• ’They should have let us die in the water’: desperate Lebanese migrants sent back by Cyprus

    For years, small boats have left northern Lebanon’s coast, packed with desperate migrants hoping to reach European shores. Until recently, they carried mostly Syrian and Palestinian refugees. But with Lebanon in freefall, its citizens have begun joining their ranks in larger numbers.

    Mohammad Ghandour never thought he’d be one of them. But he said Lebanon’s economic crisis, which has crashed the Lebanese pound and left him unable to feed his seven children, gave him no choice.

    “In Lebanon, we are being killed by poverty,” Ghandour told Reuters this week, from his mother’s cramped three-room apartment where he was staying with 12 other family members. He was back in Tripoli, one of Lebanon’s poorest cities, after being sent back by Cyprus.

    “This is worse than war … My children will either die on the streets or become criminals to survive.

    Ghandour, 37, is one of dozens of Lebanese who’ve attempted the journey since late August, when rights groups say a rise in the number of boats leaving Lebanon began. Exact figures are hard to come by, but the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has tracked 21 boats leaving Lebanon between July and Sept. 14. The previous year, there were 17 in total.

    The increase has worried Cypriot authorities, especially given the global pandemic. The island is the closest European Union member state to the Middle East and has seen a gradual rise in arrivals of undocumented migrants and refugees in the past two years, as other routes have become more difficult to cross.

    After 28 hours lost at sea, Ghandour said his boat, carrying his wife, children and other relatives, arrived on a beach near the seaside resort of Larnaca. He said his family was detained in a camp for several days, tested for Covid-19 and prevented from lodging a formal claim for asylum before being sent back to Lebanon.

    “I didn’t think they would send us back,” he said. “They should have just let us die in the water. It’s better than coming back here.”

    Cypriot authorities said about 230 Lebanese and Syrians were sent back to Lebanon by sea in early September. They had arrived in Cyprus on five boats during the previous weeks.

    “Following our government’s orders and after consultations between the two governments (Cyprus and Lebanon) we safely returned them on September 6, 7 and 8,” Stelios Papatheodorou, chief of the Cypriot police, told Reuters.

    He denied accusations that authorities had mistreated them and pushed back their boats.

    “We provided them with food and water and covered all their needs at our own expense,” Papatheodorou said.

    Lebanon’s General Security and Foreign Ministry did not respond to written requests for comment.

    ‘TREATED LIKE DOGS’

    Out of work for three years, Ghandour decided last month to pack up for good and try his luck in Cyprus. He left his apartment, sold his furniture, and had his older sons sell scrap metal to help buy a small boat and supplies for the perilous journey.

    Ghandour was one of four migrants interviewed by Reuters, who said they were swiftly sent back to Lebanon. According to UNHCR, the island has pushed back at least five boats, which carried Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and others.

    “You can’t just summarily send people back without considering their claims fully and fairly,” said Bill Frelick, the director of the refugee and migrant rights division at HRW, who has been monitoring the returns.

    Although Lebanon is not at war and economic hardship is not recognised as grounds for asylum, the multiple crises Lebanon is facing mean some of its nationals and residents could face serious threats, while others could qualify for refugee status on fear-of-persecution grounds, Frelick added.

    In interviews with Reuters, migrants said they told Cypriot authorities they feared violence and instability in Lebanon and did not want to return.

    In August a port blast killed nearly 200.

    Migrants also said they encountered aggressive tactics as they neared Cyprus. Chamseddine Kerdi said his boat, packed with 52 people, was encircled several times and ultimately damaged before being towed to shore by authorities.

    “My daughter begged me not to let them kill us,” Kerdi said.

    Ghandour was not expecting a hostile reception in Cyprus. He had previously tried looking for work in Germany, at the height of the migrant flows to Europe in 2015 and 2016, and said he was greeted with kindness. “This time, they treated us like dogs.”

    Despite this, both Ghandour and Kerdi are adamant they’ll set sail again soon.

    For others, however, their first journey would be their last.

    Mezhar Abdelhamid Mohammad’s son-in-law and nephew left Lebanon 11 days ago in a boat packed with about 50 men, women and children. Adrift for seven days, the boat was eventually rescued by UN peacekeepers off the coast of Lebanon, with only 36 people alive. But the two men weren’t on it.

    A survivor who returned to Lebanon told Mohammad that he had jumped in the water with Mohammad’s relatives to try and find help. They have not been found.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis-migrants-cyprus/they-should-have-let-us-die-in-the-water-desperate-lebanese-migrants-sent-b

    #Chypre #push-backs #refoulement #refoulements #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_libanais #migrants_libanais #Liban

  • Cast away : the UK’s rushed charter flights to deport Channel crossers

    Warning: this document contains accounts of violence, attempted suicides and self harm.

    The British government has vowed to clamp down on migrants crossing the Channel in small boats, responding as ever to a tabloid media panic. One part of its strategy is a new wave of mass deportations: charter flights, specifically targeting channel-crossers, to France, Germany and Spain.

    There have been two flights so far, on the 12 and 26 August. The next one is planned for 3 September. The two recent flights stopped in both Germany (Duesseldorf) and France (Toulouse on the 12, Clermont-Ferrand on the 26). Another flight was planned to Spain on 27 August – but this was cancelled after lawyers managed to get everyone off the flight.

    Carried out in a rush by a panicked Home Office, these mass deportations have been particularly brutal, and may have involved serious legal irregularities. This report summarises what we know so far after talking to a number of the people deported and from other sources. It covers:

    The context: Calais boat crossings and the UK-France deal to stop them.

    In the UK: Yarl’s Wood repurposed as Channel-crosser processing centre; Britannia Hotels; Brook House detention centre as brutal as ever.

    The flights: detailed timeline of the 26 August charter to Dusseldorf and Clermont-Ferrand.

    Who’s on the flight: refugees including underage minors and torture survivors.

    Dumped on arrival: people arriving in Germany and France given no opportunity to claim asylum, served with immediate expulsion papers.

    The legalities: use of the Dublin III regulation to evade responsibility for refugees.

    Is it illegal?: rushed process leads to numerous irregularities.

    “that night, eight people cut themselves”

    “That night before the flight (25 August), when we were locked in our rooms and I heard that I had lost my appeal, I was desperate. I started to cut myself. I wasn’t the only one. Eight people self-harmed or tried to kill themselves rather than be taken on that plane. One guy threw a kettle of boiling water on himself. One man tried to hang himself with the cable of the TV in his room. Three of us were taken to hospital, but sent back to the detention centre after a few hours. The other five they just took to healthcare [the clinic in Brook House] and bandaged up. About 5 in the morning they came to my room, guards with riot shields. On the way to the van, they led me through a kind of corridor which was full of people – guards, managers, officials from the Home Office. They all watched while a doctor examined me, then the doctor said – ‘yes, he’s fit to fly’. On the plane later I saw one guy hurt really badly, fresh blood on his head and on his clothes. He hadn’t just tried to stop the ticket, he really wanted to kill himself. He was taken to Germany.”

    Testimony of a deported person.

    The context: boats and deals

    Since the 1990s, tens of thousands of people fleeing war, repression and poverty have crossed the “short straits” between Calais and Dover. Until 2018, people without papers attempting to cross the Channel did so mainly by getting into lorries or on trains through the Channel Tunnel. Security systems around the lorry parks, tunnel and highway were escalated massively following the eviction of the big Jungle in 2016. This forced people into seeking other, ever more dangerous, routes – including crossing one of the world’s busiest waterways in small boats. Around 300 people took this route in 2018, a further 2000 in 2019 – and reportedly more than 5,000 people already by August 2020.

    These crossings have been seized on by the UK media in their latest fit of xenophobic scaremongering. The pattern is all too familiar since the Sangatte camp of 1999: right-wing media outlets (most infamously the Daily Mail, but also others) push-out stories about dangerous “illegals” swarming across the Channel; the British government responds with clampdown promises.

    Further stoked by Brexit, recent measures have included:

    Home Secretary Priti Patel announcing a new “Fairer Borders” asylum and immigration law that she promises will “send the left into meltdown”.

    A formal request from the Home Office to the Royal Navy to assist in turning back migrants crossing by boat (although this would be illegal).

    Negotiations with the French government, leading to the announcement on 13 August of a “joint operational plan” aimed at “completely cutting this route.”

    The appointment of a “Clandestine Channel Threat Commander” to oversee operations on both sides of the Channel.

    The concrete measures are still emerging, but notable developments so far include:

    Further UK payments to France to increase security – reportedly France demanded £30 million.

    French warships from the Naval base at Cherbourg patrolling off the coast of Calais and Dunkirk.

    UK Border Force Cutters and Coastal Patrol Vessels patrolling the British side, supported by flights from Royal Air Force surveillance planes.

    The new charter flight deportation programme — reportedly named “Operation Sillath” by the Home Office.

    For the moment, at least, the governments are respecting their minimal legal obligations to protect life at sea. And there has not been evidence of illegal “push backs” or “pull backs”: where the British “push” or the French “pull” boats back across the border line by force. When these boats are intercepted in French waters the travellers are taken back to France. If they make it into UK waters, Border Force pick them up and disembark them at Dover. They are then able to claim asylum in the UK.

    There is no legal difference in claiming asylum after arriving by boat, on a plane, or any other way. However, these small boat crossers have been singled out by the government to be processed in a special way seemingly designed to deny them the right to asylum in the UK.

    Once people are safely on shore the second part of Priti Patel’s strategy to make this route unviable kicks in: systematically obstruct their asylum claims and, where possible, deport them to France or other European countries. In practice, there is no way the Home Office can deport everyone who makes it across. Rather, as with the vast majority of immigration policy, the aim is to display toughness with a spectacle of enforcement – not only in an attempt to deter other arrivals, but perhaps, above all else, to play to key media audiences.

    This is where the new wave of charter flights come in. Deportations require cooperation from the destination country, and the first flight took place on 12 August in the midst of the Franco-British negotiations. Most recently, the flights have fed a new media spectacle in the UK: the Home Office attacking “activist lawyers” for doing their job and challenging major legal flaws in these rushed removals.

    The Home Office has tried to present these deportation flights as a strong immediate response to the Channel crossings. The message is: if you make it across, you’ll be back again within days. Again, this is more spectacle than reality. All the people we know of on the flights were in the UK for several months before being deported.

    In the UK: Yarl’s Wood repurposed

    Once on shore people are taken to one of two places: either the Kent Intake Unit, which is a Home Office holding facility (i.e., a small prefab cell complex) in the Eastern Docks of Dover Port; or the Dover police station. This police stations seems increasingly to be the main location, as the small “intake unit” is often at capacity. There used to be a detention centre in Dover where new arrivals were held, notorious for its run-down state, but this was closed in October 2015.

    People are typically held in the police station for no more than a day. The next destination is usually Yarl’s Wood, the Bedfordshire detention centre run by Serco. This was, until recently, a longer term detention centre holding mainly women. However, on 18 August the Home Office announced Yarl’s Wood been repurposed as a “Short Term Holding Facility” (SHTF) specifically to process people who have crossed the Channel. People stay usually just a few days – the legal maximum stay for a “short term” facility is seven days.

    Yarl’s Wood has a normal capacity of 410 prisoners. According to sources at Yarl’s Wood:

    “last week it was almost full with over 350 people detained. A few days later this number
    had fallen to 150, showing how quickly people are moving through the centre. As of Tuesday 25th of August there was no one in the centre at all! It seems likely that numbers will fluctuate in line with Channel crossings.”

    The same source adds:

    “There is a concern about access to legal aid in Yarl’s Wood. Short Term Holding Facility regulations do not require legal advice to be available on site (in Manchester, for example, there are no duty lawyers). Apparently the rota for duty lawyers is continuing at Yarl’s Wood for the time being. But the speed with which people are being processed now means that it is practically impossible to sign up and get a meeting with the duty solicitor before being moved out.”

    The Home Office conducts people’s initial asylum screening interviews whilst they are at Yarl’s Wood. Sometimes these are done in person, or sometimes by phone.

    This is a crucial point, as this first interview decides many people’s chance of claiming asylum in the UK. The Home Office uses information from this interview to deport the Channel crossers to France and Germany under the Dublin III regulation. This is EU legislation which allows governments to pass on responsibility for assessing someone’s asylum claim to another state. That is: the UK doesn’t even begin to look at people’s asylum cases.

    From what we have seen, many of these Dublin III assessments were made in a rushed and irregular way. They often used only weak circumstantial evidence. Few people had any chance to access legal advice, or even interpreters to explain the process.

    We discuss Dublin III and these issues below in the Legal Framework section.
    In the UK: Britain’s worst hotels

    From Yarl’s Wood, people we spoke to were given immigration bail and sent to asylum accommodation. In the first instance this currently means a cheap hotel. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Home Office ordered its asylum contractors (Mears, Serco) to shut their usual initial asylum accommodation and move people into hotels. It is not clear why this decision was made, as numerous accounts suggest the hotels are much worse as possible COVID incubators. The results of this policy have already proved fatal – we refer to the death of Adnan Olbeh in a Glasgow hotel in April.

    Perhaps the government is trying to prop up chains such as Britannia Hotels, judged for seven years running “Britain’s worst hotel chain” by consumer magazine Which?. Several people on the flights were kept in Britannia hotels. The company’s main owner, multi-millionaire Alex Langsam, was dubbed the “asylum king” by British media after winning previous asylum contracts with his slum housing sideline.

    Some of the deportees we spoke to stayed in hotel accommodation for several weeks before being moved into normal “asylum dispersal” accommodation – shared houses in the cheapest parts of cities far from London. Others were picked up for deportation directly from the hotels.

    In both cases, the usual procedure is a morning raid: Immigration Enforcement squads grab people from their beds around dawn. As people are in collaborating hotels or assigned houses, they are easy to find and arrest when next on the list for deportation.

    After arrest, people were taken to the main detention centres near Heathrow (Colnbrook and Harmondsworth) or Gatwick (particularly Brook House). Some stopped first at a police station or Short Term Holding Facility for some hours or days.

    All the people we spoke to eventually ended up in Brook House, one of the two Gatwick centres.
    “they came with the shields”

    “One night in Brook House, after someone cut himself, they locked everyone in. One man panicked and started shouting asking the guards please open the door. But he didn’t speak much English, he was shouting in Arabic. He said – ‘if you don’t open the door I will boil water in my kettle and throw it on my face.’ But they didn’t understand him, they thought he was threatening them, saying he would throw it at them. So they came with the shields, took him out of his room and put him into a solitary cell. When they put him in there they kicked him and beat him, they said ‘don’t threaten us again’.” Testimony of a deported person.

    Brook House

    Brook House remains notorious, after exposure by a whistleblower of routine brutality and humiliation by guards then working for G4S. The contract has since been taken over by Mitie’s prison division – branded as “Care and Custody, a Mitie company”. Presumably, many of the same guards simply transferred over.

    In any case, according to what we heard from the deported people, nothing much has changed in Brook House – viciousness and violence from guards remains the norm. The stories included here give just a few examples. See recent detainee testimonies on the Detained Voices blog for much more.
    “they only care that you don’t die in front of them”

    “I was in my room in Brook House on my own for 12 days, I couldn’t eat or drink, just kept thinking, thinking about my situation. I called for the doctors maybe ten times. They did come a couple of times, they took my blood, but they didn’t do anything else. They don’t care about your health or your mental health. They are just scared you will die there. They don’t care what happens to you just so long as you don’t die in front of their eyes. It doesn’t matter if you die somewhere else.” Testimony of a deported person.
    Preparing the flights

    The Home Office issues papers called “Removal Directions” (RDs) to those they intend to deport. These specify the destination and day of the flight. People already in detention should be given at least 72 hours notice, including two working days, which allows them to make final appeals.

    See the Right to Remain toolkit for detailed information on notice periods and appeal procedures.

    All UK deportation flights, both tickets on normal scheduled flights and chartered planes, are booked by a private contractor called Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). The main airline used by the Home Office for charter flights is a charter company called Titan Airways.

    See this 2018 Corporate Watch report for detailed information on charter flight procedures and the companies involved. And this 2020 update on deportations overall.

    On the 12 August flight, legal challenges managed to get 19 people with Removal Directions off the plane. However, the Home Office then substituted 14 different people who were on a “reserve list”. Lawyers suspect that these 14 people did not have sufficient access to legal representation before their flight which is why they were able to be removed.

    Of the 19 people whose lawyers successfully challenged their attempted deportation, 12 would be deported on the next charter flight on 26 August. 6 were flown to Dusseldorf in Germany, and 6 to Clermont-Ferrand in France.

    Another flight was scheduled for the 27 August to Spain. However, lawyers managed to get everyone taken off, and the Home Office cancelled the flight. A Whitehall source was quoted as saying “there was 100% legal attrition rate on the flight due to unprecedented and organised casework barriers sprung on the government by three law firms.” It is suspected that the Home Office will continue their efforts to deport these people on future charter flights.

    Who was deported?

    All the people on the flights were refugees who had claimed asylum in the UK immediately on arrival at Dover. While the tabloids paint deportation flights as carrying “dangerous criminals”, none of these people had any criminal charges.

    They come from countries including Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and Kuwait. (Ten further Yemenis were due to be on the failed flight to Spain. In June, the UK government said it will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia to use in the bombardment of the country that has cost tens of thousands of lives).

    All have well-founded fears of persecution in their countries of origin, where there have been extensive and well-documented human rights abuses. At least some of the deportees are survivors of torture – and have been documented as such in the Home Office’s own assessments.

    One was a minor under 18 who was age assessed by the Home Office as 25 – despite them being in possession of his passport proving his real age. Unaccompanied minors should not legally be processed under the Dublin III regulation, let alone held in detention and deported.

    Many, if not all, have friends and families in the UK.

    No one had their asylum case assessed – all were removed under the Dublin III procedure (see Legal Framework section below).

    Timeline of the flight on 26 August

    Night of 25 August: Eight people due to be on the flight self-harm or attempt suicide. Others have been on hunger strike for more than a week already. Three are taken to hospital where they are hastily treated before being discharged so they can still be placed on the flight. Another five are simply bandaged up in Brook House’s healthcare facility. (See testimony above.)

    26 August, 4am onwards: Guards come to take deportees from their rooms in Brook House. There are numerous testimonies of violence: three or four guards enter rooms with shields, helmets, and riot gear and beat up prisoners if they show any resistance.

    4am onwards: The injured prisoners are taken by guards to be inspected by a doctor, in a corridor in front of officials, and are certified as “fit to fly”.

    5am onwards: Prisoners are taken one by one to waiting vans. Each is placed in a separate van with four guards. Vans are labelled with the Mitie “Care and Custody” logo. Prisoners are then kept sitting in the vans until everyone is loaded, which takes one to two hours.

    6am onwards: Vans drive from Brook House (near Gatwick Airport) to Stansted Airport. They enter straight into the airport charter flight area. Deportees are taken one by one from the vans and onto Titan’s waiting plane. It is an anonymous looking white Airbus A321-211 without the company’s livery, with the registration G-POWU. They are escorted up the steps with a guard on each side.

    On the plane there are four guards to each person: one seated on each side, one in the seat in front and one behind. Deportees are secured with restraint belts around their waists, so that their arms are handcuffed to the belts on each side. Besides the 12 deportees and 48 guards there are Home Office officials, Mitie managers, and two paramedics on the plane.

    7.48AM (BST): The Titan Airways plane (using flight number ZT311) departs Stansted airport.

    9.44AM (CEST): The flight lands in Dusseldorf. Six people are taken off the plane and are handed over to the German authorities.

    10.46AM (CEST): Titan’s Airbus takes off from Dusseldorf bound for Clermont-Ferrand, France with the remaining deportees.

    11.59AM (CEST): The Titan Airways plane (now with flight number ZT312) touches down at Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne airport and the remaining six deportees are disembarked from the plane and taken into the custody of the Police Aux Frontières (PAF, French border police).

    12:46PM (CEST): The plane leaves Clermont-Ferrand to return to the UK. It first lands in Gatwick, probably so the escorts and other officials get off, before continuing on to Stansted where the pilots finish their day.

    Dumped on arrival: Germany

    What happened to most of the deportees in Germany is not known, although it appears there was no comprehensive intake procedure by the German police. One deportee told us German police on arrival in Dusseldorf gave him a train ticket and told him to go to the asylum office in Berlin. When he arrived there, he was told to go back to his country. He told them he could not and that he had no money to stay in Berlin or travel to another country. The asylum office told him he could sleep on the streets of Berlin.

    Only one man appears to have been arrested on arrival. This was the person who had attempted suicide the night before, cutting his head and neck with razors, and had been bleeding throughout the flight.
    Dumped on arrival: France

    The deportees were taken to Clermont-Ferrand, a city in the middle of France, hundreds of kilometres away from metropolitan centres. Upon arrival they were subjected to a COVID nose swab test and then held by the PAF while French authorities decided their fate.

    Two were released around an hour and a half later with appointments to claim asylum in around one week’s time – in regional Prefectures far from Clermont-Ferrand. They were not offered any accommodation, further legal information, or means to travel to their appointments.

    The next person was released about another hour and a half after them. He was not given an appointment to claim asylum, but just provided with a hotel room for four nights.

    Throughout the rest of the day the three other detainees were taken from the airport to the police station to be fingerprinted. Beginning at 6PM these three began to be freed. The last one was released seven hours after the deportation flight landed. The police had been waiting for the Prefecture to decide whether or not to transfer them to the detention centre (Centre de Rétention Administrative – CRA). We don’t know if a factor in this was that the nearest detention centre, at Lyon, was full up.

    However, these people were not simply set free. They were given expulsion papers ordering them to leave France (OQTF: Obligation de quitter le territoire français), and banning them from returning (IRTF: Interdiction de retour sur le territoire français). These papers allowed them only 48 hours to appeal. The British government has said that people deported on flights to France have the opportunity to claim asylum in France. This is clearly not true.

    In a further bureaucratic contradiction, alongside expulsion papers people were also given orders that they must report to the Clermont-Ferrand police station every day at 10:00AM for the next 45 days (potentially to be arrested and detained at any point). They were told that if they failed to report, the police would consider them on the run.

    The Prefecture also reserved a place in a hotel many kilometres away from the airport for them for four nights, but not any further information or ways to receive food. They were also not provided any way to get to this hotel, and the police would not help them – stating that their duty finished once they gave the deportees their papers.

    “After giving me the expulsion papers the French policeman said ‘Now you can go to England.’” (Testimony of deported person)

    The PAF showed a general disregard for the health and well-being of the deportees who were in the custody throughout the day. One of the deportees had been in a wheel-chair throughout the day and was unable to walk due to the deep lacerations on his feet from self-harming. He was never taken to the hospital, despite the doctor’s recommendation, neither during the custody period nor after his release. In fact, the only reason for the doctor’s visit in the first place was to assess whether he was fit to be detained should the Prefecture decide that. The police kept him in his bloody clothes all day, and when they released him he did not have shoes and could barely walk. No crutches were given, nor did the police offer to help him get to the hotel. He was put out on the street having to carry all of his possessions in a Home Office issue plastic bag.
    “the hardest night of my life”

    “It was the hardest night of my life. My heart break was so great that I seriously thought of suicide. I put the razor in my mouth to swallow it; I saw my whole life pass quickly until the first hours of dawn. The treatment in detention was very bad, humiliating and degrading. I despised myself and felt that my life was destroyed, but it was too precious to lose it easily. I took the razor out from my mouth before I was taken out of the room, where four large-bodied people, wearing armour similar to riot police and carrying protective shields, violently took me to the large hall at the ground floor of the detention centre. I was exhausted, as I had been on hunger strike for several days. In a room next to me, one of the deportees tried to resist and was beaten so severely that blood dripping from his nose. In the big hall, they searched me carefully and took me to a car like a dangerous criminal, two people on my right and left, they drove for about two hours to the airport, there was a big passenger plane on the runway. […] That moment, I saw my dreams, my hopes, shattered in front of me when I entered the plane.”

    Testimony of deported person (from Detained Voices: https://detainedvoices.com/2020/08/27/brook-house-protestor-on-his-deportation-it-was-the-hardest-night-of).

    The Legal Framework: Dublin III

    These deportations are taking place under the Dublin III regulation. This is EU law that determines which European country is responsible for assessing a refugee’s asylum claim. The decision involves a number of criteria, the primary ones being ‘family unity’ and the best interests of children. Another criterion, in the case of people crossing borders without papers, is which country they first entered ‘irregularly’. In the law, this is supposed to be less important than family ties – but it is the most commonly used ground by governments seeking to pass on asylum applicants to other states. All the people we know of on these flights were “Dublined” because the UK claimed they had previously been in France, Germany or Spain.

    (See: House of Commons intro briefing; Right to Remain toolkit section:
    https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/what-is-the-dublin-iii-regulation-will-it-be-affected-by-b
    https://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/dublin)

    By invoking the Dublin regulation, the UK evades actually assessing people’s asylum cases. These people were not deported because their asylum claims failed – their cases were simply never considered. The decision to apply Dublin III is made after the initial screening interview (now taking place in Yarl’s Wood). As we saw above, very few people are able to access any legal advice before these interviews are conducted and sometimes they are carried out by telephone or without adequate translation.

    Under Dublin III the UK must make a formal request to the other government it believes is responsible for considering the asylum claim to take the person back, and present evidence as to why that government should accept responsibility. Typically, the evidence provided is the record of the person’s fingerprints registered by another country on the Europe-wide EURODAC database.

    However, in the recent deportation cases the Home Office has not always provided fingerprints but instead relied on weak circumstantial evidence. Some countries have refused this evidence, but others have accepted – notably France.

    There seems to be a pattern in the cases so far where France is accepting Dublin III returns even when other countries have refused. The suspicion is that the French government may have been incentivised to accept ‘take-back’ requests based on very flimsy evidence as part of the recent Franco-British Channel crossing negotiations (France reportedly requested £30m to help Britain make the route ‘unviable’).

    In theory, accepting a Dublin III request means that France (or another country) has taken responsibility to process someone’s asylum claim. In practice, most of the people who arrived at Clermont-Ferrand on 26 August were not given any opportunity to claim asylum – instead they were issued with expulsion papers ordering them to leave France and Europe. They were also only given 48 hours to appeal these expulsions orders without any further legal information; a near impossibility for someone who has just endured a forceful expulsion and may require urgent medical treatment.

    Due to Brexit, the United Kingdom will no longer participate in Dublin III from 31 December 2020. While there are non-EU signatories to the agreement like Switzerland and Norway, it is unclear what arrangements the UK will have after that (as with basically everything else about Brexit). If there is no overall deal, the UK will have to negotiate numerous bilateral agreements with European countries. This pattern of expedited expulsion without a proper screening process established with France could be a taste of things to come.

    Conclusion: rushed – and illegal?

    Charter flight deportations are one of the most obviously brutal tools used by the UK Border Regime. They involve the use of soul-crushing violence by the Home Office and its contractors (Mitie, Titan Airways, Britannia Hotels, and all) against people who have already lived through histories of trauma.

    For these recent deportations of Channel crossers the process seems particularly rushed. People who have risked their lives in the Channel are scooped into a machine designed to deny their asylum rights and expel them ASAP – for the sake of a quick reaction to the latest media panic. New procedures appear to have been introduced off the cuff by Home Office officials and in under-the-table deals with French counterparts.

    As a result of this rush-job, there seem to be numerous irregularities in the process. Some have been already flagged up in the successful legal challenges to the Spanish flight on 27 August. The detention and deportation of boat-crossers may well be largely illegal, and is open to being challenged further on both sides of the Channel.

    Here we recap a few particular issues:

    The highly politicised nature of the expulsion process for small boat crossers means they are being denied access to a fair asylum procedure by the Home Office.

    The deportees include people who are victims of torture and of trafficking, as well as under-aged minors.

    People are being detained, rushed through screening interviews, and “Dublined” without access to legal advice and necessary information.

    In order to avoid considering asylum requests, Britain is applying Dublin III often just using flimsy circumstantial evidence – and France is accepting these requests, perhaps as a result of recent negotiations and financial arrangements.

    Many deportees have family ties in the UK – but the primary Dublin III criterion of ‘family unity’ is ignored.

    In accepting Dublin III requests France is taking legal responsibility for people’s asylum claims. But in fact it has denied people the chance to claim asylum, instead immediately issuing expulsion papers.

    These expulsion papers (‘Order to quit France’ and ‘Ban from returning to France’ or ‘OQTF’ and ‘IRTF’) are issued with only 48 hour appeal windows. This is completely inadequate to ensure a fair procedure – even more so for traumatised people who have just endured detention and deportation, then been dumped in the middle of nowhere in a country where they have no contacts and do not speak the language.

    This completely invalidates the Home Office’s argument that the people it deports will be able to access a fair asylum procedure in France.

    https://corporatewatch.org/cast-away-the-uks-rushed-charter-flights-to-deport-channel-crossers

    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #UK #Angleterre #Dublin #expulsions #renvois #Royaume_Uni #vols #charter #France #Allemagne #Espagne #Home_Office #accord #témoignage #violence #Brexit #Priti_Patel #Royal_Navy #plan_opérationnel_conjoint #Manche #Commandant_de_la_menace_clandestine_dans_la_Manche #Cherbourg #militarisation_des_frontières #frontières #Calais #Dunkerque #navires #Border_Force_Cutters #avions_de_surveillance #Royal_Air_Force #Opération_Sillath #refoulements #push-backs #Douvres #Kent_Intake_Unit #Yarl’s_Wood #Bedfordshire #Serco #Short_Term_Holding_Facility (#SHTF) #hôtel #Mears #hôtels_Britannia #Alex_Langsam #Immigration_Enforcement_squads #Heathrow #Colnbrook #Harmondsworth #Gatwick #aéroport #Brook_Hous #G4S #Removal_Directions #Carlson_Wagonlit_Travel (#CWT) #privatisation #compagnies_aériennes #Titan_Airways #Clermont-Ferrand #Düsseldorf

    @karine4 —> il y a une section dédiée à l’arrivée des vols charter en France (à Clermont-Ferrand plus précisément) :
    Larguées à destination : la France

    ping @isskein

    • Traduction française :

      S’en débarrasser : le Royaume Uni se précipite pour expulser par vols charters les personnes qui traversent la Manche

      Attention : ce document contient des récits de violence, tentatives de suicide et automutilation.

      Le Royaume Uni s’attache à particulièrement réprimer les migrants traversant la Manche dans de petites embarcations, répondant comme toujours à la panique propagée par les tabloïds britanniques. Une partie de sa stratégie consiste en une nouvelle vague d’expulsions massives : des vols charters, ciblant spécifiquement les personnes traversant la Manche, vers la France, l’Allemagne et l’Espagne.

      Deux vols ont eu lieu jusqu’à présent, les 12 et 26 août. Le prochain est prévu pour le 3 septembre. Les deux vols récents ont fait escale à la fois en Allemagne (Düsseldorf) et en France (Toulouse le 12, Clermont-Ferrand le 26). Un autre vol était prévu pour l’Espagne le 27 août – mais il a été annulé après que les avocat-es aient réussi à faire descendre tout le monde de l’avion.

      Menées à la hâte par un Home Office en panique, ces déportations massives ont été particulièrement brutales, et ont pu impliquer de graves irrégularités juridiques. Ce rapport résume ce que nous savons jusqu’à présent après avoir parlé à un certain nombre de personnes expulsées et à d’autres sources. Il couvre :

      Le contexte : Les traversées en bateau de Calais et l’accord entre le Royaume-Uni et la France pour les faire cesser.
      Au Royaume-Uni : Yarl’s Wood reconverti en centre de traitement de personnes traversant la Manche ; Britannia Hotels ; le centre de détention de Brook House, toujours aussi brutal.
      Les vols : Calendrier détaillé du charter du 26 août vers Düsseldorf et Clermont-Ferrand.
      Qui est à bord du vol : Les personnes réfugiées, y compris des mineurs et des personnes torturées.
      Délaissé à l’arrivée : Les personnes arrivant en Allemagne et en France qui n’ont pas la possibilité de demander l’asile se voient délivrer immédiatement des documents d’expulsion.
      Les questions juridiques : Utilisation du règlement Dublin III pour se soustraire de la responsabilité à l’égard des réfugiés.
      Est-ce illégal ? : la précipitation du processus entraîne de nombreuses irrégularités.

      “cette nuit-là, huit personnes se sont automutilées”

      Cette nuit-là avant le vol (25 août), lorsque nous étions enfermés dans nos chambres et que j’ai appris que j’avais perdu en appel, j’étais désespéré. J’ai commencé à me mutiler. Je n’étais pas le seule. Huit personnes se sont automutilées ou ont tenté de se suicider plutôt que d’être emmenées dans cet avion. Un homme s’est jeté une bouilloire d’eau bouillante sur lui-même. Un homme a essayé de se pendre avec le câble de télé dans sa chambre. Trois d’entre nous ont été emmenés à l’hôpital, mais renvoyés au centre de détention après quelques heures. Les cinq autres ont été emmenés à l’infirmerie de Brook House où on leur a mis des pansements. Vers 5 heures du matin, ils sont venus dans ma chambre, des gardes avec des boucliers anti-émeutes. Sur le chemin pour aller au van, ils m’ont fait traverser une sorte de couloir rempli de gens – gardes, directeurs, fonctionnaires du Home Office. Ils ont tous regardé pendant qu’un médecin m’examinait, puis le médecin a dit : “oui, il est apte à voler”. Dans l’avion, plus tard, j’ai vu un homme très gravement blessé, du sang dégoulinant de sa tête et sur ses vêtements. Il n’avait pas seulement essayé d’arrêter le vol, il voulait vraiment se tuer. Il a été emmené en Allemagne.

      Témoignage d’une personne déportée.

      Le contexte : les bateaux et les accords

      Depuis les années 1990, des dizaines de milliers de personnes fuyant la guerre, la répression et la pauvreté ont franchi le “court détroit” entre Calais et Dover. Jusqu’en 2018, les personnes sans papiers qui tentaient de traverser la Manche le faisaient principalement en montant dans des camions ou des trains passant par le tunnel sous la Manche. Les systèmes de sécurité autour des parkings de camions, du tunnel et de l’autoroute ont été massivement renforcés après l’expulsion de la grande jungle en 2016. Cela a obligé les gens à chercher d’autres itinéraires, toujours plus dangereux, y compris en traversant l’une des voies navigables les plus fréquentées du monde à bord de petits bateaux. Environ 300 personnes ont emprunté cet itinéraire en 2018, 2000 autres en 2019 – et, selon les rapports, plus de 5000 personnes entre janvier et août 2020.

      Ces passages ont été relayés par les médias britanniques lors de leur dernière vague de publications xénophobiques et alarmistes. Le schéma n’est que trop familier depuis le camp Sangatte en 1999 : les médias de droite (le plus célèbre étant le Daily Mail, mais aussi d’autres) diffusent des articles abusifs sur les dangereux “illégaux” qui déferleraient à travers la Manche ; et le gouvernement britannique répond par des promesses de répression.

      Renforcé par le Brexit, les mesures et annonces récentes comprennent :

      Le ministre de l’intérieur, Priti Patel, annonce une nouvelle loi sur l’asile et l’immigration “plus juste” qui, promet-elle, “fera s’effondrer la gauche”.
      Une demande officielle du Home Office à la Royal Navy pour aider à refouler les migrants qui traversent par bateau (bien que cela soit illégal).
      Négociations avec le gouvernement français, qui ont abouti à l’annonce le 13 août d’un “plan opérationnel conjoint” visant “ à couper complètement cette route”.
      La nomination d’un “Commandant de la menace clandestine dans la Manche” pour superviser les opérations des deux côtés de la Manche.

      Les mesures concrètes se font encore attendre, mais les évolutions notables jusqu’à présent sont les suivantes :

      D’autres paiements du Royaume-Uni à la France pour accroître la sécurité – la France aurait demandé 30 millions de livres sterling.
      Des navires de guerre français de la base navale de Cherbourg patrouillant au large des côtes de Calais et de Dunkerque.
      Des Border Force Cutters (navires) et les patrouilleurs côtiers britanniques patrouillant du côté anglais soutenus par des avions de surveillance de la Royal Air Force.
      Le nouveau programme d’expulsion par vol charter – qui aurait été baptisé “Opération Sillath” par le ministère de l’intérieur.

      Pour l’instant, du moins, les gouvernements respectent leurs obligations légales minimales en matière de protection de la vie en mer. Et il n’y a pas eu de preuves de “push backs” (refoulement) ou de “pull backs” illégaux : où, de force, soit des bateaux britanniques “poussent”, soit des bateaux français “tirent” des bateaux vers l’un ou l’autre côté de la frontière. Lorsque ces bateaux sont interceptés dans les eaux françaises, les voyageurs sont ramenés en France. S’ils parviennent à entrer dans les eaux britanniques, la police aux frontières britannique les récupère et les débarque à Douvres. Ils peuvent alors demander l’asile au Royaume-Uni.

      Il n’y a pas de différence juridique entre demander l’asile après être arrivé par bateau, par avion ou de toute autre manière. Cependant, ces personnes traversant par petits bateaux ont été ciblées par le gouvernement pour être traitées d’une manière spéciale, semble-t-il conçue pour leur refuser le droit d’asile au Royaume-Uni.

      Une fois que les personnes sont à terre et en sécurité, le deuxième volet de la stratégie de Priti Patel visant à rendre cette voie non viable entre en jeu : systématiquement faire obstacle à leur demande d’asile et, si possible, les expulser vers la France ou d’autres pays européens. En pratique, il est impossible pour le Home Office d’expulser toutes les personnes qui réussissent à traverser. Il s’agit plutôt, comme dans la grande majorité des politiques d’immigration, de faire preuve de fermeté avec un spectacle de mise en vigueur – non seulement pour tenter de dissuader d’autres arrivant-es, mais peut-être surtout pour se mettre en scène devant les principaux médias.

      C’est là qu’intervient la nouvelle vague de vols charter. Les expulsions nécessitent la coopération du pays de destination, et le premier vol a eu lieu le 12 août en plein milieu des négociations franco-britanniques. Plus récemment, ces vols ont alimenté un nouveau spectacle médiatique au Royaume-Uni : le Home Office s’en prend aux “avocats militants” qui font leur travail en contestant les principales failles juridiques de ces renvois précipités.

      Le Home Office a tenté de présenter ces vols d’expulsion comme une réponse immédiate et forte aux traversées de la Manche. Le message est le suivant : si vous traversez la Manche, vous serez de retour dans les jours qui suivent. Là encore, il s’agit plus de spectacle que de réalité. Toutes les personnes que nous connaissons sur ces vols étaient au Royaume-Uni plusieurs mois avant d’être expulsées.

      Au Royaume-Uni : Yarl’s Wood réaffecté

      Une fois à terre en Angleterre, les personnes sont emmenées à l’un des deux endroits suivants : soit la Kent Intake Unit (Unité d’admission du Kent), qui est un centre de détention du ministère de l’intérieur (c’est-à-dire un petit complexe de cellules préfabriquées) dans les docks à l’est du port de Douvres ; soit le poste de police de Douvres. Ce poste de police semble être de plus en plus l’endroit principal, car la petite “unité d’admission” est souvent pleine. Il y avait autrefois un centre de détention à Douvres où étaient détenus les nouveaux arrivants, qui était connu pour son état de délabrement, mais a été fermé en octobre 2015.

      Les personnes sont généralement détenues au poste de police pendant une journée maximum. La destination suivante est généralement Yarl’s Wood, le centre de détention du Bedfordshire géré par Serco. Il s’agissait, jusqu’à récemment, d’un centre de détention à long terme qui accueillait principalement des femmes. Cependant, le 18 août, le ministère de l’intérieur a annoncé que Yarl’s Wood avait été réaménagé en “centre de détention de courte durée” (Short Term Holding Facility – SHTF) pour traiter spécifiquement les personnes qui ont traversé la Manche. Les personnes ne restent généralement que quelques jours – le séjour maximum légal pour un centre de “courte durée” est de sept jours.

      Yarl’s Wood a une capacité normale de 410 prisonniers. Selon des sources à Yarl’s Wood :

      “La semaine dernière, c’était presque plein avec plus de 350 personnes détenues. Quelques jours plus tard, ce nombre était tombé à 150, ce qui montre la rapidité avec laquelle les gens passent par le centre. Mardi 25 août, il n’y avait plus personne dans le centre ! Il semble probable que les chiffres fluctueront en fonction des traversées de la Manche.”

      La même source ajoute :

      “Il y a des inquiétudes concernant l’accès à l’aide juridique à Yarl’s Wood. La réglementation relative aux centres de détention provisoire n’exige pas que des conseils juridiques soient disponibles sur place (à Manchester, par exemple, il n’y a pas d’avocats de garde). Apparemment, le roulement des avocats de garde se poursuit à Yarl’s Wood pour l’instant. Mais la rapidité avec laquelle les personnes sont traitées maintenant signifie qu’il est pratiquement impossible de s’inscrire et d’obtenir un rendez-vous avec l’avocat de garde avant d’être transféré”.

      Le ministère de l’Intérieur mène les premiers entretiens d’évaluation des demandeurs d’asile pendant qu’ils sont à Yarl’s Wood. Ces entretiens se font parfois en personne, ou parfois par téléphone.

      C’est un moment crucial, car ce premier entretien détermine les chances de nombreuses personnes de demander l’asile au Royaume-Uni. Le ministère de l’intérieur utilise les informations issues de cet entretien pour expulser les personnes qui traversent la Manche vers la France et l’Allemagne en vertu du règlement Dublin III. Il s’agit d’une législation de l’Union Européenne (UE) qui permet aux gouvernements de transférer la responsabilité de l’évaluation de la demande d’asile d’une personne vers un autre État. Autrement dit, le Royaume-Uni ne commence même pas à examiner les demandes d’asile des personnes.

      D’après ce que nous avons vu, beaucoup de ces évaluations de Dublin III ont été faites de manière précipitée et irrégulière. Elles se sont souvent appuyées sur de faibles preuves circonstancielles. Peu de personnes ont eu la possibilité d’obtenir des conseils juridiques, ou même des interprètes pour expliquer le processus.

      Nous abordons Dublin III et les questions soulevées ci-dessous dans la section “Cadre juridique”.
      Au Royaume-Uni : les pires hôtels britanniques

      De Yarl’s Wood, les personnes à qui nous avons parlé ont été libérées sous caution (elles devaient respecter des conditions spécifiques aux personnes immigrées) dans des hébergement pour demandeurs d’asile. Dans un premier temps, cet hébergement signifie un hôtel à bas prix. En raison de l’épidémie du COVID-19, le Home Office a ordonné aux entreprises sous-traitantes (Mears, Serco) qui administrent habituellement les centres d’accueil pour demandeurs d’asile de fermer leurs places d’hébergement et d’envoyer les personnes à l’hôtel. Cette décision est loin d’être claire, du fait que de nombreux indicateurs suggèrent que les hôtels sont bien pires en ce qui concerne la propagation du COVID. Le résultat de cette politique s’est déjà avéré fatal – voir la mort d’Adnan Olbeh à l’hôtel Glasgow en avril.

      Peut-être le gouvernement essaie de soutenir des chaînes telles que Britannia Hotels, classée depuis sept ans à la suite comme la “pire chaîne d’hôtel britannique” par le magazine des consommateurs Which ?. Plusieurs personnes envoyées par charter avaient été placées dans des hôtels Britannia. Le principal propriétaire de cette chaîne, le multi-millionnaire Alex Langsam, a été surnommé « le roi de l’asile » par les médias britanniques après avoir remporté précédemment à l’aide de ses taudis d’autres contrats pour l’hébergement des demandeurs d’asile.

      Certaines des personnes déportées à qui nous avons parlé sont restées dans ce genre d’hôtels plusieurs semaines avant d’être envoyées dans des lieux de “dispersion des demandeurs d’asile” – des logements partagés situés dans les quartiers les plus pauvres de villes très éloignées de Londres. D’autres ont été mises dans l’avion directement depuis les hôtels.

      Dans les deux cas, la procédure habituelle est le raid matinal : Des équipes de mise-en-œuvre de l’immigration (Immigration Enforcement squads) arrachent les gens de leur lit à l’aube. Comme les personnes sont dans des hôtels qui collaborent ou assignées à des maisons, il est facile de les trouver et de les arrêter quand elles sont les prochains sur la liste des déportations.

      Après l’arrestation, les personnes ont été amenées aux principaux centres de détention près de Heathrow (Colnbrook et Harmondsworth) ou Gatwick (particulièrement Brook House). Quelques-unes ont d’abord été gardées au commissariat ou en détention pour des séjours de court terme pendant quelques heures ou quelques jours.

      Tous ceux à qui nous avons parlé ont finalement terminé à Brook House, un des deux centres de détention de Gatwick.
      « ils sont venus avec les boucliers »

      Une nuit, à Brook House, après que quelqu’un se soit mutilé, ils ont enfermé tout le monde. Un homme a paniqué et a commencé à crier en demandant aux gardes « S’il vous plaît, ouvrez la porte ». Mais il ne parlait pas bien anglais et criait en arabe. Il a dit : « Si vous n’ouvrez pas la porte je vais faire bouillir de l’eau dans ma bouilloire et me la verser sur le visage ». Mais ils ne l’ont pas compris, ils pensaient qu’il était en train de les menacer et qu’il était en train de dire qu’il allait jeter l’eau bouillante sur eux. Alors ils sont arrivés avec leurs boucliers, ils l’ont jeté hors de sa cellule et ils l’ont mis en isolement. Quand ils l’ont mis là-bas, ils lui ont donné des coups et ils l’ont battu, ils ont dit : « Ne nous menace plus jamais ». (Témoignage d’une personne déportée)

      Brook House

      Brook House reste tristement célèbre après les révélations d’un lanceur d’alerte sur les brutalités quotidiennes et les humiliations commises par les gardes qui travaillent pour G4S. Leur contrat a depuis été repris par la branche emprisonnement de Mitie – dont la devise est « Care and Custody, a Mitie company » (traduction : « Soins et détention, une entreprise Mitie »). Probablement que beaucoup des mêmes gardes sont simplement passés d’une entreprise à l’autre.

      Dans tous les cas, d’après ce que les personnes déportées nous ont dit, pas grand chose n’a changé à Brook House – le vice et la violence des gardes restent la norme. Les histoires rapportées ici en donnent juste quelques exemples. Vous pouvez lire davantage dans les récents témoignages de personnes détenues sur le blog Detained Voices.
      « ils s’assurent juste que tu ne meures pas devant eux »

      J’étais dans ma cellule à Brook House seul depuis 12 jours, je ne pouvais ni manger ni boire, juste penser, penser à ma situation. J’ai demandé un docteur peut-être dix fois. Ils sont venus plusieurs fois, ils ont pris mon sang, mais ils n’ont rien fait d’autre. Ils s’en foutent de ta santé ou de ta santé mentale. Ils ont juste peur que tu meures là. Ils s’en foutent de ce qui t’arrive du moment que tu ne meures pas devant leurs yeux. Et ça n’a pas d’importance pour eux si tu meurs ailleurs.
      Témoignage d’une personne déportée.

      Préparation des vols

      Le Home Office délivre des papiers appelés « Instructions d’expulsion » (« Removal Directions » – Rds) aux personnes qu’ils ont l’intention de déporter. Y sont stipulés la destination et le jour du vol. Les personnes qui sont déjà en détention doivent recevoir ce papier au moins 72 heures à l’avance, incluant deux jours ouvrés, afin de leur permettre de faire un ultime appel de la décision.

      Voir Right to Remain toolkit pour des informations détaillés sur les délais légaux et sur les procédures d’appel.

      Tous les vols de déportation du Royaume Uni, les tickets qu’ils soient pour un avion de ligne régulier ou un vol charter sont réservés via une agence de voyage privée appelée Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). La principale compagnie aérienne utilisée par le Home Office pour les vols charter est la compagnie de charter qui s’appelle Titan Airways.

      Voir 2018 Corporate Watch report pour les informations détaillées sur les procédures de vols charter et les compagnies impliquées. Et la mise-à-jour de 2020 sur les déportations en général.

      Concernant le vol du 12 août, des recours légaux ont réussi à faire sortir 19 personnes de l’avion qui avaient des Instructions d’expulsion ( Rds ). Cependant, le Home Office les a remplacées par 14 autres personnes qui étaient sur la « liste d’attente ». Les avocats suspectent que ces 14 personnes n’ont pas eu suffisamment accès à leur droit à être représentés par un-e avocat-e avant le vol, ce qui a permis qu’elles soient expulsés.

      Parmi les 19 personnes dont les avocat.es ont réussi à empêcher l’expulsion prévue, 12 ont finalement été déportées par le vol charter du 26 août : 6 personnes envoyées à Dusseldorf en Allemagne et 6 autres à Clermont-Ferrand en France.

      Un autre vol a été programmé le 27 août pour l’Espagne. Cependant les avocat-es ont réussi à faire retirer tout le monde, et le Home Office a annulé le vol. L’administration anglaise (Whitehall) a dit dans les médias : “le taux d’attrition juridique a été de 100 % pour ce vol en raison des obstacles sans précédent et organisés que trois cabinets d’avocats ont imposés au gouvernement.” Il y a donc de fortes chances que Home Office mettra tous ses moyens à disposition pour continuer à expulser ces personnes lors de prochains vols charters.

      Qui a été expulsé ?

      L’ensemble des personnes expulsées par avion sont des personnes réfugiées qui ont déposé leur demande d’asile au Royaume-Uni immédiatement après leur arrivée à Dover. La une des médias expose les personnes expulsées comme « de dangereux criminels », mais aucune d’entre elles n’a fait l’objet de poursuites.

      Ils viennent de différents pays dont l’Irak, le Yemen, le Soudan, la Syrie, l’Afghanistan et le Koweit. (Dix autres Yéménis devaient être expulsés par le vol annulé pour l’Espagne. Au mois de juin, le gouvernement du Royaume-Uni a annoncé la reprise des accords commerciaux de vente d’armes avec l’Arabie Saoudite qui les utilise dans des bombardements au Yemen qui ont déjà coûté la vie à des dizaines de milliers de personnes).

      Toutes ces personnes craignent à raison des persécution dans leurs pays d’origine – où les abus des Droits de l’Homme sont nombreux et ont été largement documentés. Au moins plusieurs des personnes expulsées ont survécu à la torture, ce qui a été documenté par le Home Office lui-même lors d’entretiens.

      Parmi eux, un mineur âgé de moins de 18 ans a été enregistré par le Home Office comme ayant 25 ans – alors même qu’ils étaient en possession de son passeport prouvant son âge réel. Les mineurs isolés ne devraient légalement pas être traités avec la procédure Dublin III, et encore moins être placés en détention et être expulsés.

