But when we look at specific cases, where people end up without their limbs on them, those pushbacks are performed at night.”

      She also raises concerns about legalized pushbacks in Lithuania, and whether border guards should be given the right to assess and deny asylum claims on the spot. “It’s funny because border guards should decide right away on the border whether a person is running from persecution, meaning a border guard should identify the conflict in the country of origin, and do all the work that the migration department is doing.”

      “It’s naive to believe that the system would work.”
      Fighting back in court

      With the help of Sienos Grupė’s support for legal expenses, Sanooja took the case to court. If the Lithuanian officials wouldn’t speak with her, perhaps they would speak to lawyers.

      Yet last month, Sanooja’s case was closed for the final time by the Vilnius Regional Prosecutor’s Office after seven appeals. The case never made it to trial.

      The Vilnius court claims there is no basis for a criminal investigation. Emiljia, who was on the team representing Sanooja in the case, responds that the pre-trial investigation didn’t investigate the cause of death properly, nor how the acts of the border police might have caused or contributed to the death of the applicant’s husband.

      Rytis Satkauskas, law professor, managing partner of ReLex law firm, and the lead attorney on Sanooja’s case, questions whether the Lithuanian courts are trying to hide something greater: he points to a series of inconsistencies in Samrin’s autopsy report.

      Autopsies should be conducted immediately to determine the cause of death. However, Samrin’s autopsy report claims that the cause of death cannot be established because the body was in an advanced state of decomposition of up to five months.

      Five months after Samrin’s death is the same time around which Sanooja got in touch to pursue the truth of the matter. Satkauskas does not think this is a coincidence: “I believe they left the body in the repository, then when they established the identity of the person, they had to do this autopsy.”

      The autopsy report explains the advanced state of decomposition by referencing the marshy area in which it was found, claiming the heat of the marsh had accelerated decomposition by up to five months within a matter of days.

      Satkauskas asks further: If Samrin simply drowned, then why do other measurements not add up? He references a table of measurements in the autopsy report, in which the weight and algae content of the lungs are normal. However, Satkauskas says, in cases of drowning, both weight and algae content should be much higher. “I’m convinced they have invented all those measurements,” Satkauskas puts simply.

      As Sanooja’s case has exhausted all legal avenues in Lithuania, it is now eligible for appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

      Emilija points to a promising parallel: in Alhowais v. Hungary, the European Court of Human Rights ruled this February that a Hungarian border guard’s violent pushback ending in the drowning of a Syrian man violated Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the “right to life” and against “torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

      The decision came in February this year, seven years after the death of the defendant’s brother. Yet for Sanooja and her team, the case provides hope that there is a growing legal precedent for victims of pushbacks.

      A battle in court for Sanooja could be a long and expensive one. The case in Vilnius courts had cost 600 euros for each of the seven appeals, and after Sanooja ran out of funds after the first case, Sienos Grupė stepped in to shoulder the costs of the appeals.

      For the ECHR, it will cost 1500 euros to submit the proposal. Sanooja is exploring the possibility of raising money through NGOs or other means to continue the long quest for truth.

      The window of eligibility to appeal will close in February 2024.
      “Wherever I go, I have memories”

      Day by day, Sanooja’s son grows to look more like Samrin.

      She has tried not to cry in front of him. “It makes him upset. I am the only person now for my son, so I should be strong enough to face these things,” says the 32-year-old widow. “But wherever I go, I have memories. And everything my son does reminds me of him.”

      Before Samrin’s body was found, she told her son “false stories,” but with his body now interred, she has opened up to her son about her father’s death. He understands it the way a child might—he runs around telling neighbors his father is in heaven, and it’s a great place. It will be years before he can point to where Lithuania is on a map.

      Thanks to the cooperation of the Sri Lankan embassy in Sweden, Sanooja is one of the few families who have been able to receive a death certificate. She notes this will be crucial when her son enrolls for school and if they decide to sell or expand their property. However, to correct the misspelling on the document, she needs to travel to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, which takes ten hours and nearly 10,000 rupees.

      Meanwhile, Samrin’s death has ruptured the family into those who can accept the reality of his death, and those who cannot. Sanooja’s mother-in-law has ceased contact with her, unable to wrap her head around the fact that her boy is gone. When Samrin had left, he promised his mother to send money so that she would no longer have to wake up early to make pastries to sell in the morning. On the day of Samrin’s funeral, she told the family, “That is not my son.”

      “What difference does it make, finding the body and burying it?” asks Pauline Boss, the Psychology Professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota who coined the term “ambiguous loss,” which encompasses the unique stress of not knowing whether someone you love is alive or dead.

      Professor Boss states that burying someone is a distinct human need—not just for the dead, but for the living. “In all cases, a human being has to see their loved one transform from breathing to not breathing, and have the power and control to deal with the remains in their particular cultural way. It’s a human need, and it has been for eons.”

      Yet few families are able to attend the funerals of their loved ones in Europe, for the same reason their loved ones tried to travel to Europe on such a dangerous road in the first place: inability to obtain a visa, or lack of funds.

      “I hope one day I will visit, and I will show our son his father’s grave,” Sanooja declares.

      When Samrin was interred into the snow-covered February earth of Liepynės cemetery in Vilnius on Valentine’s Day this year, a volunteer present at the burial offered to video call Sanooja through FaceTime.

      In the grainy constellation of pixels of the phone screen in her palm, from 8,000 kilometers away, she watched her husband disappear forever into the cold European soil.

      https://unbiasthenews.org/widowed-by-europes-borders

      #Lituanie #Biélorussie #forêt #Pologne #Bialowieza

    • Missing data, missing souls in Italy

      How Italy’s failing system makes it almost impossible for families to identify their relatives who passed away while reaching the EU.

      Before the Syrian civil war erupted, Refaat Hazima was a barber in Damascus. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had also been barbers. Thanks to his craftsmanship, flair, and a reputation built over four generations, Refaat was a wealthy man. Together with his wife – a doctor for the national service – he could afford to have his three children study instead of sending them to work at a young age.

      “They were always the top of the class,” he recalls in a nostalgic voice as he sits alone in a seaside restaurant on Lampedusa, a small Sicilian island halfway between Malta and the eastern coast of Tunisia. The rocky shores along which he now slowly enjoys eggplant served with fresh tuna were the scene of the most traumatic episode of his life.

      “President Bashar al-Assad had centralized all power in his hands, and our daily life in Syria had become complicated.” Refaat was also temporarily imprisoned for political reasons. But the point of no return for him and his wife was the outbreak of civil war in 2011. It became clear that not only their children’s educational future was in jeopardy, but even the survival of their entire family.

      So they decided to leave.

      The couple paid smugglers more than fifty thousand dollars to attempt to reach Germany, where their children could continue their education. But amid rejections, hurdles, and hesitations that forced the family into months-long stages in different countries, Refaat and his family had to wait until 2013 to finally set sail to the European shores of Lampedusa.

      Although it was autumn, the sea was calm that night. Initial concerns related to the sea conditions and the wooden boat that was all too heavily laden with humans now dissipated. In the darkness of the night sea, the shorelines and the flickering lights of street lamps and restaurants were in sight. But suddenly the boat in which they were traveling capsized.

      “Everyone was screaming as we ended up in the sea,” Rafaat recalls. “I grabbed one of my children, my wife grabbed another child. But in the commotion and screaming of the nighttime shipwreck, two of my children disappeared.”
      \

      The couple were rescued by Italian authorities and brought to the mainland along with one of their children. The other two, however, disappeared. “One of them told me Dad, give me a kiss on the forehead, and then I never saw him ever again.”

      From 2013 to the present, Refaat has searched everywhere for their children. For 10 years he has been traveling, asking, and searching. He has even appeared on TV hoping one day to be reunited with them. But to this day he still does not know if his children were saved or if they are two of the 268 victims of the October 11, 2013 shipwreck, one of the worst Mediterranean disasters in the last three decades.

      Uncertain and partial numbers

      For more than two decades, Italy has been one of the main gateways for migrants wanting to reach the European Union. Between thirty and forty thousand people have died trying to reach Italy since 2000. But despite this strategic location, authorities have never created a comprehensive register to census the dead returned from the sea, and thus sources are confusing and approximate.

      In any case, the figure of bodies found is only a percentage of the people who lost their lives while attempting to cross over to Europe. In fact, the bodies of those who die at sea are rarely recovered. When this happens, they are even more rarely identified by Italian authorities.

      A study conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross tried to map the anonymous graves of migrants in various European countries and count the number of deaths recovered at sea. According to the report, between 2014 and 2019, 964 bodies of people – presumed migrants – were found in Italy, of which only 27 percent were identified. In most of the cases analyzed, identification occurred through immediate visual recognition by their fellow travelers, while those traveling without friends or relatives almost always remained anonymous.

      Overall, 73 percent of the bodies recovered in Italy between 2014 and 2019 remain unknown.

      A DNA test for everyone

      “The vast majority of bodies end up at the bottom of the sea and are never recovered, becoming fish food,” explains Tareke Bhrane, founder of the October 3 Committee, an NGO established to protect the rights of those who die trying to reach Europe. “The Committee was born in the aftermath of the two disastrous shipwrecks on October 3 and 11, 2013 to make Italy understand that even those who die have dignity and that respecting that dignity is important not only for those who die, but also for those who survive,” Bhrane recounts.

      On October 3, 2023, the Committee organized a large event on the island of Lampedusa to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the shipwreck. Dozens of families of people who died or disappeared gathered on the island, traveling from many European and Middle Eastern countries.

      On the island were also forensic geneticists from Labanof, a leading forensic medicine laboratory at the University of Milan that has been working with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies for decades now to solve cases and identify unnamed bodies. Relatives of missing persons were thus able to undergo a free DNA test to find out more about their loved ones.

      One of the committee’s main activities in recent years has been to lobby Sicilian municipalities for better management of anonymous graves. Thanks in part to the NGO, today almost all Sicilian provinces now house some victims of migration, often anonymous, in their cemeteries.

      “Among the essential points of our mission,” Bhrane explains, “is to create a European DNA database for the recognition of victims, so that anyone who wants to can take a DNA test anywhere in Europe and find out if a loved one has lost their life trying to get here.”
      Resigned and hopeful

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RhbqUACTv8&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Funbiasthenews.org%2

      While Refaat has not yet resigned himself to the idea that his children may have died at sea, other relatives have become more aware and would like to know where Italy buried their loved ones. But this is often impossible because the graves are anonymous and there is a lack of national records that they can consult to find their loved ones.

      This is the case for Asmeret Amanuel and Desbele Asfaha, two Eritrean nationals who are respectively the nephew and brother of one of the people aboard the boat that capsized in 2013.

      “We heard from the radio that the boat he was traveling on had sunk. We never heard from him again,” Asmeret says. The two traveled all the way to Lampedusa to undergo DNA testing, hoping to match their loved one’s name for the first time with one of the many acronyms that have appeared on migrants’ anonymous graves and find out where he rests.

      “I remember as children we used to play together,” says Desbele. “And instead today I don’t even know where to mourn him. Yet it would take so little.”

      An organizational failure

      Many Italian cemeteries hold anonymous graves of people who died while migrating, especially in the South. It is difficult to map them all and provide an exact number, just as it is nearly impossible to quantify the number of anonymous graves. Again, there is no centralized, national database, and even at the municipal level information is scarce and partial.

      But thanks to an international investigation project called the “The Border Graves Investigation” and promoted by IJ4EU and Journalism Fund of which Unbias the News is one of the partners, it is now possible to shed light on what resembles a large European mass grave.

      From the Italian side of the investigation, large gaps emerge on Italy’s part in the construction of a national cemetery archive. According to protocol, data on anonymous graves are supposed to be sent every three months from individual cemeteries and work their way up a long bureaucratic chain until they reach the desk of the government’s Special Commissioner for Missing Persons, an office created by the Italian government in 2007 precisely to create a single national database.

      But sources from the Special Commissioner told the Border Graves Investigation team that unidentified bodies are not within their jurisdiction because in cases where there is an alleged crime (e.g., illegal immigration) the jurisdiction passes to the local magistrate. Thus, the source confirmed that no office systematically collects this data and that figures areeverything is scattered in individual prosecutors’ offices.

      However, the documentary traces of migrants’ anonymous graves are often already lost in the records of the cemeteries themselves or municipal records, that is, at the first step in the chain. For example, in Agrigento, it is possible to visit the graves of men and women who died at sea marked by numbers, but in the paper registers consulted by our team of journalists there is no trace of them.

      Yet the records are deposited a few meters from the graves themselves.

      In Sciacca, Agrigento province, the municipal administration moved some anonymous graves of migrants inside a mass grave to make room for new burials. However, it did not follow the prescribed regulations and did not notify the relatives of the few victims who had been identified and whose names were listed on the grave. The matter was discovered at the time when a woman went to the cemetery to pray at her sister’s grave and did not find her in her usual place.

      In other cases, anonymous graves have been moved from one cemetery to another due to the need for space, but without alerting the population.
      The bureaucratic snag

      Finding out the fate of a loved one is so complicated for several reasons. First, the identification of the body, which the Italian authorities do not generally consider a priority. Then there is the difficulty of recognition itself, especially when relatives are abroad or have difficulty contacting Italian authorities.

      In addition, there is the problem of traceability of the bodies, which often remain on the seabed and, in the few cases where they are found, enter a bureaucratic machine in which it is arduous to recover their traces. Researcher and anthropologist Giorgia Mirto explained this to our investigative team: “The corpses should be registered in the registrar’s office where the body is found. But then the body is often moved within the same cemetery, from one cemetery to another or from one municipality to another, and so there is documentation that travels along with the body. Moves that are difficult to track.”

      “Moreover,” Mirto adds, “adding to the difficulty is the absence of unified procedures. “With the Human Cost of Border Control project, we have seen that the only way to count these people and their graves is to do a blanket search of all the municipalities, all the cemetery offices, all the registrars’ offices and all the cemeteries, possibly adding the funeral homes as well.”

      Thus, there is a problem with centralization and transparency of data that is often also linked to the huge austerity cuts that have forced municipalities to work understaffed. Emblematic is the Commissioner’s Office for Missing Persons, which would be responsible for compiling a list of unidentified bodies found on Italian soil, but has been left without a portfolio.

      “As anthropologist Didier Fassin says,” the researcher concludes, “missing data is not the result of carelessness but is an administrative and political choice. It should be understood how much this choice is conscious and how much is the result of disinterest in the good work of municipal archives (an essential resource for historical memory and for the peace of victims’ families) or in understanding the cost of borders in terms of human lives.”

      EU responsibilities

      Forensic scientist Cristina Cattaneo – a professor at the University of Milan and director of the Labanof forensic laboratory – explained to our team that from a forensic point of view, the most important procedure for identifying a body is to collect both post-mortem (from tattoos to DNA, through cadaveric inspections and autopsies) and antemortem medical forensic information, that is, that which comes from family members regarding the missing person.

      However, in many countries, including Italy, no law makes this procedure mandatory. In the case of people who die while migrating, this is done only in egregious cases, such as large shipwrecks that become news. “These cases have shown that a broad and widespread effort to identify the bodies of those who die at sea is possible,” says Cattaneo. “However, most people lose their lives in very small shipwrecks that don’t make too much news. And because there is no protocol to make data collection systematic, many family members are left in doubt as to whether their loved ones are alive or dead.”

      All this happens despite the great efforts made over the years by the government’s Extraordinary Commissioner for Missing Persons, which, despite being the only national institution of its kind at the European level, has to manage a huge amount of data from all Italian municipalities. Data that are often disorganized, reported late, and collected without adhering to common and strict procedures.

      This is why Cattaneo is among the signatories of an appeal calling for the enactment of a European law that would once and for all oblige member states to identify the bodies of migrants.

      “Yet a European solution would exist and from a technical point of view it is already feasible,” Cattaneo adds. It involves data exchange systems such as Interpol, which at the European level already collects, organizes, and can share information and organically to member countries.

      “It would be enough to expand the analysis to include missing migrants and thus make it possible to search and identify them on a European scale. But this is not being done because of a lack of political will on the part of Brussels,” Cattaneo concludes.
      “The art of patience”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlDtBRg02aU&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Funbiasthenews.org%2

      Identifying the bodies of people who lose their lives coming to Europe is an important issue on several levels.

      First and foremost, international humanitarian law protects the right to identity for both those who are alive and those who have died. But identifying is also an essential issue for those who remain alive. Indeed, without a death certificate, it is almost impossible for a spouse to marry again or to access survivor’s pensions, just as it is impossible for a minor relative to leave their country with an adult without running into a blockade by the authorities, who cannot rule out the possibility of child abduction.

      Then there is the issue of suspended grief, namely the condition of those who do not know whether to search for a loved one or mourn his or her death.

      This is the case for Asmeret and Desbele, but also for many relatives interviewed by our team.

      Sabah and Ahmed, for example, are a Syrian couple. One of their sons disappeared in 2013 after a shipwreck in Italian waters. For 10 years, Ahmed retraced the same land and sea route followed by his son, hoping to find his body or at least get more information. But the efforts were in vain and to this day the family still does not know what happened to him.

      “His children are still with us and often ask, ‘where is Dad? Where is Dad?’ but without a grave and a body, we still don’t know what to answer.”

      Both Sabah and Ahmed are very religious and today rely on Allah to give them the comfort they have not found in the work of institutions. “The greatest gift from Allah,” they recount, “was the patience with which to be able to move forward in the face of such unnatural grief for a parent.”

      A similar lesson was learned by Refaat, who like Ahmed and Sabah has been living in ignorance for ten years. Today he has opened a barber store in Hamburg and realized his dream of having his surviving son study in Germany.

      “I have been searching for my children for ten years, and Allah knows I will search for them until the end of my days, should I find their dead bodies, or should I find them alive who knows where in the world. But I want to die knowing that I did everything I could to find them.”
      Refaat Hazima

      Sometimes his voice trembles. “I often talk to them in my sleep, I feel that they are still alive. But even if I were to find out they are dead, in all these years I would still have learned how to deal with frustration and pain, how to live with emptiness. And most importantly,” he concludes, “I would have learned the art of patience.”


      https://unbiasthenews.org/missing-data-missing-souls

      #Italie #Tareke_Brhane #comitato_3_ottobre #3_octobre_2013 #Lampedusa

    • Unmarked monuments of EU’s shame in Croatia and Bosnia

      Amid pushbacks and torture, many of the victims of the treacherous Balkan route are laid to an anonymous final resting place in Croatian and Bosnian cemetaries.

      In the village of Siče in eastern Croatia, there are more inhabitants in the cemetery than among the living. The village has 230 living residents, and 250 dead. To be more precise, the cemetery is home to 247 locals and three unknown persons. There would be more people six feet under if Siče hadn’t gotten its own cemetery only in the 1970s. There would also be even more of the living if they hadn’t, like many from that region, gone to bigger cities in search of a better life. Abroad as well, mainly to Germany.

      The graves of Siče’s inhabitants briefly tell the visitor who these people were, where they belong, and whether their loved ones care for them. That’s the thing with graves, they summarise the basic information of our life.

      If the grave bears only the inscription “NN”, that summarises a tragedy.

      Who are these three people whose names are unknown? How come their last resting place is a plain grave in Siče?

      Even if you didn’t know, it’s clear that those three people don’t belong there.

      They have been buried completely separated from the rest of the cemetery. Three wooden crosses with NN inscriptions, stuck in the ground at the edge of the cemetery. NN, an abbreviation of the Latin nomen nescio, literally means, “I do not know the name.” The official explanation from the public burial ground operator is that space has been left for more possible burials of those whose names are not known. However, the explanation that springs to mind when you get there is that they were buried separately so they wouldn’t mix with the locals. Or as the mayor of another town, where NN migrants have also been buried at the edge of the cemetery, let slip in a telephone conversation, “So that they’re not in the way.”

      At the cemetery in Siče, these are the only three graves that no one takes care of. In about five years, all trace of them could disappear. The public burial ground operator is obliged to bury unidentified bodies, but not to maintain graves unless the grave belongs to a person of “special historical and social significance.”

      NN1, NN2 and NN3 are of special significance only to their loved ones, who probably don’t even know where they are. Maybe they are waiting to finally hear from them from Western Europe. Maybe they’re looking for them. Maybe they mourn them.

      Identities known but buried as unknown

      If you do dig a little deeper, you will learn a thing or two about those who rest here nameless.

      In the early, cold morning of December 23, 2022, the police found two bodies on the banks of the Sava, the river that separates Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It separates the European Union from the rest of Europe. According to the police report, they also found a group of twenty foreign citizens who illegally entered Croatia via the river. The group was missing one more person. After an extensive search, a third body was found in the afternoon. The pathologist of the General Hospital in the town of Nova Gradiška established the time of death for all three people as 2:45 A.M. Two died of hypothermia, one drowned.

      Identity cards from a refugee camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina were found on them. We learned that, according to their IDs, all three were from Afghanistan: Ahmedi Abozari was 17 years old, Basir Naseri was 21 years old and Shakir Atoin was 25 years old. NN1, NN2 and NN3.

      Other migrants from the group also confirmed the identity of two of them, as the Brodsko-Posavska County police administration told us. Then why were they buried as NN? If it was known that they were from Afghanistan, why were they buried under crosses? If families are looking for them, how will they find them?

      The cemetery management was kind and said that they perform burials according to what is written in the burial permit signed by the pathologist – and it said NN.

      The pathologist said that he enters the data based on the information he receives from the police.

      The competent police department told us that the person is buried according to the rules of the local municipality.

      Siče cemetery belongs to the municipality of Nova Kapela, whose mayor, Ivan Šmit, discontentedly listed all the costs that his municipality incurred for those burials and said that whoever is willing to pay for it can change the NN inscription into names.

      We came across a series of similar administrative ambiguities while investigating how authorities deal with the deceased people they recover at EU borders as a part of the Border Graves Investigation carried out by a team of eight freelancers from across Europe together with Unbias the News, The Guardian and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

      There is no centralised European database on the number of migrants’ graves in Europe.

      But the team managed to confirm the existence of at least 1,931 migrants’ graves in Greece, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Malta, Poland and France, dating from 2014 to 2023. Of these, 1,015 were unidentified. More than half of the unidentified graves are in Greece, 551, in Italy 248, and in Spain 109. The data were obtained based on the databases of international organizations, non-governmental organizations, scientists, local authorities and cemeteries, and field visits.

      The team visited 24 cemeteries in Greece, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Poland and Lithuania, where there are a total of 555 graves of unidentified migrants in the last decade, from 2014 to 2023.

      These are only those whose bodies have been found. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates that more than 93% of those who go missing on Europe’s borders are never found.
      Families lost in bureaucracy

      December 2022, when the three young Afghans died, was rainier than usual and the Sava River swelled. It is big and fast to begin with.

      In that area, just three days earlier, five Turkish citizens went missing after their boat overturned on the Sava. Among them were a two-year-old girl, a twelve-year-old boy and their parents. The brother of the missing father came from Germany to Croatia to find out what happened to the family. From the documentation, which we have in our possession, it is evident that with the help of translator Nina Rajković, he tried to get information about his missing relatives from several police stations. Even months later, he hasn’t received any updates.

      The two had wanted to file a missing person’s report, but the police told them that there was no point in doing so if the person had not previously been registered in the territory of Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.

      We encountered a number of similar examples. A young man had come to Croatia and reported to the police in both Croatia and Slovenia that his brother had drowned in the Kupa River that separates the two countries. However, his brother’s disappearance was not recorded in the Croatian national database of missing persons, which is publicly available. The police did not contact him after several unidentified bodies were found in the Kupa in the following days.

      In another example, an Afghan man waited six months for the body of his brother, who drowned when they tried to cross the Sava together, also in December 2022, to be transferred from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina so that he could bury him. Although he had confirmed that it was his brother, the identification process was lengthy and complicated.

      There are numerous families who tried from afar to track down their loved ones who had disappeared in the territory of Croatia, only to finally give up in discouragement.

      There are many questions and few clear answers when it comes to the issue of missing and dead migrants on the so-called Balkan Route, of which Croatia is a part. There are no clear protocols and procedures defining to whom and how to report a missing person. It is not known whether missing migrants are actively searched for, as tourists are when they disappear in the summer. It is not clear how much and which information is needed for identification.

      “The circulation of information between institutions and individual departments seems almost non-existent to me."

      “In one case, it took me more than two months and dozens of phone calls and emails to different addresses, police stations, police departments, hospitals, and the state attorney’s office, just to prompt the initiation of identification, which to this day, more than a year later, has not been completed,” says Marijana Hameršak, activist and head of the project “European Regime of Irregular Migration on the Periphery of the EU” of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb, which collects knowledge and data on missing and dead migrants.

      Searches for missing migrants and attempts to identify the dead in Croatia, as well as in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, most often rely on the efforts of volunteers and activists, who, like Marijana, untiringly search for information in the chaotic administration because families who do not know the language find this task practically insurmountable.
      “Die or make your dream come true”

      The Facebook group “Dead and Missing in the Balkans” became the central place to exchange photos and information about the missing and the dead between families and activists.

      The competent Ministry of the Interior does not have a website in English with an address where one can write from Afghanistan or Syria and inquire about the fate of loved ones, leave information about them, and report them missing. There is also no regional database on missing and dead migrants on which the police administrations would cooperate, not even the ones from the countries where the most crossings are recorded – from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia.

      In an interview with our team, Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasised that the creation of a centralised European database of missing and dead migrants is extremely important. If such a database combined ante-mortem and post-mortem data on the deceased, the chances of identification would greatly increase.

      “Families have a right to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones.”
      Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

      Yet, police cooperation in keeping the EU’s external border impervious is effective.

      Previously, people attempting to migrate did not try to cross the Sava so often. They knew it was too dangerous. They share information with each other and do not venture across such a river in children’s inflatable boats or inner tubes. Unless they are utterly desperate. With pushbacks and the use of force, which many organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been warning about for years, the Croatian police made it difficult to cross at other, less dangerous points along the Croatian border, which is the longest external land border in the European Union. As a young Moroccan in Bosnia and Herzegovina who tried to cross the border to Croatia 11 times but was pushed back by the Croatian police each time told us, “You have two choices: die or make your dream come true.”

      It is difficult to determine how many died on the Balkan Route in an attempt to fulfil their dream. The most comprehensive data for ex-Yugoslav countries is collected by the researchers of the “European Regime of Irregular Migration on the Periphery of the EU (ERIM)” project. It records 346 victims from 2014 to 2023 in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia, North Macedonia and Kosovo. Each entry in ERIM’s database is individual and contains as much data as the researchers managed to collect, and they use all available sources – media reports, witnesses, official statistics, activist channels. But the figure is certainly significantly higher. Some who went missing were never even registered anywhere.

      Many bodies were never found. For example, another common border crossing, the Stara Planina mountain range between Bulgaria and Serbia, is a rough and inaccessible terrain. Only those who have been driven to this route by the same fate will come across the bodies, and they will not risk encountering authorities to report it.

      If people die in the minefields remaining from the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there will not be much left of their bodies. Most bodies were found drowned in rivers, but there is no estimate of how many who drowned were never reported missing, or were never found.

      The Croatian Ministry of the Interior provided us with data on migrants who have died in Croatia since 2015, when records began to be kept, until the end of November 2023: according to the data, a total of 87 migrants died on the territory of the Republic of Croatia. To put it more precisely: that’s how many bodies were found in Croatia. Not a single official body in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia keeps records of migrants buried in that territory.

      However, we managed to obtain data for Croatia, thanks to inquiries sent to over 500 addresses of cities, municipalities and municipal companies that manage cemeteries. According to the data obtained, there are 59 graves of migrants in 32 cemeteries in Croatia who were buried in the last decade, namely from 2014 until September 2023. Of these, 45 have not been identified. The Ministry of the Interior says that since 2001, DNA samples have been taken from all unidentified bodies. We asked the Ministry to allow us to talk with experts who work on the identification of migrants, but we were not approved.

      Some of the buried were exhumed and returned to their families in their country of origin, although this is a demanding and extremely expensive process for the families.
      The burden of not knowing

      Among the NN graves is a stillborn baby from Syria buried in 2015 in the town of Slavonski Brod. A five-year-old girl who drowned in the Danube was buried in Dalje in 2021. Last summer, a young man died of exhaustion in the highlands in the Dubrovnik area. Some were hit by a train. Many died of hypothermia. Some die because they were not provided medical help early enough. Some don’t believe anything can help them, so they committed suicide.

      According to the law, they are buried closest to the place of death, which are mostly small cemeteries, such as the one in Siče. Often, just like in that village, their graves are separated from the rest of the cemetery. In some places, like in Otok, one of the tender-hearted local women has given herself the task of taking care of the NN grave. In others, like the cemetery in Prilišće, the NN wooden cross from 2019 has already rotted.

      Each of these NN graves leaves behind loved ones who bear the burden of not knowing what happened. In psychology, this is called ambiguous loss, which means that as long as relatives do not have confirmation that their loved ones are dead, and as long as they do not know where their bodies are, they cannot mourn them.

      If they go on with their lives, they feel guilty. And so they remain frozen in a state between despair and hope. American psychologist Dr. Pauline Boss is the author of the concept and theory of “ambiguous loss.”

      “A grave is so important because it helps to say goodbye,“ she said in an interview for our investigation.

      There are also practical consequences of this frozen state: succession rights cannot be carried out, bank accounts cannot be accessed, family pensions cannot be obtained, the partner cannot remarry, and custody of children is complicated.

      Many families in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina know ambiguous loss very well. Both countries went through war in the 1990s that left thousands of people missing.

      Both countries have special laws on the missing in those wars and well-developed mechanisms of search, identification, data storage and mutual cooperation. But this does not apply to migrants who vanish and die among the thousands who are on the move along the Balkan Route.
      Croatia responsible for death of a child

      Croatia became an important point of entry into the European Union after Hungary closed its borders in September 2015. From then until March 2016, it is estimated that around 660,000 refugees passed through the Croatian section of the Balkan corridor – the interstate, organised route. This corridor allowed them to get from Greece to Western Europe in two or three days. Most importantly, their journey was safe.

      Of these hundreds of thousands of people on the move, the Croatian Ministry of the Interior did not record a single death in 2015 and 2016.

      The corridor was established to prevent casualties after a large number of refugees died on the railway in Macedonia in the spring of 2015. However, with the conclusion of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement in March 2016, the corridor closed. The EU committed to generously funding Turkey to keep refugees on its territory, so that they do not come to the European Union. And so the perilous, informal Balkan Route remained the only option. Many take it. In the first ten months of 2023 alone, the Croatian police recorded 62,452 actions related to illegal border crossings.

      Both the Croatian Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter and Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović warn of the same thing: border and migration policies have a clear impact on the risk of migrants going missing or die. It is necessary to establish legal and safe migration routes in the EU.

      However, the EU expects Croatia to protect its external border, and Croatia is doing so wholeheartedly. Croatian Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović calls such practices “techniques of discouragement” and says they are fully in line with the EU Schengen Border Code.

      The result of such practices is, for example, the death of Madina Hussiny. The six-year-old girl from Afghanistan was struck by a train and killed after Croatian police “discouraged” her and her family away from the Croatian border and told them to follow train tracks back to Serbia in the middle of the night in 2017. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in November 2021 that Croatia was responsible for Madina’s death.

      In a typical “discouragement,” Croatian police transport people to points along the border and order them to cross. In the testimonies we heard, as well as in many reports of non-governmental organisations, people described having to wade or swim across rivers, climb over rocks or make their way through dense forest. They often cross at night, sometimes stripped naked, and without knowing the way because the police usually take away their mobile phones.

      Up to 80% of all pushbacks by Croatian police may be impacted by one or more forms of torture, indicates data collected by Border Violence Monitoring Network in 2019. That means that thousands were victims of border torture.

      According to data collected by the Danish Refugee Council, in the two-year period from the beginning of 2020 to the end of 2022, at least 30,000 people were pushed back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
      “While trying to reach Europe”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=112&v=SFLYVVtsjGc&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fu

      Among them is Arat Semiullah from Afghanistan. In November 2022, he intended to cross the Sava River and enter Croatia from Bosnia. He was 20 years old. He drowned and was buried at the Orthodox cemetery in Banja Luka. His family in Afghanistan did not know what happened to him. He had sent his mom a selfie with a fresh haircut for entering the European Union and then he stopped answering.

      The mother begged her nephew Payman Sediqi, who lives in Germany, to try to find him. Payman got in touch with the activist Nihad Suljić, who voluntarily helps families find out what happened to their loved ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They spent weeks trying to get information. Payman travelled to Bosnia and managed to find his relative thanks to the helpfulness of a policewoman who showed him forensic photographs. Arat’s mom confirmed by phone that it was her son.

      Arat’s obituary published in Bosnia and Herzegovina said that “Croatian police sank the boat using firearms, and he tragically drowned.” With the help of the Muslim community, and at the request of the family, his body was transferred to the Muslim cemetery in the village of Kamičani. The family wanted to bury him in Afghanistan, but it was too expensive and bureaucratically complicated.

      In September 2023, we met with Nihad and Payman when a large tombstone was erected for Arat. It says, “Drowned in the Sava River while trying to reach Europe.” Payman told us that Arat was crossing the Sava with a group of others trying to enter Europe. Some of them managed to cross over to the Croatian side, but then the Croatian police shot at the rubber boat Arat was in. The boat sank and Arat drowned. That’s what a survivor who crossed over to the Croatian bank of the Sava told Payman. Payman says that Arat’s family is in great pain, but at least they know where their son is and that he was buried according to their religious customs. It is important to Payman that his relative’s grave says he died as a migrant.

      “People die every day in Europe, fleeing countries where there is no life for them. Their dreams are buried in Europe. No one cares about them, not even when European policemen shoot at them,” Payman says.

      Payman knows what kind of dreams he’s talking about. He himself came to Germany illegally at the age of 16. He says he was lucky.

      Nihad advocates that other graves of migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina also be permanently marked as such. He takes us to the cemetery in the town of Zvornik, where 17 NN migrants are buried. Nihad says he was informed that some of them had their passport on them when they were found. From the cemetery, you can see the river Drina, which separates Serbia from Bosnia and where many lives have been lost during crossing attempts. About 30 bodies were found in the Drina this year alone. Nihad says that they are lucky if they wash up on the Bosnian riverbanks, because in Serbia the authorities often do not perform autopsies nor take DNA samples. This was confirmed to us by activists from Serbia. In those cases, they are forever and completely lost to their families.

      The earthen NN graves in Zvornik are overgrown and not demarcated, so you wouldn’t know if you are stepping on them. Nihad managed to convince the Town of Zvornik to replace the wooden signs with black stone. It is important to him that they are buried with dignity, but he also finds it important that they stand there as a memorial.

      “My wish is that even 100 years from now these graves stand as monuments of the EU’s shame. Because it was not the river that killed these people, but the EU border regime,” Nihad says.

      https://unbiasthenews.org/unmarked-monuments-of-eus-shame-croatia-bosnia

      #Bosnie #Croatie #Zvornik #Madina_Hussiny

    • Counting the invisible victims of Spain’s EU borders

      Investigation finds hundreds of victims of migration to the EU lie in unmarked graves along Spain’s borders, with government taking no coordinated action to guarantee “last rights.”

      In January 2020, Alhassane Bangoura was buried in an unmarked grave in the Muslim area of Teguise municipal cemetery in Lanzarote as city officials and members of the local Muslim community watched on. He had been born only a couple of weeks earlier onboard a cramped patera migrant boat on which his mother, who is from Guinea, and 42 others were trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands. Their boat was adrift on the Atlantic ocean after its motor had failed two days earlier, and Alhassane’s mother had gone into labour at sea. Her child only lived for a few hours before dying just off the coast of Lanzarote.

      Alhassane’s case shocked the island and made national news. Yet as mourners paid their respects, his mother was 200 kilometres away in a migrant reception centre on the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria, having been unable to get permission from authorities to remain on Lanzarote for the funeral.

      “She’d been allowed to see the body of her son one more time before being transferred, and I accompanied her to the funeral home,” says Mamadou Sy, a representative of the local Muslim community. “It was very emotional as she was leaving. All we could do was promise her that her son would not be alone; that like any Muslim, he’d be brought to the Mosque where his body would be washed by other mothers; that we would pray for him and that afterwards we’d send her a video of the burial.”

      Nearly four years later, Alhassane’s final resting place remains without a formal headstone. It lies next to more than three dozen graves of unidentified migrants – whose names are completely unknown but who, like Alhassane, are also victims of Europe’s brutal border regime.

      Border Graves

      Such a scene is no anomaly along Spain’s vast coastline. Border graves like these can be found in cemeteries stretching from Alicante on the country’s eastern Mediterranean coast to Cádiz on the Atlantic seaboard and south to the Canaries. Some have names but, more often than not, the inscription reads some variation of “unidentified migrant,” “unknown Moroccan,” or “victim of the Strait [of Gibraltar],” or there is simply a hand-painted cross.

      In Barbate cemetery in Cádiz, where the deceased are sealed into niches in traditional brick-walled stacks around two metres in height, groundskeeper Germán points out over 30 different migrant graves, the earliest of which date from 2002 and the most recent are from a shipwreck in 2019.

      "No one ever comes to visit, but on days when there are funerals here and flowers are about to be thrown out, I place them on the tombs containing the unknown migrants,” he explains. “In some of the older graves, you have the remains of up to five or six migrants together, each placed in separate sacks within the same niche to save space.”

      Along the coast, in Tarifa, Spain’s earliest mass grave of unidentified migrants, containing 11 victims from a 1988 shipwreck, overlooks the northern reaches of the African continent, which can be seen on a clear day. Meanwhile, around 400 kilometres west of the African coast, on the remote Canarian island of El Hierro, seven unidentified migrants have been buried in the last two months, along with the remains of 30-year old Mamadou Marea. “Locals joined us to accompany the remains of each of these people to their last resting place,” explains Amado Carballo, a councillor on El Hierro. “What upset all of us was not being able to put a name on the tombstone and simply having to leave the person identified by a police code.”

      Such concern was less evident in Arrecife, Lanzarote where two unidentified graves from February this year have been left sealed with a covering that still bears a corporate logo.

      There is no comprehensive data on how many identified and unidentified migrant graves exist in Spain, and the country’s Interior Ministry has never released figures for the total number of bodies recovered across the various maritime migration routes. But in exclusive data from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Unbias The News can reveal that the bodies of an estimated 530 people who died at Spain’s borders were recovered between 2014 and 2021 – of which 292 remain unidentified.

      In the six month Europe-wide Border Graves Investigation, undertaken in conjunction with Unbias the News, The Guardian and Süddeutsche Zeitung, 109 unidentified migrant graves from 2014-21 were confirmed in Spain across 18 locations. According to a study by the University of Amsterdam, a further 434 unidentified graves stem from 2000-2013 in at least 65 cemeteries.

      These graves are symbols of a much wider humanitarian tragedy. The ICRC estimates that just 6.89% of those who go missing on Europe’s borders are found, while the Spanish NGO Walking Borders gives an even lower figure for the West African Atlantic route to the Canaries, estimating that only 4.2 percent of the bodies of those who die are ever recovered.

      Guaranteeing “last rights”

      The unvisited and anonymous graves are also a reflection of the fact that the rights to both identification and a dignified burial for those who have died on migration routes have been consistently neglected by national authorities in Spain. As in other European countries, successive Spanish governments have failed to develop legal mechanisms and state protocols to guarantee these “last rights” of victims, as well as their families’ corresponding “right to know” and to mourn their loved ones.

      The problem is “utterly neglected,” says Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, who insists that EU countries are failing in their obligations under international human rights law to secure families’ “right to truth”. In 2021, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for “prompt and effective identification processes” to inform families about the fate of their loved ones. Yet last year, the Council of Europe called the area a “legislative void.”

      “People are always calling the office and asking us how to search for a family member, but you have to be honest and say there’s no clear official channel they can turn to,” explains Juan Carlos Lorenzo, director of the Spanish Refugee Council (CEAR) on the Canary Islands. “You can put them in touch with the Red Cross, but there’s no government-led programme of identification. Nor is there the type of dedicated office needed to coordinate with families and centralise information and data on missing migrants.”

      This year alone we are working with over 600 families whose loved ones have disappeared. These families, who are from Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Guinea and as far afield as Sri Lanka are very much alone and are poorly protected by public administrations. In turn, this means that there are criminal networks and fraudsters seeking to extract money from them.”
      Helena Maleno, director of Walking Borders

      Even in the case of a victim’s identification, a recent report from the Human Rights Association of Andalucia lays out the legal and financial barriers families face in terms of repatriating their loved ones. In 2020/21, ICRC figures show that 284 bodies were recovered but that, of the 116 identified, only 53 were repatriated. The Andalusian Association for Human Rights (APDHA) report also notes, with respect to border graves, that “many people end up buried in a manner contrary to their beliefs.” Just half of Spain’s 50 provinces have Muslim cemeteries, not all of which are on the Spanish coast.

      For Maleno, these state failures are no accident: “Spain and other European states have a policy of making the victims, as well as the border itself, invisible. You have policies of denying the number of dead and of concealing data, but for the families this means obstacles in terms of accessing information and burial rights, as well as endless bureaucratic hurdles.”
      “I dream of Oussama”

      Abdallah Tayeb has gained first-hand experience of the dysfunctionality of the Spanish system in his attempts to confirm whether a body recovered almost a year ago is that of his cousin Oussama, a young barber from Algeria who dreamed of joining Tayeb in France.

      The unnamed corpse, which Tayeb strongly believes is his cousin, is currently in a morgue in Almería and looks set to be buried in an unmarked grave in the new year – unless he can achieve a last minute breakthrough.

      “The feeling is one of powerlessness,” he admits. “Nothing is transparent.”

      Abdallah Tayeb was born in Paris to Algerian parents but spends every summer in Algeria with his family. “As Oussama and I were pretty much the same age, we were really close. He was obsessed with the idea of coming to Europe, as two of his brothers were already living in France. But I didn’t know he had actually arranged to leave on a patera last December.”

      Oussama was among 23 people (including seven children) who vanished after setting out from Mostaganem, Algeria, on a motor boat on Christmas Day 2022. Soon after the patera went missing, his brother Sofiane travelled from France to Cartagena in southern Spain – the destination the vessel had hoped to reach. With the help of the Red Cross, Sofiane was able to file a missing persons report with the Spanish authorities and submit a DNA sample, which he hopes will result in a match with a body held in a morgue. However, so far, he has been unable to piece together any concrete information regarding his brother’s fate.

      A second trip to Spain in February did lead to a breakthrough, however. After driving down the Mediterranean coast together, Tayeb and his cousin Sofiane managed to speak to a forensic pathologist working in the Almería morgue, who seemed to recognise a photo of Oussama. “She kept saying ‘This face looks familiar’ and also mentioned a necklace – something he’d been wearing when he left.” According to the pathologist, there was a potential match with an unidentified body recovered by the coastguard on 27 December 2022.

      Feeling that they were finally close to getting some answers, they were informed at the police headquarters in Almería that, in order to view the body for a visual identification, they would need permission from the police station where the corpse had initially been registered. “This was when the real nightmare began,” Tayeb remembers. Handed a list of five police stations from across the wider region where the corpse could have been registered, they spent the next two days driving from station to station along the Murcian coast.

      “The first police station we visited wouldn’t even let us in the door when we told them we were asking about a missing migrant, and after that it was always the same script: this is not the right place; we don’t have a body; you have to go there instead.” When the pair returned to the first station in Huércal de Almeria after being repeatedly told it was the right place to ask, impatient officers refused to engage, citing privacy laws, and even told them to warn other families searching for missing migrants not to keep coming to inquire.

      “In the end,” Tayeb explains, “we came to the reality that they will never let us have any information. It was very heartbreaking, especially going back to France. It felt like we were leaving him [there] in the fridge.”

      As the subsequent months passed, the frustration and anxiety built for the family. “In May we were told that the DNA sample we gave five months earlier had only just arrived in Madrid and had still not been processed and sent to the database.” No further information has been forthcoming, and Spanish authorities have a policy of only getting in touch with families when there is a positive match and not if the test comes back negative.

      Tayeb is contemplating one final visit to Spain to try and retrieve his cousin Oussama, partly to be certain for his own sake that he’s done everything in his power to find him, but he’s worried that the journey could reopen his trauma of ambiguous loss. “The effort of going is not painful, but what is painful is coming back with nothing,” he says. “This lack of information is the worst thing.”

      “All the people on board were from the same neighbourhood in Mostaganem. I have had a chance to talk to many of their families, and they are destroyed. There is such grief but also no answers. There are only rumours, and some of the mothers believe their sons are in prisons in Morocco and Spain. We all have dreams [about the missing]. In the end, you trust what you will see in your dreams, like cosmic reality telling you he is coming. I dream of Oussama.”

      Dr Pauline Boss, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota, USA, explains the concept of ambiguous loss: “It looks like complicated grief, intrusive thoughts,” she says. “There’s nothing else on your mind but the fact that your loved one is missing. You can’t grieve because that would mean the person is dead, and you don’t know for sure.”
      A defective system

      Of all the families of those who went missing on Oussama’s patera, only Tayeb and four other families have been able to file a missing persons report with the Spanish authorities, and only two have been able to give a DNA sample. According to a 2021 study from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), one of the major complications families face in their searches is that in order to register someone as a missing person in Spain, you have to file a report with police in the country itself, which for many families is “a virtually impossible feat” as there are no visas to travel for this purpose.

      The IOM report also notes that, while many families file missing person reports in their home countries, they are “aware of the almost symbolic nature of their efforts” and that “it will never result in any kind of investigation being launched in Spain.”

      Along with the IOM, there have been efforts by domestic NGOs, including APDHA and more than a hundred grassroots organisations, to call out Spain’s failure to adapt existing missing person procedures to the transnational challenges of cases of people who disappeared while migrating. These organisations have repeatedly argued that the country’s legal framework regarding missing persons must be adapted to ensure families can file missing person cases from abroad.

      They have also pushed for the development of specific protocols for police handling cases of disappeared migrants, as well as the creation of a missing-migrant database so as to centralise information and allow it to be exchanged with authorities in other countries. The latter would include a full range of both post-mortem data (from tattoos to DNA, through cadaveric inspections and autopsies) and antemortem medical forensic information, that is, that which comes from family members regarding the missing person.

      “The reality is that the situation across Europe is consistently poor,” explains Julia Black, an analyst with IOM’s Missing Migrant Project. “Despite our research showing these pressing needs of families, neither Spain nor any other European country has significantly changed policy or practice to help this neglected group [in recent years]. Support for families is available only on a very ad hoc basis, mostly in response to mass casualty events that are in the public eye, which leaves many thousands of people without meaningful support.”

      Non-state actors such as the Red Cross and Walking Borders, as well as a network of independent activists, try to fill this void. “It’s a terrible job that we shouldn’t be doing, because states should be responding to families and guaranteeing the rights of victims across borders,” Maleno explains. In the case of the Mostaganem patera, Walking Borders is now planning to visit Algeria next year to take DNA samples from family members and bring them back to Spain. But Maleno also acknowledges that her NGO often has to then “apply a lot of pressure” to get authorities to accept these samples.

      This is something left-wing MP Jon Iñarritu from the Basque EH Bildu party also confirms: “As I sit on the Spanish parliament’s Interior Committee, I’ve had to intervene on a number of occasions to help families seeking to register DNA samples, talking with the foreign ministry or the interior ministry to get them to accept the samples. But it shouldn’t require action from an MP to get this to happen. The whole process needs to be standardised with clear and automatic protocols [for submission]. Right now, there’s no one clear way to do it.”

      Even when IOM recommendations have become the subject of parliamentary debate in Spain, they have tended not to translate into government action. In 2021, for example, a resolution was passed by the Spanish Congress calling on the government to establish a dedicated state office for the families of disappeared migrants. “It’s clear we need to ease the administrative and bureaucratic ordeal for families by offering them a single point of contact [with state authorities],” explains Iñarritu, who sponsored the motion.

      Yet while even government parties voted in favour of the resolution, the countries’ current centre-left administration has failed to act on it in the 18 months since. “From my point of view, the government has no intention of implementing the proposal,” Iñarritu argues. “They were only offering symbolic support.”

      When the above points were put to Spain’s Interior ministry, the reply was that: “The treatment of unidentified corpses arriving on the Spanish coast is identical to that of any other corpse. In Spain, for the identification of corpses, the law enforcement agencies apply the INTERPOL Disaster Victim Identification Guide. Although this guide is especially indicated for events with multiple victims, it is also used as a reference for the identification of an isolated corpse.”

      NGOs and campaigners insist, however, that the application of the INTERPOL guide is no substitute for a specific protocol tailored to the demands of missing migrant cases or for the creation of particular mechanisms to allow for the exchange of information with families and authorities in other jurisdictions.