      Beaucoup de ces personnes, si ce ne sont toutes, ont des ami-es et de la famille au Royaume-Uni.

      Aucune de leurs demandes d’asile n’a été évaluée – toutes ont été refusées dans le cadre de la procédure Dublin III (cf. Cadre Légal plus bas).

      Chronologie du vol du 26 août

      Nuit du 25 août : Huit des personnes en attente de leur expulsion se mutilent ou tentent de se suicider. D’autres personnes font une grève de la faim depuis plus d’une semaine. Trois d’entre elles sont amenées à l’hôpital, hâtivement prises en charge pour qu’elles puissent être placées dans l’avion. Cinq autres se sont simplement vus délivrer quelques compresses au service des soins du centre de détention de Brook House. (cf. le témoignage ci-dessus)

      26 août, vers 4 heure du matin : Les gardiens récupèrent les personnes expulsables dans leurs cellules. Il y a de nombreux témoignages de violence : trois ou quatre gardiens en tenue anti-émeute avec casques et boucliers s’introduisent dans les cellules et tabassent les détenus à la moindre résistance.

      vers 4 heure du matin : Les détenus blessés sont amenés par les gardiens pour être examinés par un médecin dans un couloir, face aux fonctionnaires, et sont jugés « apte à prendre l’avion ».

      vers 5 heure du matin : Les détenus sont amenés un par un dans les fourgons. Chacun est placé dans un fourgon séparé, entouré de quatre gardiens. Les fourgons portent le logo de l’entreprise Mitie « Care and Custody ». Les détenus sont gardés dans les fourgons le temps de faire monter tout le monde, ce qui prend une à deux heures.

      vers 6 heure du matin : Les fourgons vont du centre de détention de Brook House (près de l’Aéroport Gatwick) à l’Aéroport Stansted et entrent directement dans la zone réservée aux vols charters. Les détenus sont sortis un par un des fourgons vers l’avion de la compagnie aérienne Titan. Il s’agit d’un avion Airbus A321-211, avec le numéro d’enregistrement G-POWU, au caractère anonyme, qui ne porte aucun signe distinctif de la compagnie aérienne. Les détenus sont escortés en haut des escaliers avec un gardien de chaque côté.

      Dans l’avion quatre gardiens sont assignés à chaque personne : deux de part et d’autre sur les sièges mitoyens, un sur le siège devant et un sur le siège derrière. Les détenus sont maintenus avec une ceinture de restriction au niveau de leur taille à laquelle sont également attachées leurs mains par des menottes. En plus des 12 détenus et 48 gardiens, il y a des fonctionnaires du Home Office, des managers de Mitie, et deux personnels paramédicaux dans l’avion.

      7h58 (BST) : L’avion de la compagnie Titan (dont le numéro de vol est ZT311) décolle de l’Aéroport Stansted.

      9h44 (CEST) : Le vol atterrit à Dusseldorf. Six personnes sont sorties de l’avion, laissées aux mains des autorités allemandes.

      10h46 (CEST) : L’avion Titan décolle de Dusseldorf pour rejoindre Clermont-Ferrand avec le reste des détenus.

      11h59 (CEST) : L’avion (dont le numéro de vol est maintenant ZT312) atterrit à l’Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne et les six autres détenus sont débarqués et amenés aux douanes de la Police Aux Frontières (PAF).

      12h46 (CEST) : L’avion quitte Clermont-Ferrand pour retourner au Royaume-Uni. Il atterrit d’abord à l’Aéroport Gatwick, probablement pour déposer les gardiens et les fonctionnaires, avant de finir sa route à l’Aéroport Stansted où les pilotes achèvent leur journée.

      Larguées à destination : l’Allemagne

      Ce qu’il est arrivé aux personnes expulsées en Allemagne n’est pas connu, même s’il semblerait qu’il n’y ait pas eu de procédure claire engagée par la police allemande. Un des expulsés nous a rapporté qu’à son arrivée à Dusseldorf, la police allemande lui a donné un billet de train en lui disant de se rendre au bureau de la demande d’asile à Berlin. Une fois là-bas, on lui a dit de retourner dans son pays. Ce à quoi il a répondu qu’il ne pouvait pas y retourner et qu’il n’avait pas non plus d’argent pour rester à Berlin ou voyager dans un autre pays. Le bureau de la demande d’asile a répondu qu’il pouvait dormir dans les rues de Berlin.

      Un seul homme a été arrêté à son arrivée. Il s’agit d’une personne qui avait tenté de se suicider la veille en se mutilant à la tête et au coup au rasoir, et qui avait saigné tout au long du vol.
      Larguées à destination : la France

      Les expulsés ont été transportés à Clermont-Ferrand, une ville située au milieu de la France, à des centaines de kilomètres des centres métropolitains. Dès leur arrivée ils ont été testés pour le COVID par voie nasale et retenus par la PAF pendant que les autorités françaises décidaient de leur sort.

      Deux d’entre eux ont été libérés à peu près une heure et demi après, une fois donnés des rendez-vous au cours de la semaine suivante pour faire des demandes d’asile dans des Préfectures de région eloignées de Clermont-Ferrand. Il ne leur a été proposé aucun logement, ni information légale, ni moyen pour se déplacer jusqu’à leurs rendez-vous.

      La personne suivante a été libérée environ une heure et demi après eux. Il ne lui a pas été donné de rendez-vous pour demander l’asile, mais il lui a juste été proposé une chambre d’hotel pour quatre nuits.

      Pendant le reste de la journée, les trois autres détenus ont été emmenés de l’aéroport au commisariat pour prendre leurs empreintes. On a commencé à les libérer à partir de 18h. Le dernier a été libéré sept heures après que le vol de déportation soit arrivé. La police a attendu que la Préfecture décide de les transférer ou non au Centre de Rétention Administrative (CRA). On ne sait pas si la raison à cela était que le centre le plus proche, à Lyon, était plein.

      Cependant, ces personnes n’ont pas été simplement laissées libres. Il leur a été donné des ordres d’expulsion (OQTF : Obligation de quitter le territoire francais) et des interdictions de retour sur le territoire francais (IRTF). Ces document ne leur donnent que48h pour faire appel. Le gouverment britannique a dit que les personnes déportées par avion en France avaient la possibilité de demander l’asile en France. C’est clairement faux.

      Pour aller plus loin dans les contradictions bureaucratique, avec les ordres d’expulsion leurs ont été donnés l’ordre de devoir se présenter à la station de police de Clermont-Ferrand tous les jours à dix heures du matin dans les 45 prochains jours (pour potentiellement y être arrêtés et detenus à ces occasions). Ils leur a été dit que si ils ne s’y présentaient pas la police
      les considèrerait comme en fuite.

      La police a aussi réservé une place dans un hotel à plusieurs kilomètre de l’aéroport pour quatres nuits, mais sans aucune autre information ni aide pour se procurer de quoi s’alimenter. Il ne leur a été fourni aucun moyen de se rendre à cet hôtel et la police a refusé de les aider – disant que leur mission s’arretait à la délivrance de leurs documents d’expulsion.

      Après m’avoir donné les papiers d’expulsion, le policier francais a dit
      ‘Maintenant tu peux aller en Angleterre’.
      Temoignage de la personne expulsée

      La police aux frontières (PAF) a ignoré la question de la santé et du
      bien-être des personnes expulsées qui étaient gardées toute la journée.
      Une des personnes était en chaise roulante toute la journée et était
      incapable de marcher du fait des blessures profondes à son pied, qu’il
      s’était lui même infligées. Il n’a jamais été emmené à l’hôpital malgré les
      recommendations du médecin, ni durant la période de détention, ni après
      sa libération. En fait, la seule raison à la visite du médecin était initialement d’évaluer s’il était en mesure d’être detenu au cas où la Préfecture le déciderait. La police l’a laissé dans ses vêtements souillés de sang toute la journée et quand ils l’ont libéré il n’avait pas eu de chaussures et pouvait à peine marcher. Ni béquilles, ni aide pour rejoindre l’hotel ne lui ont été donnés par la police. Il a été laissé dans la rue, devant porter toutes ses
      affaires dans un sac en plastique du Home Office.
      “La nuit la plus dure de ma vie”

      Ce fut la nuit la plus dure de ma vie. Mon coeur était brisé si fort que j’ai sérieusement pensé au suicide. J’ai mis le rasoir dans ma bouche pour l’avaler ; j’ai vu ma vie entière passer rapidement jusqu’aux premières heures du jour. Le traitement en détention était très mauvais, humiliant et dégradant. Je me suis haï et je sentais que ma vie était détruite mais au même temps elle était trop précieuse pour la perdre si facilement. J’ai recraché le razoir de ma bouche avant d’être sorti de la chambre où quatre personnes à l’allure impossante, portant la même tenue de CRS et des boucliers de protéction, m’ont violemment emmené dans le grand hall au rez-de-chaussée du centre de détention. J’étais épuisé puisque j’avais fait une grève de la faim depuis plusieurs jours. Dans la chambre à côte de moi un des déportés a essayé de resister et a été battu si sévèrement que du sang a coulé de son nez. Dans le grand hall ils m’ont fouillé avec soin et m’ont escorté jusqu’à la voiture comme un dangerux criminel, deux personnes à ma gauche et à ma droite. Ils ont conduit environ deux heures jusqu’à l’aéroport, il y avait un grand avion sur la piste de décollage. […] A ce moment, j’ai vu mes rêves, mes espoirs, brisés devant moi en entrant dans l’avion.
      Temoignage d’une personne déportée (de Detained Voices)

      Le cade légal : Dublin III

      Ces expulsions se déroulent dans le cadre du règlement Dublin III. Il s’agit de la législation déterminant quel pays européen doit évaluer la demande d’asile d’une personne réfugiée. Cette décision implique un certain nombre de critères, l’un des principaux étant le regroupement familial et l’intérêt supérieur de l’enfant. Un autre critère, dans le cas des personnes franchissant la frontières sans papiers, est le premier pays dans lequel ils entrent « irrégulièrement ». Dans cette loi, ce critère est supposé être moins important que les attaches familiales. Mais il est communément employé par les gouvernements cherchant à rediriger les demandes d’asile à d’autres Etats. Toutes les personnes que nous connaissions sur ces vols étaient « dublinés » car le Royaume-Uni prétendait qu’ils avaient été en France, en Allemagne ou en Espagne.

      (Voir : briefing à l’introduction du House of Commons ; Home Office staff handbook (manuel du personnel du ministère de l’intérieur ; section Dublin Right to remain .)

      En se référant au règlement Dublin, le Royaume-Uni évite d’examiner les cas de demande d’asile. Ces personnes ne sont pas expulsées parce que leur demande d’asile a été refusée. Leurs demandes ne sont simplement jamais examinées. La décision d’appliquer le règlement Dublin est prise après la premier entretien filmé ( à ce jour, au centre de détention de Yarl’s Wood). Comme nous l’avons vu plus haut, peu de personnes sont dans la capacité d’avoir accès à une assistance juridique avant ces entretiens, quelquefois menés par téléphone et sans traduction adéquate.

      Avec le Dublin III, le Royaume-Uni doit faire la demande formelle au gouvernement qu’il croit responsable d’examiner la demande d’asile, de reprendre le demandeur et de lui présenter la preuve à savoir pourquoi ce gouvernement devrait en accepter la responsabilité. Généralement, la preuve produite est le fichier des empreintes enregistrées par un autre pays sur la base de données EURODAC, à travers toute l’Europe.

      Cependant, lors des récents cas d’expulsion, le Home Office n’a pas toujours produit les empreintes, mais a choisi de se reposer sur de fragiles preuves circonstantielles. Certains pays ont refusé ce type de preuve, d’autres en revanche l’ont accepté, notamment la France.

      Il semble y avoir un mode de fonctionnement récurrent dans ces affaires où la France accepte les retours de Dublin III, quand bien même d’autres pays l’ont refusé. Le gouvernement français pourrait avoir été encouragé à accepter les « reprises/retours » fondés sur des preuves fragiles, dans le cadre des récentes négociations américano-britanniques sur la traversée de la Manche (La France aurait apparemment demandé 30 millions de livres pour aider la Grande-Bretagne à rendre la route non viable.)

      En théorie, accepter une demande Dublin III signifie que la France (ou tout autre pays) a pris la responsabilité de prendre en charge la demande d’asile d’un individu. Dans la pratique, la plupart des individus arrivés à Clermont-Ferrand le 26 août n’ont pas eu l’opportunité de demander l’asile. A la place, des arrêtés d’expulsion leur ont été adressés, leur ordonnant de quitter la France et l’Europe. On ne leur donne que 48h pour faire appel de l’ordre d’expulsion, sans plus d’information sur le dispositif légal. Ce qui apparaît souvent comme quasi impossible pour une personne venant d’endurer une expulsion forcée et qui pourrait nécessiter des soins médicaux urgents.

      Suite au Brexit, le Royaume-Uni ne participera pas plus au Dublin III à partir du 31 décembre 2020. Puisqu’il y a des signataires de cet accord hors Union-Européenne, comme la Suisse et la Norvège, le devenir de ces arrangements est encore flou (comme tout ce qui concerne le Brexit). S’il n’y a d’accord global, le Royaume-Uni devra négocier plusieurs accords bilatéraux avec les pays européens. Le schéma d’expulsion accéléré établi par la France sans processus d’évaluation adéquat de la demande d’asile pourrait être un avant-goût des choses à venir.
      Conclusion : expéditif – et illégal ?

      Évidemment, les expulsions par charter sont l’un des outils les plus manifestement brutaux employés par le régime frontalier du Royaume Uni. Elles impliquent l’emploi d’une violence moralement dévastatrice par le Home Office et ses entrepreneurs ((Mitie, Titan Airways, Britannia Hotels, et les autres) contre des personnes ayant déjà traversé des histoires traumatiques.

      Car les récentes expulsions de ceux qui ont traversé la Manche semblent particulièrement expéditives. Des personnes qui ont risqué le vie dans la Manche sont récupérées par une machine destinée à nier leur droit d’asile et à les expulser aussi vite que possible, pour satisfaire le besoin d’une réaction rapide à la dernière panique médiatique. De nouvelles procédures semblent avoir mises en place spontanément par des officiels du Ministère de l’Intérieur ainsi que des accords officieux avec leurs homologues français.

      En résultat de ce travail bâclé, il semble y avoir un certain nombre d’irrégularités dans la procédure. Certaines ont déjà été signalées dans des recours juridiques efficaces contre le vol vers l’Espagne du 27 août. La détention et l’expulsion des personnes qui ont traversé la Manche en bateau peut avoir été largement illégale et est susceptible d’être remise en cause plus profondément des deux côtés de la Manche.

      Ici, nous résumerons quelques enjeux spécifiques.

      La nature profondément politique du processus d’expulsion pour ces personnes qui ont fait la traversée sur de petits bateaux, ce qui signifie qu’on leur refuse l’accès à une procédure de demande d’asile évaluée par le Home Office.
      Les personnes réfugiées incluent des personnes victimes de torture, de trafic humain, aussi bien que des mineurs.
      Des individus sont détenus, précipités d’entretiens en entretiens, et « dublinés » sans la possibilité d’avoir accès à une assistance juridique et aux informations nécessaires.
      Afin d’éviter d’avoir à considérer des demandes d’asile, la Grande-Bretagne applique le règlement Dublin III, souvent en employant de faibles preuves circonstancielles – et la France accepte ces demandes, peut-être en conséquence des récentes négociations et arrangements financiers.
      De nombreuses personnes expulsées ont des attaches familiales au Royaume-Uni, mais le critère primordial du rapprochement familial du rêglement Dublin III est ignoré
      En acceptant les demandes Dublin, la France prend la responsabilité légale des demandes d’asile. Mais en réalité, elle prive ces personnes de la possibilité de demander l’asile, en leur assignant des papiers d’expulsion.
      Ces papiers d’expulsions (« Obligation de quitter le territoire français » and « Interdiction de retour sur le territoire français » ou OQTF et IRTF) sont assignées et il n’est possible de faire appel que dans les 48 heures qui suivent. C’est inadéquat pour assurer une procédure correcte, à plus forte raison pour des personnes traumatisées, passées par la détention, l’expulsion, larguées au milieu de nulle part, dans un pays où elles n’ont aucun contact et dont elles ne parlent pas la langue.
      Tout cela invalide complètement les arguments du Home Office qui soutient que les personnes qu’il expulse peuvent avoir accès à une procédure de demande d’asile équitable en France.

      https://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/2020/08/31/sen-debarrasser-le-royaume-uni-se-precipite-pour-

  • "Si un migrant est dans la région de Vintimille, c’est qu’il veut partir"

    À la frontière italo-française, des dizaines de migrants venus de tous horizons sont refoulés chaque jour après avoir tenté de passer en France. Solution de repli pour les refoulés fatigués de ce jeu du chat et de la souris, la ville de Vintimille, située à 10 kilomètres, est devenue ces derniers mois un territoire sans pitié pour les migrants.

    « Comme un ballon de foot »

    Visage masqué et pieds nus, Mohamed Ahmed a les yeux tournés vers la mer. Depuis le muret en pierres sur lequel il est assis à l’ombre des pins, il a une vue imprenable, splendide. La Méditerranée scintillante. La côte vallonnée - italienne d’abord, puis française un peu plus loin. Et la ville de Menton, facilement reconnaissable de l’autre côté de la baie, première cité de l’Hexagone en venant de cette partie de l’Italie. Mais le jeune homme ne semble pas apprécier ce paysage digne d’une carte postale. Il le regarde sans le voir. Bien que proche, Menton, et donc la France, lui est inaccessible.

    Inaccessible car Mohamed Ahmed est un migrant, soudanais, âgé de 25 ans, originaire du Darfour. Il a passé une partie de la nuit à marcher, dans l’espoir de traverser illégalement la frontière. L’autre partie, il l’a passée dans un préfabriqué exigu et sans toit appartenant à la PAF (police aux frontières) de Menton. Le matin venu, il a été remis sur la route avec pour ordre de retourner en Italie à pieds. L’Italie ne veut pourtant pas plus que la France de Mohamed Ahmed. « Je me sens comme un ballon de football sur un terrain entre deux équipes. L’une c’est l’Italie, l’autre c’est la France », dit-il.

    Face aux « difficultés migratoires », les deux pays semblent pourtant faire front commun. Fin juillet, Rome et Paris ont même annoncé la création prochaine d’une brigade conjointe à leur frontière pour lutter contre les filières de passeurs. De quoi compliquer davantage les passages. « Si les gens sont ici, c’est qu’ils veulent partir, ils sont déterminés. La police ne fait que les ralentir et les pousse à prendre plus de risques », regrette Maurizio Marmo, responsable de l’ONG Caritas Vintimille qui vient en aide aux migrants dans cette région italienne. En moyenne, il faut cinq essais à une personne avant de parvenir à passer en France. Mohamed Ahmed est dans la moyenne haute : c’est sa septième tentative en cinq jours. Il y en aura d’autres.

    Depuis la fin du confinement, et la reprise des voyages de migrants qui s’en est suivie, des dizaines de personnes essaient chaque jour de franchir cette frontière dans la région de Vintimille. Les moyens sont divers pour ceux qui ne sont pas conduits dans des véhicules de passeurs : à pieds, il y a le long de la mer - chemin qui n’a ’’quasiment aucune chance’’ étant donné la surveillance policière, glisse le membre d’une association -, les voies de chemins de fer ou, plus risqué, la montagne via un sentier surnommé sans équivoque ’’le passage de la mort’’. Il y a également les trains et les risques d’électrocutions pour ceux qui s’aventurent dessus.

    Chaque jour, aussi, des dizaines de personnes sont interpellées par la police française et sont refoulées. Des « #push-backs » souvent considérés comme illégaux car menés au mépris de l’asile demandé par les intéressés. La PAF de #Menton est d’ailleurs bien connue pour son fonctionnement opaque. Déjà visée par une enquête sur de possibles infractions, cette police avait refusé, en octobre 2019, à une députée le droit de visiter les lieux où sont retenus les migrants.

    Ce jeudi, ils sont une cinquantaine, comme Mohamed Ahmed, à avoir été renvoyés par la police dès le matin, selon un registre tenu par les associations. Un chiffre constant.

    L’apprentissage de la #méfiance

    Sur le bord de la route qui ramène à Vintimille, ville de repli et de transit pour les migrants, des associations ont installé un poste de ravitaillement pour accueillir les refoulés sur le retour. Au frais sous les arbres, du pain, des biscuits, des fruits et des réchauds pour faire du café les attendent. Une infirmière italienne est aussi là pour examiner les éventuelles blessures. Exténués et en sueur après une longue montée, ceux qui arrivent devant cette tablée affichent de larges sourires, agréablement surpris de voir qu’ici, pour une fois, des gens les attendent pour les aider. ’’C’est gratuit, c’est gratuit’’, rassure l’un des participants, les enjoignant à se servir.

    Au soulagement qu’apporte ce réconfort cède toutefois rapidement l’inquiétude. Car beaucoup de ceux présents - pour la plupart très jeunes - semblent dans un état de confusion totale. Faut-il prendre le bus pour se reposer à Vintimille ou retenter sa chance tout de suite ? Quel chemin emprunter ? Est-ce vrai que des militaires se cachent dans les buissons sur le sentier ’’de la mort’’ pour attraper les migrants qui y marchent la nuit ? « Est-ce que je dois dire que je veux demander l’asile en France quand un policier m’interpelle ? Tu peux m’écrire sur un bout de papier comment on dit ça en français ? » Les questions et les regards perdus se bousculent. Le silence tombe aussi soudainement, parfois. Au jeu du chat et de la souris qui se déroule à cette frontière, les grands perdants sont ceux qui ne maîtrisent pas les règles.

    Au point de ravitaillement les migrants peuvent acheter des tickets de bus pour aller Vintimille Crdit InfoMigrants

    « On m’a volé mon sac à dos dans la PAF », lance Nabil Maouche, Algérien de 27 ans, l’air hagard. À l’intérieur se trouvait tout ce qu’il possédait : ses vêtements, 50 euros et, surtout, son téléphone et son chargeur. « Je ne peux plus appeler ma famille », lance le jeune homme qui a embarqué début août depuis les côtes africaines à bord d’un petit bateau de fortune ayant, assure-t-il, réussi à atteindre la Sardaigne. Selon Chiara, membre de l’association italienne Projetto 20k, les pertes d’objets personnels sont monnaie courante durant les nuits au poste : « Les affaires des migrants sont gardées dans un vestiaire dans la PAF, c’est une pièce dans laquelle il y a beaucoup de passage… »

    Binu Lama, Tibétaine de 22 ans, montre pour sa part des documents dont elle peine à comprendre la signification. Un « refus d’entrée » de la police française et un procès verbal des forces de l’ordre italiennes, qui lui ont été délivrés coup sur coup. Elle ne parle ni français, ni italien, ne sait pas ce qu’elle doit en faire. Mais elle jure que, si près du but, cette paperasse ne l’empêchera pas de retenter sa chance dans quelques heures seulement. Accompagnée de son mari et d’un groupe d’amis, elle veut « trouver du travail et envoyer de l’argent à [sa] famille » depuis la France, où elle croit savoir qu’elle pourra obtenir l’asile plus facilement qu’en Italie. « Je ne suis pas découragée et je n’ai pas peur. Je suis habituée maintenant à traverser les frontières », lance celle qui a déjà marché à travers la Turquie, la Grèce, l’Albanie, le Monténégro, la Bosnie, la Croatie et la Slovénie.

    Phénomène vieux de plusieurs années, ces tentatives de passages dans la région de Vintimille ont ceci de nouveau qu’elles rassemblent désormais des personnes aux profils et aux origines plus variés qu’avant. Des Tibétains, par exemple, Jacopo Colomba, représentant de l’ONG We World, n’en avait pas vus dans le coin depuis deux ans. Il y a par ailleurs davantage de migrants désillusionnés par l’Italie « qui veulent tenter leur chance ailleurs », affirme Maurizio Marmo, de Caritas Vintimille. Ils s’ajoutent aux primo-arrivants dans le pays, largement majoritaires parmi ceux qui tentent le passage. Venus de la route des Balkans ou de l’île de Lampedusa dans le but de rejoindre la France ou d’autres pays du nord de l’Europe, ils sont nombreux à expliquer leur désir de quitter la péninsule par le fait qu’ils ne parlent pas italien, qu’ils ne connaissent personne dans ce pays ou, tout simplement, par l’ordre qu’ils ont reçu d’en partir.

    Ce dernier cas de figure est celui de Mohamed Ahmed et de ses deux compagnons de voyage, eux aussi originaires du Darfour. L’un d’eux tchipe lorsqu’on lui demande son prénom, en signe de refus. Il ne le donnera pas. Il tchipe de plus belle, en guise de désapprobation, lorsque son ami accepte, lui, de donner le sien. Le parcours migratoire de ce trentenaire l’a rendu méfiant, sur la défensive. Il ne sait plus qui croire ni à quel sein se vouer. Comme beaucoup de migrants, il a appris la méfiance envers les autorités, envers les journalistes, la méfiance des uns envers les autres.

    Et pour cause : cet homme sans nom est allé de mauvaises surprises en désillusions. Comme Mohamed Ahmed, il a fui le Soudan en guerre pour aller travailler en Libye, pays qu’il croyait prospère alors qu’il est en proie au chaos et à la loi du plus fort depuis 2011. Il y restera bloqué deux ans. À leur arrivée à Lampedusa au terme d’une traversée en bateau, les comparses soudanais sont placés en quarantaine pour détecter d’éventuels cas de coronavirus. Cette période censée durer 14 jours sera renouvelée et doublée, sans qu’on leur fournisse la moindre explication. À leur sortie, les autorités italiennes leur ont donné sept jours pour quitter le territoire.

    « À Vintimille, il n’y a plus d’endroit pour les choses intimes »

    Une fois refoulés par les autorités françaises, les migrants n’ont guère d’autres choix que d’aller à Vintimille, cité balnéaire de 24 000 habitants, loin d’être accueillante mais qui a l’avantage de se trouver à seulement 10 kilomètres de la frontière. Dans les rues de la ville, ils sont désoeuvrés. Chaque nuit, les associations dénombrent entre 100 et 200 migrants qui dorment où ils peuvent, gare, plages, arrière des buissons, sans tente. « Regardez comment c’est ici », lance, écœuré, un jeune Tchadien, arrivé depuis seulement trois jours, en pointant le bitume jonché de déchets. « Moi je dors plus bas, près de la rivière. » Il n’est pas le seul : les berges de la rivière Roya, recouvertes de végétation, sont habitées par de nombreux sangliers imposants et peu farouches.

    Le nombre de migrants à la rue à Vintimille représente une situation inhabituelle ces dernières années. Elle résulte, en grande partie, de la fermeture fin juillet d’un camp humanitaire situé en périphérie de la ville et géré par la Croix-Rouge italienne. Cette fermeture décrétée par la préfecture d’Imperia a été un coup dur pour les migrants qui pouvaient, depuis 2016, y faire étape. Les différents bâtiments de ce camp de transit pouvaient accueillir quelque 300 personnes - mais en avait accueillis jusqu’à 750 au plus fort de la crise migratoire. Des sanitaires, des lits, un accès aux soins ainsi qu’à une aide juridique pour ceux qui souhaitaient déposer une demande d’asile en Italie : autant de services qui font désormais partie du passé.

    « On ne comprend pas », lâche simplement Maurizio Marmo. « Depuis deux ans, les choses s’étaient calmées dans la ville. Il n’y avait pas de polémique, pas de controverse. Personne ne réclamait la fermeture de ce camp. Maintenant, voilà le résultat. Tout le monde est perdant, la ville comme les migrants. »

    Alors, qu’est-ce qui explique cette fermeture ? La préfecture est restée silencieuse à nos questions. Selon des associations, les autorités en auraient eu assez du cadre juridique bancal sur lequel avait été ouvert ce camp, unique en son genre dans le nord de l’Italie. D’autres avancent que la tenue prochaine d’élections régionales, fin septembre, aurait motivé cette décision dans l’espoir de glaner les votes de l’électorat anti-migrants. Difficile à savoir. Début septembre, plus d’un mois après sa fermeture, les préfabriqués du « campo » n’étaient en tout cas toujours pas démantelés, permettant à certains de parier sur une réouverture future.

    Toujours est-il qu’en attendant, la vie des migrants s’organise désormais à l’intérieur même de la ville, autour de la Via Tenda. Sur un parking, entre le cimetière et une voie rapide, l’association Kesha Niya distribue de la nourriture et de l’eau les soirs. Les matins, des collations sont servies dans les locaux de Caritas Vintimille, à proximité. Entre les deux, plus grand chose.

    « Les mineurs et les familles n’ont aucun accueil, s’offusque Maurizio Marmo. Les mineurs restent dehors. » En solution d’urgence, l’église San Nicola a récemment accepté, sous l’impulsion de Caritas, d’ouvrir ses portes aux familles le temps de quelques nuits seulement.

    Mais les portes, en général, se ferment davantage qu’elles ne s’ouvrent. « Avant, on louait un local là, près de la rivière, dit Chiara de Projetto 20k. Les migrants pouvaient s’y reposer en sécurité, charger leur téléphone, passer du temps tranquilles pour les choses intimes… Ça marchait bien. Mais le propriétaire a voulu mettre fin à cette location en janvier 2019. Maintenant le lieu est fermé et il n’y a plus d’endroit sécurisé à Vintimille pour ce genre de choses. »

    Même des services aussi essentiels que les douches ne sont plus accessibles aux migrants dans la ville. Les salles de bains de l’association Caritas, seules options, sont fermées pendant la belle saison. « Les douches sont très compliquées à gérer, justifie Maurizio Marmo, alors, l’été, ils vont dans la mer. »

    Abdelkhair a choisi la rivière. Accroupi sous un pont, penché en avant, il lave un t-shirt dans le faible débit de la Roya, asséchée en cette fin d’été. Il en profite pour se mouiller le visage. Originaires du Bangladesh, lui et ses compagnons ne peuvent pas s’attarder ici. « C’est le coin des Somaliens », prévient un autre migrant, qui s’est levé à la hâte du matelas encrassé sur lequel il était allongé à la vue d’un visiteur. Des murmures et des frémissements nous font comprendre que d’autres hommes se cachent tout autour, dans les interstices du pont, d’où dépasse un pan de couette, et dans les buissons. Les sangliers, eux, gambadent en plein jour non loin de là.

    À la recherche des femmes

    Les passeurs, aussi, agissent à découvert dans Vintimille. Dans le centre-ville, il n’est pas rare que des groupes d’hommes, connus pour être là pour du business, rodent autour de la gare. « Quand on les voit se diriger vers les quais, c’est qu’ils ont été prévenus qu’un train arrivait », indique un membre d’une association qui préfère garder l’anonymat.

    Mohamed Sheraz, rencontré en dehors de la ville, est si à l’aise qu’il donne son nom. Âgé de 25 ans, ce réfugié pakistanais en France dit venir en Italie pour « aider ses frères » en parallèle de son travail dans le secteur du bâtiment. En l’occurrence, il « aide » cinq hommes, quatre Pakistanais et un Afghan, moyennant 150 euros par tête. La nuit dernière, les migrants n’en ont pas eu pour leur argent, ce fut un échec.

    Mais d’autres trafics, plus secrets, inquiètent davantage les associations. Parmi les migrants livrés à eux-mêmes, les femmes, particulièrement vulnérables, sont l’objet de plusieurs attentions. « Dans les deux derniers mois, on a pu entrer - brièvement - en contact avec trois femmes, dit Jacopo Colomba, de l’ONG We World. Elles semblaient être contraintes par quelque chose et cherchaient une manière de s’échapper mais des hommes ont interrompu notre conversation. Nous ne les avons pas revues. »

    Grâce à des maraudes hebdomadaires, Jacopo Colomba, qui a rejoint le projet « Hope this helps » financé par le département et la région Ligurie pour documenter ces trafics, estime qu’environ 50 femmes transitent tous les mois par Vintimille. Avant de disparaître, sitôt les pieds posés dans la ville.

    « C’est une dynamique facile à observer, détaille Jacopo Colomba. Des femmes, généralement ivoiriennes [la mafia nigériane, très active il y a quelques années dans la ville, a elle vu son activité baisser, NDLR] arrivent par train de Milan ou de Gêne et sont tout de suite accueillies par une personne de leur nationalité. Elles sont menées près du fleuve. D’autres personnes les attendent et un échange de papiers a lieu. Puis, elles sont conduites dans des maisons, nous ne savons pas où exactement. » L’humanitaire, qui précise avoir prévenu la police mais ne pas savoir si « le mot a circulé », assure que ces femmes sont par la suite intégrées à des réseaux de prostitution en France et notamment à Marseille.

    « Les femmes ne sont pas inexistantes à Vintimille mais elles sont invisibles », affirme pour sa part Adèle, membre de l’association Kesha Niya, durant une distribution de nourriture à laquelle participent uniquement des hommes. « C’est dur de savoir comment elles vont et où elles sont. »

    Auparavant le camp de la Croix-Rouge hébergeait plusieurs d’entre elles. En cela non plus, sa fermeture n’a pas été bénéfique.

    Loin des trafics et des luttes de pouvoir, il reste un lieu à Vintimille où le business est un vilain mot. Le café Hobbit, tenu par la charismatique Delia, engrange même si peu de recettes que le commerce peine à ne pas mettre la clé sous la porte. Car Delia sert boissons et focaccias gratuites aux personnes dans le besoin depuis plusieurs années. Cet élan de générosité, inspiré par l’afflux de migrants dans la ville, a fait fuir les locaux. Eux ne mettent plus les pieds dans « le café des migrants ». « Mon commerce est un désastre », dit Delia, sans songer une seconde à changer de stratégie. Pour la gérante, les passeurs, les migrants laissés à l’abandon, la frontière italo-française et ses contrôles incessants, tout cela s’inscrit dans une même logique, qu’elle refuse de suivre. « Tout dans ce monde est affaire d’argent et de profit. La seule chose qui ne rapporte rien, c’est sauver les êtres humains. »

    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/webdoc/209/si-un-migrant-est-dans-la-region-de-vintimille-c-est-qu-il-veut-partir

    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontière_sud-alpine #Italie #frontières #France #Vintimille #refoulement #refoulements #push-back #café_Hobbit #femmes #SDF #sans-abri #camp_humanitaire #Croix-Rouge #fermeture #Delia

  • Minister : Over 10,000 *migrants stopped from entering Greece*
    –-> sur le choix du mot « migrants », voir ci-dessous...

    Greek authorities have prevented thousands of migrants from entering Greece clandestinely by sea this year despite a recent lack of cooperation from the Turkish coast guard, the country’s shipping minister said Wednesday.

    Giannis Plakiotakis, whose ministry is also in charge of the coast guard, said arrivals were down 84% since March 1, compared to the same period last year, while the reduction in the month of August stood at nearly 95% compared to August 2019.

    “Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented,” Plakiotakis said during a news conference. In August alone, he said, “we had 68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.”

    This, he said, was achieved despite the Turkish coast guard ignoring appeals by the Greek coast guard to stop migrant boats leaving Turkish waters. He also accused Turkey’s coast guard of actively escorting the boats to the edge of Greek territorial waters.

    “There are cases where (the Turkish coast guard) is accompanying boats with refugees and migrants to our borders and ... trying to create problems,” he said.

    Plakiotakis would not elaborate on how the boats were prevented from entering Greek waters, which also mark the southeastern border of the European Union. But he stressed the coast guard “operates based on international law and international legality, based on the rules of engagement at sea, and ... with complete respect for human dignity and of course for human life.”

    Aid agencies have called on Greek authorities to investigate press reports of alleged pushbacks at sea. Greek officials, including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, have vehemently denied the coast guard engages in the practice, whereby those arriving inside a nation’s territorial waters would be summarily returned without being allowed to apply for asylum.

    The UN refugee agency said on Aug. 21 it was “deeply concerned by an increasing number of credible reports indicating that men, women and children may have been informally returned to Turkey immediately after reaching Greek soil or territorial waters in recent months.”

    The agency called on Greece to “seriously investigate” the reports.

    According to UNHCR figures, nearly 12,000 asylum-seekers have reached Greece this year. The total number of arrivals by sea and land in all of 2019 was about 75,000.

    Some of those who are granted asylum end up sleeping rough in central Athens.

    Plakiotakis said just 316 people entered by sea this July, compared to 5,551 last July, while August saw 455 arrivals, compared to 8,288 in August 2019.

    Greece has increased patrols along the land and sea border with Turkey, particularly after Ankara sent thousands of migrants to the land border in March, saying its own frontier to the European Union was open for anyone wanting to head into the EU.

    Athens has insisted it has the right to protect its borders from people attempting to enter clandestinely. The European border patrol agency Frontex is also assisting in patrolling Greece’s eastern border, with 13 boats, four planes and one helicopter, as well as 650 officers and 72 patrol cars.

    Previous years saw a modicum of cooperation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards. Under a 2016 EU-Turkey deal, Turkish authorities agreed to crack down on migration flows toward Greece, including by stopping boats heading to the Greek islands.

    But Greek authorities say the Turkish coast guard no longer responds to their calls when migrant boats are sighted.

    Greek-Turkish relations have deteriorated dramatically in the past few months, with the two neighbors sending warships to the eastern Mediterranean in an dispute over rights to potential offshore energy resources.

    Greece became the main entry point to the EU for people fleeing war or poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa in 2015, when nearly a million people crossed through the country, most arriving on Greek islands from Turkey.

    The 2016 EU-Turkey deal dramatically reduced the numbers, with Turkey agreeing to crack down on those seeking to leave its shores in return for EU funds to handle the more than 4 million refugees and migrants living there, including more than 3 million Syrians.

    https://apnews.com/fb8fca6e7429c5374187dbed553ee244

    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #chiffres #refoulement

    –—

    Intéressant le choix des #mots du ministre (et de la presse)... on parle de 10’000 #migrants empêchés d’entrer en Grèce, donc sur le sol de l’Union européenne...
    Le choix du mot réfugiés aurait eu un autre impact :
    10’000 réfugiés empêchés d’entrer en Grèce...
    –-> ça serait plus clairement identifié comme un #refoulement, pratique interdite par le #droit_international et par les droits nationaux et de l’UE...
    Après, pas sure que ça aurait plus choqué l’opinion politique ou nos politiciens...

    #vocabulaire #terminologie #presse #choix_des_mots #push-backs #words_matter #wordsmatter

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Ici on parle de #people (#personnes) :

      Greece : 10,000 People Prevented Access, Lockdown Extended, Recognition Rate Increases

      Amid mounting evidence of systematic push-backs from Greece (https://www.borderviolence.eu/15638-2), Shipping Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis states that 10,000 people have been prevented access in 2020. Greek authorities have extended the lockdown of all structures hosting refugees and migrants until 15 September. The first instance recognition rate rises to 69% according to Eurostat.

      Minister Plakiotakis with Greek coast guard under his mandate stated at a news conference on 2 September that arrivals had decreased 84 per cent since 1 March, compared to the same period of 2019, and that the drop in the month of August was 95 per cent compared to August 2019. According to Plakiotakis 10,000 people have been prevented from accessing Greece in 2020 so far but the Minister refused to elaborate on how this had been achieved, stating simply that the Greek coast guard: “operates based on international law and international legality, based on the rules of engagement at sea, and … with complete respect for human dignity and of course for human life”.

      Greek Helsinki Monitor has filed a criminal complaint to the High Court Prosecutor concerning the push back of 1389 people by Greek Coastguard based on evidence from numerous sources including leading international media, IOM, UNHCR, the hotline Alarmphone, Human Rights Watch, Legal Centre Lesvos and Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), who in a press release expresses increasing concern about: “the disappearance and pushbacks of refugees and migrants from humanitarian distribution sites, refugee camps and pre-removal centres in Greece. The illegal pushback and disappearance of refugees and migrants is systematically followed by the statewide dismissal of credible evidence and the perpetual refusal to open a free and fair investigation into the whereabouts of the missing”.

      Following a joint decision by the Ministers of Civil Protection, Health and Immigration and Asylum the lockdown of all structures hosting refugees and migrants has been extended to 15 September. The lockdown, presented as a COVID-19 measure, has been in place since 21 March. The Ministry of Asylum and Migration further announced another round of closures of hotel accommodation facilities for asylum seekers, in Kozani, Edessa, Prespes and Grevena.

      A man recently returned from Athens has tested positive for COVID-19 in the overcrowded Moria camp on Lesbos hosting around 13,000 people under dire, unsanitary conditions. As a reaction the Ministers of Citizen Protection, Health and Immigration and Asylum, has placed the Reception and Identification Center in Moria in complete health exclusion (quarantine) for a total of 14 days. Since March people arriving to Greek island camps are quarantined to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and authorities have advised the residents to wear masks, practise social distancing, wash their hands, disinfect, and self-isolate if they feel unwell. However, according to a representative of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) such measures are “totally unrealistic in Moria,” and “Even if people spend as much time as possible in their tents, they still eat three times a day with thousands of other people. The same goes for the restrooms and showers. It is impossible to avoid the masses.” NGOs have consistently warned of the risks of an outbreak in the Moria camp.

      According to Eurostat figures, over two thirds of first instance decisions (69%) taken by the Greek Asylum Service in 2020 granted international protection. Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) highlights that the figures dispel government statements to the contrary and point to a steady and significant increase in the population of beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, who face severe obstacles to access rights due to the absence of a holistic plan to enable their integration in the country.

      Following relocations to several member states over the summer, 22 unaccompanied children have arrived in Finland with another 28 expected to follow under a Commission scheme originally targeting the relocation of 1600 unaccompanied and vulnerable children.

      https://www.ecre.org/greece-10000-people-prevented-access-lockdown-extended-recognition-rate-increa

  • #CoronaCapitalism and the European #Border_Regime

    As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect people’s lives all over the world, the violence against migrants and refugees has intensified. This article explores #CoronaCapitalism and the Border Regime in a European context. Corporate Watch uses the term “border regime” as a shorthand to mean all of the many different institutions, people, systems and processes involved in trying to control migrants.

    This article only shares the tip-of-the-iceberg of migrant experiences during the coronavirus pandemic and we know there are many other untold stories. If you would like to share your news or experiences, please contact us.

    Mass Containment Camps

    As the world descended into lockdowns in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, tens of thousands of people have been confined in camps in the Western Balkans and Greece, as well as smaller accommodation centres across Europe. New and existing camps were also essentially locked down and the movement of people in and out of camps began to be heavily controlled by police and/or the military.

    The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) has been trying to track what is happening across the Balkans. They write that in Bosnia-Herzegovina, “more than 5,000 people were detained in existing temporary refugee reception centres. They include about 500 unaccompanied minors and several hundred children with families. Persons in need of special care, patients, victims of torture, members of the LGBTQ population, persons diagnosed with mental disorders, and victims of domestic violence have also been locked down into ‘EU-funded’ camps.” Police officers guard the centres and emergency legislation enables them the right to ‘physically force persons trying to leave the centres to return.’

    120,000 people are locked down in containment camps across Greece and the Greek Islands. Disturbing accounts of refugee camps are ever-present but the pandemic has worsened already unbearable conditions. 17,000 refugees live at Moira Refugee Camp where there are 210 people per toilet and 630 people per shower. Coronavirus, uncertainty over suspended asylum applications and the terrible living conditions are all contributing to escalating violence.

    In detention centres in Drama and Athens in Greece, the BVMN report that, “Respondents describe a lack of basic amenities such as running water, showers, or soap. Cramped and overcrowded conditions, with up to 13 inmates housed in one caravan with one, usually non-functioning, toilet. Requests for better services are met with violence at the hands of officers and riot police. On top of this, there have been complaints that no special precautions for COVID-19 are being taken, residents inside told BVMN reporters that sick individuals are not isolated, and are dismissed as having ‘the flu’.”

    While movement restrictions were lifted for Greek residents on 4th May, lockdown is still extended for all camps and centres across Greece and the Islands. This decision triggered thousands of people to protest in Athens. Emergency legislation adopted at the start of March in Greece effectively suspended the registration of asylum applications and implied immediate deportation for those entering the Greek territory, without registration, to their countries of origin or to Turkey.

    Detention and the deportation regime

    While major country-wide lockdowns are an unusual form of restriction of movement, for decades European states have been locking people seeking safety in detention centres. Immigration Removal Centres are essentially prisons for migrants in which people are locked up without trial or time-limit. In the UK the detention system is mostly run for profit by private companies, as detailed in our UK Border Regime book.

    Despite preparing for a pandemic scenario in January 2020, it took public pressure and legal action before the British government released nearly 1000 people from detention centres. As of the end of May, 368 people were still locked up in the profit-making detention centres and many more are living in ‘accommodation centres’ where they have been unable to access coronavirus testing.

    During the pandemic, people have been revolting in several detention centres across France and Belgium. Residents at a refugee centre in Saxony-Anhalt in Germany went on a hunger strike in April to protest against a lack of disinfectant. Hunger strikes have also taken place at detention centres in Tunisia, Cyprus and France.

    Women in a police holding centre for migrants in Greece went on hunger strike in June. In a statement, they wrote: “We will continue the hunger strike until we are free from this captivity. They will either set us free or we shall die”.

    People staged a rooftop protest at a detention centre in Madrid at the start of the outbreak. This was before all the detention centres in Spain were, for the first time in their history, completely emptied. To put this into context, Spain had 6,473 detainees in 2019. Legal challenges have been leveraging the EU Returns Directive which allows detention pending deportation for up to 18 months, but stipulates that if “a reasonable prospect of removal no longer exists…detention ceases to be justified and the person concerned shall be released immediately”.

    With a worldwide reduction in flights, deportations became unfeasible, however, many are afraid that the deportation machine will restart as things “return to normal”.

    Worsening life in the ‘jungle’

    People living in squats and other improvised accommodation have also faced sweeping operations, with people being rounded up and taken to containment camps.

    For those that remained on the street, pandemic restrictions took their toll. In Greece, movement amidst the pandemic was permitted via letters and text messages. For people who did not have the right paperwork, they were fined 150 euros, sometimes multiple times.

    Similarly, in the French city of Calais, people who did not have the right paperwork were commonly denied access to shops and supermarkets, where they may have previously used the bathrooms or bought food to cook. With many volunteer groups unable to operate due to movement restrictions, the availability of food dramatically reduced overnight. Access to services such as showers, phone charging and healthcare also rapidly reduced.

    People in Calais also faced a rise in evictions: 45 evictions were recorded in the first two weeks of lockdown. These expulsions have continued throughout the pandemic. On Friday 10th July 2020, a major police raid in Calais forced more than 500 people onto buses to be taken to ‘reception centres’ across the region.

    In Amsterdam in the Netherlands, some migrants were forced to live in night shelters and made to leave during the daytime – facing constant risks of contracting COVID-19 and police harassment in the city. They protested “I would stay at home if I had one”.

    Many migrant solidarity groups working on the ground lost huge numbers of volunteers due to travel restrictions and health concerns. Access to material donations such as tents, which are commonly collected at the end of festivals, also reduced. A constant supply of these resources is needed because the police routinely take the migrants’ tents away.

    Militarisation of borders

    The pandemic has seen an increase in military forces at borders and camps, persistent police violence and the suspension of ‘rights’ or legal processes. Using ‘State of Emergency’ legislation, the health crisis has been effectively weaponised.

    In March at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe, FRONTEX, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency deployed an additional 100 guards at the Greek Land Border. This is in addition to the agency’s core of 10,000 officers working around Europe.

    In their 2020 Risk Analysis Report, FRONTEX wrote that “the closing of internal borders is binding border guard personnel, which some border authorities have long stopped planning for”. This illuminates a key complexity in border control. For years, Europe has shifted to policing the wider borders of the Schengen Area. As the virus spread between countries within that area, however, states have tried to shut down their own borders.

    Police forces and militaries have become increasingly mobilised to “protect these national borders”. In Slovenia, this meant the military was granted authority to ‘process civilians’ at the border through the government’s activation of Article 37a of the Defence Act. While in Serbia, the army was deployed around border camps to ensure mass containment. 400 new border guards were also dispatched to the Evros land border between Greece and Turkey in addition to an increase in fencing and surveillance technologies.

    Escalating Police Violence

    Although migrants are no strangers to police brutality, national states of emergency have enabled an escalation in police violence. In mid-April an open letter was published by the Eritrean community of the Calais jungle reporting escalating police brutality. It describes the actions of the CRS police (Compagnies républicaines de sécurité); the general guard of the French police, infamous for riot control and repression:

    “They don’t see us as human beings. They insult us with names such as monkey, bitch etc. And for the past few weeks, they have started to threaten our lives by beating us as soon as the opportunity arises. When for example they found a group of two or three people walking towards the food distribution, or in our tents, when we were sleeping. They accelerate in their vehicles while driving in our direction, as if they wanted to crush us. They also took people with them to places far from Calais, and beat them until they lost consciousness.”

    The statement continues with a chronological list of events whereby people were beaten up, hit, gassed, had their arms broken, and were struck on the head so hard they lost consciousness and were taken to hospital by ambulance.

    With fewer people on the streets during the pandemic, police evictions that were not previously possible due to street-level resistance became successful. This was evidenced in the eviction of the Gini occupation at the Polytechnic University in Exarchia, Greece, a location that the police have not dared enter for decades. Dozens of migrant families were rounded up and taken to a detention centre.

    Violent pushbacks across borders

    There has also been an increase in illegal and violent pushbacks. Pushbacks are the informal expulsion (without due process) of individuals or groups to another country. This commonly involves the violent removal of people across a border.

    For example, on April 22nd in North Macedonia, a group of people from Palestine, Morocco and Egypt were pushed back into Greece. Two men were approached by officers in army uniforms and forced onto a bus where officers began to beat them with batons and guns. So much force was used that one man’s arm was fractured. The other members of the small group were later found and abruptly woken by officers. One man was stamped on and kicked across his body and head. Their shoes were removed and they were told to walk the 2km back to the border where they were met with the other group that had been taken there.

    A group of 16 people in Serbia (including one minor) were told they were being taken to a new camp for COVID prevention. They were then forced into a van and driven for nine hours with no stops, toilet or water. They were released at a remote area of hills and told to leave and cross the border to North Macedonia by the officers with guns. When found attempting to cross again days later they were told by police officers, “Don’t come again, we will kill you”.

    In Croatia, police have also started tagging people that they have pushed back with orange spray paint.

    There are also reports that Greek authorities are pushing people back to Turkey. According to the Border Violence Monitoring Network, many people shared experiences of being beaten, robbed and detained before being driven to the border area where military personnel used boats to return them to Turkey across the Evros river. In mid April in Greece, approximately 50 people were taken from Diavata camp in the morning and removed to a nearby police station where they were ordered to lie on the ground – “Sleep here, don’t move”. They were then beaten with batons. Some were also attacked with electric tasers. They were held overnight in a detention space near the border, and beaten further by Greek military officers. The next day they were boated across the river to Turkey by authorities with military uniforms. Another group were taken to the river in the dark and ordered to strip to their underwear.

    As pushbacks continue, people are forced to take even more dangerous routes. In Romania in mid-April, a group were found drowning in the Danube River after their boat capsized. One person was found dead and eight are still missing, while the survivors suffered from hypothermia.

    Danger at Sea

    During the pandemic, increasing numbers of disturbing accounts have been shared by migrants experiencing violence at sea. Between mid March and mid May, Alarm Phone (a hotline for boat people in distress) received 28 emergency calls from the Aegean Sea.

    On the 29th April, a boat carrying 48 refugees from Afghanistan, Congo and Iran, including 18 children, tried to reach Lesvos Island in the early hours of the day. They were pushed back to Turkish waters:

    “We were very scared. We tried to continue towards Lesvos Island. It was only 20 minutes more driving to reach the Greek coast. The big boat let a highspeed boat down, which hunted us down. There were six masked men in black clothes. They stopped us and made many waves. With a long stick they took away our petrol and they broke our engine. They had guns and knives. Then they threw a rope to us and ordered us to fix it on our boat. Then they started pulling us back towards Turkey. After a while they stopped and cut the rope. They returned to the big boat and took distance from us. It was around 6am.

    Then two other boats of the Greek coastguard arrived which were white and grey and drove very fast towards us, starting to make circles around our boat. They created big waves which were pushing us in the direction of Turkish waters. Our boat was taking in water and the kids were screaming. Our boat started breaking from the bottom. We were taking out the water with our boots. We threw all our belongings in the sea to make our boat lighter. Many of us had no life vests. A pregnant lady fainted. The Greeks continued making waves for a long period. A Turkish coastguard boat arrived and stood aside watching and taking photos and videos for more than six hours. Only after 13:30 o’clock the Turkish coastguard boat finally saved us. We were brought to Çanakalle police station and detained for five days.”

    During two months of lockdown, civil monitoring ships (volunteers who monitor the Aegean sea for migrants arriving via boat) were not permitted. In Italy, ports were closed to rescue ships, with many feared lost at sea as a result. Allegations have also emerged that Greece has been using inflatable rafts to deport asylum seekers. These are rafts without motors or propellers that cannot be steered.

    The Maltese Army also hit the headlines after turning away a boat of migrants by gunpoint and giving them the GPS coordinates for Italy. This is after recent reports of sabotaging migrant vessels, and pushing back migrant boats to Libya resulting in 12 people dying. The Maltese government recently signed a deal with the Libyan government to “to coordinate operations against illegal migration”. This includes training the Libyan coastguards and funding for “reception camps”.

    The threat of the virus and worsening conditions have also contributed to a record number of attempts to cross the Channel. The courage and commitment to overcome borders is inspiring, and more successful crossings have taken place during the pandemic. Between March 23rd (when the UK coronavirus lockdown began) and May 11th at least 853 migrants managed to cross the Channel in dinghies and small boats.

    State Scapegoating and the empowerment of the far right

    Far-right politicians and fascist activists have used the pandemic as an opportunity to push for closed borders.

    The election of a new Far Right government in Slovenia in March brought with it the scapegoating of refugees as coronavirus vectors. News conglomerate, NOVA24, heavily publicised a fake news story that the first COVID-19 patient in Italy was a Pakistani person who came via the Balkan route.

    Meanwhile, Hungary’s Government led by Vicktor Orbán moved to deport resident Iranians after claiming they were responsible for the country’s first coronavirus outbreak.

    In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the populist leader of the opposition Lega party tried to blame the movement of migrants from Africa across the Mediterranean as a “major infection threat” shortly before the country was overwhelmed with the pandemic and its rising death toll.

    The racist scapegoating ignores data that proves that initially the virus was transmited predominatnly by tourists’ and business people’s globe-trotting in the service of global capitalism and the fact that those whose movement is restricted, controlled and perilous, who do not have the power and wealth, are the most likely to suffer from the worst effects of both the virus itself and the shut downs.

    The Aftermath of Asylum suspension

    Access to asylum has drastically shifted across Europe with the suspension of many face-to-face application processing centres and appeal hearings. This ‘legal limbo’ is having a severe impact on people’s lives.

    Many people remain housed in temporary accommodation like hotels while they wait for their claim to be processed. This accommodation is often overcrowded and social-distancing guidelines are impossible to follow there. One asylum seeker in South London even shared to The Guardian how two strangers were made to share his double bed for a week in one room. One of the people was later taken to hospital with coronavirus.

    Closed-conditions at Skellig Accomodation Centre, a former hotel in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, Ireland enabled the rapid spread of the virus between the 100 people living there. Misha, an asylum seeker confined there, said she watched in horror as people started falling sick around her.

    “We were sharing bedrooms with strangers. We were sharing the dining room. We were sharing the salt shakers. We were sharing the lobby. We were sharing everything. And if you looked at the whole situation, you cannot really say that it was fit for purpose.”

    People were ordered to stay inside, and meanwhile coronavirus testing was delayed. Protests took place inside and locals demonstrated in solidarity outside.

    Asylum seekers in Glasgow have been protesting their accommodation conditions provided by the Mears Group, who Corporate Watch profiled in 2019. Mears Group won a £1.15 billion contract to run the refugee accommodation system in Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of the north of England. Their profiteering, slum landlord conditions and involvement in mass evictions have been met with anger and resistance. The pandemic has only worsened the experiences of people forced to live in Mears’ accommodation through terrible sanitation and medical neglect. Read our 2020 update on the Mears Group here.

    In the UK, the Home Office put a hold on evictions of asylum seekers during lockdown. The Red Cross stated this spared 50,000 people from the threat of losing their accommodation. Campaigners and tenants fear what will happen post-corona and how many people will face destitution when the ban on evictions lifts this August.

    In addition, a face-to-face screening interview is still needed for new asylum claims. This creates an awful choice for asylum seekers between shielding from the virus (and facing destitution) or going to the interviews in order to access emergency asylum support and begin the formal process. While meagre, the £37.75 per week is essential for survival. One of the reasons the Home Office make face-to-face applications compulsory is because of biometric data harvesting e.g. taking fingerprints of asylum seekers. One asylum seeker with serious health problems has had to make three journeys from Glasgow to Liverpool in the midst of the pandemic to submit paperwork.

    Access to food and other support is also very difficult as many centres and support services are closed.

    Barriers to Healthcare

    It is widely recognised that systemic racism has led to the disproportionate deaths of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people throughout the pandemic. Research has shown Black people are four times more likely to die than white people, and Bangladeshi or Pakistani groups are three times more likely. Many people from these communities are migrants, and many work in the National Health Service and social care sector.

    Research by Patients not Passports, Medact, Migrants Organise and the New Economics Foundation has shown that many migrants are avoiding seeking healthcare. 57% of respondents in their research report that they have avoided seeking healthcare because of fears of being charged for NHS care, data sharing and other migration enforcement concerns. Most people are unaware that treatment for coronavirus is exempt from charging. They also often experience additional barriers including the absence of translation and interpretation services, digital exclusions, housing and long distances from care services.

    Undocumented migrants are incredibly precarious. A project worker interviewed for the Patients not Passports Report shared that:

    “One client lived in a care home where she does live-in care and she has been exposed to Corona but has stated that she will not seek treatment and would rather die there than be detained.”

    Elvis, an undocumented migrant from the Philippines, died at home with suspected coronavirus because he was so scared by the hostility of Government policies that he did not seek any help from the NHS.

    For those that do try to access healthcare, issues such as not having enough phone credit or mobile data, not having wifi or laptops for video appointments, and simply not being able to navigate automated telephone and online systems because of language barriers and non-existent or poor translation, are having a very real impact on people’s ability to receive support. Fears of poor treatment because of people’s past experiences of discrimination and racism even if they access the services is another barrier.

    Exploiting Migrant Labour

    The exploitation of migrant labour has always been essential to sustaining capitalist economies. The pandemic generated contradictory responses from politicians and capitalists alike. Germany’s agricultural sector lobbied hard for opening the border after they were closed, leading the country to lift its ban and let in over 80,000 seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. Yet dilapidated living conditions and overcrowding are sparking new COVID-19 outbreaks, such as the 200 workers that contracted the virus at a slaughterhouse in western Germany.

    In mid May, the Italian government passed a law regularising undocumented migrants, whereby undocumented workers have been encouraged to apply for six-month legal residency permits. There are believed to be about 600,000 undocumented workers in Italy but only people doing ‘essential’ work during the pandemic can apply, mostly in the agricultural sector. Thousands of people live in makeshift encampments near fruit and vegetable farms with no access to running water or electricity.

    Working conditions carry risks of violence. On 18 May, five days after Italy’s regularisation law passed, a 33-year old Indian migrant working in a field outside of Rome was fired after asking his employer for a face mask for protection while at work. When the worker requested his daily wage, he was beaten up and thrown in a nearby canal.

    Conclusion

    The coronavirus crisis has exposed and intensified the brutality required to sustain capitalism – from systemic racism, to violent border controls, to slave labour for industrial agriculture, the list goes on. Despite extremely difficult conditions, undocumented migrants have formed strong movements of solidarity and collective struggle in many European countries. From revolts in detention centres to legal actions to empty them, people are continually resisting the border regime. As people reject a ‘return to normal’ post pandemic, the fall of the border regime must be part of a vision for freedom and liberation in a world beyond capitalism.

    https://corporatewatch.org/coronaborderregime
    #capitalisme #covid-19 #coronavirus #frontières #Europe #migrations #violence #asile #réfugiés #camps #camps_de_réfugiés #containment #rétention #campements #technologie #militarisation_des_frontières #Grèce #Turquie #violences_policières #police #refoulements #push-backs #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #santé #accès_aux_soins #travail #exploitation #pandémie #Frontex #confinement #grève_de_la_faim #fermeture_des_frontières

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @thomas_lacroix

  • Un mur en Serbie...

    Last week, we wrote how Serbian authorities, in complete secrecy, started the construction of a razor-wire fence in the South to prevent the irregular entry of refugees from North Macedonia. The photos which first appeared on the Asylum Protection Center’s (APC) Twitter account show that the fence is being set up from #Presevo to the east, along the border with North Macedonia. It’s worrying how the Serbian local authorities interpret this action as a “one step forward in the Europeanization process” of the country (https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/srbija-dize-zicanu-ogradu-na-granici-sa-severnom-makedonijom/30789825.html). At the same time, Serbian NGOs have registered an increase in number of pushbacks, specifically Asylum Protection Center (APC) is recording an increase in the return of people to North Macedonia.

    Le tweet du Asylum Protection Center:


    https://twitter.com/APC_CZA/status/1293865742153261056

    Reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa Dobrodosli, mail du 24.08.2020
    #frontières #murs #barrières_frontalières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #Macédoine #refoulements #push-backs #Balkans #route_des_Balkans

    • La Serbie clôture sa frontière avec la Macédoine du Nord

      18 août - 18h30 :

      #clôture métallique sur sa frontière avec la #Macédoine_du_Nord, près de #Preševo. Le maire de cette commune, #Shqiprim_Arifi, a confirmé à Radio Free Europe que la construction de cette clôture faisait partie d’un accord avec l’Union européenne (UE). « Nous pensons que la clôture a pour fonction de sécuriser davantage les frontières des pays extérieurs à l’UE face aux réfugiés, qui vont finir par revenir de manière massive sur la route des Balkans. » Shqiprim Arifi ajoute qu’il a « personnellement de sérieuses réserves » sur cette façon de traiter les réfugiés. Les autorités serbes refusent de communiquer toute information sur cette clôture.

      Source : dernières info du Courrier des Balkans —> https://www.courrierdesbalkans.fr/les-dernieres-infos-refugies-balkans

    • La barrière frontalière est mentionnée dans cet entretien de #Jasmin_Rexhepi pour le Courrier des Balkans :

      La #Serbie a commencé durant l’été à construire une barrière de barbelés sur sa frontière avec la #Macédoine_du_Nord. Officiellement pour empêcher la propagation de la Covid-19... #Jasmin_Rexhepi, qui préside l’ONG Legis, dénonce la dérive sécuritaire des autocrates balkaniques. Entretien.

      D. Kožul (D.K.) : Que pensez-vous des raisons qui ont poussé la Serbie à construire une barrière à sa frontière avec la Macédoine du Nord ? Officiellement, il s’agit de lutter contre la propagation de l’épidémie de coronavirus. Or, on sait que le nombre de malades est minime chez les réfugiés...

      Jasmin Rexhepi (J.R.) : C’est une mauvaise excuse trouvée par un communicant. On construit des barbelés aux frontières des pays des Balkans depuis 2015. Ils sont posés par des gouvernements ultra-conservateurs, pour des raisons populistes. Les réfugiés ne sont pas une réelle menace sécuritaire pour nos pays en transition, ils ne sont pas plus porteurs du virus que ne le sont nos citoyens, et les barbelés n’ont jamais été efficaces contre les migrations.

      “Faute de pouvoir améliorer la vie de leurs citoyens, les populistes conservateurs se réfugient dans une prétendue défense de la nation contre des ennemis imaginaires.”

      https://seenthis.net/messages/877066

  • No Name Kitchen (https://www.facebook.com/NoNameKitchenBelgrade/posts/1035509443514006) is reporting on a refugee protest against the Slovenian government and police that began on Wednesday within the Detention Center for Foreigners in #Postojna. Dozens of men are currently located there, men who have previously spent months in Velika Kladuša and have suffered police violence and denials of their right to seek asylum. Now in Slovenia, they are detained in an abandoned industrial building in very bad conditions, while the Slovenian police is rejecting their asylum claims and pushing them back in Croatia, violating their human rights and proclaiming them “economic migrants”. Last week we reported on the ruling of the Slovenian Administrative court thematizing the right to seek asylum, for a more detailed analysis of the case in question read the article in Balkan Insight.

    –-> message reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa Dobrodosli, mail du 06.08.2020

    –---

    Texte du post sur FB:

    These images are sent to us showing an ongoing protest within the Detention Center for Foreigners in Postojna, Slovenia and they ask everybody to spread the information.
    These men, many of whom have spent months in #Velika_Kladusa (the city where No Name Kitchen works), in terrible conditions and suffering #violence from #police in every attempt to get to the European Union to seek asylum (and after a long journey that sometimes last year), have arrived to Slovenia only to face more threats of push-backs and arbitrary selection processes.
    They are protesting the news that they will be returned to Croatia in the next days and asked for our help to share this news
    It should be understood that this situation is situated in the midst of a broader reorientation of Slovenia’s push-back processes to Croatia. Increasingly, in the last weeks we have heard of people being taken out of state-run centers and returned to Croatia whereupon they are pushed back to Bosnia. Once again, let’s remember that these processes are illegal according to European legislation. In the video, people clearly shout that they want asylum to show clearly that they are asking for their protection demand to be processed, as it shoud be done by law.
    Our friends and colleagues at Infokolpa
    - based in Slovenia - are working to put together more detailed information about these cases to be shared within the next days. They remind us that for those who succeed in crossing the Schengen border, people find themselves in facilities that are comparable if not worse than camps like #Miral (paid by EU money) in Bosnia.
    Remember that if these people return to Bosnia, they will be locked up there again for who knows how long, and with the possibility of suffering strong violence and robbery every time they decide to try again to reach the European Union to search the asylum that they are asking for now, and that is being denied to them.

    #push-back #push-backs #refoulements #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontière_sud-alpine #Alpes #Slovénie #Croatie #frontières #protestation #résistance #Bosnie #Balkans #route_des_Balkans

    ping @isskein

  • What happens to migrants forcibly returned to Libya?

    ‘These are people going missing by the hundreds.’

    The killing last week of three young men after they were intercepted at sea by the EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard has thrown the spotlight on the fate of tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers returned to Libya to face detention, abuse and torture by traffickers, or worse.

    The three Sudanese nationals aged between 15 and 18 were shot dead on 28 July, reportedly by members of a militia linked to the Coast Guard as they tried to avoid being detained. They are among more than 6,200 men, women, and children intercepted on the central Mediterranean and returned to Libya this year. Since 2017, that figure is around 40,000.

    Over the last three months, The New Humanitarian has spoken to migrants and Libyan officials, as well as to UN agencies and other aid groups and actors involved, to piece together what is happening to the returnees after they are brought back to shore.

    It has long been difficult to track the whereabouts of migrants and asylum seekers after they are returned to Libya, and for years there have been reports of people going missing or disappearing into unofficial detention centres after disembarking.

    But the UN’s migration agency, IOM, told TNH there has been an uptick in people vanishing off its radar since around December, and it suspects that at least some returnees are being taken to so-called “data-collection and investigation facilities” under the direct control of the Ministry of Interior for the Government of National Accord.

    The GNA, the internationally recognised authority in Libya, is based in the capital, Tripoli, and has been fighting eastern forces commanded by general Khalifa Haftar for 16 months in a series of battles that has developed into a regional proxy war.

    Unlike official detention centres run by the GNA’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) – also under the Ministry of the Interior – and its affiliated militias, neither IOM nor the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has access to these data-collection facilities, which are intended for the investigation of smugglers and not for detaining migrants.

    “We have been told that migrants are no longer in these [data-collection] facilities and we wonder if they have been transferred,” Safa Msehli, spokesperson for IOM in Libya, told TNH.

    “These are people going missing by the hundreds. We have also been told – and are hearing reports from community leaders – that people are going missing,” she said. “We feel the worst has happened, and that these locations [data-collection facilities] are being used to smuggle or traffic people.”

    According to IOM, more than half of the over 6,200 people returned to Libya this year – which includes at least 264 women and 202 children – remain unaccounted for after being loaded onto buses and driven away from the disembarkation points on the coast.

    Msehli said some people had been released after they are returned, but that their number was “200 maximum”, and that if others had simply escaped she would have expected them to show up at community centres run by IOM and its local partners – which most haven’t.

    Masoud Abdal Samad, a commander in the Libyan Coast Guard, denied all accusations of trafficking to TNH, even though the UN has sanctioned individuals in the Coast Guard for their involvement in people smuggling and trafficking. He also said he didn’t know where asylum seekers and migrants end up after they are returned to shore. “It’s not my responsibility. It’s DCIM that determines where the migrants go,” he said.

    Neither the head of the DCIM, Al Mabrouk Abdel-Hafez, nor the media officer for the interior ministry, Mohammad Abu Abdallah, responded to requests for comment from TNH. But the Libyan government recently told the Wall Street Journal that all asylum seekers and migrants returned by the Coast Guard are taken to official detention centres.
    ‘I can’t tell you where we take them’

    TNH spoke to four migrants – three of whom were returned by the Libyan Coast Guard and placed in detention, one of them twice. All described a system whereby returned migrants and asylum seekers are being routinely extorted and passed between different militias.

    Contacted via WhatsApp, Yasser, who only gave his first name for fear of retribution for exposing the abuse he suffered, recounted his ordeal in a series of conversations between May and June.

    The final stage of his journey to start a new life in Europe began on a warm September morning in 2019 when he squeezed onto a rubber dinghy along with 120 other people in al-Garabulli, a coastal town near Tripoli. The year before, the 33-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker had escaped from conflict in his village in the Nuba Mountains to search for safety and opportunity.

    By nightfall, those on board the small boat spotted a reconnaissance aircraft, likely dispatched as part of an EU or Italian aerial surveillance mission. It appears the aircraft alerted the Libyan Coast Guard, which soon arrived to drag them onto their boat and back to war-torn Libya.

    Later that day, as the boat approached the port, Yasser overheard a uniformed member of the Coast Guard speaking on the phone. The man said he had around 100 migrants and was willing to sell each one for 500 Libyan dinars ($83).

    “Militias buy and sell us to make a profit in this country,” Yasser told TNH months later, after he escaped. “In their eyes, refugees are just an investment.”

    When Yasser stepped off the Coast Guard boat in Tripoli’s port, he saw dozens of people he presumed were aid workers tending to the injured. He tried to tell them that he and the others were going to be sold to a militia, but the scene was frantic and he said they didn’t listen.

    “Militias buy and sell us to make a profit in this country. In their eyes, refugees are just an investment.”

    Yasser couldn’t recall which organisation the aid workers were from. Whoever was there, they watched Libyan authorities herd Yasser and the other migrants onto a handful of buses and drive them away.

    IOM, or UNHCR, or one of their local partners are usually present at disembarkation points when migrants are returned to shore. The two UN agencies, which receive significant EU funding for their operations in Libya and have been criticised for participating in the system of interception and detention, say they tend to the injured and register asylum seekers. They also said they count the number of people returned from sea and jot down their nationalities and gender.

    But both agencies told TNH they are unable to track where people go next because Libyan authorities do not keep an official database of asylum seekers and migrants intercepted at sea or held in detention centres.

    News footage – and testimonies from migrants and aid workers – shows white buses with DCIM logos frequently pick up those disembarking. TNH also identified a private bus company that DCIM contracts for transportation. The company, called Essahim, imported 130 vehicles from China before beginning operations in September 2019.

    On its Facebook page, Essahim only advertises its shuttle bus services to Misrata airport, in northwest Libya. But a high-level employee, who asked TNH not to disclose his name for fear of reprisal from Libyan authorities, confirmed that the company picks up asylum seekers and migrants from disembarkation points on the shore.

    He said all of Essahim’s buses are equipped with a GPS tracking system to ensure drivers don’t deviate from their route. He also emphasised that the company takes people to “legitimate centres”, but he refused to disclose the locations.

    “You have to ask the government,” he told TNH. “I can’t tell you where we take them. It’s one of the conditions in the contract.”

    Off the radar

    Since Libya’s 2011 revolution, state security forces – such as the Coast Guard and interior ministry units – have mostly consisted of a collection of militias vying for legitimacy and access to sources of revenue.

    Migrant detention centres have been particularly lucrative to control, and even the official ones can be run by whichever local militia or armed group holds sway at a particular time. Those detained are not granted rights or legal processes, and there have been numerous reports of horrific abuse, and deaths from treatable diseases like tuberculosis.

    Facts regarding the number of different detention centres and who controls them are sketchy, especially as they often close and re-open or come under new management, and as territory can change hands between the GNA and forces aligned with Haftar. Both sides have a variety of militias fighting alongside them, and there are splits within the alliances.

    But IOM’s Msehli told TNH that as of 1 August that there are 11 official detention centres run by DCIM, and that she was aware of returned migrants also being taken to what she believes are four different data-collection and investigation facilities – three in Tripoli and one in Zuwara, a coastal city about 100 kilometres west of the capital. The government has not disclosed how many data-collection centres there are or where they are located.

    Beyond the official facilities, there are also numerous makeshift compounds used by smugglers and militias – especially in the south and in the former Muammar Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid – for which there is no data, according to a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI).

    Yasser told TNH he had no idea if he was in an official DCIM-run detention centre or an unofficial site after he was pulled off the bus that took him to a makeshift prison from the port of Tripoli. Unless UN agencies show up, it is hard for detainees to tell the difference. Conditions are dismal and abuses occur in both locations: In unofficial facilities the extortion of detainees is systematic, while in official centres it tends to be carried out by individual staff members, according to the GI report.

    Between Yasser’s description and information from an aid group that gained access to the facility – but declined to be identified for fear of jeopardising its work – TNH believes Yasser was taken to an informal centre in Tripoli called Shaaria Zawiya, outside the reach of UN agencies. Msehli said IOM believes it is a data-collection and investigation facility.

    During the time Yasser was there, the facility was under the control of a militia commander with a brutal reputation, according to a high-level source from the aid group. The commander was eventually replaced in late 2019, but not before trying to extort hundreds of people, including Yasser.

    Several nights after he arrived at the centre, everyone being held there was ordered to pay a 3,000 Libyan dinar ransom – about $500 on the Libyan black market. The militia separated detainees by nationality and tossed each group a cell phone. They gave one to the Eritreans, one to the Somalis, and one to the Sudanese. The detainees were told to call their families and beg, Yasser recalled.

    Those who couldn’t pay languished in the centre until they were sold for a lower sum to another militia, which would try to extort them for a smaller ransom to earn a profit. This is a widely reported trend all across Libya: Militias sell migrants they can’t extort to make space for new hostages.

    Yasser’s friends and family were too poor to pay for his release, yet he clung to hope that he would somehow escape. He watched as the militia commander beat and intimidated other asylum seekers and migrants in the centre, but he was too scared to intervene. As the weeks passed, he started to believe nobody would find him.

    Then, one day, he saw a couple of aid workers. They came to document the situation and treat the wounded. “The migrants who spoke English whispered for help, but [the aid workers] just kept silent and nodded,” Yasser said.

    The aid workers were from the same NGO that identified the data-collection facility to TNH. The aid group said it suspects that Libyan authorities are taking migrants to two other locations in Tripoli after disembarkation: a data-collection and investigation facility in a neighbourhood called Hay al-Andulus, and an abandoned tobacco factory in another Tripoli suburb. “I know the factory exists, but I have no idea how many people are inside,” the source said, adding that the aid group had been unable to negotiate access to either location.

    “We were treated like animals.”

    Msehli confirmed that IOM believes migrants have been taken to both compounds, neither of which are under DCIM control. She added that more migrants are ending up in another unofficial location in Tripoli.

    After languishing for two months, until November, in Shaaria Zawiya, Yasser said he was sold to a militia manning what he thinks was an official detention centre. He assumed the location was official because uniformed UNHCR employees frequently showed up with aid. When UNHCR wasn’t there, the militia still demanded ransoms from the people inside.

    “We were treated like animals,” Yasser said. “But at least when UNHCR visited, the militia fed us more food than usual.”

    Tariq Argaz, the spokesperson for UNHCR in Libya, defended the agency’s aid provision to official facilities like this one, saying: “We are against the detention of refugees, but we have a humanitarian imperative to assist refugees wherever they are, even if it is a detention centre.”

    Growing pressure on EU to change tack

    The surge in disappearances raises further concerns about criminality and human rights abuses occurring within a system of interception and detention by Libyan authorities that the EU and EU member states have funded and supported since 2017.

    The aim of the support is to crack down on smuggling networks, reduce the number of asylum seekers and migrants arriving in Europe, and improve detention conditions in Libya, but critics say it has resulted in tens of thousands of people being returned to indefinite detention and abuse in Libya. There is even less oversight now that asylum seekers and migrants are ending up in data-collection and investigation facilities, beyond the reach of UN agencies.

    The escalating conflict in Libya and the coronavirus crisis have made the humanitarian situation for asylum seekers and migrants in the country “worse than ever”, according to IOM. At the same time, Italy and Malta have further turned their backs on rescuing people at sea. Italy has impounded NGO search and rescue ships, while both countries have repeatedly failed to respond, or responded slowly, to distress calls, and Malta even hired a private fishing vessel to return people rescued at sea to Libya.

    “We believe that people shouldn’t be returned to Libya,” Msehli told TNH. “This is due to the lack of any protection mechanism that the Libyan state takes or is able to take.”

    There are currently estimated to be at least 625,000 migrants in Libya and 47,859 registered asylum seekers and refugees. Of this number, around 1,760 migrants – including 760 registered asylum seekers and refugees – are in the DCIM-run detention centres, according to data from IOM and UNHCR, although IOM’s data only covers eight out of the 11 DCIM facilities.

    The number of detainees in unofficial centres and makeshift compounds is unknown but, based on those unaccounted for and the reported experiences of migrants, could be many times higher. A recent estimate from Liam Kelly, director of the Danish Refugee Council in Libya, suggests as many as 80,000 people have been in them at some point in recent years.

    There remains no clear explanation why some people intercepted attempting the sea journey appear to be being taken to data-collection and investigation facilities, while others end up in official centres. But researchers believe migrants are typically taken to facilities that have space to house new detainees, or other militias may strike a deal to purchase a new group to extort them.

    In a leaked report from last year, the EU acknowledged that the GNA “has not taken steps to improve the situation in the centres”, and that “the government’s reluctance to address the problems raises questions of its own involvement”.

    The UN, human rights groups, researchers, journalists and TNH have noted that there is little distinction between criminal groups, militias, and other entities involved in EU-supported migration control activities under the GNA.

    A report released last week by UNHCR and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) at the Danish Refugee Council said that migrants being smuggled and trafficked to the Mediterranean coast had identified the primary perpetrators of abuses as state officials and law enforcement.

    Pressure on the EU over its proximity to abuses resulting from the interception and detention of asylum seekers and migrants in Libya is mounting. International human rights lawyers have filed lawsuits to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the UN human rights committee, and the European Court of Human Rights to attempt to hold the EU accountable.

    Peter Stano, the EU Commission’s official spokesperson for External Affairs, told TNH that the EU doesn’t consider Libya a safe country, but that its priority has always been to stop irregular migration to keep migrants from risking their lives, while protecting the most vulnerable.

    “We have repeated again and again, together with our international partners in the UN and African Union, that arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees in Libya must end, including to Libyan authorities,” he said. “The situation in these centres is unacceptable, and arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees upon disembarkation must stop.”

    For Yasser, it took a war for him to have the opportunity to escape from detention. In January this year, the facility he was in came under heavy fire during a battle in the war for Tripoli. Dozens of migrants, including Yasser, made a run for it.

    He is now living in a crowded house with other Sudanese asylum seekers in the coastal town of Zawiya, and says that returning to the poverty and instability in Sudan is out of the question. With his sights set on Europe, he still intends to cross the Mediterranean, but he’s afraid of being intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, trafficked, and extorted all over again.

    “It’s a business,” said Yasser. “Militias pay for your head and then they force you to pay for your freedom.”

    https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2020/08/05/missing-migrants-Libya-forced-returns-Mediterranean

    #chronologie #timeline #time-line #migrations #asile #réfugiés #chiffres #statistiques #pull-back #pull-backs #push-backs #refoulements #disparitions #torture #décès #morts #gardes-côtes_libyens #détention #centres_de_détention #milices

    ping @isskein

    • The legal battle to hold the EU to account for Libya migrant abuses

      ‘It’s a well known fact that we’re all struggling here, as human rights practitioners.’

      More than 6,500 asylum seekers and migrants have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard so far this year. Since the EU and Italy began training, funding, equipping, and providing operational assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard in 2017, that number stands at around 40,000 people.

      Critics say European support for these interceptions and returns is one of the most glaring examples of the trade-off being made between upholding human rights – a fundamental EU value – and the EU’s determination to reduce migration to the continent.

      Those intercepted at sea and returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard – predominantly asylum seekers and migrants from East and West Africa – face indefinite detention, extortion, torture, sexual exploitation, and forced labour.

      This year alone, thousands have disappeared beyond the reach of UN agencies after being disembarked. Migration detention in Libya functions as a business that generates revenue for armed groups, some of whom have also pressed asylum seekers and migrants into military activities – a practice that is likely a war crime, according to Human Rights Watch.

      All of this has been well documented and widely known for years, even as the EU and Italy have stepped up their support for the Libyan Coast Guard. Yet despite their key role in empowering the Coast Guard to return people to Libya, international human rights lawyers have struggled to hold the EU and Italy to account. Boxed in by the limitations of international law, lawyers have had to find increasingly innovative legal strategies to try to establish European complicity in the abuses taking place.

      As the EU looks to expand its cooperation with third countries, the outcome of these legal efforts could have broader implications on whether the EU and its member states can be held accountable for the human rights impacts of their external migration policies.

      “Under international law there are rules… prohibiting states to assist other states in the commission of human rights violations,” Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International’s migration researcher, told The New Humanitarian. “However, those international rules do not have a specific court where you can litigate them, where individuals can have access to remedy.”

      In fact, human rights advocates and lawyers argue that EU and Italian support for the Libyan Coast Guard is designed specifically to avoid legal responsibility.

      “For a European court to have jurisdiction over a particular policy, a European actor must be in control... of a person directly,” said Itamar Mann, an international human rights lawyer. “When a non-European agent takes that control, it’s far from clear that [a] European court has jurisdiction. So there is a kind of accountability gap under international human rights law.”
      ‘The EU is not blameless’

      When Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2017 with Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) “to ensure the reduction of illegal migratory flows”, the agreement carried echoes of an earlier era.

      In 2008, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi signed a friendship treaty with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi that, among other things, committed the two countries to working together to curb irregular migration.

      The following year, Italian patrol boats began intercepting asylum seekers and migrants at sea and returning them to Libya. In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights, an international court based in Strasbourg, France – which all EU member states are party to – ruled that the practice violated multiple articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

      The decision, in what is known as the Hirsi case, was based on the idea that Italy had established “extraterritorial jurisdiction” over asylum seekers and migrants when it took them under their control at sea and had violated the principle of non-refoulement – a core element of international refugee law – by forcing them back to a country where they faced human rights abuses.

      Many states that have signed the 1951 refugee convention have integrated the principle of non-refoulement into their domestic law, binding them to protect asylum seekers once they enter a nation’s territory. But there are divergent interpretations of how it applies to state actors in international waters.

      By the time of the Hirsi decision, the practice had already ended and Gaddafi had been toppled from power. The chaos that followed the Libyan uprising in 2011 paved the way for a new era of irregular migration. The number of people crossing the central Meditteranean jumped from an average of tens of thousands per year throughout the late 1990s and 2000s to more than 150,000 per year in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

      Reducing these numbers became a main priority for Italy and the EU, and they kept the lessons of the Hirsi case in mind as they set about designing their policies, according to de Bellis.

      Instead of using European vessels, the EU and Italy focused on “enabling the Libyan authorities to do the dirty job of intercepting people at sea and returning them to Libya”, he said. “By doing so, they would argue that they have not breached international European law because they have never assumed control, and therefore exercised jurisdiction, over the people who have then been subjected to human rights violations [in Libya].”

      The number of people crossing the central Mediterranean has dropped precipitously in recent years as EU policies have hardened, and tens of thousands of people – including those returned by the Coast Guard – are estimated to have passed through formal and informal migration detention centres in Libya, some of them getting stuck for years and many falling victim to extortion and abuse.

      “There is always going to be a debate about, is the EU responsible… [because] it’s really Libya who has done the abuses,” said Carla Ferstman, a human rights law professor at the University of Essex in England. “[But] the EU is not blameless because it can’t pretend that it didn’t know the consequences of what it was going to do.”

      The challenge for human rights lawyers is how to legally establish that blame.
      The accountability gap

      Since 2017, the EU has given more than 91 million euros (about $107 million) to support border management projects in Libya. Much of that money has gone to Italy, which implements the projects and has provided its own funding and at least six patrol boats to the Libyan Coast Guard.

      One objective of the EU’s funding is to improve the human rights and humanitarian situation in official detention centres. But according to a leaked EU document from 2019, this is something the Libyan government had not been taking steps to do, “raising the question of its own involvement”, according to the document.

      The main goal of the funding is to strengthen the capacity of Libyan authorities to control the country’s borders and intercept asylum seekers and migrants at sea. This aspect of the policy has been effective, according to a September 2019 report by the UN secretary-general.

      “All our action is based on international and European law,” an EU spokesperson told the Guardian newspaper in June. “The European Union dialogue with Libyan authorities focuses on the respect for human rights of migrants and refugees.”

      The EU has legal obligations to ensure that its actions do not violate human rights in both its internal and external policy, according to Ferstman. But when it comes to actions taken outside of Europe, “routes for those affected to complain when their rights are being violated are very, very weak,” she said.

      The EU and its member states are also increasingly relying on informal agreements, such as the Memorandum of Understanding with Libya, in their external migration cooperation.

      “Once the EU makes formal agreements with third states… [it] is more tightly bound to a lot of human rights and refugee commitments,” Raphael Bossong, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, told TNH. “Hence, we see a shift toward less binding or purely informal arrangements.”

      Lawyers and researchers told TNH that the absence of formal agreements, and the combination of EU funding and member state implementation, undermines the standing of the EU Parliament and the Court of Justice, the bloc’s supreme court, to act as watchdogs.

      Efforts to challenge Italy’s role in cooperating with Libya in Italian courts have also so far been unsuccessful.

      “It’s a well known fact that we’re all struggling here, as human rights practitioners… to grapple with the very limited, minimalistic tools we have to address the problem at hand,” said Valentina Azarova, a lawyer and researcher affiliated with the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), a nonprofit organisation that pursues international human rights litigation.

      Uncharted territory

      With no clear path forward, human rights lawyers have ventured into uncharted territory to try to subject EU and Italian cooperation with Libya to legal scrutiny.

      Lawyers called last year for the International Criminal Court to investigate the EU for its alleged complicity in thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean, and legal organisations have filed two separate complaints with the UN Human Rights Committee, which has a quasi-judicial function.

      In November last year, GLAN also submitted a case, called S.S. and others v. Italy, to the European Court of Human Rights that aims to build on the Hirsi decision. The case argues that – through its financial, material, and operational support – Italy assumes “contactless control” over people intercepted by Libyan Coast Guard and therefore establishes jurisdiction over them.

      “Jurisdiction is not only a matter of direct, effective control over bodies,” Mann, who is part of GLAN, said of the case’s argument. “It’s also a matter of substantive control that can be wielded in many different ways.”

      GLAN, along with two Italian legal organisations, also filed a complaint in April to the European Court of Auditors, which is tasked with checking to see if the EU’s budget is implemented correctly and that funds are spent legally.

      The GLAN complaint alleges that funding border management activities in Libya makes the EU and its member states complicit in the human rights abuses taking place there, and is also a misuse of money intended for development purposes – both of which fall afoul of EU budgetary guidelines.

      The complaint asks for the EU funding to be made conditional on the improvement of the situation for asylum seekers and migrants in the country, and for it to be suspended until certain criteria are met, including the release of all refugees and migrants from arbitrary detention, the creation of an asylum system that complies with international standards, and the establishment of an independent, transparent mechanism to monitor and hold state and non-state actors accountable for human rights violations against refugees and migrants.

      The Court of Auditors is not an actual courtroom or a traditional venue for addressing human rights abuses. It is composed of financial experts who conduct an annual audit of the EU budget. The complaint is meant to encourage them to take a specific look at EU funding to Libya, but they aren’t obligated to do so.

      “To use the EU Court of Auditors to get some kind of human rights accountability is an odd thing to do,” said Ferstman, who is not involved in the complaint. “It speaks to the [accountability] gap and the absence of clear approaches.”

      “[Still], it is the institution where this matter needs to be adjudicated, so to speak,” Azarova, who came up with the strategy, added. “They are the experts on questions of EU budget law.”

      Closing the gap?

      If successful, the Court of Auditors complaint could change how EU funding for Libya operates and set a precedent requiring a substantive accounting of how money is being spent and whether it ends up contributing to human rights violations in other EU third-country arrangements, according to Mann. “It will be a blow to the general externalisation pattern,” he said.

      Ferstman cautioned, however, that its impact – at least legally – might not be so concrete. “[The Court of Auditors] can recommend everything that GLAN has put forward, but it will be a recommendation,” she said. “It will not be an order.”

      Instead, the complaint’s more significant impact might be political. “It could put a lot of important arsenal in the hands of the MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] who want to push forward changes,” Ferstman said.

      A European Court of Human Rights decision in favour of the plaintiffs in S.S. and others v Italy could be more decisive. “It would go a long way towards addressing that [accountability] gap, because individuals will be able to challenge European states that encourage and assist other countries to commit human rights violations,” de Bellis said.

      If any or all of the various legal challenges that are currently underway are successful, Bossong, from SWP, doesn’t expect them to put an end to external migration cooperation entirely. “Many [external] cooperations would continue,” he said. “[But] policy-makers and administrators would have to think harder: Where is the line? Where do we cross the line?”

      The Court of Auditors will likely decide whether to review EU funding for border management activities in Libya next year, but the European Court of Human Rights moves slowly, with proceedings generally taking around five years, according to Mann.

      Human rights advocates and lawyers worry that by the time the current legal challenges are concluded, the situation in the Mediterranean will again have evolved. Already, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, states such as Malta and Greece have shifted from empowering third countries to intercept people at sea to carrying out pushbacks directly.

      “What is happening now, particularly in the Aegean, is much more alarming than the facts that generated the Hirsi case in terms of the violence of the actual pushbacks,” Mann said.

      Human rights lawyers are already planning to begin issuing challenges to the new practices. As they do, they are acutely aware of the limitations of the tools available to them. Or, as Azarova put it: “We’re dealing with symptoms. We’re not addressing the pathology.”

      https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2020/08/10/Libya-migrant-abuses-EU-legal-battle

      #justice

  • Greece: Investigate Pushbacks, Collective Expulsions

    Greek law enforcement officers have summarily returned asylum seekers and migrants at the land and sea borders with Turkey during the Covid-19 lockdown, Human Rights Watch said today. The officers in some cases used violence against asylum seekers, including some who were deep inside Greek territory, and often confiscated and destroyed the migrants’ belongings.

    In reviewing nine cases, Human Rights Watch found no evidence that the authorities took any precautions to prevent the risk of transmission of Covid-19 to or among the migrants while in their custody. These findings add to growing evidence of abuses collected by nongovernmental groups and media, involving hundreds of people intercepted and pushed back from Greece to Turkey by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men over the last couple of months. Pushbacks violate several human rights norms, including against collective expulsion under the European Convention on Human Rights.

    “Greek authorities did not allow a nationwide lockdown to get in the way of a new wave of collective expulsions, including from deep inside Greek territory, ” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of protecting the most vulnerable people in this time of global crisis, Greek authorities have targeted them in total breach of the right to seek asylum and in disregard for their health.”

    Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 victims and witnesses who described incidents in which the Greek police, the Greek Coast Guard, and unidentified men in black or commando-like uniforms, who appeared to be working in close coordination with uniformed authorities, violently pushed migrants back to Turkey in March and April 2020.

    Six of those interviewed said Greek police officers rounded up people in the Diavata camp for asylum seekers in Thessaloniki, 400 kilometers from the land border with Turkey. This is the first time Human Rights Watch has documented collective expulsions of asylum seekers from deep inside Greece, through the Evros river.

    Six asylum seekers, from Syria, Palestine, and Iran, including a 15-year-old unaccompanied girl from Syria, described three incidents in March and April in which Greek Coast Guard personnel, Greek police, and armed masked men in dark clothing coordinated and carried out summary returns to Turkey from the Greek islands of Rhodes, Samos, and Symi. All of them said they were picked up on the islands soon after they landed, placed on larger Coast Guard boats, and once they were back at the sea border, were forced onto small inflatable rescue rafts, with no motor, and cast adrift near Turkish territorial waters.

    Another asylum seeker described a fourth incident, in which the Greek Coast Guard and unidentified men dressed in dark uniforms wearing balaclavas used dangerous maneuvers to force a boat full of migrants back to Turkey.

    On June 10, the International Organization for Migration reported that they had received allegations of migrants being arbitrarily arrested in Greece and pushed back to Turkey and asked Greece to investigate. On June 12, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged Greece to investigate multiple reports of pushbacks by Greek authorities at the country’s sea and land borders, possibly returning migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey after they had reached Greek territory or territorial waters.

    In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Greek government instituted nationwide restrictions on public movement from March 13 until early May. Migrants and asylum seekers were locked down in some camps, mainly on the Greek islands, where restrictions on freedom of movement continue, and where the closing of government offices has left them in legal limbo.

    Human Rights Watch sent letters to the Greek police and the Greek Coast Guard on June 29, presenting authorities with a summary of findings but received no response. The Greek Coast Guard indicated they would reply but at the time of publication, we had received no communication.

    Greek judicial authorities should conduct a transparent, thorough, and impartial investigation into allegations that Greek Coast Guard and Greek police personnel are involved in acts that put the lives and safety of migrants and asylum seekers at risk, Human Rights Watch said. Any officer engaged in illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers, should be subject to disciplinary sanctions and, if applicable, criminal prosecution.

    The Greek parliament should urgently establish an inquiry into all allegations of collective expulsions, including pushbacks, and violence at the borders, and determine whether they amount to a de facto government policy.

    The Greek Ombudsman, an independent national authority, should examine the issue of summary and collective expulsions, and issue a report with recommendations to the Greek authorities, Human Rights Watch said.

    The European Commission, which provides financial support to the Greek government for migration control, including in the Evros region and the Aegean Sea, should urge Greece to end all summary returns and collective expulsions of asylum seekers to Turkey, press the authorities to investigate allegations of violence, 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.

    On July 6, during a debate at the European Parliament on fundamental rights at the Greek border, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said that incidents should be investigated and indicated that the European Commission may consider a new system to monitor and verify reports of pushbacks amid increased allegations of abuse at the EU’s external borders. The Commission should take concrete measures to set up an independent and transparent investigation in consultation with members of civil society, Human Rights Watch said.

    Everyone seeking international protection has a right to apply for asylum and should be given that opportunity.

    Returns should follow a procedure that provides access to effective remedies and safeguards against refoulement – return to a country where they are likely to face persecution – and ill-treatment, Human Rights Watch said.

    “Greece has an obligation to treat everyone humanely and not to return refugees and asylum seekers to persecution, or anyone to the real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment or worse,” said Cossé. “Putting a stop to these dangerous incidents should be a priority for the Greek government and the European Commission as well.”

    For more information and accounts from migrants and asylum seekers, please see below.

    Sea Pushbacks to Turkey

    Between May 29 and June 6, 2020, Human Rights Watch interviewed six men from Iran, Palestine, and Syria, and one 15-year-old unaccompanied girl from Syria, who were in Turkey and who described three incidents in which they said the Greek Coast Guard, Greek police officers, and unidentified men in black or commando-like uniforms coordinated summary returns from Symi, Samos, and Rhodes in March and April. In the fourth incident, the Greek Coast Guard and unidentified men in uniforms wearing balaclavas used dangerous maneuvers to force the boat full of migrants back to Turkey from the Aegean Sea.

    Marwan (a pseudonym), 33, from Syria, said that on March 8, the Greek Coast Guard engaged in life-threatening maneuvers to force the small boat carrying him and 22 other passengers, including women and children, back to Turkey:

    “[W]e saw a Greek Coast Guard boat. It was big and had the Greek flag on it…. They started pushing back our boat, by creating waves in the water making it hard for us to continue…. It was like a battle – like living in Syria, we thought we were going to die.”

    In the three cases involving summary returns of people who had reached land, Greek law enforcement officers apprehended them within hours after they landed, and summarily expelled them to Turkey. All of those interviewed said that they were forced first onto large Coast Guard boats and then onto small inflatable rescue rafts, with no motor, and cast adrift near the Turkish sea border. In all cases, they said the Greek officers stole people’s belongings, including personal identification, bags, and money.

    These findings add to growing evidence of abuses collected by nongovernmental groups, including Alarm Phone and Aegean Boat Report, and the reputable German media outlet Deutsche Welle. Human Rights Watch was able to identify 26 reported incidents published by others, that occurred between March and July, involving at least 855 people. In 2015 Human Rights Watch documented that armed masked men were disabling boats carrying migrants and asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea and pushing them back to Turkish waters.

    Karim (a pseudonym), 36, from Syria, said that he arrived by boat to Symi island on March 21, along with approximately 30 other Syrians, including at least 10 children. He said that the Greek police approached the group within hours after they arrived. They explained that they wanted to claim asylum, but the officers detained them at an unofficial port site and summarily returned them to Turkey two days later, he said. They were taken on a military ship to open water, where the asylum seekers – including children and people with disabilities – were violently thrown from the ship’s deck to an inflatable boat:

    [T]hey [Greek police] put us in a military boat and pushed us [from the deck] to a small [inflatable] boat that doesn’t have an engine. They left us on this boat and took all our private stuff, our money, our IDs. We were on the boat and we were dizzy. We were vomiting. They [the Greek Coast Guard] didn’t tell us anything…. [W]e were in the middle of the sea. We called the Turkish Coast Guard. They came and took our boat.

    Karim and his extended family were detained in the Malatya Removal Center in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey, and in three other detention centers in Turkey, for seven weeks. They were released on May 7.

    In another incident at the end of March, 17 men and women and an unaccompanied girl from Iran, Palestine, and Syria were intercepted on a highway on the island of Rhodes, an hour after landing and forced back to the shore. They were detained in a tent for two days, without food and water, and then forced onto what they believe was a Greek Coast Guard boat on the third day, then dumped at sea in a small motor-less rescue raft. Human Rights Watch gathered four separate witness statements about the same incident, in which interviewees gave similar accounts. The Turkish Coast Guard rescued them.

    Leila L. (a pseudonym), 15, a Syrian girl traveling alone, said:

    On the third day, it was night, we don’t know what time, they told us to move … they looked like army commandoes and they had weapons with them. There were six of them, wearing masks … they pointed their weapons at us. We were pushed in a horrible way and they pushed our bags in the sea. Before getting on the first boat, they took everything from us – our phones, our IDs, our bags … everything, apart from the clothes we were wearing. We were very scared. Some people were vomiting. Think what you would feel if you’re in the middle of the sea and you don’t know what would happen to you. We stayed between two to three hours [in the sea]. The boat had no engine. It was a rescue boat. It was like a dinghy. After two to three hours, the Turkish Coast Guard drove us to shore.

    In another incident, Hassan (a pseudonym), 29, a Palestinian refugee from Gaza, said that the police apprehended him and his group of approximately 25 people about three hours after they arrived on the island of Samos, during the third week of March. He said the police took them to the shore, where another group of police and Greek Coast Guard officers were waiting:

    The Greek Coast Guard put us in a big boat…. We drove for three hours but then they put us in a small boat. It was like a raft. It was inflatable and had no motor. Like a rescue boat they keep on big boats in case there is an emergency. They left us in the sea alone. There was no food or water. They left us for two nights. We had children with us….

    Hassan said that a Greek Coast Guard boat came back on the third day, threw them a rope, and “drove around for two hours in the sea,” leaving them closer to Turkish waters. The Turkish Coast Guard rescued them.

    Video footage analyzed by Human Rights Watch from an incident that allegedly took place in the sea between Lesbos and Turkey on May 25, shows what appears to be women, men, and children drifting in an orange, tent-like inflatable life raft while three other rafts can be seen in the background. The rafts appear to be manufactured by the Greek company Lalizas, which according to publicly available information is a brand that the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy purchases. The person speaking in the video alleges they were placed on those rafts by the Greek Coast Guard to force them back to Turkey.

    Human Rights Watch contacted the Lalizas company through email with questions on the use of the life rafts by the Greek Coast Guard, but received no response.

    In its June 10 statement, the International Organization for Migration notes that “footage showing the use of marine rescue equipment to expel migrants across the Eastern Aegean Sea are [sic] especially disturbing.”