      Close connections with the people they have helped compensate for strained social interactions and online hate. “They call me brother, sister, and even father,” Rybak shares.
      Burial rights

      APDHA migration director Carlos Arce argues that, within a European framework that views irregular migration predominantly “through the prism of serious crime and border security, […] not even death or disappearance puts an end to the repeated assault on the dignity of migrant people.” Iñarritu also points to the EU’s wider border regime: “Many issues that don’t fit into this dominant policy framework, such as the right to identification, are simply left unmanaged on a day-to-day basis. They are simply not a priority.”

      This is also clear with respect to the Spanish government’s inaction on guaranteeing a dignified burial to those whose bodies are recovered. As noted by a 2023 report from APDHA, “while repatriation is the most desired option for families […,] the cost is very high (thousands of euros) and very few of their [home countries’] embassies help [to cover it].” The NGO recommends that Spain establish repatriation agreements with the countries where migrants come from so as to create “mortuary safe passages” guaranteeing their return at a reduced cost.

      Furthermore, Spain’s central government has also failed to put in place mechanisms to ensure the right of unidentified migrants to a dignified burial within the country, instead maintaining that local councils are responsible for all charitable burials. This has meant that very specific municipalities where coastguard rescue boats are stationed are left legally responsible for the bulk of the interments – and most of these municipalities lack local cemeteries able to cater for traditional Muslim burials.

      The potential for this issue to become a flashpoint for anti-immigration sentiment was made clear this September when the mayor of Mogán in Gran Canaria, Onalia Bueno, insisted that her municipality would no longer pay for such burials, as she did not want to “detract the costs from the taxes of my neighbours.”

      CEAR’s Juan Carlos Lorenzo condemns such “divisive language, which frames the issue in terms of wasting my ‘neighbours’ money’ on someone who is not a neighbour,” and points instead to the actions of municipalities in El Hierro as a positive counterexample.

      Carballo notes that “over 10,000 people have arrived in El Hierro since September, the same as the island’s population. These are quite long trips, between six and nine days at sea, and right now people are arriving in a terrible state of health. With those who have died in recent months, we’ve tried to offer them a dignified burial within the means at our disposal. We’ve had an imam present, with Islamic prayers said before the remains were laid to rest.”

      Currently, the responsibility of memorialising unidentified victims comes down to individual municipalities and even cemetery keepers. Like Gérman at the cemetery in Barbate, who tries to dignify the unmarked tombs by placing flowers on top of them, the cemetery of Motril has adorned tombs with poems. In Teguise, the council has an initiative encouraging locals to leave flowers on the migrant graves when they come to visit the remains of their own families.

      In another memorial, a collection of around 50 discarded fishing boats has become a distinctive feature of Barbate port. These small wooden boats with Arabic script on their hulls were used by migrants attempting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. Instead of the boats’ being scrapped, APDHA was able to convert the scrapyard into a memorial site and to place plaques on boats stating how many migrants were travelling on them and where and when they were found.

      In the case of little Alhassane Bangoura, residents routinely come to leave fresh flowers and tokens of affection, among which is a small granite bowl with his first name inscribed on it. But many victims are buried without any attempt at identification – and as countless NGOs, politicians and activists demand, it should not be simply left to good-willed residents, grave keepers or local councillors to ensure the last rights of the victims of Fortress Europe.

      https://unbiasthenews.org/counting-the-invisible-victims-of-spains-eu-borders

      #Espagne #Lanzarote #îles_Canaries #route_Atlantique #Teguise #Barbate #Cádiz #Tarifa #Arrecife

    • The unidentified: Unmarked refugee graves on the Greek borders

      Graves marked only with a stick, graves covered with weeds: a cross-border investigation documents official indifference surrounding the dignified burial of refugees who lose their lives at the Greek border.

      The phone rang on a morning in October 2022 at work, in Finland, where 35-year-old Mohamed Samim has been living for the last ten years or so.

      His nephew did not have good news: his brother Samim, Tarin Mohamad, along with his son and two daughters, was on a boat that sank near a Greek island, having sailed from the Turkish coast to Italy.

      When Samim arrived in Kythera the next day, he learned that – although weak after not eating for three days – his brother had managed to save his family before a wave took him away. He immediately went to the site of the wreck. In the water he saw bodies floating – he couldn’t see his brother’s face, but he recognized his back.

      The Coast Guard said that the bad weather had to pass before they could pull the dead from the sea. The first day passed, the second day passed, until on the third day it was finally possible. The coastguard confirmed that 8 Beaufort winds and the morphology of the area made it impossible to retrieve the bodies. Samim will never forget the sight of his brother at sea.

      In Kalamata, it took four days of shifting responsibility between the hospital and the Coast Guard, and the help of a local lawyer who “came and yelled at them” to allow him to follow the identification process of his brother.

      He was warned that it would be a soul-crushing procedure, and that he would have to wear a triple mask because of the smell. Samim says that due to a lack of space in the morgue’s refrigerators, some of the wreck victims were kept in the chamber outside the refrigerator.

      “The stress and the smell. Our knees were shaking”, recalls Samim when we meet him in Kythera a year later.

      They started showing him decomposing bodies. First the ones outside the refrigerator. He didn’t recognize him among them. They went out and changed the masks they wore, returned, opened the refrigerators in turn, reaching the last one.

      “He was lying there, calm. The man you love. We were kind of happy that, after days, we could see him,” Samim said.

      Unclaimed dead

      The number of people dying at Europe’s borders is growing. In addition to the difficulty of recording the deaths, there is also the challenge of identifying the bodies, a traumatic process for the relatives. In some cases, however, there are bodies that remain unidentified, hundreds of men, women and children buried in unidentified graves.

      In July 2023, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognising the right to identification of people who lose their lives trying to reach Europe, but to date there is no centralised registration system at a pan-European level. Nor is there a single procedure for the handling of bodies that end up in mortuaries, funeral homes – even refrigerated containers.

      The problem is “utterly neglected”, European Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic told Solomon, and added that EU countries are failing in their obligations under international human rights law”. The tragedy of the missing migrants has reached horrifying proportions. The issue requires immediate action,” she added.

      The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants platform, which acknowledges that its data is not a comprehensive record, reports more than 1,090 missing refugees and migrants in Europe since 2014.

      As part of the Border Graves investigation, eight European journalists, together with Unbias the News, the Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Solomon, have spent seven months investigating what happens to the thousands of unidentified bodies of those who die at European borders, and for the first time they have recorded almost double that number: according to the data collected, more than 2,162 people died between 2014 and 2023.

      We studied documents and interviewed state coroners, prosecutors and funeral home workers; residents and relatives of the deceased and missing; and gained exclusive access to unpublished data from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

      In 65 cemeteries along the European border - Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta, Poland, Lithuania, France, Spain, Italy, Malta, Lithuania, France and Croatia - we have recorded more than 1,000 unidentified graves from the last decade.

      The investigation documents how state indifference to the dignified burial of people who die at the border is pervasive in European countries.

      In Greece, we recorded more than 540 unidentified refugee graves, 54% of the total recorded by the European survey. We travelled to the Aegean islands and Evros, and found graves in fields sometimes covered by weeds, and marble slabs with dates of death erased, while in other cases a piece of wood with a number is the only marking.

      The data from our survey, combined with the data from the International Committee of the Red Cross, is not an exhaustive account of the issue. However, they do capture for the first time the gaps and difficulties of a system that leads to thousands of families not knowing where their relatives are buried.

      Lesvos: 167 unidentified refugee graves

      A long dirt road surrounded by olive trees leads to the gate of the cemetery of Kato Tritos, which is usually locked with a padlock.

      The “graveyard of refugees,” as they call it on the island, is located about 15 kilometers west of Mytilene. It is the only burial site exclusively for refugees and migrants in Greece.

      During one of our visits, the funeral of four children was taking place. They lost their lives on August 28, 2023, when the boat they were on with 18 other people sank southeast of Lesvos.

      The grieving mother and several women, including family members, sat under a tree, while the men prayed near the shed used for the burial process, according to Islamic tradition.

      In Kato Tritos and Agios Panteleimonas, the cemetery on Mytilene where people who died while migrating had been buried until then, we counted a total of 167 unidentified graves from between 2014-2023.

      Local journalist and former member of the North Aegean Regional Council Nikos Manavis explains that the cemetery was created in 2015 in an olive grove belonging to the municipality of Mytilene due to an emergency: a deadly shipwreck in the north of the island on October 28 of that year resulted in at least 60 dead, for whom the island’s cemeteries were not sufficient.

      Many shipwreck victims remain buried in unidentified graves. Gravestones are marked with the estimated age of the deceased and the date of burial, sometimes only a number. Other times, a piece of wood and surrounding stones mark the grave.

      “What we see is a field, not a graveyard. It shows no respect for the people who were buried here.”
      Nikos Manavis

      This lack of respect for the Lower Third Cemetery mobilized the Earth Medicine organization. As Dimitris Patounis, a member of the NGO, explains, in January 2022 they made a proposal to the municipality of Mytilene for the restoration of the cemetery. Their plan is to create a place of rest with respect and dignity, where refugees and asylum seekers can satisfy the most sacred human need, mourning for their loved ones.

      Although the city council approved the proposal in the spring of 2023, the October municipal elections delayed the project. Patounis says he is positive that the graves will soon be inventoried and the area fenced.

      Christos Mavrachilis, an undertaker at the Agios Panteleimon cemetery, recalls that in 2015 Muslim refugees were buried in a specific area of the cemetery.

      “If someone was unidentified, I would write ‘Unknown’ on their grave,” he says. If there were no relatives who could cover the cost, Mavrachilis would cut a marble himself and write as much information as he could on the death certificate. “They were people too,” he says, “I did what I could.”

      For his part, Thomas Vanavakis, a former owner of a funeral parlour that offered services in Lesvos until 2020, also says that they often had to cover burials without receiving payment. “Do you know how many times we went into the sea and paid workers out of our own pockets to pull out the bodies and didn’t get a penny?” he says.

      Efi Latsoudi, who lives in Lesvos and works for Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), says that in 2015 there were burials that the municipality of Mytilene could not cover, and sometimes “the people who participated in the ceremony paid for them. We were trying to give a dignity to the process. But it was not enough,” she says.

      Latsoudi recalls something a refugee had mentioned to her in 2015: ’The worst thing that can happen to us is to die somewhere far away and have no one at our funeral’.

      The municipality of Mytilene did not answer our questions regarding the dignified burial of refugees in the cemeteries under its responsibility.

      Chios and Samos: graves covered by weeds

      According to Greek legislation, the local government (and in case of its inability, the region) covers the cost of the burial of both unidentified people who die at the border and those who are in financial difficulty.

      For its part, the Municipal Authority of Chios stated that funding is provided for the relevant costs, and that “within the framework of its responsibilities for the cemeteries, it maintains and cares for all the sites, without discrimination and with the required respect for all the dead.”

      But during our visit in August to the cemetery in Mersinidi, a few kilometers north of Chios town, where refugees are buried next to the graves of the locals, it was not difficult to spot the separation: the five unidentified graves of refugees were marked simply by a marble, usually covered by vegetation.

      Natasha Strachini, an RSA lawyer living in Chios, has taken part in several funerals of refugees both in Chios and Lesvos. For her, the importance of the local community and presence at such a difficult human moment is very important.

      Regarding burials, he explains that “only a good registration system could help relatives to locate the grave of a person they have lost, as usually in cemeteries after three to five years exhumations take place.” He says that sometimes a grave remains unidentified even though the body has been identified, either because the identification process was delayed or because the relatives could not afford to change the grave.

      In Heraion of Samos, next to the municipal cemetery, on a plot of land owned by the Metropolis and used as a burial site for refugees, we recorded dozens of graves dating between 2014-2023. The plaques – some broken – placed on the ground, hidden by branches, pine needles and pine cones, simply inscribe a number and the date of burial.

      Lawyer Dimitris Choulis, who lives in Samos and handles cases related to the refugee issue, commented: ‘It is a shameful image to see such graves. It is unjustifiable for a modern society like Greece.”
      Searching for data

      The International Committee of the Red Cross is one of the few international organisations working to identify the dead refugees. Among other things, they have conducted several training sessions in Greece for members of the Coast Guard and the Greek Police.

      “We have an obligation to provide the dead with a dignified burial; and the other side, providing answers to families through identification of the dead. If you count the relatives of those who are missing, hundreds of thousands of people are impacted. They don’t know where their loved ones are. Were they well treated, were they respected when they were buried? That’s what preys on families’ minds,” says Laurel Clegg, ICRC forensic Coordinator for Migration to Europe.

      She explains that keeping track of the dead “consists of lots of parts working well together – a legal framework that protects the unidentified dead, consistent post-mortems, morgues, registries, dignified transport, cemeteries”

      However, countries’ “medical and legal systems are proving inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem,” she says.

      Since 2013, as part of its programme to restore family links, the Red Cross has registered 16,500 requests in Europe from people looking for their missing relatives. According to the international organisation, only 285 successful matches (1.7%) have been made.

      These matches are made by the local forensic experts.

      “We always collect DNA samples from unidentified bodies. It is standard practice and may be the only feasible means of identification,” says Panagiotis Kotretsos, a forensic pathologist in Rhodes. The samples are sent to the DNA laboratory of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Greek Police, according to an INTERPOL protocol.

      According to the Red Cross, difficulties usually arise when families are outside the EU, and are due to a number of factors, such as differences in the legal framework or medical systems of the countries. For example, some EU countries cannot ‘open’ a case and take DNA samples from families without a mandate from the authorities of the country where the body of the relative being sought has been recovered.

      The most difficult part of the DNA identification process is that there needs to be a second sample to be compared with the one collected by the forensic experts, which has to be sent by the families of the missing persons. “For a refugee who started his journey from a country in central Africa, travelled for months, and died in Greece, there will be genetic material in the morgue. But it will remain unmatched until a first-degree relative sends a DNA sample,” says Kotretsos.

      He explains that this is not always possible. “We have received calls from relatives who were in Syria, looking for missing family members, and could not send samples precisely because they were in Syria.”

      Outside the university hospital of Alexandroupolis, two refrigerated containers provided by the Red Cross as temporary mortuaries house the bodies of 40 refugees.

      Pavlos Pavlidis, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Democritus University of Thrace, has since 2000 performed autopsies on at least 800 bodies of people on the move, with the main causes of death being drowning in the waters of Evros and hypothermia.

      The forensic scientist goes beyond the necessary DNA collection: he or she records data such as birthmarks or tattoos and objects (like wallets, rings, glasses), which could be the missing link for a relative looking for a loved one.

      He says a total of 313 bodies found in Evros since 2014 remain unidentified. Those that cannot be identified are buried in a special cemetery in Sidiro, which is managed by the municipality of Soufli, while 15-20 unidentified bodies were buried in Orestiada while the Sidiro cemetery was being expanded.

      The bodies of Muslim refugees who are identified are buried in the Muslim cemetery in Messouni Komotini or repatriated when relatives can cover the cost of repatriation.

      “This is not decent”

      In response to questions, the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum said that the issue of identification and burial procedures for refugees does not fall within its competence. A Commission spokesman said that no funds were foreseen for Greece, but that such expenditure “could be supported under the National Programme of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund”, which is managed by the Migration Ministry.

      Theodoros Nousias is the chief forensic pathologist of the North Aegean Forensic Service, responsible for the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Lemnos. According to the coroner, the DNA identification procedure has improved a lot compared to a few years ago.

      Nusias says he was always available when asked to identify someone. “You have to serve people, that’s why you’re there. To serve people so they can find their family,” he adds.

      The coroner lives in Lesvos, but says he has never been to the cemetery in Kato Tritos. “I don’t want to go. It will be difficult for me because most of these people have passed through my hands.”

      In October 2022, 32-year-old Suja Ahmadi and his sister Marina also travelled to Kythera and then to Kalamata to identify the body of their father, Abdul Ghasi.

      The 65-year-old had started the journey to Italy with his wife Hatige – she survived. The two brothers visited the hospital, where they were shown all eight bodies, male and female, although they had explained from the start that the man they were looking for was a man.

      Their father’s body was among those outside the freezer.

      “My sister was crying and screaming at them to get our father out of the refrigerator container because he smelled,” Suja recalls. “It was not a decent place for a man.”

      https://unbiasthenews.org/the-unidentified-unmarked-refugee-graves-in-the-greek-borders

      #Grèce #Chios #Evros #Samos #Alexandroupolis #Lesbos #Kato_Tritos #Sidiro #Mersinidi #Mersinidi #Pavlos_Pavlidis

    • Enterrar a más de mil personas sin nombre: las trabas de la UE y España para identificar los cuerpos de migrantes

      Cientos de personas fallecidas en la última década yacen en tumbas sin nombre en España, sin que el Gobierno tome medidas coordinadas para garantizar su identificación

      En enero de 2020, Alhassane Bangoura fue enterrado en una tumba sin nombre en la zona musulmana del cementerio municipal de Teguise, en Lanzarote, ante la presencia de funcionarios municipales y miembros de la comunidad musulmana local. El pequeño había nacido apenas un par de semanas antes a bordo de una patera abarrotada en la que su madre, originaria de Guinea, y otras 42 personas intentaban llegar a las Islas Canarias. La embarcación llevaba dos días a la deriva en el océano Atlántico, tras averiarse el motor, y la madre de Alhassane se puso de parto en el mar. Su hijo sólo alcanzó a vivir unas pocas horas antes de morir frente a la costa de Lanzarote.

      El caso de Alhassane conmocionó a la isla y saltó a las noticias de todo el país. Sin embargo, mientras los asistentes al entierro ofrecían sus condolencias, la madre del bebé fallecido se encontraba a 200 kilómetros de distancia, en un centro de acogida de migrantes de la vecina isla de Gran Canaria, al no haber podido obtener permiso de las autoridades para permanecer en Lanzarote durante el funeral.

      “Le habían permitido ver el cuerpo de su hijo una vez más antes de ser trasladada, y yo la acompañé a la funeraria”, cuenta Mamadou Sy, representante de la comunidad musulmana local. “Fue muy emotivo cuando se tuvo que marchar. Lo único que pudimos hacer fue prometerle que su hijo no estaría solo; que, como cualquier musulmán, sería llevado a la mezquita, donde su cuerpo sería lavado por otras madres; que rezaríamos por él y que después le enviaríamos un vídeo del entierro”.

      Casi cuatro años después, el lugar donde reposan los restos de Alhassane sigue sin tener una lápida formal. La tumba se encuentra junto a los restos de más de tres docenas de personas migrantes no identificadas, cuyos nombres se desconocen por completo pero que, como Alhassane, también son víctimas del brutal régimen fronterizo de Europa.
      Las tumbas de la frontera

      A lo largo de las fronteras de la Unión Europea, miles de personas están siendo enterradas de forma precipitada en tumbas sin nombre. El equipo de investigación de Border Graves (Las Tumbas de la Frontera) ha contabilizado que, en los últimos 10 años, al menos 2.162 cadáveres de migrantes han sido encontrados en las fronteras europeas sin identificar.

      El equipo de investigación también ha confirmado la existencia de 1.015 tumbas de inmigrantes sin identificar entre 2014 y 2021 en 103 cementerios, todas ellas pertenecientes a personas que intentaban emigrar a Europa.

      El problema está “absolutamente abandonado”, afirma Dunja Mijatović, Comisaria de Derechos Humanos del Consejo de Europa, que insiste en que los países de la UE incumplen sus obligaciones en virtud de la legislación internacional sobre derechos humanos. “La tragedia de los migrantes desaparecidos ha alcanzado una magnitud espantosa. El asunto exige una actuación inmediata”.

      Las condiciones de sepultura de estos migrantes varían en todo el continente. En la última década, en la isla griega de Lesbos, un olivar se ha convertido en un cementerio informal para refugiados. Al menos 147 tumbas sin identificar se pueden encontrar en el pequeño pueblo de Kato Tritos, que según explica el periodista Nikos Manavis brotaron tras la gran oleada de refugiados de 2015. “Los otros cementerios de la isla eran inapropiados y no podían cubrir el número de muertos que había que enterrar en Lesbos”, afirma. “Pero no es un cementerio. Es sólo un campo. No se muestra ningún respeto por la gente enterrada aquí”.

      En Siče, una población al este de Croacia, se hallan las tumbas de tres refugiados afganos al borde del cementerio del pueblo, separadas de las de los residentes locales. Los tres hombres no identificados, que se ahogaron intentando cruzar el río Sava desde Bosnia a Croacia, están enterrados bajo sencillas cruces de madera en las que se lee “NN” (desconocido).

      En la frontera entre Lituania y Bielorrusia, un pequeño cementerio de la tranquila localidad de Rameikos alberga la tumba de un emigrante indio. El lugar está marcado por un trozo de madera vertical, a pocos metros de la valla fronteriza. En el cementerio de Piano Gatta, en Agrigento (Sicilia), están enterrados decenas de cadáveres sin identificar del naufragio de Lampedusa en 2013, en el que perdieron la vida 368 personas de Eritrea y Somalia al hundirse el pesquero en el que viajaban.

      En cuanto a la extensa costa española, pueden encontrarse tumbas de inmigrantes desde Alicante hasta Cádiz, y hacia el sur hasta las Canarias. Algunas tienen nombre, pero lo más frecuente es que las inscripciones sean del estilo de “inmigrante no identificado”, “marroquí desconocido” o “víctima del Estrecho [de Gibraltar]”. O, simplemente, una cruz pintada a mano.

      En el cementerio de Barbate, en Cádiz, donde los difuntos están sepultados en nichos, el jardinero Germán señala más de 30 tumbas de inmigrantes: las más antiguas datan de 2002 y las más recientes son de un naufragio de 2019. “Nunca viene nadie a visitarlos, pero los días que hay funerales aquí y se van a tirar las flores antiguas, las coloco en las tumbas de los migrantes desconocidos”, explica. “En algunas de las más antiguas hay restos de hasta cinco o seis emigrantes juntos, cada uno colocado en bolsas separadas dentro del mismo nicho para ahorrar espacio”.

      Tal preocupación era menos evidente en Arrecife, Lanzarote, donde dos tumbas no identificadas de febrero de este año se han dejado selladas con una cubierta que aún lleva el logotipo de una empresa.

      No existen datos exhaustivos sobre cuántas fosas de inmigrantes identificadas y no identificadas existen en España, y el Ministerio del Interior nunca ha dado a conocer cifras sobre el número total de cadáveres recuperados en las distintas rutas migratorias marítimas. Pero los datos del Comité Internacional de la Cruz Roja (CICR) revelan que entre 2014 y 2021 se recuperaron los cuerpos de alrededor de 530 personas fallecidas en las fronteras españolas, de las cuales 292 permanecen sin identificar.

      En los diez meses que ha durado la investigación europea Border Graves, llevada a cabo de manera conjunta entre un grupo de periodistas independientes y los medios Unbias the News, The Guardian y Süddeutsche Zeitung y publicada en exclusiva en España por elDiario.es, se ha confirmado la existencia de 109 tumbas de migrantes no identificados entre 2014 y 2021 en 18 lugares de España. Según un estudio de la Universidad de Ámsterdam, otras 434 tumbas sin identificar se remontan al periodo 2000-2013 en al menos 65 cementerios del territorio nacional.

      Estas tumbas son símbolos de una tragedia humanitaria mucho mayor. El CICR calcula que sólo el 6,89% de los restos mortales de las personas que desaparecen a lo largo de las fronteras europeas son recuperados, mientras que la ONG española Caminando Fronteras da una cifra aún más baja para la ruta atlántica de África Occidental a Canarias, estimando que sólo se recupera el 4,2% de los cuerpos de los fallecidos.
      Garantizar los “últimos derechos”

      Las tumbas anónimas y sin visitar reflejan también el hecho de que el derecho a la identificación y a un entierro digno de los fallecidos en las rutas migratorias ha sido sistemáticamente desatendido por las autoridades nacionales españolas. En 2021, el Parlamento Europeo aprobó una resolución que reconoce el derecho a la identificación de los fallecidos en las rutas migratorias, y la necesidad de una base de datos coordinada que recoja los datos de la frontera. Pero, al igual que en otros países europeos, los sucesivos gobiernos han sido incapaces de desarrollar mecanismos legales y protocolos estatales para garantizar estos “últimos derechos” de las víctimas, así como el “derecho a saber” y a llorar a sus seres queridos que corresponde a las familias.

      “La gente siempre llama a la oficina y nos pregunta cómo buscar a un familiar, pero hay que ser sincero y decir que no hay un canal oficial claro al que puedan dirigirse”, explica Juan Carlos Lorenzo, coordinador del Consejo Español para los Refugiados (CEAR) en Canarias. “Se les puede poner en contacto con la Cruz Roja, pero no hay un programa de identificación liderado por el Gobierno. Tampoco existe el tipo de recurso especializado necesario para coordinarse con las familias y centralizar la información y los datos sobre los migrantes desaparecidos”.

      Helena Maleno, directora de Caminando Fronteras, afirma: “Sólo este año estamos trabajando con más de 600 familias cuyos seres queridos han desaparecido. Estas familias, procedentes de Marruecos, Argelia, Senegal, Guinea y países tan lejanos como Sri Lanka, están muy solas y poco protegidas por las administraciones públicas. A su vez, esto significa que hay redes criminales y estafadores que buscan sacarles dinero”.

      Incluso en el caso de la identificación de una víctima, un reciente informe de la Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía (APDHA) expone las barreras legales y financieras a las que se enfrentan las familias para repatriar a sus seres queridos. En 2020/21, las cifras del CICR muestran que se recuperaron 284 cuerpos pero que, de los 116 identificados, sólo 53 fueron repatriados. El informe de la APDHA también señala, respecto a las tumbas fronterizas, que “muchas personas acaban enterradas de manera contraria a sus creencias”. Apenas la mitad de las 50 provincias españolas cuentan con cementerios musulmanes, y no todos están en la costa española.

      Para Maleno, estos fallos del Estado no son casualidad: “España y otros Estados europeos mantienen una política de invisibilización de las víctimas y de la propia frontera. Tienen políticas de negación del número de muertos y de ocultación de datos, pero para las familias esto significa obstáculos en cuanto al acceso a la información y a los derechos de sepultura, así como interminables trabas burocráticas”.
      “Sueño con Oussama”

      Abdallah Tayeb ha sufrido en primera persona las deficiencias del sistema español en sus intentos por confirmar si un cadáver recuperado en diciembre de 2022 es el de su primo Oussama, un joven barbero argelino que soñaba con reunirse con Tayeb en Francia.

      Tayeb está convencido de que el cuerpo sin identificar, que se cree que está en un depósito de cadáveres de Almería, es el de su primo. Está previsto que los restos sean enterrados a comienzos del próximo año en una tumba sin nombre, a menos que se consiga algún avance de última hora. “La sensación es de impotencia”, admite. “No hay nada de transparencia”.

      Tayeb nació en París, de padres argelinos, pero pasa todos los veranos en Argelia con su familia. “Como Oussama y yo teníamos más o menos la misma edad, estábamos muy unidos. Le obsesionaba la idea de venir a Europa, pues dos de sus hermanos ya vivían en Francia. Pero yo no sabía que en realidad ya había organizado su viaje en una patera a finales del año pasado”.

      Oussama formaba parte de un grupo de 23 personas (entre ellas siete niños) que desaparecieron tras zarpar de Mostaganem, Argelia, en una lancha motora el día de Navidad de 2022. Poco después de la desaparición de la patera, su hermano Sofiane viajó de Francia a Cartagena, el destino al que esperaba llegar la embarcación. Con la ayuda de la Cruz Roja, Sofiane pudo presentar una denuncia por desaparición y dar una muestra de ADN, pero no pudo reunir ninguna información concreta sobre la suerte de su hermano.

      Sin embargo, un segundo viaje a España en febrero condujo a un gran avance. Tras recorrer juntos la costa mediterránea, Tayeb y su primo Sofiane consiguieron hablar con una patóloga forense que trabaja en la morgue de Almería, quien pareció reconocer una foto de Oussama. “No paraba de decir ’esta cara me suena’ y también mencionó un collar, algo que llevaba cuando se fue”. Según la forense, había una posible coincidencia con un cuerpo sin identificar recuperado por los guardacostas el 27 de diciembre de 2022.
      El laberinto burocrático

      Con la sensación de que por fin estaban cerca de obtener alguna respuesta, en la comisaría de Almería les informaron de que, para poder ver el cadáver –o incluso las pertenencias– y proceder a su identificación visual, necesitarían el permiso de la comisaría donde se había registrado inicialmente el cadáver. “Fue entonces cuando empezó la verdadera pesadilla”, recuerda Tayeb. Les entregaron una lista de cinco comisarías de toda la región en las que se podría haber registrado el cadáver, y se pasaron los dos días siguientes conduciendo de comisaría en comisaría a lo largo de la costa murciana.

      “En la primera comisaría que visitamos ni siquiera nos dejaron entrar cuando les dijimos que estábamos buscando a un inmigrante desaparecido, y después siempre fue la misma consigna: éste no es el lugar adecuado; no tenemos ningún cadáver; tenéis que ir a este otro lugar…”, continúa. Cuando ambos regresaron a la primera comisaría de Huércal de Almería, después de que les dijeran repetidamente que era el lugar adecuado para preguntar, los agentes, impacientes, se negaron a atenderlos, alegando leyes de protección de la intimidad, e incluso les dijeron que advirtieran a otras familias que buscaban a migrantes desaparecidos que no siguieran viniendo a preguntar.

      “Al final”, explica Tayeb, “nos dimos cuenta de que nunca nos darían ninguna información. Fue muy desgarrador, sobre todo volver a Francia. Fue como si le dejáramos [allí] en la nevera”.
      Incertidumbre

      A medida que pasaban los meses, la frustración y la ansiedad aumentaban para la familia. “En mayo nos dijeron que la muestra de ADN que habíamos dado cinco meses antes acababa de llegar a Madrid y aún no había sido procesada ni enviada a la base de datos”. No se les ha facilitado más información, y las autoridades españolas tienen la política de ponerse en contacto con las familias sólo cuando hay una coincidencia positiva, pero no si la prueba da negativo.

      Tayeb se plantea una última visita a España para intentar recuperar a su primo Oussama, en parte para estar seguro de que ha hecho todo lo posible por encontrarlo, pero le preocupa que el viaje pueda reabrir su trauma de “pérdida ambigua”. “El esfuerzo de ir no es doloroso, lo doloroso es volver sin nada”, dice. “Esta falta de información es lo peor”.

      La Dra. Pauline Boss, catedrática emérita de Psicología de la Universidad de Minnesota (EE.UU.), explica el concepto de pérdida ambigua: “Se parece a un duelo complejo, con pensamientos intrusivos”, dice. “No tienes otra cosa en la cabeza más que el hecho de que tu ser querido ha desaparecido. No puedes afrontar el duelo, porque eso significaría que la persona está muerta, y no lo sabes con certeza”.

      Tayeb lo explica con sus propias palabras: “Todas las personas que iban a bordo eran del mismo barrio de Mostaganem. He podido hablar con muchas de sus familias y están destrozadas. Hay mucho dolor, pero tampoco hay respuestas. Sólo hay rumores, y algunas de las madres creen que sus hijos están en cárceles de Marruecos y España. Todos tenemos sueños [sobre los desaparecidos]. Al final, confías en lo que ves en tus sueños, como si la realidad cósmica te dijera que va a venir. Sueño con Oussama”.
      Un sistema defectuoso

      De todas las familias de los desaparecidos en la patera de Oussama, sólo Tayeb y otras tres familias han podido presentar denuncias de desaparición ante las autoridades españolas, y únicamente en dos casos se han podido entregar muestras de ADN. Según un informe de 2021 de la Organización Internacional para las Migraciones (OIM), una de las mayores complicaciones a las que se enfrentan las familias en sus búsquedas es que, para registrar a alguien como desaparecido en España, hay que presentar una denuncia ante la policía del propio país, lo que para muchas familias es “una hazaña prácticamente imposible”, ya que no existen visados para viajar con este fin.

      El informe de la OIM también señala que, aunque muchas familias presentan denuncias de personas desaparecidas en sus países de origen, son “conscientes del carácter casi simbólico de sus esfuerzos” y de que “nunca darán lugar a que se inicie ningún tipo de investigación en España.”

      Junto con la OIM, algunas ONG nacionales, como la APDHA y más de un centenar de organizaciones comunitarias, han denunciado la incapacidad de España para adaptar los procedimientos vigentes en materia de personas desaparecidas a los retos transnacionales que plantean los casos de migrantes desaparecidos. Estas organizaciones han defendido en repetidas ocasiones que el marco jurídico del país en materia de personas desaparecidas debe adaptarse para garantizar que las familias puedan presentar denuncias desde el extranjero por casos de personas desaparecidas.

      También han presionado para que se elaboren protocolos específicos para la policía al tratar casos de migrantes desaparecidos, así como para que se cree una base de datos de migrantes desaparecidos que permita centralizar la información y haga posible el intercambio con autoridades de otros países. Esta incluiría todos los datos disponibles post mortem (desde tatuajes hasta ADN, pasando por inspecciones de cadáveres y autopsias) como de información médica forense ante mortem, es decir, la que procede de los familiares en relación con la persona desaparecida.

      “La realidad es que la situación en toda Europa es sistemáticamente deficiente”, explica Julia Black, analista del Proyecto Migrantes Desaparecidos de la OIM. “A pesar de que nuestras investigaciones muestran estas necesidades acuciantes de las familias, ni España ni ningún otro país europeo ha cambiado [en los últimos años] de forma significativa sus políticas, ni tampoco han mejorado las prácticas para ayudar a este grupo desatendido. El apoyo a las familias sólo está disponible de forma muy puntual, sobre todo en respuesta a sucesos con víctimas masivas que están en el punto de mira de la opinión pública, lo que deja a muchos miles de personas sin un apoyo adecuado”.

      Actores no estatales como la Cruz Roja y Caminando Fronteras, así como una red de activistas independientes, intentan llenar este vacío. “Es un trabajo terrible que no deberíamos estar haciendo, porque los Estados deberían responder a las familias y garantizar los derechos de las víctimas más allá de las fronteras”, explica Maleno. En el caso de la patera de Mostaganem, Caminando Fronteras tiene previsto viajar a Argelia el año que viene para tomar muestras de ADN de los familiares y traerlas a España. Pero Maleno también reconoce que su ONG a menudo tiene que “ejercer mucha presión” para que las autoridades acepten estas muestras.

      Es algo que también confirma Jon Iñarritu, diputado de EH Bildu: “Como miembro de la Comisión de Interior del Congreso de los Diputados, he tenido que intervenir en varias ocasiones para ayudar a las familias que querían registrar muestras de ADN, hablando con el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores o con el Ministerio del Interior para que aceptaran las muestras. Pero no debería ser necesaria la intervención de un diputado para conseguirlo. Es necesario normalizar todo el proceso con protocolos claros y automáticos [para la presentación de las muestras]. Ahora mismo, no hay una forma clara de hacerlo”.

      Incluso cuando las recomendaciones de la OIM han sido objeto de debate parlamentario en España, no han tendido a traducirse en medidas gubernamentales. En 2021, por ejemplo, el Congreso de los Diputados aprobó una Proposición no de Ley en la que se instaba al Gobierno a crear una oficina estatal específica para las familias de migrantes desaparecidos. “Está claro que necesitamos aliviar el calvario administrativo y burocrático para las familias ofreciéndoles un único punto de contacto [con las autoridades estatales]”, explica Iñárritu, impulsor de la moción.

      Sin embargo, aunque los partidos en el gobierno votaron a favor de la resolución, no se ha tomado ninguna medida al respecto en los 18 meses transcurridos desde la aprobación de la resolución. “Desde mi punto de vista, el Gobierno no tiene ninguna intención de aplicar la propuesta”, argumenta Iñárritu. “Sólo ofrecían un apoyo simbólico”.

      Cuando se expusieron las cuestiones anteriores al Ministerio del Interior, la respuesta fue la siguiente: “El tratamiento de los cadáveres sin identificar que llegan a las costas de España es idéntico al hallazgo de cualquier otro cadáver. En España, para la identificación de cadáveres, las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad del Estado aplican la Guía de INTERPOL para la Identificación de Víctimas de Catástrofes. Esta Guía, aunque está especialmente indicada para los sucesos con víctimas múltiples, también es aplicada como referencia para la identificación de un cadáver aislado”.
      Derechos de sepultura

      El director de migraciones de APDHA, Carlos Arce, escribe que, en un marco europeo que contempla la migración irregular predominantemente a través del prisma de la criminalidad grave y la seguridad fronteriza, “ni siquiera la muerte o desaparición de las personas migrantes pone freno a la concatenación de ataques a su dignidad”. Por su parte, Iñárritu también apunta al régimen fronterizo más amplio de la UE: “Muchas cuestiones que no encajan en este marco político dominante, como el derecho de identificación, simplemente se dejan sin gestionar en el día a día. Sencillamente, no son una prioridad”.

      Esto también queda claro en lo que respecta a la inacción del gobierno español a la hora de garantizar un entierro digno a las personas cuyos cuerpos son recuperados. Como señala un informe de 2023 de APDHA, “aunque la repatriación es la opción más deseada por las familias [...] el coste es muy elevado (miles de euros) y muy pocas de sus embajadas ayudan [a sufragarlo]”. La ONG recomienda a España que establezca acuerdos de repatriación con los países de procedencia de los inmigrantes para crear “salvoconductos mortuorios” que garanticen su retorno a un coste reducido.

      A esto se suma que el gobierno central tampoco ha establecido mecanismos para garantizar el derecho de los inmigrantes no identificados a un entierro digno dentro del territorio español, sino que sostiene que los ayuntamientos son responsables de todos los entierros de carácter benéfico. Esto ha supuesto que municipios muy concretos, en los que están estacionadas las embarcaciones de salvamento marítimo, sean legalmente responsables de la mayor parte de los entierros, y la mayoría de estos municipios carecen de cementerios locales capaces de acoger entierros musulmanes tradicionales.

      La posibilidad de que este asunto se convierta en un caldo de cultivo para el rechazo a la inmigración quedó patente el pasado mes de septiembre, cuando la alcaldesa de Mogán (Gran Canaria), Onalia Bueno, insistió en que su municipio dejaría de sufragar estos entierros, ya que no quería “detraer los costes de los impuestos de mis vecinos”. Juan Carlos Lorenzo, de CEAR, condena ese “lenguaje divisivo, que enmarca la cuestión en términos de malgastar el dinero de mis ’vecinos’ en alguien que no es un vecino”, y señala en cambio la actuación de los municipios de El Hierro como contraejemplo positivo.

      En esta isla poco poblada, en los últimos dos meses han sido enterrados siete inmigrantes no identificados, junto con los restos de Mamadou Marea, de 30 años. “Los habitantes de la isla se unieron a nosotros para acompañar los restos de cada una de estas personas hasta su lugar de descanso”, explica Amado Carballo, concejal de El Hierro. “Lo que nos entristeció a todos fue no poder poner un nombre en la lápida y simplemente tener que dejar a las personas identificadas con un código policial”.

      Carballo señala que “más de 10.000 personas han llegado a El Hierro desde septiembre, lo mismo que la población de la isla. Son viajes muy largos, de entre seis y nueve días en el mar, y ahora mismo la gente llega en un pésimo estado de salud. A los que han muerto en los últimos meses hemos intentado ofrecerles un entierro digno dentro de los medios de que disponemos. Hemos contado con la presencia de un imán, que ha rezado oraciones del Islam antes de depositar los restos”.

      En la actualidad, la responsabilidad de conmemorar a las víctimas no identificadas recae en los municipios e incluso en los responsables de los cementerios. Al igual que Germán en el cementerio de Barbate, que intenta dignificar las tumbas sin nombre colocando flores sobre ellas, el cementerio de Motril ha adornado las tumbas con poemas. En Teguise, el Ayuntamiento ha puesto en marcha una iniciativa que anima a los vecinos a dejar flores en las tumbas de los inmigrantes cuando vienen a visitar los restos de sus familiares.

      En otro gesto conmemorativo, una colección de unas 50 barcas de pesca desechadas se ha convertido en un rasgo distintivo del puerto de Barbate. Estas pequeñas embarcaciones de madera con escritura árabe en el casco eran utilizadas por los emigrantes que intentaban cruzar el Estrecho de Gibraltar. En lugar de ser desguazadas, APDHA pudo convertir el astillero en un lugar conmemorativo y colocar placas en las embarcaciones en las que se indicaba cuántas personas viajaban en ellas y dónde y cuándo fueron encontradas.

      En el caso del pequeño Alhassane Bangoura, los vecinos acuden habitualmente a dejar flores frescas y otras muestras de afecto, entre ellas un pequeño cuenco de granito con su nombre de pila inscrito. Pero muchas víctimas son enterradas sin ningún intento de identificación y, tal y como exigen innumerables ONG, políticos y activistas, no debería dejarse en manos de la buena voluntad de residentes, trabajadores de cementerios o concejales el garantizar los últimos derechos de las víctimas de la Fortaleza Europa.

      https://www.eldiario.es/desalambre/enterrar-mil-personas-nombre-trabas-ue-espana-identificar-cuerpos-migrantes

    • « Αγνώστων στοιχείων » : Πάνω από 1.000 αταυτοποίητοι τάφοι στα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα

      Τάφοι με μόνη σήμανση ένα ξύλο, μνήματα που καλύπτονται από αγριόχορτα : μια διασυνοριακή έρευνα οκτώ δημοσιογράφων σε συνεργασία με Solomon, Guardian και Süddeutsche Zeitung καταγράφει την αδιαφορία γύρω από την αξιοπρεπή ταφή των προσφύγων που χάνουν τη ζωή τους στα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα.

      Το τηλέφωνο χτύπησε ένα πρωινό του Οκτωβρίου 2022 στη δουλειά, στη Φινλανδία όπου ο 35χρονος Μοχάμεντ Σαμίμ ζει τα τελευταία δέκα περίπου χρόνια.

      Ο ανιψιός του δεν είχε καλά νέα : ο αδερφός του Σαμίμ, Ταρίν Μοχαμάντ, μαζί με τον γιο και τις δύο κόρες του, βρισκόταν σε ένα σκάφος που βυθίστηκε κοντά σε ένα ελληνικό νησί, έχοντας αποπλεύσει από τα τουρκικά παράλια για την Ιταλία.

      Όταν ο Σαμίμ έφτασε την επομένη στα Κύθηρα, έμαθε πως —παρότι αδύναμος αφού δεν είχε φάει επί τρεις μέρες— ο αδερφός του είχε καταφέρει να σώσει την οικογένειά του πριν ένα κύμα τον πάρει μακριά. Πήγε αμέσως στο σημείο του ναυαγίου. Μέσα στο νερό είδε σώματα να επιπλέουν — δεν μπορούσε να δει το πρόσωπο του αδερφού του, αλλά αναγνώρισε την πλάτη του.

      Το Λιμενικό είπε πως έπρεπε να περάσει η κακοκαιρία για να μπορέσουν να βγάλουν τους νεκρούς από τη θάλασσα. Πέρασε η πρώτη μέρα, πέρασε και δεύτερη, ώσπου την τρίτη ημέρα κατέστη τελικά δυνατό. Το Λιμενικό επιβεβαίωσε στο Solomon πως άνεμοι έντασης 8 μποφόρ και η μορφολογία της περιοχής καθιστούσαν την ανάσυρση των σορών αδύνατη. Ο Σαμίμ δεν θα ξεχάσει ποτέ την εικόνα του αδερφού του στη θάλασσα.

      Στην Καλαμάτα, χρειάστηκε να περάσουν τέσσερις ημέρες μετακύλισης της ευθύνης μεταξύ νοσοκομείου και Λιμενικού, και η βοήθεια μιας ντόπιας δικηγόρου που « ήρθε και τους έβαλε τις φωνές », προκειμένου να του επιτραπεί να ακολουθήσει τη διαδικασία ταυτοποίησης του αδερφού του.

      Τον προειδοποίησαν πως θα ήταν μια ψυχοφθόρα διαδικασία, και πως θα έπρεπε να φορέσει τριπλή μάσκα λόγω της μυρωδιάς. Ο Σαμίμ λέει πως, λόγω έλλειψης χώρου στα ψυγεία του νεκροτομείου, ορισμένα από τα θύματα του ναυαγίου βρίσκονταν στον θάλαμο εκτός ψυγείου.

      « Το άγχος και η μυρωδιά. Τα γόνατά μας έτρεμαν », θυμάται ο Σαμίμ όταν τον συναντάμε στα Κύθηρα ένα χρόνο μετά.

      Ξεκίνησαν να του δείχνουν σώματα σε αποσύνθεση. Πρώτα αυτά εκτός ψυγείου. Δεν τον αναγνώρισε ανάμεσά τους. Βγήκαν έξω και άλλαξαν τις μάσκες που φορούσαν, επέστρεψαν, άνοιξαν με τη σειρά τα ψυγεία φτάνοντας στο τελευταίο.

      « Βρισκόταν εκεί, ήρεμος. Ο άνθρωπος που αγαπάς. Ήμασταν κάπως χαρούμενοι που, μετά από μέρες, μπορούσαμε να τον δούμε », είπε ο Σαμίμ.
      Νεκροί πρόσφυγες στα αζήτητα

      Ο αριθμός των προσφύγων που πεθαίνουν στα σύνορα της Ευρώπης ολοένα και μεγαλώνει. Πέρα από τη δυσκολία καταγραφής των θανάτων, υπάρχει και η πρόκληση της ταυτοποίησης των σορών, μια διαδικασία ψυχοφθόρα για τους συγγενείς. Σε κάποιες περιπτώσεις, ωστόσο, υπάρχουν σοροί που μένουν αταυτοποίητες, εκατοντάδες άνδρες, γυναίκες και παιδιά που θάβονται σε τάφους αγνώστων στοιχείων.

      Τον Ιούλιο του 2023, το Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο υιοθέτησε ψήφισμα που αναγνωρίζει το δικαίωμα στην ταυτοποίηση των ανθρώπων που χάνουν τη ζωή τους στην προσπάθεια να φτάσουν στην Ευρώπη, έως σήμερα ωστόσο δεν υπάρχει κεντρικό σύστημα καταγραφής σε πανευρωπαϊκό επίπεδο. Ούτε ενιαία διαδικασία για τη διαχείριση των σορών που καταλήγουν σε νεκροτομεία, γραφεία κηδειών — ακόμη και κοντέινερ ψύξης.

      Το πρόβλημα είναι « εντελώς παραμελημένο », είπε στο Solomon η Ευρωπαία Επίτροπος Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων, Dunja Mijatović, η οποία αναφέρει ότι οι χώρες της ΕΕ δεν εκπληρώνουν τις υποχρεώσεις τους βάσει του διεθνούς δικαίου των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων. « Η τραγωδία των αγνοούμενων μεταναστών έχει λάβει τρομακτικές διαστάσεις. Το ζήτημα απαιτεί άμεση δράση », πρόσθεσε.

      Η πλατφόρμα Missing Migrants του Διεθνούς Οργανισμού Μετανάστευσης (ΔΟΜ), που αναγνωρίζει πως τα στοιχεία της δεν αποτελούν ολοκληρωμένη καταγραφή, κάνει λόγο για πάνω από 1.090 αγνοούμενους πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες στην Ευρώπη από το 2014.

      Στο πλαίσιο της έρευνας Border Graves, οκτώ Ευρωπαίοι δημοσιογράφοι, από κοινού με την βρετανική εφημερίδα Guardian, την γερμανική εφημερίδα Süddeutsche Zeitung, και το Solomon για την Ελλάδα, ερεύνησαν επί επτά μήνες τι συμβαίνει με τις χιλιάδες αταυτοποίητες σορούς όσων χάνουν τη ζωή τους στα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα, και καταγράφουν για πρώτη φορά έναν σχεδόν διπλάσιο αριθμό : σύμφωνα με τα στοιχεία που συγκεντρώθηκαν, περισσότεροι από 2.162 άνθρωποι πέθαναν την περίοδο 2014-2023.

      Μελετήσαμε έγγραφα και πήραμε συνεντεύξεις από κρατικούς ιατροδικαστές, εισαγγελείς και εργαζομένους σε γραφεία τελετών· από κατοίκους και συγγενείς θανόντων και αγνοουμένων· και αποκτήσαμε αποκλειστική πρόσβαση σε αδημοσίευτα στοιχεία της Διεθνούς Επιτροπής του Ερυθρού Σταυρού.

      Σε 65 νεκροταφεία κατά μήκος των ευρωπαϊκών συνόρων –Ελλάδα, Ισπανία, Ιταλία, Μάλτα, Πολωνία, Λιθουανία, Γαλλία και Κροατία– καταγράψαμε περισσότερους από 1.000 τάφους αγνώστων στοιχείων κατά την τελευταία δεκαετία.

      Η έρευνα καταγράφει τον τρόπο με τον οποίο η κρατική αδιαφορία γύρω από την αξιοπρεπή ταφή των ανθρώπων που χάνουν τη ζωή τους στα σύνορα διαπερνά τις ευρωπαϊκές χώρες. Στην Ιταλία, συναντήσαμε ξύλινους σταυρούς. Στην Κροατία και τη Βοσνία, συναντήσαμε δεκάδες τάφους με την ένδειξη « ΝΝ » (αγνώστων στοιχείων), στη Γαλλία απλώς με ένα « Χ ».