    Collective Expulsions Across Land Border

    In May, Human Rights Watch interviewed six men from Afghanistan who described five separate incidents in which they were summarily returned from Greece to Turkey in March and April. They gave detailed accounts of the Greek police apprehending them in the Diavata camp, a reception facility in Thessaloniki.

    They said the police took them to what they thought were police stations that they could not always identify or to an unofficial detention site that they said was like a small jail, close to the Greek-Turkish border, robbed them of their personal belongings including their ID, phone, and clothes, and beat them with wooden or metal rods – then summarily expelled them to Turkey.

    In one case, a 19-year-old man from Kapisa, in Afghanistan, gave Human Rights Watch a photo of injuries – red strip-like marks across his back – he said were caused by beatings by people he believed were police officers.

    Reporting by Human Rights Watch and other groups suggests that collective expulsions of people with documents allowing them to be in Greece, from deep inside the mainland, appear to be a new tactic by Greek law enforcement.

    Five of the men had obtained a document from police authorities in Thessaloniki granting the right to remain in Greece for up to 30 days. While the document is formally a deportation order, the person should have the chance to apply for asylum during the 30-day period if they wish to and the document may, under certain circumstances, be renewed.

    The men said they had either not understood their rights or had been unable to apply for asylum, or to renew this document, due to Covid-19 related shutdown of government institutions. They said that before they were returned to Turkey, in the weeks following the nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19, they saw Greek police forces visiting the Diavata camp almost daily to identify and return to Turkey residents whose documents had expired.

    Greece suspended the right to lodge asylum applications for those who arrived irregularly between March 1 and 31, following tensions on the Greek-Turkish land borders at the end of February due to a significant and rapid increase in people trying to cross the border. The Emergency Legislative order said that these people were to be returned to their country of origin or transit “without registration.”

    Making the situation worse, the Asylum Service suspended services to the public between March 13 and May 15 to protect against the spread of the Covid-19 virus. During this period, applications for international protection were not registered, interviews were not conducted, and appeals were not registered. The Asylum Service resumed full operations on May 18 but the Greek Council of Refugees, a non-governmental group providing legal assistance to asylum seekers, said that no new asylum applications had been lodged by the end of May with the exception of people under administrative detention.

    Greek law requires authorities to provide for the reception of third-country nationals who are arrested due to unlawful entry or who stay in Greece under conditions that guarantee human rights and dignity in accordance with international standards. During the reception and identification procedure, authorities should provide socio-psychological support and information on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, including the right to apply for asylum, and refer vulnerable people such as unaccompanied children and victims of torture to social services.

    Mostafa (a pseudonym), 19, from Afghanistan, said that in mid-April, Greek police rounded him up from Diavata camp, took him to a police station near the camp, and then transferred him to another small detention site near the border, where he was detained for a night, then forced onto a boat and expelled to Turkey:

    When they [the police] came to check my papers [at Diavata camp] I told them I couldn’t renew them because the office was closed but they didn’t listen to me…. They didn’t allow us any time. They just took us to the bus and said: “We will take you to renew the papers.” They were beating us the whole time…. [T]hey took us to the police station near the camp, there were more people, 10 people altogether…. [T]hey kept us in the rain for a few hours and then they transferred us to the border. There were two children with us – around 15 or 16 years old….When they took us to the police station, they took my coat, I was just with pants and a t-shirt and then at the border, they took these too. They took everything, my money, ID, phone.

    Mostafa gave the following description of the detention site near the border and the secret expulsion that followed:

    It was like a small police station. There were toilets. There were other migrants there. It was around four and a half hours away from the border. They carried us in a bus like a prison. We stayed in this small jail for one night, no food was given. It was at 10 or 11 o’clock at night when they took us to the border. I crossed with the boat. There were 18 people in one boat. It took six or seven minutes – then we arrived on the Turkish side. [T]he police were standing at the border [on the Greek side] and looking at us.

    Two men giving accounts about two separate incidents, said that the police took them to an unofficial detention site near the border. They described the detention locations as “small jails” and said they were detained there for a day or two.

    Four out of the six asylum seekers said that Greek security forces had abused them, throughout their summary deportation, beating them with heavy metal, plastic, or wooden sticks.

    Mohamed (a pseudonym), 24, from Afghanistan, said:

    They had a stick that all the police have with them…. The stick was made of plastic, but it was very heavy. They had black uniforms. I couldn’t see all of the uniform – I couldn’t see their faces – if I looked up they would beat us. They beat one migrant for five minutes…. There were eight of them – they asked us if we came from Thessaloniki and we said yes and then they started beating us.

    All of those interviewed said the Greek security forces stripped them of their clothes, leaving them in either just their underwear or just a basic layer, and took their possessions, including personal identification documents, money, telephones, and bags before pushing them back to Turkey.

    In a report published in March, Human Rights Watch documented that Greek security forces and unidentified armed men at the Greece-Turkey land border detained, assaulted, sexually assaulted, robbed, and stripped asylum seekers and migrants, then forced them back to Turkey. At the end of June, Greece’s Supreme Court Prosecutor opened a criminal investigation initiated by the Greek Helsinki Monitor, a nongovernmental group, into the pushbacks and violence documented by Human Rights Watch and others, as well as into the shooting and deaths of two people in Evros in March.

    Human Rights Watch documented similar situations in 2008 and 2018. In March 2019, the Public Prosecutor of Orestiada in Evros, initiated an investigation regarding the repeated allegations of systematic violence against migrants and asylum seekers at the Evros river, based on the Human Rights Watch 2018 report, and a report by three nongovernmental groups, including the Greek Council for Refugees.

    Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), a nongovernmental group, has built an extensive database of testimony of people being pushed back from Greece to Turkey over the Evros river. Between March 31 and April 28, BVMN has reported at least 7 incidents involving more than 306 people. Among these cases, at least six people had legal documents regularizing their stay in Greece when they were summarily expelled.

    https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/16/greece-investigate-pushbacks-collective-expulsions

    #refoulements_collectifs #migrations #asile #réfugiés #life_rafts #Grèce #refoulement #push-backs #refoulements #frontières

    –—

    sur les #life_rats :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/840285
    #life_raft #liferafts

    • Press Release: New Legal Centre Lesvos report details collective expulsions in the Aegean Sea

      Greek authorities are unlawfully expelling migrants who have arrived in Greece, and abandoning them at sea on motorless, inflatable vessels. In a report released today by Legal Centre Lesvos, testimonies from 30 survivors detail the systematic, unlawful and inherently violent nature of these collective expulsions.

      Since the Greek authorities’ one month suspension of the right to seek asylum on 1 March 2020, the Greek government has adopted various unlawful practices that are openly geared towards the deterrence and violent disruption of migrant crossings, with little regard for its obligations deriving from international law and specifically from the non refoulement principle – and even less for the lives of those seeking sanctuary.

      While collective expulsions from Greece to Turkey are not new, in recent months Greek authorities have been using rescue equipment – namely inflatable, motorless life rafts – in a new type of dystopic expulsion. Migrants are violently transferred from Greek islands, or from the dinghy upon which they are travelling, to such rafts, which are then left adrift in open water.

      In addition to the well-documented practice of non-assistance to migrant dinghies, the Greek authorities have damaged the motor or gasoline tank of migrant dinghies before returning the vessel – and the people on board – to open waters, where they are subsequently abandoned.

      These collective expulsions, happening in the Aegean region, are not isolated events. Direct testimonies from survivors, collected by the Legal Centre Lesvos, demonstrate that they are part of a widespread and systematic practice, with a clear modus operandi implemented across various locations in the Aegean Sea and on the Eastern Aegean islands.
      The information shared with the Legal Centre Lesvos is from 30 survivors, and testimonies from 7 individuals who were in direct contact with survivors, or were witness to, a collective expulsion. These testimonies, related to eight separate collective expulsions, were collected between March and June 2020, directly by the Legal Centre Lesvos.

      Collective expulsions are putting peoples’ lives at risk, are contrary to Greece’ international legal obligations and violate survivors’ fundamental and human rights, including their right to life and the jus cogens prohibitions on torture and refoulement. When carried out as part of a widespread and systematic practice, as documented in our report, these amount to a crime against humanity.

      Collective expulsions should undoubtedly be condemned, in the strongest possible terms; however, this is not sufficient: it is only through the immediate cessation of such illegal practices that the protection of human rights and access to asylum will be restored at the European Union’s external borders.

      Lorraine Leete, attorney and one of the Legal Centre Lesvos’ coordinators, said that:
      “The Greek authorities are abandoning people in open water, on inflatable and motorless life rafts – that are designed for rescue – with no regard for their basic safety, let alone their right to apply for asylum. Such audacious acts show the violence at the core of the European border regime, and the disregard that it has for human life.

      Greek authorities have denied reports of collective expulsions as “fake news”, despite a plethora of undeniable evidence, from survivors and various media outlets. This is untenable: evidence shared with the Legal Centre has shown that collective expulsions are happening in the Aegean sea, with a systematic and widespread modus operandi that amounts to crimes against humanity. They are being carried out in the open, in plain view – if not with the participation – of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. European Authorities are complicit in these crimes as they have thus far failed to act to prevent further pushbacks, or hold Greek authorities accountable.”

      https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2020/07/13/press-release-new-legal-centre-lesvos-report-details-collective-e

      –---

      Pour télécharger le #rapport:


      http://legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Collective-Expulsions-in-the-Aegean-July-2020-LCL.pdf

      #Mer_Egée #Méditerranée

    • BVMN Visual Investigation: Analysis of Video Footage Showing Involvement of Hellenic Coast Guard in Maritime Pushback

      The following piece is a product of a joint-investigation by Josoor and No Name Kitchen on behalf of the Border Violence Monitoring Network.

      Introduction

      Since the spring, consistent and well-documented reports have shown masked men aggressively pursuing boats full of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea, before either destroying or off-loading the boats and initiating illegal return operations to Turkey.

      One investigation which Josoor contributed to, analyzed a set of materials documenting masked men operating from an inflatable boat off the island of Lesvos in early June. Testimonies recorded on the BVMN database [June 5th; June 3rd] as well as other media reports describe a series of incidents where Hellenic Coast Guard [HCG] vessels approach boats carrying men, women and children in the Aegean between Turkey and Greece and variably drove them back, intimidated them, or destroyed and removed their engines. Several of these operations have been marked by direct physical violence at the hands of the HCG. A more recent report from the New York Times referenced at least 1,072 asylum seekers being abandoned at sea by Greek officials in at least 31 separate expulsions since March.

      The consistency of these reports underscore a broader pattern of maritime pushbacks which, in many ways, mirrors the similarly illegal procedures which have become commonplace throughout Greece and along the Balkan Route.

      Despite numerous witness testimonies of this behavior, direct evidence linking specific Hellenic Coast Guard Vessels to these illegal practices remain sparse. New video evidence obtained by the association Josoor [a BVMN-member based in Turkey] from an incident on July 11th, may provide a crucial new perspective in the analysis of this behavior.

      https://giphy.com/gifs/U6MK9HH9ZdM33U74aA

      In this investigation, we will focus on a series of four videos [Link to videos 1, 2, 3, & 4] filmed on July 11th and obtained on the same day, showing masked men on a medium-sized vessel approaching a dingy filled with women and children. The man who filmed this video sent the materials over to Josoor while still on the dinghy, after this he reported being returned to Turkey and held in detention for a period of two weeks. The purpose of this analysis is to better identify the individuals and the vessel involved in the operation which resulted in the pushback of the group.

      Given the initial lack of a witness testimony for this event [which was unable to be obtained for several weeks due to the respondent’s detention in Turkey], we had limited material to work with. In order to address these shortcomings, we utilized various open-source techniques such as geolocating the video using topographic satellite renders, stitching together the scene with compiled images, and conducting research on the origins of the vessel carrying the masked men.

      Geolocating of the 11 July Incident

      An important part of this investigation was the geolocation of the incident in order to better understand the dynamics at play, and verify the pushback element.

      A useful hint in geolocating these videos was the distinct mountain lines featured in the background in two of the clips. In order to do this, we first isolated the ridge-lines shown in the backgrounds of these two clips by using a photo-stitching technique to produce a panorama of the scene.

      Using Google Earth’s topographic satellite renders of the Aegean Sea around the coastlines of Lesvos, we were then able to geolocate these two clips. In the background of the alleged pushback operation is the shore of Lesvos; Mytilini can be seen in the center right as the populated area in the background of the videos. This indicates that the dinghy was being chased east towards Diliki, Turkey as it was intercepted by the HCG vessel.

      This geolocated area matches with information posted from Turkish Coast Guard of a rescue operation on July 11th at 10:00 am off the coast of Dikili, Turkey. This was their only reported rescue of that day.

      Identification Of HCG Vessel Involved in the July 11th Incident

      The vessel in question’s colour is light grey and features a white and blue striped symbol towards the bow on the starboard side: the symbol of the Hellenic Coast Guard.

      Slightly farther towards the bow of the boat on its starboard side, the lettering marking the vehicle’s identification within the HCG can also be seen: ΛΣ-618

      The boat in question is one of two Faiakas-class fast patrol crafts (FPCs) currently operated by the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) – this one being the ΛΣ-618 and the other being ΛΣ-617. Under a contract awarded by the HCG in April 2014, the Montmontaza-Greben shipyard, located on the island of Korcula, Croatia, was awarded a 13.3 million euro ($15.5 million) contract to supply six of these vessels which are listed as POB-24G.

      The POB-24 vessels are 24.6 meters long, and are equipped with two diesel engines that enable a maximum speed of 30 knots and a range of 400 miles. The vessels are staffed by a crew of seven but can be augmented by up to 25 additional personnel if needed.

      Importantly, the acquisition of these vessels by the HCG was majority financed via the European Commission’s External Borders Fund which provided for 75% of the cost, with the rest consisting of domestic funding. The first of POB-24G vessels, ΛΣ-617, was delivered in February 2015 whereas ΛΣ-618 was launched into service several months later in August 2015. These boats have enhanced the operational capacity of the HCG by relieving pressure from its aging Dilos-Class patrol vessels.

      Identification of the officers present in the 11 July Incident

      While the men seen approaching the dinghy on board the ΛΣ-618 took steps to conceal their identities, context clues within the videos allowed us to draw a better picture of who exactly they were and what their behavior was.

      Six men can be counted standing on board the ΛΣ-618. The men wear dark colored clothing with short-sleeved shirts marked with a logo on their upper right torsos and have either dark colored shorts or long trousers on. All six have their faces covered with either black balaclava masks or neck gaiters – an important point to keep in mind when considering that in June, the Hellenic Coast Guard’s spokesperson stated that “under no circumstances do the officers of the Coast Guard wear full face masks during the performance of their duties”.

      The men in the image above are wearing clothes which share similarities with the uniforms worn by the Hellenic Coast Guard, as the picture below shows.

      The man closest to the bow of the boat holds a weapon which appears to be an FN FAL assault rifle whereas the man second from the stern looks at the group with either a camera or a pair of binoculars. FN-FAL rifles have been carried by Greek government forces since the 1970s, thus falling in line with the scene we are shown in the videos.

      Treatment of the refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers on board the dingy

      Our investigation of the events documented in this video, and what happened next to the refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers on board the dingy, prioritized a fact-finding search within the clips themselves. On the day of the incident, a Syrian man on board the dinghy sent four videos to Josoor. He claimed to have sent them from the dinghy as they were being approached by the vessels initially and then later after they were cast afloat into Turkish waters.

      In one of the videos, at least 32 people on board the now motorless dingy can be seen floating in largely calm waters. The video shows a largely mixed passenger demographic with the men, women, and children on the boat having a varied representation of skin colors. Turkish Coast Guard records from their single intervention of the coast of Dikili on July 11th reports a group of 40 refugees assisted of which 21 were Syrian, 8 Congolese, 4 Somali,
 3 Central African, 2 Palestinian, 
1 Senegalese, and 1 Eritrean. Accounting for the boat passengers not shown within the video, these numbers correspond with the video footage inside the dinghy.

      Giving his testimony of the event several weeks later to Josoor, the man who filmed these videos described that upon its initial approach of their dinghy, the AE-618 had a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) deployed next to it which approached them. Allegedly, one of the officers spoke in English to a member of the dinghy group, who expressed their intention to claim asylum. The officer responded negatively to this request and told them that because of COVID-19, they would not be allowed to enter the island and had to return to Turkey. The respondent described that at first, the driver of the dinghy did not follow that order and subsequently the officers destroyed the engine of the dinghy and beat its driver with batons. As other group members tried to protect the driver, they were also beaten with batons.


      The officers subsequently dragged them to Turkish waters and then left the group floating there with the broken engine. After spending several more hours in the water, the Turkish Coast Guard arrived at the scene to rescue the passengers aboard the dingy. They took them to a quarantine detention center, from where they were released after 15 days.

      With closer analysis, the video footage is able to corroborate this account. In the final video sent by the Syrian dinghy passenger, the dinghy is shown to be floating quietly in the ocean. There is no indication of the ΛΣ-618 being present at this point and the group inside the dinghy appears uncertain. At one point in the video, the cameraman pans towards the stern of the boat and briefly shows its motor. When comparing a still of the motor in the final video to a still from the dinghy’s motor during its initial flight from the ΛΣ-618, it becomes clear that it was tampered with in the intervening time. Given the many substantiated reports of boat motor destruction at the hands of the HCG, it is most likely that the balaclava-clad men on the ΛΣ-618 destroyed the dinghy’s motor before setting it adrift towards Turkey

      Contextualizing the incident on 11 July

      In contextualizing the incident of 11 July in the broader practices of the HCG in the Aegean, it is important to look at the documented history of aggression of the ΛΣ-618. On March 7th, 2020 the boat ΛΣ-618 was involved in an incident with a Turkish Coast Guard boat wherein the Greek boat entered Turkish waters and was chased in close proximity at high speeds by the Turkish boat. More recently, in the early morning hours of August 15th, the boat was documented participating in an incident along with Nato and Frontex vessels [and several helicopters], blocking a boat carrying women and children from entering into Greek waters.

      Pushbacks in the Aegean Sea have been reported on a daily basis these past few months. Given the persistence of pushbacks in the area as well as the strong presence of Frontex vessels on the Aegean Sea, the tacit support that the European Union lends to the Hellenic Coastguard in these illegal practices must be considered. The EU-funded acquisition of the ΛΣ-618 represents just a portion of the close to 40 million euros which the EU has afforded the HCG to procure new vessels within the last five years. These boats, as it has been shown in this investigation, are being used to illegally push vulnerable people back to Turkish waters – a gross misuse of power.

      https://giphy.com/gifs/J4ClIZSSzrAUjmFySd

      Conclusion

      This investigation began by analysing a series of four videos showing masked men in a vessel approaching a small dinghy filled with refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers on the Aegean Sea who later claimed to be pushed back to Turkey from Greek waters. Using Earth Studio and photo-stitching techniques, we were first able to geolocate the video to somewhere on the Aegean between Mytilini, Greece and Diliki, Turkey. We were then able to identify the vessel as the Hellenic Coast Guard’s ΛΣ-618 Faiakas-class fast patrol craft by highlighting the clear HCG emblem visible on its side and it’s ship identification number. This allowed us to make a strong conclusion that the masked men on this boat, who wore uniforms identical to those previously worn by the vessel’s crew-members, were acting in an official capacity. Finally, we were also able to contextualize the ΛΣ-618 documented history of aggressive pursuits of boats carrying refugees and asylum seekers in Greek waters and also highlighted the vessel’s EU-linked acquisition from a Croatian boatbuilder.

      When put together, this analysis clearly links the materials shown in the videos to the well documented trend of maritime push-backs by the HCG in the last months. To be clear, the findings of this investigation directly contradicts the claims of the Hellenic Coast Guard’s spokesperson who recently stated that “under no circumstances do the officers of the Coast Guard wear full face masks during the performance of their duties”. Going even further, this investigation disproves the statement of Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas who told the New York Times in August that “Greek authorities do not engage in clandestine activities.” This investigation also further confirms the conclusion of previous investigations that the Hellenic Coastguard is engaging in pushbacks, casting strong doubt on Prime Minister Mitsotakis statement from August 19 that “it has not happened.”Pushbacks, whether they be on land or on sea, are illegal procedures, emboldened and made more efficient by EU funding mechanisms.

      https://www.borderviolence.eu/bvmn-investigations-analysis-of-video-footage-showing-involvement-of-
      #analyse_visuelle #architecture_forensiques

  • OP-ed : La guerre faite aux migrants à la frontière grecque de l’Europe par #Vicky_Skoumbi

    La #honte de l’Europe : les #hotspots aux îles grecques
    Devant les Centres de Réception et d’Identification des îles grecques, devant cette ‘ignominie à ciel ouvert’ que sont les camps de Moria à Lesbos et de Vathy à Samos, nous sommes à court de mots ; en effet il est presque impossible de trouver des mots suffisamment forts pour dire l’horreur de l’enfermement dans les hot-spots d’hommes, femmes et enfants dans des conditions abjectes. Les hot-spots sont les Centres de Réception et d’Identification (CIR en français, RIC en anglais) qui ont été créés en 2015 à la demande de l’UE en Italie et en Grèce et plus particulièrement dans les îles grecques de Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros et Kos, afin d’identifier et enregistrer les personnes arrivantes. L’approche ‘hot-spots’ introduite par l’UE en mai 2015 était destinée à ‘faciliter’ l’enregistrement des arrivants en vue d’une relocalisation de ceux-ci vers d’autres pays européens que ceux de première entrée en Europe. Force est de constater que, pendant ces cinq années de fonctionnement, ils n’ont servi que le but contraire de celui initialement affiché, à savoir le confinement de personnes par la restriction géographique voire par la détention sur place.

    Actuellement, dans ces camps, des personnes vulnérables, fuyant la guerre et les persécutions, fragilisées par des voyages longs et éprouvants, parmi lesquels se trouvent des victimes de torture ou de naufrage, sont obligées de vivre dans une promiscuité effroyable et dans des conditions inhumaines. En fait, trois quart jusqu’à quatre cinquième des personnes confinées dans les îles grecques appartiennent à des catégories reconnues comme vulnérables, même aux yeux de critères stricts de vulnérabilité établis par l’UE et la législation grecque[1], tandis qu’un tiers des résidents des camps de Moria et de Vathy sont des enfants, qui n’ont aucun accès à un circuit scolaire. Les habitants de ces zones de non-droit que sont les hot-spots, passent leurs journées à attendre dans des files interminables : attendre pour la distribution d’une nourriture souvent avariée, pour aller aux toilettes, pour se laver, pour voir un médecin. Ils sont pris dans un suspens du temps, sans aucune perspective d’avenir de sorte que plusieurs d’entre eux finissent par perdre leurs repères au détriment de leur équilibre mental et de leur santé.

    Déjà avant l’épidémie de Covid 19, plusieurs organismes internationaux comme le UNHCR[2] avaient dénoncé les conditions indignes dans lesquelles étaient obligées de vivre les demandeurs d’asile dans les hot-spots, tandis que des ONG comme MSF[3] et Amnesty International[4] avaient à plusieurs reprises alerté sur le risque que représentent les conditions sanitaires si dégradées, en y pointant une situation propice au déclenchement des épidémies. De son côté, Jean Ziegler, dans son livre réquisitoire sorti en début 2020, désignait le camp de #Moria, le hot-spot de Lesbos, comme la ‘honte de l’Europe’[5].

    Début mars 2020, 43.000 personnes étaient bloquées dans les îles dont 20.000 à Moria et 7.700 à Samos pour une capacité d’accueil de 2.700 et 650 respectivement[6]. Avec les risques particulièrement accrus de contamination, à cause de l’impossibilité de respecter la distanciation sociale et les mesures d’hygiène, on aurait pu s’attendre à ce que des mesures urgentes de décongestion de ces camps soient prises, avec des transferts massifs vers la Grèce continentale et l’installation dans des logements touristiques vides. A vrai dire c’était l’évacuation complète de camps si insalubres qui s’imposait, mais étant donné la difficulté de trouver dans l’immédiat des alternatives d’hébergement pour 43.000 personnes, le transfert au moins des plus vulnérables à des structures plus petites offrant la possibilité d’isolement- comme les hôtels et autres logements touristiques vides dans le continent- aurait été une mesure minimale de protection. Au lieu de cela, le gouvernement Mitsotakis a décidé d’enfermer les résidents des camps dans les îles dans des conditions inhumaines, sans qu’aucune mesure d’amélioration des conditions sanitaires ne soit prévue[7].

    Car, les mesures prises le 17 mars par le gouvernement pour empêcher la propagation du virus dans les camps, consistaient uniquement en une restriction des déplacements au strict minimum nécessaire et même en deça de celui-ci : une seule personne par famille aura désormais le droit de sortir du camp pour faire des courses entre 7 heures et 19 heures, avec une autorisation fournie par la police, le nombre total de personnes ayant droit de sortir par heure restant limité. Parallèlement l’entrée des visiteurs a été interdite et celle des travailleurs humanitaires strictement limitée à ceux assurant des services vitaux. Une mesure supplémentaire qui a largement contribué à la détérioration de la situation des réfugiés dans les camps, a été la décision du ministère d’arrêter de créditer de fonds leur cartes prépayés (cash cards ) afin d’éviter toute sortie des camps, laissant ainsi les résidents des hot-spots dans l’impossibilité de s’approvisionner avec des produits de première nécessité et notamment de produits d’hygiène. Remarquez que ces mesures sont toujours en vigueur pour les hot-spots et toute autre structure accueillant des réfugiés et des migrants en Grèce, en un moment où toute restriction de mouvement a été déjà levée pour la population grecque. En effet, après une énième prolongation du confinement dans les camps, les mesures de restriction de mouvement ont été reconduites jusqu’au 5 juillet, une mesure d’autant plus discriminatoire que depuis cinq semaines déjà les autres habitants du pays ont retrouvé une entière liberté de mouvement. Etant donné qu’aucune donnée sanitaire ne justifie l’enfermement dans les hot-spots où pas un seul cas n’a été détecté, cette extension de restrictions transforme de facto les Centres de Réception et Identification (RIC) dans les îles en centres fermés ou semi-fermés, anticipant ainsi à la création de nouveaux centres fermés, à la place de hot-spots actuels –voir ici et ici. Il est fort à parier que le gouvernement va étendre de prolongation en prolongation le confinement de RIC pendant au moins toute la période touristique, ce qui risque de faire monter encore plus la tension dans les camps jusqu’à un niveau explosif.

    Ainsi les demandeurs d’asile ont été – et continuent toujours à être – obligés de vivre toute la période de l’épidémie, dans une très grande promiscuité et dans des conditions sanitaires qui suscitaient déjà l’effroi bien avant la menace du Covid-19[8]. Voyons de plus près quelles conditions de vie règnent dans ce drôle de ‘chez soi’, auquel le Ministre grec de la politique migratoire invitait les réfugiés à y passer une période de confinement sans cesse prolongée, en présentant le « Stay in camps » comme le strict équivalent du « Stay home », pour les citoyens grecs. Dans l’extension « hors les murs » du hotspot de Moria, vers l’oliveraie, repartie en Oliveraie I, II et III, il y a des quartiers où il n’existe qu’un seul robinet d’eau pour 1 500 personnes, ce qui rend le respect de règles d’hygiène absolument impossible. Dans le camp de Moria il n’y a qu’une seule toilette pour 167 personnes et une douche pour 242, alors que dans l’Oliveraie, 5 000 personnes n’ont aucun accès à l’électricité, à l’eau et aux toilettes. Selon le directeur des programmes de Médecins sans Frontières, Apostolos Veizis, au hot-spot de Samos à Vathy, il n’y a qu’une seule toilette pour 300 personnes, tandis que l’organisation MSF a installé 80 toilettes et elle fournit 60 000 litres d’eau par jour pour couvrir, ne serait-ce que partiellement- les besoins de résidents à l’extérieur du camp.

    Avec la restriction drastique de mouvement contre le Covid-19, non seulement les sorties du camp, même pour s’approvisionner ou pour aller consulter, étaient faites au compte-goutte, mais aussi les entrées, limitant ainsi dramatiquement les services que les ONG et les collectifs solidaires offraient aux réfugiés. La réduction du nombre des ONG et l’absence de solidaires a créé un manque cruel d’effectifs qui s’est traduit par une désorganisation complète de divers services et notamment de la distribution de la nourriture. Ainsi, dans le camp de Moria en pleine pandémie, ont eu lieu des scènes honteuses de bousculade effroyable où les réfugiés étaient obligés de se battre pour une portion de nourriture- voir la vidéo et l’article de quotidien grec Ephimérida tôn Syntaktôn. Ces scènes indignes ne sauraient que se multiplier dans la mesure où le gouvernement en imposant aux ONG un procédé d’enregistrement très complexe et coûteux a réussi à exclure plus que la moitié de celles qui s’activent dans les camps. Car, par le processus de ‘régulation’ d’un domaine censément opaque, imposé par la récente loi sur l’asile, n’ont réussi à passer que 18 ONG qui elles seules auront désormais droit d’entrée dans les hot-spots[9]. En fait, l’inscription des ONG dans le registre du Ministère s’avère un procédé plein d’embûches bureaucratiques. Qui plus est le Ministre peut décider à son gré de refuser l’inscription des organisations qui remplissent tous les critères requis, ce qui serait une ingérence flagrante du pouvoir dans le domaine humanitaire.

    Car, il faudrait aussi savoir que les réfugiés enfermés dans les camps se trouvent à la limite de la survie, après la décision du Ministère de leur couper, à partir du début mars, les aides –déjà très maigres, 90 euros par mois pour une personne seule- auxquelles ils avaient droit jusqu’à maintenant. En ce qui concerne la couverture sociale de santé, à partir de juillet dernier les demandeurs ne pouvaient plus obtenir un numéro de sécurité sociale et étaient ainsi privés de toute couverture santé. Après des mois de tergiversation et sous la pression des organismes internationaux, le gouvernement grec a enfin décidé de leur accorder un numéro provisoire de sécurité sociale, mais cette mesure reste pour l’instant en attente de sa pleine réalisation. Entretemps, l’exclusion des demandeurs d’asile du système national de santé a fait son effet : non seulement, elle a conduit à une détérioration significative de la santé des requérant, mais elle a également privé des enfants réfugiés de scolarisation, car, faute de carnet de vaccination à jour, ceux-ci ne pouvaient pas s’inscrire à l’école.

    En d’autres termes, au lieu de déployer pendant l’épidémie une politique de décongestion avec transferts massifs à des structures sécurisées, le gouvernement a traité les demandeurs d’asile comme porteurs virtuels du virus, à tenir coûte que coûte à l’écart de la société ; non seulement les réfugiés et les migrants n’ont pas été protégés par un confinement sécurisé, mais ils ont été enfermés dans des conditions sanitaires mettant leur santé et leur vie en danger. La preuve, si besoin est, ce sont les mesures prises par le gouvernement dans des structures d’accueil du continent où des cas de coronavirus ont été détectés ; par ex. la gestion catastrophique de la quarantaine dans une structure d’accueil hôtelière à Kranidi en Péloponnèse où une femme enceinte a été testée positive en avril. Dans cet hôtel géré par l’IOM qui accueille 470 réfugiés de l’Afrique sub-saharienne, après l’indentification de deux cas (une employée et une résidente), un dépistage généralisé a été effectué et le 21 avril 150 cas ont été détectés ; très probablement le virus a été ‘importé’ dans la structure par les contacts des réfugiés et du personnel avec les propriétaires de villas voisines installés dans la région pour la période de confinement et qui les employaient pour divers services. Après une quarantaine de trois semaines, trois nouveaux cas ont été détectés avec comme résultat que toutes les personnes testées négatives ont été placées en quarantaine avec celles testées positives au même endroit[10].

    Exactement la même tactique a été adoptée dans les camps de Ritsona (au nord d’Athènes) et de Malakassa (à l’est d’Attique), où des cas ont été détectés. Au lieu d’isoler les porteurs du virus et d’effectuer un dépistage exhaustif de toute la population du camp, travailleurs compris, ce qui aurait pu permettre d’isoler tout porteur non-symptomatique, les camps avec tous leurs résidents ont été mis en quarantaine. Les autorités « ont imposé ces mesures sans prendre de dispositions nécessaires …pour isoler les personnes atteintes du virus à l’intérieur des camps, ont déclaré deux travailleurs humanitaires et un résident du camp. Dans un troisième cas, les autorités ont fermé le camp sans aucune preuve de la présence du virus à l’intérieur, simplement parce qu’elles soupçonnaient les résidents du camp d’avoir eu des contacts avec une communauté voisine de Roms où des gens avaient été testés positifs [11] » [il s’agit du camp de Koutsohero, près de Larissa, qui accueille 1.500 personnes][12].

    Un travailleur humanitaire a déclaré à Human Rights Watch : « Aussi scandaleux que cela puisse paraître, l’approche des autorités lorsqu’elles soupçonnent qu’il pourrait y avoir un cas de virus dans un camp consiste simplement à enfermer tout le monde dans le camp, potentiellement des milliers de personnes, dont certaines très vulnérables, et à jeter la clé, sans prendre les mesures appropriées pour retracer les contacts de porteurs du virus, ni pour isoler les personnes touchées ».

    Il va de soi qu’une telle tactique ne vise nullement à protéger les résidents de camp, mais à les isoler tous, porteurs et non-porteurs, ensemble, au risque de leur santé et de leur vie. Au fond, la stratégie du gouvernement a été simple : retrancher complètement les réfugiés du reste de la population, tout en les excluant de mesures de protection efficiantes. Bref, les réfugiés ont été abandonnés à leur sort, quitte à se contaminer les uns les autres, pourvu qu’ils ne soient plus en contact avec les habitants de la région.

    La gestion par les autorités de la quarantaine à l’ancien camp de Malakasa est également révélatrice de la volonté des autorités non pas de protéger les résidents des camps mais de les isoler à tout prix de la population locale. Une quarantaine a été imposée le 5 avril suite à la détection d’un cas. A l’expiration du délai réglementaire de deux semaines, la quarantaine n’a été que très partiellement levée. Pendant la durée de la quarantaine l’ancien camp de Malakasa abritant 2.500 personnes a été approvisionné en quantité insuffisante en nourriture de basse valeur nutritionnelle, et pratiquement pas du tout en médicaments et aliments pour bébés. Le 22 avril un nouveau cas a été détecté et la quarantaine a été de nouveau imposée à l’ensemble de 2.500 résidents du camp. Entretemps quelques tests de dépistage ont été faits par-ci et par-là, mais aucune mesure spécifique n’a été prise pour les cas détectés afin de les isoler du reste de la population du camp. Pendant cette nouvelle période de quarantaine, la seule mesure prise par les autorités a été de redoubler les effectifs de police à l’entrée du camp, afin d’empêcher toute sortie, et ceci à un moment critique où des produits de première nécessité manquaient cruellement dans le camp. Ni dépistage généralisé, ni visite d’équipes médicales spécialisées, ni non plus séparation spatiale stricte entre porteurs et non-porteurs du virus n’ont été mises en place. La quarantaine, avec une courte période d’allégement de mesures de restriction, dure déjà depuis deux mois et demi. Car, le 20 juin elle a été prolongée jusqu’au 5 juillet, transformant ainsi de facto les résidents du camp en détenus[13].

    La façon aussi dont ont été traités les nouveaux arrivants dans les îles depuis le début de la période du confinement et jusqu’à maintenant est également révélatrice de la volonté du gouvernement de ne pas faire le nécessaire pour assurer la protection des demandeurs d’asile. Non seulement ceux qui sont arrivés après le début mars n’ont pas été mis à l’abri pour y passer la période de quarantaine de 14 jours dans des conditions sécurisées, mais ils ont été systématiquement ‘confinés en plein air’ à la proximité de l’endroit où ils ont débarqué : les nouveaux arrivants, femmes enceintes et enfants compris, ont été obligés de vivre en plein air, exposés aux intempéries dans une zone circonscrite placée sous la surveillance de la police, pendant deux, trois voire quatre semaines et sans aucun accès à des infrastructures sanitaires. Le cas de 450 personnes arrivées début mars est caractéristique : après avoir été gardées en « quarantaine » dans une zone entourée de barrières au port de Mytilène, elles ont été enfermées pendant 13 jours dans des conditions inimaginables dans un navire militaire grec, où ils ont été obligés de dormir sur le sol en fer du navire, vivant littéralement les uns sur les autres, sans même qu’on ne leur fournisse du savon pour se laver les mains.

    Cet enfermement prolongé dans des conditions abjectes, en contre-pied du confinement sécurisé à la maison, que la plupart d’entre nous, citoyens européens, avons connu, transforme de fait les demandeurs en détenus et crée inévitablement des situations explosives avec une montée des incidents violents, des affrontements entre groupes ethniques, des départs d’incendies à Lesbos, à Chios et à Samos. Ne serait-ce qu’à Moria, et surtout dans l’Oliveraie qui entoure le camp officiel, dès la tombée de la nuit l’insécurité règne : depuis le début de l’année on y dénombre au moins 14 agressions à l’arme blanche qui ont fait quatre morts et 14 blessés[14]. Bref aux conditions de vie indignes et dangereuses pour la santé, il faudrait ajouter l’insécurité croissante, encore plus pesante pour les femmes, les personnes LGBT+ et les mineurs isolés.

    Affronté aux réactions des sociétés locales et à la pression des organismes internationaux, le gouvernement grec a fini par reconnaître la nécessité de la décongestion des îles par le biais du transfert de réfugiés et des demandeurs d’asile vulnérables au continent. Mais il s’en est rendu compte trop tard ; entretemps le discours haineux qui présente les migrants comme une menace pour la sécurité nationale voire pour l’identité de la nation, ce poison qu’elle-même a administré à la population, a fait son effet. Aujourd’hui, le ministre de la politique migratoire a été pris au piège de sa propre rhétorique xénophobe haineuse ; c’est au nom justement de celle-ci que les autorités régionales et locales (et plus particulièrement celles proches à la majorité actuelle), opposent un refus catégorique à la perspective d’accueillir dans leur région des réfugiés venant des hot-spots des îles. Des hôtels où des familles en provenance de Moria auraient dû être logées ont été en partie brûlés, des cars transportant des femmes et des enfants ont été attaqués à coup de pierres, des tenanciers d’établissements qui s’apprêtaient à les accueillir, ont reçu des menaces, la liste des actes honteux ne prend pas fin[15].

    Mais le ministre grec de la politique migratoire n’est jamais en court de moyens : il a un plan pour libérer plus que 10.000 places dans les structures d’accueil et les appartements en Grèce continentale. A partir du 1 juin, les autorités ont commencé à mettre dans la rue 11.237 réfugiés reconnus comme bénéficiaires de protection internationale, un mois après l’obtention de leur carte de réfugiés ! Evincés de leurs logements, ces réfugiés, femmes, enfants et personnes vulnérables compris, se retrouveront dans la rue et sans ressources, car ils n’ont plus le droit de recevoir les aides qui ne leur sont destinées que pendant les 30 jours qui suivent l’obtention de leur carte[16]. Cette décision du ministre Mitarakis a été mise sur le compte d’une politique moins accueillante, car selon lui, les aides, assez maigres, par ailleurs, constituaient un « appel d’air » trop attractif pour les candidats à l’exil ! Le comble de l’affaire est que tant le programme d’hébergement en appartements et hôtels ESTIA que les aides accordées aux réfugiés et demandeurs d’asile sont financées par l’UE et des organismes internationaux, et ne coûtent strictement rien au budget de l’Etat. Le désastre qui se dessine à l’horizon a déjà pointé son nez : une centaine de réfugiés dont une quarantaine d’enfants, transférés de Lesbos à Athènes, ont été abandonnés sans ressources et sans toit en pleine rue. Ils campent actuellement à la place Victoria, à Athènes.

    Le dernier cercle de l’enfer : les PROKEKA

    Au moment où est écrit cet article, les camps dans les îles fonctionnent cinq, six voire dix fois au-dessus de leur capacité d’accueil. 34.000 personnes sont actuellement entassées dans les îles, dont 30.220 confinées dans les conditions abjectes de hot-spots prévus pour accueillir 6 000 personnes au grand maximum ; 750 en détention dans les centres de détention fermés avant renvoi (PROΚEΚA), et le restant dans d’autres structures[17].

    Plusieurs agents du terrain ont qualifié à juste titre les camps de Moria à Lesbos et celui de Vathy à Samos[18] comme l’enfer sur terre. Car, comment désigner autrement un endroit comme Moria où les enfants – un tiers des habitants du camp- jouent parmi les ordures et les déjections et où plusieurs d’entre eux touchent un tel fond de désespoir qu’ils finissent par s’automutiler et/ou par commettre de tentatives de suicide[19], tandis que d’autres tombent dans un état de prostration et de mutisme ? Comment dire autrement l’horreur d’un endroit comme le camp de Vathy où femmes enceintes et enfants de bas âge côtoient des serpents, des rats et autres scorpions ?

    Cependant, il y a pire, en l’occurrence le dernier cercle de l’Enfer, les ‘Centres de Détention fermés avant renvoi’ (Pre-moval Detention Centers, PROKEKA en grec), l’équivalent grec des CRA (Centre de Rétention Administrative) en France[20]. Aux huit centres fermés de détention et aux postes de police disséminés partout en Grèce, plusieurs milliers de demandeurs d’asile et d’étrangers sans-papiers sont actuellement détenus dans des conditions terrifiantes. Privés même des droits les plus élémentaires de prisonniers, les détenus restent presque sans soins médicaux, sans contact régulier avec l’extérieur, sans droit de visite ni accès assuré à une aide judiciaire. Ces détenus qui sont souvent victimes de mauvais traitements de la part de leurs gardiens, n’ont pas de perspective de sortie, dans la mesure où, en vertu de la nouvelle loi sur l’asile, leur détention peut être prolongée jusqu’à 36 mois. Leur maintien en détention est ‘justifié’ en vue d’une déportation devenue plus qu’improbable – qu’il s’agisse d’une expulsion vers le pays d’origine ou d’une réadmission vers un tiers pays « sûr ». Dans ces conditions il n’est pas étonnant qu’en désespoir de cause, des détenus finissent par attenter à leur jours, en commettant des suicides ou des tentatives de suicide.

    Ce qui est encore plus alarmant est qu’à la fin 2018, à peu près 28% des détenus au sein de ces centres fermés étaient des mineurs[21]. Plus récemment et notamment fin avril dernier, Arsis dans un communiqué de presse du 27 avril 2020, a dénoncé la détention en tout point de vue illégale d’une centaine de mineurs dans un seul centre de détention, celui d’Amygdaleza en Attique. D’après les témoignages, c’est avant tout dans les préfectures et les postes de police où sont gardés plus que 28% de détenus que les conditions de détention virent à un cauchemar, qui rivalise avec celui dépeint dans le film Midnight Express. Les cellules des commissariats où s’entassent souvent des dizaines de personnes sont conçus pour une détention provisoire de quelques heures, les infrastructures sanitaires sont défaillantes, et il n’y a pas de cour pour la promenade quotidienne. Quant aux policiers, ils se comportent comme s’ ils étaient au-dessus de la loi face à des détenus livrés à leur merci : ils leur font subir des humiliations systématiques, des mauvais traitements, des violences voire des tortures.

    Plusieurs témoignages concordants dénoncent des conditions horribles dans les préfectures et les commissariats : les détenus peuvent être privés de nourriture et d’eau pendant des journées entières, plusieurs entre eux sont battus et peuvent rester entravés et ligotés pendant des jours, privés de soins médicaux, même pour des cas urgents. En mars 2017, Ariel Rickel (fondatrice d’Advocates Abroad) avait découvert dans le commissariat du hot-spot de Samos, un mineur de 15 ans, ligoté sur une chaise. Le jeune homme qui avait été violement battu par les policiers, avait eu des côtes cassées et une blessure ouverte au ventre ; il était resté dans cet état ligoté trois jours durant, et ce n’est qu’après l’intervention de l’ombudsman, sollicité par l’avocate, qu’il a fini par être libéré.[22] Le cas rapporté par Ariel Rickel à Valeria Hänsel n’est malheureusement pas exceptionnel. Car, ces conditions inhumaines de détention dans les PROKEKA ont été à plusieurs reprises dénoncées comme un traitement inhumain et dégradant par la Cour Européenne de droits de l’homme[23] et par le Comité Européen pour la prévention de la torture du Conseil de l’Europe (CPT).

    Il faudrait aussi noter qu’au sein de hot-spot de Lesbos et de Kos, il y a de tels centres de détention fermés, ‘de prison dans les prisons à ciel ouvert’ que sont ces camps. Un rapport récent de HIAS Greece décrit les conditions inhumaines qui règnent dans le PROKEKA de Moria où sont détenus en toute illégalité des demandeurs d’asile n’ayant commis d’autre délit que le fait d’être originaire d’un pays dont les ressortissants obtiennent en moyenne en UE moins de 25% de réponses positives à leurs demandes d’asile (low profile scheme). Il est évident que la détention d’un demandeur d’asile sur la seule base de son pays d’origine constitue une mesure de ségrégation discriminatoire qui expose les requérants à des mauvais traitements, vu la quasi inexistence de services médicaux et la très grande difficulté voire l’impossibilité d’avoir accès à l’aide juridique gratuite pendant la détention arbitraire. Ainsi, p.ex. des personnes ressortissant de pays comme le Pakistan ou l’Algérie, même si ils/elles sont LGBT+, ce qui les exposent à des dangers graves dans leur pays d’origine, seront automatiquement détenus dans le PROKEKA de Moria, étant ainsi empêchés d’étayer suffisamment leur demande d’asile, en faisant appel à l’aide juridique gratuite et en la documentant. Début avril, dans deux centres de détention fermés, celui au sein du camp de Moria et celui de Paranesti, près de la ville de Drama au nord de la Grèce, les détenus avaient commencés une grève de la faim pour protester contre la promiscuité effroyable et réclamer leur libération ; dans les deux cas les protestations ont été très violemment réprimées par les forces de l’ordre.

    La déclaration commune UE-Turquie

    Cependant il faudrait garder à l’esprit qu’à l’origine de cette situation infernale se trouve la décision de l’UE en 2016 de fermer ses frontières et d’externaliser en Turquie la prise en charge de réfugiés, tout en bloquant ceux qui arrivent à passer en Grèce. C’est bien l’accord UE-Turquie du 18 mars 2016[24] – en fait une Déclaration commune dépourvue d’un statut juridique équivalent à celui d’un accord en bonne et due forme- qui a transformé les îles grecques en prison à ciel ouvert. En fait, cette Déclaration est un troc avec la Turquie où celle-ci s’engageait non seulement à fermer ses frontières en gardant sur son sol des millions de réfugiés mais aussi à accepte les réadmissions de ceux qui ont réussi à atteindre l’Europe ; en échange une aide de 6 milliards lui serait octroyée afin de couvrir une partie de frais générés par le maintien de 3 millions de réfugiés sur son sol, tandis que les ressortissants turcs n’auraient plus besoin de visa pour voyager en Europe. En fait, comme le dit un rapport de GISTI, la nature juridique de la Déclaration du 18 mars a beau être douteuse, elle ne produit pas moins les « effets d’un accord international sans en respecter les règles d’élaboration ». C’est justement le statut douteux de cette déclaration commune, que certains analystes n’hésitent pas de désigner comme un simple ‘communiqué de presse’, qui a fait que la Cour Européenne a refusé de se prononcer sur la légalité, en se déclarant incompétente, face à un accord d’un statut juridique indéterminé.

    Or, dans le cadre de la mise en œuvre de cet accord a été introduite par l’article 60(4) de la loi grecque L 4375/2016, la procédure d’asile dite ‘accélérée’ dans les îles grecques (fast-track border procedure) qui non seulement réduisaient les garanties de la procédure au plus bas possible en UE, mais qui impliquait aussi comme corrélat l’imposition de la restriction géographique de demandeurs d’asile dans les îles de première arrivée. Celle-ci fut officiellement imposée par la décision 10464/31-5-2017 de la Directrice du Service d’Asile, qui instaurait la restriction de circulation des requérant, afin de garantir le renvoi en Turquie de ceux-ci, en cas de rejet de leurs demandes. Rappelons que ces renvois s’appuient sur la reconnaissance -tout à fait infondée-, de la Turquie comme ‘pays tiers sûr’. Même des réfugiés Syriens ont été renvoyés en Turquie dans le cadre de la mise en application de cette déclaration commune.

    La restriction géographique qui contraint les demandeurs d’asile de ne quitter sous aucun prétexte l’île où ils ont déposé leur demande, jusqu’à l’examen complet de celle-ci, conduit inévitablement au point où nous sommes aujourd’hui à savoir à ce surpeuplement inhumain qui non seulement crée une situation invivable pour les demandeurs, mais a aussi un effet toxique sur les sociétés locales. Déjà en mai 2016, François Crépeau, rapporteur spécial de NU aux droits de l’homme de migrants, soulignait que « la fermeture de frontières de pays au nord de la Grèce, ainsi que le nouvel accord UE-Turquie a abouti à une augmentation exponentielle du nombre de migrants irréguliers dans ce pays ». Et il ajoutait que « le grand nombre de migrants irréguliers bloqués en Grèce est principalement le résultat de la politique migratoire de l’UE et des pays membres de l’UE fondée exclusivement sur la sécurisation des frontières ».

    Gisti, dans un rapport sur les hotspots de Chios et de Lesbos notait également depuis 2016 que, étant donné l’accord UE-Turquie, « ce sont les Etats membres de l’UE et l’Union elle-même qui portent l’essentiel de la responsabilité́ des mauvais traitements et des violations de leurs droits subis par les migrants enfermés dans les hotspots grecs.

    La présence des agences européennes à l’intérieur des hotspots ne fait que souligner cette responsabilité ». On le verra, le rôle de l’EASO est crucial dans la décision finale du service d’asile grec. Quant au rôle joué par Frontex, plusieurs témoignages attestent sa pratique quotidienne de non-assistance à personnes en danger en mer voire sa participation à des refoulements illégaux. Remarquons que c’est bien cette déclaration commune UE-Turquie qui stipule que les demandeurs déboutés doivent être renvoyés en Turquie et à cette fin être maintenus en détention, d’où la situation actuelle dans les centres de détention fermés.

    Enfin la situation dans les hot-spots s’est encore plus aggravée, en raison de la décision du gouvernement Mitsotakis de geler pendant plusieurs mois tout transfert vers la péninsule grecque, bloquant ainsi même les plus vulnérables sur place. Sous le gouvernement précédent, ces derniers étaient exceptés de la restriction géographique dans les hot-spots. Mais à partir du juillet 2020 les transferts de catégories vulnérables -femmes enceintes, mineurs isolés, victimes de torture ou de naufrages, personnes handicapées ou souffrant d’une maladie chronique, victimes de ségrégations à cause de leur orientation sexuelle, – avaient cessé et n’avaient repris qu’au compte-goutte début janvier, plusieurs mois après leurs suspension.

    Le dogme de la ‘surveillance agressive’ des frontières

    Les refoulements groupés sont de plus en plus fréquents, tant à la frontière maritime qu’à la frontière terrestre. A Evros cette pratique était assez courante bien avant la crise à la frontière gréco-turque de mars dernier. Elle consistait non seulement à refouler ceux qui essayaient de passer la frontière, mais aussi à renvoyer en toute clandestinité ceux qui étaient déjà entrés dans le territoire grec. Les faits sont attestés par plusieurs témoignages récoltés par Human Rights 360 dans un rapport publié fin 2018 :The new normality : Continuous push-backs of third country nationals on the Evros river. Les « intrus » qui ont réussi à passer la frontière sont arrêtés et dépouillés de leur biens, téléphone portable compris, pour être ensuite déportés vers la Turquie, soit par des forces de l’ordre en tenue, soit par des groupes masqués et cagoulés difficiles à identifier. En effet, il n’est pas exclu que des patrouilles paramilitaires, qui s’activent dans la région en se prenant violemment aux migrants au vu et au su des autorités, soient impliquées à ses opérations. Les réfugiés peuvent être gardés non seulement dans des postes de police et de centres de détention fermés, mais aussi dans des lieux secrets, sans qu’ils n’aient la moindre possibilité de contact avec un avocat, le service d’asile, ou leurs proches. Par la suite ils sont embarqués de force sur des canots pneumatiques en direction de la Turquie.

    Cette situation qui fut dénoncée par les ONG comme instaurant une nouvelle ‘normalité’, tout sauf normale, s’est dramatiquement aggravée avec la crise à la frontière terrestre fin février et début mars dernier[25]. Non seulement la frontière fut hermétiquement fermée et des refoulements groupés effectués par la police anti-émeute et l’armée, mais, dans le cadre de la soi-disant défense de l’intégrité territoriale, il y a eu plusieurs cas où des balles réelles ont été tirées par les forces grecques contre les migrants, faisant quatre morts et plusieurs blessés[26].

    Cependant ces pratiques criminelles ne sont pas le seul fait des autorités grecques. Depuis le 13 mars dernier, des équipes d’Intervention Rapide à la Frontière de Frontex, les Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) ont été déployées à la frontière gréco-turque d’Evros, afin d’assurer la ‘protection’ de la frontière européenne. Leur intervention qui aurait dû initialement durer deux mois, a été entretemps prolongée. Ces équipes participent elles, et si oui dans quelle mesure, aux opérations de refoulement ? Il faudrait rappeler ici que, d’après plusieurs témoignages récoltés par le Greek Council for Refugees, les équipes qui opéraient les refoulements en 2017 et 2018 illégaux étaient déjà mixtes, composées des agents grecs et des officiers étrangers parlant soit l’allemand soit l’anglais. Il n’y a aucune raison de penser que cette coopération en bonne entente en matière de refoulement, entre forces grecques et celles de Frontex ait cessé depuis, d’autant plus que début mars la Grèce fut désignée par les dirigeants européens pour assurer la protection de l’Europe, censément menacée par les migrants à sa frontière.

    Plusieurs témoignages de réfugiés refoulés à la frontière d’Evros ainsi que des documents vidéo attestent l’existence d’un centre de détention secret destiné aux nouveaux arrivants ; celui-ci n’est répertorié nulle part et son fonctionnement ne respecte aucune procédure légale, concernant l’identification et l’enregistrement des arrivants. Ce centre, fonctionnant au noir, dont l’existence fut révélée par un article du 10 mars 2020 de NYT, se situe à la proximité de la frontière gréco-turque, près du village grec Poros. Les malheureux qui y échouent, restent détenus dans cette zone de non-droit absolu[27], car, non seulement leur existence n’est enregistrée nulle part mais le centre même n’apparaît sur aucun registre de camps et de centres de détention fermés. Au bout de quelques jours de détention dans des conditions inhumaines, les détenus dépouillés de leurs biens sont renvoyés de force vers la Turquie, tandis que plusieurs d’entre eux ont été auparavant battus par la police.

    La situation est aussi alarmante en mer Egée, où les rapports dénonçant des refoulements maritimes violents mettant en danger la vie de réfugiés, ne cessent de se multiplier depuis le début mars. D’après les témoignages il y aurait au moins deux modes opératoires que les garde-côtes grecs ont adoptés : enlever le moteur et le bidon de gasoil d’une embarcation surchargée et fragile, tout en la repoussant vers les eaux territoriaux turques, et/ou créer des vagues, en passant en grande vitesse tout près du bateau, afin d’empêcher l’embarcation de s’approcher à la côte grecque (voir l’incident du 4 juin dernier, dénoncé par Alarm Phone). Cette dernière méthode de dissuasion ne connaît pas de limites ; des vidéos montrent des incidents violents où les garde-côtes n’hésitent pas à tirer des balles réelles dans l’eau à côté des embarcations de réfugiés ou même dans leurs directions ; il y a même des vidéos qui montrent les garde-côtes essayant de percer le canot pneumatique avec des perches.

    Néanmoins, l’arsenal de garde-côtes grecs ne se limite pas à ces méthodes extrêmement dangereuses ; ils recourent à des procédés semblables à ceux employés en 2013 par l’Australie pour renvoyer les migrants arrivés sur son sol : ils obligent des demandeurs d’asile à embarquer sur des life rafts -des canots de survie qui se présentent comme des tentes gonflables flottant sur l’eau-, et ils les repoussent vers la Turquie, en les laissant dériver sans moteur ni gouvernail[28].

    Des incidents de ce type ne cessent de se multiplier depuis le début mars. Victimes de ce type de refoulement qui mettent en danger la vie des passagers, peuvent être même des femmes enceintes, des enfants ou même des bébés –voir la vidéo glaçante tournée sur un tel life raft le 25 mai dernier et les photographies respectives de la garde côtière turque.

    Ce mode opératoire va beaucoup plus loin qu’un refoulement illégal, car il arrive assez souvent que les personnes concernées aient déjà débarqué sur le territoire grec, et dans ce cas ils avaient le droit de déposer une demande d’asile. Cela veut dire que les garde-côtes grecs ne se contentent pas de faire des refoulements maritimes qui violent le droit national et international ainsi que le principe de non-refoulement de la convention de Genève[29]. Ioannis Stevis, responsable du média local Astraparis à Chios, avait déclaré au Guardian « En mer Egée nous pouvions voir se dérouler cette guerre non-déclarée. Nous pouvions apercevoir les embarcations qui ne pouvaient pas atteindre la Grèce, parce qu’elles en étaient empêchées. De push-backs étaient devenus un lot quotidien dans les îles. Ce que nous n’avions pas vu auparavant, c’était de voir les bateaux arriver et les gens disparaître ».

    Cette pratique illégale va beaucoup plus loin, dans la mesure où les garde-côtes s’appliquent à renvoyer en Turquie ceux qui ont réussi à fouler le sol grec, sans qu’aucun protocole ni procédure légale ne soient respectés. Car, ces personnes embarquées sur les life rafts, ne sont pas à strictement parler refoulées – et déjà le refoulement est en soi illégal de tout point de vue-, mais déportées manu militari et en toute illégalité en Turquie, sans enregistrement ni identification préalable. C’est bien cette méthode qui explique comment des réfugiés dont l’arrivée sur les côtes de Samos et de Chios est attestée par des vidéos et des témoignages de riverains, se sont évaporés dans la nature, n’apparaissant sur aucun registre de la police ou des autorités portuaires[30]. Malgré l’existence de documents photos et vidéos attestant l’arrivée des embarcations des jours où aucune arrivée n’a été enregistrée par les autorités, le ministre persiste et signe : pour lui il ne s’agirait que de la propagande turque reproduite par quelques esprits malveillants qui voudraient diffamer la Grèce. Néanmoins les photographies horodatées publiées sur Astraparis, dans un article intitulé « les personnes que nous voyons sur la côte Monolia à Chios seraient-ils des extraterrestres, M. le Ministre ? », constituent un démenti flagrant du discours complotiste du Ministre.

    Question cruciale : quelle est le rôle exact joué par Frontex dans ces refoulements ? Est-ce que les quelques 600 officiers de Frontex qui opèrent en mer Egée dans le cadre de l’opération Poséidon, y participent d’une façon ou d’une autre ? Ce qui est sûr est qu’il est quasi impossible qu’ils n’aient pas été de près ou de loin témoins des opérations de push-back. Le fait est confirmé par un article du Spiegel sur un incident du 13 mai, un push-back de 27 réfugiés effectué par la garde côtière grecque laquelle, après avoir embarqué les réfugiés sur un canot de sauvetage, a remorqué celui-ci en haute mer. Or, l’embarcation de réfugiés a été initialement repéré près de Samos par les hommes du bateau allemand Uckermark faisant partie des forces de Frontex, qui l’ont ensuite signalé aux officiers grecs ; le fait que cette embarcation ait par la suite disparu sans laisser de trace et qu’aucune arrivée de réfugiés n’ait été enregistrée à Samos ce jour-là, n’a pas inquiété outre-mesure les officiers allemands.

    Nous savons par ailleurs, grâce à l’attitude remarquable d’un équipage danois, que les hommes de Frontex reçoivent l’ordre de ne pas porter secours aux réfugiés navigant sur des canots pneumatiques, mais de les repousser ; au cas où les réfugiés ont déjà été secourus et embarqués à bord d’un navire de Frontex, celui-ci reçoit l’ordre de les remettre sur des embarcations peu fiables et à peine navigables. C’est exactement ce qui est arrivé début mars à un patrouilleur danois participant à l’opération Poséidon, « l’équipage a reçu un appel radio du commandement de Poséidon leur ordonnant de remettre les [33 migrants qu’ils avaient secourus] dans leur canot et de les remorquer hors des eaux grecques »[31], ordre, que le commandant du navire danois Jan Niegsch a refusé d’exécuter, estimant “que celui-ci n’était pas justifiable”, la manœuvre demandée mettant en danger la vie des migrants. Or, il n’y aucune raison de penser que l’ordre reçu -et fort heureusement non exécuté grâce au courage du capitaine Niegsch et du chargé de l’unité danoise de Frontex, Jens Moller- soit un ordre exceptionnel que les autres patrouilleurs de Frontex n’ont jamais reçu. Les officiers danois ont d’ailleurs confirmé que les garde-côtes grecs reçoivent des ordres de repousser les bateaux qui arrivent de Turquie, et ils ont été témoins de plusieurs opérations de push-back. Mais si l’ordre de remettre les réfugiés en une embarcation non-navigable émanait du quartier général de l’opération Poséidon, qui l’avait donc donné [32] ? Des officiers grecs coordonnant l’opération, ou bien des officiers de Frontex ?

    Remarquons que les prérogatives de Frontex ne se limitent pas à la surveillance et la ‘protection’ de la frontière européenne : dans une interview que Fabrice Leggeri avait donné en mars dernier à un quotidien grec, il a révélé que Frontex était en train d’envisager avec le gouvernement grec les modalités d’une action communes pour effectuer les retours forcés des migrants dits ‘irréguliers’ à leurs pays d’origine. « Je m’attends à ce que nous ayons bientôt un plan d’action en commun. D’après mes contacts avec les officiers grecs, j’ai compris que la Grèce est sérieusement intéressée à augmenter le nombre de retours », avait-il déclaré.

    Tout démontre qu’actuellement les sauvetages en mer sont devenus l’exception et les refoulements violents et dangereux la règle. « Depuis des années, Alarm Phone a documenté des opérations de renvois menées par des garde-côtes grecs. Mais ces pratiques ont considérablement augmenté ces dernières semaines et deviennent la norme en mer Égée », signale un membre d’Alarm Phone à InfoMigrants. De sorte que nous pouvons affirmer que le dogme du gouvernement Mitsotakis consiste en une inversion complète du principe du non-refoulement : ne laisser passer personne en refoulant coûte que coûte. D’ailleurs, ce nouveau dogme a été revendiqué publiquement par le ministre de Migration et de l’Asile Mitarakis, qui s’est vanté à plusieurs reprises d’avoir réussi à créer une frontière maritime quasi-étanche. Les quatre volets de l’approche gouvernementale ont été résumés ainsi par le ministre : « protection des frontières, retours forcés, centres fermés pour les arrivants, et internationalisation des frontières »[33]. Dans une émission télévisée du 13 avril, le même ministre a déclaré que la frontière était bien gardée, de sorte qu’aujourd’hui, les flux sont quasi nuls, et il a ajouté que “l’armée et des unités spéciaux, la marine nationale et les garde-côtes sont prêts à opérer pour empêcher les migrants en situation irrégulière d’entrer dans notre pays’’. Bref, des forces militaires sont appelées de se déployer sur le front de guerre maritime et terrestre contre les migrants. Voilà comment est appliqué le dogme de zéro flux dont se réclame le Ministre.

    Le Conseil de l’Europe a publié une déclaration très percutante à ce sujet le 19 juin. Sous le titre Il faut mettre fin aux refoulements et à la violence aux frontières contre les réfugiés, la commissaire aux droits de l’homme Dunja Mijatović met tous les états membres du Conseil de l’Europe devant leurs responsabilités, en premier lieu les états qui commettent de telles violations de droits des demandeurs d’asile. Loin de considérer que les refoulements et les violences à la frontière de l’Europe sont le seul fait de quelques états dont la plupart sont situés à la frontière externe de l’UE, la commissaire attire l’attention sur la tolérance tacite de ces pratiques illégales, voire l’assistance à celles-ci de la part de la plupart d’autres états membres. Est responsable non seulement celui qui commet de telles violations des droits mais aussi celui qui les tolère voire les encourage.

    Asile : ‘‘mission impossible’’ pour les nouveaux arrivants ?

    Actuellement en Grèce plusieurs dizaines de milliers de demandes d’asile sont en attente de traitement. Pour donner la pleine mesure de la surcharge d’un service d’asile qui fonctionne actuellement à effectifs réduits, il faudrait savoir qu’il y a des demandeurs qui ont reçu une convocation pour un entretien en…2022 –voir le témoignage d’un requérant actuellement au camp de Vagiohori. En février dernier il y avait 126.000 demandes en attente d’être examinées en première et deuxième instance. Entretemps, par des procédures expéditives, 7.000 demandes ont été traitées en mars et 15 000 en avril, avec en moyenne 24 jours par demande pour leur traitement[34]. Il devient évident qu’il s’agit de procédures expéditives et bâclées. En même temps le pourcentage de réponses négatives en première instance ne cesse d’augmenter ; de 45 à 50% qu’il était jusqu’à juillet dernier, il s’est élevé à 66% en février[35], et il a dû avoir encore augmenté entre temps.

    Ce qui est encore plus inquiétant est l’ambition affichée du Ministre de la Migration de réaliser 11000 déportations d’ici la fin de l’année. A Lesbos, à la réouverture du service d’asile, le 18 mai dernier, 1.789 demandeurs ont reçu une réponse négative, dont au moins 1400 en première instance[36]. Or, ces derniers n’ont eu que cinq jours ouvrables pour déposer un recours et, étant toujours confinés dans l’enceinte de Moria, ils ont été dans l’impossibilité d’avoir accès à une aide judiciaire. Ceux d’entre eux qui ont osé se déplacer à Mytilène, chef-lieu de Lesbos, pour y chercher de l’aide auprès du Legal Center of Lesbos ont écopé des amendes de 150€ pour violation de restrictions de mouvement[37] !

    Jusqu’à la nouvelle loi votée il y a six semaines au Parlement Hellénique, la procédure d’asile était un véritable parcours du combattant pour les requérants : un parcours plein d’embûches et de pièges, entaché par plusieurs clauses qui violent les lois communautaires et nationales ainsi que les conventions internationales. L’ancienne loi, entrée en vigueur seulement en janvier 2020, introduisait des restrictions de droits et un raccourcissement de délais en vue de procédures encore plus expéditives que celles dites ‘fast-track’ appliquées dans les îles (voir ci-dessous). Avant la toute nouvelle loi adoptée le 8 mai dernier, Gisti constatait déjà des atteintes au droit national et communautaire, concernant « en particulier le droit d’asile, les droits spécifiques qui doivent être reconnus aux personnes mineures et aux autres personnes vulnérables, et le droit à une assistance juridique ainsi qu’à une procédure de recours effectif »[38]. Avec la nouvelle mouture de la loi du 8 mai, les restrictions et la réduction de délais est telle que par ex. la procédure de recours devient vraiment une mission impossible pour les demandeurs déboutés, même pour les plus avertis et les mieux renseignés parmi eux. Les délais pour déposer une demande de recours se réduisent en peau de chagrin, alors que l’aide juridique au demandeur, de même que l’interprétariat en une langue que celui-ci maîtrise ne sont plus assurés, laissant ainsi le demandeur seul face à des démarches complexes qui doivent être faites dans une langue autre que la sienne[39]. De même l’entretien personnel du requérant, pierre angulaire de la procédure d’asile, peut être omis, si le service ne trouve pas d’interprète qui parle sa langue et si le demandeur vit loin du siège de la commission de recours, par ex. dans un hot-spot dans les îles ou loin de l’Attique. Le 13 mai, le ministre Mitarakis avait déclaré que 11.000 demandes ont été rejetées pendant les mois de mars et avril, et que ceux demandeurs déboutés « doivent repartir »[40], laissant entendre que des renvois massifs vers la Turquie pourraient avoir lieu, perspective plus qu’improbable, étant donné la détérioration grandissante de rapport entre les deux pays. Ces demandeurs déboutés ont été sommés de déposer un recours dans l’espace de 5 jours ouvrables après notification, sans assistance juridique et sous un régime de restrictions de mouvements très contraignant.

    En vertu de la nouvelle loi, les personnes déboutées peuvent être automatiquement placées en détention, la détention devenant ainsi la règle et non plus l’exception comme le stipule le droit européen. Ceci est encore plus vrai pour les îles. Qui plus est, selon le droit international et communautaire, la mesure de détention ne devrait être appliquée qu’en dernier ressort et seulement s’il y a une perspective dans un laps de temps raisonnable d’effectuer le renvoi forcé de l’intéressé. Or, aujourd’hui et depuis quatre mois, il n’y a aucune perspective de cet ordre. Car les chances d’une réadmission en Turquie ou d’une expulsion vers le pays d’origine sont pratiquement inexistantes, pendant la période actuelle. Si on tient compte que plusieurs dizaines de milliers de demandes restent en attente d’être traitées et que le pourcentage de rejet ne cesse d’augmenter, on voit avec effroi s’esquisser la perspective d’un maintien en détention de dizaines de milliers de personnes pour un laps de temps indéfini. La Grèce compte-t-elle créer de centres de détention pour des dizaines de milliers de personnes, qui s’apparenteraient par plusieurs traits à des véritables camps de concentration ? Le fera-t-elle avec le financement de l’UE ?

    Nous savons que le rôle de EASO, dont la présence en Grèce s’est significativement accrue récemment,[41] est crucial dans ces procédures d’asile : c’est cet organisme européen qui mène le pré-enregistrement de la demande d’asile et qui se prononce sur sa recevabilité ou pas. Jusqu’à maintenant il intervenait uniquement dans les îles dans le cadre de la procédure dite accélérée. Car, depuis la Déclaration de mars 2016, dans les îles est appliquée une procédure d’asile spécifique, dite procédure fast-track à la frontière (fast-track border procedure). Il s’agit d’une procédure « accélérée », qui s’applique dans le cadre de la « restriction géographique » spécifique aux hotspots »,[42] en application de l’accord UE-Turquie de mars 2016. Dans le cadre de cette procédure accélérée, c’est bien l’EASO qui se charge de faire le premier ‘tri’ entre les demandeurs en enregistrant la demande et en effectuant un premier entretien. La procédure ‘fast-track’ aurait dû rester une mesure exceptionnelle de courte durée pour faire face à des arrivées massives. Or, elle est toujours en vigueur quatre ans après son instauration, tandis qu’initialement sa validité n’aurait pas dû dépasser neuf mois – six mois suivis d’une prolongation possible de trois mois. Depuis, de prolongation en prolongation cette mesure d’exception s’est installée dans la permanence.

    La procédure accélérée qui, au détriment du respect des droits des réfugiés, aurait pu aboutir à un raccourcissement significatif de délais d’attente très longs, n’a même pas réussi à obtenir ce résultat : une partie des réfugiés arrivés à Samos en août 2019, avaient reçu une notification de rendez-vous pour l’entretien d’asile (et d’admissibilité) pour 2021 voire 2022[43] ! Mais si les procédures fast-track ne raccourcissent pas les délais d’attente, elles raccourcissent drastiquement et notamment à une seule journée le temps que dispose un requérant pour qu’il se prépare et consulte si besoin un conseiller juridique qui pourrait l’assister durant la procédure[44]. Dans le cas d’un rejet de la demande en première instance, le demandeur débouté ne dispose que de cinq jours après la notification de la décision négative pour déposer un recours en deuxième instance. Bref, le raccourcissement très important de délais introduits par la procédure accélérée n’affectait jusqu’à maintenant que les réfugiés qui sont dans l’impossibilité d’exercer pleinement leurs droits, et non pas le service qui pouvait imposer un temps interminable d’attente entre les différentes étapes de la procédure.

    Cependant l’implication d’EASO dépasse et de loin le pré-enregistrement, car ce sont bien ses fonctionnaires qui, suite à un entretien de l’intéressé, dit « interview d’admission », établissent le dossier qui sera transmis aux autorités grecques pour examen[45]. Or, nous savons par la plainte déposée contre l’EASO par les avocats de l’ONG European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), en 2017, que les agents d’EASO ne consacrait à l’interrogatoire du requérant que 15 minutes en moyenne,[46] et ceci bien avant que ne monte en flèche la pression exercée par le gouvernement actuel pour accélérer encore plus les procédures. La même plainte dénonçait également le fait que la qualité de l’interprétation n’était point assurée, dans la mesure où, au lieu d’employer des interprètes professionnels, cet organisme européen faisait souvent recours à des réfugiés, pour faire des économies. A vrai dire, l’EASO, après avoir réalisé un entretien, rédige « un avis (« remarques conclusives ») et recommande une décision à destination des services grecs de l’asile, qui vont statuer sur la demande, sans avoir jamais rencontré » les requérants[47]. Mais, même si en théorie la décision revient de plein droit au Service d’Asile grec, en pratique « une large majorité des recommandations transmises par EASO aux services grecs de l’asile est adoptée par ces derniers »[48]. Or, depuis 2018 les compétences d’EASO ont été étendues à tout le territoire grec, ce qui veut dire que les officiers grecs de cet organisme européen ont le droit d’intervenir même dans le cadre de la procédure régulière d’asile et non plus seulement dans celui de la procédure accélérée. Désormais, avec le quadruplication des effectifs en Grèce continentale prévue pour 2020, et le dédoublement de ceux opérant dans les îles, l’avis ‘consultatif’ de l’EASO va peser encore plus sur les décisions finales. De sorte qu’on pourrait dire, que le constat que faisait Gisti, bien avant l’extension du domaine d’intervention d’EASO, est encore plus vrai aujourd’hui : l’UE, à travers ses agences, exerce « une forme de contrôle et d’ingérence dans la politique grecque en matière d’asile ». Si avant 2017, l’entretien et la constitution du dossier sur la base duquel le service grec d’asile se prononce étaient faits de façon si bâclée, que va—t-il se passer maintenant avec l’énorme pression des autorités pour des procédures fast-track encore plus expéditives, qui ne respectent nullement les droits des requérants ? Enfin, une fois la nouvelle loi mise en vigueur, les fonctionnaires européens vont-ils rédiger leurs « remarques conclusives » en fonction de celle-ci ou bien en respectant la législation européenne ? Car la première comporte des clauses qui ne respectent point la deuxième.

    La suspension provisoire de la procédure d’asile et ses effets à long terme

    Début mars, afin de dissuader les migrants qui se rassemblaient à la frontière gréco-turque d’Evros, le gouvernement grec a décidé de suspendre provisoirement la procédure d’asile pendant la durée d’un mois[49]. L’acte législatif respectif stipule qu’à partir du 1 mars et jusqu’au 30 du même mois, ceux qui traversent la frontière n’auront plus le droit de déposer une demande d’asile. Sans procédure d’identification et d’enregistrement préalable ils seront automatiquement maintenus en détention jusqu’à leur expulsion ou leur réadmission en Turquie. Après une cohorte de protestations de la part du Haut-Commissariat, des ONG, et même d’Ylva Johansson, commissaire aux affaires internes de l’UE, la procédure d’asile suspendue a été rétablie début avril et ceux qui sont arrivés pendant la durée de sa suspension ont rétroactivement obtenu le droit de demander la protection internationale. « Le décret a cessé de produire des effets juridiques à la fin du mois de mars 2020. Cependant, il a eu des effets très néfastes sur un nombre important de personnes ayant besoin de protection. Selon les statistiques du HCR, 2 927 personnes sont entrées en Grèce par voie terrestre et maritime au cours du mois de mars[50]. Ces personnes automatiquement placées en détention dans des conditions horribles, continuent à séjourner dans des établissements fermés ou semi-fermés. Bien qu’elles aient finalement été autorisées à exprimer leur intention de déposer une demande d’asile auprès du service d’asile, elles sont de fait privées de toute aide judiciaire effective. La plus grande partie de leurs demandes d’asile n’a cependant pas encore été enregistrée. Le préjudice causé par les conditions de détention inhumaines est aggravé par les risques sanitaires graves, voire mortels, découlant de l’apparition de la pandémie COVID-19, qui n’ont malheureusement pas conduit à un réexamen de la politique de détention en Grèce ».[51]

    En effet, les arrivants du mois de mars ont été jusqu’à il y a peu traités comme des criminels enfreignant la loi et menaçant l’intégrité du territoire grec ; ils ont été dans un premier temps mis en quarantaine dans des conditions inconcevables, gardés par la police en zones circonscrites, sans un abri ni la moindre infrastructure sanitaire. Après une période de quarantaine qui la plupart du temps durait plus longtemps que les deux semaines réglementaires, ceux qui sont arrivés pendant la suspension de la procédure, étaient transférés, en vue d’une réadmission en Turquie, à Malakassa en Attique, où un nouveau camp fermé, dit ‘le camp de tentes’, fut créé à proximité de de l’ancien camp avec les containeurs.

    700 d’entre eux ont été transférés au camp fermé de Klidi, à Serres, au nord de la Grèce, construit sur un terrain inondable au milieu de nulle part. Ces deux camps fermés présentent des affinités troublantes avec des camps de concentration. Les conditions de vie inhumaines au sein de ces camps s’aggravaient encore plus par le risque de contamination accru du fait de la très grande promiscuité et des conditions sanitaires effrayantes (coupures d’eau sporadiques à Malakassa, manque de produits d’hygiène, et approvisionnement en eau courante seulement deux heures par jour à Klidi)[52]. Or, après le rétablissement de la procédure d’asile, les 2.927 personnes arrivées en mars, ont obtenu–au moins en théorie- le droit de déposer une demande, mais n’ont toujours ni l’assistance juridique nécessaire, ni interprètes, ni accès effectif au service d’asile. Celui-ci a rouvert depuis le 18 mars, mais fonctionne toujours à effectif réduit, et est submergé par les demandes de renouvellement des cartes. Actuellement les réfugiés placés en détention sont toujours retenus dans les même camps qui sont devenus des camps semi-fermés sans pour autant que les conditions de vie dégradantes et dangereuses pour la santé des résidents aient vraiment changé. Ceci est d’autant plus vrai que le confinement de réfugiés et de demandeurs d’asile a été prolongé jusqu’au 5 juillet, ce qui ne leur permet de circuler que seulement avec une autorisation de la police, tandis que la population grecque est déjà tout à fait libre de ses mouvements. Dans ces conditions, il est pratiquement impossible d’accomplir des démarches nécessaires pour le dépôt d’une demande bien documentée.

    Refugee Support Aegean a raison de souligner que « les répercussions d’une violation aussi flagrante des principes fondamentaux du droit des réfugiés et des droits de l’homme ne disparaissent pas avec la fin de validité du décret, les demandeurs d’asile concernés restant en détention arbitraire dans des conditions qui ne sont aucunement adaptées pour garantir leur vie et leur dignité. Le décret de suspension crée un précédent dangereux pour la crédibilité du droit international et l’intégrité des procédures d’asile en Grèce et au-delà ».

    Cependant, nous ne pouvons pas savoir jusqu’où pourrait aller cette escalade d’horreurs. Aussi inimaginable que cela puisse paraître , il y a pire, même par rapport au camp fermé de Klidi à Serres, que Maria Malagardis, journaliste à Libération, avait à juste titre désigné comme ‘un camp quasi-militaire’. Car les malheureux arrêtés à Evros fin février et début mars, ont été jugés en procédure de flagrant délit, et condamnés pour l’exemple à des peines de prison de quatre ans ferme et des amendes de 10.000 euros -comme quoi, les autorités grecques peuvent revendiquer le record en matière de peine pour entrée irrégulière, car même la Hongrie de Orban, ne condamne les migrants qui ont osé traverser ses frontières qu’à trois ans de prison. Au moins une cinquantaine de personnes ont été condamnées ainsi pour « entrée irrégulière dans le territoire grec dans le cadre d’une menace asymétrique portant sur l’intégrité du pays », et ont été immédiatement incarcérées. Et il est fort à parier qu’aujourd’hui, ces personnes restent toujours en prison, sans que le rétablissement de la procédure ait changé quoi que ce soit à leur sort.

    Eriger l’exception en règle

    Qui plus est la suspension provisoire de la procédure laisse derrière elle des marques non seulement aux personnes ayant vécu sous la menace de déportation imminente, et qui continuent à vivre dans des conditions indignes, mais opère aussi une brèche dans la validité universelle du droit international et de la Convention de Genève, en créant un précédent dangereux. Or, c’est justement ce précédent que M. Mitarakis veut ériger en règle européenne en proposant l’introduction d’une clause de force majeure dans la législation européenne de l’asile[53] : dans le débat pour la création d’un système européen commun pour l’asile, le Ministre grec de la politique migratoire a plaidé pour l’intégration de la notion de force majeure dans l’acquis européen : celle-ci permettrait de contourner la législation sur l’asile dans des cas où la sécurité territoriale ou sanitaire d’un pays serait menacée, sans que la violation des droits de requérants expose le pays responsable à des poursuites. Pour convaincre ses interlocuteurs, il a justement évoqué le cas de la suspension par le gouvernement de la procédure pendant un mois, qu’il compte ériger en paradigme pour la législation communautaire. Cette demande fut réitérée le 5 juin dernier, par une lettre envoyée par le vice-ministre des Migrations et de l’Asile, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, au vice-président Margaritis Schinas et au commissaire aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson. Il s’agit de la dite « Initiative visant à inclure une clause d’état d’urgence dans le Pacte européen pour les migrations et l’asile », une initiative cosignée par Chypre et la Bulgarie. Par cette lettre, les trois pays demandent l’inclusion au Pacte européen d’une clause qui « devrait prévoir la possibilité d’activer les mécanismes d’exception pour prévenir et répondre à des situations d’urgence, ainsi que des déviations [sous-entendu des dérogations au droit européen] dans les modes d’action si nécessaire ».[54] Nous le voyons, la Grèce souhaite, non seulement poursuivre sa politique de « surveillance agressive » des frontières et de violation des droits de migrants, mais veut aussi ériger ces pratiques de tout point de vue illégales en règle d’action européenne. Il nous faudrait donc prendre la mesure de ce que laisse derrière elle la fracture dans l’universalité de droit d’asile opérée par la suspension provisoire de la procédure. Même si celle-ci a été bon an mal an rétablie, les effets de ce geste inédit restent toujours d’actualité. L’état d’exception est en train de devenir permanent.

    Une rhétorique de la haine

    Le discours officiel a changé de fond en comble depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir du gouvernement Mitsotakis. Des termes, comme « clandestins » ont fait un retour en force, accompagnés d’une véritable stratégie de stigmatisation visant à persuader la population que les arrivants ne sont point des réfugiés mais des immigrés économiques censés profiter du laxisme du gouvernement précédent pour envahir le pays et l’islamiser. Cette rhétorique haineuse qui promeut l’image des hordes d’étrangers envahisseurs menaçant la nation et ses traditions, ne cesse d’enfler malgré le fait qu’elle soit démentie d’une façon flagrante par les faits : les arrivants, dans leur grande majorité, ne veulent pas rester en Grèce mais juste passer par celle-ci pour aller ailleurs en Europe, là où ils ont des attaches familiales, communautaires etc. Ce discours xénophobe aux relents racistes dont le paroxysme a été atteint avec la mise en avant de l’épouvantail du ‘clandestin’ porteur du virus venant contaminer et décimer la nation, a été employé d’une façon délibérée afin de justifier la politique dite de la « surveillance agressive » des frontières grecques. Il sert également à légitimer la transformation programmée des actuels CIR (RIC en anglais) en centres fermés ‘contrôlés’, où les demandeurs n’auront qu’un droit de sortie restreint et contrôlé par la police. Le ministre Mitarakis a déjà annoncé la transformation du nouveau camp de Malakasa, où étaient détenus ceux qui sont arrivés pendant la durée de la suspension d’asile, un camp qui était censé s’ouvrir après la fin de validité du décret, en camp fermé ‘contrôlé’ où toute entrée et sortie seraient gérées par la police[55].

    Révélateur des intentions du gouvernement grec, est le projet du Ministre de la politique migratoire d’étendre les compétences du Service d’Asile bien au-delà de la protection internationale, et notamment aux …expulsions ! D’après le quotidien grec Ephimérida tôn Syntaktôn, le ministre serait en train de prospecter pour la création de trois nouvelles sections au sein du Service d’Asile : Coordination de retours forcés depuis le continent et retours volontaires, Coordination des retours depuis les îles, Appels et exclusions. Bref, le Service d’Asile grec qui a déjà perdu son autonomie, depuis qu’il a été attaché au Secrétariat général de la politique de l’Immigration du Ministère, risque de devenir – et cela serait une première mondiale- un service d’asile et d’expulsions. Voilà comment se met en œuvre la consolidation du rôle de la Grèce en tant que « bouclier de l’Europe », comme l’avait désigné début mars Ursula von der Leyden. Voilà ce qu’est en train d’ériger l’Europe qui soutient et finance la Grèce face à des personnes persécutées fuyant de guerres et de conflits armés : un mur fait de barbelés, de patrouilles armés jusqu’aux dents et d’une flotte de navires militaires. Quant à ceux qui arrivent à passer malgré tout, ils seront condamnés à rester dans les camps de la honte.

    Que faire ?

    Certaines analyses convoquent la position géopolitique de la Grèce et le rapport de forces dans l’UE, afin de présenter cette situation intolérable comme une fatalité dont on ne saurait vraiment échapper. Mais face à l’ignominie, dire qu’il n’y aurait rien ou presque à faire, serait une excuse inacceptable. Car, même dans le cadre actuel, des solutions il y en a et elles sont à portée de main. La déclaration commune UE-Turquie mise en application le 20 mars 2016, n’est plus respectée par les différentes parties. Déjà avant février 2020, l’accord ne fut jamais appliqué à la lettre, autant par les Européens qui n’ont pas fait les relocalisations promises ni respecté leurs engagements concernant la procédure d’intégration de la Turquie en UE, que par la Turquie qui, au lieu d’employer les 6 milliards qu’elle a reçus pour améliorer les conditions de vie des réfugiés sur son sol, s’est servi de cet argent pour construire un mur de 750 km dans sa frontière avec la Syrie, afin d’empêcher les réfugiés de passer. Cependant ce sont les récents développements de mars 2020 et notamment l’afflux organisé par les autorités turques de réfugiés à la frontière d’Evros qui ont sonné le glas de l’accord du 18 mars 2016. Dans la mesure où cet accord est devenu caduc, avec l’ouverture de frontières de la Turquie le 28 février dernier, il n’y plus aucune obligation officielle du gouvernement grec de continuer à imposer le confinement géographique dans les îles des demandeurs d’asile. Leur transfert sécurisé vers la péninsule pourrait s’effectuer à court terme vers des structures hôtelières de taille moyenne dont plusieurs vont rester fermées cet été. L’appel international Évacuez immédiatement les centres d’accueil – louez des logements touristiques vides et des maisons pour les réfugiés et les migrants ! qui a déjà récolté 11.500 signatures, détaille un tel projet. Ajoutons, que sa réalisation pourrait profiter aussi à la société locale, car elle créerait des postes de travail en boostant ainsi l’économie de régions qui souvent ne dépendent que du tourisme pour vivre.

    A court et à moyen terme, il faudrait qu’enfin les pays européens honorent leurs engagements concernant les relocalisations et se mettent à faciliter au lieu d’entraver le regroupement familial. Quelques timides transferts de mineurs ont été déjà faits vers l’Allemagne et le Luxembourg, mais le nombre d’enfants concernés est si petit que nous pouvons nous pouvons nous demander s’il ne s’agirait pas plutôt d’une tentative de se racheter une conscience à peu de frais. Car, sans un plan large et équitable de relocalisations, le transfert massif de requérants en Grèce continentale, risque de déplacer le problème des îles vers la péninsule, sans améliorer significativement les conditions de vie de réfugiés.

    Si les requérants qui ont déjà derrière eux l’expérience traumatisante de Moria et de Vathy, sont transférés à un endroit aussi désolé et isolé de tout que le camp de Nea Kavala (au nord de la Grèce) qui a été décrit comme un Enfer au Nord de la Grèce, nous ne faisons que déplacer géographiquement le problème. Toute la question est de savoir dans quelles conditions les requérants seront invités à vivre et dans quelles conditions les réfugiés seront transférés.

    Les solutions déjà mentionnées sont réalisables dans l’immédiat ; leur réalisation ne se heurte qu’au fait qu’elles impliquent une politique courageuse à contre-pied de la militarisation actuelle des frontières. C’est bien la volonté politique qui manque cruellement dans la mise en œuvre d’un plan d’urgence pour l’évacuation des hot-spots dans les îles. L’Europe-Forteresse ne saurait se montrer accueillante. Tant du côté grec que du côté européen la nécessité de créer des conditions dignes pour l’accueil de réfugiés n’entre nullement en ligne de compte.

    Car, même le financement d’un tel projet est déjà disponible. Début mars l’UE s’est engagé de donner à la Grèce 700 millions pour qu’elle gère la crise de réfugiés, dont 350 millions sont immédiatement disponibles. Or, comme l’a révélé Ylva Johansson pendant son intervention au comité LIBE du 2 avril dernier, les 350 millions déjà libérés doivent principalement servir pour assurer la continuation et l’élargissement du programme d’hébergement dans le continent et le fonctionnement des structures d’accueil continentales, tandis que 35 millions sont destinés à assurer le transfert des plus vulnérables dans des logements provisoires en chambres d’hôtel. Néanmoins la plus grande somme (220 millions) des 350 millions restant est destinée à financer de nouveaux centres de réception et d’identification dans les îles (les dits ‘multi-purpose centers’) qui vont fonctionner comme des centres semi-fermés où toute sortie sera règlementée par la police. Les 130 millions restant seront consacrés à financer le renforcement des contrôles – et des refoulements – à la frontière terrestres et maritime, avec augmentation des effectifs et équipement de la garde côtière, de Frontex, et des forces qui assurent l’étanchéité des frontières terrestres. Il aurait suffi de réorienter la somme destinée à financer la construction des centres semi-fermés dans les îles, et de la consacrer au transfert sécurisé au continent pour que l’installation des requérants et des réfugiés en hôtels et appartements devienne possible.

    Mais que faire pour stopper la multiplication exponentielle des refoulements à la frontière ? Si Frontex, comme Fabrice Leggeri le prétend, n’a aucune implication dans les opérations de refoulement, si ses agents n’y participent pas de près ou de loin, alors ces officiers doivent immédiatement exercer leur droit de retrait chaque fois qu’ils sont témoins d’un tel incident ; ils pouvaient même recevoir la directive de ne refuser d’appliquer tout ordre de refoulement, comme l’avait fait début mars le capitaine danois Jan Niegsch. Dans la mesure où non seulement les témoignages mais aussi des documents vidéo et des audio attestent l’existence de ces pratiques en tous points illégales, les instances européennes doivent mettre une condition sine qua non à la poursuite du financement de la Grèce pour l’accueil de migrants : la cessation immédiate de ces types de pratiques et l’ouverture sans délai d’une enquête indépendante sur les faits dénoncés. Si l’Europe ne le fait pas -il est fort à parier qu’elle n’en fera rien-, elle se rend entièrement responsable de ce qui se passe à nos frontières.

    Car,on le voit, l’UE persiste dans la politique de la restriction géographique qui oblige réfugiés et migrants à rester sur les îles pour y attendre la réponse définitive à leur demande, tandis qu’elle cautionne et finance la pratique illégale des refoulements violents à la frontière. Les intentions d’Ylva Johansson ont beau être sincères : une politique qui érige la Grèce en ‘bouclier de l’Europe’, ne saurait accueillir, mais au contraire repousser les arrivants, même au risque de leur vie.

    Quant au gouvernement grec, force est de constater que sa politique migratoire du va dans le sens opposé d’un large projet d’hébergement dans des structures touristiques hors emploi actuellement. Révélatrice des intentions du gouvernement actuel est la décision du ministre Mitarakis de fermer 55 à 60 structures hôtelières d’accueil parmi les 92 existantes d’ici fin 2020. Il s’agit de structures fonctionnant dans le continent qui offrent un niveau de vie largement supérieur à celui des camps. Or, le ministre invoque un argument économique qui ne tient pas la route un seul instant, pour justifier cette décision : pour lui, les structures hôtelières seraient trop coûteuses. Mais ce type de structure n’est pas financé par l’Etat grec mais par l’IOM, ou par l’UE, ou encore par d’autres organismes internationaux. La fermeture imminente des hôtels comme centres d’accueil a une visée autre qu’économique : il faudrait retrancher complètement les requérants et les réfugiés de la société grecque, en les obligeant à vivre dans des camps semi-fermés où les sorties seront limitées et contrôlées. Cette politique d’enfermement vise à faire sentir tant aux réfugiés qu’à la population locale que ceux-ci sont et doivent rester un corps étranger à la société grecque ; à cette fin il vaut mieux les exclure et les garder hors de vue.

    Qui plus est la fermeture de deux tiers de structures hôtelières actuelles ne pourra qu’aggraver encore plus le manque de places en Grèce continentale, rendant ainsi quasiment impossible la décongestion des îles. Sauf si on raisonne comme le Ministre : le seul moyen pour créer des places est de chasser les uns – en l’occurrence des familles de réfugiés reconnus- pour loger provisoirement les autres. La preuve, les mesures récentes de restrictions drastiques des droits aux allocations et à l’hébergement des réfugiés, reconnus comme tels, par le service de l’asile. Ceux-ci n’ont le droit de séjourner aux appartements loués par l’UNHCR dans le cadre du programme ESTIA, et aux structures d’accueil que pendant un mois (et non pas comme auparavant six) après l’obtention de leur titre, et ils ne recevront plus que pendant cette période très courte les aides alloués aux réfugiés qui leur permettraient de survivre pendant leur période d’adaptation, d’apprentissage de la langue, de formation etc. Depuis la fin du mois de mai, les autorités ont entrepris de mettre dans la rue 11.237 personnes, dont la grande majorité de réfugiés reconnus, afin de libérer des places pour la supposée imminente décongestion des îles. Au moins 10.000 autres connaîtront le même sort en juillet, car en ce moment le délai de grâce d’un mois aura expiré pour eux aussi. Ce qui veut dire que le gouvernement grec non seulement impose des conditions de vie inhumaines et de confinements prolongés aux résidants de hot-spots et aux détenus en PROKEKA (les CRA grecs), mais a entrepris à réduire les familles de réfugiés ayant obtenu la protection internationale en sans-abri, errant sans toit ni ressources dans les villes.

    La dissuasion par l’horreur

    De tout ce qui précède, nous pouvons aisément déduire que la stratégie du gouvernement grec, une stratégie soutenue par les instances européennes et mise en application en partie par des moyens que celles-ci mettent à la disposition de celui-là, consiste à rendre la vie invivable aux réfugiés et aux demandeurs d’asile vivant dans le pays. Qui plus est, dans le cadre de cette politique, la dérogation systématique aux règles du droit et notamment au principe de non-refoulement, instauré par la Convention de Genève est érigée en principe régulateur de la sécurisation des frontières. Le maintien de camps comme Moria à Lesbos et Vathy à Samos témoignent de la volonté de créer des lieux terrifiants d’une telle notoriété sinistre que l’évocation même de leurs noms puisse avoir un effet de dissuasion sur les candidats à l’exil. On ne saurait expliquer autrement la persistance de la restriction géographique de séjour dans les îles de dizaines de milliers de requérants dans des conditions abjectes.

    Nous savons que l’Europe déploie depuis plusieurs années en Méditerranée centrale la politique de dissuasion par la noyade, une stratégie qui a atteint son summum avec la criminalisation des ONG qui essaient de sauver les passagers en péril ; l’autre face de cette stratégie de la terreur se déploie à ma frontière sud-est, où l’Europe met en œuvre une autre forme de dissuasion, celle effectuée par l’horreur des hot-spots. Aux crimes contre l’humanité qui se perpétuent en toute impunité en Méditerranée centrale, entre la Libye et l’Europe, s’ajoutent d’autres crimes commis à la frontière grecque[56]. Car il s’agit bien de crimes : poursuivre des personnes fuyant les guerres et les conflits armés par des opérations de refoulement particulièrement violentes qui mettent en danger leurs vies est un crime. Obliger des personnes dont la plus grande majorité est vulnérable à vivoter dans des conditions si indignes et dégradantes en les privant de leurs droits, est un acte criminel. Ceux qui subissent de tels traitement n’en sortent pas indemnes : leur santé physique et mentale en est marquée. Il est impossible de méconnaître qu’un séjour – et qui plus est un séjour prolongé- dans de telles conditions est une expérience traumatisante en soi, même pour des personnes bien portantes, et à plus forte raison pour celles et ceux qui ont déjà subi des traumatismes divers : violences, persécutions, tortures, viols, naufrages, pour ne pas mentionner les traumas causés par des guerres et de conflits armés.

    Gisti, dans son rapport récent sur le hotspot de Samos, soulignait que loin « d’être des centres d’accueil et de prise en charge des personnes en fonction de leurs besoins, les hotspots grecs, à l’image de celui de Samos, sont en réalité des camps de détention, soustraits au regard de la société civile, qui pourraient n’avoir pour finalité que de dissuader et faire peur ». Dans son rapport de l’année dernière, le Conseil Danois pour les réfugiés (Danish Refugee Council) ne disait pas autre chose : « le système des hot spots est une forme de dissuasion »[57]. Que celle-ci se traduise par des conditions de vie inhumaines où des personnes vulnérables sont réduites à vivre comme des bêtes[58], peu importe, pourvu que cette horreur fonctionne comme un repoussoir. Néanmoins, aussi effrayant que puisse être l’épouvantail des hot-spots, il n’est pas sûr qu’il puisse vraiment remplir sa fonction de stopper les ‘flux’. Car les personnes qui prennent le risque d’une traversée si périlleuse ne le font pas de gaité de cœur, mais parce qu’ils n’ont pas d’autre issue, s’ils veulent préserver leur vie menacée par la guerre, les attentats et la faim tout en construisant un projet d’avenir.

    Quoi qu’il en soit, nous aurions tort de croire que tout cela n’est qu’une affaire grecque qui ne nous atteint pas toutes et tous, en tout cas pas dans l’immédiat. Car, la stratégie de « surveillance agressive » des frontières, de dissuasion par l’imposition de conditions de vie inhumaines et de dérogation au droit d’asile pour des raisons de « force majeure », est non seulement financée par l’UE, mais aussi proposée comme un nouveau modèle de politique migratoire pour le cadre européen commun de l’asile en cours d’élaboration. La preuve, la récente « Initiative visant à inclure une clause d’état d’urgence dans le Pacte européen pour les migrations et l’asile » lancée par la Grèce, la Bulgarie et Chypre.

    Il devient clair, je crois, que la stratégie du gouvernement grec s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une véritable guerre aux migrants que l’UE non seulement cautionne mais soutient activement, en octroyant les moyens financiers et les effectifs nécessaires à sa réalisation. Car, les appels répétés, par ailleurs tout à fait justifiés et nécessaires, de la commissaire Ylva Johansson[59] et de la commissaire au Conseil de l’Europe Dunja Mijatović[60] de respecter les droits des demandeurs d’asile et de migrants, ne servent finalement que comme moyen de se racheter une conscience, devant le fait que cette guerre menée contre les migrants à nos frontières est rendue possible par la présence entre autres des unités RABIT à Evros et des patrouilleurs et des avions de Frontex et de l’OTAN en mer Egée. La question à laquelle tout citoyen européen serait appelé en son âme et conscience à répondre, est la suivante : sommes-nous disposés à tolérer une telle politique qui instaure un état d’exception permanent pour les réfugiés ? Car, comment désigner autrement cette ‘situation de non-droit absolu’[61] dans laquelle la Grèce sous la pression et avec l’aide active de l’Europe maintient les demandeurs d’asile ? Sommes-nous disposés à la financer par nos impôts ?

    Car le choix de traiter une partie de la population comme des miasmes à repousser coûte que coûte ou à exclure et enfermer, « ne saurait laisser intacte notre société tout entière. Ce n’est pas une question d’humanisme, c’est une question qui touche aux fondements de notre vivre-ensemble : dans quel type de société voulons-nous vivre ? Dans une société qui non seulement laisse mourir mais qui fait mourir ceux et celles qui sont les plus vulnérables ? Serions-nous à l’abri dans un monde transformé en une énorme colonie pénitentiaire, même si le rôle qui nous y est réservé serait celui, relativement privilégié, de geôliers ? [62] » La commissaire aux droits de l’homme au Conseil de l’Europe, avait à juste titre souligné que les « refoulements et la violence aux frontières enfreignent les droits des réfugiés et des migrants comme ceux des citoyens des États européens. Lorsque la police ou d’autres forces de l’ordre peuvent agir impunément de façon illégale et violente, leur devoir de rendre des comptes est érodé et la protection des citoyens est compromise. L’impunité d’actes illégaux commis par la police est une négation du principe d’égalité en droit et en dignité de tous les citoyens... »[63]. A n’importe quel moment, nous pourrions nous aussi nous trouver du mauvais côté de la barrière.