      Στα ισπανικά Γκραν Κανάρια, εντοπίσαμε πλάκες που δεν αναφέρουν την ταυτότητα των θανόντων, αλλά σε ποιο ναυάγιο πέθαναν : « Βάρκα μεταναστών νούμερο 4. 25/09/2022 ».

      Στην Ελλάδα, καταγράψαμε περισσότερους από 540 αταυτοποίητους τάφους προσφύγων, το 54% όσων συνολικά κατέγραψε η ευρωπαϊκή έρευνα. Ταξιδέψαμε στα νησιά του Αιγαίου και τον Έβρο, και εντοπίσαμε τάφους σε χωράφια που ενίοτε καλύπτονται από αγριόχορτα, και μαρμάρινες πλάκες με ημερομηνίες θανάτου που έχουν σβηστεί, ενώ σε άλλες περιπτώσεις ένα κομμάτι ξύλο μαζί με έναν αριθμό αποτελεί τη μόνη σήμανσή τους.

      Τα στοιχεία της έρευνάς μας, σε συνδυασμό με τα στοιχεία της Διεθνούς Επιτροπής του Ερυθρού Σταυρού, δεν αποτελούν εξαντλητική καταγραφή του ζητήματος. Ωστόσο, αποτυπώνουν για πρώτη φορά τα κενά και τις δυσκολίες ενός συστήματος, που οδηγεί χιλιάδες οικογένειες να μην γνωρίζουν πού είναι θαμμένοι οι συγγενείς τους.

      Λέσβος : 167 αταυτοποίητοι τάφοι προσφύγων

      Ένας μακρύς χωματόδρομος, που τριγυρίζεται από ελαιόδεντρα, οδηγεί στην πύλη του νεκροταφείου του Κάτω Τρίτου, που συνήθως παραμένει κλειδωμένη με λουκέτο.

      Το « νεκροταφείο των προσφύγων », όπως το αποκαλούν στο νησί, βρίσκεται περίπου 15χλμ δυτικά της Μυτιλήνης. Αποτελεί τον μοναδικό χώρο ταφής αποκλειστικά για πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες στην Ελλάδα.

      Κατά τη διάρκεια μίας από τις επισκέψεις μας, λάμβανε χώρα η κηδεία τεσσάρων παιδιών. Έχασαν τη ζωή τους στις 28 Αυγούστου 2023, όταν η βάρκα στην οποία επέβαιναν μαζί με 18 ακόμη ανθρώπους βυθίστηκε νοτιοανατολικά της Λέσβου.

      Η πενθούσα μητέρα και αρκετές γυναίκες, μεταξύ των οποίων μέλη της οικογένειας, κάθονταν κάτω από ένα δέντρο, ενώ οι άνδρες προσεύχονταν κοντά στο υπόστεγο που χρησιμοποιείται για τη διαδικασία της ταφής σύμφωνα με την ισλαμική παράδοση.

      Στον Κάτω Τρίτο και τον Άγιο Παντελεήμονα, το νεκροταφείο της Μυτιλήνης όπου θάβονταν οι πρόσφυγες έως τότε, μετρήσαμε συνολικά 167 τάφους αγνώστων στοιχείων μεταξύ 2014-2023.

      Ο τοπικός δημοσιογράφος, και πρώην μέλος του Περιφερειακού Συμβουλίου Βορείου Αιγαίου Νίκος Μανάβης, εξηγεί πως το νεκροταφείο δημιουργήθηκε το 2015 σε έναν ελαιώνα που ανήκει στο δήμο Μυτιλήνης λόγω ανάγκης : ένα πολύνεκρο ναυάγιο στα βόρεια του νησιού, στις 28 Οκτωβρίου του έτους, είχε ως αποτέλεσμα τουλάχιστον 60 νεκρούς, για τους οποίους τα νεκροταφεία του νησιού δεν επαρκούσαν.

      Πολλά θύματα ναυαγίων παραμένουν θαμμένα σε τάφους αγνώστων στοιχείων. Στις ταφόπλακες αναγράφεται η εκτιμώμενη ηλικία των θανόντων και η ημερομηνία ταφής, ενίοτε μόνο ένας αριθμός. Άλλες φορές, ένα κομμάτι ξύλο και περιμετρικά τοποθετημένες πέτρες σηματοδοτούν τον τάφο.

      « Αυτό που βλέπουμε είναι ένα χωράφι, όχι ένα νεκροταφείο. Δεν δείχνει σεβασμό στους ανθρώπους που τάφηκαν εδώ », λέει ο Μανάβης.

      Αυτή η έλλειψη σεβασμού στο νεκροταφείο του Κάτω Τρίτου κινητοποίησε την οργάνωση Earth Medicine. Όπως εξηγεί ο Δημήτρης Πατούνης, μέλος της ΜΚΟ, τον Ιανουάριο του 2022 έκαναν πρόταση στο δήμο Μυτιλήνης για την αποκατάσταση του νεκροταφείου. Το σχέδιό τους είναι να δημιουργήσουν ένα χώρο ανάπαυσης με σεβασμό και αξιοπρέπεια, όπου οι πρόσφυγες και οι αιτούντες άσυλο θα μπορούν να ικανοποιήσουν την πιο ιερή ανθρώπινη ανάγκη, το πένθος για τους αγαπημένους τους.

      Παρόλο που το δημοτικό συμβούλιο ενέκρινε την πρόταση την άνοιξη του 2023, οι δημοτικές εκλογές του Οκτωβρίου καθυστέρησαν το έργο. Ο Πατούνης δηλώνει θετικός ότι σύντομα θα γίνει καταγραφή των τάφων και περίφραξη της περιοχής.

      Ο Χρήστος Μαυραχείλης, νεκροθάφτης στο νεκροταφείο του Αγίου Παντελεήμονα, θυμάται ότι το 2015 οι μουσουλμάνοι πρόσφυγες θάβονταν σε συγκεκριμένη περιοχή του νεκροταφείου.

      « Αν κάποιος ήταν αγνώστου ταυτότητας έγραφα στον τάφο του “Άγνωστος” », λέει. Εάν δεν υπήρχαν συγγενείς, που θα μπορούσαν να καλύψουν το κόστος, ο Μαυραχείλης έκοβε ο ίδιος ένα μάρμαρο και έγραφε όσα στοιχεία μπορούσε από το πιστοποιητικό θανάτου. « Άνθρωποι ήταν κι αυτοί », λέει, « έκανα ό,τι μπορούσα ».

      Από την πλευρά του, ο Θωμάς Βαναβάκης, πρώην ιδιοκτήτης γραφείου τελετών που πρόσφερε υπηρεσίες στη Λέσβο έως το 2020, λέει επίσης πως συχνά χρειάστηκε να καλύψουν ταφές δίχως να λάβουν αμοιβή. « Ξέρετε πόσες φορές μπήκαμε στη θάλασσα και πληρώσαμε εργάτες από την τσέπη μας για να τραβήξουμε τα πτώματα και δεν παίρναμε φράγκο ; », λέει.

      « Το να βλέπεις τόσα μωρά, να τα μαζεύεις και να τα πετάς σε ένα κουτί… Πώς μπορείς να πας σπίτι και να κοιμηθείς μετά από αυτό ; », λέει ο Βαναβάκης.

      Η Έφη Λατσούδη, που ζει στη Λέσβο και εργάζεται στην οργάνωση Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), λέει πως το 2015 υπήρχαν ταφές που δεν μπορούσε να καλύψει ο δήμος Μυτιλήνης, και ορισμένες φορές τις « πληρώναν οι άνθρωποι που συμμετείχαν στην τελετή. Προσπαθούσαμε να δώσουμε μια αξιοπρέπεια στη διαδικασία. Αλλά δεν ήταν αρκετό », λέει.

      Η Λατσούδη θυμάται κάτι που της είχε αναφέρει μια προσφύγισσα το 2015 : « Το χειρότερο που μπορεί να μας συμβεί είναι να πεθάνουμε κάπου μακριά και να μην είναι κανείς στην κηδεία μας ».

      Ο δήμος Μυτιλήνης δεν απάντησε στα ερωτήματά μας σχετικά με την αξιοπρεπή ταφή των προσφύγων στα νεκροταφεία ευθύνης του.
      Χίος και Σάμος : τάφοι καλύπτονται από αγριόχορτα

      Σύμφωνα με την ελληνική νομοθεσία, η τοπική αυτοδιοίκηση (και σε περίπτωση αδυναμίας της η περιφέρεια) καλύπτει το κόστος για την ταφή τόσο των αταυτοποίητων προσφύγων που πεθαίνουν στα σύνορα, όσο και εκείνων που βρίσκονται σε οικονομική αδυναμία.

      Από πλευράς της, η δημοτική Αρχή Χίου δήλωσε πως προβλέπεται χρηματοδότηση για τις σχετικές δαπάνες, καθώς και ότι « στο πλαίσιο των αρμοδιοτήτων της για τα νεκροταφεία, συντηρεί και φροντίζει όλους τους χώρους, χωρίς διακρίσεις και με τον απαιτούμενο σεβασμό, για όλους τους νεκρούς ».

      Αλλά κατά την επίσκεψή μας τον Αύγουστο στο νεκροταφείο του Μερσινιδίου, λίγα χιλιόμετρα βόρεια της πόλης της Χίου, όπου πρόσφυγες βρίσκονται θαμμένοι πλάι στα μνήματα των ντόπιων, δεν ήταν δύσκολο να εντοπίσει κανείς τον διαχωρισμό : οι πέντε τάφοι αταυτοποίητων προσφύγων σηματοδοτούνταν απλώς από ένα μάρμαρο, το οποίο έτεινε να υπερκαλύψει η βλάστηση.

      Η Νατάσα Στραχίνη, δικηγόρος του RSA που ζει στη Χίο, έχει λάβει μέρος σε αρκετές κηδείες προσφύγων τόσο στη Χίο όσο και στη Λέσβο. Για εκείνη, είναι πολύ μεγάλη η σημασία της τοπικής κοινότητας και η παρουσία σε μια τόσο δύσκολη ανθρώπινη στιγμή.

      Σχετικά με τις ταφές, εξηγεί πως « μόνο ένα καλό σύστημα καταγραφής θα μπορούσε να βοηθήσει τους συγγενείς να εντοπίσουν τον τάφο ενός ανθρώπου που έχασαν, καθώς συνήθως στα νεκροταφεία μετά από 3-5 χρόνια γίνονται εκταφές ». Αναφέρει πως ενίοτε ένας τάφος παραμένει αγνώστων στοιχείων παρότι η σορός έχει ταυτοποιηθεί, είτε γιατί καθυστέρησε η διαδικασία ταυτοποίησης, είτε γιατί οι συγγενείς δεν είχαν την οικονομική δυνατότητα να αλλάξουν το μνήμα.

      Στο Ηραίο Σάμου, δίπλα στο δημοτικό νεκροταφείο, σε ένα οικόπεδο που ανήκει στη Μητρόπολη και χρησιμοποιείται ως χώρος ταφής προσφύγων, καταγράψαμε δεκάδες μνήματα που χρονολογούνται μεταξύ 2014-2023. Οι πλάκες –ορισμένες σπασμένες– που έχουν τοποθετηθεί στο έδαφος, « κρυμμένες » από κλαδιά, πευκοβελόνες και κουκουνάρια, αναγράφουν απλώς έναν αριθμό και τη χρονολογία της ταφής.

      Ο δικηγόρος Δημήτρης Χούλης, που ζει στη Σάμο και χειρίζεται υποθέσεις γύρω από το προσφυγικό, σχολίασε σχετικά : « Είναι ντροπιαστική εικόνα να βλέπεις τέτοιους τάφους. Είναι αδικαιολόγητο για μια σύγχρονη κοινωνία όπως η Ελλάδα ».

      Αναζητώντας στοιχεία

      Η Διεθνής Επιτροπή του Ερυθρού Σταυρού είναι από τις λίγες διεθνείς οργανώσεις που εργάζονται για την ταυτοποίηση των νεκρών πρσοφύγων. Μεταξύ άλλων, και στην Ελλάδα έχουν πραγματοποιήσει αρκετές σχετικές εκπαιδεύσεις σε στελέχη του Λιμενικού και της Ελληνικής Αστυνομίας.

      « Είναι υποχρέωσή μας να παρέχουμε στους νεκρούς μια αξιοπρεπή ταφή. Παράλληλα, οφείλουμε να δίνουμε απαντήσεις στις οικογένειες μέσω της ταυτοποίησης των νεκρών. Αν υπολογίσουμε τους συγγενείς των αγνοουμένων, αυτή η διαδικασία επηρεάζει εκατοντάδες χιλιάδες ανθρώπους. Δεν γνωρίζουν πού βρίσκονται οι αγαπημένοι τους. Τους φέρθηκαν καλά ; Τους σεβάστηκαν όταν τους έθαψαν ; », αναφέρει η Laurel Clegg, συντονίστρια ιατροδικαστής για τη μετανάστευση στην Ευρώπη.

      Εξηγεί πως η καταγραφή των νεκρών αποτελεί διαδικασία που « απαιτεί την καλή συνεργασία μεταξύ πολλών μερών : ένα νομικό πλαίσιο που να προστατεύει τους αταυτοποίητους νεκρούς, συστηματικές νεκροψίες (consistent post-mortems), νεκροτομεία, ληξιαρχεία, αξιοπρεπή μεταφορά, νεκροταφεία ».

      Ωστόσο, τα ιατρικά και νομικά συστήματα των χωρών αποδεικνύονται ανεπαρκή για να αντιμετωπίσουν τη διάσταση του προβλήματος, προσθέτει.

      Από το 2013, στο πλαίσιο του προγράμματος για την αποκατάσταση οικογενειακών δεσμών, ο Ερυθρός Σταυρός έχει καταγράψει στην Ευρώπη 16.500 αιτήματα από ανθρώπους που αναζητούν αγνοούμενους συγγενείς τους. Σύμφωνα με τον διεθνή οργανισμό έχουν επιτευχθεί μόλις 285 επιτυχείς αντιστοιχίσεις (1,7%).

      Τις αντιστοιχίσεις αυτές αναλαμβάνουν οι κατά τόπους ιατροδικαστές.

      « Συλλέγουμε πάντα δείγματα DNA από τις σορούς αγνώστων στοιχείων. Είναι συνήθης πρακτική και μπορεί να είναι το μόνο εφικτό μέσο ταυτοποίησης », αναφέρει ο Παναγιώτης Κοτρέτσος, ιατροδικαστής στη Ρόδο. Τα δείγματα αποστέλλονται στο εργαστήριο DNA της Διεύθυνσης Εγκληματολογικών Ερευνών της Ελληνικής Αστυνομίας, σύμφωνα με πρωτόκολλο της INTERPOL.

      Σύμφωνα με τον Ερυθρό Σταυρό, οι δυσκολίες συνήθως προκύπτουν όταν οι οικογένειες βρίσκονται εκτός ΕΕ, και οφείλονται σε διάφορους παράγοντες, όπως τυχόν διαφορές στο νομικό πλαίσιο ή στα ιατρικά συστήματα των χωρών. Για παράδειγμα, ορισμένες χώρες της ΕΕ δεν μπορούν να « ανοίξουν » υπόθεση και να πάρουν δείγματα DNA από οικογένειες, χωρίς εντολή από τις Aρχές της χώρας στην οποία έχει ανασυρθεί η σορός του συγγενή που αναζητάται.

      Το πιο δύσκολο μέρος στη διαδικασία ταυτοποίησης μέσω DNA είναι ότι χρειάζεται να υπάρχει κι ένα δεύτερο δείγμα που θα συγκριθεί με εκείνο που συνέλεξαν οι ιατροδικαστές, το οποίο πρέπει να σταλεί από τις οικογένειες των αγνοουμένων. « Για έναν πρόσφυγα που ξεκίνησε το ταξίδι του από μια χώρα της κεντρικής Αφρικής, ταξίδεψε για μήνες, και πέθανε στην Ελλάδα, θα υπάρχει το γενετικό υλικό στο νεκροτομείο. Αλλά θα παραμείνει αταίριαστο μέχρι κάποιος συγγενής πρώτου βαθμού να στείλει δείγμα DNA », λέει ο Κοτρέτσος.

      Εξηγεί πως αυτό δεν είναι πάντα εφικτό. « Έχουμε δεχτεί τηλεφωνήματα από συγγενείς που βρίσκονταν στη στη Συρία, και αναζητούσαν αγνοούμενα μέλη της οικογένειάς τους, και δεν μπορούσαν να στείλουν δείγματα ακριβώς επειδή βρίσκονταν στη Συρία ».

      Έξω από το πανεπιστημιακό νοσοκομείο της Αλεξανδρούπολης, δύο κοντέινερ ψυγεία που έχουν παραχωρηθεί από τον Ερυθρό Σταυρό ως προσωρινοί νεκροθάλαμοι φιλοξενούν τα σώματα 40 προσφύγων.

      Ο καθηγητής Ιατροδικαστικής στο Δημοκρίτειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θράκης, Παύλος Παυλίδης, έχει από το 2000 πραγματοποιήσει αυτοψίες σε τουλάχιστον 800 σώματα ανθρώπων σε κίνηση, με βασικές αιτίες θανάτου τον πνιγμό στα νερά του Έβρου και την υποθερμία.

      Ο ιατροδικαστής δεν αρκείται στην απαραίτητη συλλογή DNA : καταγράφει δεδομένα όπως σημάδια γέννησης ή τατουάζ και αντικείμενα (π.χ. πορτοφόλια, δαχτυλίδια, γυαλιά), τα οποία θα μπορούσαν να αποτελέσουν τον συνδετικό κρίκο για έναν συγγενή που αναζητά το αγαπημένο του πρόσωπο.

      Λέει πως συνολικά 313 σοροί που βρέθηκαν στον Έβρο από το 2014 παραμένουν αγνώστων στοιχείων. Όσες δεν μπορούν να ταυτοποιηθούν θάβονται σε ειδικό νεκροταφείο στο Σιδηρώ, το οποίο διαχειρίζεται ο δήμος Σουφλίου, ενώ 15-20 αταυτοποίητες σοροί τάφηκαν στην Ορεστιάδα όσο γινόταν η επέκταση του νεκροταφείου Σιδηρού.

      Οι σοροί των μουσουλμάνων προσφύγων που ταυτοποιούνται ενταφιάζονται στο μουσουλμανικό νεκροταφείο στη Μεσσούνη Κομοτηνής ή επαναπατρίζονται, όταν οι συγγενείς μπορούν να καλύψουν το κόστος επαναπατρισμού.

      « Αυτό δεν είναι αξιοπρεπές »

      Απαντώντας σε σχετικά ερωτήματα, το υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου είπε πως το ζήτημα των διαδικασιών ταυτοποίησης και ταφής προσφύγων δεν εμπίπτει στις αρμοδιότητές του. Εκπρόσωπος της Κομισιόν δήλωσε πως σχετικά κονδύλια προς την Ελλάδα δεν προβλέπονται, ωστόσο εν λόγω δαπάνες « θα μπορούσαν να υποστηριχθούν στο πλαίσιο του Εθνικού Προγράμματος του Ταμείου Ασύλου, Μετανάστευσης και Ένταξης », το οποίο διαχειρίζεται το υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης.

      Ο Θεόδωρος Νούσιας είναι επικεφαλής ιατροδικαστής της Ιατροδικαστικής Υπηρεσίας Βορείου Αιγαίου, δηλαδή υπεύθυνος για τα νησιά Λέσβο, Σάμο, Χίο, και Λήμνο. Σύμφωνα με τον ιατροδικαστή, η διαδικασία ταυτοποίησης μέσω DNA έχει βελτιωθεί πολύ σε σχέση με πριν από μερικά χρόνια.

      Ο Νούσιας λέει ότι πάντα ήταν διαθέσιμος, όταν του ζητήθηκε να αναγνωρίσει κάποιον. « Πρέπει να εξυπηρετείς τους ανθρώπους, γι’ αυτό βρίσκεσαι εκεί. Να εξυπηρετείς τους ανθρώπους για να μπορούν να βρουν την οικογένειά τους », προσθέτει.

      Ο ιατροδικαστής ζει στη Λέσβο, αλλά λέει πως δεν έχει πάει ποτέ στο νεκροταφείο στον Κάτω Τρίτο. « Δεν θέλω να πάω. Θα είναι δύσκολο για μένα γιατί οι περισσότεροι από αυτούς τους ανθρώπους έχουν περάσει από τα χέρια μου ».

      Τον Οκτώβριο του 2022, ο 32χρονος Σουτζά Αχμαντί και η αδελφή του Μαρίνα ταξίδεψαν επίσης στα Κύθηρα και, στη συνέχεια, στην Καλαμάτα προκειμένου να αναγνωρίσουν τη σορό του πατέρα τους, Αμπντούλ Γασί.

      Ο 65χρονος είχε ξεκινήσει το ταξίδι για την Ιταλία μαζί με τη γυναίκα του Χατίτζε — εκείνη επέζησε. Τα δύο αδέλφια επισκέφθηκαν το νοσοκομείο, όπου τους έδειξαν και τα οκτώ πτώματα, άνδρες και γυναίκες, παρότι είχαν εξαρχής εξηγήσει πως ο άνθρωπος που αναζητούσαν ήταν άνδρας.

      Το σώμα του πατέρα τους ήταν μεταξύ εκείνων που βρίσκονταν εκτός ψυγείου.

      « Η αδελφή μου έκλαιγε και τους φώναζε να πάρουν τον πατέρα μας από το κοντέινερ ψυγείο γιατί μύριζε », θυμάται ο Σουτζά. « Δεν ήταν αξιοπρεπές μέρος για έναν άνθρωπο ».

      Για την έρευνα συνεργάστηκαν οι : Gabriele Cruciata, Eoghan Gilmartin, Danai Maragoudaki, Barbara Matejčić, Leah Pattem, Gabriela Ramírez, Daphne Tolis and Tina Xu (συντονίστρια).

      Η έρευνα υποστηρίχθηκε από το Investigative Journalism for Europe (IJ4EU) και Journalismfund Europe.

      https://wearesolomon.com/el/mag/format-el/erevnes/agnoston-stoixeion-pano-apo-1000-ataftopoihtoi-tafoi-sta-evropaika-syn

    • U Hrvatskoj pronađeno 45 neimenovanih grobova migranata, među njima je bila i 5-godišnja curica: ‘Policija ih često tjera u rijeku’

      Telegram ekskluzivno donosi veliku priču Barbare Matejčić koja je, kao jedina novinarka iz Hrvatske, sudjelovala u međunarodnoj novinarskoj istrazi s kolegama iz uglednih medija poput britanskog Guardiana i njemačkog Süddeutsche Zeitunga. Otkrili su kako završavaju tijela onih koji su stradali pokušavajući ući u Europsku uniju

      U selu Siče u istočnoj Hrvatskoj više je Sičana na groblju nego među živima: živih je 230, a umrlih 250. Točnije, na groblju je 247 Sičana i tri nepoznate osobe. Bilo bi ih još više pod zemljom da Siče svoje groblje nema tek od 1970-ih. Bilo bi još više i živih da nisu, kao mnogi iz tog kraja, odlazili u veće gradove ili u inozemstvo u potrazi za boljim životom. Grobovi Sičana, ukratko, posjetitelju kažu tko su ti ljudi bili, gdje pripadaju i posjećuju li ih bližnji. Tako to biva s grobovima, sažimaju osnovne informacije naših života. Ako na grobu stoji samo NN, to sažima tragediju.

      Tko su te tri osobe kojima se ne zna ime? Kako im je posljednja adresa skromni humak u Siču? Migranti, utopili su se u obližnjoj rijeci, reći će vam mještani. Malo je mjesto, malo je groblje, sve se zna. I da ne znate ništa, jasno vam je da te tri osobe tu ne pripadaju. Ukopani su sasvim izdvojeno od ostatka groblja. Tri drvena križa s NN natpisima, zabodena u zemlju na rubu groblja. NN, kao skraćenica od latinskog nomen nescio, doslovno znači: ne znam ime.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQAGqiWBB78&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegram.hr%2F&

      Službeno objašnjenje komunalnog poduzeća koje upravlja grobljem je da je ostavljeno mjesta za još mogućih ukopa onih kojima se ne zna ime. A objašnjenje na koje pomislite kad tamo dođete jest da su ukopani izdvojeno kako se ne bi miješali s mještanima. Ili, kako nam se u telefonskom razgovoru izlanuo načelnik jednog drugog mjesta gdje su također na margini groblja NN migrantski grobovi: “Da nam ne smetaju.”

      Afganistanci pod križem

      Na groblju u Sičama to su jedina tri groba o kojima nitko ne vodi računa. Za nekih pet godina mogao bi im nestati svaki trag. Komunalna poduzeća su dužna ukopati neidentificirana tijela, ali ne i održavati grobove osim ako grob nije od “osobe od posebnog povijesnog i društvenog značaja”, kako zakon nalaže. NN1, NN2 i NN3 su od posebnog značaja samo svojim bližnjima, koji vjerojatno ni ne znaju gdje su. Možda čekaju da im se konačno jave iz zapadne Europe. Možda ih traže. Možda ih oplakuju. No, ako zakopate malo dublje, saznat ćete ponešto o onima koji tu počivaju bez imena.

      U rano i hladno jutro 23. prosinca 2022. policija je pronašla dva tijela na obali Save, koja je u tom području odvaja Hrvatsku od Bosne i Hercegovine. Odvaja Europsku uniju od ostatka Europe. Prema policijskom izvještaju, pronašli su i skupinu od dvadeset stranih državljana koji su tim putem nezakonito ušli u Hrvatsku. Skupini je nedostajala još jedna osoba. Nakon opsežne potrage u popodnevnim satima je pronađeno i treće tijelo. Patolog Opće bolnice u Novoj Gradiški ustanovio je da je smrt za sve troje nastupila u 2.45 u noći. Dvojica su umrla od pothlađenosti, jedan se utopio.

      Kod njih su pronađene iskaznice iz izbjegličkog kampa u Bosni i Hercegovini. Saznali smo da su, prema iskaznicama, sva trojica bila iz Afganistana: Ahmedi Abozari imao je 17 godina, Basir Naseri imao je 21 godinu i Shakir Atoin je imao 25 godina. NN1, NN2 i NN3. Za dvojicu od njih su i drugi iz skupine migranata potvrdili identitet, rekli su nam iz Policijske uprave brodsko-posavske. Zašto su onda pokopani kao NN? Ako se znalo da su iz Afganistana, zašto su pokopani pod križem? Ako ih traže obitelji, kako će ih naći?
      ‘Neka plate za ime na grobu’

      U upravi groblja su bili ljubazni i rekli da pokapaju prema tome kako stoji u dozvoli za ukop koju potpisuje patolog. A stajalo je NN. Patolog je rekao da podatke ispisuje na temelju informacija dobivenih od policije i mrtvozornika. Iz nadležne policije su nam rekli da se osoba sahranjuje po pravilima lokalne uprave. Groblje Siče pripada Općini Nova Kapela, čiji nam je načelnik Ivan Šmit nezadovoljno nabrojao sve troškove koje je njegova općina snosila za te ukope i poručio da ako će netko za to platiti, onda može promijeniti oznaku NN u imena.

      Na niz smo takvih administrativnih nejasnoća naišli istražujući kako nadležna tijela postupaju s tijelima onih koji su stradali pokušavajući ući u Europsku uniju, kao dio Border Graves Investigation koje je proveo tim od osam slobodnih novinara u zemljama na migrantskim rutama, zajedno s britanskim Guardianom i njemačkim Süddeutsche Zeitungom.

      Nema jedinstvene europske baze podataka o broju migranata koji su pokopani u Europi. No tim je uspio potvrditi najmanje 1.931 takav grob u Grčkoj, Italiji, Španjolskoj, Hrvatskoj, Malti, Poljskoj i Francuskoj u zadnjem desetljeću, dakle od 2014. do 2023. Od toga je 1.015 NN grobova. Više od polovice neidentificiranih grobova je, očekivano, u Grčkoj – 551, u Italiji 248 i u Španjolskoj 109. U Hrvatskoj smo utvrdili 59 grobova migranata koji su ukopani posljednjeg desetljeća, od čega ih 45 nije identificirano. Podaci su temeljeni na različitim bazama podataka koje u pojedinačnim zemljama prikupljaju međunarodne organizacije, nevladine udruge, znanstvenici i istraživači, kao i od lokalnih vlasti te terenskim radom.

      Tim novinara je posjetio 24 groblja u Grčkoj, Italiji, Španjolskoj, Hrvatskoj, Poljskoj i Litvi, gdje je ukupno 555 grobova neidentificiranih migranata od 2014. do 2023. To su oni čija su tijela pronađena i pokopana. Međunarodni odbor Crvenog križa procjenjuje da se 87 posto onih koji nestanu na europskim južnim granicama nikad ne pronađe. Za kopnene migrantske rute nema procjena.
      Traže li migrante kao što traže turiste?

      Prosinac 2022. kad su umrla trojica mladih Afganistanaca je bio kišniji nego inače i Sava je nabujala. No ionako je velika i brza. Na tom je području samo tri dana ranije nestalo petero turskih državljana nakon što im se na Savi prevrnuo čamac. Među njima su bili dvogodišnja curica, dvanaestogodišnji dečko i njihovi roditelji. Brat nestalog oca je došao iz Njemačke u Hrvatsku kako bi saznao što se dogodilo s obitelji. Iz dokumentacije koju posjedujemo, vidljivo je da je uz pomoć turkologinje Nine Rajković pokušavao od više policijskih postaja doći do informacija u vezi nestalih. Nije ih dobio ni mjesecima kasnije. Htjeli su prijaviti nestanak, no u policiji im je rečeno da prijavu nema smisla pisati ako osobe nisu prethodno registrirane na području Hrvatske ili Bosne i Hercegovine.

      Na niz smo sličnih primjera naišli baveći se ovom temom. Mladić je došao u Hrvatsku i prijavio policiji i u Hrvatskoj i u Sloveniji da mu se brat utopio u Kupi. No njegov nestanak nije evidentiran u hrvatskoj nacionalnoj bazi nestalih osoba koja je javno dostupna. Policija brata nije kontaktirala nakon što je u narednim danima u Kupi nađeno više neidentificiranih tijela. Afganistanac je šest mjeseci čekao da se tijelo njegova brata, koji se utopio kad su zajedno pokušali prijeći Savu također u prosincu 2022., prebaci iz Hrvatske u Bosnu i Hercegovinu da ga može pokopati. Iako je potvrdio da je riječ o njegovu bratu, proces identifikacije je bio spor i kompliciran.

      Naišli smo i na primjere obitelji koje nemaju nekoga u Europi tko može doputovati i uporno tragati za informacijama, već izdaleka pokušavaju ući u trag bližnjima koji se gube na području Hrvatske i na kraju su obeshrabreno odustali. Puno je pitanja i malo jasnih odgovora na temu nestalih i umrlih migranata na tzv. Balkanskoj ruti, čiji je Hrvatska dio. Ne postoje jasni protokoli i procedure oko toga kome i kako se prijavljuje nestanak. Ne zna se traži li se nestale migrante aktivno, kao što se ljeti traži nestale turiste. Nije jasno koliko je informacija, i kojih, potrebno za identifikaciju.
      Obitelji se nemaju kome javiti

      “Kruženje informacije između institucija i pojedinih odjela mi se čini gotovo nepostojeća. U jednom slučaju mi je trebalo više od dva mjeseca i deseci telefonskih poziva i mailova upućenih na različite adrese, policijske postaje, policijske uprave, bolnice, državno odvjetništvo, samo da potaknem pokretanje identifikacije koja do danas, više od godinu dana kasnije, još nije završena”, kaže Marijana Hameršak s Instituta za etnologiju i folkloristiku u Zagrebu. Ona vodi znanstveni projekt “Europski režim iregulariziranih migracija na periferiji EU” u kojem se prikuplja znanje i podaci o nestalim i umrlim migrantima. Na kraju sve ovisi o susretljivim i posvećenim pojedincima u institucijama, kaže Hamrešak, no oni ne mogu nositi cijeli teret disfunkcionalnog sustava.

      Potrage za nestalim i pokušaji identifikacije umrlih migranata u Hrvatskoj, kao i susjednoj Bosni i Hercegovini, najčešće počivaju na trudu volontera i aktivista, koji poput Marijane tragaju za informacijama u kaotičnoj administraciji jer je obiteljima koje ne poznaju jezik taj zadatak praktički nesavladiv. Tako je Facebook grupa Dead and Missing in the Balkans postala glavno mjesto razmjene fotografija i podataka o nestalima i umrlima između obitelji i aktivista. Ne postoj internetska stranica na engleskom nadležnog Ministarstva unutarnjih poslova na koju se mogu javiti iz Afganistana ili Sirije i raspitati se za sudbinu svojih bližnjih, ostaviti podatke o njima i prijaviti nestanak.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PldA9Pa3LJc&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegram.hr%2F&

      Nema ni regionalne baze podataka o nestalim i umrlim migrantima na kojoj bi surađivale policije makar iz zemalja među kojima se bilježi najviše prelazaka – iz Bosne i Hercegovine u Hrvatsku. Povjerenica Vijeća Europe za ljudska prava Dunja Mijatović je u razgovoru s našim timom naglasila da je iznimno važno uspostaviti centraliziranu europsku bazu podataka o nestalim i umrlim migrantima. Kad bi takva baza podataka objedinjavala ante-mortem (podaci o osobi koji se prikupljaju od rodbine i poznanika, poput fizičkih karakteristika i opisa odjeće koju je nosila posljednji put, koje je predmete imala uz sebe itd.) i post-mortem (kao DNK uzorak i fotografije) podatke o umrlima, uvelike bi se povećale šanse za identifikaciju.
      Poginuti ili ostvariti san

      “Obitelji imaju pravo znati istinu o tome što se dogodilo njihovim najbližima”, kaže Mijatović. No suradnja policija susjednih zemalja u održavanju vanjske granice EU nepropusnom je učinkovita. Ranije migranti nisu tako često pokušavali prijeći Savu. Znali su da je previše opasna. Dijele informacije jedni s drugima i ne upuštaju se u prelazak takve rijeke u dječjim čamcima na napuhavanje ili u zračnicama kotača. Ako nisu sasvim očajni.

      Hrvatska policija je push-backovima i upotrebom sile – na što već godinama upozoravaju Amnesty International i Human Rights Watch – otežala prelazak drugim, manje opasnim prijelazima duž zelene granice s Bosnom i Hercegovinom. Kako nam je rekao mladi Marokanac u Bosni i Hercegovini, koji je 11 puta pokušao preći u Hrvatsku ali ga je hrvatska policija svaki put vratila: “Imaš dva izbora: poginuti ili ostvariti san.” Koliko ih je poginulo na Balkanskoj ruti u pokušaju ostvarenja sna, teško je utvrditi. Najsveobuhvatniji podaci za zemlje bivše Jugoslavije su oni koje prikupljaju istraživači projekta “Europski režim iregulariziranih migracija na periferiji EU”, i broje 346 stradalih od 2014. do 2023. u Hrvatskoj, Bosni i Hercegovini, Srbiji, Sloveniji, Sjevernoj Makedoniji i na Kosovu.

      ERIM-ova baza pojedinačno navodi svakog stradalog i sadrži onoliko podataka koliko su istraživači mogli prikupiti iz raznih izvora – medija, svjedoka stradanja, od institucija, iz aktivističkih kanala. No brojka je zasigurno bitno veća. Nestanak nekih nije ni evidentiran. Tijela mnogih nikad nisu pronađena. Stara planina između Bugarske i Srbije težak je i nedostupan teren. Tu će na preminule naići samo oni koji su istom sudbinom nagnani na taj put i neće riskirati prijavu. Ako stradaju u minskim poljima zaostalim iza ratova u Hrvatskoj i Bosni i Hercegovini, od tijela im neće ostati mnogo. Najviše je pronađeno tijela utopljenih u rijekama, no nema procjena koliko utopljenih nije nikad pronađeno.
      U Hrvatskoj 45 neidentificiranih

      Hrvatsko Ministarstvo unutarnjih poslova nam je dostavilo podatke o stradalim migrantima od 2015., otkad vode evidenciju, do kraja studenog 2023.: ukupno 87 stradalih migranata na području Republike Hrvatske. Ni jedno službeno tijelo u Hrvatskoj, Bosni i Hercegovini i Srbiji ne vodi evidenciju o pokopanim migrantima na tom teritoriju. No za Hrvatsku smo uspjeli doći do podataka, zahvaljujući upitima poslanima na preko 500 adresa gradova, općina i komunalnih poduzeća koja upravljaju grobljima. Prema dobivenim podacima, u Hrvatskoj se na 32 groblja nalazi 59 grobova migranata, koji su ukopani posljednjeg desetljeća, dakle od 2014. do danas. Od toga ih 45 nije identificirano.

      Neki pokopani migranti su ekshumirani i vraćeni obiteljima u zemlju porijekla, premda je to za obitelji zahtjevan i iznimno skup proces. U MUP-u navode da se od 2001. DNK uzorci uzimaju od svih neidentificiranih tijela, a obradu provodi Centar za forenzična ispitivanja, istraživanja i vještačenja Ivan Vučetić. Tražili smo od MUP-a razgovor sa stručnjacima koji rade na identifikaciji migranata, ali nam nije udovoljeno.

      Među NN grobovima u Hrvatskoj je mrtvorođena beba iz Sirije pokopana 2015. u Slavonskom Brodu. Petogodišnja djevojčica koja se utopila u Dunavu i pokopana je 2021. u Dalju. Prošlo ljeto je mladić u brdovitom predjelu na dubrovačkom području umro od iscrpljenosti. Neke je udario vlak. Mnogi su umrli od pothlađenosti. Neki umru jer im nije na vrijeme pružena pomoć. Neki ne vjeruju da im išta više može pomoći pa se ubiju.
      Nerazriješeni gubitak

      Prema zakonu, sahranjuju se najbliže mjestu stradavanja tako da su uglavnom na malim grobljima poput onog u Sičama. Često su, baš kao tamo, njihovi grobovi izdvojeni od ostatka groblja. Ponegdje je, kao u Otoku, netko od mještanki mekog srca dao sebi u zadatak da brine o NN grobu. Negdje je, kao na groblju u Prilišću, NN drveni križ iz 2019. već istrunuo.

      Iza svakog tog NN groba ostaju bližnji koji se nose s teretom neznanja što se dogodilo. Psiholozi to zovu nerazriješenim gubitkom, jer toliko dugo koliko bližnji nemaju potvrdu da su njihovi voljeni mrtvi i ne znaju gdje su im tijela, ne mogu žalovati za njima. Ako nastave sa životom, osjećaju krivnju. I tako su zamrznuti u stanju između očaja i nade. Američka psihologinja dr. Pauline Boss autorica je termina i teorije o nerazriješenom gubitku. “Znati gdje je grob bližnje osobe je jako važno jer pomaže da se oprostite”, rekla je dr. Boss u razgovoru za naš tim.

      Postoji i praktična strana te zamrznutosti: ako osoba nije proglašena mrtvom, ne može se provesti nasljeđivanje, ne može se pristupiti bankovnom računu, ne može se dobiti obiteljska mirovina, partner ili partnerica se ne mogu ponovno vjenčati, komplicira se skrbništvo nad djecom. Mnoge obitelj i u Hrvatskoj i u Bosni i Hercegovini dobro poznaju nerazriješeni gubitak; ratovi u devedesetima ostavili su tisuće nestalih. Obje zemlje imaju posebne zakone o nestalima u tim ratovima i dobro razrađene mehanizme potrage, identifikacije, pohranjivanja podataka i međusobne suradnje. No to se ne primjenjuje na migrante koji se gube i pogibaju među tisućama koji se kreću Balkanskom rutom.
      Uređeni koridor – nula mrtvih

      Hrvatska je postala važna točka ulaska u Europsku uniju nakon što je Mađarska zatvorila granice u rujnu 2015. Od tada pa do ožujka 2016. preko hrvatske dionice Balkanskog koridora – dakle, međudržavnog, organiziranog puta – prema procjenama, prošlo je oko 660.000 izbjeglica. Taj koridor im je omogućio da od Grčke pa do zapadne Europe dođu u dva ili tri dana. I dolazili su sigurno. Od tih stotina tisuća ljudi u pokretu, hrvatski MUP ne bilježi niti jednu smrt 2015. i 2016. Koridor je i uspostavljen da bi se spriječila stradavanja nakon što je veći broj izbjeglica u proljeće 2015. poginuo na željezničkoj pruzi u Makedoniji.

      No sa sklapanjem europsko-turskog sporazuma o izbjeglicama u ožujku 2016. godine, koridor je zatvoren. EU se obavezala izdašno financirati Tursku da izbjeglice drži na svom teritoriju kako ne bi dolazili u Europsku uniju. I tako je migrantima ostala pogibeljna Balkanska ruta. Mnogi njom idu. Samo u deset mjeseci 2023. hrvatska je policija evidentirala 62.452 postupanja vezano za nezakonite prelaske granice.

      I Ured pučke pravobraniteljice u Hrvatskoj i povjerenica Vijeća Europe za ljudska prava upozoravaju na isto: granične i migracijske politike utječu na povećanje rizika od nestajanja migranata. I da je potrebno da se u EU uspostave legalni i sigurni putevi migracija. No, EU očekuje od Hrvatske da štiti zajedničku vanjsku granicu. I Hrvatska to zdušno radi. Takvu praksu ministar Davor Božinović naziva “obeshrabrivanjem” migranata da uđu u Hrvatsku.
      ‘Obeshrabreni’ pod vlak

      Rezultat takve prakse je, primjerice, smrt Madine Hussiny. Šestogodišnju afganistansku djevojčicu je ubio vlak nakon što je njenu obitelj hrvatska policija “obeshrabrila” i usred noći 2017. potjerala nazad u Srbiju uz uputu da prate tračnice. Europski sud za ljudska prava u studenom 2021. je presudio da je Hrvatska odgovorna za Madininu smrt. U svjedočanstvima koja smo čuli, kao i u mnogim izvještajima nevladinih organizacija, migranti opisuju da im je hrvatska policija na granici naredila da pregaze ili preplivaju rijeku kako bi se vratili u Bosnu ili Srbiju, da se penju preko stijena, idu kroz šumu, nekad i svučeni dogola i ne znajući put jer im policija u pravilu oduzme mobitele.

      Prema podacima koje prikuplja Dansko vijeće za izbjeglice, od početka 2020. do kraja 2022. najmanje je 30.000 ljudi prisilno vraćeno iz Hrvatske u Bosnu i Hercegovinu. Među njima je bio i Afganistanac Arat Semiullah. U studenom 2022. je namjeravao prijeći Savu i ući iz Bosne u Hrvatsku. Utopio se. Imao je 20 godina. Pokopan je na pravoslavnom groblju u Banja Luci. Njegova obitelj u Afganistanu nije znala što mu se dogodilo. Dan ranije je poslao mami fotografiju na kojoj je svježe ošišan za ulazak u Europsku uniju. I onda se prestao javljati.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2nVP5AL1x0&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegram.hr%2F&

      Majka je molila nećaka Paymana Sediqija, koji živi u Njemačkoj, da ga pokuša pronaći. Payman je stupio u kontakt s aktivistom Nihadom Suljićem, koji u Bosni i Hercegovini samostalno pomaže obiteljima da doznaju što je s njihovim bližnjima. Tjednima su pokušavali doći do informacija. Payman je otputovao u Bosnu i uspio pronaći tijelo rođaka zahvaljujući susretljivosti policajke koja mu je pokazala forenzičke fotografije. Aratova mama je telefonski potvrdila da je to njezin sin.
      U Europi sahranili snove

      Na Aratovoj osmrtnici objavljenoj u Bosni i Hercegovini piše da je “hrvatska policija vatrenim oružjem potopila čamac te se on tragično utopio”. Uz pomoć muslimanske zajednice, a na želju obitelji, uspjeli su tijelo prebaciti iz Banja Luke na muslimansko groblje u Kamičanima. Htjeli su ga pokopati u Afganistanu, ali im je bilo previše skupo i birokratski komplicirano. U rujnu 2023. susreli smo se s Nihadom i Paymanom kad je Aratu postavljen velik kameni nadgrobni spomenik. Na njemu piše: “U pokušaju dolaska do Europe utopio se u rijeci Savi.”

      Payman nam je ispričao da je Arat prelazio Savu u skupini migranata. Dio njih je uspio doći do hrvatske obale, no onda je hrvatska policija pucala u gumeni čamac u kojem je bio Arat. Čamac se potopio i Arat se utopio. Tako je Paymanu ispričao preživjeli koji je prešao na hrvatsku obalu Save. Payman kaže da je Aratova obitelj u velikoj boli, ali da makar znaju gdje im je sin i da je pokopan po religijskim običajima. Paymanu je važno da na grobu piše da je Arat stradao kao migrant.

      “Svakodnevno u Europi umiru ljudi koji bježe iz zemalja u kojima im nema života. U Europi se sahranjuju njihovi snovi. Nikoga nije briga za njih, čak ni kad europski policajci pucaju na njih”, kaže Payman. Zna o kakvim snovima govori; i sam je ilegalno došao u Njemačku sa 16 godina. Kaže da je imao sreće. Nihad se zalaže da se i drugi grobovi migranata u Bosni i Hercegovini trajno obilježe. Vodi nas na groblje u Zvorniku gdje je pokopano 17 NN migranata. Kaže kako za neke od njih ima informaciju da su imali pasoš sa sobom kad su pronađeni.
      ‘Ove ljude nije ubila rijeka’

      S groblja se vidi Drina, koja dijeli Srbiju od Bosne i u kojoj mnogi izgube život pokušavajući je preći. Samo je ove godine u Drini pronađeno tridesetak tijela. Nihad kaže da imaju sreće ako ih rijeka izbaci na bosansku stranu jer se u Srbiji često ne radi ni obdukcija niti uzimaju DNK uzorci. To su nam potvrdili i aktivisti iz Srbije. U tom slučaju su i u smrti sasvim izgubljeni za svoje obitelji. Zemljani NN grobovi u Zvorniku su zarasli i nisu omeđeni, tako da ne znate gazite li po njima.

      Nihad je uspio uvjeriti Grad Zvornik da drvena obilježja zamijene crnim kamenom. Važno mu je da su pokopani dostojanstveno, ali mu je još važnije da ostanu svjedočiti. “Želja mi je da i za sto godina ovi grobovi budu spomenici srama EU. Jer, nije ove ljude ubila rijeka, nego granični režim EU”, kaže Nihad.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJkS3qHfA54&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegram.hr%2F&

      https://www.telegram.hr/preview/1905158

    • An obscure island grave: fate of deadly EU migration route’s youngest victim

      Case of #Alhassane_Bangoura in #Lanzarote highlights Europe-wide failure as authorities struggle to cope with scale of deaths

      Stretching less than a metre in length and covered in the ochre-coloured soil that dots the Canary island of Lanzarote, large stones encircle the tiny mound. There is no tombstone or plaque; nothing official to signal that this is the final resting site of the infant believed to be the youngest victim of one of the world’s deadliest migration routes.

      Instead, two bouquets of plastic daisies adorn the grave, along with a granite bowl engraved with his name, Alhassane Bangoura, hinting at the impact his story had on many across the island.

      His mother, originally from Guinea, was among three pregnant women who joined 40 others in an inflatable raft that left Morocco in early January 2020. After running out of fuel, the flimsy raft was left to the mercy of Atlantic currents for three days.

      “They were driven by desperation,” said Mamadou Sy, a municipal councillor for the Socialist party in Lanzarote. “Nobody would get into one of these vessels if they had even a little bit of hope in their own country. Nobody would do it.”

      So far this year, a record 35,410 migrants and refugees have arrived on the shores of the Canary Islands – a 135% increase over last year. More than 11,000 of them landed at the tiny island of El Hierro, home to just 9,000 people.

      The surge in those risking the perilous route has transformed the archipelago into a microcosm of the wider strain playing out across the EU as authorities struggle to deal with the bodies of those that die on their way. A Guardian investigation in collaboration with a consortium of reporters has found that refugees and migrants are being buried in unmarked graves across the EU at a scale that is unprecedented outside of war.

      In September, the mayor of Mogán, a municipality on the island of Gran Canaria, gave voice to the tensions that have at times surfaced as officials across the EU confront this issue, announcing she would no longer use her budget to cover the cost of burying refugees and migrants who are found along the shores that buttress the municipality.

      “When they die on the high seas, it is the responsibility of the state,” Onalia Bueno told reporters, in rejection of a Spanish law that requires municipalities to foot the bills for people who die within their jurisdiction and who are either unidentified or whose families cannot cover the costs.