    Il serait plus que temps de nous lever pour dire haut et fort :

    Pas en notre nom ! Not in our name !

    https://migration-control.info/?post_type=post&p=63932
    #guerre_aux_migrants #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #îles #Evros #frontières #hotspot #Lesbos #accord_UE-Turquie #Vathy #Samos #covid-19 #coronavirus #confinement #ESTIA #PROKEKA #rétention #détention_administrative #procédure_accélérée #asile #procédure_d'asile #EASO #Frontex #surveillance_des_frontières #violence #push-backs #refoulement #refoulements #décès #mourir_aux_frontières #morts #life_rafts #canots_de_survie #life-raft #Mer_Egée #Méditerranée #opération_Poséidon #Uckermark #Klidi #Serres

    ping @isskein

  • Les députés demandent une enquête sur les allégations de refoulement de demandeurs d’asile à la frontière gréco-turque

    Les autorités grecques et de l’UE doivent enquêter sur les rapports récurrents faisant état de refoulements violents à la frontière avec la Turquie.

    Lundi, les députés de la #commission_des_libertés_civiles ont demandé au gouvernement grec de clarifier sa position concernant des reportages dans différents médias et des rapports de la société civile indiquant que la police et les garde-frontières du pays empêchaient de façon systématique les migrants d’entrer sur le territoire grec (par voies terrestre et maritime) et ce, en faisant usage de la violence et même en tirant sur eux.

    Le ministre grec de la protection des citoyens, Michalis Chrisochoidis, et le ministre de la migration et de l’asile, Notis Mitarachi, ont nié ces accusations, les qualifiant de ‘‘fake news’’ et soulignant le rôle essentiel que jouait la Grèce pour ‘‘maintenir les frontières de l’UE sûres, en respectant toujours les droits fondamentaux’’. Ils ont également averti qu’une répétition des événements qui se sont produits en mars, quand le Président Erdoğan a annoncé qu’il ouvrait les frontières turques, ne pouvait pas être écartée.

    Une majorité des députés a appelé la Commission à s’assurer que les autorités grecques respectaient la législation européenne relative à l’asile, l’exhortant à condamner l’usage de la violence et à imposer des sanctions si les violations étaient confirmées. La commissaire Ylva Johansson a convenu que les violences contre les demandeurs d’asile devaient faire l’objet d’enquêtes, non seulement en Grèce mais dans toute l’UE. ‘‘Nous ne pouvons pas protéger nos frontières en violant les droits des citoyens’’, a-t-elle déclaré.

    Certains députés ont félicité la Grèce pour son contrôle des frontières de l’UE avec la Turquie. La commissaire Johansson a également salué les progrès réalisés ces derniers mois et souligné que, malgré une situation très compliquée, les autorités grecques avaient réussi à empêcher la propagation du COVID-19 au sein des camps de réfugiés.

    https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/fr/press-room/20200703IPR82627/demandeurs-d-asile-a-la-frontiere-greco-turque-les-deputes-veulent-u

    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #violence #LIBE #Grèce #Evros #refoulement #push-backs #refoulements #droits_humains #îles

    • La (non-) réponse de Ministres grecs à la #commission_LIBE concernant les violences et les morts aux frontières gréco-turques (https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/libe-committee-meeting_20200706-1645-COMMITTEE-LIBE_vd)

      Αλλα λόγια ν’ αγαπιόμαστε...

      Θλίψη και ντροπή προκαλούσε η εικόνα των Νότη Μηταράκη, Γιώργου Κουμουτσάκου και Μιχάλη Χρυσοχοΐδη στη χθεσινή Επιτροπή Πολιτικών Ελευθεριών, Δικαιοσύνης και Εσωτερικών Υποθέσεων του Ευρωκοινοβουλίου ● Οι Ελληνες υπουργοί δέχτηκαν καταιγισμό ερωτήσεων σχετικά με τις αποκαλύψεις για τη βία και τους θανάτους στα ελληνικά σύνορα και δεν έδωσαν ούτε... μισή απάντηση με ουσία !

      Σε Βατερλό για τους υπουργούς Μ. Χρυσοχοΐδη, Γ. Κουμουτσάκο και Ν. Μηταράκη εξελίχθηκε η χθεσινή Επιτροπή Πολιτικών Ελευθεριών, Δικαιοσύνης και Εσωτερικών Υποθέσεων του Ευρωκοινοβουλίου με θέμα την κατάσταση στα ελληνοτουρκικά σύνορα και τον σεβασμό των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων, παρουσία της επιτρόπου Εσωτερικών Υποθέσεων Ιλβα Γιόχανσον.

      Μόνο θλιβερή μπορεί να χαρακτηριστεί η εικόνα των Ελλήνων υπουργών, που δέχονταν βροχή τις ερωτήσεις για τις αποκαλύψεις για παράνομες επιχειρήσεις αποτροπής και επαναπροώθησης και για την ανεξέλεγκτη βία και τους νεκρούς στον Εβρο.

      Καμία συγκεκριμένη απάντηση δεν έδωσαν, αντιθέτως επαναλάμβαναν γενικολογίες για τον σεβασμό των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων και του διεθνούς δικαίου και την προστασία της ανθρώπινης ζωής εκ μέρους της Ελλάδας, ζητώντας μάλιστα τον λόγο για τις αιχμηρές επισημάνσεις των ευρωβουλευτών. Η στάση τους σχολιάστηκε έντονα και επικριτικά.

      « Είναι εκτός θέματος, σαν να έχουν προσκληθεί σε γάμο και να απαγγέλλουν επικήδειους » ήταν το ειρωνικό σχόλιο ευρωβουλευτή, ενώ και ο πρόεδρος της επιτροπής, Χουάν Φερνάντο Λόπεζ Αγκιλάρ, σημείωσε : « Δεν θέλουν να απαντήσουν, αυτό είναι το πολιτικό συμπέρασμα της συνεδρίασης ». Η συνεδρίαση πραγματοποιήθηκε στον απόηχο του βίντεο της ερευνητικής ομάδας Forensic Architecture (La (non-) réponse de Ministres grecs à la #commission_LIBE concernant les violences et les morts aux frontières gréco-turques (https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/libe-committee-meeting_20200706-1645-COMMITTEE-LIBE_vd)) για τη δολοφονία του 22χρονου Σύρου πρόσφυγα στον Εβρο και πληθώρας δημοσιευμάτων για την πολιτική της ελληνικής κυβέρνησης στα σύνορα, αλλά και καταγγελιών που δέχτηκε η Επιτροπή από οργανώσεις δικαιωμάτων, όπως η Human Rights Watch και η Διενής Αμνηστία.
      Ράπισμα από Γιόχανσον

      Κατηγορηματική ήταν η επίτροπος Εσωτερικών Υποθέσεων Ιλβα Γιόχανσον : « Υπάρχουν αναφορές για απωθήσεις μεταναστών, οι οποίες απαγορεύονται ρητά. Οι απωθήσεις είναι παράνομες και καλώ τις ελληνικές αρχές να τις διερευνήσουν όλες ». Μάταια διαβεβαίωναν ο κ. Χρυσοχοΐδης ότι « η Ελλάδα φυλάσσει τα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα με αποτελεσματικό τρόπο » και ο κ. Μηταράκης ότι η κυβέρνηση « δίνει ιδιαίτερη έμφαση στην προστασία της ανθρώπινης ζωής ».

      « Σε καμία περίπτωση δεν πρέπει να αποκλειστεί ότι θα υπάρξει νέα απόπειρα να προωθηθούν μετανάστες στην Ελλάδα και την Ευρώπη. Παραμένουμε σε επαγρύπνηση και πρέπει να είμαστε όλοι μας προετοιμασμένοι για να εμποδίσουμε κάθε νέα παρόμοια απόπειρα », σημείωσε ο κ. Κουμουτσάκος, που υπογράμμισε ότι ο ρόλος της ασπίδας της Ευρώπης, τον οποίο βέβαια προθυμότατα δέχτηκε η κυβέρνηση, συνεπάγεται μια συγκεκριμένη πολιτική στα σύνορα.

      Η ευρωβουλευτής των Πρασίνων, Τινέκε Στρικ (https://twitter.com/Tineke_Strik/status/1280181951110971392), αναφέρθηκε στους θανάτους και τους τραυματισμούς μεταναστών από πυροβολισμούς, χαρακτήρισε « ασυνεπή » τη στάση της ελληνικής κυβέρνησης και σχολίασε ότι « μας λένε ότι είναι όλα καλά και πως δεν υπάρχει κανένα πρόβλημα και ύστερα ότι φταίει η Τουρκία, άρα υπάρχει πρόβλημα. Μας λένε ότι δεν υπάρχει ζήτημα· μα αυτό το ζήτημα συζητάμε εδώ. Η ελληνική κυβέρνηση δείχνει άρνηση για ό,τι συμβαίνει ».

      Η Κορνέλια Ερνστ (GUE) ζήτησε από τους Ελληνες υπουργούς να προσκομίσουν τα σχετικά βίντεο και τους ρώτησε αν μπορούν να διεξαγάγουν μια μη κομματική έρευνα, ενώ παράλληλα κάλεσε την Κομισιόν να αναλάβει δράση και να μη μένει μόνο στα λόγια.

      Ο Ισπανός Ντομενέκ Ρουί Ντεβέσα (Σοσιαλδημοκράτες) χαρακτήρισε ακροδεξιά τη διαχείριση του μεταναστευτικού από την ελληνική κυβέρνηση, προκαλώντας την έντονη αντίδραση των υπουργών Μ. Χρυσοχοΐδη και Γ. Κουμουτσάκου (ο Ν. Μηταράκης είχε αποχωρήσει για να συμμετάσχει στη συζήτηση στο ελληνικό Κοινοβούλιο), που του ζήτησαν να ανακαλέσει και συνέστησαν στους ευρωβουλευτές να είναι προσεκτικοί.

      Οσο για τους θανάτους προσφύγων στον Εβρο από πραγματικά πυρά, ο κ. Χρυσοχοΐδης επέμενε ότι « δεν έγινε χρήση όπλων, έγινε μόνο χρήση αστυνομικών μέτρων », και επικαλέστηκε το γεγονός ότι βρίσκονταν εκατοντάδες κάμερες τηλεοπτικών συνεργείων και αυτόπτες μάρτυρες. « Αν υπάρχει καταγγελία, να τη στείλετε να διερευνηθεί », είπε. Αλλά βέβαια οι θάνατοι και οι πυροβολισμοί έχουν καταγραφεί σε κάμερες και ηχητικό υλικό, γεγονός που αναιρεί πλήρως τον ισχυρισμό του υπουργού, ενώ υποτίθεται ότι η κυβέρνηση έχει διερευνήσει τις καταγγελίες.

      Η κατάσταση για τους Ελληνες υπουργούς έγινε χειρότερη στο δεύτερο μέρος της συζήτησης, όταν ο εκτελεστικός διευθυντής της Frontex, Φαμπρίτσε Λετζέρι, παραδέχτηκε ότι σε επιχείρηση ταχείας επέμβασης στα θαλάσσια σύνορα η ελληνική ακτοφυλακή έδωσε εντολή σε σκάφος της Δανίας να μην επιβιβάσει μετανάστες και να τους επαναπροωθήσει στην Τουρκία. Οπως είπε, ζήτησε άμεσα εξηγήσεις από την Ελλάδα για να λάβει την απάντηση « ότι έγινε παρανόηση, κάποιος δεν κατάλαβε καλά την εντολή ! ».

      Στο θέμα των παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων αναφέρθηκε και ο Μίνως Μουζουράκης από την οργάνωση Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο, λέγοντας « είδαμε κάποιες φορές το Λιμενικό να μην κάνει επιχειρήσεις διάσωσης παρόλο που οι μετανάστες είχαν εκπέμψει SOS, ενώ έχουμε δει ανθρώπους να μένουν στη θάλασσα για 17 ώρες... ». Αλλος ευρωβουλευτής διαμαρτυρήθηκε για το επιχείρημα της ελληνικής κυβέρνησης ότι οι καταγγελίες είναι τουρκική προπαγάνδα. « Είμαστε όλοι εδώ όργανα της τουρκικής κυβέρνησης ; » αναρωτήθηκε σε έντονο ύφος.

      ΣΗΜΕΙΩΣΗ :

      Στο αρχικό κείμενο, μεταφέρθηκε λανθασμένα, με βάση την ταυτόχρονη διερμηνεία της συνεδρίασης στα ελληνικά, η δήλωση του Γιώργου Κουμουτσάκου. Ο αναπληρωτής υπουργός Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου εμφανιζόταν να λέει ότι δεν πρέπει να αποκλειστεί η ανάγκη επαναπροώθησης παράτυπων μεταναστών. Η σωστή μετάφραση της δήλωσης είναι : « Σε καμία περίπτωση δεν πρέπει να αποκλειστεί ότι θα υπάρξει νέα απόπειρα να προωθηθούν μετανάστες στην Ελλάδα και την Ευρώπη [σσ. εκ μέρους της Τουρκίας] Παραμένουμε σε επαγρύπνηση και πρέπει να είμαστε όλοι μας προετοιμασμένοι για να εμποδίσουμε κάθε νέα παρόμοια απόπειρα ». Η διόρθωση έχει περιληφθεί στο κείμενο.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/dikaiomata/250964_alla-logia-n-agapiomaste

      –---

      Du grand n’importe quoi...

      Le spectacel donné hier Notis Mitarakis (Ministre grec de la politique migratoire), George Koumoutsakos (Vice-ministre de la politique migratoire) et Michalis Chrysochoidis (Ministre de la Protection du Citoyen – euphémisme pour Ministre de l’Ordre Public) à la commission LIBE du Parlement européen est lamentable et fait honte au pays● Les ministres grecs ont reçu des salves des questions concernant les révélations sur les violences et les morts à la frontière grecque et n’ont pas réussi à apporter même l’ombre d’une réponse sur le fond de cette affaire !

      La réunion de la commission des libertés civiles, de la justice et des affaires intérieures du Parlement européen sur la situation aux postes frontaliers gréco-turcs et le respect des droits de l’homme a tourné en Waterloo pour les trois ministres grecs.

      L’image des ministres grecs, recevant des rafales des questions sur les opérations de dissuasion et de refoulements illégaux, et sur les violences incontrôlables et les morts à Evros, a été vraiment désolante. Ils n’ont réussi à donner aucune réponse précise, au contraire, ils n’ont cessé de remâcher des généralités sur le respect des droits de l’homme, du droit international et la protection de la vie humaine de la part de la Grèce, se retournant même contre les députés en raison de leurs remarques tranchantes. Leur attitude a été vivement critiquée.

      "Ils sont tout le temps hors sujet, comme s’ils avaient été invités à un mariage où ils récitent des éloges funéraires", a ironisé un député européen, tandis que le président de la commission, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar a déclaré : "Ils ne veulent pas répondre, c’est la conclusion politique de la réunion". . La réunion a eu lieu juste après la publication de la vidéo de l’équipe de recherche de Forensic Architecture sur le meurtre du réfugié syrien de 22 ans à Evros et de nombreuses publications sur la politique du gouvernement grec aux frontières , ainsi que des dénonciations envoyées à la Commission par des Organisations de défense des droits de l’homme telles que Human Rights Watch et Amnesty International.

      Ylva Johansson, commissaire aux affaires intérieures, était catégorique : "Il y a de rapports sur les refoulements de migrants qui sont explicitement interdites. Les refoulements sont illégaux et j’appelle les autorités grecques à enquêter sur tous les cas dénoncés ». En vain, M. Chrysochoidis avait affirmé que "la Grèce protège efficacement les frontières européennes" et M. Mitarakis que le gouvernement "met l’accent sur la protection de la vie humaine".

      « Il ne faut en aucun cas exclure une nouvelle tentative de pousser des migrants vers la Grèce et l’Europe. Nous restons vigilants et nous devons tous être prêts afin d’empêcher de nouvelles tentatives de ce type », a déclaré M. Koumoutsakos, qui a souligné que le rôle du bouclier européen, que le gouvernement a assumé sans rechigner, se traduit par un certain type de gestion politique à la frontière.

      L’eurodéputée du groupe de Verts Tineke Strick a mentionné les migrants morts ou blessés par tirs de balles, et a qualifié la position du gouvernement grec comme "incohérente" : elle a déclaré que "on nous dit que tout va bien et qu’il n’y a pas de problème, et ensuite on nous dit que c’est la faute de la Turquie, ce qui veut dire qu’il y a effectivement un problème. On nous dit qu’il n’y a pas de problème, mais nous en discutons ici. Le gouvernement grec est dans le déni de ce qui se passe. " L’eurodéputée Cornelia Ernst (GUE) a demandé aux ministres grecs de fournir les vidéos pertinentes et leur a demandé s’ils pouvaient mener une enquête non partisane, tout en appelant la Commission à entreprendre des actions et ne pas en rester à la dénonciation. L’Espagnol Domènec Ruiz Devesa (sociaux-démocrates) a parlé de la gestion de l’immigration par le gouvernement grec comme étant d’extrême droite, provoquant la réaction vive des ministres Chrysochoidis et G. Koumoutsakos qui lui ont demandé de retirer ce qu’il venait de dire et ont conseillé aux députés de faire attention.

      Quant aux morts de réfugiés à Evros suite à de tirs à balles réelles, M. Chrysochoidis a insisté sur le fait qu ’"il y a eu aucun usage d’arme, seules des mesures de police ont été déployés", et a évoqué le fait qu’il y avait sur place des centaines de caméras de télévision et de témoins oculaires. "S’il y a une dénonciation, envoyez-la pour enquête", a-t-il dit. Cependant, les décès et les tirs ont été effectivement enregistrés sur caméra et documents audio, ce qui dément complètement les dires du ministre, quant à l’enquête, le gouvernement est censé avoir déjà enquêté sur les allégations.

      La situation des ministres grecs s’est aggravée pendant la deuxième partie de la débat, lorsque le directeur général de Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, a admis que lors d’une opération rapide à la frontière maritime, les garde-côtes grecs ont ordonné à un bateau danois de ne pas embarquer des migrants et de les refouler vers ka Turquie. Comme il l’a dit, il a immédiatement demandé des explications à la Grèce afin de recevoir la réponse "qu’il y a eu un malentendu, quelqu’un n’a pas bien compris l’ordre !".

      Minos Mouzourakis de l’ONG RSA (Refugees Support Aegean), a également parlé sur la question des refoulements illégaux, affirmant que "quelquefois nous avons vu la Garde côtière ne pas effectuer d’opérations de sauvetage, malgré le fait que les migrants avaient lancé un SOS, et nous avons même vu des personnes rester en mer pendant 17 heures. .. ». Un autre député européen a protesté contre l’argument brandi par le gouvernement grec, selon lequel les allégations de refoulement et de tirs mortels relèvent de la propagande turque. "Sommes-nous tous ici des organes du gouvernement turc ?" a-t-il clamé.

      Traduction reçue via la mailing-list Migreurop, le 07.07.2020

    • Interpellé sur les accusations de Peter Tauber, le secrétaire d’Etat à l’Immigration #George_Koumoutsakos a indirectement mais clairement reconnu l’existence des opérations illégales de refoulement à la frontière grecque. Il a sous-entendu que de telles opérations qui violent le droit international permettent à la Grèce d’assurer son rôle de ’#bouclier_de_l'Europe' et de protéger sa propre population des migrants porteurs éventuels du virus. Il a même insisté sur le fait que la Grèce ne peut pas être à la fois félicitée de garder de frontières européennes et être mise sur le banc des accusés. Mis à part cet aveu indirect mais transparent des opérations de refoulement de plus en plus violentes par un membre du gouvernement grec, la responsabilité des instances européennes pour cette politique criminelle d’une soi-disant ’protection’ à n’importe quel prix des frontières européennes devient évidente.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/stiles/ypografoyn/255729_faidri-omologia-koymoytsakoy (en grec)

      –-----

      Un aveu qui frôle le ridicule

      Le secrétaire d’Etat à l’Immigration Koumoutsakos reconnaît que des refoulements illégaux font partie de l’arsenal de la Grèce, en tant que « bouclier de l’Europe »

      C’est l’image d’une confusion totale et d’un double langage que donne donnée le gouvernement grec, concernant les allégations très graves d’opérations illégales de dissuasion et de refoulement les réfugiés à la frontière ; celles-ci ne font plus seulement l’objet de publication dans la presse internationale et grecque, mais sont confirmées par les gouvernements des états participant à la force navale de la mer Égée, comme l’Allemagne et le Danemark, ainsi que par le directeur de l’agence FRONTEX Fabrice Leggeri.

      Le gouvernement a catégoriquement nié tout soupçon de telles opérations illégales et a vaguement fait référence à des enquêtes, sans, bien entendu, les présenter. Il a même accusé la presse et les députés de l’opposition de reproduire des mensonges de propagande turque, une accusation vulgaire et dangereuse. Tout d’un coup, le disque a changé.

      En réponse à la publication de plaintes par le gouvernement allemand, le secrétaire d’état à l’Immigration et de l’Asile George Koumoutsakos n’a pas seulement nié les allégations de violation flagrante du droit international, mais les a adoptées indirectement mais clairement dans une interview télévisée à la chaîne ANT1 ( en grec à partir du 20ième minute). Il a recouru à un certain nombre d’excuses ridicules, en mentionnant le rôle de la Grèce comme "bouclier de l’Europe", les félicitations données au pays par les dirigeants européens début mars à Evros, et il a même fait appel à l’éventuelle connexion de la pandémie du coronavirus avec l’immigration et à la nécessité de protéger la Grèce. Une protection à assurer avec des fusillades à Evros, des violences et des refoulements illégales ? Des propos qui seraient ridicules si ils n’étaient pas si dangereux qui s’adressent à l’auditoire d’extrême droite du gouvernement et à ses fidèles porte-paroles.

      Plusieurs fois dans le passé, M. Koumoutsakos a tenté d’établir un lien similaire entre les réfugiés et le coronavirus et a été solennellement démenti par des membres même du gouvernement. Mais le problème n’est pas le manque de sérieux du ministre ni son argumentation identique à celui de l’extrême droite. Le problème est que la violation du droit international des réfugiés est la politique officielle du gouvernement grec et elle sape la crédibilité internationale du pays à un moment critique.

      Reçu via Viky Skoumbi via la mailing-list Migreurop, le 17.08.2020

    • Το Βερολίνο καταλογίζει στην Αθήνα παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις

      H γερμανική κυβέρνηση βρίσκεται « σε συνεχή επαφή » με την ελληνική για τις επαναπροωθήσεις. Της επιρρίπτει παραβίαση του Διεθνούς Δικαίου. Πρόκειται για μια αλλαγή στάσης σε σύγκριση με το πρόσφατο παρελθόν.

      Για πρώτη φορά η γερμανική κυβέρνηση καταλογίζει δημόσια στην Ελλάδα παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις προσφύγων στην Τουρκία. Αυτό προκύπτει από επιστολή του υφυπουργού Άμυνας Πέτερ Τάουμπερ. Σύμφωνα με τον χριστιανοδημοκράτη πολιτικό, πληρώματα του γερμανικού πολεμικού ναυτικού έγιναν τους τελευταίους μήνες, σε δύο περιπτώσεις, μάρτυρες παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων στα τουρκικά ύδατα στο Αιγαίο. Όπως τονίζει ο κ.Τάουμπερ, « η γερμανική κυβέρνηση βρίσκεται σε συνεχή επαφή με την ελληνική κυβέρνηση και εφιστά την προσοχή στους ισχύοντες κανόνες του Διεθνούς Δικαίου. »

      Η επιστολή του κ. Τάουμπερ με ημερομηνία 6 Αυγούστου είναι απάντηση σε επερώτηση του βουλευτή Αντρέι Χούνκο. Ο πολιτικός του κόμματος Η Αριστερά είχε ζητήσει να ενημερωθεί σχετικά με το εάν πληρώματα του γερμανικού πολεμικού ναυτικού και της αεροπορίας έχουν παρατηρήσει σκάφη της ελληνικής ακτοφυλακής ή και της Frontex να παρεμποδίζουν φουσκωτά με πρόσφυγες, να εισέλθουν στα ελληνικά ύδατα ή ακόμη να τα ρυμουλκούν πίσω στην Τουρκία.

      Παραδοχή των επαναπροωθήσεων

      Στην απάντηση του, ο κ.Τάουμπερ επιβεβαιώνει ότι το πλήρωμα του εφοδιαστικού σκάφους « Berlin » που ηγείται της Μόνιμης Ναυτικής Δύναμης 2 του ΝΑΤΟ στο Αιγαίο, παρακολούθησε στις 19 Ιουνίου περιστατικό όπως το περιγράφει στην επερώτηση του ο βουλευτής. Στο ίδιο έγγραφο ο υφυπουργός Άμυνας επιβεβαιώνει επίσης ότι το γερμανικό ναυτικό ήταν μάρτυρας ενός παρόμοιου περιστατικού. Από τα συμφραζόμενα προκύπτει ότι πρόκειται για πρόσφυγες που είχαν φτάσει στις 30 Απριλίου στη Χίο και οι οποίοι αυθημερόν μεταφέρθηκαν βίαια σε τουρκικά ύδατα. Παράλληλα ο κ.Τάουμπερ ενημερώνει ότι στις 4 Ιουνίου το « Berlin » διέσωσε στο Αιγαίο 32 άτομα που επέβαιναν σε λέμβο και διέτρεχαν κίνδυνο να πνιγούν.

      Η απάντηση του γερμανού υφυπουργού Άμυνας συνιστά αλλαγή στάσης της γερμανικής κυβέρνησης. Μέχρι πρόσφατα ακόμη αρνούνταν να καταγγείλει την Ελλάδα δημόσια για παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις. Ενδεικτική για τη μέχρι πρότινος γερμανική στάση είναι η απάντηση που είχε δώσει στις 22 Ιουνίου στο γερμανικό κοινοβούλιο ο υφυπουργός Εσωτερικών Χέλμουτ Τάιχμαν σε ερώτηση της βουλευτού Λουίζε Άμτσμπεργκ. Η πολιτικός των Πρασίνων ζήτησε να ενημερωθεί κατά πόσο έχουν πέσει στην αντίληψη γερμανών αστυνομικών και στρατιωτών που συμμετέχουν σε αποστολές της Frontex και του ΝATO στην Ελλάδα παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις. Στην απάντηση του, ο υφυπουργός Τάιχμαν είχε επισημάνει πως η « δημόσια αποκάλυψη » τέτοιων στοιχείων « θα μπορούσε να έχει αρνητικές επιπτώσεις στις δραστηριότητες του ΝΑΤΟ στο Αιγαίο καθώς και στις διμερείς σχέσεις μεταξύ Γερμανίας και Ελλάδας και επομένως να βλάψει τα συμφέροντα της Γερμανίας. » Αυτή η επιφυλακτικότητα δεν φαίνεται πλέον να ισχύει.

      Αμφισβήτηση του ρόλου της Frontex

      Σε σημερινή του δήλωση, ο βουλευτής του κόμματος Η Αριστερά Αντρέι Χούνκο καταλογίζει στο γερμανικό ναυτικό πως με την παθητική του στάση συνεργεί στις επαναπροωθήσεις και στη γερμανική κυβέρνηση ότι « παραβιάζει το Διεθνές Δίκαιο ». Οι αποστολές της Frontex στην Ελλάδα πρέπει σύμφωνα με τον κ. Χούνκο να διακοπούν διότι η ελληνική κυβέρνηση παραβιάζει την Ευρωπαϊκή Σύμβαση Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου.

      https://www.dw.com/el/%CF%84%CE%BF-%CE%B2%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%BD%CE%BF-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%BF%CE%B3%CE%AF%CE%B6%CE%B5%CE%B9-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CE%B1%CE%B8%CE%AE%CE%BD%CE%B1-%CF%80%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%AC%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%BC%CE%B5%CF%82-%CE%B5%CF%80%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%B1%CF%80%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%89%CE%B8%CE%AE%CF%83%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82/a-54527198

    • Greek Migration Min. Responds to Reports of “Organized Forced Return of Migrants”

      The Greek Ministry of Migration & Asylum refuted reports that it was “organizing the forced return of migrants” on Friday and called related media reports “a systematic effort to distort facts in order to serve specific goals.”

      The policy of the ministry is to work in observance of international laws, “as a contemporary European country that welcomes refugees who are in true need, assists them and supports them to integrate in society and function independently. However, illegal migration remains one of the most serious and sensitive issues that we face as a Greek country and Greek society the last five years, and as a country that serves as an entry gate to the European Union.”

      In this context, it noted, “we obviously proceed to departures, with an emphasis on returns - voluntary or not - of people who are not entitled to international protection” and it called for “greater attention in evaluating such facts as true and reliable.”

      https://www.thenationalherald.com/greece_politics/arthro/greek_migration_min_responds_to_reports_of_organized_forced_retur

    • UNHCR concerned by pushback reports, calls for protection of refugees and asylum-seekers

      UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, remains deeply concerned by an increasing number of credible reports indicating that men, women and children may have been informally returned to Turkey immediately after reaching Greek soil or territorial waters in recent months.

      UNHCR firmly reiterates its call on Greece to refrain from such practices and to seriously investigate these reports, which include a series of credible and direct accounts that have been recorded by the UNHCR Office in Greece and have been brought to the attention of the responsible authorities. Given the nature, content, frequency, and consistency of these accounts, a proper investigation should be launched without further delay.

      UNHCR fully respects the legitimate right of States to control their borders and recognizes the challenges posed by mixed migration movements at the external borders of the EU. However, States must guarantee and safeguard the rights of those seeking international protection in accordance with national, European and international law. Every individual has the right for their case to be heard and their protection needs assessed.

      “Greece and its people have shown immense solidarity and compassion with thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers who have sought safety in the country since 2015,” said Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Representative in Greece. “The numbers of refugee arrivals have significantly dropped since then but there are still people who continue to seek protection and asylum in Greece and in Europe,” he said.

      “Safeguarding Greece’s borders and protecting refugees are not mutually exclusive. Both are and should be possible. This is not a dilemma but a balance that must be struck,” said Leclerc. “Otherwise, the consequences may be far-reaching and damaging: for the people whose lives and safety may be put at risk; for the upholding of fundamental principles of international and European law; for long-since recognized human rights norms and values, that may be irreparably undermined,” he added.

      UNHCR is particularly concerned about the increasing reports, since March 2020, of alleged informal returns by sea of persons who, according to their own attestations or those of third persons, have disembarked on Greek shores and have thereafter been towed back to sea. Worryingly, UNHCR has also received reports and testimonies about people being left adrift at sea for a long time, often on unseaworthy and overcrowded dinghies, waiting to be rescued.

      UNHCR has also called for further preventive measures against such practices, for clear rules of process at the border and internal monitoring mechanisms, including through the reinforcement of the role of the Greek Ombudsman.

      Saving lives must be the first priority – both on land and at sea. UNHCR acknowledges the challenges faced by frontline states like Greece and calls on EU Member States to demonstrate their solidarity with Greece, particularly through the relocation of asylum-seekers.

      Solutions can be achieved through combating smuggling, expanding legal options for migration, and ensuring that all those in need of protection have effective access to it. At the same time, the return of those who, after a formal assessment of their needs, are found not to be in need of international protection is also part of effective migration management and should be consistently addressed and supported.

      The right to seek asylum is a fundamental human right. With concerted efforts and cooperation between all concerned states and the EU, managing borders can be achieved and protection concerns of refugees addressed.

      https://www.unhcr.org/gr/en/16207-unhcr-concerned-by-pushback-reports-calls-for-protection-of-refugees-an

    • Refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer : des rumeurs relayées par des passeurs, selon Athènes

      Visées par de multiples accusations sur des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer, les autorités grecques ont estimé que ces allégations étaient le résultat d’une « propagande » menée par les réseaux de passeurs.

      Le ministre des migrations grec, Notis Mitarachi a déclaré, lundi 31 août, que des passeurs étaient à l’origine des déclarations, reléguées au rang de rumeurs, selon lesquelles Athènes expulse illégalement des demandeurs d’asile.

      « Ces incidents n’ont rien de réel », a assuré Notis Mitarachi à la BBC. Selon ce dernier, les passeurs réagiraient aux mesures strictes prises ces derniers mois par Athènes pour freiner l’immigration illégale dans le pays. Des mesures qui, d’après lui, nuisent au business des passeurs.

      « Nous pensons qu’il s’agit du résultat d’une propagande menée par des réseaux de trafic illégal qui perdent des dizaines de millions d’euros », a-t-il affirmé.

      Multiples accusations

      Plusieurs organisations de défense des droits de l’Homme, dont le Haut-commissariat de l’ONU pour les réfugiés (HCR), ont à plusieurs reprises exhorté la Grèce à enquêter sur ces accusations de « push-backs ».

      À la mi-août, des soldats de l’armée allemande ont apporté une confirmation à ces accusations en assurant que des embarcations se dirigeant vers la Grèce avaient été repoussées vers les eaux territoriales turques.

      InfoMigrants avait par ailleurs reçu une vidéo tournée en mer Égée le 30 avril attestant de telles pratiques. Ces images montraient un navire des garde-côtes grecs faire d’énormes vagues autour d’une embarcation de migrants pour les empêcher de rejoindre l’île de Lesbos.

      Plus récemment, des révélations accablantes du New York Times ont jeté la lumière sur le fait que la Grèce a « abandonné » plus d’un millier de migrants en mer depuis le mois de mars, ce qu’Athènes dément. Le journal américain affirme que les autorités grecques laissent les embarcations dériver pour que les garde-côtes turcs leur portent secours.

      « Nous protégeons nos frontières avec détermination »

      Face à ce concert de critiques, les autorités grecques ne dévient pas de leur position. Pour toute réponse à ces accusations, Notis Mitarachi s’est contenté de souligner que les garde-côtes grecs avaient récemment secouru « des dizaines » de migrants et que les garde-côtes turcs avaient, eux, escorté « à de nombreuses occasions » des canots de passeurs dans les eaux grecques.

      « Nous protégeons nos frontières avec détermination, dans le cadre des obligations internationales et des règles européennes », a déclaré Notis Mitarachi. « La Grèce ne peut pas être la porte d’entrée de l’Europe. »

      Le Premier ministre grec, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a également démenti les accusations de refoulements illégaux, accusant la Turquie de colporter de « fausses informations » à propos des mesures « dures mais justes » appliquées par Athènes.

      La Grèce, pays par lequel plus d’un million de personnes sont passées au cours des années 2015-2016, entretient des relations tendues avec la Turquie. Les deux États ne s’entendent ni sur la question migratoire, ni sur celle des recherches d’hydrocarbures menées par la Turquie en Méditerranée orientale dans des zones disputées à la Grèce et à Chypre.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/26982/refoulements-illegaux-de-migrants-en-mer-des-rumeurs-relayees-par-des-

  • EU: Damning draft report on the implementation of the Return Directive

    Tineke Strik, the Green MEP responsible for overseeing the passage through the European Parliament of the ’recast Return Directive’, which governs certain common procedures regarding the detention and expulsion of non-EU nationals, has prepared a report on the implementation of the original 2008 Return Directive. It criticises the Commission’s emphasis, since 2017, on punitive enforcement measures, at the expense of alternatives that have not been fully explored or implemented by the Commission or the member states, despite the 2008 legislation providing for them.

    See: DRAFT REPORT on the implementation of the Return Directive (2019/2208(INI)): https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/2020/jun/ep-libe-returns-directive-implementation-draft-rep-9-6-20.pdf

    From the explanatory statement:

    “This Report, highlighting several gaps in the implementation of the Return Directive, is not intended to substitute the still overdue fully-fledged implementation assessment of the Commission. It calls on Member States to ensure compliance with the Return Directive and on the Commission to ensure timely and proper monitoring and support for its implementation, and to enforce compliance if necessary.

    (...)

    With a view to the dual objective of the Return Directive, notably promoting effective returns and ensuring that returns comply with fundamental rights and procedural safeguards, this Report shows that the Directive allows for and supports effective returns, but that most factors impeding effective return are absent in the current discourse, as the effectiveness is mainly stressed and understood as return rate.”

    Parliamentary procedure page: Implementation report on the Return Directive (European Parliament, link: https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2019/2208(INI)&l=en)

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/june/eu-damning-draft-report-on-the-implementation-of-the-return-directive
    #Directive_Retour #EU #Europe #Union_européenne #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #expulsions #rétention #détention_administrative #évaluation #identification #efficacité #2008_Return_Directive #régimes_parallèles #retour_volontaire #déboutés #sans-papiers #permis_de_résidence #régularisation #proportionnalité #principe_de_proportionnalité #AVR_programmes #AVR #interdiction_d'entrée_sur_le_territoire #externalisation #Gambie #Bangladesh #Turquie #Ethiopie #Afghanistan #Guinée #Côte_d'Ivoire #droits_humains #Tineke_Strik #risque_de_fuite #fuite #accord #réadmission

    –—

    Quelques passages intéressants tirés du rapport:

    The study shows that Member States make use of the possibility offered in Article 2(2)(a) not to apply the Directive in “border cases”, by creating parallel regimes, where procedures falling outside the scope of the Directive offer less safeguards compared to the regular return procedure, for instance no voluntary return term, no suspensive effect of an appeal and less restrictions on the length of detention. This lower level of protection gives serious reasons for concern, as the fact that border situations may remain outside the scope of the Directive also enhances the risks of push backs and refoulement. (...) Your Rapporteur considers that it is key to ensure a proper assessment of the risk of refoulement prior to the issuance of a return decision. This already takes place in Sweden and France. Although unaccompanied minors are rarely returned, most Member States do not officially ban their return. Their being subject to a return procedure adds vulnerability to their situation, due to the lack of safeguards and legal certainty.

    (p.4)
    #frontières #zones_frontalières #push-backs #refoulement

    Sur les #statistiques et #chiffres de #Eurostat:

    According to Eurostat, Member States issued over 490.000 return decisions in 2019, of which 85% were issued by the ten Member States under the current study. These figures are less reliable then they seem, due to the divergent practices. In some Member States, migrants are issued with a return decision more than once, children are not issued a decision separately, and refusals at the border are excluded.

    Statistics on the percentage of departure being voluntary show significant varieties between the Member States: from 96% in Poland to 7% in Spain and Italy. Germany and the Netherlands have reported not being able to collect data of non-assisted voluntary returns, which is remarkable in the light of the information provided by other Member States. According to Frontex, almost half of the departures are voluntary.

    (p.5)

    As Article 7(4) is often applied in an automatic way, and as the voluntary departure period is often insufficient to organise the departure, many returnees are automatically subject to an entry ban. Due to the different interpretations of a risk of absconding, the scope of the mandatory imposition of an entry ban may vary considerably between the countries. The legislation and practice in Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands and Sweden provides for an automatic entry ban if the term for voluntary departure was not granted or respected by the returnee and in other cases, the imposition is optional. In Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and Bulgaria however, legislation or practice provides for an automatic imposition of entry bans in all cases, including cases in which the returnee has left during the voluntary departure period. Also in the Netherlands, migrants with a voluntary departure term can be issued with an entry ban before the term is expired. This raises questions on the purpose and effectiveness of imposing an entry ban, as it can have a discouraging effect if imposed at an early stage. Why leave the territory in time on a voluntary basis if that is not rewarded with the possibility to re-enter? This approach is also at odds with the administrative and non-punitive approach taken in the Directive.

    (p.6)

    National legislation transposing the definition of “risk of absconding” significantly differs, and while several Member States have long lists of criteria which justify finding a risk of absconding (Belgium has 11, France 8, Germany 7, The Netherlands 19), other Member States (Bulgaria, Greece, Poland) do not enumerate the criteria in an exhaustive manner. A broad legal basis for detention allows detention to be imposed in a systematic manner, while individual circumstances are marginally assessed. National practices highlighted in this context also confirm previous studies that most returns take place in the first few weeks and that longer detention hardly has an added value.

    (p.6)

    In its 2016 Communication on establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission recognised that cooperation with third countries is essential in ensuring effective and sustainable returns. Since the adoption of this Communication, several informal arrangements have been concluded with third countries, including Gambia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Guinea and Ivory Coast. The Rapporteur regrets that such informal deals are concluded in the complete absence of duly parliamentary scrutiny and democratic and judicial oversight that according to the Treaties the conclusion of formal readmission agreements would warrant.

    (p.7)

    With the informalisation of cooperation with third countries in the field of migration, including with transit countries, also came an increased emphasis on conditionality in terms of return and readmission. The Rapporteur is concerned that funding earmarked for development cooperation is increasingly being redirected away from development and poverty eradication goals.

    (p.7)
    #développement #aide_au_développement #conditionnalité_de_l'aide

    ping @_kg_ @isskein @i_s_ @karine4 @rhoumour

  • Pushbacks in Melilla : ND and NT v. Spain

    On 13 February 2020, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rendered a judgment in the case of ND and NT v. Spain, the first trial to address ‘pushbacks’—the cross-border expulsion of refugees and migrants—at Europe’s land borders.

    The case concerns the pushback of two men from Mali and Ivory Coast at the Spanish-Moroccan border in Melilla in August 2014. ND and NT had crossed into the Spanish enclave of Melilla by climbing a series of fences at its border, along with a group of other migrants.

    The group, including ND and NT, were handcuffed and returned to Morocco by Spain’s paramilitary Guardia Civil, without the opportunity to explain their circumstances or speak to a lawyer

    In its judgment, the Court found that those pushbacks did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In doing so, the Court introduced a new legal exception to human rights at Europe’s borders, creating a dangerous precedent: the Court stated that climbing the border fences was ‘culpable conduct’ on the part of ND and NT, who should have used legal entry procedures instead. The Court accepted that Spain had provided ‘several possible means of seeking admission’, in particular:

    – by applying for international protection at the Beni Enzar border crossing point,

    – or in Spain’s diplomatic and consular representations.

    FA and ECCHR investigated whether the legal entry procedures presented to the Court by Spain were in fact available to Sub-Saharan nationals, using spatial analysis, official data from the Spanish government, human rights reports, and testimony.

    Our investigation demonstrates that both Spain’s claims and the Court’s conclusions are false, and that Black people from Sub-Saharan Africa are systematically discriminated against at the Melilla border.

    In fact, Black people trying to reach the Spanish border in Melilla have to evade a special Moroccan border police force and bypass three Moroccan border checkpoints, at which they are consistently denied passage.

    Spain made the claim that legal routes to apply for asylum are available to Sub-Saharan nationals however, gave no evidence to support this claim. In fact, there were only two applications made by Sub-Saharan nationals at the Melilla and Ceuta border posts between September 2014 and May 2017, both of them were women ‘camouflaged with typical Moroccan clothes’ to obscure their skin. According to witness testimony, the consulate in Nador is not accessible to Black Sub-Saharan nationals and there were no applications by Sub-Saharan nationals at any Spanish embassies in Morocco between 2015 and 2018. Nevertheless, the Court accepted Spain’s claims.

    The case of ND and NT reveals the mechanisms of structural racism embedded in Europe’s border policies. During the trial, Spain made misleading claims which were contradicted not only by multiple reports and testimonies, but also by their own data. Nevertheless, the Court accepted these arguments, and dismissed those of the claimants. The resulting judgment is a gross distortion of the facts, and fails to acknowledge the realities at Europe’s borders.

    This video investigation was submitted to the ECtHR as part of a further case relating to pushbacks at the EU’s borders, ‘Danny’ v Spain.

    https://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/pushbacks-in-melilla-nd-and-nt-vs-spain
    #push-backs #refoulements #Melilla #Espagne #Maroc #frontières #migrations #asile #réfugiés #CourEDH #CEDH #justice #architecture_forensique #forensic_architecture

    ping @isskein @reka

  • Asylum seekers illegally returned from Italy to Slovenia, NGOs claim

    Two migrant-aid organizations are accusing authorities in northeastern Italy of illegally returning asylum seekers to Slovenia. They also claim that readmission procedures between Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia prevent people from asking for asylum in the EU.
    The Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS) and Catholic charity Caritas in Trieste published a statement on May 28, saying that they were strongly concerned about “the implementation of informal readmissions of migrants” from Italy to Slovenia.

    The two organizations provide housing to immigrants in the province of Trieste in northeastern Italy, near the border with Slovenia.

    ICS and Caritas said that it is illegal for authorities to return those who intend to apply for asylum. They said asylum requests must be registered before authorities check whether the applicant might have applied in another EU country. Under the Dublin Regulation, asylum seekers can be transferred back to the first EU country where they were registered.

    Migrants ’illegitimately sent away from EU’?

    ICS and Caritas also claimed that readmission procedures between Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia enabled authorities to “illegitimately turn away... those who have entered to apply for protection” from European Union territory. These people, “are subjected to grave violence throughout the so-called Balkan route,” they said in their statement.

    Pierpaolo Roberti, the security councilor of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, where Trieste is located, responded to the statement, saying that authorities will “move ahead with informal readmissions.” He said that the police and the prefect had his “full support.” Roberti belongs to the far-right League party, which is known for its harsh anti-migrant policies.

    He said he hopes that “as many people as possible continue to be readmitted to Slovenia and, in addition, that we strive to totally stop that migration flow.”


    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/25114/asylum-seekers-illegally-returned-from-italy-to-slovenia-ngos-claim
    #Slovénie #Italie #push-back #push-backs #renvois #frontière_sud-alpine #refoulements #refoulement #Alpes #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    ping @isskein

    • AYS Special: Italian Court StopsDeportation to Slovenia, Meanwhile Pushbacks Continue

      Italy has become the latest link in chain push backs where literally thousands of people — often violently — end up in the overcrowded camps of Bosnia and Serbia.

      Contradictory approaches in Italy

      An Italian court stopped deportation to Slovenia on the grounds that there is a risk for an asylum seeker to be subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment due to the high possibility of him (or her) being further expelled to Croatia and then to Bosnia or Serbia. However, although the court stopped the deportation of a single individual, collective push-backs from Italy are becoming increasingly common in the months since the judgement made by the court in Genova (April 7th). Thus Italian courts are acknowledging the cruel and inhumane treatment that a returnee is subjected to but, on the other hand, the Italian government is massively increasing the scope of push-backs to Slovenia, as is evident in the recent decision to deploy the army with police jurisdiction.

      16.000 people were returned to Croatia from Slovenia in the last two years.

      These are people who were caught and were processed in police stations with charges of illegal border crossing. When a person asks for asylum in slovenia, he is often faced with threats or the asylum claim is simply ignored and in the official records he is reported as an “economic migrant” — a category invented by the Ministry of Interior and the Police and not encompassed by any law. If one is classified as an “economic migrant” who has no interest to seek asylum, he can be returned to Croatia under a bilateral readmission agreement from 2006.

      The Court in Italy is concerned over systemic deficiencies in the Slovene asylum system and finds real risk for an asylum seeker to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment if deported to Slovenia. Meanwhile, reports of daily informal deportations from theItalian — Slovene border are becoming more and more common.

      COURT RULING: “…the risk of the applicant being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in Slovenia seems justified …

      In early April a court in Genoa, Italy found that:

      “Based on the submitted documentation and additional information obtained by this court proprio motu, the applicant’s complaint — given the conditions of receiving refugees in Slovenia and systemic shortcomings in the asylum procedure — seems justified. (…)

      In this case, the risk of the applicant being subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment in Slovenia seems justified (…) The data collected raise serious concerns about the reception and asylum system currently in force in Slovenia and in general about the atmosphere of cultural intolerance and discrimination prevailing in civil society, among government leaders and between police forces towards foreigners who have entered the country illegally, who have lodged or intend to lodge an application for international protection.”

      The complaint was lodged by a Pakistani asylum seeker, represented by Alessandra Ballerini, who had first filed the application for international protection in Slovenia and was consequently expected to be deported from Italy to Slovenia according to the Dublin regulation.

      The complaint stipulated that such a deportation would violate, inter alia, paragraph 2 of Article 3 of the Dublin Regulation due to systemic deficiencies in the asylum system in Slovenia. The court agreed and refused to deport the asylum seeker to Slovenia, “because of the danger that he would be treated there contrary to fundamental humanitarian principles and contrary to the provisions of Article 4 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”.

      As reported by Primorski dnevnik, the judges came to this conclusion taking into account reports of non-governmental organizations on the deteriorating treatment of migrants in Slovenia in the past two years and a 2018 report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which confirms allegations by non-governmental organizations of collective expulsions and violence against migrants in the Balkan region, including Croatia and Slovenia.

      Reports of several Slovenian and International NGOs and civil society actors (Amnesty International, Are You Syrious?, InfoKolpa, Border Violence Monitoring Network) highlight the issue of the Slovenian police authority’s illegal restrictions of access to asylum and practice of forced returns of asylum seekers without a proper assessment of whether their human rights would be violated in other countries via an informal procedure and without the possibility to appeal the deportation (push-backs).

      This was shown by several fact-finding missions: a survey from 2018 by Amnesty International obtained testimonies of 51 people in Velika Kladuša and Bihać in BiH, who were returned to the hands of the Croatian authorities by the Slovenian police, despite the fact that they wanted to apply for asylum in Slovenia.

      Report on illegal practices of collective expulsion at the Slovene-Croatian border by InfoKolpa documents numerous cases of groups of migrants rejected by Slovenian police and returned to Croatia and further to Bosnia despite explicitly showing intention to file for asylum in Slovenia between 11th September and 7th November 2018 via an Alarmphone report; reports by No Name Kitchen and Balkan Violence Monitoring show collective expulsion and violent return of asylum seekers to the Bosnian border surrounding Velika Kladuša as a routine occurrence initiated by Croatian and Slovenian police forces.

      In one year there were 4,653 out of a total of 9,149 intercepted migrants that were collectively deported to Croatia. The above-mentioned reports also cite further official statistics from the Slovenian police, which show a change in practice between May and June 2018, when returns to Croatia increased sharply, while at the same time the number of people applying for asylum dropped severely. Police statistic from police station of a border town Črnomelj state that in May 2018, 371 of the 379 migrants considered (97.88% of all) applied for asylum; after receiving different instructions from the Chief of police, in June only 13 of the 412 migrants, ie 3.15%, lodged an asylum application.

      NGOs accuse the Slovenian government and police of preventing refugees from filing asylum applications and of carrying out collective forced returns without a proper and individual assessment of whether their human rights will be violated in other countries and without the possibility of appeal.

      Returns to Croatia are carried out on the basis of a controversial bilateral agreement between the two countries from 2006 (when Croatia was not yet a member of European Union), which enables informal returns under an abbreviated procedure. According to the court in Genoa, such an abbreviated procedure violates Slovenia’s human rights obligations.

      These findings are further corroborated by an official 2018 report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which confirms allegations by non-governmental organizations of collective rejection and violence against migrants in the Balkan region, including Croatia and Slovenia.