      At the Teguise municipal cemetery on the island of Lanzarote, more than 25 unmarked graves sit among a plot containing about 60 graves in total. It was here that baby Alhassane was buried. His mother had delivered him as the rickety vessel pitched against the fierce Atlantic swells; those onboard later told media they never heard the baby cry.

      His body was cold when the vessel was rescued, an emergency services spokesperson said. He was taken to the nearest hospital but was declared dead on arrival. His body was taken to judicial authorities as is the standard practice in Spain for migrants and refugees who perish at sea or on arrival.

      Alhassane’s mother, who was unconscious when she was rescued, was later sent to Gran Canaria, about 200km (125 miles) away, where an NGO had agreed to take her into its care. But the Spanish judicial system had yet to release her son’s body – a process that can take up to eight months in Lanzarote.

      The funeral took place on 25 January. “She wasn’t able to attend the funeral,” said Laetitia Marthe, who was among those who unsuccessfully battled for Alhassane’s mother to be allowed to attend. “Basically they’re treated like numbers.”

      Instead, Marthe was among the handful of people who attended the funeral in her name.

      Judicial officials had liaised with the mother to check the baby’s name, said Eugenio Robayna Díaz, the municipal councillor responsible for cemeteries in the city of Teguise. But he did not know why the name had not made it on to the grave.

      Julie Campagne, an anthropologist based in Lanzarote, called for the baby’s grave to be marked with a plaque. “We’re witnessing the process of forgetting in real time. And this loss of memory comes with a shirking of our responsibility for what is happening.”

      Generally speaking, all over the world, there is always a small fraction of people who die and are never identified, she added. “But that is not what is happening here. This is happening for specific reasons. This is happening because of the policy decisions of our governments.”

      While Alhassane’s mother was not able to attend the funeral, what did eventually make it to his gravesite was a smooth stone, painted by her in yellow and red and brought there by those travelling from Gran Canaria shortly after the burial. Written on the stone was a message for her son.

      More than three years of rain has washed away much of what was there but Marthe copied down the message, hoping to one day add it to a formal marker of the site. “I will miss you a lot my baby,” it reads. “I love you.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/08/an-obscure-island-grave-fate-of-deadly-eu-migration-routes-youngest-vic

      #Teguise

    • Dead refugees in the Balkans: bribes to find missing relatives

      In comparison to 2015, today more asylum seekers are dying on the Balkan route. While relatives are forced to overcome state indifference to identify their loved ones, they are also forced to bribe authorities, even border guards, in the hope of finding them.

      He had hoped to find his son in a refugee camp. And after spending three weeks looking for him, he had prepared himself for the possibility of finding him in a hospital.

      But he didn’t expect to find him in the graveyard.

      When the policeman with Bulgarian insignia on his uniform showed him the picture of his son lying lifeless in the grass, he lost the ground under his feet. “I wish I could at least have been able to see Majd one last time. My mind still can’t believe that the person in this grave is my son,” says Husam Adin Bibars.

      The 56-year-old Syrian refugee, a father of four other children, had spent 22 days searching for his son from afar when he decided to spend his meager savings to travel from Denmark to Bulgaria to look for him – but it was too late.

      In Bulgaria, he learned that 27-year-old Majd’s body had been buried within just four days of its discovery. Majd had been buried as an unidentified person; there was nothing to indicate that the person buried under that pile of dirt, which Bibars later visited, was his son.

      “We hear that Europe is the land of freedom, democracy, and human rights,” says Bibars soberly. “Where are human rights if I am not able to see my son before his burial?”

      Dead without identification

      Majd had crossed from Turkey to Bulgaria with a group of about 20 other people, hoping to reunite with his parents and siblings in Europe. Once he arrived, his pregnant wife and their daughter, Hannah, would follow.

      Toward the end of September, he stopped returning calls and texts. The smuggler told Bibars that Majd had fallen ill and they needed to leave him behind. Authorities told Bibars his son died of thirst, exhaustion, and exposure.

      In recent years, with the support of EU funds and the increased involvement of the European border agency Frontex, Balkan countries have stepped up border controls, constructing fences, deploying drones and surveillance mechanisms. But this doesn’t deter asylum seekers – it causes them to take longer and more dangerous routes to avoid authorities.

      An investigation by Solomon in collaboration with investigative newsroom Lighthouse Reports, the German magazine Der Spiegel and German public television ARD, the British newspaper i, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, found that the hostility people face at the borders of Europe in life continues even in death.

      We found that since the start of 2022, the lifeless bodies of 155 people presumed to be migrants have ended up in morgues close to borders along a route that includes Serbia, Bulgaria, and Bosnia.

      According to the data, for 2023 there is already a 46% increase in deaths compared to the whole of 2022.

      In the Balkans, people making the journey have to cope with harsh weather conditions, but also with pushbacks, increased brutality by border guards and smugglers, theft by border forces – even detention in secret prisons.

      For their part, the families of those who go missing or die in the region have to search for their loved ones in morgues, hospitals, and special Facebook and WhatsApp groups, and to cope with an equally arduous effort facing the indifference of the authorities.

      In Bulgaria, this investigation reveals, they often also need to pay bribes in the hope of learning more about their missing loved ones.
      The 10 key findings of the investigation:

      - In 2022, the number of people travelling irregularly through the Balkans to Western Europe reached its highest point since 2015, with Frontex recording 144,118 irregular border crossings.

      – The corresponding figure for 2023 is lower (79,609 by September), but remains a multiple of 2019 (15,127) and 2018 (5,844).

      – The Balkan route is more dangerous than ever: in the absence of a centralised relevant registration system, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants platform suggests that more people died or went missing in 2022 than in 2015.

      - According to data gathered for this investigation, at least 155 unidentified bodies ended up in six selected morgues along a section of the Balkan route that includes Bulgaria, Serbia, and Bosnia. The majority of the bodies (92) were found this year.

      - For 2023, the number is already showing a 46% increase compared to 2022, and is exploding in some morgues.

      – Some morgues in Bulgaria (Burgas, Yambol) are having difficulty finding space for the bodies of refugees. Others in Serbia (Loznina) have no space at all.

      - This contributes to unidentified bodies being buried within days, in ‘No Name’ graves. This means that families are left without the opportunity to search for their loved ones.

      - In Bulgaria, families told us that they had to bribe staff at hospitals and morgues, but border guards too, when searching for their loved ones. Sources in the field confirm the practice, which is also recorded in an audio file in our possession.

      – In Bosnia, at least 28 people presumed to be asylum seekers have already died in the Drina River this year, compared to just five in 2022 and three in 2021.

      - Bureaucracy and lack of state interest are recorded as hampering efforts to identify dead asylum seekers.

      Dead but cause of death unknown

      What do you do when your little brother is missing, and because of your status in the country you live in, you can’t travel to look for him?

      Asmatullah Sediqi, a 29-year-old asylum seeker, was in his asylum accommodation in Warrington, UK, when his brother’s travel companions informed him that 22-year-old Rahmatullah was likely dead.

      Due to his status as an asylum seeker, the UK Home Office did not allow Asmatullah to return to Bulgaria, which he had also crossed on his journey, to look for his brother.

      When a friend was able to go on his behalf, the Bulgarian police refused to give any information. And the morgue staff asked for 300 euros to let him see some bodies, Sediqi said in this investigation.

      “In such a situation, a person should help a person,” he added. “They only know money. They are not interested in human life.”

      He managed to borrow the amount they asked for. In July 2022, 55 days after his brother’s disappearance, the Burgas hospital confirmed that one of the bodies in the morgue belonged to Rahmatullah. With another 3,000 euros borrowed, a company repatriated the remains to their parents in Afghanistan.

      But to this day, Sediqi is consumed by one thought: he doesn’t know how, he hasn’t been told why, his brother died.

      The Bulgarian authorities have not given him the results of the autopsy “because I don’t have a visa to travel there,” he says. “I’m sure that when the police found him in the forest, they must have taken some photos. It’s very painful not knowing what happened to my brother. It’s devastating.”
      “Not a single complaint”

      As part of this investigation by Solomon, Lighthouse Reports, RFE/RL, inews, ARD και Der Spiegel, several relatives told us they had also been forced to bribe workers at the Burgas hospital’s morgue to find out if their family members were among the dead.

      When we asked the hospital administration whether they were aware of such practices, Galina Mileva, head of the forensic medicine department at Burgas hospital, said that they had not received “a single report or complaint about such a case. The identification of the bodies is done only in the presence of a police officer conducting the investigation and a forensic expert.”

      The administration also replied that there is no legal provision under which employees could claim money from relatives for this procedure.

      “We appeal to these complaints to be addressed through official channels to us and to the investigating authorities. If such practices are found to exist, the workers will be held accountable,” they added.
      “Money is requested at every step of the process”

      Another relative, whose family also travelled to Bulgaria in late 2022 to search for a family member, told us that after they paid staff at the morgue 300 euros to be allowed to look at the dead bodies, they also had to pay border guards.

      It was the only way they could be taken seriously, the relative explained.

      When they asked the border guards to show them photos of people who had been found dead, the border guards said they didn’t have time, but when the family agreed to pay 20 euros for each photo shown to them, time was found.

      Georgi Voynov, a lawyer for the Bulgarian Committee Helsinki Refugee and Migrant Programme, confirmed that families of deceased persons have approached the Committee about cases in which hospitals asked for large sums of money to confirm that the bodies of their loved ones were there.

      “They complain that they are being asked for money at every step of the process,” he said.

      International organisations, including the Bulgarian Red Cross, confirmed that they had such experiences from persons they had supported, who said they had been forced to pay money to hospitals and morgues.

      A Bulgarian Red Cross official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, commented:

      “We understand that these people are very overwhelmed and have to be paid extra for all the extra work they do. But this should be done in a legal way.”

      https://wearesolomon.com/mag/focus-area/migration/dead-refugees-in-the-balkans

      #Bulgarie #Drina #Galina_Mileva

  • "Wie ein zweiter Tod"

    Am griechisch-türkischen Grenzfluss Evros enden Versuche, in die EU zu gelangen, immer wieder mit dem Tod. Die Verstorbenen werden oft spät gefunden und bleiben namenlos - ein Trauma für die Angehörigen.

    Am 17. Oktober 2022 überquert die 22-jährige Suhur den Evros, den Grenzfluss zwischen der Türkei und Griechenland. Ein Schlepper verspricht der Frau aus Somalia, sie bis nach Thessaloniki zu bringen. Auf der griechischen Seite angekommen, geht es schnell weiter durch einen Wald.

    Doch Suhur hat starke Bauchschmerzen, nach einigen Kilometern kann sie nicht mehr weiterlaufen. Die anderen aus der Gruppe lassen sie alleine zurück, ihre Freundin verspricht Hilfe zu suchen. Doch dazu dazu kommt es nicht. Tage später findet die Polizei ihre Leiche.

    Es ist Suhurs Onkel Fahti, der ihre Geschichte erzählt, nachdem er ihre Leiche im Universitätskrankenhaus in Alexandroupoli identifiziert hat.
    Engmaschige Kontrollen entlang des Ufers

    Suhur ist eine von vielen Menschen, die versuchen, über den Evros zu gelangen, um Europa zu erreichen. Der Fluss markiert eine Außengrenze der Europäischen Union. Entlang der griechischen Uferseite allerdings wird engmaschig kontrolliert, regelmäßig sind unterschiedliche Polizeieinheiten in der Gegend unterwegs.

    In der Grenzzone selbst ist der Zutritt streng verboten, nur mit Sondererlaubnis darf man in die Nähe des Flusses gehen. Seit 2020 wird ein Grenzzaun errichtet, 38 Kilometer ist er bereits lang, er soll Migranten von einem illegalen Übertritt abhalten.

    Weiterhin traurige Rekorde

    Doch offenbar verfehlen die Maßnahmen ihre erwünschte Wirkung. So erreichten allein im Jahr 2022 laut UNHCR 6022 Flüchtlinge über den Landweg Griechenland, das sind ähnlich hohe Zahlen wie vor der Verschärfung der Kontrollen.

    Einen traurigen Rekord stellt die Zahl der Toten auf, die gefunden werden. Mindestens 63 Menschen sind nach offiziellen Angaben auf der Flucht gestorben, die tatsächlichen Zahlen dürften noch deutlich höher liegen.

    https://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/sendung/tagesthemen/video-1153371.html

    Ein Rechtsmediziner zählt die Toten

    In Alexandroupoli, auf griechischer Seite, arbeitet Pavlos Pavlidis als Rechtsmediziner der Region. Jeder am Evros gefundene tote Flüchtling wird von ihm obduziert.

    Pavlidis führt Protokoll über die Anzahl der Toten am Evros. Auch der tote Körper der Somalierin Suhur wurde ihm aus einem Waldstück nahe des Flusses gebracht.

    Aus London angereist, um die Nichte zu identifizieren

    Nun sitzt ihr Onkel Fahti auf einem Sofa in seinem Büro. Sie sei eine wunderschöne Frau gewesen, sagt er. Fathi ist aus London angereist, um seine Nichte zu identifizieren.

    Die Freundin von Suhur, so erzählt es Fathi, habe sich der griechischen Polizei gestellt, um sie zu der schwer erkrankten Suhur zu führen. Doch die Polizei habe nicht nach ihr gesucht, und die Freundin sofort zurück in die Türkei abgeschoben.

    Verifizieren lässt sich diese Version der Geschehnisse nicht mehr. Die „Push-Back“-Praxis, das Abschieben von Migranten ohne Verfahren, wurde offiziell nie von der griechischen Regierung bestätigt.Trotzdem gibt es viele ähnliche Berichte von Betroffenen.

    Rechtsmediziner Pavlidis hat Suhurs toten Körper obduziert und kommt zu dem Ergebnis: Die junge Frau habe auf der Flucht einen Magendurchbruch erlitten, voraussichtlich hervorgerufen durch großen Stress. Am Ende sei sie an einer Sepsis gestorben. Durch Erschöpfung hervorgerufene Krankheiten seien eine häufige Todesursache am Evros, die häufigste aber Ertrinken im Fluss.

    Viel Flüchtlinge können kaum schwimmen

    Pavlidis sagt, die Verantwortung für die vielen Toten trügen zunächst die Schlepper, die die Schlauchboote völlig überladen, so, dass sie schnell kenterten. Viele Flüchtlinge könnten kaum schwimmen, so werde der Fluss zur Gefahr für ihr Leben.

    Die Flüchtlinge selbst unterschätzen offenbar die Gefährlichkeit der Überfahrt. Aber auch die strenge Abschirmung der Grenze bedeutet für sie eine Gefahr. Um den Grenzschützern auszuweichen, schlagen sie immer gefährlichere Routen ein.

    Wer aufgegriffen wird, muss Angst haben, abgeschoben zu werden. Verletzt sich einer aus der Gruppe, muss dieser damit rechnen, alleine zurückgelassen zu werden. Denn Hilfe zu holen, würde für alle bedeuten, dass ihre teuer bezahlte Flucht erst einmal gestoppt ist.

    Aktuell 52 ungeklärte Todesfälle

    Immer wieder findet die Polizei Tote also auch in den bewaldeten Bergen entlang des Flusses. Die Leichen sind schon nach wenigen Tagen kaum noch zu identifizieren. Pavlidis versucht es trotzdem, sucht nach Todesursache und Todeszeitpunkt und nach Antworten auf die Frage, wer ist dieser Mensch war.

    Aktuell erzählt Pavlidis von 52 ungeklärten Fällen. Hinter jedem einzelnen stünden Angehörige, die diese Menschen vermissten. Die Identität zu verlieren, sei wie ein zweiter Tod, sagt der Rechtsmediziner.

    Etwa 200 Grabsteine erinnern an die namenlosen Toten

    Um den namenlosen Toten eine letzte Ruhestätte zu geben, entstand in dem in den Bergen, nahe der Gemeinde Sidiro, ein Friedhof, der ihnen gewidmet ist. Etwa 200 Grabsteine stehen hier auf einer leichten Anhöhe. Auf den Platten stehen Nummern. Pavlidis führt eine Liste mit den entsprechenden Nummern in seinem Büro.

    Falls doch irgendwann ein Angehöriger zu ihm käme und mit Hilfe einer DNA-Probe einen Toten identifiziere, könne der auf dem Friedhof der Namenlosen ausgegraben und umgebettet werden.

    Im Fall der Somalierin Suhur ist Pavlidis eine Identifizierung gelungen. Ihr Onkel Fathi lebte wochenlang mit der Ungewissheit, was seiner Nichte geschehen sein könnte.

    Nachdem er bei der griechischen Polizei eine Suchanzeige abgegeben hat, lebt er nun mit der brutalen Gewissheit, dass Suhur gestorben ist. Wenigstens habe er nun Klarheit, sagt er, so dass seine Familie und er nun von Suhur Abschied nehmen könnten.

    https://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/audio/audio-154699.html
    https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/europa/eu-aussengrenze-migration-101.html

    #frontières #mourir_aux_frontières #morts_aux_frontières #Evros #fleuve #Turquie #Grèce #Pavlos_Pavlidis #cimetière #migrations #asile #réfugiés #identification #murs #barrières_frontalières

  • Des #fouilles_corporelles « sexualisées » frappent les migrants aux frontières de l’Europe

    Déshabillés, humiliés, maltraités. Des femmes et des hommes venus demander asile racontent avoir subi des fouilles corporelles et génitales brutales, effectuées par des personnes censées garder les frontières de l’UE en Grèce.

    Corfou (Grèce).– Clémentine Ngono* n’a jamais voulu venir en Europe. Cependant, des expériences répétées de violence et d’agression l’ont forcée à fuir. D’abord son pays d’origine, le Cameroun, puis la Turquie. Aux premières heures du 15 septembre 2021, elle est montée à bord d’un canot pneumatique gris, en compagnie de son mari, de son fils de six mois et de 33 autres personnes. Qui savaient que le voyage serait dangereux. Conscientes que les autorités grecques pourraient les refouler, elles ont tout de même tenté leur chance.

    Juste après le lever du soleil, le groupe a atteint l’île grecque de Samos. Très vite, un navire des gardes-côtes les a arrêtées. Un groupe d’hommes encagoulés les a embarquées. Une fois sur le bateau de la patrouille grecque, les personnes ont été mises à genoux puis, une par une, ont reçu l’ordre de se lever et de se déshabiller devant tout le monde. Celles et ceux qui osaient résister ont été menacé·es et battu·es, leurs vêtements arrachés et déchirés. Une fois toutes les personnes nues, l’un des hommes masqués a commencé la fouille au corps, n’hésitant pas à toucher les seins et les parties génitales des femmes.

    « Il nous fouillait partout », se souvient Clémentine Ngono, horrifiée, en pressant deux doigts l’un contre l’autre et en les pointant sur son abdomen. « C’est ainsi qu’il a mis sa main dans mon vagin », dit-elle en faisant une pause avant d’ajouter : « Et dans mon anus. » Les hommes, qui ont utilisé les mêmes gants en plastique pour fouiller tout le groupe, ont pris son téléphone et les 500 euros qu’elle avait sur elle.

    Plus tard, le groupe a été abandonné sur des radeaux de sauvetage en Méditerranée. Aujourd’hui encore, Clémentine Ngono ne peut oublier la honte qu’elle a ressentie. « C’était une telle humiliation », dit-elle lors d’un entretien en juillet 2023 à Corfou, où elle travaille pendant l’été comme femme de chambre. Clémentine Ngono a intenté une action en justice, déclarant que la fouille corporelle et génitale forcée était « extrêmement invasive et offensante ». Son cas pourrait toutefois s’inscrire dans une tendance plus large.

    Début 2023, le Comité contre la torture (CPT) du Conseil de l’Europe a critiqué les nombreux cas de mauvais traitements lors des « refoulements » aux frontières de l’Union européenne (UE). Selon son rapport, les autorités frontalières obligent parfois les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile à repasser la frontière « entièrement nus ». Le Border Violence Monitoring Network, une coalition d’organisations non gouvernementales, fait état de pratiques similaires.

    De même, dans un rapport publié jeudi 2 novembre, Médecins sans frontières (MSF) a recueilli plusieurs témoignages de réfugié·es racontant des fouilles corporelles et génitales sexualisées par de supposés gardes-frontières. Ces derniers obligeraient les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile à se déshabiller avant de procéder à des fouilles vaginales et anales en public, parfois sans changer de gants. Les fouilles des femmes seraient effectuées par des hommes, comme dans le cas de Clémentine Ngono.
    « Le but était de nous humilier »

    Mediapart s’est entretenu avec plusieurs victimes, des avocats, des ONG, et a examiné des documents internes de l’agence européenne de gardes-côtes Frontex. L’image qui en ressort est celle d’une pratique normalisée : celle de mises à nu et de fouilles génitales forcées lors des refoulements par les autorités frontalières grecques. Ces pratiques semblent avoir un objectif central : dissuader les personnes de réessayer tout en volant leurs objets de valeur et leur argent.

    Meral Şimşek jette sa cigarette à moitié consumée et acquiesce. Cela fait un an que la poétesse kurde est arrivée à Berlin (Allemagne). Meral Şimşek, critique véhémente du régime d’Erdoğan, a été confrontée toute sa vie à la violence et à la persécution des autorités turques. En 2021, les choses ont empiré, elle a alors décidé de quitter son pays.

    Le 29 juin 2021, elle a traversé le fleuve Évros en compagnie d’une femme syrienne, Dicle. « Nous sommes arrivées sur le sol grec », dit-elle dans une vidéo qu’elle a enregistrée au crépuscule. Après plusieurs heures, les deux femmes ont atteint Feres, une petite ville frontalière grecque. Meral Şimşek voulait demander l’asile, mais la police grecque les a interpellées à l’entrée de la ville.

    Après les avoir détenues et battues, les policiers ont emmené les deux femmes dans la rue. Là, ils ont forcé Meral Şimşek à se déshabiller. Ensuite, une policière a fouillé ses parties génitales, en pleine rue. « Ils ont regardé directement dans mon vagin », raconte-t-elle. Pendant ce temps, les autres policiers regardaient. Şimşek se souvient que certains ont fait des commentaires en grec en regardant son corps. Ils ont ensuite fouillé Dicle avec les mêmes gants en plastique. Puis les deux femmes ont été livrées à un groupe d’hommes masqués et reconduites de force en Turquie. « Le but était de nous humilier », dit-elle.

    Du côté des autorités grecques, ni le ministère de l’intérieur ni le ministère des migrations et de l’asile n’ont commenté ces allégations. Les gardes-côtes grecs ont déclaré que « les pratiques opérationnelles des autorités grecques n’incluent pas de telles méthodes », car elles seraient contraires à l’article 257 du Code de procédure pénale grec.

    Interrogée sur les allégations de fouilles corporelles et génitales forcées, Frontex a déclaré à Mediapart qu’elle « avait connaissance d’une poignée de cas de ce type en Grèce et en Bulgarie ».
    Des témoignages connus de Frontex

    Mediapart a pu avoir accès à plusieurs rapports internes du responsable des droits fondamentaux de Frontex, qui contiennent des allégations et des descriptions de mises à nu forcées, principalement à la frontière de l’Évros. Dans un « rapport d’incident grave » (SIR) portant le numéro 10142/2018, daté du 18 novembre 2018, Frontex indique qu’un groupe de réfugiés aurait été repoussé par les autorités grecques après avoir été agressé physiquement et « obligé à se déshabiller ».

    Le rapport SIR 13400/2022, qui concerne une série de refoulements par les autorités grecques en juillet et août 2022, rapporte que des migrants ont été « forcés de repasser par la rivière après que leurs effets personnels leur ont été confisqués, après avoir été déshabillés et battus ».

    Le rapport SIR 15314/2022 du 30 mai 2023 décrit plusieurs refoulements sur le fleuve Évros. Selon ce rapport, un migrant a été « soumis à des violences physiques, mis à nu de force, ses biens ont été volés ou détruits, avant qu’il reçoive l’ordre de retourner irrégulièrement en Turquie » par les autorités grecques.

    Frontex considère elle-même que les déclarations contenues dans le rapport sont « relativement crédibles ». Si les témoignages sont confirmés, l’agence européenne affirme que cela constituerait « probablement une expulsion collective interdite et un traitement inhumain et dégradant ».

    À Samos, l’avocate Ioanna Begiazi ouvre la porte de son cabinet, dans la vieille ville de Vathi. Elle se souvient du cas de Clémentine Ngono. « Elle est venue nous voir parce qu’elle voulait agir », dit-elle. Et le cas de Clémentine Ngono n’est pas isolé.

    Ioanna Begiazi représente régulièrement des victimes de refoulements illégaux. « Les femmes, en particulier, nous disent que les fouilles génitales sont très fréquentes », explique-t-elle. Mais les hommes sont également concernés, ajoute-t-elle. « Il s’agit d’une forme d’humiliation et de dissuasion », explique Ioanna Begiazi. Une humiliation qualifiée par l’avocate de « sexualisée », et qui aurait pour but de décourager les migrant·es de franchir à nouveau la frontière.

    Ioanna Begiazi explique que les fouilles à nu ne sont en soi pas interdites en Grèce. Mais il faudrait qu’il y ait une raison sérieuse pour une telle intervention, comme des preuves concrètes qu’un acte criminel a été commis. Et même si c’était le cas, il existe de nombreuses réglementations. Les fouilles corporelles doivent notamment être conformes aux règles d’hygiène, les agents qui les pratiquent doivent donc changer de gants pour chaque personne qu’ils fouillent.

    Elles doivent aussi être effectuées dans le respect des droits personnels et de la dignité humaine de l’individu. De plus, les fouilles sont censées se dérouler dans un environnement protégé, en aucun cas devant d’autres personnes, afin de garantir le respect de la vie privée. Enfin, elles doivent être réalisées par des personnes du même sexe sans usage ou menace de violence physique.

    La Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH) a statué en 2001 que les fouilles corporelles effectuées par les forces de l’ordre peuvent être justifiées dans certains cas. Par exemple, si elles permettent d’empêcher des infractions pénales. Cependant, les déshabillages forcés et les fouilles génitales, qui laissent aux victimes « des sentiments d’angoisse et d’infériorité propres à les humilier et à les avilir », violent l’article 3 de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme.

    Les témoignages des demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile qui dénoncent des mises à nu et des fouilles génitales forcées conduisent les expert·es des droits humains à penser qu’il pourrait s’agir d’une violation de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme.

    « C’est l’un des moyens de faire passer le message et de les dissuader », explique l’avocat spécialiste des droits humains Nikola Kovačević. Expert dans le domaine de la migration, le Serbe rapporte avoir également connaissance de cas de déshabillage forcé et de fouilles génitales par les autorités frontalières. Selon lui, elles sont destinées à envoyer un message : « Si vous revenez, cela se reproduira. »

    Kovačević estime que les fouilles corporelles et génitales sexualisées violent l’interdiction de la « torture, des traitements dégradants ou inhumains » ancrée dans la Convention de l’UE sur les droits de l’homme et la Convention des Nations unies contre la torture.

    « Les traitements inhumains et dégradants sont dirigés contre la dignité humaine, explique-t-il. Vous privez une personne de sa dignité, vous la forcez à s’agenouiller, vous lui crachez dessus, vous la déshabillez, vous créez une situation dans laquelle cette personne se sent inférieure. »

    Selon Nikola Kovačević, la frontière entre la torture et les traitements inhumains ou dégradants est parfois floue. Cependant, ces deux délits ont une caractéristique centrale en commun : juridiquement, ils ne permettent aucune exception. « Il n’existe aucune circonstance imaginable qui justifie d’infliger de la douleur et de la souffrance à une personne sans défense », explique l’avocat.

    À Corfou, Clémentine Ngono se lève, essuie la sueur de son front et regarde sa montre. Elle dit être épuisée. Fatiguée par les longues heures de travail à l’hôtel, les factures impayées, le sentiment de culpabilité, par la séparation physique avec son mari, dont la demande d’asile a été rejetée.

    Clémentine Ngono dit qu’elle n’aime pas vraiment parler de ce qu’elle a vécu. Cependant, il est important pour elle que des choses similaires n’arrivent pas à d’autres. « Nous avons besoin de gens qui ont le courage de parler », dit-elle. Sinon, rien ne changera. Pour elle, c’est pénible de parler de ce qui s’est passé mais, dit-elle, « si je peux aider les autres, je le ferai ».

    https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/031123/des-fouilles-corporelles-sexualisees-frappent-les-migrants-aux-frontieres-

    #migrations #asile #réfugiés #violence #Grèce #humiliation #mauvais_traitements #organes_génitaux #nudité #fouille_au_corps #honte #fouilles_génitales #gardes-frontières #refoulements #push-backs #vol #Evros #Samos #dissuasion #femmes #humiliation_sexualisée #dignité #déshabillage #dignité_humaine

  • Bulgaria : lottare per vivere, lottare per morire

    Di morti insepolti, notti insonni e domande che non avranno risposta

    “ГРАНИЦИТЕ УБИВАТ”, ovvero “I confini uccidono”. Questa scritta campeggia su delle vecchie cisterne arrugginite lungo la statale 79, la strada che collega Elhovo a Burgas, seguendo il confine bulgaro-turco fino al Mar Nero. L’abbiamo fatta noi del Collettivo Rotte Balcaniche (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100078755275162), rossa come il sangue che abbiamo visto scorrere in queste colline. Volevamo imprimere nello spazio fisico un ricordo di chi proprio tra questi boschi ha vissuto i suoi ultimi istanti, lasciare un segno perché la memoria avesse una dimensione materiale. Dall’altra parte, volevamo lanciare un monito, per parlare a chi continua a transitare su questa strada ignorandone la puzza di morte e a chi ne è direttamente responsabile, per dire “noi sappiamo e non dimenticheremo”. Ne è uscita una semplice scritta che forse in pochi noteranno. Racchiude le lacrime che accompagnano i ricordi e un urlo che monta dentro, l’amore e la rabbia.

    Dall’anno passato il confine bulgaro-turco è tornato ad essere la prima porta terrestre d’Europa. I dati diffusi dalla Polizia di frontiera bulgara contano infatti oltre 158 mila tentativi di ingresso illegale nel territorio impediti nei primi nove mesi del 2023, a fronte dei 115 mila nel corrispondente periodo del 2022, anno in cui le medesime statistiche erano già più che triplicate 1. Il movimento delle persone cambia a seconda delle politiche di confine, come un flusso d’acqua alla ricerca di un varco, così la totale militarizzazione del confine di terra greco-turco, che si snoda lungo il fiume Evros, ha spostato le rotte migratorie verso la più porosa frontiera bulgara. Dall’altro lato, la sempre più aggressiva politica di deportazioni di Erdogan – che ha già ricollocato con la forza 600 mila rifugiatə sirianə nel nord-ovest del paese, sotto il controllo turco, e promette di raggiungere presto la soglia del milione – costringe gli oltre tre milioni di sirianə che vivono in Turchia a muoversi verso luoghi più sicuri.

    Abbiamo iniziato a conoscere la violenza della polizia bulgara più di un anno fa, non nelle inchieste giornalistiche ma nei racconti delle persone migranti che incontravamo in Serbia, mentre ci occupavamo di distribuire cibo e docce calde a chi veniva picchiatə e respintə dalle guardie di frontiera ungheresi. Siamo un gruppo di persone solidali che dal 2018 ha cominciato a viaggiare lungo le rotte balcaniche per supportare attivamente lə migrantə in cammino, e da allora non ci siamo più fermatə. Anche se nel tempo siamo cresciutə, rimaniamo un collettivo autorganizzato senza nessun riconoscimento formale. Proprio per questo, abbiamo deciso di muoverci verso i contesti caratterizzati da maggior repressione, laddove i soggetti più istituzionali faticano a trovare agibilità e le pratiche di solidarietà assumono un valore conflittuale e politico. Uno dei nostri obiettivi è quello di essere l’anti-confine, costruendo vie sicure attraverso le frontiere, ferrovie sotterranee. Tuttavia, non avremmo mai pensato di diventare un “rescue team”, un equipaggio di terra, ovvero di occuparci di ricerca e soccorso delle persone disperse – vive e morte – nelle foreste della Bulgaria.

    La prima operazione di salvataggio in cui ci siamo imbattutə risale alle notte tra il 19 e il 20 luglio. Stavo per andare a dormire, verso l’una, quando sento insistentemente suonare il telefono del Collettivo – telefono attraverso cui gestiamo le richieste di aiuto delle persone che vivono nei campi rifugiati della regione meridionale della Bulgaria 2. Era M., un signore siriano residente nel campo di Harmanli, che avevo conosciuto pochi giorni prima. «C’è una donna incinta sulla strada 79, serve un’ambulanza». Con lei, le sue due bambine di tre e sei anni. Chiamiamo il 112, numero unico per le emergenze, dopo averla messa al corrente che probabilmente prima dell’ambulanza sarebbe arrivata la polizia, e non potevamo sapere cosa sarebbe successo. Dopo aver capito che il centralino ci stava mentendo, insinuando che le squadre di soccorso erano uscite senza aver trovato nessuno alle coordinate che avevamo segnalato, decidiamo di muoverci in prima persona. Da allora, si sono alternate settimane più e meno intense di uscite e ricerche. Abbiamo un database che raccoglie la quarantina di casi di cui ci siamo in diversi modi occupatə da fine luglio e metà ottobre: nomi, storie e foto che nessunə vorrebbe vedere. In questi mesi tre mesi si è sviluppata anche una rete di associazioni con cui collaboriamo nella gestione delle emergenze, che comprende in particolare #CRG (#Consolidated_Rescue_Group: https://www.facebook.com/C.R.G.2022), gruppo di volontariə sirianə che fa un incredibile lavoro di raccolta di segnalazioni di “distress” e “missing people” ai confini d’Europa, nonché di relazione con lə familiari.

    Ricostruire questo tipo di situazioni è sempre complicato: le informazioni sono frammentate, la cronologia degli eventi incerta, l’intervento delle autorità poco prevedibile. Spesso ci troviamo ad unire tessere di un puzzle che non combacia. Sono le persone migranti stesse a lanciare l’SOS, oppure, se non hanno un telefono o è scarico, le “guide” 3 che le accompagnano nel viaggio. Le richieste riportano i dati anagrafici, le coordinate, lo stato di salute della persona. Le famiglie contattano poi organizzazioni solidali come CRG, che tra lə migrantə sirianə è un riferimento fidato. L’unica cosa che noi possiamo fare – ma che nessun altro fa – è “metterci il corpo”, frapporci tra la polizia e le persone migranti. Il fatto che ci siano delle persone bianche ed europee nel luogo dell’emergenza obbliga i soccorsi ad arrivare, e scoraggia la polizia dal respingere e torturare. Infatti, è la gerarchia dei corpi che determina quanto una persona è “salvabile”, e le vite migranti valgono meno di zero. Nella notte del 5 agosto, mentre andavamo a recuperare il cadavere di H., siamo fermatə da un furgone scuro, senza insegne della polizia. È una pattuglia del corpo speciale dell’esercito che si occupa di cattura e respingimento. Gli diciamo la verità: stiamo andando a cercare un ragazzo morto nel bosco, abbiamo già avvisato il 112. Uno dei soldati vuole delle prove, gli mostriamo allora la foto scattata dai compagni di viaggio. Vedendo il cadavere, si mette a ridere, “it’s funny”, dice.

    Ogni strada è un vicolo cieco che conduce alla border police, che non ha nessun interesse a salvare le vite ma solo ad incriminare chi le salva. Dobbiamo chiamare subito il 112, accettando il rischio che la polizia possa arrivare prima di noi e respingere le persone in Turchia, lasciandole nude e ferite nel bosco di frontiera, per poi essere costrette a riprovare quel viaggio mortale o imprigionate e deportate in Siria? Oppure non chiamare il 112, perdendo così quel briciolo di possibilità che veramente un’ambulanza possa, prima o poi, arrivare e potenzialmente salvare una vita? Il momento dell’intervento mette ogni volta di fronte a domande impossibili, che rivelano l’asimmetria di potere tra noi e le autorità, di cui non riusciamo a prevedere le mosse. Alcuni cambiamenti, però, li abbiamo osservati con continuità anche nel comportamento della polizia. Se inizialmente le nostre azioni sono riuscite più volte ad evitare l’omissione di soccorso, salvando persone che altrimenti sarebbero state semplicemente lasciate morire, nell’ultimo mese le nostre ricerche sono andate quasi sempre a vuoto. Questo perché la polizia arriva alle coordinate prima di noi, anche quando non avvisiamo, o ci intercetta lungo la strada impedendoci di continuare. Probabilmente non sono fatalità ma stanno controllando i nostri movimenti, per provare a toglierci questo spazio di azione che ci illudevamo di aver conquistato.

    Tuttavia, sappiamo che i casi che abbiamo intercettato sono solo una parte del totale. Le segnalazioni che arrivano attraverso CRG riguardano quasi esclusivamente persone di origini siriane, mentre raramente abbiamo ricevuto richieste di altre nazionalità, che sappiamo però essere presenti. Inoltre, la dottoressa Mileva, capo di dipartimento dell’obitorio di Burgas, racconta che quasi ogni giorno arriva un cadavere, “la maggior parte sono pieni di vermi, alcuni sono stati mangiati da animali selvatici”. Non sanno più dove metterli, le celle frigorifere sono piene di corpi non identificati ma le famiglie non hanno la possibilità di venire in Bulgaria per avviare le pratiche di riconoscimento, rimpatrio e sepoltura. Infatti, è impossibile ottenere un visto per venire in Europa, nemmeno per riconoscere un figlio – e non ci si può muovere nemmeno da altri paesi europei se si è richiedenti asilo. In alternativa, servono i soldi per la delega ad unə avvocatə e per effettuare il test del DNA attraverso l’ambasciata. Le procedure burocratiche non conoscono pietà. Le politiche di confine agiscono tanto sul corpo vivo quanto su quello morto, quindi sulla possibilità di vivere il lutto, di avere semplicemente la certezza di aver perso una sorella, una madre, un fratello. Solo per sapere se piangere. Anche la morte è una conquista sociale.

    «Sono una sorella inquieta da 11 mesi. Non dormo più la notte e passo delle giornate tranquille solo grazie ai sedativi e alle pillole per la depressione. Ovunque abbia chiesto aiuto, sono rimasta senza risposte. Vi chiedo, se è possibile, di prendermi per mano, se c’è bisogno di denaro, sono pronta a indebitarmi per trovare mio fratello e salvare la mia vecchia madre da questa lenta morte». Così ci scrive S., dalla Svezia. Suo fratello aveva 30 anni, era scappato dall’Afghanistan dopo il ritorno dei Talebani, perché lavorava per l’esercito americano. Aveva lasciato la Turchia per dirigersi verso la Bulgaria il 21 settembre 2022, ma il 25 non era più stato in grado di continuare il cammino a causa dei dolori alle gambe. In un video, gli smuggler che guidavano il viaggio spiegano che lo avrebbero lasciato in un determinato punto, nei pressi della strada 79, e che dopo aver riposato si sarebbe dovuto consegnare alla polizia. Da allora di lui si sono perse le tracce. Non è stato ritrovato nella foresta, né nei campi rifugiati, né tra i corpi dell’obitorio. È come se fosse stato inghiottito dalla frontiera. S. ci invia i nomi, le foto e le date di scomparsa di altre 14 persone, quasi tutte afghane, scomparse l’anno scorso. Lei è in contatto con tutte le famiglie. Neanche noi abbiamo risposte: più la segnalazione è datata più è difficile poter fare qualcosa. Sappiamo che la cosa più probabile è che i corpi siano marciti nel sottobosco, ma cosa dire allə familiari che ancora conservano un’irrazionale speranza? Ormai si cammina sulle ossa di chi era venuto prima, e lì era rimasto.

    –—

    1. РЕЗУЛТАТИ ОТ ДЕЙНОСТТА НА МВР ПРЕЗ 2022 г., Противодействие на миграционния натиск и граничен контрол (Risultati delle attività del Ministero dell’Interno nel 2022, Contrasto alla pressione migratoria e controllo delle frontiere), p. 14.
    2. Per quanto riguarda lə richiedenti asilo, il sistema di “accoglienza” bulgaro è gestito dall’agenzia governativa SAR, e si articola nei campi ROC (Registration and reception center) di Voenna Rampa (Sofia), Ovcha Kupel (Sofia), Vrajdebna (Sofia), Banya (Nova Zagora) e Harmanli, oltre al transit centre di Pastrogor (situato nel comune di Svilengrad), dove si effettuano proceduredi asilo accelerate. […] I centri di detenzione sono due: Busmantsi e Lyubimets. Per approfondire, è disponibile il report scritto dal Collettivo.
    3. Anche così sono chiamati gli smuggler che conducono le persone nel viaggio a piedi.

    https://www.meltingpot.org/2023/10/bulgaria-lottare-per-vivere-lottare-per-morire

    #Bulgarie #Turquie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #décès #mourir_aux_frontières #street-art #art_de_rue #route_des_Balkans #Balkans #mémoire #morts_aux_frontières #murs #barrières_frontalières #Elhovo #Burgas #Evros #Grèce #routes_migratoires #militarisation_des_frontières #violence #violences_policières #solidarité #anti-frontières #voies_sures #route_79 #collettivo_rotte_balcaniche #hiréarchie_des_corps #racisme #Mileva_Galya #Galya_Mileva

    • Bulgaria, lasciar morire è uccidere

      Collettivo Rotte Balcaniche Alto Vicentino: la cronaca di un’omissione di soccorso sulla frontiera bulgaro-turca


      I fatti si riferiscono alla notte tra il 19 e il 20 luglio 2023. Per tutelare le persone coinvolte, diffondiamo questo report dopo alcune settimane. Dopo questo primo intervento, come Collettivo Rotte Balcaniche continuiamo ad affrontare emergenze simili, agendo in prima persona nella ricerca e soccorso delle persone bloccate nei boschi lungo la frontiera bulgaro-turca.

      01.00 di notte, suona il telefono del Collettivo. “We got a pregnant woman on Route 79“, a contattarci è un residente nel campo di Harmanli, amico del marito della donna e da noi conosciuto qualche settimana prima. E’ assistito da un’interprete, anch’esso residente nel campo. Teme di essere accusato di smuggling, chiede se possiamo essere noi a chiamare un’ambulanza. La route 79 è una delle strade più pattugliate dalla border police, in quanto passaggio quasi obbligato per chi ha attraversato il confine turco e si muove verso Sofia. Con l’aiuto dell’interprete chiamiamo la donna: è all’ottavo mese di gravidanza e, con le due figlie piccole, sono sole nella jungle. Stremate, sono state lasciate vicino alla strada dal gruppo con cui stavano camminando, in attesa di soccorsi. Ci dà la sua localizzazione: 42.12.31.6N 27.00.20.9E. Le spieghiamo che il numero dell’ambulanza è lo stesso della polizia: c’è il rischio che venga respinta illegalmente in Turchia. Lei lo sa e ci chiede di farlo ugualmente.

      Ore 02.00, prima chiamata al 112. La registriamo, come tutte le successive. Non ci viene posta nessuna domanda sulle condizioni della donna o delle bambine, ma siamo tenuti 11 minuti al telefono per spiegare come siamo venuti in contatto con la donna, come ha attraversato il confine e da dove viene, chi siamo, cosa facciamo in Bulgaria. Sospettano un caso di trafficking e dobbiamo comunicare loro il numero dell’”intermediario” tra noi e lei. Ci sentiamo sotto interrogatorio. “In a couple of minutes our units are gonna be there to search the woman“, sono le 02.06. Ci rendiamo conto di non aver parlato con dei soccorritori, ma con dei poliziotti.

      Ore 03.21, è passata un’ora e tutto tace: richiamiamo il 112. Chiediamo se hanno chiamato la donna, ci rispondono: “we tried contacting but we can’t reach the phone number“. La donna ci dice che in realtà non l’hanno mai chiamata. Comunichiamo di nuovo la sua localizzazione: 42.12.37.6N 27.00.21.5E. Aggiungiamo che è molto vicino alla strada, ci rispondono: “not exactly, it’s more like inside of the woods“, “it’s exactly like near the border, and it’s inside of a wood region, it’s a forest, not a street“. Per fugare ogni dubbio, chiediamo: “do you confirm that the coordinates are near to route 79?“. Ci tengono in attesa, rispondono: “they are near a main road. Can’t exactly specify if it’s 79“. Diciamo che la donna è svenuta. “Can she dial us? Can she call so we can get a bit more information?“. Non capiamo di che ulteriori informazioni abbiano bisogno, siamo increduli: “She’s not conscious so I don’t think she’ll be able to make the call“. Suggeriscono allora che l’interprete si metta in contatto diretto con loro. Sospettiamo che vogliano tagliarci fuori. Sono passati 18 minuti, la chiamata è stata una farsa. Se prima temevamo le conseguenze dell’arrivo della polizia, ora abbiamo paura che non arrivi nessuno. Decidiamo di metterci in strada, ci aspetta 1h e 40 di viaggio.

      Ore 04.42, terza chiamata. Ci chiedono di nuovo tutte le informazioni, ancora una volta comunichiamo le coordinate gps. Diciamo che stiamo andando in loco ed incalziamo: “Are there any news on the research?“. “I can’t tell this“. Attraverso l’interprete rimaniamo in costante contatto con la donna. Conferma che non è arrivata alcuna searching unit. La farsa sta diventando una tragedia.

      Ore 06.18, quarta chiamata. Siamo sul posto e la strada è deserta. Vogliamo essere irreprensibili ed informarli che siamo arrivati. Ripetiamo per l’ennesima volta che chiamiamo per una donna incinta in gravi condizioni. Il dialogo è allucinante, ricominciano con le domande: “which month?“, “which baby is this? First? Second?“, “how old does she look like?“, “how do you know she’s there? she called you or what?“. Gli comunichiamo che stiamo per iniziare a cercarla, ci rispondono: “we are looking for her also“. Interveniamo: “Well, where are you because there is no one here, we are on the spot and there is no one“. Si giustificano: “you have new information because obviously she is not at the one coordinates you gave“, “the police went three times to the coordinates and they didn’t find the woman, the coordinates are wrong“. Ancora una volta, capiamo che stanno mentendo.

      Faremo una quinta chiamata alle 06.43, quando l’avremo già trovata. Ci richiederanno le coordinate e ci diranno di aspettarli lungo la strada.

      La nostra ricerca dura pochi minuti. La donna ci invia di nuovo la posizione: 42.12.36.3N 27.00.43.3E. Risulta essere a 500 metri dalle coordinate precedenti, ma ancor più vicina alla strada. Gridiamo “hello” e ci facciamo guidare dalle voci: la troviamo letteralmente a due metri dalla strada, su un leggero pendio, accasciata sotto un albero e le bambine al suo fianco. Vengono dalla Siria, le bambine hanno 4 e 7 anni. Lei è troppo debole per alzarsi. Abbiamo per loro sono dell’acqua e del pane. C’è lì anche un ragazzo, probabilmente minorenne, che le ha trovate ed è rimasto ad aiutarle. Lo avvertiamo che arriverà la polizia. Non vuole essere respinto in Turchia, riparte solo e senza zaino. Noi ci guardiamo attorno: la “foresta” si rivela essere una piccola striscia alberata di qualche metro, che separa la strada dai campi agricoli.

      Dopo poco passa una ronda della border police, si fermano e ci avvicinano con la mano sulla pistola. Non erano stati avvertiti: ci aggrediscono con mille domande senza interessarsi alla donna ed alle bambine. Ci prendono i telefoni, ci cancellano le foto fatte all’arrivo delle volanti. Decidiamo di chiamare un’avvocata locale nostra conoscente: lei ci risponde che nei boschi è normale che i soccorsi tardino e ci suggerisce di andarcene per lasciar lavorare la polizia. Nel frattempo arrivano anche la gendarmerie e la local police.

      Manca solo l’unica cosa necessaria e richiesta: l’ambulanza, che non arriverà mai.

      Ore 07.45, la polizia ci scorta nel paese più vicino – Sredets – dove ci ha assicurato esserci un ospedale. Cercano di dividere la donna e le bambine in auto diverse. Chiediamo di portarle noi tutte assieme in macchina. A Sredets, tuttavia, siamo condotti nella centrale della border police. Troviamo decine di guardie di frontiera vestite mimetiche, armate di mitraglie, che escono a turno su mezzi militari, due agenti olandesi di Frontex, un poliziotto bulgaro con la maglia del fascio littorio dei raduni di Predappio. Siamo relegati nel fondo di un corridoio, in piedi, circondati da cinque poliziotti. Il più giovane urla e ci dice che saremo trattenuti “perché stai facendo passare migranti clandestini“. Chiediamo acqua ed un bagno per la donna e le bambine, inizialmente ce li negano. Rimaniamo in attesa, ora ci dicono che non possono andare in ospedale in quanto senza documenti, sono in stato di arresto.

      Ore 09.00, arriva finalmente un medico: parla solamente in bulgaro, visita la donna in corridoio senza alcuna privacy, chiedendole di scoprire la pancia davanti ai 5 poliziotti. Chiamiamo ancora una volta l’avvocata, vogliamo chiedere che la donna sia portata in un ambulatorio e che abbia un interprete. Rimaniamo inascoltati. Dopo a malapena 5 minuti il medico conclude la sua visita, consigliando solamente di bere molta acqua.

      Ore 09.35, ci riportano i nostri documenti e ci invitano ad andarcene. E’ l’ultima volta che vediamo la donna e le bambine. Il telefono le viene sequestrato. Non viene loro permesso di fare la richiesta di asilo e vengono portate nel pre-removal detention centre di Lyubimets. Prima di condurci all’uscita, si presenta un tale ispettore Palov che ci chiede di firmare tre carte. Avrebbero giustificato le ore passate in centrale come conversazione avuta con l’ispettore, previa convocazione ufficiale. Rifiutiamo.

      Sulla via del ritorno ripercorriamo la Route 79, è estremamente pattugliata dalla polizia. Pensiamo alle tante persone che ogni notte muoiono senza nemmeno poter chiedere aiuto, oltre alle poche che lo chiedono invano. Lungo le frontiere di terra come di mare, l’omissione di soccorso è una precisa strategia delle autorità.

      L’indomani incontriamo l’amico del marito della donna. Sa che non potrà più fare qualcosa di simile: sarebbe accusato di smuggling e perderebbe ogni possibilità di ricostruirsi una vita in Europa. Invece noi, attivisti indipendenti, possiamo e dobbiamo continuare: abbiamo molto meno da perdere. Ci è chiara l’urgenza di agire in prima persona e disobbedire a chi uccide lasciando morire.

      Dopo 20 giorni dall’accaduto riusciamo ad incontrare la donna con le bambine, che sono state finalmente trasferite al campo aperto di Harmanli. Sono state trattenute quindi nel centro di detenzione di Lyubimets per ben 19 giorni. La donna ci riferisce che, durante la loro permanenza, non è mai stata portata in ospedale per eseguire accertamenti, necessari soprattutto per quanto riguarda la gravidanza; è stata solamente visitata dal medico del centro, una visita molto superficiale e frettolosa, molto simile a quella ricevuta alla stazione di polizia di Sredets. Ci dà inoltre il suo consenso alla pubblicazione di questo report.

      https://www.meltingpot.org/2023/08/bulgaria-lasciar-morire-e-uccidere

      #laisser_mourir

    • Bulgaria, per tutti i morti di frontiera

      Collettivo Rotte Balcaniche Alto Vicentino: un racconto di come i confini d’Europa uccidono nel silenzio e nell’indifferenza


      Da fine giugno il Collettivo Rotte Balcaniche Alto Vicentino è ripartito per un nuovo progetto di solidarietà attiva e monitoraggio verso la frontiera più esterna dell’Unione Europea, al confine tra Bulgaria e Turchia.
      Pubblichiamo il secondo report delle “operazioni di ricerca e soccorso” che il Collettivo sta portando avanti, in cui si racconta del ritrovamento del corpo senza vita di H., un uomo siriano che aveva deciso di sfidare la fortezza Europa. Come lui moltə altrə tentano il viaggio ogni giorno, e muoiono nelle foreste senza che nessuno lo sappia. Al Collettivo è sembrato importante diffondere questa storia perchè parla anche di tutte le altre storie che non potranno essere raccontate, affinché non rimangano seppellite nel silenzio dei confini.

      Ore 12, circa, al numero del collettivo viene segnalata la presenza del corpo di un ragazzo siriano di trent’anni, H., morto durante un tentativo di game in prossimità della route 79. Abbiamo il contatto di un fratello, che comunica con noi attraverso un cugino che fa da interprete. Chiedono aiuto nel gestire il recupero, il riconoscimento e il rimpatrio del corpo; ci mandano le coordinate e capiamo che il corpo si trova in mezzo ad un bosco ma vicino ad un sentiero: probabilmente i suoi compagni di viaggio lo hanno lasciato lì così che fosse facilmente raggiungibile. Nelle ore successive capiamo insieme come muoverci.

      Ore 15, un’associazione del territorio con cui collaboriamo chiama una prima volta il 112, il numero unico per le emergenze. Ci dice che il caso è stato preso in carico e che le autorità hanno iniziato le ricerche. Alla luce di altri episodi simili, decidiamo di non fidarci e iniziamo a pensare che potrebbe essere necessario metterci in viaggio.

      Ore 16.46, chiamiamo anche noi il 112, per mettere pressione ed assicurarci che effettivamente ci sia una squadra di ricerca in loco: decidiamo di dire all’operatore che c’è una persona in condizioni critiche persa nei boschi e diamo le coordinate precise. Come risposta ci chiede il nome e, prima ancora di informazioni sul suo stato di salute, la sua nazionalità. E’ zona di frontiera: probabilmente, la risposta a questa domanda è fondamentale per capire che priorità dare alla chiamata e chi allertare. Quando diciamo che è siriano, arriva in automatico la domanda: “How did he cross the border? Legally or illegally?“. Diciamo che non lo sappiamo, ribadiamo che H. ha bisogno di soccorso immediato, potrebbe essere morto. L’operatore accetta la nostra segnalazione e ci dice che polizia e assistenza medica sono state allertate. Chiediamo di poter avere aggiornamenti, ma non possono richiamarci. Richiameremo noi.

      Ore 17.54, richiamiamo. L’operatrice ci chiede se il gruppo di emergenza è arrivato in loco, probabilmente pensando che noi siamo insieme ad H. La informiamo che in realtà siamo a un’ora e mezzo di distanza, ma che ci possiamo muovere se necessario. Ci dice che la border police “was there” e che “everything will be okay if you called us“, ma non ha informazioni sulle sorti di H. Le chiediamo, sempre memori delle false informazioni degli altri casi, come può essere sicura che una pattuglia si sia recata in loco; solo a questo punto chiama la border police. “It was my mistake“, ci dice riprendendo la chiamata: gli agenti non lo hanno trovato, “but they are looking for him“. Alle nostre orecchie suona come una conferma del fatto che nessuna pattuglia sia uscita a cercarlo. L’operatrice chiude la chiamata con un: “If you can, go to this place, [to] this GPS coordinates, because they couldn’t find this person yet. If you have any information call us again“. Forti di questo via libera e incazzatə di dover supplire alle mancanze della polizia ci mettiamo in viaggio.

      Ore 18.30, partiamo, chiamando il 112 a intervalli regolari lungo la strada: emerge grande indifferenza, che diventa a tratti strafottenza rispetto alla nostra insistenza: “So what do you want now? We don’t give information, we have the signal, police is informed“. Diciamo che siamo per strada: “Okay“.

      Ore 20.24, parcheggiamo la macchina lungo una strada sterrata in mezzo al bosco. Iniziamo a camminare verso le coordinate mentre il sole dietro di noi inizia a tramontare. Richiamiamo il 112, informando del fatto che non vediamo pattuglie della polizia in giro, nonostante tutte le fantomatiche ricerche già partite. Ci viene risposto che la polizia è stata alle coordinate che noi abbiamo dato e non ha trovato nessuno; gli avvenimenti delle ore successive dimostreranno che questa informazione è falsa.

      “I talked with Border Police, today they have been in this place searching for this guy, they haven’t find anybody, so“

      “So? […] What are they going to do?“

      “What do you want from us [seccato]? They haven’t found anyone […]“

      “They can keep searching.”

      “[aggressivo] They haven’t found anybody on this place. What do you want from us? […] On this location there is no one. […] You give the location and there is no one on this location“.

      Ore 21.30, arriviamo alle coordinate attraverso un bosco segnato da zaini e bottiglie vuote che suggeriscono il passaggio di persone in game. Il corpo di H. è lì, non un metro più avanti, non uno più indietro. I suoi compagni di viaggio, nonostante la situazione di bisogno che la rotta impone, hanno avuto l’accortezza di lasciargli a fianco il suo zaino, il suo telefono e qualche farmaco. E’ evidente come nessuna pattuglia della polizia sia stata sul posto, probabilmente nessuna è neanche mai uscita dalla centrale. Ci siamo mosse insieme a una catena di bugie. Richiamiamo il 112 e l’operatrice allerta la border police. Questa volta, visto il tempo in cui rimaniamo in chiamata in attesa, parrebbe veramente.

      Ore 21.52, nessuno in vista. Richiamiamo insistendo per sapere dove sia l’unità di emergenza, dato che temiamo ancora una volta l’assoluto disinteresse di chi di dovere. Ci viene risposto: “Police crew is on another case, when they finish the case they will come to you. […] There is too many case for police, they have only few car“. Vista la quantità di posti di blocco e di automobili della polizia che abbiamo incrociato lungo la route 79 e i racconti dei suoi interventi continui, capillari e violenti in “protezione” dei confini orientali dell’UE, non ci pare proprio che la polizia non possegga mezzi. Evidentemente, di nuovo, è una questione di priorità dei casi e dei fini di questi: ci si muove per controllare e respingere, non per soccorrere. Insistiamo, ci chiedono informazioni su di noi e sulla macchina:

      “How many people are you?“

      “Three people“

      “Only women?”

      “Yes…”

      “Have patience and stay there, they will come“.

      Abbiamo la forte percezione che il fatto di essere solo ragazze velocizzerà l’intervento e che di certo nessuno si muoverà per H.: il pull factor per l’intervento della polizia siamo diventate noi, le fanciulle italiane in mezzo al bosco da salvare. Esplicitiamo tra di noi la necessità di mettere in chiaro, all’eventuale arrivo della polizia, che la priorità per noi è il recupero del corpo di H. Sentiamo anche lə compagnə che sono rimastə a casa: davanti all’ennesimo aggiornamento di stallo, in tre decidono di partire da Harmanli e di raggiungerci alle coordinate; per loro si prospetta un’ora e mezzo in furgone: lungo la strada, verranno fermati tre volte a posti di blocco, essendo i furgoni uno dei mezzi preferiti dagli smuggler per muovere le persone migranti verso Sofia.

      Ore 22, continuiamo con le chiamate di pressione al 112. E’ una donna a rispondere: la sua voce suona a tratti preoccupata. Anche nella violenza della situazione, registriamo come la socializzazione di genere sia determinante rispetto alla postura di cura. Si connette con la border police: “Police is coming to you in 5…2 minutes“, ci dice in un tentativo di rassicurarci. Purtroppo, sappiamo bene che le pratiche della polizia sono lontane da quelle di cura e non ci illudiamo: l’attesa continuerà. Come previsto, un’ora dopo non è ancora arrivato nessuno. All’ennesima chiamata, il centralinista ci chiede informazioni sulla morfologia del territorio intorno a noi. Questa richiesta conferma quello che ormai già sapevamo: la polizia, lì, non è mai arrivata.

      Ore 23.45, delle luci illuminano il campo in cui siamo sedute ormai da ore vicine al corpo di H. E’ una macchina della polizia di frontiera, con sopra una pattuglia mista di normal police e border police. Nessuna traccia di ambulanza, personale medico o polizia scientifica. Ci chiedono di mostrargli il corpo. Lo illuminano distrattamente, fanno qualche chiamata alla centrale e tornano a noi: ci chiedono come siamo venute a sapere del caso e perchè siamo lì. Gli ribadiamo che è stata un’operatrice del 112 a suggerici ciò: la cosa ci permette di giustificare la nostra presenza in zona di confine, a fianco ad un corpo senza vita ed evitare le accuse di smuggling.

      Ore 23.57, ci propongono di riaccompagnarci alla nostra macchina, neanche 10 minuti dopo essere arrivati. Noi chiediamo cosa ne sarà del corpo di H. e un agente ci risponde che arriverà un’unità di emergenza apposita. Esplicitiamo la nostra volontà di aspettarne l’arrivo, vogliamo tentare di ottenere il maggior numero di informazioni da comunicare alla famiglia e siamo preoccupate che, se noi lasciamo il campo, anche la pattuglia abbandonerà il corpo. Straniti, e forse impreparati alla nostra presenza e insistenza, provano a convincerci ad andare, illustrando una serie farsesca di pericoli che vanno dal fatto che sia zona di frontiera interdetta alla presenza di pericolosi migranti e calabroni giganti. Di base, recepiamo che non hanno una motivazioni valida per impedirci di rimanere.

      Quando il gruppo di Harmanli arriva vicino a noi, la polizia li sente arrivare prima di vederli e pensa che siano un gruppo di migranti; a questo stimolo, risponde con la prontezza che non ha mai dimostrato rispetto alle nostre sollecitazioni. Scatta verso di loro con la mano a pistola e manganello e le torce puntate verso il bosco. Li trova, ma il loro colore della pelle è nello spettro della legittimità. Va tutto bene, possono arrivare da noi. Della pattuglia di sei poliziotti, tre vanno via in macchina, tre si fermano effettivamente per la notte; ci chiediamo se sarebbe andata allo stesso modo se noi con i nostri occhi bianchi ed europei non fossimo stati presenti. Lo stallo continua, sostanzialmente, fino a mattina: la situazione è surreale, con noi sdraiati a pochi metri dalla polizia e dal corpo di H. L’immagine che ne esce parla di negligenza delle istituzioni, della gerarchia di vite che il confine crea e dell’abbandono sistematico dei corpi che vi si muovono intorno, se non per un loro possibile respingimento.

      Ore 8 di mattina, l’indifferenza continua anche quando arriva la scientifica, che si muove sbrigativa e sommaria intorno al corpo di H., vestendo jeans e scattando qualche fotografia simbolica. Il tutto non dura più di 30 minuti, alla fine dei quali il corpo parte nella macchina della border police, senza comunicazione alcuna sulla sua direzione e sulle sue sorti. Dopo la solita strategia di insistenza, riusciamo ad apprendere che verrà portato all’obitorio di Burgas, ma non hanno nulla da dirci su quello che avverrà dopo: l’ipotesi di un rimpatrio della salma o di un possibile funerale pare non sfiorare nemmeno i loro pensieri. Scopriremo solo in seguito, durante una c​hiamata con la famiglia, che H., nella migliore delle ipotesi, verrà seppellito in Bulgaria, solo grazie alla presenza sul territorio bulgaro di un parente di sangue, da poco deportato dalla Germania secondo le direttive di Dublino, che ha potuto riconoscere ufficialmente il corpo. Si rende palese, ancora una volta, l’indifferenza delle autorità nei confronti di H., un corpo ritenuto illegittimo che non merita nemmeno una sepoltura. La morte è normalizzata in questi spazi di confine e l’indifferenza sistemica diventa un’arma, al pari della violenza sui corpi e dei respingimenti, per definire chi ha diritto a una vita degna, o semplicemente a una vita.

      https://www.meltingpot.org/2023/08/bulgaria-per-tutti-i-morti-di-frontiera

  • Bodies of 18 people found in #Dadia forest that is on fire

    August 22, 2023

    The charred bodies of at least 18 people have been found in Dadia forest that has been on fire since Monday afternoon, the Fire Service announced on Tuesday.

    The bodies were found in two spots of the dense forest near the village of #Avantas in #Evros, north-eastern Greece.

    Fire Service inspectors and a coroner are heading to the area, news247.gr reported.

    “The bodies were found near some huts and as there are no alerts of missing people in the area, it is possible that they were irregular migrants, who entered the country illegally,” fire Service spokesman Giannis Artopoios announced.

    He added that the Civil Protection sent evacuation messages in time on time, when the fire broke out on Monday.

    Avantas is one of the dozens of villages and settlements that were evacuated in the area.

    Monday night, the charred body of a man was found also in Dadia forest with authorities suspecting that it belonged to a migrant.

    Some news websites claimed that the number of bodies found in Dadias were 26.

    Police and military forces in Evros are on the highest level of alert to intercept even the slightest attempt by irregular immigrants to cross into Greece, website newsit.gr noted.

    https://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2023/08/22/bodies-18-people-fire-dadias-forest
    #forêt #incendie #feu #migrations #asile #réfugiés #Grèce #morts #décès

    –-

    see as well:
    2 groups of ~250 people in total stranded on different islets of the #Evros river ! (22.08.2023)
    https://seenthis.net/messages/1014292

    • 18 migrants killed in wildfires raging across Greece, officials say

      Eighteen people, believed by fire officials to be migrants or refugees, were found dead in Greece’s Dadia Forest after a raging wildfire swept for the fourth day through the northeastern Greek region near the Turkish border that serves as a major crossing point for refugees and migrants.

      The charred remains of the 18 people were recovered Tuesday near a shack close to a national park in Alexandroupolis, a city in Greece’s Evros region. Evros, which shares a land border with Turkey, is seen as a “no man’s land,” where bodies of migrants trying to cross into the European Union are found every year.

      “With great sadness, we learned of the death of at least 18 immigrants from the fire in the forest of Dadia,” Dimitris Kairidis, Greece’s migration minister, said in a statement Tuesday. “This tragedy confirms, once again, the dangers of irregular immigration.”

      Kairidis added that he denounced the “murderous activity of criminal traffickers” which is “what endangers the lives of many migrants both on land and at sea every day.”

      Two other people were killed in this week’s fires — an 80-year-old shepherd and an apparent migrant — bringing the death toll in Greece to at least 20.

      While migration numbers into Greece from Turkey have dropped in recent years as a result of strict border controls and deals with Ankara, Greece remains a front-line country for migration to Europe. The Eastern Mediterranean route — which includes arrivals by land and sea — has seen more than 17,000 people trying to cross this year, mostly from Syria, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.

      Earlier Tuesday, the Hellenic Fire Service said that because there were no reports of missing people from surrounding areas, “the possibility that these are people who entered the country illegally is being investigated.”

      In early August, Greek officials met to coordinate migration policy after more than 100 migrants — mostly from Syria and Iraq, including 53 children — were found crossing the border in Evros, the Associated Press reported. Last week, Greece’s coast guard stopped nearly 100 migrants in inflatable boats crossing through the Aegean Sea from Turkey — with such crossings increasing in recent weeks, officials said.

      Sixty-three wildfires broke out in Greece within 24 hours, the fire service said Monday. The agency added that it sent out more than 100 evacuation messages for the broad area since Monday, amid windy, dry conditions as Southern European temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

      On Tuesday, the Ministry for Climate Crisis and Civil Protection issued a “very high fire risk” alert for several areas.

      Authorities have been evacuating affected villages as the wildfires spread. Flames threatened to engulf a hospital in Alexandroupolis, prompting officials to evacuate all of its patients — including newborns and those in intensive care units — onto a ferry that became a makeshift hospital on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Nuns from a monastery were also evacuated, local media reported.

      Satellite images recorded massive plumes of smoke streaming from the affected areas.

      Theodore Giannaros, a fire meteorologist and associate researcher at the National Observatory of Athens, called the 18 deaths a “true tragedy.” Nearly 99,000 acres have been burned in the past three days.

      “These facts clearly stress … that we need to change our whole approach for managing wildfires in Greece,” he said, calling for an integrated and interdisciplinary fire management approach and better collaboration between authorities and the scientific community.

      Fire officials and researchers have raised alarm bells at the region’s lack of preparedness for wildfires — which are increasing in intensity, length and geographic breadth alongside summer heat waves.

      Neighboring Turkey and Spain’s island of Tenerife have also dealt with wildfires this week.

      The E.U. mobilized more resources Tuesday to help Greece’s firefighting battle. In the last two days, the E.U. has deployed seven airplanes, one helicopter, 114 firefighters and 19 vehicles, the E.U. commission said in a statement.

      Greece is seeing “an unprecedented scale of wildfire devastation this summer,” European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic, said in a statement Tuesday.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/08/22/greece-wildfires-bodies-heat-europe

    • Elliniki Lysi MP for Evros P. Papadakis also made similar statements live to local outlet e-evros, where he clearly blames people on the move for the #Evros #wildfires:
      [from 1.06] ’I said it and will say it again, we’re at war, the mountains are full and everywhere, at all sites [of fire], there’ve been interfered with. Arrests have been made by ordinary citizens but also by the police at all (fire) fronts … we have war, they have come here in coordination, and they have put, the illegal immigrants specifically, fires at more than ten locations. At all mountains and where there are fires, there are illegal immigrants. They know this very well the police, the fire brigade and the volunteers who are very many.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbwC1D1Nq2c


      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1694421902985515295

      –—

      The MP with the extreme-right party Greek Solution, P. Papadakis, invites people on Facebook to “take measures” & “be alert to do what we do best” against “illegal migrants” who, he alleges, “hinder the work of pilots”.
      In another post he states that “illegals” were “starting fires”. “It’s a war” he says, and urges: “declare an emergency”!
      The comments are a cesspool of pure, unadulterated racist hatred.

      These are the depths to which parts of Greek society have sank -and the @kmitsotakis govt has everything to do with it.

      https://twitter.com/ninarei/status/1694096863094288864

    • 19 refugees dead in the devastating fires and escalation of racist violence in Evros, Greece

      While the situation seems to be out of control with fires burning across a large part of Greece, from Evros region to Parnitha in Attica, the tragic human toll currently includes 19 confirmed dead refugees on Evros.

      One refugee was found charred on Monday 21/8 in Lefkimi, Evros, where he was reportedly trapped and died from the fumes. Another 18 refugees, including two children, died yesterday, Tuesday 22/8 in the Dadia forest, where they were also found charred by firefighters.

      At the same time, the fires have destroyed and threaten vast forest and residential areas, many of which have been evacuated. The evacuation of the Alexandroupolis hospital at dawn on Tuesday is characteristic: 65 impatiens, including babies and intubated patients, were transferred to a passenger ferry boat that served as a floating hospital and to the port of Alexandroupolis, in tents. Νursing homes in the city were also evacuated.

      The lack of effective fire protection, prevention and response to the fires is blatant, also due to the severe understaffing – also blatant is the overall inadequacy of the state mechanism. The fires, which burn huge green areas and now also residential areas every year, are a predestined tragedy, to the extent that no effective protection and response policies are implemented.

      At a time when at least 19 refugees are dead, instead of the State assuming its responsibilities, we unfortunately see its representatives obfuscating reality, and in some cases, accepting, if not fomenting, racist discourse and practices. Characteristic is the statement of the Minister of Migration and Asylum Dimitris Kairidis on the deaths that “this tragedy confirms, once again, the dangers of irregular migration”, as well as the respective statement by the Minister of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, Vassilis Kikilias. At the same time, an attempt is unfolding to collectively incriminate refugees in part of the media, referring to alleged arson and fires emerging on the paths they follow.

      To top it off, we see an escalation of racist violence in Evros, targeting refugees and migrants as allegedly responsible for the fires: yesterday, on Tuesday, a video was released in which a civilian has 13 refugees imprisoned in his truck – he referred to 25 people – and calls for a pogrom against them. After the extent of the incident, he was arrested along with two alleged accomplices without, however, any official information on the fate of the kidnapped refugees. At the same time, many other reports and videos speak of vigilante “militias” and “bounty hunters”, citizens that are called to swoop in against refugees and migrants. Further, members of the parliament appear to foment such practices through their public statements, which include racist language and a “call to action” to citizens in the area.

      This escalation of racist discourse and practices is extremely worrying and cannot be tolerated! The murderous persecution of refugees at the borders and racist “pogroms” must stop now, their victims must be protected, existing incidents must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators must be punished, taking into account a potential racist motive. The State must assume its responsibilities and act immediately to identify and rescue people who may be in danger in the region, both from these practices and from the devastating fires. Furthermore, as regards the dead, all the relevant protocols must be followed to identify them, inform their relatives and bury their remains, with respect for the dead and their rights.

      https://rsaegean.org/en/19-refugees-dead-fires-and-escalation-of-racist-violence
      #racisme #violence #violence_raciste

    • Greece: Suspected asylum seekers killed in Evros fires

      Eighteen bodies were found in two different locations in Dadia national park amid forest fires, the Evros fire department reported today.

      Fire fighters have found the charred remains of 18 suspected asylum seekers in the Dadia forest in Evros amid wildfires in Greece that have been raging for the past four days.

      Fire department spokesman Yiannis Artopoios confirmed in a televised address on Tuesday that the bodies were found in two different locations near the Turkish border, one of the most common migration entry points for Syrian and Asian migrants crossing the Evros River from Turkey.

      No local people have been reported missing, so the remains are thought to belong to asylum seekers.

      “We know very quickly if it’s a local or not, because [they] will be reported missing very fast,” forensics anthropologist Jan Bikker, who is working to identify the bodies, told MEE. “If they’re not reported, then most likely it’s an asylum seeker.”

      According to Bikker, Dadia is a common migration route, as it is densely forested, allowing migrants to hide from the Greek authorities who would likely push them back out to sea.

      “The safest way [for them] is through the forest. This is what people do after they cross over the river,” he told MEE.

      “A lot of migrant groups [that] travel [do] not even [travel] on the roads, but in the middle of the forest.”

      Amid soaring temperatures, these routes are also the sites of devastating forest fires.

      “There is always a possibility that someone could have died in one of those fires…and the bodies are never recovered," he said.

      “It’s very, very dangerous terrain…if they go missing, it’s very difficult to trace them."

      While Artopois said that emergency alerts were sent to all mobile phones in the area, according to Bikker, it is unlikely the group would have carried phones or had any signal if they did.

      “Often, they are not able to communicate with the outside world until they reach like a village where there is some internet signal,” he said.
      Struggling to breathe

      The NGO Alarm Phone had reportedly been in contact with two groups of 250 people stranded on different islets of the Evros River for days. Some of them sent videos of the approaching fires with pleas for help: “The fires are getting very close to us now. We need help as soon as possible!"

      “They fear for their lives as the wildfires approach & the air is unbreathable. Their cries for help have remained unanswered by authorities for days,” the NGO tweeted.

      Later, the NGO reported receiving another alert from a group near the town of Soufli. “They tell us one person struggles to breathe. They unable to move due to the nearby fires and worry they will die,” they tweeted.

      Greece has seen a devastating wave of wildfires since July, fuelled by high winds and soaring temperatures. The recent deaths have brought the overall toll to 20. Fifty-three new blazes broke out across the country on Monday.

      For Bikker, who works to trace long-term missing people in the region, the impact of wildfires on migrants is often overlooked.

      “People think of the locals, but it also [impacts] the migrants.” He added: “For many of the people who go missing, we will not find anything…because they get lost in the fires and the remains will never be recovered.”

      Since 2020, civil actors have reported a surge in disappearances and deaths of asylum seekers on the Greek islands.

      When they arrive on the islands, migrants are driven to hiding in forested or mountainous areas in order to evade pushback by the Greek authorities.

      https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/greece-suspected-asylum-seekers-killed-evros-fires

    • Deaths in Greece wildfires highlight the plight of asylum seekers

      Firefighters find 18 burned bodies in Dadia Forest, suspected to be asylum seekers, as wildfires ravage northern Greece.

      The discovery of 18 bodies in the Greek wildfires – thought to be asylum seekers – has prompted new discussion around the plight of those on the move in the country.

      Greek authorities found the remains of 18 people in the national forest of Dadia on Tuesday, in the northeastern Greek region of Evros where the blaze is still raging.

      The group, reportedly made up of two children and 16 adults, was likely trying to flee from the flames, according to the local coroner Pavlos Pavlidis, who said the children were between 10 and 15 years old.

      It was separately reported that the body of a man was found on Monday also presumed to be an asylum seeker.

      Locals have had to abandon homes and livelihoods to escape the fires as villages and even the main hospital in Alexandroupoli, the region’s capital, were evacuated.

      The Evros region shares a land border with Turkey and lies along a well-trodden route for asylum seekers crossing into Europe from Turkey.

      The area is highly monitored by Greek authorities and there have been ongoing reports of illegal and brutal pushbacks of asylum seekers, which authorities adamantly deny.

      Some people who used this route, which consists of swathes of forests, have previously described to Al Jazeera how they have hidden to avoid detection.

      Alarm Phone, an emergency hotline frequently contacted by people on the move in distress, told Al Jazeera they had been in contact with a number of groups of people in the region in recent days who described being threatened by the flames, but said were equally afraid of being pushed back over the border.

      Alarm Phone said the area was essentially a “no-man’s land” for asylum seekers.

      The Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum expressed “great sadness” on the news of the deaths, but added that “despite the constant and persistent efforts of the Greek authorities to protect the borders and human life, this tragedy confirms, once again, the dangers of irregular immigration”, and denounced “the murderous activity of criminal traffickers”.

      The Civil Protection Ministry also expressed condolences, but added “the unfortunate foreigners, while they were forbidden to be in the forest … and despite multiple 112 messages to Greeks and foreigners in the area, did not leave”.

      It is not known if the group had working mobile phones, understood the language of the messages or knew it was forbidden to be in the forest.

      Two Greeks and one Albanian were arrested on Tuesday after posting a video online of a group of people presumed to be asylum seekers locked in a trailer.

      In the video, the man accused migrants of having started the fires but offered no evidence and none has emerged that this is the case.
      Conspiracy theories

      The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), a coalition of more than 14 organisations, in a statement with Lena Karamanidou, a noted researcher on Evros, pointed to far-right galvanisation around conspiracy theories that migrants were responsible for the fires.

      They said that figures such as Kyriakos Velopoulos, a member of parliament and leader of the far-right party Hellenic Solution had shared the video of the people locked in the trailer.

      “Yet again, a tragic situation has been manipulated to blame people on the move themselves for their own deaths, and to strengthen links between migration and criminality that has led to the proliferation of mobilised right-wing groups in the region,” the BVMN said, criticising the response of some Greek authorities.

      “Greece’s intense focus on migration has come at the cost of its land and its citizens, with tens of millions of euros poured into high-tech Closed Controlled Access Centres and the Automated Border Surveillance Systems used to ‘prevent entry’ of 2,170 undocumented persons between the 14th and 17th of August, and arrest 29 alleged human traffickers,” they said.

      “Yet, there were few fire-preparedness measures taken for the wildfires that everyone knew were coming, and that have destroyed Greece’s natural landscape and razed homes and livelihoods to the ground,” BVMN added.

      Eftychia Georgiadi, International Rescue Committee’s head of programmes in Greece, told Al Jazeera it was “devastating that at least 18 people have needlessly lost their lives”.

      “Nobody should be forced to seek shelter in the forest and left without adequate protection,” Georgiadi said.

      She said – once confirmed – the deaths “demonstrate the deadly consequences of the EU’s failure to agree on a humane, sustainable asylum system”.

      “This lack of coordinated action leaves people exposed to grave dangers at every step of their journeys in search of protection in Europe,” Georgiadi said, adding it was vital “the EU and its member states uphold the fundamental right to apply for asylum, and create more safe routes so that fewer people are left with no option but to risk their lives on such dangerous journeys”.
      ‘Invisible’

      Alarm Phone told Al Jazeera that asylum seekers moving through the region had become “invisible”, and sent a list of the groups they had lost contact with in recent days as well as a catalogue of reports of pushbacks and violence in the area.

      “Nobody implied that foreigners set the fires on Rhodes one month ago,” they said, “state mechanisms – not just Greek – did everything to evacuate tourists”, and highlighted the difference between how international media focussed heavily on tourists impacted by the fires on Rhodes earlier this summer compared to the muted response now.

      The group told Al Jazeera that climate change added an extra layer of violence to the lives and treatment of those on the move.

      “The comparison between how foreigners are treated during disasters in Greece shows that the right to life is arbitrarily determined based on racist and colonial socioeconomic standards.”

      https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/24/deaths-in-greece-wildfires-highlight-the-plight-of-asylum-seekers
      #invisibilité #droit_à_la_vie #touristes #tourisme

    • Update : originally it was reported that 18 died, but now 8 more dead have been added.

      “The first 18 #migrants were found dead near a landslide in the Avanda area , as the Fire Service spokesman said, while the second group was found in the Lefkimmi area”

      https://twitter.com/EleniKonstanto/status/1693983836298776988

      –---
      Φρίκη : 18 οι απανθρακωμένοι μετανάστες μέσα στο δάσος της Δαδιάς - Εγκλωβίστηκαν από τη φωτιά

      18 πτώματα εντοπίστηκαν μέσα στο δάσος της Δαδιάς - Οι μετανάστες βρήκαν φριχτό θάνατο

      Τραγωδία στο Δάσος της Δαδιά. Οπως αναφέρουν οι πληροφορίες, η μεγάλη φωτιά στον Εβρο έχει προκαλέσει τον θάνατο 18 μεταναστών, που εγκλωβίστηκαν μέσα στο δάσος της Διαδιάς. Και υπάρχουν φόβοι ότι ενδεχομένως ο αριθμός θα αυξηθεί. Πάντως η πληροφορορία που μετέδωσε ο Σκάι ότι βρέθηκαν και άλλοι 8 μετανάστες νεκροί στη Λευκίμμη δεν επιβεβαιώθηκε.

      Μέχρι στιγμής έχουν εντοπιστεί 18 πτώματα.

      Σύμφωνα με τα όσα έχουν διαρρεύσει από πηγές της Πυροσβεστικής, μονάδες πυροσβεστών που επιχειρούν στην περιοχή, βρέθηκαν ξαφνικά μπροστά σε ένα αποτρόπαιο θέαμα. Δεκάδες απανθρακωμένα πτώματα μεταναστών, που εγκλωβίστηκαν στην φωτιά μέσα στο δάσος. Τις πληροφορίες επιβεβαιώσε σε έκτακτη ανακοίνωση που έκανε ο εκπρόσωπος της Πυροσβεστικής κ. Αρτοποιός, σημειώνοντας ότι γίνονται ενέργειες μέσω Διεθνών οργανισμών βοήθειας, για την αναγνώριση των θυμάτων.

      Οι 18 μετανάστες βρέθηκαν νεκροί κοντά σε παράπηγμα στην περιοχή του Αβαντα, όπως είπε ο εκπρόσωπος τύπου της Πυροσβεστικής Υπηρεσίας.

      « Στην πυρκαγιά της Αλεξανδρούπολης, σε επιτόπιο έλεγχο από στελέχη της Πυροσβεστικής στην ευρύτερη περιοχή του Άβαντα εντοπίστηκαν οι σωροί 18 ατόμων πλησίον παραπήγματος. Με δεδομένο ότι από τις γύρω περιοχές δεν έχει υπάρξει καμία δήλωση εξαφάνισης ή αγνοουμένων κατοίκων διερευνάται το ενδεχόμενο να πρόκειται για ανθρώπους που εισήλθαν παράτυπα στη χώρα.

      Υπενθυμίζεται ότι από χθες είχαν σταλεί μηνύματα 112 εκκένωσης της ευρύτερης περιοχής. Σημειώνεται ότι, τα μηνύματα μεταδίδονται και σε κινητά από ξένα δίκτυα που βρίσκονται στην περιοχή. Ήδη από το αρχηγείο της ελληνικής αστυνομίας έχει ενεργοποιηθεί η ομάδας αναγνώρισης θυμάτων καταστροφών. Οι έρευνες σε όλο το μήκος της περιοχής που εκδηλώθηκε και βρίσκεται σε εξέλιξη η πυρκαγιά, συνεχίζονται ».

      https://www.thetoc.gr/koinwnia/best-of-internet/plirofories-gia-dekades-apanthrakomenous-metanastes-mesa-sto-dasos-tis-dadias

    • Greece: Evros wildfire dead are victims of ‘two great injustices of our times’

      Reacting to the deaths of 19 people, likely migrants and refugees, on 21 and 22 August in fires affecting the Evros region, Northern Greece, Adriana Tidona, migration researcher at Amnesty International said:

      “The 19 people killed by wildfires in northern Greece appear to be victims of two great injustices of our times. On the one hand, catastrophic climate change, which governments are failing to address and is worsening the scale of wildfires worldwide as rising temperatures lead to longer and more destructive fire seasons. On the other hand, the lack of access to safe and legal routes for some people on the move, and the persistence of migration management policies predicated on racialized exclusion and deadly deterrence, including racist border violence.

      “Though the identities of the people killed by the fires are not known, it seems likely that they were migrants and refugees who had recently crossed the border into Greece. Because of the lack of access to safe and legal routes for people trying to reach Europe, migrants and refugees increasingly use the land borders in the Evros region to cross irregularly from Turkey into Greece. Authorities there have systematically responded with unlawful forced returns at the border, denial of the right to seek asylum and violence.

      “The fires have fuelled racist rhetoric and abuses against migrants and refugees. On his Facebook account, Paraschos Christou Papadakis, an ultra-nationalist Greek MP, racist language to claim that fires had been started by migrants and refugees. A private individual was arrested, after he abducted a group of migrants and refugees in his vehicle and incited others to do the same, uploading a video of his actions online.

      “Alarm Phone, an NGO, has reported that hundreds of refugees and migrants are stranded in different areas of Evros while fires blaze in the region. Amnesty International calls on the Greek authorities to urgently evacuate all those stranded in the Evros region and who are unable to move safely due to fires and to ensure that refugees and migrants who have entered into Greece irregularly can seek asylum and are not illegally forcibly returned at the border. The Greek authorities must publicly condemn and investigate any act of racist violence or speech or incitement to such behaviours, including on the part of politicians.”

      https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/08/greece-evros-wildfire-dead-are-victims-of-two-great-injustices-of-our-times
      #injustice #climat #changement_climatique #exclusion #exclusion_raciale

    • Reçu via la mailing-letter Migreurop, de Eirini Markidi, 23.08.2023

      https://hellas.postsen.com/local/475765/Fire-in-Evros--Locked-immigrants-in-a-truck-trailer-and-calls-for-a-

      He kidnapped and forcibly locked migrants and refugees in a truck, spewing his racist venom on live broadcast

      Unthinkable situations unfold in streets of Alexandroupolis. While he rages for the fourth day the fiery fronta man broadcast and even to live broadcast video on social media, in which it has been locked immigrants and refugees in truck trailers and in his racist delusion, he mentions that he has “25 tracks inside the trailer”.

      This is a resident of the area, who essentially forcibly kidnaps refugees and immigrants in a truck, spreading the his racist poison. In fact, he calls others to organize and follow these inhumane practices, because as he says about the refugees “they will burn us.”

      Characteristically, in his racist delirium he states “We are sleeping! A ride from Chili to Scopo Volis I have loaded 25 pieces I have here in the trailer. Open up a little. 25 pieces. Open the wire a little. They will burn us…, they will burn us. Oops, see? 215 pieces. It’s filled the whole mountain, guys. The whole mountain is full. They are sworn, they are sworn to burn us. Full of holly. Full of holly, everywhere, that’s what I’m telling you guys. Get organized, let’s all go out and collect them. They will burn us, that’s all I’m telling you.”

      In fact, some of the comments under the video, which are full of racism and hatred, make a sad impression. Indicatively, some users wrote to him “Turn off the camera and give pain”“Kapstous”, “At sea with the trailer”, cleaning Apostoli etc.

      video (without subs): https://youtu.be/LxMugRHvXP0

      https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/greece-detains-man-calling-migrants-be-rounded-up-police-2023-08-23

      August 23, 2023

      THENS, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Greek police said they had detained a man who held migrants in a trailer and called on citizens to “go out and round up” migrants he accuses of setting wildfires in Greece.

      The man was detained after a video posted on social media showed a jeep pulling a trailer along a dirt road in northern Greece, and he can be heard asking another person to open its doors. Two migrant men can be seen crammed inside the trailer.

      “Get organised, let’s all go out and round them up. They will burn us...,” the man, who police said is a foreign national, can be heard saying in Greek in the video.

      In a statement late on Tuesday, police said the man, who owns the vehicle, had illegally detained 13 Syrian and Pakistani migrants. Two Greek nationals who allegedly helped him were also arrested.

      The three were expected to appear before a prosecutor on Wednesday, after which it will be decided if they are formally arrested and charged.

      A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 13 migrants had also been detained for entering the country illegally.

      The semi-official state news agency ANA said a Supreme Court prosecutor has ordered an investigation into the video. In a document published by ANA, the prosecutor is quoted as saying: “Phenomena of racist violence against immigrants are worrying.”

      She described the video as “a racist delirium of violence, accusing immigrants of ’burning us’ and inciting others to racist pogroms, calling on them to organise and imitate him”.

      Major wildfires have broken out in Greece in recent days, with the biggest front in the northern region of Evros bordering Turkey, from where migrants typically cross into Greece via the river separating the two countries.

      The burned bodies of 18 people, believed to be migrants, were found in a rural area in the region on Tuesday.

      Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Lefteris Papadimas, editing by Mark Heinrich

    • Reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, de Vicky Skoumbi, 25.08.2023

      Le comble de l’horreur : les 13 migrants kidnappés par trois hommes faisant partie d’un réseau constitué de chasseurs de migrants non seulement ont subi l’expérience atroce et traumatisante étant traité comme des animaux, retenus à 13 dans un cagot pour chiens, mais ils n’ont pas été vraiment libérés par la police mais arrêtés. Ils sont accusés d’avoir fabriqué des mécanismes incendiaires et doivent maintenant faire face à des charges très lourdes, le tout sur la foi des témoignages de leurs …kidnappeurs ! Les charges contre ces 13 personnes migrantes sont très lourdes : tentative d’incendie criminel mettant en danger la vie d’autrui, fabrication et possession d’explosifs et entrée illégale au territoire L’avocat de l’homme qui a monté la vidéo où il se vantait d’avoir attrapé « 25 pièces » lors de sa patrouille, soutient que son client les avait surpris à essayer de mettre le feu par des mécanismes incendiaires artisanaux aux abords du tissu urbain et que lui-même et ses deux complices étaient désarmés, tandis que les 13 migrants –les 25 proies de la chasse au "clandestin" étaient finalement 13 syriens et pakistanais- avaient des armes blanches.

      Comment trois individus désarmés arrivent à capturer et à enfermer dans une remorque 13 personnes armées de couteaux, c’est sans doute une question qui n’a pas trop préoccupé le juge d’instruction. Car, c’est bien sur la foi de ce témoignage incroyable et qui plus est, en flagrante contradiction avec la vidéo que l’homme qui les avait capturés avait tournée et de ses complices, que les 13 migrants voient leur cauchemar continuer et même s’aggraver. Enfin, quel intérêt auraient ces personnes migrantes qui se tiennent au loin d’endroits habités, en tentant de passer inaperçues au risque d’être piégées par le feu, de s’exposer à la proximité d’une ville pour y mettre le feu avec un mécanisme incendiaire ?

      Tout cela arrive à un moment où des députés locaux, dont un de la Nouvelle Démocratie au pouvoir actuellement, appellent la population à se défendre contre les étrangers incendiaires, tandis que des chefs locaux de milices paramilitaires constituées des honnêtes gens rassemblent des foules qu’ils haranguent afin qu’elles prennent la situation en main, et ceci au vu et au su de tous.

      Il est évident que les 13 victimes de ce pogrom ont besoin en toute urgence de notre soutien et surtout d’une assistance juridique à la hauteur des risques qu’ils encourent, avec des charges si lourdes, Y-aurait-il des avocats ou des ONG –HIAS, GCR etc- en mesure de fournir une aide immédiate et efficace à ces 13 victimes de violences et de traitements inhumains qui doivent maintenant se défendre devant un tribunal grec ?

      Ci-dessous les sources d’information en anglais

      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/401767_katigoroyn-toys-13-gia-emprismo-me-martyres-toys-apagogeis-toys

      They accuse the "13" [migrants, victims of kidnapping] of arson, with their captors as witnesses

      24.08.23 16:02

      efsyn. gr

      The public prosecutor of Alexandroupolis decided to impeach the uninvited sheriffs who locked 13 refugees and immigrants in a cart. According to today’s proposal from the Prosecutor, the indictment attributed to them concerns incitement to commit crimes, violence or discord with racial motives in combination with robbery with racial motives together and complicity and exposure to danger, while the foreign owner of the vehicle that appears in a video pulling the trailer is also charged with violating the law on personal data.

      As far as the 13 immigrants and refugees are concerned, they are charged with attempted arson endangering human life, manufacturing and possession of explosives and illegal entry. But it is a referral that raises reasonable questions, as according to information the charge against them arose from the testimonies of their alleged captors. Therefore, the question arises as to how reliable the accusation of attempted arson is when the arrest of the alleged arsonists was not made by the police authorities themselves, but by those who launched the pogrom against the refugees who have an interest in establishing the case of arson to make their trial a more favorable position. Even according to the statement of the lawyer of the 45-year-old Albanian who speaks in the shameful video, the immigrants were holding knives in their hands, while he was not armed, yet he managed to trap them inside the closed cart. How is it possible for three unarmed men to capture 13 armed and dangerous arsonists ?

      Even more surprising is the fact that the three men claimed that they called the police to hand over the alleged arsonists around 5.30 pm and that they finally handed over the 13 men a few minutes later when the police arrived at the scene, to whom they also handed over the alleged incendiary device. Consequently, there is also a significant time gap between the statements that talk about the police being called at the time of the "arrest" of the immigrants at 17.30 and the arrest of the three men which took place late at night after the reactions that caused the release of the video. According to the police, the 13 immigrants were found in the 45-year-old’s cart at the moment they arrested him, so how did they surrender to them at 5:30 p.m.?

      https://english.elpais.com/international/2023-08-24/no-guns-no-knives-civilian-militias-hunting-migrants-on-greek-border

      ‘No guns, no knives :’ Civilian militias ‘hunting’ migrants on Greek border amid devastating wildfires

      The Supreme Court has ordered an investigation into what it terms an ‘alarming phenomena of violence’ against immigrants and incitement to ‘racist pogroms’

      ANDRÉS MOURENZALOLA HIERRO

      Istanbul / Madrid - AUG 24, 2023 - 12:47 CEST

      The Greek province of Evros, where at least 18 migrants were found burned to death Tuesday in a wave of wildfires ravaging the country, was already a hell on earth for those fleeing their countries in search of a better life in Europe. For more than a decade, countless cases of abuses and violations of the most basic rights against people attempting to cross the territory — where the homonymous river serves as a natural border between Greece and Turkey — have been reported. Beatings, forced deportations, rapes, and illegal detentions have been recorded by human rights organizations. But if the situation for people attempting to reach EU territory was already dangerous, now it has become considerably worse : since the most recent fire broke out last Saturday, groups of local residents have organized themselves into militias to hunt down migrants. It is not the first time such practices have been witnessed, but tensions have been stoked further by the popular belief that they are to blame for the fires.

      The chief prosecutor of the Greek Supreme Court, Georgia Adilini, on Wednesday ordered a double investigation to look for possible evidence of “an organized plan” to provoke the fire — although the police later stated that it had been caused by lightning — and to discover more details about the “alarming phenomena of violence” against migrants and incitements to “racist pogroms.”

      These investigations have arisen following a video shared on social networks on Tuesday in which a man triumphantly displays the result of what he considers his hunting booty. The man, who is also the alleged author of the recording, opens the hatch of a trailer attached to a van to display an undetermined number of captured men looking confusedly at the camera. Their captor refers to these people as “pieces,” claims there are 25 of them and that he has “hunted them down” because they are responsible for the fires. “The mountains are full of these,” he adds.

      “Part of the population thinks that the fires are the fault of the migrants and that’s why they chase them,” explains Lefteris Papayannakis, director of the Greek Institute for Refugees, in an interview with EL PAÍS. “They function as a militia ; they arrest them on their own account and use violence against them.”

      The owner of the vehicle and suspected author of the video, a resident of the province of Albanian origin, and two other people of Greek nationality were arrested Wednesday. But Vassilis Kerasiotis, director of the NGO HIAS Greece and a lawyer specializing in migration, says that these militias are far from a one-off phenomenon and are organized with absolute impunity because the authorities prefer to look the other way. “There is tolerance on the part of the authorities, that’s why they feel they can freely publicize these criminal acts,” he adds. “Obviously, when a criminal act occurs, the authorities must react. That’s why they have arrested them,” he insists.

      “It’s frightening how openly accepted hostility against migrants is in a certain part of society,” says a spokesman for Alarm Phone, an organization dedicated to receiving messages from migrants in distress throughout the Mediterranean area and passing them on to the relevant authorities.

      Appeals to chase and capture migrants are spread through messages on social networks such as Facebook, X or TikTok. The video of the Albanian citizen showing the result of his “hunt” was uploaded to a channel on the Viber messaging network, with 240 members. Another recording released Wednesday shows a man dressed in military attire instructing several dozen residents of Evros to organize another pogrom. “Whoever can, start patrolling [...] But I’m going to ask you, no guns, no knives, or you’re going to get in trouble. It’s illegal. You will be arrested,” he says.

      Before the video of the illegally detained migrants appeared, Paris Papadakis, deputy of the far-right Greek Solution party for the province of Evros, published another inflammatory tirade in which he accused the migrants of “obstructing the work of firefighters” and of starting the blaze.

      Several left-wing MPs have called for Papadakis to be investigated by the Greek Parliament’s Ethics Committee. In his publication, the far-right MP described the situation as a “war” and called on his fellow citizens to organize raids to “arrest” illegal migrants “in the same way as in March 2020,” during the Greek-Turkish border crisis, when the government of Ankara facilitated the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants on the frontier with Evros. At that time, some locals organized themselves into militias to assist the police and the Greek Army in their defense of the border.