      Primorski dnevnik cites the court decision featuring portions of NGO reports, saying:

      “Threats, violence, abuse of power and denial of fundamental rights have become common practice at border police stations, and collective deportations to Croatia are repeated daily with the support and awareness of senior police and government officials, despite the high risk of further police violence and theft in Croatia.”

      Slovenian daily newspaper Dnevnik asked Slovenian police for comments on the judgement, and they replied that their procedures were legal and professional, that the guidelines for the work of police officers had already been made public and that UNHCR had not discovered any irregularities when visiting police stations. The Ministry of the Interior replied that they were fully implementing EU legislation in the field of international protection, and that they were not aware of the ruling and could not comment on it.

      Though there was a decrease of irregular entries into Slovenia during the past few months there was an increase of record irregular entries recorded by Italian authorities. This has resulted in minor diplomatic tension between the countries where Slovenia has been dismissed as not being diligent enough in their Schengen gatekeeping duties.
      We suspect that there are two reasons that Italian authorities are recording an increase of border crossings:

      First, as InfoMigrants reported, as part of covid-19 measure the Italian authorities announced temporary legalisation of undocumented residents. We suspect that this might be a reason for a greater number of people reporting themselves and, thus, creating a spike in official records. Connected with this reason might be the Covid-19 measures as traveling became more difficult a greater number of people might be pressed to weather the virus in border municipalities (such as Trieste).

      Migrants (as well as border tensions with Slovenia) are traditionally a convenient distraction for the Italian government(s) in time(s) of crisis. To show its commitment to regulating the frontier the Italian government deployed the armed forces to aid police in intercepting migrants via the last stretch of the Balkan route. As Uroš Škerl reported for the daily newspaper Dnevnik in the last month Italy returned more people than in the previous four months combined (29 compared to 27 from January to April). In a statement for Dnevnik Gianfranco Schiavone of the NGO Consorzio Italiano di Solidarietà — Ufficio Rifugiati Onlus stated:

      “What is new in the last week is that the Italian police started to return people for whom we are convinced that they have the same circumstances as their colleagues that applied for asylum and stayed in Italy.”

      These returns are now conducted with the aid of the armed forces whose deployment the interior ministry justified as “an answer on illegal migrations”. Schiavone is skeptical of the military as they are not trained to conduct border patrols and handle asylum seekers adding: “this is all just political theater”.

      This latest act of EU migration policy melodrama has actors that are less fortunate than others. According to Dnevnik there have been three groups of people (14,17,8) returned to Slovenia and we suspect that at least one of these groups (if not all) has ended up in Velika Kladuša (BIH). A video emerged with a statement of a member of one of these groups containing claims of violent treatment during the Italy-BIH pushback was published recently by a migrant/activist: “This boy who left his fingerprints in Trieste and applied for asylum ، was deported to Slovenia and gradually back to hell”.

      So, on the one hand, Italian courts have found that push backs are cruel and inhumane, yet at the same time the same government has doubled down on its commitment to condemning people to this fate that its own courts find inhumane and cruel.

      Although the condemnation of deportation is a necessary first step, unless this idea is used to hold the security forces to account for their oppression and torture of people, it will remain a hollow ruling. Europeans like to look down on the USA due to their police violence on minorities, state hypocrisy towards its own values and their border walls. Maybe we should stop looking across the ocean and look closer to home.

      Written by: Iza Thaler and Miha Turk from InfoKolpa

      Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

      If you wish to contribute, either by writing a report or a story, or by joining the info gathering team, please let us know.

      We strive to echo correct news from the ground through collaboration and fairness. Every effort has been made to credit organisations and individuals with regard to the supply of information, video, and photo material (in cases where the source wanted to be accredited). Please notify us regarding corrections.

      If there’s anything you want to share or comment, contact us through Facebook, Twitter or write to: areyousyrious@gmail.com

      https://medium.com/are-you-syrious/ays-special-italian-court-stops-deportation-to-slovenia-meanwhile-pushbacks-
      #refoulements_en_chaîne

    • Even from Trieste, Italy.

      “Working every day in the street with people-on-the-move has allowed medical volunteers in Trieste to witness the worsening situation at the Italian border with Slovenia. Here is a sum-up of the radical changes in the last two months, highlighting growing repression towards transit groups and a spike in pushbacks from Italian territory. The events are relayed in three distinct stages: from the start of the pandemic, the development of tighter police controls, and finally the expansion of pushbacks through the dubious “informal readmission” process”

      https://www.borderviolence.eu/news-from-trieste-covid-19-and-pushbacks

      Reçu via la mailing-list de Migreurop, le 15.06.2020

    • The Slovenian Administrative Court issued a judgement confirming that the Slovenian police committed chain pushbacks (https://www.cms.hr/hr/pravna-pomoc-azil-i-statusna-pitanja/slovenski-sud-potvrdio-hrvatska-sudjelovala-u-lancanom-nezakonitom-protjerivanju) in which Croatia also participated, as a result of which a person seeking international protection in Slovenia ended up in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the judgement, the young man identified as J.D. must be returned to Slovenia, he must be given the opportunity to seek asylum again and he must be paid compensation in the amount of € 5,000. This judgement demonstrated the importance of the work of Infokolpa, a civic initiative and a member of the Border Violence Monitoring Network, which played a key role in gathering evidence. Namely, in the judgment, the Slovenian court relied on their reports and the reports of other organisations within the BVMN, as well as media reports. It is precisely in such cases that the importance of independent reports and the importance of documenting violent pushbacks of refugees can be seen.

      However, in addition to warning of the illegal actions of the Slovenian police, this judgement also proves the role of the Croatian police in chain pushbacks of refugees to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is time for the Croatian authorities to conduct effective investigations and make concrete efforts to stop this illegal practice.

      The brutality of pushbacks from Croatia was also experienced by a group of 16 refugees who were tortured and humiliated for five hours by unknown perpetrators in late May before being pushed back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Precisely because of this inhumane and illegal treatment of people in search of safety, the Centre for Peace Studies filed a criminal complaint (https://www.cms.hr/hr/azil-i-integracijske-politike/cms-podnio-kaznenu-prijavu-koja-je-poveznica-policije-i-naoruzanih-nasilnika-u-c) with the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia against unknown perpetrators who tortured the group. Eight armed men in unmarked black uniforms and with balaclavas on their heads, which according to the description given by the victims may belong to a special unit of the Ministry of the Interior, the so-called “Corridor” operation (https://net.hr/danas/hrvatska/zastrasujuca-devijacija-akcije-koridor-policija-sve-dogovara-na-whatsappu-a-pose), treated in an inhumane manner people in search of protection. Armed men wearing black tied the refugees to trees, shot at their heads and feet, beat them with everything they could get their hands on, took all of their belongings under threat of death, and in the end humiliated them by rubbing mayonnaise, ketchup and sugar into the wounds they had previously inflicted. Then, they handed the refugees, some of whom could not walk due to their serious injuries, over to the police, while the police officers then pushed them back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The victim’s testimonies suggest a cooperation between the perpetrators in black and the police. The Centre for Peace Studies once again stressed the importance of promptly conducting an effective and independent investigation into these crimes and sanctioning the perpetrators.

      Reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa Dobrodosli, mail du 29.07.2020

      #Croatie #refoulements_en_chaîne #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #justice #corridor_operation

    • Slovénie : la justice reconnaît l’illégalité des expulsions vers la Croatie et la Bosnie-Herzégovine

      C’est un précédent de taille : le tribunal administratif de Ljubljana a donné raison à un jeune Camerounais qui demandait l’asile en Slovénie, mais que la police a illégalement expulsé en Croatie, et qui s’est finalement retrouvé dans les camps de Velika Kladuša et Bihač, en Bosnie-Herzégovine.

      La justice slovène a confirmé dans son verdict (https://www.borderviolence.eu/wp-content/uploads/PRESS-KIT-FOR-INTERNATIONAL-MEDIA.pdf) rendu public le 17 juillet dernier que la police slovène avait commis une expulsion illégale, à laquelle la Croatie a également participé, et à la suite de quoi un Camerounais de 23 ans, J. D., qui voulait demander une protection internationale en Slovénie, s’est retrouvé en Bosnie-Herzégovine.

      J. D., qui fait partie d’une minorité anglophone persécutée au Cameroun, a été détenu deux jours durant par la police slovène. Bien qu’il ait demandé l’asile à trois reprises, sa requête n’a jamais été prise en compte. Il a d’abord été illégalement expulsé vers la Croatie, puis vers la Bosnie-Herzégovine. À la suite de la décision du tribunal administratif de Ljubljana, il a désormais le droit de revenir en Slovénie et d’y demander l’asile. L’État slovène a été condamné à lui verser une indemnité de 5000 euros. Ce jugement n’est toutefois pas définitif, l’État ayant la possibilité de faire appel devant la Cour suprême.

      L’affaire a été suivie par InfoKolp, membre du Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN). Dans son verdict, la justice slovène s’appuie sur un rapport de 50 pages remis en mai 2019 par InfoKolp, ainsi que sur des rapports du BVMN et de divers médias, dont Radio Študent, présente dans les camps de Velika Kladuša et de Bihač, dans le nord-ouest de la Bosnie-Herzégovine. Ce verdict constitue un important précédent qui établit les violations en série des droits de l’Homme, mais aussi l’existence d’une « chaîne » d’expulsions illégales « systématiques et routinières », selon les termes de l’avocat du plaignant, depuis la Slovénie vers Bosnie-Herzégovine avec l’aide de la police croate.

      “Une « chaîne » d’expulsions illégales « systématiques et routinières ».”

      Ce verdict confirme également ce que les ONG et institutions soulignent depuis des années : des expulsions illégales de réfugiés et de migrants ont lieu, auxquelles de nombreux pays de l’Union européenne participent. Il s’agit donc d’un indicateur fort pour les institutions européennes de ce qui se passe sur le territoire de l’UE, ainsi qu’à ses frontières extérieures et intérieures, à savoir des violations des droits de l’Homme et de l’État de droit. L’affaire étaie en outre les témoignages de milliers de réfugiés et de migrants qui ont subi des violences, expulsions illégales et violations du droit d’asile, alors que les autorités croates refusent toujours de mener des enquêtes.

      Depuis le début de l’année 2018, la police slovène a renvoyé en Croatie quelque 20 000 personnes qui ont subi des mauvais traitements de la part de la police croate. Dans le meilleurs des cas, elles ont été débarquées d’une fourgonnette à la frontière avec la Bosnie-Herzégovine, mais le plus souvent, elles ont été insultées, battues et torturées par la police.

      https://www.courrierdesbalkans.fr/Slovenie-la-justice-reconnait-une-chaine-d-expulsions-illegales-v

    • Italy-Slovenia border: ASGI’s open letter to the Italian government and UNHCR

      Background

      On July the 24th 2020, in the Italian Parliament’s lower Chamber, Undersecretary Variati on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior answered urgent questions by MP Riccardo Magi on the situation of the so-called “informal readmissions” of foreign citizens at the border between Italy and Slovenia. The response provided by the government in a note is exceptionally troubling, since it clearly violates principles of domestic and EU law on basic human rights. It should be stressed that the note contains a number of contradictions and provides no legal or case-law grounds for what it asserts.

      Before briefly examining the note’s content, it is worth recalling that “readmission” is a simplified procedure allowing a States to send a foreign citizen back at the border to the country s/he came from, when the foreigner does not meet the criteria for admission into the destination country. The basis for these actions is contained in bilateral States agreements, which must not conflict with European and international provisions on movement of people, the right to international protection and fundamental rights.

      Unregulated readmissions

      First of all, the Ministry has openly confirmed that informal readmissions do take place (without any written decision provided to the interested party), which obviously prevents the person to appeal the measure. The Ministry justified this modus operandi by making generic reference to “consolidated practices” of “accelerated readmission procedures”. As already highlighted in the open letter (still unanswered) that ASGI sent to the Government CCing UNHCR on June 5th, the expression “readmissions without formalities” contained in the bilateral Agreement between Italy and Slovenia for the readmission of persons at the border, signed in Rome on September 3rd 1996, certainly cannot be understood as implying no obligation to issue a written decision, as it is indisputable that the action taken by public security with forced accompaniment in Slovenia has effects on the legal situation of the person. Instead, it should be correctly understood in the sense that the procedures for reporting and coordinating readmission operations between the Italian and Slovenian authorities can take place without procedural burdens.

      Irrelevance of the application for international protection

      The assertion that readmissions by foreign citizens are applied “even if the intention to seek international protection has been expressed” is disconcerting. The right to international protection is a fundamental right and access to the asylum procedure and the identification of the country in charge of examining the application are regulated by EU law, notably by the Dublin III Regulation which states that “Member States shall examine any application for international protection lodged by a third-country national or a stateless person on the territory of any Member State, including at the border and in the transit areas”. The obligation for the Member State to register the application for international protection lodged at the border must be respected in all circumstances, even in cases where the applicant has crossed the border of a Member State irregularly from another Member State. The criteria of competence which establish which country will have to examine the asylum application are precisely indicated in the Regulation which in any case strictly excludes that the principles and procedures contained in the inter-state Readmission Agreements may apply.

      Subsequently, the text takes on ambiguous and contradictory tones, reassuring that “all the irregular migrants found are informed, through an interpreter, of the possibility to request international protection”, specifying that a special information booklet is distributed for this purpose. This assertion not only is contradicted by numerous testimonies collected, in Italy and abroad, but in any case would be a pointless exercise, in light of the imminent fate (i.e. readmission) that awaits also those who express their intention to seek asylum. As a further confirmation of this, the ministerial note states that “if the conditions for the readmission request are met and the same is accepted by the Slovenian authorities, there will be no formalization of the request in the police headquarters”. Declaring one’s intention to seek protection therefore produces no apparent legal effect and, consequently, entails no obligation for the Italian authorities, since if Slovenia accepts the readmission application “by completing and sending a special form in which the elements supporting the application are indicated” the foreign citizen is readmitted to Slovenia like those who have not asked for protection, therefore as an irregular foreigner. The note also does not consider that in this case the foreigner would be readmitted to Slovenia as an asylum seeker, thus opening the way to chain rejections as it has already happened in a number of cases.

      Risk of “chain” refoulements

      In relation to this practice, documented by numerous international reports, the Ministry of Interior merely replies that “Slovenia and Croatia are members of the European Union” and consequently “they are to be considered intrinsically safe countries, in terms of human rights and international conventions on the matter”. ASGI expresses serious concerns about the Slovenian and Croatian asylum systems and, above all, about the possibilities of effective access to the asylum procedure. According to Eurostat data, in the first four months of 2020, Croatia registered 400 applications for international protection, equal to 0.3% of the EU total. In Slovenia there were 490 applications registered against 6840 asylum applications registered in Italy. Furthermore, as already highlighted in the ASGI note of June 5th 2020, the right of States to reject or expel those who are not entitled to enter or remain on national territory, albeit lawful as an expression of the principle of state sovereignty, finds specific limits in that States have not only the obligation to recognize, guarantee and protect the human rights of people under their jurisdiction, but also the duty to respect human rights treaties and not to transform them into ineffective norms. The Italian government cannot pretend to ignore that migrants readmitted from Italy to Slovenia and then from Slovenia to Croatia are subsequently transferred coercively to Serbia or Bosnia-Herzegovina, that these operations take place without any written decisions being adopted and served on the foreigners and that migrants are subjected to brutal violence by both the Croatian police and members of private militias. The practice of chain refoulements was also recently recognized by the Slovenian Administrative Court which on July 16th recognized the unlawfulness of the readmission from Slovenia to Croatia and then from Croatia to Bosnia of an asylum seeker. The Slovenian judge ruled that the police had not informed the interested party of his right to apply for international protection, in clear violation of national and EU law. The readmission also violated the ban on collective expulsion because the applicant was not notified of a removal order, nor was he given legal and linguistic assistance before his readmission to Croatia. As regards chain refoulement, the ruling found “sufficiently reliable reports on the possible risks from the point of view of article 3 of the ECHR” both in Croatia, where the applicant was initially removed, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was subsequently rejected.

      Likely ineffectiveness, against the background above, of a service to assist migrants at border crossings

      Lastly, the note ends with the reassurance that an assistance service for foreigners in the province of Trieste will be soon activated and will be operated by CIR (Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati). In light of the above considerations (i.e. the substantial uselessness of the application for international protection in order to prevent the readmission mechanism), it is highly questionable whether such a service would have any effectiveness and foreign citizens could access it.

      Conclusion

      In conclusion, the note with which the Ministry of the Interior made known its position on the so-called informal readmissions of foreign citizens, including asylum seekers, on the Italian-Slovenian border, represents an ideological endorsement of unlawful procedures implemented in total contempt for domestic and EU law. Despite the controversial and sometimes obscure asylum policy in Italy, so far there hasn’t ever been such a flagrant infringement of the legality, one that may make Italian and European institutions face possible responsibilities for violations of fundamental rights taking place on the border with Slovenia.

      Due to this very serious situation

      ASGI asks the Italian government

      to immediately end the practices of unlawful readmissions at the Italian-Slovenian border;
      to give precise indications to the peripheral government offices to respect the right of asylum and in particular the effective right to access the territory and request international protection adequately;
      to report urgently before the Parliament on the situation at the eastern border by providing all the necessary data and specifically reporting on the operating procedures with which the readmissions have so far been implemented.

      ASGI asks UNHCR

      to take an open public position on the note of the Italian Government in relation to the readmissions of applicants for international protection. For understandable reasons related to its mandate, UNHCR often operates through actions of moral suasion that do not take a public dimension. However, situations, such as that covered by this analysis, require that public opinion, institutions and associations have the full right to know UNHCR’s position on such serious events taking place in the territory of the European Union;
      to implement effective direct monitoring of the situation on the eastern border which has so far been completely lacking, in the awareness that the illegal situation described has already led to the rejection of hundreds of asylum seekers and that stopping this situation must become a top priority on the part of the United Nations agency responsible for defending the very existence of the right to asylum.

      For further information, please refer to the ASGI note of June 5th 2020 and to the recent dossier “La rotta balcanica” (“The Balkan Route”) by the Network “Rivolti ai Balcani”.

      https://en.asgi.it/informal-readmissions-balkan-route-asgi-letter-government-unhcr

    • Cries for help from the Balkan Route. Access to asylum remains a problem in Slovenia.

      “They don’t care about us. We have reached the refugee shelter several times, and they send us back to Croatia.”

      This is part of a message I received on Whatsapp on July 29 from 19-year-old Mohammed from Morocco who was writing from a center in south west Slovenia where he was being held in detention.

      Mohammed explained that he had previously managed to enter Slovenia several times, crossing over the mountains, but was pushed back initially to Croatia, and then again to Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia. This illegal deportation practice has been documented in recent years by a number of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe, as well as some European parliamentarians.

      NGOs and human rights collectives including Amnesty International and Border Violence Monitoring Network have also said that since July 2018, people on the move have been denied their legal right to apply for asylum by Slovenian police, who have been part of an illegal chain of push backs from the EU, along Italy and Croatia to Bosnia or Serbia.

      Mohammed further told me that since July 19 he had been held alongside a number of other potential asylum seekers in the Aliens Center in #Postojna, a town in Slovenia midway between Ljubljana and the Italian border.

      Usually, people held in this center are in the process of being deported after their asylum claims have been denied, or their stay in the country has been deemed illegal, as defined by the Aliens Act. However, until recently, asylum seekers and those wanting to seek asylum like Mohammed were not being placed there unless there were specific circumstances where they were deemed a flight risk or a danger to public order.

      Through text messages, photos and videos, some of those inside the center managed to reach out to journalists like myself, as well as to some NGOs, and civil society groups.

      A group of activists subsequently organized protests on August 25 in an attempt to raise awareness about what is going on, supporting ongoing protests being held within the center by those being held in detention. They warned the public about this practice by the Slovenian police and drew parallels with the so-called Hungarian model of locking people up during their asylum process.

      Threats and deportations

      The center in Postojna where people are being detained consists of a large hangar-like building that has only lately been equipped with 14 containers. Each has six beds. Additionally, there are two sanitary containers serving as bathrooms and toilets.

      The official capacity of the complex is 180 beds, but the number of those locked-up varies daily. At the beginning of August, through email correspondence, police said that 145 people were held in the center, including 42 in the process of deportation and 65 who had requested asylum but who had not yet received an official response..

      Out of the total number, 38 individuals were registered asylum seekers.

      A few days later, police reported that 142 individuals were being held in the center, including 111 asylum seekers.

      People held in Postojna claim that when they were brought in, police told them they would be quarantined due to the pandemic.

      The General Police Directorate denied that the center in Postojna is being used as a form of quarantine, claiming that only basic medical check-ups are carried out. But in answer to questions, they also state that “the majority stays there for more than 14 days,” the quarantine period recommended by the World Health Organization for those who have been in close contact with somebody with COVID-19.

      https://vimeo.com/453221076

      Messages from those in the center claimed that even the right to request asylum was being denied, despite promises by police upon entering the center that everyone would get a chance to apply.

      Some, like Mohammed, say they have already gone through the experience of being deprived of the right to apply for asylum, and then being deported from the EU, back to the Balkans. They say they reached out to appeal for help after being threatened with deportation to Croatia 10 days after being taken to the center.

      In one of these messages sent to a local NGO, X. from Morocco wrote that the living conditions in the center are “terrible.”

      “They put us in a closed place, some people have been here 28 days and others 25 days without knowing what will happen with us,” he wrote.

      “They take out some and leave some in, even though we have the same case and were arrested in the same circumstances. There is no logic and no law. Some leave without proof of identity, while others are sentenced to three months.

      “There’s patients here and the medical care is not good, some friends are scared about what will happen with us and others are thinking of killing themselves here.”

      https://vimeo.com/453221292

      Violation of asylum laws

      The Ombudsperson’s Office in Slovenia has warned on several occasions about the problematic role of border police in asylum procedures and about the role of Postojna’s Aliens Center, which is officially considered a detention facility.

      Furthermore, in its reports the Office acknowledges that families and children were amongst those previously detained there, a controversial practice it calls to be abolished.

      The men who are currently locked up in Postojna complain of further irregularities, including accusing the translators working for the police as being corrupt and unprofessional. These echo similar claims cited by organizations including Amnesty International Slovenia, while the Ombudsperson’s office has also mentioned it in one of its reports and called on the government to react.

      Saša Zagorc, a professor of constitutional law at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana and a member of the Odysseus Network with other experts on asylum, says that to date little has been done to address the concerns.

      “Systemic problems and irregularities when it comes to deprivation of personal liberty in Slovenia have been known and well analyzed for at least five years,” he says.

      Depriving those wanting to seek asylum of liberty is considered a measure of last resort under international law and is legal only after an individual’s specific circumstances have been taken into account and possible milder measures considered. But Professor Zagorc emphasizes a systemic lack of alternative measures in Slovenia.

      Self-organized activist collective Work-group for Asylum — part of the Ambasada Rog collective that has been working with refugees and migrants in Slovenia for years — issued a statement saying that deprivation of liberty of people who seek asylum is now used in Slovenia as a rule, and not as an exception, as stipulated in law.

      The Interior Ministry denies these allegations.

      Not standard police procedure

      The videos and photos that appeared in the public and the media at the end of July, shortly after protests within the camp, created public pressure. Three days after I received the first message from Mohammed, the men in Postojna reported they had been visited by a group of officials from the Interior Ministry with two different interpreters.

      However, three weeks later, on August 21, they still remained locked up and deprived of their liberty, with no legal counsel.

      In answer to my questions about the broader framing of the current situation in Postojna, the Ombudsperson’s Office said that part of the problem is a lack of systemic access to free legal counsel for some people deprived of their liberty in the Aliens Center.

      The official response from the Interior Ministry is that the men’s detention in Postojna might “not be a standard police procedure,” but that all police actions are lawful.

      Standard police procedure is to take asylum seekers to Ljubljana’s Asylum Center, where they have freedom of movement after a few days of quarantine and an initial interview. The Interior Ministry said that their officials can, and do, conduct first interviews with people who wish to apply for asylum in Ljubljana’s Asylum Center, as well as at other police stations.

      They explained that the asylum requests can be “deemed obviously unfounded if an individual comes from a so-called safe third country.” Such procedures aim to speed up deportations of individuals whose asylum requests have been denied.

      Human rights organizations, including the Council of Europe, however, have warned that even in such expedient procedures individual circumstances need to be considered and these may make asylum claims valid even when an applicant is from a so-called safe third country.

      The police practices are reflected in official statistics. According to the Interior Ministry, in the first half of 2020, 64 out of 120 asylum requests were rejected as “obviously unfounded.” In the same period last year, 30 out of 51 asylum requests were denied as “obviously unfounded.”

      Police instructions, exposed last month by Slovenian media, reveal that as a rule, asylum seekers are now to be taken to Postojna in an apparent attempt to speed up deportations, not to Ljubljana’s Asylum Center.

      In a phone conversation with a representative of the Legal-Informational Centre for NGOS, I find out that since late May and June they have been overwhelmed with filing legal motions to appeal the detention of asylum seekers in Postojna.

      Interior Ministry data shows that this year, police have deprived 75 potential asylum seekers of their liberty, 69 of which were in June alone. The administrative court this year annulled 35 of these measures.

      Meanwhile, based on a request made by right wing politicians in Italy, additional Italian army troops are to be deployed to the border with Slovenia. Some troops were already deployed in May, while the idea of having the army is supported by far right groups on both sides of the border.

      In Slovenia, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, a member of the right wing SDS party, openly welcomed the idea.

      For now, the struggle of people in Postojna and Slovenian civic society continues. In one of his messages sent to the activists, X. wrote:

      “We are not criminals — we are humans. The difference between us and other people is just the paper — we are people without papers and that does not mean we are not good people.”

      https://kosovotwopointzero.com/en/cries-for-help-from-the-balkan-route

  • During and After Crisis : Evros Border Monitoring Report

    #HumanRights360 documents the recent developments in the European land border of Evros as a result of the ongoing policy of externalization and militarization of border security of the EU member States. The report analyses the current state of play, in conjunction with the constant amendments of the Greek legislation amid the discussions pertaining to the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and the Return Directive.

    https://www.humanrights360.org/during-and-after-crisis-evros-border-monitoring-report

    #rapport #Evros #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #frontières #2019 #militarisation_des_frontières #loi_sur_l'asile #Kleidi #Serres #covid-19 #coronavirus #Turquie #push-backs #refoulements #refoulement #push-back #statistiques #passages #chiffres #frontière_terrestre #murs #barrières_frontalières #Kastanies #violence #Komotini #enfermement #détention #rétention_administrative #Thiva #Fylakio #transferts

    –------
    Pour télécharger le rapport


    https://www.humanrights360.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/During-After-Crisis-Evros.pdf

    ping @luciebacon

  • Special Report: #COVID-19 and Border Violence along the Balkan Route

    The #Border_Violence_Monitoring_Network are publishing a feature report on the intersection of the current health crisis and border management. This new report shares first hand testimony of people-on-the-move who are experiencing the COVID-19 lockdown in transit. Its scope looks at the way restrictive measures disproportionately affect vulnerable persons in camps and at borders. Further, analysis of various countries from the region shows how COVID-19 measures have also been utilised to shape and erode the fundamental rights of these communities. Approaching the topic of COVID-19 as a period used to stage rights suspensions, some of the developments explored in this report include:

    –The deployment of military forces at borders and camps is a core feature of the securitised response to COVID-19. This was seen with proposals made by the Slovenian government to increase the army’s remit in the border area and the garrisoning of camps in Serbia.

    –The development of pushback practice in countries such as Croatia has shown a disturbing turn. Augmentation of border violence as a result of the pandemic appeared with the crude paint tagging of transit groups near Velika Kladusa. Meanwhile two officers actively involved in pushbacks in the Topusko area were tested positive for COVID-19, putting people-on-the-move at direct risk of contracting the virus at the hand of perpetrating officers..

    –Collective expulsions from camps has rapidly become a new concern for people in centres in Greece and Serbia. The lockdown measures were used on multiple occasions as an excuse to perform large scale pushbacks from inner city camps and centres hosting asylum seekers.

    –Inadequate accommodation facilities are an ongoing concern for transit groups denied the basic means to exercise relevant health protocols. Across the Balkan Route and Greece, the sealing of centres marked disproportionate deprivations of liberty and wilful neglect of hygienic standards by states and the European Union.

    https://www.borderviolence.eu/special-report-covid-19-and-border-violence-along-the-balkan-route
    #violence #frontières #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #migrations #asile #réfugiés #violent_borders #violence_aux_frontières #rapport #armée #militarisation_des_frontières #Serbie #Slovénie #push-back #push-backs #refoulement #refoulements #Velika_Kladusa #Topusko #Grèce #confinement #camps_de_réfugiés #hébergement

    ping @luciebacon

  • Collective Expulsion from Greek Centres

    The Border Violence Monitoring Network are releasing new case material presenting evidence of removals from Greek centres and the subsequent pushback of at least 194 people to Turkey. The incidents, occurring from the camp in #Diavata and the #Drama_Paranesti Pre-removal Centre, show the extension of collective expulsion during the COVID-19 period. These are brazen acts which situate institutional accommodation sites and detention spaces firmly within the illegal pushback regime. Find out more in the full briefing attached below:

    https://www.borderviolence.eu/wp-content/uploads/Press-Release_Greek-Pushbacks.pdf
    #push-backs #push-back #renvois #refoulements #refoulement #Grèce #Turquie #Grèce #covid-19 #coronavirus #apport #Evros

    ping @luciebacon

    • Migrants accuse Greece of forced deportations

      New findings suggest Greek authorities are illegally deporting refugees across the Turkish border. As part of an international research team, DW identified and met some of the victims who were forced back. 

      “Come with us and we will issue you new papers,” a Greek police officer told Bakhtyar on a Wednesday morning in late April. The 22-year-old Afghan man believed the offer was the key to realizing his dream of starting a new life in Europe.

      Two months earlier Bakhtyar had crossed the Evros River, a border between Turkey and Greece, and a key route for refugees seeking to reach the European Union. He continued onward to Diavata, the official refugee camp set up on the outskirts of Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki. Upon arrival he was careful to register with the Greek police, the precursor to seeking international protection — and a first step in the asylum process. A photograph of his document shows the date to be February 12, 2020.

      The coronavirus lockdown had closed most public services, and Bakhtyar says he had been anxious for the office to reopen so he could make an official asylum claim. He would not get the chance to do so.

      Recalling his encounter with police in April, Bakhtyar says he was put in a white van and taken to a police station in the center of Thessaloniki. Instead of getting the crucial papers as he was promised, Bakhtyar says the police confiscated all his belongings, including his phone. He was later relocated to another police station where, he says, officers slapped and kicked him before putting him onto the back of a truck. Bakhtyar remembers a sheet being pulled down to prevent anyone seeing who was inside the truck. He did not realize it at the time, but the truck was heading east — retracing his arduous journey back towards Turkey.

      When the truck stopped, Bakhtyar realized he was not alone. Other asylum-seekers like him were lined up along the banks of the Evros River. He recalls seeing young men loaded onto dinghies, 10 at a time. The boatman, Bakhtyar says, spoke in Greek to people he assumed were police, and to the asylum-seekers in their native Dari. DW could not independently verify that the men were Greek police officers. For Bakhtyar, he says it was clear it was not the boatman’s first such crosing to Turkey.

      Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the border between Greece and Turkey is closed. All official deportation procedures have been put on hold. When Bakhtyar and other asylum-seekers reached the far bank on the Turkish side, there was nothing and no-one waiting for them.  

      DW meets pushback victims 

      When DW met with Bakhtyar for this report, he was staying in Istanbul’s Esenler district, home to a substantial Afghan population. The city was under lockdown at the time and it was hard to move around. Wearing a red T-shirt with “New York” written across the front, Bakhtyar appeared sad and upset. He wants to get back to Greece as soon as possible to pursue his dream of living in Europe.

      Bakhtyar’s experience is not an isolated story. In a joint investigation between DW, the Dutch news publication Trouw, media nonprofit Lighthouse Reports, and the independent verification collective Bellingcat, we were able to locate Bakhtyar and other young men in Turkey and verify that they had been forcibly returned after previously being in Greece. Their accounts, all given separately, establish a clear pattern: male, under 30 and traveling by themselves. Most of them are from Afghanistan, some of them are from Pakistan and North Africa. They were either arrested in the Greek camp of Diavata or picked up seemingly at random by local police near the camp.

      Together with our news partners, we met with and interviewed multiple eyewitnesses in Greece and Turkey, collected Greek police documents and established a chain of evidence, from the refugee camp in Diavata to the streets of Istanbul. Using publicly available data, including refugees’ social media posts, which were time-stamped and featured photographs of landmarks in Greece that were geolocated, we were able to corroborate key elements of witness testimony.

      In total we contacted six people in Istanbul who recounted their experiences with “pushbacks” — the forceful return of refugees and migrants across a border — and located another four elsewhere in Turkey, all of whom could prove their previous stays in Greece.

      Pushbacks are deportations carried out without consideration of individual circumstances and without any possibility to apply for asylum or to put forward arguments against the measures taken, according to the European Convention on Human Rights.

      ’Modern slavery’

      One of the other men we met in Istanbul is Rashid, who fled his native Afghanistan three years ago and made his way to Turkey. He worked as a packer and mover in Ankara, the Turkish capital, before heading to Istanbul where he found work as a welder. He has temporary protection status in Turkey but is not provided with medical assistance or housing.

      “In Turkey, life is full of uncertainties for young Afghan men who lack access to basic healthcare and social services,” Zakira Hekmat, co-founder of the Afghan Refugees Solidarity Association in Turkey, told DW. “They are precariously employed in low-paid jobs without permits. It is modern slavery.” Afghan men in Turkey mostly toil in the underground economy working tough, physical jobs in construction, transportation or textiles.

      Hoping for a better future, Rashid left Turkey for Greece at the beginning of 2020. He recalls crossing the Evros River with about 20 other people on a boat. He says he stayed in a tent for roughly two months next to the refugee camp at Diavata. But everything changed for him in late March when he was returning from Friday prayers.

      Rashid says he was stopped by Greek police who told him to wait. He then describes to DW how a white van pulled up and armed men without uniforms appeared. They told him to get in. Rashid says he did not even know who the men were and that he only found out later that they were working with Greek police after he was taken to a police station. DW could not verify the connection between the men and the police.

      His Greek documents, originally valid for one month, had expired but renewal during the coronavirus outbreak had not been possible as immigration offices were closed. At the station, Rashid says, the police confiscated all his belongings.

      “They didn’t even give me a glass of water at the police station,” he recalls. Rashid was not asked to sign any papers by the Greek authorities. He says he was later driven for hours in a van across Greece and then forced onto a small boat to cross the Evros River back into Turkey.

      Recognizing a pattern

      Reports on alleged pushbacks, especially at the Evros border, are numerous. The witness accounts we have gathered with our news partners corroborate reports from human rights organizations working with the Border Violence Monitoring Network, an independent database. They indicate that there were at least five police raids carried out in Diavata camp between March 31 and May 5, resulting in the seemingly illegal deportation of dozens of migrants. In almost all cases, police appear to have targeted young, single men from Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa.

      Vassilis Papadopoulos, president of the Greek Council of Refugees and a migration official in a previous administration, sees a clear pattern in the pushbacks.

      “Police vans come to the camp and the officers carry out a brief check of the people who are not yet registered. They ask for their papers  [...] they detain them and tell them that they will be taken to the station, to either check their papers or to provide them with new papers and instead of that, according to the complaints, [these people] are returned to Turkey,” he says. 

      “What is important and unprecedented in these allegations, if proven valid, is that we are talking about pushbacks from [deep] inside the country and even so from a camp without any formal deportation procedure being followed.”

      When DW confronted the Ministry of Migration and Asylum with the reports of illegal pushbacks, Alternate Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos denied them. “The allegations about human rights violations by Greek law enforcement personnel are fabricated, false and uncorroborated,” he said.

      Sealing the borders

      Greece has been under intense pressure at its borders since the end of February when Turkey signaled the end of its 2016 agreement with the EU over restricting refugee and migrant flows. Ankara had encouraged migrants to head towards the land and maritime borders with Greece. Athens responded by sealing its borders and suspended access to asylum during March. While the asylum system officially resumed in April, the number of arrivals is 97% below levels for the previous April, according to statistics from the Ministry of Migration and Asylum.

      In early May, Greek media reported that the government was said to be pursuing “aggressive surveillance” aimed at preventing refugees from arriving. The government has not specified what this entails.

      DW approached the Ministry of Migration and Asylum for further details on the extent of the government’s activities. Alternate Minister Koumoutsakos said, “measures taken so far have been proportionate to the gravity of the situation and pursued legitimate aims, such as, in particular, the protection of national security, public order and public health.”

      Notis Mitarakis, the Greek Minister on Migration and Asylum, has defended the government’s harder line on asylum and migration. Speaking to state television during a visit to Samos on April 28, he said: “There have been zero arrivals to our country in April 2020 thanks to the very big efforts made by our security forces.”

      On the same day, however, residents of the Aegean island reported on local media and Facebook that they had seen newly arrived migrants in the village of Drakei. Lighthouse Reports and Bellingcat analyzed video footage from the Turkish coast guardand refugees that indicated a boat carrying 22 asylum-seekers arrived at a cove on Samos at around 7:30 a.m. that day.
      Pushed back from Samos island

      Jouma was among the refugees who climbed the steep path up from the remote cove on Samos to the village. This was the fourth time the young man from Damascus, Syria had tried to reach Greece. For a few hours on the morning of April 28 he believed he had finally made it.

      In a detailed account, Jouma recalls what he experienced after the refugees reached Samos. He says that a girl from the group who spoke a little English asked a local to notify Greek police that they had arrived. The new arrivals expected that they would be taken to the Samos’ refugee camp. Instead, the police who came detained them and took their phones. They were driven to a port where they were transferred between boats before being loaded onto a black-orange life raft without an engine or paddles. Jouma says they were towed towards Turkish waters. The raft was set adrift in the open sea with the waves pushing them back towards Greece and a Greek vessel pushing them towards Turkey.

      The worst thing, Jouma says, was a Greek power boat maneuvering around them trying to push them into Turkish waters, while the Turkish coast guard was just observing. “The Greek coast guard would retreat to make room for their Turkish counterparts to come and take us, but they wouldn’t come, and it went on all night,” Jouma says.

      The group was eventually picked up at noon the next day by the Turks. The port authorities on Samos told DW that there were no arrivals of asylum seekers to the island on April 28. The apparent use of orange life rafts in previous pushback operations was reported by Greek national newspaper Efimerida Ton Syntakton on April 7.

      Are pushbacks in compliance with EU law?

      Greece, like other EU border states such as Croatia, has long been dogged by accusations of pushbacks. Dimitris Christopoulos, who was until recently the president of the International Federation for Human Rights, says that the new intensity of incidents and the number of witnesses raises questions to what extent Greek authorities have been authorizing these pushbacks and how much the EU is aware of what is happening on the Greek border.

      “Obviously, these tactics are violating the Greek Constitution and customary international law, yet they seem to be tolerated by the EU since they serve the purpose of preventing further people from crossing the Aegean or the River Evros into Europe,” says Christopoulos.

      When DW again questioned the Ministry of Migration and Asylum about the legality of the government’s tactics, Alternate Minister Koumoutsakos categorically denied that such operations were taking place. “Greece has been complying, and will continue to do so, with its obligations under international law, including all relevant human rights treaties to which it is a party, also mindful of its obligations under the borders, migration and asylum EU legal framework, as enshrined in the EU Treaties.”

      Jürgen Bast, Professor of European Law at the University of Giessen in Germany, calls such a pushback strategy a clear violation of the law “This goes against everything European law stipulates.” The pushbacks, as described by the refugees, break all the rules of the official return directive, Bast says, referring to the orderly procedure that an asylum request entails, including a personal interview and the right of the individual to stay in Greece until a decision is made. The destination country, Bast continues, must also be informed and may have the right to refuse rejected asylum-seekers from third countries.

      None of the young men DW met said they had been notified ahead of time that they would have to leave Greece; nor did they give the impression that they had been informed of their legal rights. Instead, the experiences recounted by Bakhtyar, Jouma, Rashid, and the others interviewed suggest that forceful pushbacks across the Greek-Turkish border have become an increasingly common pattern.

      Desperate to get to Europe

      Rashid now lives in a cramped Istanbul flat with 10 other young Afghans. As an undocumented migrant in Turkey, he faces the threat of being deported back to Afghanistan. According to official statistics, 302,278 Afghans have been apprehended by security forces in Turkey in the last two years. Since 2018 it has become extremely difficult for Afghans to register for asylum in Turkey.

      Surrounded by what appear to be dead ends for him in Turkey, Rashid is desperately searching for a way to once again reach Europe. “I do not know what I will do here. We are not guilty. Of course, I want to cross the border again,” he says. “I have to.”

      https://www.dw.com/en/migrants-accuse-greece-of-forced-deportations/a-53520642

  • Latest Tactic to Push Migrants From Europe ? A Private, Clandestine Fleet

    The government of Malta enlisted three privately owned fishing trawlers to intercept migrants in the Mediterranean, and force them back to a war zone, officials and a boat captain say.

    With the onset of the coronavirus, Malta announced that it was too overwhelmed to rescue migrants making the precarious crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, where the tiny island nation has been on the front line of the maritime migration route over the past decade.

    In secret, however, the Maltese authorities have worked hard to make sure no migrants actually reach the island.

    It dispatched a small fleet of private merchant vessels in April to intercept migrants at sea and return them by force to a war zone in Libya, according to information provided by the captain of one of the boats, a senior commander in the Libyan Coast Guard, and a former Maltese official involved in the episode.

    The three repurposed fishing trawlers are privately owned, but acted on the instructions of the Armed Forces of Malta, the captain and the others said.

    The clandestine operation, which some experts consider illegal under international law, is just the latest dubious measure taken by European countries in recent years to stem the migration from Africa and the Middle East that has sown political chaos in Europe and fueled a populist backlash.

    Since 2017, European states, led by Italy, have paid the Libyan government to return more migrants to Libya, hassled the private rescue organizations that try to bring them to Europe, and asked passing merchant vessels to intercept them before they enter European waters.

    But Malta’s latest tactic may be among the most egregious, maritime experts say, because it involved a designated flotilla of private vessels, based in a European port, that intercepted and expelled asylum seekers from international waters that fall within the responsibility of European coast guards.

    “Against a pattern of increased abuses against asylum seekers in recent years, this newest approach stands out,” said Itamar Mann, an expert in maritime and refugee law at the University of Haifa in Israel. “Its methods chillingly resemble organized crime, and indeed the operations of people smugglers, which European policymakers so adamantly denounce.”

    “The facts available raise serious concerns that we are seeing the emergence of a novel systematic pattern, such that may even put Maltese state officials in danger of criminal liability, at home or abroad,” Dr. Mann added.

    The Maltese government did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    The activity was first documented on the evening of April 12, when three aging blue trawlers left the Grand Harbour in Valletta, the Maltese capital, within an hour of each other. The three boats — the Dar Al Salam 1, the Salve Regina and the Tremar — departed at the request of the Maltese authorities, according to the captain of the Tremar, Amer Abdelrazek.

    A former Maltese official, Neville Gafa, said he was enlisted by the government that same night to use his connections in Libya to ensure the safe passage of the first two boats to Libya.

    The boats did not submit paperwork to the immigration police, and switched off their satellite tracking devices soon after leaving port, maritime databases show.

    But their mission had already been determined, said Mr. Gafa, who said he had been asked by the Maltese prime minister’s chief of staff, Clyde Caruana, to help coordinate the operation. Mr. Caruana did not respond to requests for comment, but a government spokesman told The Times of Malta that Mr. Gafa had been asked to liaise with Libya on a separate matter that was unconnected to the episode.

    The trawlers were sent to intercept a migrant vessel attempting to reach Malta from Libya — and which had been issuing mayday calls for some 48 hours — and then return its passengers to Libya, Mr. Gafa said.

    The stricken migrant vessel was still in international waters, according to coordinates provided by the migrants by satellite phone to Alarm Phone, an independent hotline for shipwrecked refugees. But it had reached the area of jurisdiction of Malta’s armed forces, making it Malta’s responsibility under international maritime law to rescue its passengers and provide them with sanctuary.

    Two of the trawlers — the Dar Al Salam 1 and the Tremar — reached the migrant vessel early on April 14, guided by a Maltese military helicopter, Mr. Abdelrazek said. Several of the migrants had already drowned, according to testimony later gathered by Alarm Phone.

    The roughly 50 survivors were taken aboard the Dar Al Salam 1, Mr. Abdelrazek said.

    The Dar Al Salam 1 and the Salve Regina sailed to Tripoli on April 15, the former carrying the migrants and the latter carrying several tons of food and water, as a show of appreciation to the Libyan government, Mr. Abdelrazek and Mr. Gafa said. The Tremar waited in international waters, Mr. Abdelrazek said.

    The Maltese authorities told their Libyan counterparts that the Dar Al Salam 1 was in fact a Maltese vessel called the Maria Cristina, said Commodore Masoud Abdalsamad, who oversees international operations at the Libyan Coast Guard. To further obscure its identity, the boat’s crew had also painted over the ship’s name and flew a Maltese flag to confuse the Libyan Coast Guard.

    Though based physically in Malta and owned by a Maltese shipowner, the vessel is legally registered in Tobruk, a port in east Libya controlled by opponents of the authorities in Tripoli. The crew did not want to risk upsetting the Tripoli government by broadcasting its links to Tobruk, leading it to hide its name and home port, Mr. Abdelrazek said.

    After disembarking, the migrants were taken to a notorious detention center run by a pro-government militia, where migrants are routinely tortured, held for ransom or sold to other militias. The detention cells stand close to an arms depot, and the surrounding area was hit by shelling in December.

    Conditions at the detention center are “utterly appalling,” said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, an arm of the United Nations. “People are caged in overcrowded hangars with barely any access to food or sanitation facilities.”

    “Many tell us of the abuse they endure and the inhumane ways in which they are exploited,’’ Ms. Msehli added. ‘‘Reports of migrants being used to load weapons, and the detention center’s proximity to a military facility, raise serious concerns over the safety of people detained there arbitrarily.”

    After departing Tripoli, the Dar Al Salam 1 turned its satellite identification system back on, and the boat resurfaced off the coast of Libya on the evening of April 15, data provided by Marine Traffic, a maritime database, shows.

    The owner of the Salve Regina, Dominic Tanti, declined to comment through an intermediary, and the owner of the Tremar, Yasser Aziz, did not return a message seeking comment.

    The owner of the Dar Al Salam 1, Carmelo Grech, did not to respond to multiple requests for comment sent by text, voice message and a letter hand-delivered to his apartment. But he has confirmed his boat’s involvement to a Maltese newspaper, and several outlets have already highlighted its role, including the Italian newspaper, Avvenire, and the Maltese blogger Manuel Delia.

    Mr. Grech and his boat have colorful histories, raising questions in Malta about why the government involved them in a state-led operation.

    Mr. Grech has previously recounted how he used the boat, then known as the Mae Yemanja, to bring supplies to Libyan rebels during the Libyan revolution in 2011. In 2012, court records show it was impounded after Mr. Grech was accused, though later acquitted, of smuggling contraband cigarettes from Libya to Malta.

    In 2015, Mr. Grech was detained by a Libyan faction for several days for what he later described as a misunderstanding over his visas.

    Maltese ship records obtained by The Times show that Mr. Grech canceled his boat’s registration in Malta last February, before repainting it to show it had been re-registered in Tobruk, for undisclosed reasons.

    Mr. Abdelrazek also has a criminal history, having been convicted in 2014 of forging documents, court records show.

    After appearing briefly in Malta last week, the Dar Al Salam 1 and the Salve Regina returned again to sea on Sunday.

    Their satellite trackers were once again switched off shortly afterward.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/world/europe/migrants-malta.html
    #privatisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #Malte #Méditerranée #push-backs #refoulement #refoulements #Libye

    –—

    Commentaire de @isskein via la mailing-list Migreurop :

    Depuis avril fonctionne une méthode pro-active : une #flotte_privée de 3 bateaux qui se chargent d’arrêter les bateaux de migrants et de les renvoyer vers la Libye.

    Un ancien officiel maltais, #Neville_Gafà, a été engagé par le Premier Ministre pour monter l’affaire avec ses contacts libyens

    il est entre autres responsable de la #tragédie_de_Pâques : le gouvernement a ignoré durant 48h un bateau qui se trouvait dans sles eaux internationales (mais dans la juridiction des Forces armées maltaises) , puis envoyé sa flotte privée, qui a pris à son bord 51 migrants dont 8 femmes et 3 enfants, à bord 5 cadavres ; 7 migrants s’étaient noyés auparavant. Ils ont été ramenés à Tripolii
    voir https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/the-faces-and-names-of-a-migration-tragedy.788723

    #mourir_en_mer #morts #décès

    –---
    Dans le mail reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, Conni parle de #hotspot_mobile :

    Yesterday we got news from the Maltese media about a new strategy of the authorities to keep rescued migrants out: a floating hotspot on a cruise ship off their coast:
    https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/102051/rescued_migrants_to_be_kept_on_captain_morgan_vessel_outside_territor

    https://www.tvm.com.mt/en/news/rescued-migrants-will-remain-on-vessel-13-miles-outside-maltese-territorial-

    via @isskein

    • Rappel de Sara Prestianni sur l’utilisation des #hotspots_mobiles en #Italie (via mailing-list Migreurop, 01.05.2020) :

      The “hotspot boat” is the same system , used by Italy from April 17 , only for migrants have been intercepted by ships flying foreign flags, as decided in the inter-ministerial decree of 7 April.
      On board of the ship “hotspot” Rubattino - positioned in front of Palermo - there are at this moment almost 200 migrants, of the two rescues carried out by the ships Alan Kurdi and Aita Mari. All of them were negative to the Covid test, but it is not clear how long they will have to stay on the ship and where they will be transferred (at the beginning of the procedure there was talk of a relocation to Germany).
      Yesterday the Guarantor for the Rights of Italian Prisoners, in his bulletin, expressed concern about the establishment of these “floating” hotspots.
      http://www.garantenazionaleprivatiliberta.it/gnpl

      “The implementation of quarantine measures in extraordinary and exceptional places cannot lead to a situation of ’limbo’: migrant people are under the jurisdiction of the Italian State for the purposes of the health measures imposed on them, but at the same time they do not have the possibility - and for a period of time not indifferent - to exercise the rights that our country recognizes and protects. They cannot apply for asylum, they are not de facto - and at least temporarily - protected as victims of trafficking or unaccompanied foreign minors, nor can they have timely access to procedures for family reunification under the Dublin Regulation. - procedures which, moreover, have their own intrinsic deadlines.”
      The Guarantor also indicated that the experience of the ship “Rubattino” would not seem to remain an isolated case as the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport launched on 19 April a procedure for the chartering of vessels to be used for the assistance and health surveillance of migrants rescued at sea or arrived on the national territory as a result of autonomous boats.