      Hiding for fear of deportations

      Evros was the main entry route to Greece and Europe until 2015 and 2016, when migrants started using boats to reach Aegean islands such as Chios or Lesbos. However, the transit of refugees has never stopped. So far in 2023, around 3,700 migrants have entered Greece via the land route, compared to some 6,000 in total in 2022, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is possible that the numbers of those who have made it into Greek territory via Evros is in fact much higher. “More than 250,000 illegal entries were prevented at the Evros border during 2022,” the Ministry of Citizen Protection said in a statement. Some of that number probably crossed the border but were illegally deported by the Greek authorities, a very common practice in the area despite the fact that it violates both Hellenic and European laws. Various NGOs and human rights organizations have collected testimonies and evidence of about 400 such incidents during the last six years, in which some 20,000 migrants were illegally deported, in most cases with violent methods and having been stripped of their money and belongings.

      Between Tuesday and Wednesday, Alarm Phone passed on alerts about four groups comprising hundreds people trapped in the area affected by the wildfires : three of them on islets in the river and another in a wooded area near the town of Sufi. “The fact that in the face of a fire people are hiding in the forest instead of trying to get to safety gives an idea of the need they feel to hide for fear of deportations,” Vassilis points out.

      The Alarm Phone spokesman explains that the authorities contacted them and assured them that they had not found anyone at the indicated points. The organization also adds that on Wednesday, contact was lost with two of the four groups and that only the two larger ones, stranded on islets, remained in contact : one, of about 250 people, had been surrounded by the police. Another, of about 100 people trapped on an islet near the town of Lagina, was rounded up by officers and taken to a detention center. “We cannot say much more about the situation [of the groups], but previously, when the authorities claim they cannot find them, what they do is to attack the migrants and return them illegally to Turkey. It’s an excuse they often use,” says Vassilis.

      Groups of civilians hunting for migrants is yet another threat that adds to the already treacherous conditions they face when crossing the border. The route involves a militarized zone where no one is permitted to enter, not even humanitarian aid organizations. They use the dense forests to hide for indeterminate periods of time during which they have no access to food, sanitation, or any other basic necessity. “There is no assistance there. It is almost impossible to help them when they are in hiding. Sometimes they take food with them, sometimes they go somewhere nearby to look for it,” says Lefteris Papayannakis of the Greek Refugee Institute. “We know that sometimes the Turks give them food while forcing them to cross, or give them access to power to charge their phones.”

      Papayannakis adds that road accidents involving vehicles carrying migrants are frequent. “They are trafficked in cabs or vans to the cities. It is illegal, so sometimes the traffickers go very fast, in the wrong direction... We know of people who have died or been seriously injured because they were involved in an accident.”

      For his part, the Minister of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, Vassilis Kikilias, has attributed the death of migrants to not having followed the evacuation orders that are sent automatically, in Greek and English, to all cellphones in the affected area : “In Evros there have been 15 fire outbreaks at the same time, which have joined together to form a huge fire,” read one. Satellite images show an immense area in flames, with a front reaching 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) and advancing “uncontrollably” in several directions. The dense smoke from this large fire, together with that of other fronts in Greece, has reached the islands of Sicily and Malta, more than a 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away, and now covers 80% of Greek territory. Kerasiotis, of HIAS, takes a different view of the tragedy : “The cause of these 18 deaths is a combination of the absence of legal and safe entry procedures on Greek and European territory, together with the fact that potential asylum seekers are afraid of being illegally returned to Turkey.”

    • NGO umbrella group condemns self-proclaimed ‘militia’ groups

      An umbrella group comprising 55 non-governmental organizations and civil society bodies across Greece has condemned recent incidents involving civilian self-proclaimed “militia” groups engaging in unlawful acts of violence against refugees and migrants.

      In an “alarming incident” in the Evros region, “citizens appeared to threaten and illegally detain a group of migrants and refugees inside a trailer, while using racist and derogatory language and inciting similar acts of violence,” the Racist Violence Recording Network said, in statement issued through the UNHCR in Greece.

      “The incident came to light through a relevant video and subsequent articles, which triggered numerous racist comments. These events coincide with the tragic news of discovering dead people, reportedly refugees and migrants, in the Evros region due to the fires.”

      The network said it was pleased to note “that the authorities have included the investigation of racist motive” under the relevant article of the Penal Code.

      The network also expresses “serious concern regarding the deteriorating climate against refugees and migrants in the political and public discourse, which is even expressed by representatives of parties in the Greek Parliament, in light of the aforementioned incidents.”

      “Such phenomena normalize, encourage, and ultimately escalate racist reactions, firstly in the media and social media, that sometimes result in attacks on the street, with the clear risk of irreparably disrupting social cohesion,” it said.

      Coordinated by the Greek National Commission for Human Rights and UNHCR in Greece, the network comprises 55 non-governmental organizations and civil society bodies, as well as the Greek Ombudsman and the Migrant Integration Council of the Municipality of Athens as observers.

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1218541/ngo-umbrella-group-condemns-self-proclaimed-militia-groups

      #milice #milices

    • En Grèce, les feux attisent des propos et des actes racistes

      A la frontière gréco-turque, les migrants sont tenus pour responsables des incendies qui brûlent la forêt depuis six jours par des groupes d’habitants, qui s’organisent pour les chasser.

      Avec plus de 73 000 hectares brûlés en six jours, les incendies autour d’#Alexandroupoli, ville frontalière avec la Turquie, dans le nord-est de la Grèce, sont les feux les plus dévastateurs jamais enregistrés dans l’Union européenne. Devant des paysages de désolation, la tristesse laisse place depuis deux jours à la rage, voire à la haine envers des boucs émissaires tout trouvés, des migrants, désignés comme responsables des départs de feux par des groupes d’extrême droite agissant dans la région.

      Mercredi 23 août, 19 personnes (dont deux enfants, selon le médecin légiste), très probablement des migrants, selon les autorités, qui avaient traversé le fleuve Evros séparant la Grèce et la Turquie, ont été retrouvées mortes. Quelques heures après cette annonce, des rumeurs alimentées par des groupuscules d’extrême droite circulaient sur les réseaux sociaux : des migrants auraient été à l’origine des feux, il ne s’agirait pas d’un hasard si les incendies ont lieu sur la route empruntée par les exilés. S’ensuit une vidéo diffusée sur Facebook par un homme qui montre un groupe de migrants enfermés dans la remorque de son véhicule. « J’ai chargé 25 morceaux », dit-il fièrement. « Ils vont nous brûler !(…) Organisez-vous tous pour les ramasser ! » , ajoute-t-il.

      Sous la publication, un internaute commente : « Jette-les dans le feu ! » Les propos, repris par les médias grecs, ont choqué le pays et le ministre de la protection du citoyen, Yannis Oikonomou, a réagi : « La Grèce est un Etat de droit, doté de solides acquis démocratiques et d’une tradition humanitaire. Faire justice par soi-même ne peut être toléré. » Le propriétaire de la voiture et deux de ses complices ont été interpellés et ont été inculpés pour « enlèvement à caractère raciste et mise en danger de la vie d’autrui ». Treize demandeurs d’asile, syriens et pakistanais, sont eux aussi détenus, accusés d’être entrés illégalement sur le territoire grec et d’avoir été non intentionnellement à l’origine de départs de feux. Tous doivent être présentés devant la justice vendredi.

      Depuis mardi, plusieurs groupes d’hommes de la région frontalière de l’Evros, s’organisent pour patrouiller et débusquer ceux qu’ils appellent les « clandestins ». Dans une vidéo, diffusée par le média en ligne The Press Project, un homme en treillis militaire s’adresse à la foule : « Commencez à patrouiller, prenez toutes les informations nécessaires… Mais s’il vous plaît, pas d’armes, pas de couteaux sur vous, vous allez avoir des problèmes ! Les autorités ne nous laissent pas faire, même si nous faisons face à une guerre hybride ! »

      « Le climat est effrayant ! »

      Thanassis Mananas, un journaliste local, le confirme : « Autour d’Alexandroupoli, des patrouilles de civils s’organisent pour attraper des migrants (…).Ils échangent sur des groupes Viber ou WhatsApp et appellent clairement à des actes violents. Plusieurs centaines de personnes se regroupent et le climat est effrayant ! », confie le jeune homme.

      Les appels à la haine sont relayés par des députés d’extrême droite, notamment ceux du petit parti Solution grecque, qui a recueilli 8,8 % dans le nome de l’Evros aux élections législatives, en juin. Paraschou Papadakis, un avocat originaire d’Alexandroupoli et député de ce parti, est bien connu dans la région. « J’ai des informations sérieuses sur des clandestins qui dérangent le travail des pilotes [des Canadair]. Il faut passer à l’action ! (…) Nous avons une guerre, Messieurs ! », écrit-il sur son compte Facebook. Le député s’adresse aux membres de l’Ainisio Delta, l’association des propriétaires de cabanes de la région du delta de l’Evros, qui, fin février-début mars 2020, avaient coopéré avec la police et l’armée pour empêcher le passage de milliers de migrants, incités par le président turc, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, à prendre le chemin de l’Europe.

      En février 2020, dans le village de Poros, le maire, Athanassios Pemoussis, confiait au Monde que « la démonstration de force » des agriculteurs qui avaient quadrillé le fleuve de l’Evros avec des tracteurs avait été efficace. Aujourd’hui, il assure que « les patrouilles n’ont plus lieu, mais que les arrivées de migrants ont repris de plus belle » .

      Lena Karamanidou, une chercheuse spécialisée sur la question migratoire, estime que « les feux ont été instrumentalisés par ces groupes d’extrême droite, mais les phénomènes de violence et de chasse aux migrants ne sont pas nouveaux » . En 2020, « ces hommes ont été valorisés, dépeints par les médias grecs comme des héros qui défendent les frontières de la Grèce et de l’Europe. Les hommes politiques, dont le premier ministre, leur ont rendu visite en les remerciant pour leur action et ils jouissent d’une grande impunité, puisqu’ils côtoient la police et les gardes-frontières quotidiennement ! » , explique-t-elle.

      Plusieurs ONG qui ont déjà dénoncé les refoulements illégaux de migrants à la frontière, accompagnés de vols, de violences et d’humiliations, s’inquiètent du sort des centaines d’exilés qui seraient actuellement bloqués à la frontière avec les feux. Adriana Tidona, chercheuse à Amnesty International, appelle « les autorités grecques à évacuer de toute urgence toutes les personnes bloquées dans la région d’Evros (…) , et à enquêter sur tout acte de violence raciste ou tout discours incitant à de tels comportements, y compris de la part d’hommes politiques ».

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2023/08/25/en-grece-les-feux-attisent-des-propos-et-des-actes-racistes_6186488_3210.htm

    • Greek wildfires spur anti-migrant sentiment

      As Greece was hit by wave after wave of wildfires this week, asylum-seekers found themselves at the receiving end of several allegations they started fires, leading to an anti-migrant frenzy online.

      At least two news reports implicating migrants were soon denied.

      The verbal assault intensified after a group of 13 Pakistani and Syrian men were accused by locals of being caught red-handed trying to light a fire outside the city of Alexandroupoli, in the Evros region bordering Turkey.

      One of the locals on Tuesday posted a live Facebook video showing the migrants stacked in a trailer, boasting that he had caught them for trying to “burn us.”

      “Don’t show them... burn them,” another user commented on the feed.

      The 45-year-old man was arrested alongside two alleged accomplices, with authorities insisting that “vigilantism” will not be tolerated.

      The three detainees have been charged with inciting racist violence. The migrants were charged by a prosecutor in Alexandroupoli with illegal entry and attempted arson.

      But a government source told Kathimerini daily that the evidence so far suggested migrants could more likely be linked to accidental arson by making campfires, rather than premeditated.

      A picture of the alleged arson device posted on social media showed two car tyres crammed with styrofoam and wood.

      The 45-year-old caught for detaining the migrants — dubbed the “Evros sheriff” by Greek media — was placed under house arrest Friday.

      The man, who lives in the area after emigrating from Albania, claimed that he intervened after seeing the migrants attempting to light the device in bushes near a supermarket.

      Heightened fears in the area have also given rise to media misinformation.

      An Evros news portal on Tuesday said that 20 migrants had been arrested outside Alexandroupoli after exchanging gunfire with police.

      Authorities later denied this.

      Similarly, national TV station Open on Wednesday issued a correction after erroneously reporting that two migrants had been caught lighting a fire in the neighbouring region of Rodopi.

      Northern Greece has been engulfed in a mega fire that originally broke out Saturday and required over 14,000 evacuations, including at a local hospital.

      Lightning sparked the fire, according to Alexandroupoli’s mayor Giannis Zamboukis.

      By Thursday, the various fronts had merged into a line stretching over 15 kilometres (nine miles), burning over 60,000 hectares (148,000 acres) of agricultural land and forest.

      The area is just a few kilometres from the Turkish border. Migrant crossings aided by smugglers occur on a regular basis.

      In 2020, tens of thousands of migrants tried to break through this remote northeastern area, clashing for days with Greek security forces.

      Work on extending a 37.5-kilometre (23-mile) steel barrier to block the path is to be completed by the end of the year.

      After the first fires broke out Saturday near Alexandroupoli, pictures and videos have been posted on social media claiming to show makeshift arson devices created by migrants crossing the border with Turkey.
      ’They want to destroy us’

      Anti-migrant sentiment is strong in Greek border areas, where locals accuse asylum seekers of stealing and say reckless driving by smugglers poses a serious traffic risk.

      “I am absolutely convinced that the fires were caused by migrants,” Evros resident Christos Paschalakis told AFP.

      “They burn us, they steal from us, they kill us in road accidents,” he said.

      “I have no doubt that the forest fire was started by migrants,” said Vangelis Rallis, a 70-year-old retired logger from Dadia, a village near a key national park that also burned last year.

      “They burned it last year, and this year they returned to finish the job. They may have even been paid to do it. They want to destroy us,” he said.

      The issue also sparked political controversy this week after Kyriakos Velopoulos, the leader of nationalist party Greek Solution, joined the attacks on migrants and praised the man arrested for illegally detaining them.

      An MP for Velopoulos, Paris Papadakis, also called on locals to “take measures” as migrants were allegedly “obstructing” fire-fighting plane pilots.

      “We are at war,” Papadakis said in a Facebook post.

      In national elections in June, Velopoulos’ party and two other far-right groups posted their highest ratings in northern Greece.

      In the Evros region, Greek Solution scored nearly nine percent of the vote.
      Wildfire victims

      Of the 20 people killed in this week’s fires, it is believed 19 were migrants.

      One group of 18, including two children, was found Tuesday near a village 38 kilometres (24 miles) from the Turkish border.

      Another migrant was found dead in the area of Lefkimmi near the Turkish border a day earlier.
      Of the 20 people killed in this week’s fires, it is believed 19 were migrants

      The head of Evros’ border guards, Valandis Gialamas, told AFP he expects more bodies of migrants to be found, as crossings from Turkey have increased in recent days.

      Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Greece to “urgently evacuate all those stranded in the Evros region and who are unable to move safely due to fires, and to ensure that refugees and migrants who have entered into Greece irregularly can seek asylum and are not illegally forcibly returned at the border.”

      https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230825-greek-wildfires-spur-anti-migrant-sentiment

    • Reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, de Vicky Skoumbi, 25.08.2023:

      Tandis que les trois auteurs de séquestration de 13 personnes migrantes sont libres de rentrer chez eux assignés à domicile par le procureur et le juge d’instruction, leurs victimes sont toujours en détention et doivent se présenter au juge d’instruction ce lundi
      Bref le signal à la société locale est claire: impunité de chasseurs de tête de migrants et pénalisation des victimes
      En même temps; Le parc National de Dadia, détruit en très grande partie par le feu, ne cesse de révéler de personnes migrantes et réfugiées qui ont trouvé une mort atroce dans leur effort de rester cachées pour éviter un refoulement vers la Turquie. Jusqu’aujourd’hui il y a au moins 20 personnes dont deux enfants qui ont connu ce sort; mais il devrait y avoir plus voire beaucoup plus qui ont été piégés par le feu dans la forêt

      –---

      Charred body found in Dadia forest; number of migrants burned in Evros rises to 20: https://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2023/08/25/migrants-burned-dadia-evros

      August 25, 2023

      Τhe body of one more person has been found charred in the forest of Dadia in Evros, north-eastern Greece. The fire victim was most possible a migrant, raising the number of migrants who lost their lives in the wildfires to 20.

      The body was found with burn injured in the area of Lefkimmi on late Thursday afternoon, at the point where the destructive and deadly fire in Evros passed through and where another migrant was found charred on on Monday, August 21, 2023.

      On Tuesday, August 22, the bodies of 18 migrants were found charred in the forest of Dadia. Among the dead were also two children.

      Speaking to Reuters news agency, coroner Pavlos Pavlidis said that one group of seven to eight bodies were found huddled together in what appeared to be a final embrace. Others were buried in the wreckage of a shelter destroyed by the flames.

      “They realized, at the last moment, that the end was coming, it was a desperate attempt to protect themselves,” Pavlidis said.

      DNA samples have been taken form the bodies in an effort to identify them and have an answer to relatives who may seek them.

      The fire in Dadia has been raging since beginning of the week.

      Spokesperson of the Fire Service, Giannis Artopoios, said on Friday that two suspects of arson are being sought, while investigation being carried out in depth.

    • “Free without restrictive conditions for the charges of attempted arson & possession of incendiary materials & incendiary device, 4 Pakistani nationals were released.” Racist motivated vigilante accusations against 13 #Evros #migrants are falling apart!

      https://twitter.com/EleniKonstanto/status/1695545622147858504

      –---

      Ελεύθεροι οι 4 Πακιστανοί – Μόνο οι « σερίφηδες » είδαν εμπρηστικό μηχανισμό

      Αρκετές αντιφάσεις ως προς τον χειρισμό της υπόθεσης απ’ τις διωκτικές αρχές εντοπίζει ο έγκριτος νομικός Θανάσης Καμπαγιάννης. O ισχυρισμός περί « αυτοσχέδιου εμπρηστικού μηχανισμού » βασίζεται αποκλειστικά στον λόγο των τριών κατηγορουμένων για αρπαγή.

      Ελεύθεροι χωρίς περιοριστικούς όρους για τις κατηγορίες της απόπειρας εμπρησμού και κατοχής εμπρηστικών υλών και εμπρηστικού μηχανισμού, αφέθηκαν οι τέσσερις υπήκοοι Πακιστάν, έπειτα από πολύωρη διαδικασία, η οποία έλαβε τέλος με τη σύμφωνη γνώμη εισαγγελέα και ανακρίτριας.

      Όσον αφορά τους υπόλοιπους εννέα που βρέθηκαν στο « κλουβί » των αυτόκλητων σερίφηδων της περιοχής θα απολογηθούν τη Δευτέρα (28/08).

      Στο μεταξύ, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες, η ανακρίτρια διέταξε ιατροδικαστική εξέταση για τους « 13 » καθώς φαίνεται πως έχουν τραύματα που τα προκάλεσε -όπως λένε- ο 45χρονος κατηγορούμενος για διέγερση και διάπραξη εγκλημάτων, βιαιοπραγίες και αρπαγή με ρατσιστικά κίνητρα από κοινού και κατά συναυτουργία, έκθεση σε κίνδυνο και για παράβαση της νομοθεσίας περί προσωπικών δεδομένων.

      Αντιφάσεις

      Για την υπόθεση που έχει ξυπνήσει τα δημοκρατικά αντανακλαστικά αρκετού κόσμου τοποθέτηθηκε ο γνωστός δικηγόρος Θανάσης Καμπαγιάννης, που επισημαίνει αρκετές αντιφάσεις ως προς τον χειρισμό της υπόθεσης απ’ τις διωκτικές αρχές.

      - Ένα απ’ τα σημεία που τονίζει είναι ότι τα θύματα αρπαγής δεν κλήθηκαν να καταθέσουν ως μάρτυρες στο πλαίσιο της προανάκρισης, ενώ δύο φαίνεται να κατέθεσαν στην ανακρίτρια.

      – Η μόνη περίπτωση που μέχρις στιγμής ακούστηκε η φωνή των προσφύγων είναι η έγγραφη δήλωση παράστασης υποστήριξης της κατηγορίας από πλευράς ενός 24χρονου Σύριου πρόσφυγα, με επιμέλεια των εξουσιοδοτημένων δικηγόρων του, Κατερίνας Γεωργιάδου και Γιάννη Πατζανακίδη, που μετέβησαν χτες στο κρατητήριο του Αστυνομικού Τμήματος Φερών και σήμερα στο Δικαστικό Μέγαρο Αλεξανδρούπολης, σημειώνει.

      - Ένα δεύτερο στοιχείο που υπογραμμίζει ο κ. Καμπαγιάννης είναι ότι ενώ ζητήθηκε η κατάσχεση των κινητών τηλεφώνων των τριών κατηγορούμενων δραστών για να διαπιστωθούν οι συνεννοήσεις και οι κινήσεις τους, ακόμα δεν έχει διαταχθεί η κατάσχεση.

      – Το τρίτο στοιχείο που υπογραμμίζει είναι ότι η η δίωξη στους μετανάστες για απόπειρα εμπρησμού βασίζεται αποκλειστικά και μόνο στις καταθέσεις των τριών δραστών της κακουργηματικής αρπαγή, με την επισήμανση ότι στην περίπτωση αυτή οι προανακριτικοί υπάλληλοι αστυνομικοί μερίμνησαν να λάβουν μαρτυρικές καταθέσεις.

      - Το τέταρτο στοιχείο είναι πως ο αστυνομικός που κατέθεσε στην προανάκριση, προσήλθε όταν οι 13 πρόσφυγες ήταν ήδη κλειδωμένοι στο κλουβί, οπότε ο ισχυρισμός περί “αυτοσχέδιου εμπρηστικού μηχανισμού” γύρω από τον οποίο βρέθηκαν οι 13 πρόσφυγες βασίζεται αποκλειστικά στον λόγο των τριών κατηγορουμένων για αρπαγή και σε καμία άλλη κατάθεση, στοιχείο ή έκθεση αυτοψίας.

      Στο σπίτι τους οι « σερίφηδες » κατόπιν διαφωνίας εισαγγελέα και ανακριτή

      Νωρίτερα, χθες, οι τρεις που είχαν συγκροτήσει τάγμα εφόδου σε παράνομο πογκρόμ μίσους και συμμετείχαν στην απαγωγή τουλάχιστον 25 μεταναστών, τους οποίους κλειδαμπάρωσαν σε τρέιλερ φορτηγού, εμφανίστηκαν στο δικαστικό μέγαρο Αλεξανδρούπολης για να απολογηθούν αλλά κατόπιν διαφωνίας μεταξύ εισαγγελέα και ανακριτή για το αν πρέπει να προφυλακιστούν αποφασίστηκε να τεθούν σε κατ’ οίκον περιορισμό.

      Για την τύχη τους θα αποφασίσει τώρα το δικαστικό συμβούλιο.

      Σύμφωνα με τα όσα δήλωσε μετά το πέρας της διαδικασίας ο Βασίλης Δεμίρης, συνήγορος του ιδιοκτήτη του οχήματος που εμφανίζεται σε βίντεο να έλκει το τρέιλερ, « τη διαφωνία αυτή καλείται να λύσει το Συμβούλιο Πλημμελειοδικών εντός πέντε ημερών όπως προβλέπει ο Κώδικας Ποινικής Δικονομίας. Μέχρι τότε έχει επιβληθεί ο όρος του κατ’ οίκον περιορισμού, της απαγόρευσης εξόδου από τη χώρα και της αφαίρεσης διαβατηρίου ».

      Αναφορικά με το επίμαχο βίντεο ο κ. Δεμίρης δήλωσε : « Υπήρχε ένα ατυχές βίντεο για τους χαρακτηρισμούς τους οποίους χρησιμοποίησε (σ.σ. ο εντολέας μου) δηλώνει δια στόματός μου πλήρως μετανοημένος. Όλη του η οργή όμως και η αγανάκτηση έχει εξαντληθεί σ’ αυτό το βίντεο. Δεν άσκησε ποτέ βία, δεν χρησιμοποίησε ποτέ οπλισμό, κάλεσε τις Αρχές ως όφειλε να κάνει και οι Αρχές έφτασαν στο σημείο. Θα αναμείνουμε με αγωνία την απόφασή του Συμβουλίου Πλημμελειοδικών. Εντός τριών ημερών θα πρέπει να γίνει η πρόταση και να εισαχθεί από τον εισαγγελέα πρωτοδικών προς το Συμβούλιο και εντός πέντε ημερών θα πρέπει να υπάρχει και το σχετικό βούλευμα του Συμβουλίου », ανέφερε.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/dikaiosyni/401935_eleytheroi-oi-4-pakistanoi-mono-oi-serifides-eidan-empristiko-mihanismo

    • Lena K. sur twitter :

      Just finished talking with family back home in #Evros. I’ll write down some of what I’ve heard, at least as an antidote to media coverage focusing on locals blaming border crossers for the fire etc. Note: family & their friends are mostly but not exclusively leftwing.

      They don’t seem to have fallen for the narrative of border crossers being responsible for the fire, & were angry with media & govt not counting them among the dead. Lots of disagreements with locals blaming borders crossers & discounting their deaths.

      The dominant view was that the worst was averted because of local people. Some participated in firefighting, but (especially in relation to the village we come from) what they did before & after the night the village partly burned - such as hosing water around houses to prevent fires restarting & clearing out unburned grass and weeds. There seems to be a belief that failure (mostly by the local authorities) to clear such vegetation (& also e.g. wheat stalks after fire) contributed to the fire spreading more quickly.

      Lots of anger towards the government & local authorities for this - not doing enough for fire prevention. Reports of firefighting equipment breaking down too, a perception of lack of coordination between Greek & EU firefighting forces who came to help.

      Lots of anger towards the government for not showing up when the fires were at their worst, too.
      The contrast with frequent visits by government officials before the fires (for whatever reason, not only the wall) is not unnoticed.

      I’d note on this that there’s a very deep-rooted (and justified) belief in Evros being largely neglected by Athens, the fires seem to reinforce it. Nationalism & anti-migration discourses have been used ’manage’ this (& IMO the far right has been useful) but did not eradicate it.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1695780783288615323

    • Locked immigrants in a truck trailer and calls for a pogrom

      Les 13 migrants détenus à Evros ont été libérés et l’accusation d’incendie criminel a été complètement abandonnée.

      Les 9 immigrants, à savoir 8 Syriens et un Pakistanais, accusés de tentative d’incendie criminel à Evros, ont été libérés sans conditions restrictives. Selon dikastiko.gr, la décision a été prise avec l’accord de l’enquêteur et procureur d’Alexandroupolis, qui avaient déjà libéré vendredi 25 août les quatre Pakistanais accusés des mêmes charges. Comme l’a souligné dans son message l’avocat Thanasis Kabayannis, l’accusation de « tentative d’incendie criminel » a été totalement abandonnée. Il est rappelé que des poursuites pénales avaient été engagées contre les 13 migrants pour tentative d’incendie criminel à Alexandroupoli sur la base exclusive des témoignages des trois auteurs présumés de leur enlèvement, à savoir les shérifs « autoproclamés », qui ont « arrêté » et entassé les 13 réfugiés syriens et pakistanais dans une remorque fermée, les ont accusés de tentative d’incendie criminel. Les personnes migrantes ont déclaré qu’elles ont été violemment frappées avec une barre métallique par les chasseurs de tête de migrants.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/dikaiosyni/402168_eleytheroi-kai-oi-alloi-9-metanastes-ston-ebro-katepese-pliros-i-katigo

      Mais l’ ‘exploit’ des trois chasseurs de tête a fait des émules :

      Nouvel incident avec un shérif autoproclamé à Evros.

      Déchaînement de l’extrême droite à Evros avec des shérifs autoproclamés appelant toujours à des pogroms contre les migrants et mettant en ligne des vidéos fières de " leurs exploits’’. La réaction du représentant du gouvernement est assez molle. Réaction forte de SYRIZA-P.S.

      La nouvelle vidéo publiée sur les réseaux sociaux qui montre ouvertement l’action d’un autre "chasseur de têtes" ne peut susciter que la honte. À Aisimi Evros, le shérif autoproclamé et ses deux assistants auraient immobilisé quatre migrants terrifiés sur un chemin de terre, en rivalisant avec l’homme qui avait capturé 13 immigrés dans une remorque de camion, provoquant l’intervention de la Cour suprême. Dans la vidéo qui circule sur Internet, on entend le « gardien » d’extrême droite de la patrie dire : « Quatre de plus, quatre de plus, des investisseurs... Vous voyez ? A midi, où sont les autorités...où sont les autorités, où sont les autorités...Quatre autres investisseurs, on appelle la police, il n’y a pas de réseau … ». La vidéo a été « sauvée » par d’internautes, l’auteur lui-même parlant de diffamation, il a supprimé les messages de haine qu’il avait publiés. Il n’y a jusqu’à présent aucune réaction de la part de la police ou du parquet d’Evros.

      La réaction du représentant du gouvernement est molle. Lors du briefing habituel, le représentant du gouvernement a été interrogé sur le rôle de l’Etat et sur ce qu’il compte faire. Pavlos Marinakis a répondu simplement en disant : "dans tout acte illégal, comme cela s’est produit dans un cas précédent, il est de la responsabilité des autorités de faire leur travail et cela sera fait". Que disent-ils à SYRIZ-PS ? A Koumoundourou, le siège de Syriza, on se demande "que font les autorités compétentes et la justice face à ces réseaux qui veulent imposer la loi du Far West, qui capturent les gens et incitent à la haine ? Ils appellent les autorités et la justice à « intervenir de manière décisive ».

      Rappel : il y a quelques jours, les trois qui avaient formé une escouade d’assaut dans un pogrom haineux illégal et participé à l’enlèvement d’au moins 25 immigrés (des « morceaux » selon leurs dires), qu’ils ont enfermés dans une remorque de camion, se sont présentés au palais de justice d’Alexandroupoli, mais suite à un différend entre le procureur et le juge d’instruction sur leur éventuelle détention provisoire, il a été décidé de les assigner à résidence. Le conseil judiciaire qui va siéger cette semaine va désormais décider de leur sort.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/402105_ta-kommatia-tora-eginan-ependyte

      –—

      Déclaration des avocats de la défense des 8 réfugiés syriens

      (traduction par Vicky Skoumbi)

      Après une procédure très longue qui s’est terminé tard dans la nuit au palais de justice d’Alexandroupoli, le juge d’instruction et le procureur ont accepté la libération inconditionnelle des 8 réfugiés de nationalité syrienne et de l’un de nationalité pakistanaise, accusés de tentative d’incendie criminel, le seul élément étant le témoignage de l’auteur accusé de leur enlèvement et de leur séquestration dans une caravane le 22 août. Après la libération inconditionnelle des 4 accusés d’origine pakistanaise le vendredi 25 août, et étant donné que les 13 citoyens syriens et pakistanais n’ont pas de résidence connue dans le pays, on peut conclure que l’accusation portée contre eux a été jugée dépourvue de tout fondement. Les auteurs de l’enlèvement sont assignés à résidence, suite au désaccord entre le juge d’instruction et le procureur, et la décision finale sur leur détention provisoire sera prise par le Conseil Juridique.

      L’affaire n’est pas terminée.

      Les 13 réfugiés sont toujours détenus administrativement en raison de leur entrée illégale dans le pays. Étant donné qu’ils sont déjà victimes et témoins essentiels d’actes criminels poursuivis en vertu de l’article 82A du Code pénal pour le délit à caractère raciste, pour lequel une déclaration de soutien à l’accusation a été présentée, l’octroi d’un permis de séjour à tous les 13 pour raisons humanitaires doit être décidé immédiatement

      En plus de nos propres actions, les autorités policières et le Département des Violences Racistes de l’ELAS (police hellénique) doivent assurer leur séjour légal dans le pays.

      Nous tenons à remercier les milliers de citoyens qui ont exprimé leur solidarité avec les victimes et les centaines qui ont aidé à couvrir les frais de leur défense juridique. La possibilité de représenter les migrants signifiait l’exercice pratique de leur droit à la défense et la mise en évidence, de notre part, du caractère raciste organisé des « milices » autoproclamées opérant dans la région d’Evros. De nouvelles séquences vidéo diffusées aujourd’hui montrent que l’incident en question était tout sauf isolé.

      Alexandroupoli, 28/8/2023,

      Aikaterini Georgiadou, Ioannis Patzanakidis,

      avocats de la défense des 8 réfugiés syriens dans l’affaire de l’#enlèvement d’Evros.

      https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=pfbid02XULbKN47o1nCQEZE3VB8TiqDsJaa8NLwPFXo5jQ2Tk

    • To date, the tragic death toll from the #fires in #Evros #Greece has risen to 20 dead, all refugees. The fire is still burning in the area, for the 10th day, while the overall scale of the destruction is terrifying.

      https://twitter.com/rspaegean/status/1696076952874951005

      –----

      Στους 20 οι νεκροί του Εβρου

      Πρωτοφανές και σε ευρωπαϊκό επίπεδο το μέγεθος της καμένης γης που έχει ήδη ξεπεράσει τα 700.000 στρέμματα.

      Στους 20 νεκρούς ανέρχεται ο τραγικός απολογισμός της φονικής πυρκαγιάς που κατακαίει τον Εβρο για περισσότερο από μία εβδομάδα και παραμένει το ενεργότερο μέτωπο στη χώρα. Είχε προηγηθεί ο εντοπισμός 18 μεταναστών που βρέθηκαν νεκροί κοντά σε παράπηγμα στην περιοχή του Αβαντα, ενώ στις 21 Αυγούστου είχε εντοπιστεί ο πρώτος νεκρός από τη φωτιά που μαίνεται στον Εβρο στην περιοχή της Λευκίμμης.

      Υπενθυμίζεται ότι ολική απανθράκωση είναι η αιτία θανάτου των μεταναστών που βρέθηκαν νεκροί στο δάσος λόγω της πυρκαγιάς, σύμφωνα με τον ιατροδικαστή Αλεξανδρούπολης Παύλο Παυλίδη. Συνεχίζουν να σοκάρουν τα στατιστικά στοιχεία που δείχνουν το μέγεθος της καταστροφής. Σύμφωνα με την ευρωπαϊκή υπηρεσία Copernicus για τις πυρκαγιές στον Εβρο μέχρι την 6η ημέρα από την έναρξή τους, έχει καεί το 17% της συνολικής έκτασης του νομού και το 45% του δασικού συμπλέγματος που εκτείνεται από τον κεντρικό έως τον νότιο Εβρο, στους δήμους Σουφλίου και Αλεξανδρούπολης.

      Η καμένη έκταση υπολογίζεται σε 723.440 στρέμματα και χαρακτηρίζεται « η μεγαλύτερη που έχει καταγραφεί σε ευρωπαϊκό έδαφος εδώ και χρόνια ». Η καταστροφή είναι τεράστια εάν αναλογιστεί κανείς ότι η έκταση του Εβρου είναι 4.242 τετραγωνικά χιλιόμετρα (ή 4.242.000 στρέμματα) και το δασικό σύμπλεγμα των δήμων Σουφλίου και Αλεξανδρούπολης είναι περίπου 1,6 εκατ. στρέμματα. Σε όλα αυτά πρέπει να προστεθεί και το κύριο πλήγμα που δέχτηκε το παραγωγικό μοντέλο της περιοχής με τις τεράστιες υποδομές σε αγροτικό και ζωικό κεφάλαιο.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/401920_stoys-20-oi-nekroi-toy-ebroy

    • « Recherche de coupables », #milices organisées… En Grèce, les incendies réveillent la xénophobie

      Si les feux ravageant le pays depuis des jours sont un révélateur de l’inefficacité de l’Etat, ils exacerbent aussi le racisme qui se propage dans une partie de la société : la vidéo d’un passage un tabac de migrants par des sympathisants d’#extrême_droite fait polémique depuis ce lundi.

      D’un côté, il y a la Grèce qui affronte le « plus grand incendie jamais enregistré dans l’Union européenne », comme l’a déclaré ce mardi 29 août un représentant de la Commission européenne. De l’autre, il y a celle qui recherche des #boucs_émissaires.

      Depuis près de deux semaines, sous une #canicule asséchant encore un peu plus le pays après un des étés les plus chauds de ces dernières décennies, les flammes dévorent le nord du pays. Dans la région d’Alexandroúpoli, à la frontière avec la Turquie, elles ont provoqué l’évacuation de villages, d’une partie de l’hôpital… Elles ont carbonisé la forêt de Dadia, un parc du réseau européen Natura 2000 connu pour abriter de nombreux rapaces et déjà brûlé l’an dernier. A ce jour, plus de 81 000 hectares ont été réduits en cendres, soit une superficie plus grande que la ville de New York, selon l’agence Copernicus.

      Certes, les Vingt-Sept mobilisent actuellement près de la moitié des moyens aériens européens communs pour lutter contre les feux. Mais les onze avions et l’hélicoptère de la flotte européenne, ainsi que les 407 pompiers envoyés pour aider la Grèce, ne suffisent pas à éteindre un brasier qui s’étend sur un front de près de 10 kilomètres. D’après un porte-parole des pompiers, ces flammes sont « toujours hors de contrôle ».

      En parallèle du combat quasi désespéré des soldats du feu, la colère ne cesse de monter chez les Grecs. « Il y avait un manque de préparation des autorités », déplore Antonis Telopoulos, journaliste à Alexandroúpoli pour Efsyn (« le journal des rédacteurs »). Prévention insuffisante, entretien des forêts défaillant, moyens des pompiers manquants… Le constat revient depuis des années. Mais bien que le pays ait retrouvé des marges de manœuvre budgétaires depuis 2018, le gouvernement du Premier ministre, Kyriákos Mitsotákis, de droite conservatrice, n’a ni investi dans du matériel récent ni recruté des pompiers. Selon leurs syndicats, il y aurait au moins 4 000 postes vacants.

      « Un #discours_dominant inattendu et très dangereux de l’extrême droite »

      Il semble que l’incendie ait été déclenché par la foudre. La météo est la première raison invoquée par les autorités. Ce qui ne les empêche pas non plus de se lancer dans « la recherche des coupables », poursuit le journaliste d’Efsyn, ciblant « le récit mis en place par le Premier ministre » Mitsotákis.

      C’est le cas concernant le foyer ravageant la banlieue d’Athènes, notamment la ville d’#Asprópyrgos, où vit une communauté Rom dans un bidonville, stigmatisée par une grande partie de la population. « Ces derniers jours, nous avons été témoins, en Grèce, d’un discours dominant inattendu et très dangereux de l’extrême droite. Les médias, le gouvernement et l’administration locale accusent les migrants d’avoir allumé le feu en Evros et les #Roms d’être les responsables des incendies à Apsrópyrgos », analyse le chercheur Giorgos Katsambekis, sur Twitter (renommé X).

      Cette inquiétude trouve sa source dans de nombreux discours politiques. Le ministre de la Protection civile, Vassilis Kikilias, a visé des « pyromanes de bas étage » à la télévision, sans que personne ne lui demande de preuve de ce qu’il avançait. Puis il a ajouté : « Vous commettez un crime contre le pays, vous ne vous en tirerez pas comme ça, nous vous trouverons et vous devrez rendre des comptes. » Le président du parti d’extrême droite Solution grecque, Kyriákos Velópoulos, accuse les « immigrants illégaux » d’être à l’origine des incendies. La chasse aux coupables est officiellement lancée.

      Elle atteint son point culminant au fleuve Evros. Différents médias tel que Efsyn ou The Press Project ont révélé des vidéos où des habitants de la région s’organisent en milices, comme ils l’avaient déjà fait en mars 2020. Leur objectif ? Chasser les migrants. Paris Papadakis, député du parti d’extrême droite pour la région d’Evros, est allé jusqu’à déclarer « être en guerre ». Il a lui-même participé aux patrouilles, tout en débitant des horreurs : « Les migrants illégaux sont venus ici de manière coordonnée et les migrants illégaux ont spécifiquement mis le feu à plus de dix endroits. »

      18 migrants morts dans les flammes

      Des vidéos font le tour des réseaux sociaux. Elles montrent des migrants à terre, sans doute battus. Le gouvernement est-il, alors, dépassé par la situation ? Il n’a en tout cas pas condamné ces actes racistes et xénophobes pour l’instant. Toutefois, le procureur général de la Cour de cassation et son adjoint ont appelé à conduire une enquête sur ces phénomènes de milices organisées sur les réseaux sociaux et leur composante raciste.

      Plus de 20 personnes sont mortes dans les incendies depuis le début de l’été, dont 18 migrants pris dans les flammes à Evros. Dans la même région, trois migrants ont depuis été arrêtés, ainsi que trois miliciens qui les avaient capturés. Les trois premiers ont été relâchés lundi, sans preuve aucune de leur implication dans l’incendie.

      https://www.liberation.fr/international/europe/recherche-de-coupables-milices-organisees-en-grece-les-incendies-reveille
      #bouc_émissaire #responsabilité

    • Le Premier ministre grec à propos des migrants morts dans l’Evros avec les feux : « ils n’auraient jamais dû se trouver là dans la forêt et le msg du 112 (pour les évacuations) avait été envoyé » …

      https://twitter.com/News247gr/status/1697237541588447435

      –->

      Ο πρωθυπουργός, @PrimeministerGR για τους νεκρούς μετανάστες στη Δαδιά από το βήμα της Βουλής « Δεν έπρεπε ποτέ να βρίσκονται στο δάσος και με το μήνυμα από το 112 που εστάλη και στις δύο γλώσσες ».

      https://twitter.com/MarinaRafen/status/1697246231523905797

    • Grèce : des militants d’extrême droite arrêtent des migrants au nom de la lutte contre l’incendie

      Des hommes apeurés dans une remorque, ou humiliés à terre au pied d’un 4X4 : deux vidéos ont montré depuis le 23 août des arrestations de migrants par des militants d’extrême-droite dans la région grecque de l’Evros, frontalière de la Turquie. Ce genre d’arrestations n’est pas nouveau, mais n’a que rarement été documenté en images. Les agresseurs accusent les migrants d’être responsables de l’immense incendie dans la région, dans un contexte politique anti-migrants disent nos Observateurs.

      "Quatre autres... Vous voyez ? Il est midi et où sont les autorités ? [...] Nous contactons la police, mais il n’y a pas de réponse" s’énerve un homme qui filme cette vidéo publiée le 27 août et tournée dans la région de l’Evros, à une date inconnue. On y voit quatre migrants à terre, au pied d’un véhicule devant lequel se trouvent au moins deux autres hommes debout, manifestement complices de celui qui filme. Ce dernier se montre à la fin de la vidéo, vêtu d’un t-shirt noir et d’un pantalon à motif militaire. L’homme s’appelle Walandi Abrassis sur ses comptes sur les réseaux sociaux où il a directement diffusé sa vidéo.

      https://twitter.com/parameteoros/status/1695824660884070411

      Quelques jours plus tôt, une autre vidéo montrait une scène similaire : un homme filme son 4x4 puis ouvre la porte de la remorque qu’il y avait attachée, dans laquelle on voit au moins quatre hommes apeurés. "J’ai chargé 25 pièces dans la remorque. Organisez-vous, sortons tous et récupérons-les" dit-il, ajoutant : "Toute la montagne est pleine, les gars (…) Ils ont juré de nous brûler (…) Ils vont nous brûler, c’est tout ce que je vous dis", une référence claire à l’incendie, qui ravage le nord-est de la Grèce, considéré comme le plus important jamais enregistré dans l’Union européenne. Selon la presse locale, cette vidéo a été prise à Alexandroúpolis, à quelques kilomètres de la frontière turque, démarquée par le fleuve Evros.

      Les victimes, au total 13 hommes et non 25, ont affirmé au site The Press Project avoir été frappées avec des barres en métal : “Ils ont enlevé tous nos vêtements et nous ont filmés. Nous sommes restés là un long moment, en sueur et incapables de respirer" a déclaré l’un des 13 hommes arrêtés.

      https://twitter.com/EFSYNTAKTON/status/1694020764012359710

      L’auteur de cette deuxième vidéo a été placé en résidence surveillée dans l’attente d’une éventuelle inculpation.

      “Ces miliciens arrêtent des migrants mais comme ils ne peuvent pas les refouler, ils les remettent ensuite aux policiers”

      Panayote Dimitras est le porte-parole de l’Observatoire grec des accords d’Helsinki, une ONG de défense des droits de l’homme qui alerte notamment sur les refoulements de migrants par la Grèce, qu’ils soient fait par la police ou par des civils :

      Ce phénomène existe depuis des années, mais cette fois ils ont vraiment décidé d’eux-mêmes de présenter les vidéos de leurs actions. Cela illustre des choses dont des organisations comme la nôtre parlent de longue date, et cela a incité un procureur adjoint de la Cour suprême à charger un procureur local de s’en saisir. Ceci dit, rien n’a été fait face à tous les cas de refoulements illégaux vers la Turquie orchestrés par la Grèce, bien qu’ils aient été largement documentés, donc on peut douter que qui que ce soit, soit condamné ici. Mais toutes ces données enrichissent les dossiers qu’on peut présenter aux institutions internationales comme la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme, pour montrer comment ça se passe pour les migrants dans cette région.

      On sait que ces milices coopèrent avec la police locale. Dans l’Evros, ces miliciens arrêtent des migrants mais comme ils ne peuvent pas les refouler, ils les remettent ensuite aux policiers, qui ne vont pas enregistrer l’incident parce que sinon, la présence de ces hommes est notifiée et ils ont le droit de faire une demande d’asile et ne peuvent plus être refoulés illégalement.

      Les partis d’extrême droite comme Aube dorée ou Solution grecque cherchent à trouver des soutiens dans cette région. Il est clair que ces hommes sont liés à des organisations locales d’extrême droite.

      L’auteur de la vidéo publiée le 27 aout, qui n’a pas été interpellé, a réagi dans une interview dans un journal d’extrême droite ainsi que sur la page Facebook d’un leader local d’extrême droite. Il assure qu’il souhaitait seulement apporter de l’eau et venir en aide aux migrants.

      Les migrants désignés responsables

      Sur les réseaux sociaux grecs, des groupes citoyens s’organisent dans la région avec des appels à chasser les migrants venus de Turquie, comme le montre The Press Project avec une capture d’une conversation sur Viber. Des leaders d’extrême droite ont ouvertement imputé la responsabilité de l’incendie aux migrants qui passent par l’Evros. Le député du parti Solution grecque, ParisPapadakis, originaire d’Alexandroupolis, a notamment écrit sur Facebook : “J’ai des informations sur des clandestins qui dérangent le travail des pilotes [des Canadair]. Il faut passer à l’action ! (…) Nous avons une guerre, messieurs !”.

      Le 30 août, le Premier ministre de droite, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, a laissé entendre que les migrants étaient responsables des feux - ce que rien n’étaye - déclarant : "Il est presque certain que les causes sont d’origine humaine. Il est également presque certain que cet incendie s’est déclaré sur des routes souvent empruntées par des migrants illégaux qui sont entrés dans notre pays", ajoutant cependant que "les actes d’autodéfense et les shérifs autoproclamés ne seront pas tolérés par ce gouvernement”.

      “L’action de ces hommes est adoubée par la police tout simplement parce qu’ils ont la même idéologie que l’État”

      Eva (pseudonyme), une habitante de la région de l’Evros qui suit de près la situation et a requis l’anonymat, ajoute :

      En mars 2020, quand la Turquie avait ouvert sa frontière pour faire pression sur l’Union européenne, la police avait officiellement demandé l’aide des civils, et une association locale de pêcheurs de l’Evros, Aenisio Delta Evros avait été très active pour arrêter des migrants. Officiellement, ce n’est plus le cas, la police ne veut pas donner l’impression qu’elle tolère cela. Mais quand on leur demande s’ils le font encore… ils ne répondent pas à la question, ce qui en dit long.

      L’action de ces hommes est adoubée par la police tout simplement parce qu’ils ont la même idéologie que l’État : protéger les frontières, utiliser la violence pour le faire, pour eux tout ce qu’ils font est dans l’intérêt de l’État grec. Au sein de l’association Aenisio Delta Evros, on trouve d’ailleurs énormément de réservistes de l’armée.

      https://observers.france24.com/fr/europe/20230901-migrants-turquie-grece-extreme-droite-milice-incendie-e

    • « Brûlez-les ! » : les incendies en Grèce attisent la haine contre les migrants
      https://reporterre.net/Brulez-les-les-incendies-en-Grece-attisent-la-haine-contre-les-migrants

      4 septembre 2023 à 09h53 Mis à jour le 5 septembre 2023 à 10h26

      Les incendies qui ravagent toujours le nord-est de la Grèce se conjuguent avec une déferlante de racisme. Sous les encouragements de l’extrême droite, des citoyens capturent des migrants qu’ils tiennent pour responsables des feux.
      Parc de Dadia (Grèce), reportage

      « Vous voyez, là-bas c’est l’incendie de l’an dernier et maintenant ça brûle de l’autre côté. C’est sûr que ce sont eux qui sont revenus pour terminer leur travail. Nous sommes en danger », affirme cette habitante de Dadia, dans le nord-est de la Grèce.

      Sans détenir la moindre preuve, elle est certaine que des demandeurs d’asile ont délibérément provoqué cet incendie historique qui fait rage depuis plus de deux semaines. Certaines autorités penchent toutefois pour un départ de feu d’origine naturelle, causé par la foudre.


      Les exilés utilisaient la forêt pour se cacher de la police. © Romain Chauvet / Reporterre

      Cette forêt protégée de Dadia est située dans la région de l’Evros, près de la frontière avec la Turquie. Une route empruntée par les demandeurs d’asile qui veulent rejoindre l’Europe et qui s’y cachent pour échapper aux autorités. Près d’une vingtaine d’exilés y ont été retrouvés morts, calcinés.


      © Louise Allain / Reporterre

      Mais le Premier ministre grec, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (conservateur), a déclaré au parlement qu’il était « presque certain que ce feu soit d’origine humaine », allumé sur des « itinéraires empruntés par les migrants illégaux ». Des propos qui font écho à ce que l’on entend sur place.

      « Tout ça c’est la faute des réfugiés, ils sont partout dans la forêt et ils mettent le feu, ils veulent nous tuer ! » lance en colère un habitant qui doit évacuer, les flammes se rapprochant dangereusement de son hameau.

      Kidnappings racistes

      Ce méga incendie n’en finit plus de susciter des propos et actes racistes, dans cette région reculée, pauvre et très encline à voter pour l’extrême droite. « Ce sont les Pakistanais, ils nous envahissent, c’est un problème, un immense problème ici », dit cet autre habitant de la région.

      Durant les derniers jours, plusieurs citoyens, encouragés par l’extrême droite, se sont filmés en train d’arrêter des migrants, qu’ils tiennent pour responsables de ce feu. « J’ai chargé 25 morceaux », s’est vanté en vidéo sur les réseaux sociaux un homme après avoir mis une dizaine de demandeurs d’asile dans une remorque.

      « Brûlez-les ! » a répondu une internaute à la vidéo. Ces demandeurs d’asile ont depuis été mis hors de cause et plusieurs auteurs d’arrestations poursuivis par les autorités.


      Alors que le gouvernement est vivement critiqué pour sa gestion des feux, la communication du Premier ministre est loin de décourager l’extrême droite. © Romain Chauvet / Reporterre

      « En temps de crise, il y a toujours une forte tendance à blâmer les autres, ceux qui ne sont pas comme nous. Ça permet aussi d’éviter d’être confronté à des critiques pour une mauvaise gestion », analyse la politologue spécialisée dans les migrations, Eda Gemi.

      Depuis le début de l’été, le gouvernement grec est sous le feu des critiques pour sa gestion des incendies et son manque de préparation. Plusieurs médias locaux ont aussi alimenté ce climat raciste, dans un pays qui se classe dernier de l’Union européenne en matière de liberté de la presse, selon Reporters sans frontières.

      Une chaîne de télévision a par exemple rapporté que deux migrants avaient été surpris en train d’allumer un incendie avant de démentir, alors que sur une autre chaîne de télévision, une présentatrice s’est réjouie en direct qu’il n’y ait pas eu de décès, si ce n’est ces « pauvres migrants ».

      Un mur à la frontière

      « Le soutien aux partis de droite et d’extrême droite semble avoir augmenté depuis 2015, ce qui coïncide avec le pic des arrivées de demandeurs d’asile dans le pays », explique Georgios Samara, professeur en politique publique, qui analyse les mouvements d’extrême droite.

      Plus de 850 000 arrivées de demandeurs d’asile avaient été enregistrées sur le sol grec cette année-là, marquant le début de ce que l’on a appelé en Europe la crise des réfugiés.

      Mais depuis, la situation a considérablement changé, avec un durcissement de la politique migratoire. Un mur de plusieurs kilomètres a été construit à la frontière terrestre avec la Turquie.


      Des personnes ont été arrêtées pour enlèvement, mise en danger d’autrui et incitation à commettre des crimes racistes après s’être filmées en train d’arrêter et d’enfermer des exilés. © Romain Chauvet / Reporterre

      Pendant ce temps, les autorités sont régulièrement accusées de criminaliser l’aide humanitaire et de refouler violemment les migrants, refoulements communément appelés « pushbacks ». La Grèce est donc devenue un point de transit, plutôt qu’une destination finale.

      Ce climat de tension fait suite à la poussée de l’extrême droite en Grèce, près de 15 % aux dernières élections. « Les partis d’extrême droite pourraient être les grands gagnants de cet incendie, dans la mesure où les électeurs pourraient vouloir encore plus de mesures extrêmes (contre les migrants) », s’inquiète Georgios Samara. Depuis le début de l’année, plus de 17 000 arrivées de demandeurs d’asile ont été enregistrées en Grèce.

  • 2 groups of ~250 people in total stranded on different islets of the #Evros river ! (22.08.2023)

    We are in contact with 2 groups of ~250 people in total, who are stranded on different islets of the #Evros river! One group shared a video of the fires raging nearby. They say “The fires are getting very close to us now. We need help as soon as possible!”

    https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1693972420858609721
    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots
    #nudité

    –-

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

  • Group of 45 people stranded on an islet in the wider #Soufli - #Tychero area (22.07.2023)

    🆘 near #Lagyna, #Evros river, #Greece


    We are in contact with a group of 45 people stranded on an islet in the wider #Soufli - #Tychero area. They report being there 9 days already. @hellenicpolice
    are informed & claim to have searched for them but that they could not find them.

    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots

    –-

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

    • Même groupe ?
      (16.07.2023)

      🆘 in the #Evros region! 25 people are stranded on an islet near the town of #Soufli. They reported to be there since 10 days & seem currently under attack by #Greek authorities. Stop the violence & evacuate them from the islet!

      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1680530020425424900

    • Evros: the brutal face of the European border regime

      A group has been stuck for over three weeks on a small islet of the Evros river. Their story includes countless distress-calls, physical attacks, sexual violence, non-assistance when immediate medical aid was needed, and the complete disregard for a European Court of Human Rights ruling, which granted the group interim measures and ordering the Greek state to provide them with assistance. It is another clear example of the brutal reality that people endure at the land border between Türkiye and Greece.

      On the 21st of July 2023, a group of people reached out to Alarm Phone. The 52 people – among them several children and elderly people with severe health conditions – told us how they were stuck on a small islet near the village of Lagyna on Greek territory in the middle of the Evros river, which borders Greece and Türkiye. When reaching out to Alarm Phone and calling for help, the people informed us they had already been stuck on the islet for eight days. At 14:19 CEST of the same day, Alarm Phone alerted Greek authorities, as well as Frontex, UNHCR and various NGOs via email about the people in distress, sharing their location and their request for immediate and urgent assistance.

      At this point, we did not know that this would be the start of an odyssey lasting over two weeks, with no end in sight, which would include countless emails and calls to authorities, public outcries via social media to mobilise for evacuation, an ignored decision of the European Court of Human rights and ongoing barbaric violence by Greek forces against the group.

      On the day after the alert, Greek authorities informed Alarm Phone about joint efforts, together with Frontex, to search for the group, “[…]we would like to inform you that after extensive searches by the Greek Authorities and Frontex join patrols in the location indicated by the coordinates area and also more widely, no human presence was found”. This would not be the last time that Greek authorities claimed to have been unable to find the group despite conducting “extensive searches” for them.

      Several days later, on July 26th, the people told us how they had heard car noises the previous day on the Greek side of the river, but that they were still waiting for urgently needed assistance. At the same time, their condition worsened with every day: they reported injuries and various health issues, as well, they told us how everyone’s mental health was rapidly deteriorating in light of the ongoing difficulties they were facing. The violent act of leaving people for days being stuck on an islet not only risks physical injuries, but is a mental torment in and of itself that traumatises people. Already by this point, the non-assistance from Greek authorities and Frontex was causing damage to the people calling for help – but the situation would continue to deteriorate over the coming days.

      On July 27th, 08:18 CEST, Greek authorities again claimed to have searched for the people: “[…]we would kindly like to inform you that after extensive searches by the Greek Authorities and Frontex patrol in the location indicated by the coordinates and also more widely, no human presence was found”. This is despite the Evros region being a highly militarized border area, where the EU has invested hundreds of millions of euros into fortifying the border. The technologies deployed in the area include sensors, thermal cameras and drones – but in spite of this, the Greek authorities and Frontex state they are unable to find a group with a clearly indicated location? How embarrassing. While it is clear that their statement is a blatant lie, it is remarkable that Greek authorities and Frontex have reached a point where such obvious untruths have become implicit to their operational activities. To have reached this point, these strategies have to be widely accepted within their ranks and as such demonstrate how the brutal means of deterrence used at the borders of Greece have become normalised, from overt and brutal violence to misinformation and non-assistance. This is particularly true in the Evros region, as demonstrated over the next days in the developments we witnessed for this case.

      A day later, on July 28th, the group told us again about activities on the Greek side of the river: the people had spotted a black car parked “on the Greek side” and a drone that was flying over them. Shortly after, they reported being attacked by police and what they described as “mercenaries”: “Police and mercenaries stormed us. They started to hit the world. And now we’re in the water”. They sent us several videos showing the cruel attack.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6L5M3Gwiqs&source_ve_path=Mjg2NjY&feature=emb_logo

      We immediately informed the authorities about the attack. It is clear: in this highly militarised and controlled border zone, no such attack could have happened without some level of coordination from the authorities – the very same authorities who had been claiming for days that they could not locate the group. After the attack, the people told us how they were shocked and devastated. However, this attack did not signal the end of their suffering. The group told us that after the attack, they were forced back to the same islet as before by Turkish authorities.

      Together with the Rule39 Initiative, an application for Interim Measures at the European Court of Human Rights was handed in on August 1st. By this point, we had been in contact with the people for 11 days. Throughout this entire period, the authorities had been aware of the group and their calls for assistance. Despite this, the group’s calls for assistance remained ignored. Moreover, instead of receiving help, the people were violently attacked.

      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1684815225608949760

      During the morning of August 2nd, the response by the European Court of Human Rights arrived: the court had granted the Interim Measures and ordered Greece to provide food, water and medical assistance. We immediately informed authorities, including Frontex and UNHCR about the decision and reiterated the urgent need of assistance for the group.

      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1686756260085936129

      During the morning of the 3rd of August, Greek authorities sent another email, claiming once again to have searched for, but not found, the people. At the same time, the people shared videos with us showing themselves loudly screaming for help. In desperation, the group decided to cross the river themselves. This is extremely dangerous – every year dozens of people die in the Evros river, which has strong undercurrents that can drown people. Luckily, they managed to cross the river and arrived safely on the Greek riverbank, which they documented with several videos that they sent to Alarm Phone. They reported talking to two people wearing shirts with “police” written on it. This is when an incredibly violent chapter of their journey started.

      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1687059265427496961

      Following the news that the group were talking with “police”, Alarm Phone shift teams once again called various border guard and police stations, including the ones at Soufli, Alexandroupolis and Thrace. All our calls went unanswered. In the meantime, the people reported they were put into cars and told us that they feared they would be brought back to Türkiye. The position they shared showed them near Soufli:

      We continued to call the authorities, however, they either did not pick up, rejected responsibility – claiming it was outside of their jurisdiction, or refused to give any information.

      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1687135993235750912

      Shortly after midnight on August 4th, the people reached out to Alarm Phone again. They were pushed back to Türkiye and severely beaten. A woman from the group explained what had happened to them after they were taken in the car:

      She told us how, after half an hour in the car, the young men and even some women were severely beaten. The attackers stripped the women of all their clothes and forced the young men’s eyes open to look the undressed women. They then beat the men badly. The woman said the group was worried that two among the attacked men were beaten to death. The attackers even beat the elderly women and told them to return to their country. The group was, again, forced back onto the islet, and reported that there were now several people missing, among them the two men who had been heavily beaten.

      The people told us how they were left severely shaken and outraged, desperate to know what happened to their friends who went missing who they fear died. They reported that amongst their group are three year old babies who are understandably extremely psychologically distressed and traumatised by the violent assault of the Greek police. “Please please can we help them. Turkey and Greece have left them in the middle. Do we know where the people who went missing are?”.

      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1687373994909921281

      We want to know: what has happened to the missing? Who is responsible for the brutal attack and the sexual violence? And what was the role of Frontex in this whole story? How can orders of the European Court of Human Rights just be ignored? And why has help been repeated denied for people who are in urgent need of it?

      Not only have the attacks subjected people to overt violence, but the continuous non-assistance has led to many medical emergencies – this includes three elderly people with diabetes in need of medical assistance, an elderly person with circulatory problems in the leg, which were purple on both sides, a pregnant woman who suffered from contractions and was bleeding, and several children who were weak, mentally distressed and badly bitten by mosquitoes. It should also be noted that the group told us how they ran out of food and water days ago and are forced to drink water from the river, which carries with it a risk of poisoning.

      Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, but instead sees the recurrence of an all too familiar pattern. The incredible level of violence used – which can only be understood as systematized forms of torture and brutalisation– against people on the move is abhorrent. It is illustrative of the dehumanisation implicit to the racist European migration regime. Furthermore, it demonstrates an obvious dysfunctionality of European institutions, where decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are easily ignored by Greece, without consequence. Instead of being forced to take action, Greek authorities merely responded to both Alarm Phone and the ECHR that the people could not be located. And once again, we see how Frontex is involved in a situation which resulted in a brutal pushback.

      On August 6th, the people were still stuck on the islet. There were also still in very distressed condition – and one that continues to deteriorate. They expressed their shock and disbelief that an ECHR decision obviously does not count in Greece. They themselves have called 112 over 50 times and written emails to Frontex and Greek authorities – but instead of receiving much needed assistance, have been subject to repeated and vicious attacks.

      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1687425346285494273

      In the early hours of the morning on August 7th, the group reached out to us again to report another attack, telling us that “Mercenaries came upon us while we were asleep [on the islet], and we were sent back to Turkey”. They then told us how they were picked up by the Turkish army, who is forcing them back into Greece. The group was incredibly distressed, commenting that they have “become a football between Greek and Turkish army.” As the situation continues with no end in sight, and the people, who are in dire need of urgent medical assistance, are pushed back and forth across the river by Greek and Turkish forces, we again make it clear, these attacks must end and the people be given the help they so urgently need.

      We, along with the group currently stranded on the islet, are shocked and outraged – even though we witness such crimes and attacks against people on the move almost daily, and with increasing intensity. We will continue to fight against the normalisation of such violence and will never forgive the ones responsible for it. While Greece tries to cover up the mass murder of Pylos, for which the Hellenic Coast Guard is responsible, the real and merciless face of the Greek border regime remains clearly visible in the Evros region, as too does the complicity of the EU.

      https://alarmphone.org/en/2023/08/07/evros-the-brutal-face-of-the-european-border-regime/?post_type_release_type=post

  • 26.07.2023 :

    🆘 in the #Evros region. A group of 29 people is stuck on an islet of the #Evros river, close to the village of #Marasia. Despite their calls for urgent medical support, #Greek & #Turkish authorities refuse to help & claim the position is not on their respective territory.
    The people called #112 themselves, but no help arrived. What is #112 for? To contribute to border violence or to help people in distress? To authorities involved: Stop playing games, evacuate the people now - they reported several people in need of urgent medical assistance!

    https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1684252700970450953

    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots

    –-

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

  • Migrations : l’Union européenne, droit dans le mur

    La Commission européenne affirme que l’UE ne finance pas de « murs » anti-migrants à ses #frontières_extérieures, malgré les demandes insistantes d’États de l’est de l’Europe. En réalité, cette « ligne rouge » de l’exécutif, qui a toujours été floue, s’efface de plus en plus.

    Le 14 juin dernier, le naufrage d’un bateau entraînait la noyade de centaines de personnes exilées. Quelques jours auparavant, le 8 juin, les États membres de l’Union européenne s’enorgueillissaient d’avoir trouvé un accord sur deux règlements essentiels du « Pacte européen pour l’asile et la migration », qui multipliera les procédures d’asile express dans des centres de détention aux frontières de l’Europe, faisant craindre aux ONG une nouvelle érosion du droit d’asile.

    Dans ce contexte délétère, un groupe d’une douzaine d’États membres, surtout d’Europe de l’Est, réclame que l’Union européenne reconnaisse leur rôle de « protecteurs » des frontières de l’Union en autorisant le financement européen de murs, #clôtures et #barbelés pour contenir le « flux migratoire ». Le premier ministre grec, Kyriákos Mitsotákis, avait même estimé que son pays était en première ligne face à « l’invasion de migrants ».

    Officiellement, la Commission européenne se refuse toujours à financer les multiples projets de clôtures anti-migrants qui s’érigent le long des frontières extérieures de l’UE. « Nous avons un principe bien établi : nous ne finançons pas de murs ni de barbelés. Et je pense que cela ne devrait pas changer », avait encore déclaré Ylva Johansson, la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, le 31 janvier. Pourtant, la ligne rouge semble inexorablement s’effacer.

    Le 7 octobre 2021, les ministres de douze États, dont la #Grèce, la #Pologne, la #Hongrie, la #Bulgarie ou les #Pays_baltes, demandaient par écrit à la Commission que le financement de « #barrières_physiques » aux frontières de l’UE soit une « priorité », car cette « mesure de protection » serait un outil « efficace et légitime » dans l’intérêt de toute l’Union. Une demande qu’ils réitèrent depuis à toute occasion.

    Les États membres n’ont pas attendu un quelconque « feu vert » de la Commission pour ériger des clôtures. Les premières ont été construites par l’Espagne dans les années 1990, dans les enclaves de Ceuta et Melilla. Mais c’est en 2015, après l’exil de centaines de milliers de Syrien·nes fuyant la guerre civile, que les barrières se sont multipliées. Alors que l’Union européenne comptait 315 kilomètres de fil de fer et barbelés à ses frontières en 2014, elle en totalisait 2 048 l’an passé.

    Depuis 2021, ce groupe d’États revient sans cesse à la charge. Lors de son arrivée au sommet des dirigeants européens, le 9 février dernier, Victor Orbán (Hongrie) annonçait la couleur : « Les barrières protègent l’Europe. » Les conclusions de ce sommet, ambiguës, semblaient ouvrir une brèche dans la politique européenne de financement du contrôle aux frontières. Les États demandaient « à la Commission de mobiliser immédiatement des fonds pour aider les États membres à renforcer […] les infrastructures de protection des frontières ».

    Dans ses réponses écrites aux questions de Mediapart, la Commission ne mentionne plus aucune ligne rouge : « Les États membres ont une obligation de protéger les frontières extérieures. Ils sont les mieux placés pour définir comment le faire en pratique d’une manière qui […] respecte les droits fondamentaux. »

    Si l’on en croit le ministre de l’intérieur grec, Panagiótis Mitarákis, les dernières résistances de la Commission seraient en train de tomber. Le 24 février, il affirmait, au sujet du projet grec d’#extension et de renforcement de sa clôture avec la Turquie, le long de la rivière #Evros, que la Commission avait « accepté que certaines dépenses pour la construction de la barrière soient financées par l’Union européenne ».

    Pour Catherine Woollard, de l’ONG Ecre (Conseil européen pour les réfugiés et exilés), « c’est important que la Commission résiste à ces appels de financement des murs et clôtures, car il faut respecter le droit de demander l’asile qui implique un accès au territoire. Mais cette position risque de devenir symbolique si les barrières sont tout de même construites et qu’en plus se développent des barrières d’autres types, numériques et technologiques, surtout dans des États qui utilisent la force et des mesures illégales pour refouler les demandeurs d’asile ».

    D’une ligne rouge à une ligne floue

    Au sein de l’ONG Statewatch, Chris Jones estime que « cette “ligne rouge” de la Commission européenne, c’est du grand n’importe quoi ! Cela fait des années que l’Union européenne finance des dispositifs autour ou sur ces clôtures, des #drones, des #caméras, des #véhicules, des #officiers. Dire que l’UE ne finance pas de clôtures, c’est uniquement sémantique, quand des milliards d’euros sont dépensés pour fortifier les frontières ». Même diagnostic chez Mark Akkerman, chercheur néerlandais au Transnational Institute, pour qui la « #ligne_rouge de la Commission est plutôt une ligne floue ». Dans ses travaux, il avait déjà démontré qu’en 2010, l’UE avait financé l’achat de #caméras_de_vidéosurveillance à #Ceuta et la construction d’un #mirador à #Melilla.

    Lorsqu’il est disponible, le détail des dépenses relatives au contrôle des frontières montre que la politique de non-financement des « murs » est une ligne de crête, car si la Commission ne finance pas le béton ni les barbelés, elle finance bien des #dispositifs qui les accompagnent.

    En 2021, par exemple, la #Lituanie a reçu 14,9 millions d’euros de fonds d’aide d’urgence pour « renforcer » sa frontière extérieure avec la Biélorussie, peut-on lire dans un rapport de la Commission. Une frontière qui, selon le ministère de l’intérieur lituanien, contacté par Mediapart, est « désormais longée d’une clôture de 530 km et d’une barrière surmontée de fils barbelés sur 360 kilomètres ». Si la barrière a pesé 148 millions d’euros sur le #budget de l’État, le ministère de l’intérieur affirme que la rénovation de la route qui la longe et permet aux gardes-frontières de patrouiller a été financée à hauteur de « 10 millions d’euros par des fonds européens ».

    En Grèce, le détail des dépenses du gouvernement, dans le cadre du fonds européen de sécurité intérieur, de 2014 à 2020, est éclairant. Toujours le long de la rivière Evros, là où est érigée la barrière physique, la police grecque a pu bénéficier en 2016 d’un apport de 15 millions d’euros, dont 11,2 millions financés par le fonds européen pour la sécurité intérieure, afin de construire 10 #pylônes et d’y intégrer des #caméras_thermiques, des caméras de surveillance, des #radars et autres systèmes de communication.

    Cet apport financier fut complété la même année par 1,5 million d’euros pour l’achat d’#équipements permettant de détecter les battements de cœur dans les véhicules, coffres ou conteneurs.

    Mais l’enjeu, en Grèce, c’est avant tout la mer, là où des bateaux des gardes-côtes sont impliqués dans des cas de refoulements documentés. Dans son programme d’action national du fonds européen relatif à la gestion des frontières et des visas, écrit en 2021, le gouvernement grec envisage le renouvellement de sa flotte, dont une dizaine de bateaux de #patrouille côtière, équipés de #technologies de #surveillance dernier cri, pour environ 60 millions d’euros. Et malgré les refoulements, la Commission européenne octroie les fonds.

    Technologies et barrières font bon ménage

    Les États membres de l’UE qui font partie de l’espace Schengen ont pour mission de « protéger les frontières extérieures ». Le droit européen leur impose aussi de respecter le droit d’asile. « Les exigences du code Schengen contredisent bien souvent l’acquis européen en matière d’asile. Lorsqu’un grand nombre de personnes arrivent aux frontières de l’Union européenne et qu’il existe des pressions pour faire baisser ce nombre, il est presque impossible de le faire sans violer certaines règles relatives au droit d’asile », reconnaît Atanas Rusev, directeur du programme « sécurité » du Centre pour l’étude de la démocratie, basé en Bulgarie.

    La Bulgarie est au cœur de ces tiraillements européens. En 2022, la police a comptabilisé 164 000 passages dits « irréguliers » de sa frontière, contre 55 000 l’année précédente. Des demandeurs d’asile qui, pour la plupart, souhaitent se rendre dans d’autres pays européens.

    Les Pays-Bas ou l’Autriche ont fait pression pour que la #Bulgarie réduise ce nombre, agitant la menace d’un report de son intégration à l’espace Schengen. Dans le même temps, des ONG locales, comme le Helsinki Committee Center ou le Refugee Help Group, dénoncent la brutalité qui s’exerce sur les exilé·es et les refoulements massifs dont ils sont victimes. Le pays a construit une clôture de 234 kilomètres le long de sa frontière avec la Turquie.

    Dans son plan d’action, le gouvernement bulgare détaille son intention de dépenser l’argent européen du fonds relatif à la gestion des frontières, sur la période 2021-2027, pour renforcer son « système de surveillance intégré » ; une collecte de données en temps réel par des caméras thermiques, des #capteurs_de_mouvements, des systèmes de surveillance mobiles, des #hélicoptères.

    Philip Gounev est consultant dans le domaine de la gestion des frontières. Il fut surtout ministre adjoint des affaires intérieures en Bulgarie, chargé des fonds européens, mais aussi de l’érection de la barrière à la frontière turque. Il explique très clairement la complémentarité, à ses yeux, des différents dispositifs : « Notre barrière ne fait que ralentir les migrants de cinq minutes. Mais ces cinq minutes sont importantes. Grâce aux caméras et capteurs qui détectent des mouvements ou une brèche dans la barrière, l’intervention des gardes-frontières est rapide. »

    L’appétit pour les technologies et le numérique ne fait que croître, au point que des ONG, comme l’EDRi (European Digital Rights) dénoncent la construction par l’UE d’un « #mur_numérique ». Dans ce domaine, le programme de recherche européen #Horizon_Europe et, avant lui, #Horizon_2020, tracent les contours du futur numérisé des contrôles, par le financement de projets portés par l’industrie et des centres de #recherche, au caractère parfois dystopique.

    De 2017 à 2021, « #Roborder » a reçu une aide publique de 8 millions d’euros. L’idée est de déployer une armada de véhicules sans pilotes, sur la mer ou sur terre, ainsi que différents drones, tous munis de caméras et capteurs, et dont les informations seraient croisées et analysées pour donner une image précise des mouvements humains aux abords des frontières. Dans son programme d’action national d’utilisation du fonds européen pour la gestion des frontières, la Hongrie manifeste un intérêt appuyé pour « l’adaptation partielle des résultats » de Roborder via une série de projets pilotes à ses frontières.

    Les #projets_de_recherche dans le domaine des frontières sont nombreux. Citons « #Foldout », dont les 8 millions d’euros servent à développer des technologies de #détection de personnes, à travers des #feuillages épais « dans les zones les plus reculées de l’Union européenne ». « Le développement de technologies et de l’#intelligence_artificielle aux frontières de l’Europe est potentiellement plus puissant que des murs, décrypte Sarah Chandler, de l’EDRi. Notre inquiétude, c’est que ces technologies soient utilisées pour des #refoulements aux frontières. »

    D’autres projets, développés sous l’impulsion de #Frontex, utilisent les croisements de #données et l’intelligence artificielle pour analyser, voire prédire, les mouvements migratoires. « Le déploiement de nouvelles technologies de surveillance, avec la construction de barrières pour bloquer les routes migratoires, est intimement lié à des dangers accrus et provoque davantage de morts des personnes en mouvement », peut-on lire dans un rapport de Statewatch. Dans un contexte de droitisation de nombreux États membres de l’Union européenne, Philip Gounev pense de son côté que « le financement de barrières physiques par l’UE deviendra inévitable ».

    https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/170723/migrations-l-union-europeenne-droit-dans-le-mur
    #murs #barrières_frontalières #migrations #financement #UE #EU #Union_européenne #technologie #complexe_militaro-industriel

  • A group of 9 people are stuck on an islet of the #Evros river near #Soufli in #Greece (03.07.2023)

    🆘 in the #Evros region! We are in contact with a group of 9 people who are stuck on an islet of the #Evros river near #Soufli in #Greece. They are running out of water & food & 1 child needs urgent medical assistance. We informed @hellenicpolice & asked for evacuation!

    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots
    #nudité

    –-

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

  • The Great Robbery: during illegal pushbacks in Greece, refugees are robbed by border guards

    Solomon’s investigation, in collaboration with the Spanish newspaper El País, reveals that Greek security forces have stolen more than €2 million from refugees during pushbacks.

    In January 2022, two Cuban citizens, Lino Antonio Rojas Morell and Yudith Pérez Álvarez, presented themselves to the Greek authorities in the Evros region to request asylum, after entering the country illegally.

    The police officers who the couple approached, didn’t just ignore their request. They forced the couple into a van, and transported them to the police station where they confiscated their backpacks and mobile phones.

    The next day, before the couple was deported to the Turkish side of the border along with dozens of other people of different nationalities, they were again searched by the police.

    “The one who seemed to be the leader put my money, €375, in his pocket,” explains Rojas Morell, adding that “the police were obviously looking for money.”

    “One man wanted to look down my pants. They touched my chest and between my legs,” says Pérez Álvarez, in a claim she recently submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

    A year later, they are still traumatized by the violence they experienced during their alleged deportation to Turkey. Despite it being uncommon for Cubans to enter the EU in this way, their case is far from unprecedented — and highlights a practice that has become more frequent in recent years in the landlocked southeastern tip of the European Union.

    From September 2022 to March 2023, Solomon, in collaboration with El País, conducted interviews with more than a dozen sources, including employees of various institutions connected to the Greek asylum system, active and retired members of the security forces, Frontex officials, lawyers, experts, and residents of the Evros region.

    We also collected the testimonies of eight victims of pushbacks and analyzed each of the 374 claims, as they were recorded by multiple agencies, describing the pushbacks of over 20,000 asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey via Evros during 2017-2022.

    The findings of our investigation indicate a clear modus operandi of the Greek authorities in recent years:

    - asylum seekers are arrested when they enter Greece illegally, without being given the opportunity to apply for asylum (as required by both Greek and international law)

    – sometimes they are arrested in various parts of the mainland, although they may already be registered or have already been granted asylum

    - they are brought to various places (police stations, barracks, abandoned warehouses), where often people in uniform or civilian clothing physically assault them and take their belongings before they are transported to Turkey in inflatable boats

    The data collected allows us to conclude that, during the last six years, members of the Greek security forces have stolen more than €2 million in cash (at least €2.2 – 2.8 million) from asylum seekers.

    This amount is based on conservative estimations, without taking into account the value of mobile phones and other valuables (rings, bracelets) taken from victims. In addition, it is highly likely that these cases are just the tip of the iceberg, as the vast majority of pushbacks go unreported.

    A second key point that our joint investigation revealed, is that a few years ago, the practice of stealing money and personal belongings was not as prevalent, but it has progressively become a systematic tactic.

    “When you confiscate their phones, you eliminate any evidence that they were there. When you confiscate their money, you make their lives more difficult. When you strip them naked, another trend that’s on the rise, you humiliate and demoralize them,” comments Eva Cossé, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Greece.

    “It’s part of a strategy to prevent them from trying to cross the border again,” she adds.

    A systematic practice

    “We’re not talking about some isolated incidents, because in recent years they’ve become part of a systematic operational practice,” comments Hope Barker, representative of the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), which consists of twelve organizations that collect testimonies about illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers at EU borders.

    Barker says that BVMN initially noticed the practice of confiscating the belongings of asylum seekers at the Croatian border around 2017. In that context, however, the clothes, phones, and money that were taken, were thrown into fires to be destroyed.

    “In Greece, around 2019, it was a more random practice. Some were stripped of their possessions, others were not. But in recent years it has become an established tactic. Phones are sometimes kept, sometimes destroyed — but money is definitely kept. And it’s common for them to beat someone even more as punishment if they find out they’ve hidden their money,” Barker says.

    This happened to two young Moroccans, who on November 1, 2022 were deported along with fifty others.

    They were in a detention center, then were transferred to Evros, where they were registered again. The two young men said that “at the detention center the officers had already taken all our belongings, so the [other] officers should have known, at this stage, that we had nothing else on us.”

    When they stated that “we [told them] we had no items left,” the officers then became violent towards them, the BVMN report affirmed.
    Frontex sources confirm the illegal pushbacks

    In a case against the Greek state being heard at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has provided evidence of 311 incidents in which “at least 6,680 people” were pushed back through Evros to Turkey.

    Two sources from Frontex, (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) that have an increased presence in Greece, confirmed to Solomon and El País that pushbacks are now a normalized reality.

    “We do it, just like [other countries] do it. Except that they’re not as hostile [toward asylum seekers] as we are,” acknowledges one of the two sources.

    An institutional source who spoke on the condition of anonymity stated that “asylum seekers who enter Greece and follow the asylum procedure have said that it’s their second or third attempt. Some make even more attempts, because they were previously pushed back to Turkey.”

    The same source adds that there is now a “great escalation in the use of violence and humiliating practices. It’s the lowest level of respect for human life.”
    2022: confiscating their money in 92% of cases

    We asked the Greek authorities specific questions, asking to be informed regarding any ongoing investigations into the recorded pushbacks, and what procedure is being followed in terms of the money and personal belongings that are confiscated from the asylum seekers.

    In its reply to our queries, the Ministry of Migration & Asylum reaffirmed its commitment to the protection of human rights, but did not offer any specific answers.

    From the analysis of the recorded pushbacks of the last six years, an increasingly disturbing pattern emerges: the culmination of the Greek border guards’ interest in stealing money from asylum seekers.

    While in 2017 stealing money was reported just in 11% of pushback cases, by 2022 that figure skyrocketed to 92%.

    The data from our analysis is confirmed by the interim report of the relevant Recording Mechanism created by Greece’s National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR ). It is noted that the GNCHR is an official, independent advisory body of the Greek state.

    Based on the incidents recorded by the GNCHR alone (which do not include those recorded by UNHCR), the report estimates the minimum number of people pushed back between 2020-2022 to be 2,157 people.

    During the presentation of the report in January 2023, the GNCHR confirmed to Solomon and El País that in 88% of the cases the victims stated that they had suffered violence, and in 93% of the cases that their possessions and money had been taken.

    According to the report, the victims of the pushbacks come from countries with high rates of asylum (Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran).
    Minors kidnapped from the mainland

    The GNCHR report confirms a trend that has also been highlighted by journalistic investigations in recent years: the abduction and pushback to Turkey of people who were living in Greece, already registered or who were already granted asylum.

    Solomon and El País recorded the testimony of Amir, an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan who, in the summer of 2020, lived in a hostel in Thessaloniki.

    On August 25, 2020, as Amir waited at the bus station, a group of plainclothes men surrounded him and forced him into a black van with tinted windows.

    Twenty other refugees and migrants were in the van, which traveled eastward for about 350 kilometers, arriving near the Evros River. There they were detained and, hours later, their belongings were confiscated and they were taken by boat to Turkish soil.

    “I tried to explain to them that I had papers, but they were very aggressive. Every time you tried to talk to them, they would hit you,” explains Amir.

    His name has been changed to protect his identity, but his testimony was confirmed by a social worker at the hostel as well as two of his friends. In photos shown to Solomon, Amir is pictured smiling by their side, in Greece.
    Planned operations

    Hope Barker, from the BVMN, comments that since the crisis on the Greek-Turkish border in March 2020, not only have “hot pushbacks” (i.e. pushbacks of people found at the border) taken place. Operations have extended inland for hundreds of kilometers.

    “People are being arrested in different cities, in many cases even though they have valid documents or are in the process of seeking asylum,” she says. “They are detained in these kinds of secret places, unable to communicate, until enough people are rounded up, 80 or 100, and then transported to Turkish soil. This is a large state operation.”

    The range of operations underscores the indications that it’s an organized plan.

    “If raids are carried out in different parts of Greece, there is definitely a government order. Because this requires the mobilization of resources, the existence of detention facilities and the participation of different police units, not just some police officers from the Evros region,” comments Eva Cossé of Human Rights Watch.

    The GNCHR report records seven instances of pushbacks in which the victims were located inland, compared to 24 cases in which they were located in the Evros region.
    The isolation of border residents

    During Byzantine times, “Akrítes”, or citizens who lived in border areas, guarded the borders of the empire from raids from the east.

    Today, the residents of Evros are often compared to the Akrítes, and historically, politicians have always viewed them in special regard. For example, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently announced that in the upcoming elections he will (also) be a candidate in Evros.

    But today, Evros exudes abandonment. It is not difficult to see that the region’s opportunities are extremely limited.

    A source in the city of Orestiada explains that many young people, who haven’t tried their luck in Thessaloniki or Athens, dream of a job in the border guard or the army: “they earn more than the minimum wage and have a secure job for life.”

    In November 2022, when we visited the village of Nea Vyssa, four kilometers from the Turkish border, the streets were deserted. Activity was minimal, and was limited to the cafe in the village square.

    In the cafe’s courtyard, protected from the cold by a plastic sheet, patrons chatted as they slowly sipped their coffees. They all had gray hair.

    One of them was proud that the village once “was one of the largest villages in Greece” and reminded us that the great mathematician Konstantinos Karatheodoris has roots from Vyssa.

    The village’s population today has dwindled to less than 3,000 residents and many buildings are deteriorating. Another patron explained that during the most recent announcement of job placements, three boys from the village were accepted into the border guard unit.

    In 2020, the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, promised Greece €700 million to protect its borders. Nearby on the Egnatia highway, new Nissan Qashqai police vehicles sped by every few minutes.

    In addition to the military, 1,800 border guards serve in Evros, of which 650 were hired last year (2022) with priority given to locals. In January 2023, the opening of another 400 border guard positions were announced.

    The institutional source who spoke to Solomon and El País asserted that there are also differences between them: while some border guards simply “follow orders” and send the asylum seekers back, others decide to “exploit” the situation.

    “There are police officers who only want to serve along the river,” he comments. “Imagine how much a group can earn if they get €100 or €200 from 100 people. They can make an entire salary in a single shift.”
    Mobile phones for the police officers’ kids

    On April 3, 2022, police officers in balaclavas arrested a 22-year-old Syrian man in a forest near Evros.

    According to the victim’s testimony, (recorded by Josoor, an organization that used to document human rights abuses before it had to disband due to pressure it experienced in Greece and Turkey), the police beat him with clubs and took all his belongings, including his phone, which he was forced to unlock. He was then sent back to Turkey with other asylum seekers.

    “When they put me in the car I realized they had a lot of phones and power banks in there. When one of the men took a cigarette out of his pocket, I saw that he had a wad of bills. I think they were taken from others earlier,” he said.

    It remains unknown where all the phones taken from asylum seekers in recent years have ended up. But sources from Orestiada explain that the police officers keep the best devices.

    “The border guards give them to their kids. They show up at school with new phones and proudly say their parents took them from ‘illegal immigrants’,” they comment, expressing concern about young people who join the security forces and end up adopting “the far-right narrative” that considers refugees to be invaders who threaten the security of the country.
    Refugees adapt

    Both before and during their journey, asylum seekers share information via WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook — so news spreads quickly.

    The expectation of their [poor] treatment by the Greek border guards means that they carry less and less money on them. While they used to carry larger amounts, a source from the asylum system explains that now “€50, €100, €150 is the norm”.

    A 2021 report on the Balkan corridor by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime states that “unlike 2015-2016, asylum seekers and migrants now appear wary of carrying large amounts of cash for fear of being robbed by thieves or the police. They tend to access money along the way using money transfer services.”

    Differences also exist based on the nationality of the asylum seekers.

    In recent years, Cubans (who fly to Russia, then to Serbia, arrive in Greece with the intention of applying for asylum in another country) are the unluckiest: without knowing what awaited them, they often each carried with them several thousand euros.

    “Groups of North Africans tend to travel alone or in small groups of two or three, and carry less money. Groups that include families, Syrians and Afghans, tend to be led by traffickers and carry more money,” explains Barker.

    “But, certainly, in the last 1-2 years people are more aware of the risks and no one expects to reach Greece on the first try,” she adds.

    “They know they will be pushed back to Turkey more than once.”

    Methodology

    We examined the testimonies of the victims of 374 illegal pushbacks that were collected between 2017-2022 by the following: Border Violence Monitoring Network (188), Human Rights Watch (76), the Greek Council for Refugees (55), Amnesty International (4), other NGOs and local reports (43), as well as by the journalists of this investigation (8).

    Some testimonies were rejected because they overlapped in dates or did not include sufficient evidence. In 2022, far fewer incidents were recorded than in the previous two years, because the NGO Josoor, which had collected the most testimonies, decided to disband, due to the judicial and police pressure they experienced by Greek and Turkish authorities.

    Testimonies were organized into structured data to be classified by date, place, nationalities and number of people pushed back. It was also ascertained whether the victims reported theft (232 incidents) or not (142). Using this data, the estimated number of asylum seekers present during the pushbacks where theft occurred was more than 13,500.

    Although migrants are systematically recorded, sometimes there are some who manage to hide their money, also, not all migrants have cash with them (this is especially true for families traveling together, so only one family member has been counted as a target for theft). Therefore, using the demographic profiles of migrant groups developed by UNHCR and the PRAB initiative (which includes various NGOs and foundations), a 30% deflator was applied to the theft victim base.

    Not all testimonies of theft specified the amount stolen but 62 testimonies did specify amounts (five were rejected for the calculation because the amounts stolen were so large that they could be misleading). With this data, a statistical distribution was created, of the most frequently confiscated amounts. The distribution was applied to the deflated victim base in order to derive an estimate of the money stolen from migrants. The results show that between 2017 and 2022, between €2.2 and €2.8 million were stolen – these estimates are conservative, as many victims do not report being deported or robbed.

    https://wearesolomon.com/mag/format/investigation/the-great-robbery-during-illegal-pushbacks-in-greece-refugees-are-robb
    #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #vol #argent #Grèce #Evros #téléphones_portables #confiscation #chiffres #statistiques

    • Greek Border Guards call on Solomon to retract investigation which reveals they stole more than €2 million from refugees

      The Union of Evros Border Guards demands that Solomon removes from its website the investigation that revealed how in recent years members of the Greek security forces have stolen more than €2 million from refugees during pushbacks.

      On March 9, 2023, in collaboration with Spanish newspaper El País, Solomon published the findings of a months-long investigation, which sheds light on the extent of a practice, that in recent years, Greek border guards have allegedly engaged in: confiscating money and personal belongings from refugees during illegal pushbacks.

      To document the research, we conducted interviews with several sources. Among them were employees of the Greek asylum system, active and retired members of the security forces, Frontex officials, lawyers, experts, as well as residents of Evros.

      We collected testimonies from the victims of pushbacks, some of which have been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and analyzed 374 published testimonies that were recorded by a variety of agencies, which describe the pushbacks of over 20,000 asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey via Evros during the period of 2017-2022.

      The publication of the investigation caused the immediate reaction of MEPs, including the president of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), who addressed questions to the Commission.

      But these were not the only reactions that followed.

      We received a legal notice from the Union of Evros Border Guards (ESYFNE), which refutes the findings of our investigation, which it characterizes as “slanderous and untrue” and calls on us “to retract the article and publish a correction”.

      The legal notice, signed by a lawyer in Alexandroupoli on May 23, has a delivery date of May 29. However, during that time, our staff was traveling abroad for professional obligations, and we only became aware of the legal notice on June 15.

      In an interesting turn of events, we found that the delivery date coincided with a remarkable news story: on the very same day, five border guards from the Border Unit of Isaaki Didymotihos were accused of being involved in a refugee smuggling ring and were arrested.

      According to the Hellenic Police, the five border guards had in their possession: €26,550, 59 mobile phones, 12 power banks, 2,120 USD, 850 Turkish lire, 23 GBP, 77 Romanian Leu, a number of banknotes from Asian countries, and a bank card.

      In other words, on the same day that the Evros border guards were calling for the withdrawal of our investigation which described how Greek border guards were taking money and mobile phones from refugees during pushbacks, five of their colleagues were arrested, and large sums of foreign currency and 59 mobile phones were found in their possession.

      The legal notice also refers to the “arbitrary use” of a photo (depicting an ESYFNE member) which was used as a central illustration in our article, which they claim was used to “publicly and brutally insult the honor and dignity” of the said border guard “in the most arbitrary and abusive manner”.

      This reference causes a real doubt, as:

      - the photos that were used were obtained online (specifically from the website of the Ministry of Citizen Protection), and are also used in a multitude of other publications,

      - the photographs were processed by Solomon (to such a degree that the features of the border guard are not distinguishable), to create an artistic composition of the illustration which reflects the various elements of the subject,

      – and above all, a simple reading of the article is enough to make it clear that no mention is made of specific persons.

      In any case, as our purpose is to highlight an alarmingly widespread phenomenon that has also been recorded by a multitude of organisations (eg Human Rights Watch), we will replace the photo in question from our central illustration.

      Therefore, we will defend our work and the belief that it serves the public interest.

      We are at ESYFNE’s disposal for an in-depth interview, and even bring to their attention the recently published interim report of the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR).

      The report by GNCHR, an official advisory body of the Greek state, estimates the minimum number of people who were forced back between 2020-2022 at 2,157 persons (without taking into account cases recorded by other organisations, e.g. the High Commission).

      In addition, the report states that in 88% of the cases the victims suffered violence, and in 93% their belongings and money were confiscated.

      In recent years, Solomon has consistently covered migration issues, highlighting human rights violations both on the mainland and on the islands. And we will continue to do so.

      https://wearesolomon.com/mag/our-news/greek-border-guards-call-on-solomon-to-retract-investigation-which-rev
      #pression

  • Who profits from brutal and muderous Pushbacks?

    The podcast is in English

    Anlässlich des World Refugee Days am 20. Juni hört ihr einen Podcast von unserem Kooperationsradio Radio Mytilini auf Lesvos. Es geht um die brutalen und mörderischen Pushbacks an den Außengrenzen der EU und wer davon finanziell profitiert. Die Menschen die solche Pushbacks durchführen werden dafür bezahlt, wo das Geld herkommt erfahrt ihr in dieser Sendung.

    https://de.cba.fro.at/624115
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #push-backs #refoulements #frontières #profit #Grèce #responsabilité #mer_Egée #Evros #frontières_terrestres #frontières_maritimes #violence #complexe_militaro-industriel #integrated_border_management_fund #technologie #Thales #Frontex #european_peace_facility #visa #industrie_militaire #consultants #McKinzie #accord_UE-Turquie

    #podcast #audio

    ping @_kg_ @kaparia

  • 19.06.2023 : a group of 36 people stranded on an islet near #Kissari (Evros, Greece) :

    We have been contacted by a group of 36 people stranded on an islet near #Kissari. They are desperate and ask to be allowed to apply for asylum in Greece. We informed local authorities in #Greece about the need for urgent evacuation!


    https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1670835917106425859
    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots

    –-

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

  • 63 people stranded on an islet on the #Evros river (19.06.2023)

    63 people stranded on an islet on the #Evros river, near #Marasia. Another group reached out to us & reported to be stuck since several days on a different islet. They are calling for urgent assistance. We have informed @hellenicpolice & call for an evacuation of the group.


    https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1670841354908319747
    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots

    –-

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

  • The deputy defence minister in #Greece visits the border fence at the #Evros river.
    Interesting for me how #Frontex poses there together with the #military.

    https://i.imgur.com/ACIWjCy.png

    https://twitter.com/matthimon/status/1658789440318328833

    –—

    Χαρδαλιάς απ’ τον φράχτη : « Η φύλαξη των συνόρων μας αποτελεί προτεραιότητα, είναι εθνική επιταγή »

    Ο Υφυπουργός Εθνικής Άμυνας Νικόλαος Χαρδαλιάς κατά την επίσκεψη του στον Έβρο την περασμένη Δευτέρα 15 Μαΐου 2023, επισκέφθηκε το Επιτηρητικό Φυλάκιο « ΠΕΤΑΛΟΥ ΠΕΠΛΟΥ » και τον Φράχτη στην περιοχή του ελληνικού προγεφυρώματος Πετάλου.

    Ο κ.Χαρδαλάς, μαζί με τον Ευρωβουλευτή και Αντιπρόεδρο της Κοινοβουλευτικής Ομάδας του Ευρωπαϊκού Λαϊκού Κόμματος στο Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο Ευάγγελο Μεϊμαράκη, ενημερώθηκαν για τα μέτρα επιτήρησης και φύλαξης των ελληνικών και παράλληλα ευρωπαϊκών συνόρων.

    Τον Υφυπουργό Εθνικής Άμυνας συνόδευσαν οι Διοικητές του Δ΄ Σώματος Στρατού Αντιστράτηγος Δημόκριτος Κωνσταντάκος, της XII Μηχανοκίνητης Μεραρχίας Πεζικού Υποστράτηγος Χρήστος Μπακιρτζής και της 31 Μηχανοκίνητης Ταξιαρχίας Ταξίαρχος Λάζαρος Λαζαρίδης.

    Ο κ.Χαρδαλιάς από τον φράχτη στην περιοχή του ελληνικού προγεφυρώματος Πετάλου έκανε την ακόλουθη δήλωση :

    « Η φύλαξη των συνόρων μας αποτελεί προτεραιότητα, είναι εθνική επιταγή. Γιατί πρεσβεύει όλα όσα νοιώθουμε και πιστεύουμε για αυτή την πατρίδα. Και αυτή η πατρίδα πρέπει να είναι θωρακισμένη, να φυλάει τα σύνορά της, και είθε να είναι ασφαλής και πάνω από όλα περήφανη ! ».

    Νωρίτερα είχαν επισκεφθεί το αμερικανικό μεταγωγικό πλοίο “ARC ENDURANCE”, που ελλιμενίζεται στον λιμένα της Αλεξανδρούπολης, όπου τους υποδέχθηκε ο Captain (Κυβερνήτης) Glenn Koshak.

    Κατά την επίσκεψη οι κ.κ. Χαρδαλιάς και Μεϊμαράκης ενημερώθηκαν από τον Κυβερνήτη και το πλήρωμα του θηριώδους πλοίου, για τις μεταφορικές δυνατότητες του και ξεναγήθηκαν στα βασικά διαμερίσματα. Επίσης, ενημερώθηκαν από τον Πρόεδρο του Οργανισμού Λιμένος Αλεξανδρούπολης κ. Κωνσταντίνο Χατζημιχαήλ, για τον γεωστρατηγικό και εμπορικό ρόλο του λιμανιού και για τις δραστηριότητες στο πλαίσιο εφαρμογής της συμφωνίας αμοιβαίας αμυντικής συνεργασίας Ελλάδας – ΗΠΑ και επισκέφθηκαν τερματικό σημείο υποδοχής και προώθησης Αμερικανικών και συμμαχικών στρατευμάτων και στρατιωτικού υλικού στην Κεντρική και Ανατολική Ευρώπη.

    Επιπρόσθετα, οι κ.κ. Χαρδαλιάς και Μεϊμαράκης συναντήθηκαν με αντιπροσωπεία Ιταλών Αξιωματικών του μεταγωγικού πλοίου “SEVERINE”, το οποίο χρησιμοποιεί το λιμάνι της Αλεξανδρούπολης για τη μεταφορά στρατιωτικού υλικού των Ιταλικών Ενόπλων Δυνάμεων, στο πλαίσιο της Βορειοατλαντικής Συμμαχίας.

    https://www.evros-news.gr/2023/05/17/%cf%87%ce%b1%cf%81%ce%b4%ce%b1%ce%bb%ce%b9%ce%ac%cf%82-%ce%b1%cf%80-%cf%8

    #Evros #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #militarisation_des_frontières #Grèce #frontière_terrestre #Turquie #Thraces

  • At the Evros border, the bodies mount up

    Migrants continue to risk their lives trying to cross the Evros River separating Turkey and Greece. Many of them die in the attempt to enter the EU – last year more bodies than ever were recovered, a documentary film by the German broadcaster ARD has revealed.

    Along the Evros river, at the border between Greece and Turkey, a 5-meter-high steel wall has been increasing in length since construction began in 2020. The barrier, designed to keep migrants out of the EU, is now at least 38 kilometers long. But thousands of people continue to risk their lives attempting to cross into Greece. It’s not known exactly how many die in the process, but on the Greek side of the river alone, more than 60 people lost their lives last year.

    Identifying the dead remains a difficult challenge, according to forensic pathologist Pavlos Pavlidis, whose job is to conduct autopsies on the bodies found in the water and surrounding forest. Most of the dead do not carry any form of ID. In an interview in October 2021, Pavlidis told InfoMigrants how the deceased body is altered by being in the water for a long time.

    More bodies than ever

    More than a year later, the pathologist is still carrying out autopsies – in a recent short documentary shown on Germany’s state broadcaster ARD, he said that over the past 22 years he had seen around 600 bodies on the Greek side alone. He assumes that there is roughly the same number on the Turkish side. “So we’re talking about 1,200 to 1,500 people, but we receive a lot more search requests than that from relatives.”

    The bodies are often recovered from the forest by the local undertakers. ARD films two of them, one armed with a simple shovel, finding what looks like a blanket and human remains in a shallow grave, possibly dug by other migrants. “Didn’t he have any shoes?,” one of the men asks as they wrap the partly decomposed remains in plastic. “No, the other migrants often take them,” the other replies.

    The chief undertaker tells ARD that recovering dead bodies from the border makes up a large part of his work. On one occasion he brought 35 of them to the morgue after they drowned in the Evros.

    If it is possible to identify the dead, he says that the families often come from Europe to pay their last respects. “It’s very hard, they’re all crying,” he explains. “Can you imagine, they travel so far to either pick up the body of a dead relative or to bury them here.” Sometimes, he takes the bodies of migrants to Turkey to be transported home from there.

    Some families cannot afford to have the body of their loved one repatriated, so the migrants are buried in a local Greek cemetery for Muslims. Their names and their countries of origin – Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria – are inscribed on their graves. There are people of all ages and it appears that a lot of the graves are fresh.

    But many more bodies are simply never identified, leaving family members in limbo. These are buried in a graveyard for unidentified migrants, their tombstones marked only with numbers.

    ’It would be better than not knowing’

    In the Germany city of Hanover, Kurdish refugee Sivar Qassim is living with this horrible uncertainty. Qassim fled to Germany in 2015 after war broke out in Syria. The rest of his family escaped to Iraq, along with his younger brother, Mohammed.

    “He was very good in school, and we wanted to offer him a better life. That was also what I wanted,” Qassim told ARD. “I have a lot of friends but still it’s nothing like being brothers. No matter who you’re friends with, family is always number one. I was really looking forward to him coming, but…” Qassim doesn’t continue.

    Life was difficult for the family in Iraq, so in Autumn, 2021, they decided to send 14-year-old Mohammed to Germany, via the Evros route: “just like everyone else, with a people smuggler […] and illegally, because it’s not possible to do it legally. We didn’t have any documents in Syria anyway,” his older brother explains.

    In October 2021 a call came from the people smugglers. “They said that something had happened and that Mohammed had fallen into the water. They said they waited but couldn’t find him. That was a lie. We found out that they hadn’t waited and simply carried on. They were frightened because what they were doing was illegal.”

    From Germany, a desperate Qassim flew to Greece to look for his brother, but despite having his DNA registered, he found nothing. He had even sent a photo of Mohammed to Pavlos Pavlidis, the pathologist. But Pavlidis says he would have remembered a child of that age.

    Back at home Qassim also looks for his brother on Facebook and search platforms for missing migrants, but in vain. He says he would almost prefer to hear that Mohammed’s body had been found. “Of course it wouldn’t be easy but it would be better than not knowing. If we knew that he had died and could bury him then it would be clear, it is something we’d have to accept, but this uncertainty, I find that really, really awful.”

    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/48783/at-the-evros-border-the-bodies-mount-up

    #Evros #Thrace #migrations #asile #réfugiés #frontières #morts_aux_frontières #décès #mourir_aux_frontières #Grèce #Turquie #identification #cimetière #Pavlos_Pavlidis

  • Avril 2023

    #Urgent! Two #Kurdish #refugees have reportedly been stranded in the buffer zone on the #Greek-#Turkish #border for three days. One of them is called Serhat Karadeniz, who communicated their situation to his family in #Turkey by phone. His father Hüseyin Karadaniz told me about the desperate situation of the two refugees. He also told me that the two refugees want to apply for asylum in #Greece, because they are fleeing political persecution in Turkey and would face political prison charges if they returned. Reportedly, the two refugees have been without food and water for three days and are experiencing health problems due to the cold. According to the last information, that the two Kurdish refugees are in the buffer zone in the Feres region, calling for urgent help from the Greek authorities and the United Nations to receive their asylum requests.


    https://twitter.com/vedatyeler_/status/1645398180949897218

    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots
    #nudité

    –-

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

  • Greece fortifies border to block refugees from Turkish-Syrian earthquakes

    Patrols dispatched to frontier as migration minister calls for fences and surveillance as well as aid to preempt migration

    Greece has reinforced border controls along its land and sea frontier with Turkey amid expectations of a new wave of arrivals by people displaced in the earthquakes that have devastated south-east Turkey and northern Syria.

    Hundreds of extra border guards began patrolling the Greek-Turkish land frontier in the Evros region at the weekend as contingency measures were stepped up to stave off the expected flows.

    “The mass movement of millions of people is not a solution,” said Greece’s migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, emphasising the need for emergency aid to be sent to Turkey and Syria “before this happens”.

    It is anticipated that some of the people made homeless by the 6 February earthquakes – a disaster that has left more than 50,000 dead – will start heading towards Europe in the spring if humanitarian assistance does not arrive.

    The patrols were dispatched as Mitarachi called for the enhanced protection of the continent’s frontiers with increased surveillance infrastructure and additional fences.

    At a European conference on border management held outside Athens on Friday, he vowed that the enlargement of a controversial wall along the land border would go ahead irrespective of whether it is financed by the EU. The 22 mile-long, 5 metre-high barrier is due to double in size by the end of the year.

    “The fence will be extended along the entire length of the [Evros] river so that we can protect the European continent from illegal flows,” he said.

    Indicative of the bloc’s hardening stance towards refugees, the centre-right government has said it will also procure scores of new coastguard vessels to patrol Aegean Sea islands facing the Turkish coast.

    The prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose four-year term ends in July, has been noticeably tougher on the issue of migration than his leftist predecessor, Alexis Tsipras. The government’s approach, which has reportedly included forcible evictions or pushbacks of refugees in border areas, has engendered widespread criticism, not least from the EU. Rejecting the allegations, the administration has described its policies as “strict but fair”.

    With the EU border agency, Frontex, also fortifying patrols in the Aegean, ever greater numbers of refugees are risking life and limb by circumventing the Greek isles to travel in vastly overcrowded boats from Turkey to Italy.

    The 59 refugees, including a newborn baby, found dead on Sunday after their vessel ran aground in rough seas off Calabria had started their journey from the Turkish coast.

    Brussels has allocated more money to Greece to handle migration than to any other EU member state, citing its frontline role. Hugely expensive “closed controlled” holding facilities have replaced squalid camps on Samos, Leros and Kos, and similar centres for asylum seekers are expected to open in Lesbos and Chios this year. The installations have been likened by human rights groups to prisons.

    Calls for tougher action have increased since the migration crisis of 2015 when nearly 1 million Syrians fleeing civil war were granted asylum in Europe.

    Ministers representing the 15 member states attending last week’s conference in Athens called not only for agreements to be struck with third-party countries to accept refugees but for further financial support “for all types of border protection infrastructure”.

    “It is at this point crucial for Europe to decide what type of migration policy we want, and more specifically what type of border management we want,” Mitarachi told his counterparts, before making passing reference to NGOs allegedly “assisting” border crossings.

    “Clearly we need to offer asylum to people in need of protection but in an orderly way … Today, unfortunately, instead of us being proactive in asylum management, it is people-smugglers who sell places in our societies – not to those most in need but to those who pay the fees.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/26/greece-fortifies-border-to-block-refugees-from-turkish-syrian-earthquak
    #Grèce #frontières #militarisation_des_frontières #Turquie #séisme #tremblement_de_terre #contrôles_frontaliers #migrations #asile #réfugiés #Evros #murs #barrières_frontalières

    –—

    sur l’extension du mur (depuis l’annonce de novembre 2021) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/935658

  • New GCR report reveals violence against refugees at the Greek-Turkish borders and criminalization of legal aid organizations

    Pushbacks and intimidation of human rights defenders are a systematic part of an unofficial but carefully planned migration and border policy

    A new report by the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) documents extreme violence against people seeking asylum at Europe’s external border. Pushbacks of refugees to Turkey are widespread, and involve humiliation, illegal detention, intimidation, physical and sexual violence, and arbitrary confiscation of personal belongings.

    Pushback cases before ECtHR and/or Greek Public Prosecutor

    This report contributes to an existing body of extensive evidence of the Greek state’s illegal pushbacks practice, by providing particularly detailed descriptions of 11 pushback cases at the Evros border region and the Aegean islands, and 2 cases of pullbacks by the Turkish authorities in Evros.

    Illegal detention in official and unofficial detention sites

    In all cases detailed in the report, asylum seekers were arbitrarily held in official or unofficial detention sites, for periods ranging from a few hours to a full day before eventually being pushed back. In three cases, people identified their place of detention as the Neo Cheimonio Border Guard Station.

    Sexual Violence

    In all the reported cases, asylum seekers were subjected to strip search during their unofficial detention. In at least three cases, people reported incidents of sexual violence, ranging from humiliation to sexual assault and rape.

    Pushback of two Palestinian recognized refugees

    In June 2022, two Palestinians recognised by the Greek authorities as refugees and legally residing in the island of Kos were illegally apprehended in the middle of the street. They were brought to a small storage room with other people, body searched and then raped. Twelve hours later, the guards tied their legs, put them in a van and boarded them in a boat. They threw them in the sea on a half-deflated raft until the Turkish coast guard rescued them.

    Criminalization of legal aid organizations

    Evidence from the report also shows how human rights defenders supporting refugees, including NGOs like the Greek Council for Refugees, are increasingly intimidated and obstructed in their work by the Greek authorities. Instead of stopping these rights violations, the Greek government is targeting those who support refugees, framing them as enemies of the state and smugglers in an attempt to silence them and hinder their human rights work.

    Alkistis Agrafioti Chatzigianni, Advocacy Officer at the Greek Council for Refugees, said:

    “This research shows that unless the EU and Greek authorities finally put an end to these illegal border policies, they will only become more violent and widespread. The government must immediately cease all violations at its borders and allow human rights defenders to do their important work of supporting people seeking asylum.”

    Kleio Nikolopoulou, Advocacy Officer at the Greek Council for Refugees, said:

    “Pushbacks and border violence have become the rule rather than the exception in Greece. They are an unacceptable symptom of a broken European asylum policy and what is even more alarming is the EU standing by as these rights violations become a common trend throughout European borders. The EU needs to put in place a migration system that upholds asylum rights.”

    https://www.gcr.gr/en/news/press-releases-announcements/item/2111-new-gcr-report-reveals-violence-against-refugees-at-the-greek-turkish-borde

    Pour télécharger le rapport:
    https://www.gcr.gr/media/k2/attachments/GCR_Pushback_Criminalization_Report.pdf

    #rapport #GCR #Grèce #Turquie #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #push-backs #refoulements #criminalisation_de_la_solidarité #violence #humiliation #détention_illégale #enfermement #violence_sexuelle #frontières_extérieures #Evros #îles #Thrace

  • Entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie, une frontière de plus en plus meurtrière

    Athènes continue de renforcer la surveillance de la région de l’Evros, qui sépare le pays de son voisin. Les exilés passant par les terres militarisées de la région sont instrumentalisés, au détriment de leur droit d’asile, comme le montrent les dérives et les drames rapportés en 2022.

    AlexandroupoliAlexandroupoli, Orestiada, Poros (Grèce).– Dans le ciel plombé de ce matin de décembre, le vent frappe le drapeau grec à l’entrée de Poros. Un chien errant détale sur la route abîmée qui longe l’église orthodoxe. Il laisse filer les voitures de police, rares véhicules à traverser ce village des confins de l’Evros, un nome (division administrative) du nord-est de la Grèce. Au nord, au loin, s’élèvent les collines de la Bulgarie ; à l’est s’étend la campagne turque.

    Les patrouilles s’avancent jusqu’à un long mur. Séparant la Grèce de la Turquie, ce serpent d’acier tranche des plaines vides sur 27 kilomètres. Ses poteaux de cinq mètres de haut épousent les courbes de l’Evros. Le fleuve, appelé Meriç en turc et Maritsa en bulgare, délimite la frontière gréco-turque, d’une longueur totale d’environ 200 kilomètres.

    Objectif de ce mur, « obstacle technique » comme le nomment les autorités grecques : « Dissuader les migrants de venir et affecter le commerce des passeurs. » Il bouche les points d’accès fréquentés de cette rivière boueuse au lit étroit que les personnes exilées franchissent à la rame. Athènes a investi 63 millions d’euros, selon la presse locale, pour construire cet édifice en 2021.

    Depuis plus de trente ans, les migrants d’Afrique ou d’Asie qui veulent trouver refuge dans l’Union européenne traversent cette frontière entre la Turquie et la Grèce, deux pays membres de l’Otan en désaccord sur la délimitation de leurs frontières maritimes. En 2022, 5 000 personnes sont officiellement parvenues à traverser le fleuve, majoritairement venues de Turquie, de Syrie ou d’Afghanistan, fuyant des conflits ou des tensions politiques. À l’ombre des regards, car personne ne pénètre ce coin de nature : c’est une zone militaire grecque inaccessible sans l’autorisation d’Athènes. Seuls les drones, les caméras thermiques, l’armée et la police ont un œil sur cette frontière.

    Tout est fait pour la rendre hermétique. « Il est illégal de venir sur le territoire grec clandestinement, nous faisons en sorte que les migrants ne rentrent pas, c’est notre travail », précise Giorgos Tournakis, le major de police du département du nord de l’Evros. « Nous détectons les migrants de l’autre côté, grâce à notre matériel, explique un autre agent de police anonyme, en désignant, à quelques mètres, la rive turque hérissée de roseaux. Nous montrons notre présence. Nous utilisons les sirènes, les haut-parleurs, etc. Souvent cela fonctionne, les migrants rebroussent chemin. »

    Il n’existe pourtant aucune entrée pour les exilé·es voulant requérir l’asile en Grèce. « Pour cela, ils doivent aller formuler cette demande à l’ambassade d’Athènes en Turquie », répond le ministère grec de l’immigration.

    Ce mur en pleine nature n’est qu’un aperçu de la frontière gréco-turque que les forces de l’ordre grecques quadrillent. La police et l’armée sont les recruteuses principales du secteur, confirment les habitant·es, même si les autorités ne donnent aucun chiffre global. 400 renforts de police sont arrivés en 2022, 250 arriveront en 2023, selon le major Tournakis.

    Les villages isolés qui constellent les collines rousses et les sous-bois d’arbres nus sont fantomatiques, loin de l’image des îles grecques touristiques. Ici, les grappes d’oiseaux survolent les maisons trapues, boulangeries ou stations d’essence à l’abandon. En dix ans, 8 % de la population a déserté les champs de tournesol, de blé, de coton, principale activité devenue peu rentable, pour se diriger vers des villes grecques ou européennes. Nombre de celles et ceux qui restent s’engagent pour ou avec l’État.

    Le gouvernement grec de droite de la Nouvelle Démocratie justifie cette surveillance accrue de la frontière par l’épisode de mars 2020. Le président turc, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, avait annoncé son ouverture, provoquant l’afflux de milliers de réfugié·es. En alerte, Athènes avait bloqué leur venue et massé ses soldats.

    La présidente de la Commission européenne, Ursula von der Leyen, déclarait alors que la Grèce était le « bouclier de l’Europe ». L’expression est toujours appréciée par Manos Logothetis, le secrétaire d’État grec à l’immigration, qui nous reçoit dans son bureau à Athènes. « Nous préférons être le bouclier plutôt que l’idiot de l’Europe ! », s’emballe ce politicien volubile, entre deux bouffées de cigarette et gorgées de café froid. Ce langage martial utilisé par l’UE pour contrer la migration semble aussi avoir fait office de blanc-seing à Athènes pour la fortification de sa frontière.

    « Nous construisons des barrières à nos frais pour arrêter les traversées illégales de migrants. Mais l’UE ne paie pas, car sinon d’autres pays, comme la Pologne, par exemple, pourraient aussi demander à ce que l’on paye leurs murs frontaliers », précise Manos Logothetis. Le gouvernement grec va d’ailleurs prolonger en 2023 les murs antimigrants dans l’Evros jusqu’à 80 kilomètres, annonce-t-il. L’UE octroie à Athènes d’autres aides parallèles pour la gestion de l’immigration. Depuis 2018, environ 1,9 milliard d’euros ont été alloués à la Grèce. Quatre-vingt-six agents et experts de l’agence européenne Frontex sont ainsi présents dans l’Evros.

    À entendre Manos Logothetis, la politique migratoire grecque semble parfois se confondre avec sa politique de défense, elle-même liée à la Turquie. « La migration est politique, dix fois plus qu’il y a vingt ans, l’instrumentalisation des migrants [par Ankara – ndlr] est incomparable aujourd’hui, s’exclame le secrétaire d’État grec. En mars 2020, la Turquie a manipulé les réfugiés pour nous mettre sous pression. Elle pourrait très bien recommencer en 2023, par exemple. Car cette année est importante politiquement. Nous avons des élections législatives et la Turquie a une élection présidentielle. » Dans les deux pays, les scrutins devraient se tenir au printemps. Malgré nos sollicitations, Ankara n’a pas répondu à nos demandes d’interview.

    Les réfugié·es en quête d’Europe se retrouvent au cœur de ce conflit larvé entre les deux pays. Au fur et à mesure que les tensions entre Athènes et Ankara s’accentuent, ces migrant·es sont perçu·es comme des « armes », au détriment de leur droit d’asile, estiment plusieurs organisations des droits humains.

    Alarm Phone, une ONG basée à l’étranger, reçoit des appels d’exilé·es en détresse, bloqué·es aux frontières. « Nous avons de plus en plus d’appels à l’aide de l’Evros depuis 2020, relate son directeur, qui reste anonyme. Des gouvernements comme ceux de la Grèce, de la Turquie ou d’autres “militarisent” la migration et présentent les personnes en déplacement comme une menace militaire. Nous condamnons ce discours déshumanisant. Nous exigeons la liberté de circulation pour tous et le droit de demander l’asile. »

    De son côté, Styliani Nanou, représentante du Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés des Nations unies (HCR), se dit « profondément préoccupée par le nombre croissant de signalements d’incidents de retours forcés, qui s’apparentent dans certains cas à des refoulements [soit des push back, démentis par Athènes – ndlr]. Nous en avons compté 540 en Grèce en 2020 et 2021. Ils sont souvent accompagnés de violences et de violations des droits de l’homme à diverses frontières européennes ».
    Des drames à huis clos

    Le HCR a des équipes dans la ville d’Orestiada, commune érigée il y a cent ans par des Grecs chassés de Turquie, dans le nord-est de l’Evros. Peu d’associations et organisations de défense des réfugié·es sont toutefois présentes dans cette ville de 25 000 habitant·es. Outre le HCR, une poignée de personnes d’organisations comme Human Rights 360, Greek Council for Refugees et Arsis sont présentes dans l’Evros. « Il est difficile pour les ONG de travailler. Nous manquons d’autorisations d’accès à la frontière », explique un responsable humanitaire à Athènes.

    Les drames se déroulent à huis clos. De fait, outre les « push back », la liste des dérives inhumaines rapportées par la presse ou les associations dans l’Evros en 2022 est longue. En février, 12 migrants ont été retrouvés morts de froid côté turc. Athènes et Ankara se rejettent fréquemment la responsabilité de nombreux sauvetages d’exilé·es bloqué·es sur les îlots de la rivière Evros, entourés d’un flou juridique.

    Trente-huit personnes, majoritairement syriennes, sont ainsi restées coincées des jours en août, pendant que les pays voisins se renvoyaient la balle pour leur venir en aide. Une fillette est morte, selon sa famille, piquée par un scorpion, et a été enterrée sur l’île. Pour le secrétaire d’État grec à la migration, « il n’y a pas de petite fille morte : les autorités ne trouvent pas de corps ». Une enquête grecque et une de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme sont en cours.

    Certains drames deviennent l’argument des joutes verbales entre Grèce et Turquie. Mi-octobre, 92 migrants ont été retrouvés nus, en pleine nature, à la frontière côté grec. Le ministre grec de l’immigration, Nótis Mitarákis, a rapidement publié un tweet contre la Turquie, en diffusant la photo de ces hommes humiliés. « Le comportement de la Turquie envers ses 92 migrants que nous [la Grèce] avons sauvés à cette frontière est une honte pour la civilisation », s’est indigné le ministre. La Turquie a réfuté ces accusations.

    Dans ce système, les migrants finissent par être criminalisés. Christiana Kavvadia, avocate pour l’organisation Greek Council for Refugees dans l’Evros, compte parmi ses clients des personnes poursuivies par la justice pour « entrée illégale » sur le territoire. Ils risquent jusqu’à cinq ans de prison et une amende de 1 500 euros. « Du 1er au 31 mars 2020, un texte législatif interdisant la demande d’asile est entré en vigueur pour cette période, l’ensemble des migrants arrivés à ces dates ont été accusés d’entrée illégale et nombre d’entre eux ont été envoyés en prison pour une longue période. Depuis, cette pratique consistant à sanctionner l’entrée illégale existe toujours mais avec des peines moins sévères, explique-t-elle. La pénalisation des demandeurs d’asile n’est pas conforme à la convention de Genève et vise à être une mesure dissuasive. »
    Record de décès en 2022

    Dans l’Evros, il est aussi rare d’assister à des situations dramatiques que d’entendre des voix locales qui les commentent. « Nous sommes peu nombreux à défendre les droits des réfugiés dans le coin… C’est un système contre lequel on ne peut pas lutter : 90 % des gens à Orestiada travaillent avec la police », regrette Dimitrios Zeferiades, le gérant d’un bar alternatif de cette ville. « Il y a cent ans, nos ancêtres (grecs) sont passés par cette frontière par milliers, ils étaient réfugiés. Maintenant, il existe des milices dans les villages pour faire fuir les migrants : les habitants ont oublié leurs racines », dénonce-t-il.

    En 2020, des villageois de la frontière avaient exhibé leur « chasse » aux migrants face à la presse. Pour Dimitrios Zeferiades, plus que des outils « politiques », « les migrants sont devenus des produits sur lesquels la Grèce se fait de l’argent. Les autorités demandent des financements pour acheter tout un arsenal [drones, caméras – ndlr] qui ne sert à rien : personne ne peut surveiller cette rivière de 200 kilomètres ».

    Entre les murs saumon de la morgue de l’hôpital de la ville d’Alexandroupoli, la plus grande ville de l’Evros, Pavlos Pavlidis approuve. « Les murs n’empêchent rien », déclare, grave, ce médecin légiste. Il montre sur son téléphone la photo d’un homme inerte. Le froid de décembre a emporté dans son sommeil ce jeune adulte d’une vingtaine d’années, dans un cabanon au pied d’une montagne enneigée de l’Evros. « Hypothermie. Il y a environ deux jours, le 10 décembre », a conclu Pavlos Pavlidis. Dans son bureau au sous-sol, où règne une odeur de cigarette, le médecin méticuleux expose deux cartes bleues et deux bagues ayant appartenu à la victime, « probablement d’Afrique du Nord ». Ces indices permettront peut-être de l’identifier, espère-t-il.

    « 2022 constitue un record, je n’avais jamais autopsié autant de personnes [exilées] », annonce Pavlos Pavlidis. En poste depuis 2000, l’expert a vu plus de 660 cadavres d’étrangers, dont 63 cette année. Derrière sa fenêtre s’élèvent deux conteneurs renfermant depuis des mois 30 corps d’exilés : « Je n’ai plus de place dans les frigos. »

    Le fleuve est le premier à faucher les réfugiés. L’hypothermie est la deuxième cause de mortalité. Les réfugiés se perdent, trempés, dans la nature. « Ils évitent les villages. Ils savent que les habitants ne les aident plus comme avant », explique Pavlos Pavlidis. Les accidents de la route sont enfin la troisième cause des décès de migrants. « Certains s’entassent dans des véhicules et tentent de fuir les autorités », dit-il.

    Le portable de Pavlos Pavlidis vibre pendant qu’il parle : « Mon numéro a fuité. » Il reçoit des messages de détresse d’inconnu·es : des mères, des frères, à la recherche de leurs proches. Si 5 000 migrants sont officiellement arrivés dans l’Evros en 2022, combien sont-ils à s’être égarés dans ses collines ?

    https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/200123/entre-la-grece-et-la-turquie-une-frontiere-de-plus-en-plus-meurtriere

    Dans cet article, l’annonce d’une ultérieure #extension du mur :

    Le gouvernement grec va d’ailleurs prolonger en 2023 les murs antimigrants dans l’Evros jusqu’à 80 kilomètres, annonce-t-il.

    Première extension (passage de 12,5 km en 2012 à 12,5 km + 35 km en 2020/2021) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/830355
    https://seenthis.net/messages/935658

    #frontières #migrations #réfugiés #barrières_frontalières #murs #barrières_frontalières #mourir_aux_frontières #morts_aux_frontières #Evros #Thrace #obstacle_technique #dissuasion #surveillance #instrumentalisation_de_la_migration #refoulements #push-backs #retours_forcés #violence #décès #milices #chasse_aux_migrants

    • Some updates on the #Evros wall from earlier this week. N. Mitarakis, now Minister of Citizen Protection, stated that a further extension of the wall will be tendered in 2024, to be completed in 2027.

      –—
      Φράχτης στον Έβρο : Πότε ολοκληρώνεται το έργο (vid)

      Προτεραιότητα για τη νέα κυβέρνηση χαρακτήρισε την ολοκλήρωση του φράχτη στον Έβρο ο Υπουργός Προστασίας του Πολίτη, Νότης Μηταράκης.

      Αναλυτικότερα, μιλώντας στην ΕΡΤ και την εκπομπή « Συνδέσεις », ο κ. Μηταράκης επεσήμανε ότι ο φράχτης του Έβρου αποτελεί πρώτη προτεραιότητα τόσο για την κυβέρνηση όσο και προσωπικά για τον ίδιο και το Υπουργείο Προστασίας του Πολίτη.

      « Η Ελλάδα θα εξακολουθήσει να εφαρμόζει την ίδια αυστηρή αλλά δίκαιη πολιτική », τόνισε.

      Μάλιστα, όπως τόνισε, ο φράχτης του Έβρου συνεχίζει να προχωρά με γρήγορα βήματα προς την ολοκλήρωσή του, η οποία αναμένεται στα μέσα του 2027.

      « Έχουμε εξασφαλίσει 100 εκατομμύρια ευρώ – απ΄όταν ήμουν στο προηγούμενο χαρτοφυλάκιο της Μετανάστευσης από την Ε.Ε – γι΄αυτό που ονομάζουμε συνοδά έργα του Φράχτη (έργα υποδομής και τεχνολογίας που συνδυάζονται με τον Φράχτη (π.χ τα φυλάκια χρηματοδοτούνται από τα ευρωπαϊκά κονδύλια).

      Από τα 72 χιλιόμετρα του Φράχτη σήμερα μελετάμε την τελική του φάση επέκτασης. Δεν θα χρειαστεί να καλύψουμε όλα τα 200 χιλιόμετρα.

      Προχωράμε στην τελική φάση επέκτασης με το μεικτό σύστημα χρηματοδότησης με κρατικά και ευρωπαϊκά κονδύλια. Ο καινούριος Φράχτης θα προκηρυχθεί για να κατασκευαστεί μέσα στο 2024, ώστε να είναι έτοιμος μέσα στο 2027 », σχολίασε.

      « Χρήση καμερών από τους αστυνομικούς »

      Κληθείς να σχολιάσει το πρόσφατο περιστατικό στη Λάρισα, που στοίχισε τη ζωή σε έναν 20χρονο, ο κ. Μηταράκης επεσήμανε ότι θα προχωρήσει η χρήση καμερών στους αστυνομικούς.

      « Για να αποφευχθούν φαινόμενα αστυνομικής αυθαιρεσίας θα προχωρήσουν οι κάμερες στους αστυνομικούς. […]

      « Θέλουμε και την συνεργασία των ανεξάρτητων αρχών, να μην τεθούν εμπόδια στη χρήση αυτών των καμερών.

      Αυτές είναι εκεί για να προστατεύσουν τον πολίτη, στην όποια περίπτωση κρατικής αυθαιρεσίας, αλλά και για να καταγράφουν με κάποιον ισχυρά αποτρεπτικό τρόπο το οποιοδήποτε αδίκημα μπορεί να τελείται, για να μην υπάρχουν αμφιβολίες για το εάν κάποιος συμμετείχε ή όχι σε μια παράνομη δράση.

      Είτε είναι αστυνομικός που δεν έκανε σωστά τη δουλειά του και δεν ακολούθησε το πρωτόκολλο εμπλοκής, είτε είναι ένας πολίτης ο οποίος παρανόμησε », υποστήριξε.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1680548700077129729

      https://www.mynews.gr/frachtis-ston-evro-pote-oloklironetai-to-ergo-vid

  • Relatives informed us about a group stranded on an islet on #Evros river. The position they sent shows the people on #Greek territory. On the phone, the border guard station of #Soufli promised a quick rescue. We have no direct contact with the group & hope help is on its way!

    https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1600837138345361408

    Commentaire de Lena K sur twitter :

    This seems to be the same islet where people were trapped on in July & August. The ministry announcement states that the coordinates of group ’do not belong to the 🇬🇷 territory’. The 🇬🇷 MoD said it’s crossed by the borderline. Again, this raises the question of non-rescue.

    https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1601279830204370944

    #limbe #zone_frontalière #île #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #fleuve_Evros #Turquie #Grèce #Thrace #îlots

    –—

    ajouté à la métaliste sur #métaliste sur des #réfugiés abandonnés sur des #îlots dans la région de l’#Evros, #frontière_terrestre entre la #Grèce et la #Turquie :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/953343

    • Εβρος : Συναγερμός για ομάδα μεταναστών σε νησίδα – Ανήκει στην τουρκική επικράτεια

      Σε έλεγχο που έγινε σήμερα από τις ελληνικές αρχές, δεν εντοπίστηκαν άτομα επάνω στη νησίδα

      Για την ύπαρξη περίπου δέκα μεταναστών σε νησίδα του Έβρου ειδοποιήθηκε η Ελληνική Αστυνομία από τη ΜΚΟ « Watch the Med ».

      Οι ελληνικές αρχές, σε συνεργασία με την αρμόδια υπηρεσία του Γενικού Επιτελείου Στρατού, εξέτασαν τις συντεταγμένες που τους δόθηκαν και προέκυψε ότι το σημείο δεν ανήκει στην ελληνική επικράτεια.

      Σύμφωνα με τη σχετική ανακοίνωση του υπουργείου Προστασίας του Πολίτη, αμέσως ενημερώθηκαν η ΜΚΟ και η Frontex, ενώ ειδοποιήθηκαν με ΝΟΤΑΜ οι τουρκικές αρχές στο τριεθνή σταθμό του Καπετάν Αντρέεβο για την περισυλλογή των μεταναστών.

      Σε έλεγχο που έγινε σήμερα από τις ελληνικές αρχές, δεν εντοπίστηκαν άτομα επάνω στη νησίδα.

      Δεν είναι γνωστό, πάντως, εάν έγινε περισυλλογή τους από τις τουρκικές αρχές.

      Η ανακοίνωση του υπουργείου

      « Η Ελληνική Αστυνομία ειδοποιήθηκε χθες (8/12/2022) τις πρώτες πρωινές ώρες από την ΜΚΟ « Watch the Med » για ύπαρξη παράνομων μεταναστών σε νησίδα του Έβρου. Οι ελληνικές αρχές σε συνεργασία με την αρμόδια υπηρεσία του Γενικού Επιτελείου Στρατού εξέτασαν τις συντεταγμένες που τους δόθηκαν.

       » Από τον έλεγχο προέκυψε ότι το σημείο δεν ανήκει στην Ελληνική επικράτεια. Αμέσως, ενημερώθηκαν η ΜΚΟ, ο Frontex και ειδοποιήθηκαν με ΝΟΤΑΜ οι τουρκικές αρχές στο τριεθνή σταθμό του Καπετάν Αντρέεβο για την περισυλλογή των μεταναστών ».

      https://www.in.gr/2022/12/09/greece/evros-synagermos-gia-omada-metanaston-se-nisida-anikei-stin-tourkiki-epikrateia

    • 18.01.2023 :

      Now the ~48 people are again on #Greek territory where they wish to exercise their right to claim asylum. They’re without clean drinking water or food and suffer from the cold weather. We hope this time their rights will be upheld! We demand their immediate safety and protection!

      –—

      “On 19 January 2023, the Court (the duty judge) decided, in the interests of the parties and the proper conduct of the proceedings before it, to indicate to the Government of #Greece, under Rule 39, that the applicants should not be removed from Greece and be provided with food, water and adequate medical care as needed until further notice.
      The parties’ attention is drawn to the fact that failure of a Contracting State to comply with a measure indicated under Rule 39 may entail a breach of Article 34 of the Convention.”

      The #Didymoticho border guards told us that a decision to rescue needs to come from the ministry. When the people called 112, they were told that “the mayor of the area must sign the court decision in order to be evacuated”.


      https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1615764908486070272

  • Greece Using Other Migrants to Expel Asylum Seekers
    (un article qui date d’avril 2022)

    Stripped, Robbed, and Forced Back to Turkey; No Chance to Seek Asylum.

    Greek security forces are employing third country nationals, men who appear to be of Middle Eastern or South Asian origin, to push asylum seekers back at the Greece-Turkey land border, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

    The 29-page report “‘Their Faces Were Covered’: Greece’s Use of Migrants as Police Auxiliaries in Pushbacks,” found that Greek police are detaining asylum seekers at the Greece-Turkey land border at the Evros River, in many cases stripping them of most of their clothing and stealing their money, phones, and other possessions. They then turn the migrants over to masked men, who force them onto small boats, take them to the middle of the Evros River, and force them into the frigid water, making them wade to the riverbank on the Turkish side. None are apparently being properly registered in Greece or allowed to lodge asylum claims.

    “There can be no denying that the Greek government is responsible for the illegal pushbacks at its borders, and using proxies to carry out these illegal acts does not relieve it of any liability,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrant rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The European Commission should urgently open legal proceedings and hold the Greek government accountable for violating EU laws prohibiting collective expulsions.”

    Human Rights Watch interviewed 26 Afghan migrants and asylum seekers, 23 of whom were pushed back from Greece to Turkey across the Evros River between September 2021 and February 2022. The 23 men, 2 women, and a boy said they were detained by men they believed to be Greek authorities, usually for no more than 24 hours with little to no food or drinking water, and pushed back to Turkey. The men and boy provided firsthand victim or witness accounts of Greek police or men they believed to be Greek police beating or otherwise abusing them.
    Sixteen of those interviewed said the boats taking them back to Turkey were piloted by men who spoke Arabic or the South Asian languages common among migrants. They said most of these men wore black or commando-like uniforms and used balaclavas to cover their faces. Three people interviewed were able to talk with the men ferrying the boats. The boat pilots told them they were also migrants who were employed by the Greek police with promises of being provided with documents enabling them to travel onward.

    A 28-year-old former commander in the Afghan army who was pushed back to Turkey in late December, said he had a conversation in Pashto with the Pakistani man ferrying the boat that took him back to Turkey: “The boat driver said, ‘We are … here doing this work for three months and then they give us … a document. With this, we can move freely inside Greece and then we can get a ticket for … another country.’”

    An 18-year-old Afghan youth described his experience after the Greek police transported him from the detention center to the river: “At the border, there were other people waiting for us.… From their language, we could recognize they were Pakistanis and Arabs. These men took our money and beat us. They beat me with sticks. They dropped us in the middle of the river. The water was to my chest, and we waded the rest of the way [to Turkey].”

    Pushbacks violate multiple human rights norms, including the prohibition of collective expulsion under the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to due process in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right to seek asylum under EU asylum law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the principle of nonrefoulement under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

    The Greek government routinely denies involvement in pushbacks, labeling such claims “fake news” or “Turkish propaganda” and cracking down, including through the threat of criminal sanctions, against those reporting on such incidents. On March 29, Greece’s independent authority for transparency tasked by the government to investigate pushbacks “found no basis for reports that Greek authorities have illegally turned back asylum-seekers entering the country from Turkey.”

    Major General Dimitrios Mallios, chief of the Aliens & Border Protection Branch in Hellenic Police Headquarters, denied the Human Rights Watch allegations. He said that “police agencies and their staff will continue to operate in a continuous, professional, lawful and prompt way, taking all necessary measures to effectively manage the refugees/migration flows, in a manner that safeguards on the one hand the rights of the aliens and on the other hand the protection of citizens especially in the first line border regions.”

    Greece should immediately halt all pushbacks from Greek territory, and stop using third country nationals for collective expulsions, Human Rights Watch said. The European Commission, which provides financial support to the Greek government for migration control, should require Greece to end all summary returns and collective expulsions of asylum seekers to Turkey, press the authorities to establish an independent and effective border monitoring mechanism that would investigate allegations of violence at borders, and ensure that none of its funding contributes to violations of fundamental rights and EU laws. The European Commission should also open legal proceedings against Greece for violating EU laws prohibiting collective expulsions.

    Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which is under increased scrutiny for complicity in migrant pushbacks in Greece, should trigger article 46 of its regulation, under which the agency has a duty to suspend or terminate operations in case of serious abuses, if no concrete improvements are made by Greece to end these abuses within three months.

    On March 1, Greece’s migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, declared before the Hellenic Parliament that Ukrainians were the “real refugees,” implying that those on Greece’s border with Turkey are not.

    “At a time when Greece welcomes Ukrainians as ‘real refugees,’ it conducts cruel pushbacks on Afghans and others fleeing similar war and violence,” Frelick said. “The double standard makes a mockery of the purported shared European values of equality, rule of law, and human dignity.”

    https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/07/greece-using-other-migrants-expel-asylum-seekers

    #Grèce #asile #migrations #réfugiés #pushback_helpers #Evros #frontières

    • Pushback helpers: A new level of violence

      In October 2020, Salam*, together with 15 people from Syria and Afghanistan, crossed the Evros River from #Edirne, Turkey to Greece. They walked until the next morning through the forest on the Greek side of the border area. When they rested for a few hours, they were discovered by the Greek border police.

      “At 10 a.m., after two hours, I was very tired. When I slept, the ’commando’ [Greek border police] told us ’Wake-up! Wake-up!’ They had sticks. One of our group ran away and two ’commandos’ caught him and struck him again and again.”

      The Greek police officers threatened the group, beat them, and robbed them of all their belongings. After an hour all were brought to a prison. There the group was searched again and threatened with being killed if they hid any belongings. There were about 70 to 80 people in the prison none of the detainees was provided with water or food.

      “The prison was not a [real] prison. It was a waiting room. No Food, no water, no beds. There were only two toilets, which were not clean. We stayed there from 1 p.m. and waited until midnight.”

      At midnight, armed officers whom the respondent identified not as police but rather as a private army force, came to the prison. Using brutal violence, the people were forced to undress down to their underwear and all 70 to 80 were crammed into a van without windows. For an hour the group had to wait in the overloaded van until they were taken back to the river Evros.

      Back at the river, the group had to sit in a row, still stripped to their underwear and without shoes, and were not allowed to look up. The officers tortured people for at least one hour.

      „He [the ’commando’] told us: ’If you come back, another time to Greece, I will kill you! We will kill you!’ We were around 80 and there were two [officers] on each side of us. [They struck us] for one hour or two hours, I don’t remember about this.“

      They were then forced back onto a boat driven by two people who did not appear to be members of the Greek police:

      „Two people were talking in Arabic and Turkish languages. They were not from the ’commandos’ or the Greek police. They [drove] the boat across to the other side to Turkey. One took a rope from the trees on the Turkish side to the tree on the Greek side. He didn’t have to row, he could just pull the boat with the rope. […] When we got inside the boat, the ’commando’ struck us and when we were in the boat, this person struck us. Struck, struck, struck us. All the time they struck us. My eye was swollen, and my leg, and my hand all were bad from this. After we crossed the river, he went back to the ’commandos’.“

      Back on the Turkish side, Salam and others of the group were discovered by the Turkish police. The officers chased the group. Fortunately, Salam was able to escape.

      The Pushback Helper System

      Salam’s experience of a pushback by the Greek police assisted by migrants is not an isolated case. The exploitation of the so-called Pushback Helpers, migrants who are coerced to work for the Greek police at the Turkish-Greek border and illegally push back other migrants, has been known for a long time.

      Since 2020, the Border Violence Monitoring Network has been publishing testimonies from people on the move who have had similar experiences to Salam. In April 2022, Human Rights Watch published a report based on the experiences of 16 pushback survivors on the Evros River. They reported that the boats that brought them back to Turkey were steered by non-Greek men who spoke Arabic or South Asian languages common among migrants in this area. They all reported that Greek police were nearby when the men forced the migrants onto small boats. These non-Greek men were often described as wearing black or commando uniforms, as well as balaclavas to disguise their identities. An investigation by Der Spiegel published in June 2022 came to similar findings. The testimonies of six men who reported being forced to participate in pushbacks to Turkey were affirmed with the help of the reporter team.

      The numerous testimonies of pushback survivors and the published investigations on the topic reveal a very precise pattern. The system behind the so-called pushback helpers is as follows:

      When the Greek authorities arrest a group of people on the move who have just crossed the border into Greece from Turkey, they usually choose young men who speak English, but also Arabic or Turkish. They offer them money, reportedly around $200 per month, sometimes more, and a so-called “exit document” that allows them to stay in Greece or leave for another European country. In exchange, they have to help the Greek border police with illegal pushbacks for about three to six months. For many people on the move, the fear of another pushback to Turkey and the lack of prospects to get Asylum in Greece eventually leads them to cooperate with the Greek authorities. However, most have no choice but to accept, because if migrants refuse this offer, they are reportedly beaten up and deported back to Turkey. Also, not all people receive money for such “deals”, but are forced to work for the Greek border police without payment. There are reports that people cannot move freely because the Greek police is controlling them. Some people are detained by the Greek police almost all the time and were only released at night to carry out pushbacks.

      Their task is to push other migrants who have been caught by the Greek authorities and are detained in Greek security points or -centres back across the border. The pushback helpers drive the boats to cross the river Evros and bring the protection seekers back to Turkey. They are often forced to rob the helpless people and take their money, their mobile phones and their clothes or they get to keep the stolen things that the Greek authorities have taken beforehand. When the helpers are released after a few months, some get the promised papers and make their way to Europe. However, some migrants are reported to work for the Greek border police on a long-term basis. Gangs are formed to take care of the pushback of people on the move. They also serve as a deterrent for people who are still in Turkey and considering crossing the border.

      This is a cruel, but profitable business for the Greek border police. The Greek officers do not have to cross the river Evros themselves. Firstly, it is life-threatening to cross the wide river with a small boat, and secondly, they do not have to go near the Turkish border themselves, which would lead to conflicts with the Turkish military during the pushbacks. The two countries have been in a territorial conflict for a long time.

      Modern slavery of people on the move

      Forcing people seeking protection back over a border is not only inhumane but also illegal. Pushbacks violate numerous human rights norms, such as the prohibition of collective expulsion, the right to asylum, and the principle of non-refoulment. This practice has become a regular pattern of human rights violations against people on the move by the European border regime. Although it has been proven several times in Greece that pushbacks are regularly carried out by the Hellenic Coast Guard and the Greek Border Police, the Greek government categorically denies that pushbacks exist, calling such claims “fake news” or “Turkish propaganda”.

      The fact that people on the move themselves are forced to carry out pushbacks represents a new level of brutality in the Greek pushback campaign. Not only are migrants systematically denied human rights, but they are also forced to participate in these illegal practices. Those seeking protection are exploited by the Greek authorities to carry out illegal operations on other people seeking protection. The dimension of the deployment is unknown. What is clear is that the Greek authorities are using the fear of pushbacks to Turkey by people on the move and the repressive asylum system to force people seeking protection to do their dirty work. This practice is effectively modern slavery and the dreadful reality of migrants trying to seek safety in Europe.

      Since there are no safe and legal corridors into the EU and the asylum system in Greece is extremely restrictive, most people seeking protection have no choice but to try to cross the border between Turkey and Greece clandestinely. This lack of safe and legal corridors thus makes spaces for abuse of power and exploitation of people on the move possible in the first place. Those responsible for these human rights crimes must be held accountable immediately for these human rights crimes.

      *Name changed

      https://mare-liberum.org/en/pushback-helpers-a-new-level-of-violence

      #refoulement #push-backs #refoulements #exploitation

    • Engineered migration at the Greek–Turkish border: A spectacle of violence and humanitarian space

      In February 2020, Turkey announced that the country would no longer prevent refugees and migrants from crossing into the European Union. The announcement resulted in mass human mobility heading to the Turkish border city of Edirne. Relying on freshly collected data through interviews and field visits, this article argues that the 2020 events were part of a state-led execution of ‘engineered migration’ through a constellation of actors, technologies and practices. Turkey’s performative act of engineered migration created a spectacle in ways that differ from the spectacle’s usual materialization at the EU’s external borders. By breaking from its earlier role as a partner, the Turkish state engaged in a countermove fundamentally altering the dyadic process through which the spectacle routinely materializes at EU external borders around the hypervisibilization of migrant illegality. Reconceptualizing the spectacle through engineered migration, the article identifies two complementary acts by Turkish actors: the spectacularization of European (Greek) violence and the creation of a humanitarian space to showcase Turkey as the ‘benevolent’ actor. The article also discusses how the sort of hypervisibility achieved through the spectacle has displaced violence from its points of emergence and creation and becomes the routinized form of border security in Turkey.

      https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09670106231194911
      #spectacle #violence #engineered_migration #ingénierie_migratoire #technologie #performativité #matérialisation #visibilité #hyper-visibilisation #espace_humanitaire