      –---

      –-> sur les hotspots mobiles, voir aussi : https://seenthis.net/tag/hotspot_mobile

    • Abela admits coordinating private boats that returned migrants to Libya

      PM says Easter manoeuvre was a ’rescue’ not a pushback.

      Prime Minister Robert Abela has admitted commissioning a boat that returned migrants to war-torn Libya on Easter weekend but has insisted it was a rescue mission and not a pushback.

      A boat commissioned by Maltese authorities picked up a group of migrants in the search and rescue area earlier this month and returned them to the North African country.

      It is a crime under international law for states to return asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to face persecution.

      Speaking publicly about the controversy for the first time on Friday, Abela admitted the manoeuvre and defended the government’s actions.

      "There was no pushback,"he said.

      "There was a rescue of migrants. Had the Maltese government not coordinated, tens of lives would have died, because a [EU coastguard] Frontex plane just flew overhead and kept on going.

      “Malta’s ports are closed but it coordinated this rescue and ensured that the irregular migrants were taken to the port that was open.”

      The country, along with Italy, closed its ports, citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

      Former OPM official Neville Gafa claimed under oath this week that he had coordinated the pushback.

      Asked Gafa’s involvement, Abela said his only involvement was liaising with a contact he was claiming to have in Libya so that the rescue could be facilitated. He said Gafa was not paid or promised anything.

      Abela defended using a private boat, saying that a Search and Rescue convention stipulates the legal obligations of individual states that are not obliged to carry out the actual rescues but to coordinate such rescues.

      The obligations also state that countries can use their own assets or else send private assets to rescue boats in distress, he said.

      This week, Malta has commissioned a Captain Morgan tourist boat Europa II, to house migrants until a solution for their disembarkation is found.

      “We are ready to do anything to save lives. We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Abela said, adding that the cost for the Captain Morgan boat being used to temporarily house migrants outside Maltese waters will come from aid by the EU.

      “Malta’s position is clear and we know what our obligations are. We are going to remain firm on this. We are not a safe port and we cannot guarantee our resources for rescues.

      "We are duty bound to stick to this position. It is counterproductive to close port and airports to tourists but then open ports for irregular migrants. There are hundreds of thousands of people on the Libyan coast wanting to leave there and come to Lampedusa and Malta. We are obeying international rules,” he insisted.

      He said the migration problem should not be “Malta’s alone” and called for the EU to intervene.

      Earlier on Friday, Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo told Times of Malta that “the EU was responsible for a huge push back of migrants to Malta”.

      He said its failure to set up an effective and fair solidarity mechanism to share the burden of welcoming irregular migrants means that Malta had borne a huge burden over the years.

      He quoted a letter from a United Nations official to him in which he admitted that Europe needed to adopt a more principled migration policy that will serve European needs, that does not penalise those seeking to cross, and that does not leave countries like Malta, which are trying to do the right thing, on their own.

      “If we continue to fail, more people, Libyans and non-Libyans, will be compelled to seek safety on the European side” because of the ongoing war and the economic consequences of Covid-19.

      Bartolo said that in the first three months of the year, 3,600 irregular migrants left the Libyan coast through the Central Mediterranean route. This is over 400 per cent more than in the same period in 2019. Some 1,200 came to Malta.

      He said Malta’s centres were “overflowing” and there is no room for more migrants.

      https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/abela-admits-coordinating-private-boats-that-returned-migrants-to.7893

    • Malte a affrété des navires privés pour renvoyer les embarcations de migrants vers la Libye

      Une enquête du New York Times révèle que les autorités maltaises ont affrété, depuis le mois d’avril, une flotte de navires privés afin d’empêcher les migrants d ’atteindre l’île et les renvoyer en Libye. Selon plusieurs experts, cette action est illégale.

      En pleine pandémie de coronavirus, Malte fait tout pour empêcher les embarcations de migrants d’atteindre l’île. A tel point que le gouvernement a discrètement dépêché en avril une flotte de navires marchands privés pour intercepter les migrants et les renvoyer en Libye, a révélé une enquête du New York Times publiée jeudi 30 avril.

      Selon le quotidien américain - qui s’appuie sur les témoignages d’un capitaine de l’un de ces bateaux, commandant en chef des garde-côtes libyens, et d’un ancien responsable maltais impliqué dans l’opération - les trois chalutiers de pêche affrétés appartiennent à des particuliers mais ont agi sur les instructions des forces armées maltaises.
      Une opération sur ordre du Premier ministre maltais

      L’opération a été documentée pour la première fois dans la soirée du 12 avril, écrit le New York Times, quand trois chalutiers ont quitté le port de la Valette, la capitale maltaise, sur ordre des autorités. Un ancien responsable maltais, Neville Gafa, a déclaré qu’il avait été enrôlé par le gouvernement le soir même pour utiliser ses relations en Libye et assurer le passage en toute sécurité des deux premiers chalutiers vers les ports libyens.

      Le Dar As Salam 1 et le Tremar, ont ainsi été envoyés pour intercepter une embarcation de migrants présente dans les eaux maltaises - qui avait émis des appels de détresse depuis deux jours - afin de les renvoyer en Libye, a précisé Neville Gafa. A bord du canot, se trouvait cinq cadavres.

      Le 15 avril, l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM) avait pourtant affirmé que les migrants avaient été interceptés par un navire marchand puis remis à des garde-côtes qui les avaient alors amenés au port de Tripoli.

      Le troisième chalutier, le Salve Regina, a quant à lui navigué vers Tripoli le 15 avril, transportant plusieurs tonnes de nourriture et d’eau, en guise de remerciement au gouvernement libyen, assure au quotidien américain le capitaine du Tremar, Amer Abdelrazek.

      Devant la justice maltaise, à la suite de la plainte lancée par plusieurs ONG contre le Premier ministre sur sa responsabilité dans la mort des cinq migrants, Neville Gafa a déclaré sous serment qu’il avait agi sur ordre du cabinet du Premier ministre.

      Une opération illégale

      « Dans une tendance à l’augmentation des abus contre les demandeurs d’asile ces dernières années, cette nouvelle approche se démarque », déclare au New York Times Itamar Mann, expert en droit maritime et des réfugiés à l’université de Haïfa, en Israël. « Ces méthodes ressemblent de façon effrayante au crime organisé, aux opérations de passeurs, que les décideurs européens dénoncent avec tant de fermeté », continue le chercheur pour qui cette opération est illégale eu égard au droit international.

      En effet, comme écrit le quotidien américain, une flotte de navires privées, basée dans un port européen, qui intercepte et expulse des demandeurs d’asile des eaux internationales relèvent de la responsabilité des garde-côtes européens.

      Cette opération « pourrait mettre les fonctionnaires de l’Etat maltais en danger de responsabilité pénale, dans le pays ou à l’étranger », signale encore Itamar Mann.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/24485/malte-a-affrete-des-navires-prives-pour-renvoyer-les-embarcations-de-m

    • Malta-Libya #deal sets up centres ’against illegal migration’

      Coastguard, UN centres, EU help among items discussed

      Malta and Libya will be setting up units to coordinate operations against illegal migration, the government said on Thursday.

      These centres are expected to start operating within the coming weeks, however, the government provided no additional information.

      The announcement followed an unannounced trip by Prime Minister Robert Abela, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo to Tripoli, where they discussed migration with the Libyan government.

      The three met Fayez al-Sarraj who heads the UN-backed Government of National Accord as well as Mohammed Sheibani, deputy minister responsible for migration at the meeting in Tripoli.

      It was Abela’s first trip to war-torn Libya as prime minister.

      Sources said the meeting was held on the back of a new wave of Malta-Libya relations, and a change in approach.

      Discussions revolved around the need to push the EU to help Libya to train its coastguard, obtain funding for reception camps manned by the UN, as well as to build a realistic strategy to slow down the flow of migrants into Libya.

      “It was a positive meeting, though of course that doesn’t mean we’ve resolved the migration issue,” a source told Times of Malta.

      “Malta could be Libya’s bridge to the EU. We need to stop human trafficking as well as save lives at sea,” the source said.

      Valletta, diplomatic sources say, has been trying to build new bridges with the Libyan authorities to stem the tide of migrants leaving the North African coast.
      800,000 migrants in Libya

      In a statement issued later on Thursday, the government said that during the meeting Abela reiterated Malta’s position on the need to address and stop human trafficking. Malta, he added, was facing unprecedented and disproportionate flows and burdens.

      Meanwhile, al-Sarraj said that 800,000 migrants were currently in Libya and the country needed an effective long-term and holistic approach.

      Both leaders spoke about the need to strengthen cooperation to ensure that lives are not lost at sea and to combat human traffickers on the ground and at sea.

      According to Abela, the solution lies in concrete action on Libyan shores and its southern border. This would be done through addressing and stopping human trafficking, rather than focusing just on relocation of migrants to other countries.

      Signing a #memorandum_of_understanding, Malta and Libya agreed to set up a coordination unit in each country to assist in operations against illegal migration.

      The agreement also stipulates that Malta supports Libya when it comes to financial assistance through the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework.

      https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/abela-ministers-return-from-libya-after-positive-migration-talks.79484

      #accord #centres

    • Mer méditerranée : Malte renforce sa coopération avec la Libye pour lutter contre « l’immigration illégale »

      Malte a signé un accord avec le gouvernement d’union nationale (GNA) libyen dans le but de renforcer « la lutte contre l’immigration illégale » en mer Méditerranée. Le texte prévoit la création de « centres de coordination » à Tripoli et La Valette qui seront opérationnels dès le mois de juillet.

      Malte tente par tous les moyens de limiter le flux de migrants qui débarquent sur ses côtes. Pour ce faire, les autorités maltaises et libyennes viennent d’acter la création de « centres de coordination » à Tripoli et à La Valette.

      Ces deux centres « offriront le soutien nécessaire à la lutte contre l’immigration illégale en Libye et dans la région méditerranéenne », selon un protocole d’accord entre Malte et le gouvernement d’union nationale (GNA) de Fayez al-Sarraj, et présenté au Parlement maltais mercredi 3 juin (https://www.independent.com.mt/file.aspx?f=206640).

      Financé par le gouvernement maltais, ces structures seront chacune dirigées par trois fonctionnaires et limiteront leur travail « au soutien et à la coordination », indique cet accord valable pour trois ans. Les centres devraient voir le jour dès le mois de juillet.
      « L’UE a la responsabilité de parvenir à un accord global avec la Libye »

      Malte, le plus petit État de l’Union européenne (UE), de par sa taille et sa population, se plaint depuis longtemps d’être obligé d’assumer à lui seul l’arrivée des migrants en provenance de la Libye, pays en guerre.

      Actuellement, plus de 400 migrants secourus en Méditerranée sont bloqués sur quatre navires touristiques affrétés par Malte juste à la limite de ses eaux territoriales, La Valette exigeant qu’ils soient ensuite pris en charge par d’autres pays européens.

      Le ministre maltais des Affaires étrangères, Evarist Bartolo, a déclaré au Parlement mercredi que « l’UE a la responsabilité de parvenir à un accord global avec la Libye afin de limiter l’immigration clandestine ».

      « Le nombre d’immigrants arrivant à Malte est disproportionné par rapport aux autres pays européens », a insisté le ministre. Selon lui, depuis 2005 l’Europe n’a accueilli que 1 700 migrants, tandis que 22 000 sont arrivés à Malte - seuls 8% des migrants en situation irrégulière sur l’île ont été relocalisés dans d’autres pays européens.

      Selon le protocole d’accord, Malte proposera à la Commission européenne une augmentation du soutien financier pour aider le GNA à sécuriser ses frontières sud et à démanteler les réseaux de trafiquants d’êtres humains.

      La Valette proposera également le financement de « moyens maritimes supplémentaires nécessaires » pour contrôler et intercepter les passeurs de migrants en Méditerranée.


      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/25175/mer-mediterranee-malte-renforce-sa-cooperation-avec-la-libye-pour-lutt

    • Accordo Malta-Libia: insieme daranno la caccia ai migranti. Con i soldi Ue

      Centrali operative e pattugliamenti congiunti. Fonti Onu: è una regolazione dei respingimenti illegali. Intanto Frontex smentisce l’inchiesta di Malta sulla “#Strage_di_Pasquetta

      Dopo la scoperta degli accordi segreti con Tripoli, siglati tre anni fa, Malta ha deciso di uscire allo scoperto negoziando un memorandum siglato dal premier Robert Abela, fresco di archiviazione per le accuse di respingimento, e il presidente libico Fayez al Sarraj.

      I due Paesi daranno insieme la caccia ai migranti nel Mediterraneo, ma con nuovi fondi Ue da destinare a Tripoli.

      SCARICA QUI IL DOCUMENTO COMPLETO: https://www.avvenire.it/c/attualita/Documents/MOU%20with%20Libya.pdf

      E’ prevista la creazione di «centri di coordinamento» nel porto di Tripoli e a La Valletta che saranno operativi da luglio. In realtà le operazioni congiunte andavano avanti da anni, ma adesso sono state ufficializzate. Le strutture congiunte «forniranno il sostegno necessario alla lotta contro l’immigrazione clandestina in Libia e nella regione del Mediterraneo», si legge. Inizialmente Malta finanzierà interamente l’attivazione delle centrali operative, ognuna delle quali sarà guidata da tre funzionari dei rispettivi governi. Fin da subito, però, il premier Abela si impegna a ottenere dall’Ue fondi aggiuntivi da destinare alla cosiddetta Guardia costiera libica, che verrà ulteriormente equipaggiata.

      Nessuna menzione si fa riguardo alla necessità di ristabilire il rispetto dei diritti umani nei campi di prigionia libici. L’unico scopo, come del resto è sempre stato in questi anni anche per Italia e Ue, è quello di trattenere i profughi in cattività, a qualunque costo. «L’UE ha la responsabilità di raggiungere un accordo globale con la Libia», c’è scritto nell’accordo che, di fatto, appalta a Malta e Libia il controllo dell’intero Canale di Sicilia, ad esclusione delle ultime 12 miglia territoriali dalla costa di Lampedusa. Malta, lo stato più piccolo dell’Unione Europea (Ue) per dimensioni e popolazione, si è lamentato da tempo di essere costretto ad assumere da solo la responsabilità dell’arrivo dei migranti dalla Libia, un paese in guerra che secondo l’Onu in alcun modo può essere ritenuto un “porto sicuro”.

      Nelle settimane scorse una nuova serie di inchieste giornalistiche internazionali ha permesso di accertare che non solo Malta ha messo in mare da tempo una flottiglia di “pescherecci fantasma” incaricati di intercettare i barconi e ricondurli in Libia, ma che spesso le Forze armate dell’isola equipaggiano i gommoni, anche con motori nuovi, affinché raggiungano le coste siciliane.

      Nei giorni scorsi il Tribunale dell’isola aveva archiviato il procedimento contro il premier laburista Robert Abela e il capo delle forze armate, accusati della morte di 12 migranti nella “strage di Pasquetta”. Forte di questa “assoluzione”, Abela si è recato a Tripoli per sigillare l’intesa con il presidente al-Sarraj. Ma proprio uno dei punti chiave utilizzati dal giudice Joe Mifsud per cestinare le accuse, ieri è stato categoricamente smentito dall’agenzia Ue Frontex che ha risposto per iscritto alle domande di Avvenire. Secondo il magistrato, infatti, il coordinamento dei soccorsi in qualche misura era attribuibile non a Malta ma a Frontex che aveva individuato con un suo aereo i barconi. Da Varsavia, rispondendo con una nota ad “Avvenire”, l’agenzia ha precisato che “è il centro di salvataggio appropriato, non Frontex, a decidere se chiedere assistenza a qualsiasi nave della zona. E Frontex non aveva navi vicino a quest’area”. La responsabilità di intervenire, dunque, era di innanzitutto di Malta che invece per giorni ha ignorato gli Sos e ha poi inviato un motopesca quando oramai 7 persone erano affogate e altre 5 sono morte di stenti durante il respingimento dalle acque maltesi verso la Libia.

      Nel fine settimana di Pasqua l’aeroobile Eagle 1, tracciato e segnalato dal giornalista Sergio Scandura di Radio Radicale “stava svolgendo - spiegano da Frontex - una missione di sorveglianza ben al di fuori dell’area operativa dell’Operazione Themis di Frontex”. Nella nota un portavoce dell’agenzia Ue precisa poi che “Frontex gestisce operazioni congiunte, nonché la sorveglianza pre-frontaliera, che veniva eseguita dall’aereo in questione”. Secondo questa ricostruzione, che avrebbe meritato maggiore puntiglio investigativo anche per accertare eventuali responsabilità esterne a Malta, “in linea con il diritto internazionale, Frontex ha avvisato i centri di soccorso competenti dell’avvistamento di una nave che riteneva necessitasse di assistenza”, si legge ancora. Parole che hanno un significato preciso e costituiscono un’accusa verso chi era stato informato e doveva prestare quell’assistenza negata per giorni. Le autorità italiane hanno apposto il segreto alle comunicazioni intercorse. Silenzio che potrebbe essere presto scardinato da indagini giudiziarie. Lo stesso per Malta, che neanche nell’atto conclusivo dell’inchiesta ha voluto rendere pubbliche le comunicazioni con Roma e con Frontex che a sua volta ribadisce ad Avvenire che “è il centro di salvataggio appropriato, non Frontex, a decidere se chiedere assistenza a qualsiasi nave della zona. Tuttavia, desidero sottolineare qui che Frontex non aveva navi vicino a quest’area”.

      Il memorandum sta creando non poco dibattito nei vertici della Marina militare italiana. A Tripoli, infatti, si trova la nave Gorgona, ufficialmente incaricata di assistere la cosiddetta guardia costiera libica per conto di Roma. E certo i marinai italiani non vogliono finire a fare gli addetti alla manutenzione delle motovedette donate dall’Italia ma che tra pochi giorni si coordineranno con Malta. «Mentre l’obiettivo dichiarato nell’accordo vi è il benessere del popolo libico e di quello maltese, il benessere delle principali vittime, cioè migranti, richiedenti asilo e rifugiati, non viene mai menzionato», ha commentato sul portale cattolico Newsbook il giudice maltese Giovanni Bonelli, già membro della Corte europea dei diritti dell’uomo. «Si potrebbe pensare - aggiunge - che questo memorandum si riferisca all’estrazione di minerali, non a degli esseri umani».Fonti delle Nazioni Unite contattate da “Avvenire” hanno reagito a caldo considerando l’intesa come una «regolamentazione di fatto dei respingimenti illegali».

      Negli anni scorsi più volte Avvenire ha documentato, anche con registrazioni audio, il collegamento diretto tra la Marina italiana e la Guardia costiera libica. Ma ora Malta si spinge oltre, ufficializzando una alleanza operativa che inoltre rischierà di causare conflitti con l’operazione navale europea Irini a guida italiana. Fonti delle Nazioni Unite contattate da Avvenire hanno reagito a caldo considerando l’intesa come una “regolamentazione di fatto dei respingimenti illegali”.

      https://www.avvenire.it/attualita/pagine/accordo-malta-libia-respingimento-migranti

    • Malta: Illegal tactics mar another year of suffering in central Mediterranean

      The Maltese government has resorted to dangerous and illegal measures for dealing with the arrivals of refugees and migrants at sea, which are exposing countless people to appalling suffering and risking their lives, Amnesty International revealed today in a report “Waves of impunity: Malta’s violations of the rights of refugees and migrants in the Central Mediterranean”. As Amnesty is launching this new report, despair is growing aboard the Maersk Etienne, which has been denied a port to disembark for over a month, after rescuing 27 people on a request from Maltese authorities

      The Maltese government’s change in approach to arrivals in the central Mediterranean in 2020 has seen them take unlawful, and sometimes unprecedented, measures to avoid assisting refugees and migrants. This escalation of tactics included arranging unlawful pushbacks to Libya, diverting boats towards Italy rather than rescuing people in distress, illegally detaining hundreds of people on ill-equipped ferries off Malta’s waters, and signing a new agreement with Libya to prevent people from reaching Malta.

      “Malta is stooping to ever more despicable and illegal tactics to shirk their responsibilities to people in need. Shamefully, the EU and Italy have normalized cooperation with Libya on border control, but sending people back to danger in Libya is anything but normal,” said Elisa De Pieri, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International.

      “EU member states must stop assisting in the return of people to a country where they face unspeakable horrors.”

      Some of the actions taken by the Maltese authorities may have involved criminal acts being committed, resulting in avoidable deaths, prolonged arbitrary detention, and illegal returns to war-torn Libya. The authorities also used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to declare that Malta was not a safe place to disembark – to discourage people from seeking safety and a decent life in Europe.

      The abusive practices by Malta are part and parcel of wider efforts by EU member states and institutions to outsource the control of the central Mediterranean to Libya, in order that EU-supported Libyan authorities might intercept refugees and migrants at sea before they reach Europe.

      People are then returned to Libya and arbitrarily detained in places where torture and other ill-treatment is highly likely. From the beginning of January to 27 August 2020 7,256 people were ‘pulled back’ to Libya by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard, which was often alerted of the presence of boats at sea by airplanes engaged in Frontex and other EU operations.

      The Easter Monday pushback

      The case of the “Easter Monday pushback” illustrates the desperate lengths to which the Maltese authorities are willing to go to prevent people arriving on their shores.

      On 15 April 2020, a group of 51 people, including seven women and three children, were unlawfully returned to Tripoli after being rescued in Malta’s search and rescue region by the commercial fishing boat Dar Al Salam 1.

      The boat, which had been contracted by the Maltese government, took those onboard back to Libya and handed them over to the Libyan authorities, exposing refugees and migrants – who had just survived a deadly shipwreck – to further risks to their life.

      Five people were dead when the vessel reached Libya, and the survivors reported that a further seven people were missing at sea. Survivors reported that those on board were not given medical assistance. In an official statement the Maltese authorities confirmed they had coordinated the operation.

      Lack of accountability in Malta

      While a magisterial inquiry into the case was conducted, it left many questions unanswered. It is still unknown how the 12 people died and how 51 were returned to Libya despite it being illegal to transfer people there. The magistrate conducting the inquiry did not hear the testimonies of the 51 people transferred to Libya, nor probe the chain of responsibility to contract the Dar El Salam 1 and instruct it to transfer people to Libya.

      The NGO Alarm Phone has evidence that other pushbacks by Maltese authorities may also have occurred in 2019 and 2020, which have not been investigated.

      EU and Italian cooperation with Libya

      Italy in particular has worked closely with Libya, having provided support to Libyan maritime authorities by providing vessels, training and assistance in the establishment of a Libyan SAR region to facilitate pullbacks by the Libyan coastguard.

      Despite intensifying conflict and the arrival of COVID-19 threatening the humanitarian situation of refugees and migrants in Libya, Italy has continued to implement policies to keep people in Libya. These include extending its Memorandum of Understanding on Migration with Libya aimed at boosting Libyan authorities’ resources to prevent departures, for another three years, extending its military operations in the region focusing on supporting Libya’s maritime authorities, and maintaining legislation and practices aimed at the criminalization of NGOs rescuing people in the central Mediterranean.

      The central Mediterranean is the latest border on which Amnesty International is highlighting abuses by EU member states authorities. In 2020, Amnesty International has also documented abuses on the borders between Croatia and Bosnia, and Greece and Turkey. The EU urgently needs an independent and effective human rights monitoring system at its external borders to ensure accountability for violations and abuses.

      “The European Commission must turn the page when they launch the New Pact on Migration and Asylum after the summer and ensure European border control and European migration policies uphold the rights of refugees and migrants,” said Elisa De Pieri.

      “The horrors faced by people returned to Libya must caution European leaders against cooperating with countries which don’t respect human rights. By continuing to empower abusers and to hide their heads in the sand when violations are committed, those EU leaders share responsibility for them.”

      https://www.amnesty.eu/news/malta-illegal-tactics-mar-another-year-of-suffering-in-central-mediterranean/#:~:text=The%20Maltese%20government%20has%20resorted,Malta's%20violations%20

  • Fundamental rights of refugees, asylum applicants and migrants at the European borders

    Council of Europe (CoE) and European Union (EU) Member States have an undeniablesovereign right to control the entry of non-nationals into their territory. While exercising border control, states have a duty to protect the fundamental rights of all people under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality and/or legal status. Under EU law, this includes providing access to asylum procedures. In recent weeks, states in Europe have taken measures to protect their borders to address public order, public health, or national security challenges. This note summarises some key safeguards of European law as they apply at the EU’s external borders, bearing in mind that relevant CoE instruments apply to all borders.


    https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-coe-2020-european-law-land-borders_en.pdf
    #droits_fondamentaux #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Europe #EU #UE #non-refoulement #refoulement #refoulements #push-back #push-backs #expulsions_collectives #pandémie #épidémie #renvois #expulsions #vulnérabilité #enfants #MNA #mineurs_non_accompagnés #enfants_séparés #FRA

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • La #Slovénie érige de nouvelles barrières à sa frontière avec la #Croatie


    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/24082/la-slovenie-erige-de-nouvelles-barrieres-a-sa-frontiere-avec-la-croati

    La Slovénie a décidé de renforcer sa frontière avec la Croatie afin d’éviter des franchissements illégaux par des migrants, a annoncé mardi le ministère de l’Intérieur. En cinq ans, près de 200 kilomètres de clôtures ont déjà été construits dans cette zone.

    La Slovénie a déclaré, mardi 14 avril, qu’elle allait ajouter 40 kilomètres de nouvelles barrières à sa frontière avec la Croatie afin d’empêcher des migrants de la franchir clandestinement, rapporte l’agence de presse Reuters. Depuis 2015, le pays a fait construire progressivement quelque 196 kilomètres de clôtures sur les 670 kilomètres de frontière commune entre la Slovénie et la Croatie.

    Le ministère n’a pas précisé où les nouvelles barrières seront installées, mais a indiqué que leur construction serait effective dans le courant de l’année. Une annonce similaire portant également sur 40 kilomètres de nouvelles barrières avait été faite en juillet dernier pour l’année 2019.

    Bien que la Croatie et la Slovénie soient membres de l’Union européenne, la première n’appartient pas à l’espace Schengen de libre circulation. Les autorités slovènes ont donc expliqué l’an dernier qu’elles comptaient installer de nouvelles clôtures « dans les zones où il est urgent d’empêcher le franchissement illégal des frontières et de protéger les citoyens et leurs biens ».

    Explosion du nombre de tentatives de franchissement de la frontière

    Sur les deux premiers mois de l’année 2020, la police slovène a dénombré 1 165 tentatives de passage clandestin, soit près de 80% de plus qu’à la même période l’an dernier. Elle avait notamment annoncé, le mois dernier, avoir découvert une trentaine de migrants cachés dans un train de marchandises (https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/23225/slovenie-la-police-decouvre-trente-migrants-caches-sous-de-l-argile-da).

    Revenu fin février dans le fauteuil de Premier ministre, Janez Jansa avait promis lors de sa campagne de durcir sa politique en matière d’asile, d’ajouter de nouvelles barrières frontalières et de renforcer les contrôles aux frontières de ce petit pays de deux millions d’habitants situé sur le route migratoire des Balkans (https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/23045/slovenie-le-conservateur-janez-jansa-revient-au-pouvoir-en-durcissant-).

    Durant le pic de la crise migratoire en 2015 et 2016, un demi million de migrants clandestins avait traversé la Slovénie en six mois afin d’atteindre les pays d’Europe occidentale plus riches, comme la France, l’Allemagne ou le Royaume-Uni.

    #barrières_frontalières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #murs #route_des_balkans #frontière_sud-alpine #frontières #clôture

    • C’était 2019...
      En Slovénie, une clôture « de la honte » à la frontière croate (1/3)

      Depuis 2015, le gouvernement slovène érige le long de sa frontière sud une clôture de #barbelés pour tenter d’endiguer le flux de migrants en provenance de la Croatie voisine. Les villages slovènes traversés par les fils barbelés supportent mal l’installation de ce grillage qui, selon eux, abîme le #paysage et n’empêche pas la traversée des migrants.

      « Qui aime se réveiller le matin avec des #fils_barbelés devant sa fenêtre ? » Rudy ne décolère pas. Cet habitant de #Slavski_Laz, un village perdu dans les #montagnes slovènes, frontalier avec la Croatie, ne s’explique toujours pas pourquoi le gouvernement a construit, ici, au bord de la #rivière_Kolpa, une clôture de barbelés.

      « Ils disent que ce grillage est fait pour nous protéger… Mais nous protéger de quoi ? Je n’ai #peur de rien… », continue ce retraité qui vit depuis des années dans la région encore largement sauvage. L’argument de « l’#invasion_migratoire » brandi par le gouvernement pour justifier la construction de ce mur de métal ne le convainc pas.

      « Les migrants ici, ils passent, c’est tout », explique-t-il. « Ils transitent par la Slovénie et puis s’en vont vers d’autres pays, vers le nord de l’Europe généralement ».

      Les amis de Rudy acquiescent, tous attablés dans le seul café encore ouvert à 19h de #Kostel, un village de moins de 650 habitants non loin d’une des rares routes menant à la Croatie. Selon eux, la clôture est inutile, elle abîme le paysage, et son rôle de #dissuasion est largement surestimé. « Ils disent que les barbelés vont empêcher le passage de migrants… Mais tout le monde passe quand même ! », sourit Marco, un ami de Rudy, habitant dans le village voisin de Fara, en déclenchant l’hilarité de l’assemblée.

      « Par exemple, en ce moment, avec l’hiver et les forts courants, les rivages sont boueux, poreux, alors, les terrains bougent, la clôture s’effondre. Les migrants qui veulent passer n’ont même pas besoin de se fatiguer, ils ont juste à l’#enjamber », continue Marco en riant. « Il y a des endroits où des sillons se sont creusés. Ils peuvent aussi passer sous la barrière ! »

      116 km de #grillages

      Près de 14 000 migrants ont traversé la frontière depuis le début de l’année, « soit 70% de plus que l’année dernière », à la même période, affirment les autorités slovènes à InfoMigrants.

      Cet été, 40 km supplémentaires de grillages ont donc été construits à la frontière sud, le long de la rivière Kolpa. « Il faut empêcher le franchissement illégal des frontières », a indiqué le ministère de l’Intérieur dans un communiqué. En tout, depuis 2015, Ljulbjana a déjà érigé 116 km de grillages le long de la Kolpa qui parcourt les 670 km de frontière avec la Croatie.

      « Ces clôtures ne sont pas une baguette magique mais elles nous aident », ajoute, de son côté, un commandant de police slovène.

      Khaled, un demandeur d’asile érythréen, aujourd’hui à Ljubljana, a tenté trois fois le passage de la frontière slovène avant de réussir à entrer dans le pays. La clôture, il s’en souvient très bien. « J’ai traversé la frontière au mois de mai, quelque part vers #Ribnica. Je me souviens qu’une fois la rivière franchie, il a fallu passer ces barbelés. Alors j’ai grimpé, je me suis déchiré les mains, elles étaient pleines de sang, mais je suis passé ».

      Montagnes dangereuses, présence d’#ours, eau glaciale

      Au delà de sa dangerosité, Rudy, le villageois, voit dans cet alignement de barbelés, une « #clôture_de_la_honte » qui, selon lui, stigmatise les migrants. « On voit arriver des familles, parfois des enfants. Je ne vois pas bien en quoi, ce sont des ennemis », continue le retraité.

      « Cette barrière, c’est le début de l’enfer », explique à son tour une jeune fille qui énumère les dangers qui attendent les migrants juste après son franchissement : la montagne « très dangereuse quand on s’y perd », les températures « glaciales » et les ours, nombreux dans le pays. « Parfois, on entend des cris là-haut. Ce sont des migrants qui hurlent pour effrayer les animaux ».

      Ces dernières semaines, deux migrants sont décédés par #noyade dans la Kolpa et un autre a été retrouvé mort de froid et d’#épuisement dans la #forêt.

      Surtout, les migrants doivent éviter les patrouilles de #police. « La nuit, quand nous tentons la traversée, nous voyons les lumières des lampes torche, derrière la clôture. Les #policiers sont partout. C’est ça qui nous effraie le plus », se souvient Khaled. « On fait tout pour les éviter. Quand la police vous attrape, elle vous renvoie en Croatie. Elle vous emmène rarement jusqu’à la capitale pour demander l’asile ».

      Depuis le début de l’année, sur les 14 000 entrées illégales, plus de 8 000 renvois – aussi appelés « pushbacks » - ont été effectués depuis les frontières slovènes, affirment les autorités.

      Patrouille de miliciens d’extrême-droite

      « C’est une #honte, il y a la police, l’armée, maintenant cette clôture et il y a même une milice ! », fulmine à son tour Katarina Bernad Sterva, directrice de l’association slovène d’aide aux réfugiés, qui se désespère de la situation à la frontière.

      Depuis quelques jours en effet, des miliciens en treillis militaires, visages cachés derrière des cagoules noires, patrouillent aussi le long de la rivière Kolpa. Dirigée par le leader d’extrême-droite, Andrej Sisko,cette milice se veut un « renfort » à l’armée régulière pour « défendre la frontière » et intercepter les migrants. « Nous sommes le point d’entrée de l’espace Schengen », se justifie Andrej Sisko. « Nous voulons faire passer un message. Nous voulons dire aux étrangers de rester chez eux. La clôture est fragile, elle ne permet pas de stopper les migrants alors nous venons contrôler les abords de la rivière nous-mêmes ».

      La milice d’#Andrej_Sisko n’a aucun mandat légal. Et visiblement, les villageois s’expliquent mal leur présence.

      Si certains rient à leur passage - « C’est le carnaval quand ils sont là », entend-t-on ici et là dans les villages frontaliers – d’autres comme Katarina Bernad Sterva regarde cette armée parallèle avec une inquiétude grandissante. « Ce qui m’effraie, c’est qu’ils existent. Publiquement, le gouvernement a condamné leurs actions, mais, dans les faits, les autorités ne font rien. Ces hommes sont fous, nous nous attendions à une réaction forte du gouvernement, comme par exemple l’annonce de la dissolution de ces patrouilles ».
      https://twitter.com/sarecmarjan/status/1036914541693755400?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E10

      Interrogée par InfoMigrants, la police reste muette sur le sujet. « Je n’ai rien à dire sur ces hommes. Ils n’ont pas le soutien de la police », déclare simplement Vicjem Toskan, l’un des commandants en chef de la police de Koper, à l’ouest du pays.

      Ce soir-là, à Kostel, les amis du café s’interrogent surtout sur le sort réservé aux migrants interceptés par cette milice d’extrême-droite. « On a déjà la police et l’armée pour intercepter les migrants. On a une clôture pour les empêcher de continuer leur route. Eux, qu’est-ce qui vont leur faire, la nuit, dans la montagne ? », s’inquiète Rudy. « Ils portent des masques, ils marchent dans la forêt. J’ai plus peur d’eux que des immigrés qui traversent la rivière », chuchote à son tour, une jeune fille en bout de table. « Si j’étais migrante, je n’aimerais vraiment pas tomber sur eux ».

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/20807/en-slovenie-une-cloture-de-la-honte-a-la-frontiere-croate-1-3

      #milices #patrouilles #extrême_droite #Kolpa #efficacité #montagne #Alpes #décès #morts #mourir_aux_frontières #danger #dangers #push-back #refoulement #refoulements #militarisation_des_frontières #push-backs

      –---

      #Walls_don't_work :

      « Par exemple, en ce moment, avec l’hiver et les forts courants, les rivages sont boueux, poreux, alors, les terrains bougent, la clôture s’effondre. Les migrants qui veulent passer n’ont même pas besoin de se fatiguer, ils ont juste à l’#enjamber », continue Marco en riant. « Il y a des endroits où des sillons se sont creusés. Ils peuvent aussi passer sous la barrière ! »

      –-> voir la métaliste

    • Despite all the existing reports about the Croatian police violence and brutality, Slovenia continues to pushback migrants to Croatia. This was recently even recognized by the Italian court: an Italian court stopped deportation to Slovenia on the grounds that there is a risk for an asylum seeker to be subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment due to the high possibility of him (or her) being further expelled to Croatia and then to Bosnia or Serbia.
      More on that in AYS article from beginning of June:
      AYS Special: Italian Court StopsDeportation to Slovenia, Meanwhile Pushbacks Continue
      https://medium.com/are-you-syrious/ays-special-italian-court-stops-deportation-to-slovenia-meanwhile-pushbacks-

      Last week, the new Slovenian Minister of Interior Affair (of the new right wing government) frankly admitted in an interview that Slovenian police is sending migrants back to Croatia and consequently into the refugees centres in Bosnia and Serbia:
      Notranji minister Aleš Hojs razkril migracijsko »skrivnost«
      https://www.dnevnik.si/1042931634 (only in Slovenian)

      Currently, the government is also preparing a new Aliens Act where they plan to severely restrict access to asylum (among many other things): this means that during what they call complex migration emergencies, proclaimed by the government, access to asylum can be completely limited.

      Message reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, le 15.06.2020

    • Slovénie : une vingtaine de migrants « proches de la suffocation » découverts dans des camions

      La police slovène a annoncé avoir découvert 22 migrants cachés dans des camion-citernes, samedi, à la frontière croate. Les contrôles ont été fortement renforcés dans cette région avec notamment l’envoi de 1 000 nouveaux policiers début juin.

      « Ils étaient proches de la suffocation. » Vingt-deux migrants cachés dans deux camion-citernes alimentaires ont été découverts par la police slovène, samedi 20 juin, à la frontière avec la Croatie, rapporte l’agence de presse AP. Les deux poids-lourds avaient des plaques d’immatriculation provenant de Serbie.

      Un premier groupe de 13 migrants a été découvert lors d’un contrôle de police à la frontière. Le second groupe, composé de 9 personnes, a été trouvé peu après dans un autre camion appartenant à la même compagnie.

      Les migrants sont originaires du Bangladesh, d’Inde, de Turquie et de Syrie, indique la police.

      Des milliers de migrants empruntent chaque année la route dite « des Balkans » malgré sa dangerosité. Un grand nombre d’entre eux font appel à des passeurs afin de traverser les frontières vers l’Europe occidentale dans des camions, plutôt que de tenter leur chance à pied à travers les forêts et les montagnes de la région.

      Craignant une recrudescence des passages clandestins à la suite du déconfinement décrété dans différents pays européens, la Slovénie a annoncé, début juin, qu’elle envoyait 1000 officiers de police en renfort à sa frontière avec la Croatie. Ces effectifs sont équipés de #drones, de #caméras_thermiques et de #détecteurs_de_mouvements.


      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/25519/slovenie-une-vingtaine-de-migrants-proches-de-la-suffocation-decouvert

  • Επαναπροωθούν πρόσφυγες στα νησιά με ειδικές θαλάσσιες σκηνές

    Η « Εφ.Συν. » φέρνει στη δημοσιότητα βέβαιες, καταγεγραμμένες περιπτώσεις παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων προσφύγων από θαλάσσης προς την Τουρκία από το Λιμενικό, με ειδική μάλιστα διαδικασία : αφού εντοπίζονται στη στεριά, τοποθετούνται σε σχεδίες που μοιάζουν με πλωτές σκηνές και αφήνονται μεσοπέλαγα στα τουρκικά ύδατα για να τους « ξεβράσει » το κύμα προς την ακτή.

    Πυκνώνουν τα περιστατικά παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων προσφύγων και μεταναστών από τα νησιά στην Τουρκία, την ώρα που καταγράφεται μια διαστροφική ποιοτική αναβάθμιση των μεθόδων που χρησιμοποιούνται και οι οποίες εκθέτουν σε κίνδυνο για τη ζωή τους δεκάδες ανθρώπους.

    Η « Εφ.Συν. » κατάφερε να ταυτοποιήσει συγκεκριμένα πρόσωπα προσφύγων και φέρνει σήμερα για πρώτη φορά στη δημοσιότητα αποκαλυπτικά ντοκουμέντα, που όχι μόνο αποδεικνύουν τις επαναπροωθήσεις, αλλά δείχνουν ότι αυτές υλοποιούνται πλέον με ειδικές ναυαγοσωστικές σχεδίες, οι οποίες μοιάζουν με σκηνές πάνω στη θάλασσα.

    Οπως διαπιστώνεται, οι αρχές και κυρίως το Λιμενικό, αφού εντοπίσουν τους πρόσφυγες είτε στη στεριά σε κάποια απόκρημνη ακτή είτε μεσοπέλαγα, τους επιβιβάζουν σε αυτές τις ναυαγοσωστικές σχεδίες, τα επονομαζόμενα liferafts, και στη συνέχεια τους αφήνουν εντός τουρκικών χωρικών υδάτων, ώστε να παρασυρθούν από τα κύματα μέχρι να εντοπιστούν από σκάφη της τουρκικής ακτοφυλακής.

    Από τη Σάμο, πίσω

    Στη Σάμο, την 1η Απριλίου αυτόπτες μάρτυρες στις οχτώ το πρωί διαπίστωσαν την αποβίβαση μιας βάρκας με αρκετά άτομα στην παραλία Μουρτιά στην ανατολική πλευρά του νησιού. Το περιστατικό κάλυψε ο διαχειριστής της τοπικής ιστοσελίδας aegaio.blogspot.com Ιωάννης Νέγρης, ενώ ένας ακόμη κάτοικος της περιοχής ήταν παρών. Οι μετανάστες βγήκαν στην ακτή, έσκισαν τη βάρκα τους, έβγαλαν μερικές φωτογραφίες « και άρχισαν να κινούνται προς την πόλη, αφού καμία αρχή δεν ήταν στο συμβάν », σημειώνει ο κ. Νέγρης, που διαθέτει και το ανάλογο φωτογραφικό υλικό.

    Οπως περιγράφει, ο ίδιος επικοινώνησε με το λιμεναρχείο και έμαθε ότι ήδη είχε ξεκινήσει ένα πλωτό για να τους παραλάβει.

    « Από εδώ και πέρα ξεκινούν τα περίεργα », σημειώνει και περιγράφει το πώς στη συνέχεια οι άνθρωποι αυτοί « εξαφανίστηκαν » ! « Γύρω στις 12 το μεσημέρι, δέχομαι τηλέφωνο από αστυνομικό που μου λέει « μάθαμε ότι βγήκαν μετανάστες, μας ενημέρωσε η Υπατη Αρμοστεία, αλλά δεν τους βρίσκουμε.

    Μήπως επειδή είναι Ψευταπριλιά μάς κάνουν πλάκα ; ». Του απαντώ αρνητικά και κλείνει το τηλέφωνο », υποστηρίζει ο κ. Νέγρης. Στη συνέχεια γύρω στις 2.10 το μεσημέρι της ίδιας ημέρας, έμαθε τελικά ότι οι πρόσφυγες, τον αριθμό των οποίων υπολογίζει σε περίπου 25, παρελήφθησαν από ένα φουσκωτό που έφυγε προς άγνωστη κατεύθυνση.

    Σύμφωνα με αυτόπτη μάρτυρα που εντόπισε ο κ. Νέγρης, το φουσκωτό κατευθύνθηκε πίσω από ένα βουνό στην άκρη του κόλπου και μετά χάθηκε. Στη συνέχεια, ο ίδιος επικοινώνησε με το νοσοκομείο και συγκεκριμένα με τον διοικητή του, ο οποίος δήλωσε ενήμερος για το περιστατικό. Ωστόσο από το λιμεναρχείο τον διαβεβαίωσαν ότι αυτοί οι μετανάστες δεν υπάρχουν και ότι κανένα τέτοιο περιστατικό δεν έχει καταγραφεί !

    Το φωτογραφικό υλικό όμως που έδωσε στη δημοσιότητα ο κ. Νέγρης, όπως και ακόμα μία κάτοικος, πιστοποιεί όχι μόνο την άφιξη αλλά και την ταυτοπροσωπία ορισμένων εξ αυτών, που διακρίνονται σε ανάλογο υλικό το οποίο δημοσιοποίησε την επόμενη ημέρα η ακτοφυλακή της Τουρκίας. Φωτογραφίες τόσο από την περισυλλογή των προσφύγων μέσα από τη θάλασσα, επιβαινόντων πλέον σε liferaft, όσο και μέσα από την ακταιωρό που μετέφερε τους ναυαγούς !

    Συγκεκριμένα παρατηρούμε και στις δύο φωτογραφίες πρόσφυγες να κρατούν τα ίδια αντικείμενα (χαρακτηριστική η κόκκινη βαλίτσα της φωτογραφίας), να φορούν τα ίδια ρούχα, όπως η κόκκινη φόρμα παντελόνι που φοράει ο ένας, το τζιν μήκους ⅔ που διακρίνεται να φορά μια κοπέλα αφρικανικής καταγωγής και πολλά ακόμη στοιχεία, όπως παπούτσια κ.ά.! Στοιχεία που οδηγούν στο ασφαλές συμπέρασμα ότι οι ίδιοι άνθρωποι, που αποβιβάστηκαν το πρωί της 1ης Απριλίου στη Μουρτιά της Σάμου, φωτογραφήθηκαν σε σκάφος του λιμενικού της Τουρκίας την επόμενη ημέρα. Οπως αποδεικνύεται, η περίπτωση της Σάμου δεν είναι και η μοναδική, ούτε κάτι που συνέβη ευκαιριακά με πρωτοβουλία κάποιου χαμηλόβαθμου αξιωματικού που ενδεχομένως εκμεταλλεύτηκε τη συγκυρία.
    Μαρτυρίες και για Χίο

    Ενδεικτική είναι η μαρτυρία για ένα ύποπτο περιστατικό που σημειώθηκε στη Χίο στις 23 Μαρτίου. Εκεί αρχικά έγινε γνωστό ότι στην περιοχή των Καρδαμύλων κατέφτασε βάρκα με 40 πρόσφυγες, γεγονός που κατέγραψε ο τοπικός Τύπος και επιβεβαίωσε το λιμεναρχείο. Στη συνέχεια όμως από το λιμεναρχείο υποστήριζαν ότι οι συγκεκριμένοι είχαν φύγει από τη ΒΙΑΛ και πήγαν στα Καρδάμυλα, σκηνοθετώντας -υποτίθεται- την αποβίβασή τους με σκοπό να ξεγελάσουν τις αρχές και να ενταχθούν στους νεοεισερχόμενους μετά την 1η Μαρτίου, ώστε να καταφέρουν να αποχωρήσουν αμέσως για κάποια κλειστή δομή στην ηπειρωτική χώρα.

    Σύμφωνα όμως με μαρτυρία ενός πρόσφυγα που διαμένει στη ΒΙΑΛ, ανάμεσα σε αυτούς στα Καρδάμυλα ήταν και ο αδελφός του, ο οποίος ενημέρωσε για την άφιξή του στέλνοντας φωτογραφίες. Ο τελευταίος αμέσως ειδοποίησε τουλάχιστον δύο αλληλέγγυους, στους οποίους προώθησε και τη φωτογραφία με την παραλία. Η μία εκ των αλληλέγγυων στη συνέχεια μαζί με τον πρόσφυγα από τη ΒΙΑΛ έφτασε στα Καρδάμυλα, εκεί όπου η αστυνομία τούς απαγόρευσε την προσέγγιση στην παραλία.

    « Στη συνέχεια δεν υπήρξε καμία επικοινωνία και την επόμενη ημέρα ο νεοεισερχόμενος έστειλε από κινητό τρίτου ατόμου μήνυμα ότι είχε μεταφερθεί στο Τσεσμέ και από τότε αγνοούνται τα ίχνη του », δήλωσε στην « Εφ.Συν. » μέλος της ομάδας αλληλεγγύης. Οπως έγινε γνωστό, ο πρόσφυγας κατέληξε σε φυλακή της Τουρκίας, ενώ το κινητό του έχει κατασχεθεί από το Λιμεναρχείο Χίου. Ανάλογο περιστατικό σημειώθηκε και στα Γρίδια κοντά στον οικισμό των Νενήτων στη Χίο, όπου ομάδα προσφύγων κατέφτασε στην ακτή και ντόπιοι φωτογράφισαν την άφιξή της.

    Πάλι όμως το λιμεναρχείο ισχυρίστηκε ότι επρόκειτο για προσπάθεια σκηνοθετημένης άφιξης. Ωστόσο η ακτοφυλακή της Τουρκίας την επομένη, 26/3, έδωσε στη δημοσιότητα φωτογραφίες από τη διάσωση 21 ανθρώπων έξω από το Τσεσμέ, πάλι σε liferaft, μεταξύ τους 12 παιδιά και πέντε γυναίκες. Οπως μάλιστα έγινε γνωστό, στο liferaft όπου είχαν στριμωχτεί, υπήρχε δεμένο και ένα μικρό φουσκωτό σκάφος όπου είχαν στοιβάξει τις αποσκευές τους.
    Εν κρυπτώ

    Αξίζει να αναφερθεί ότι το Λιμεναρχείο Χίου ουδέποτε έδωσε στη δημοσιότητα κάποια σύλληψη για την υποτιθέμενη μεταφορά των προσφύγων από τη ΒΙΑΛ στα Καρδάμυλα (απόσταση 40 και πλέον χιλιομέτρων), ενώ και στο δεύτερο περιστατικό που συνέβη την πρώτη μέρα περιορισμού της κυκλοφορίας, θεωρείται απίθανο να μην τους αντιλήφθηκε κάποιος κατά τη διαφυγή τους από τη ΒΙΑΛ και την πορεία τους περίπου 10 χιλιόμετρα μέχρι την ακτή, όπου εντοπίστηκαν από ντόπιους. Να σημειωθεί ότι υπάρχουν και άλλες παραλίες σαφώς πιο κοντά στη ΒΙΑΛ που θα μπορούσαν να επιλέξουν οι πρόσφυγες, αν όντως ήθελαν να σκηνοθετήσουν την άφιξή τους.

    Συνολικά εννέα περιπτώσεις διάσωσης προσφύγων σε liferaft έχει δώσει στη δημοσιότητα το λιμενικό της γειτονικής χώρας, με πρόσφυγες που βρέθηκαν να πλέουν χωρίς καμία δυνατότητα ελέγχου της πορείας τους, μια και αυτές οι φουσκωτές σχεδίες στερούνται μηχανή ή όποιο άλλο προωθητικό μέσο ή και πηδάλιο.

    Πρόκειται για περιπτώσεις όπου σκάφη της ακτοφυλακής της Τουρκίας μαζεύουν ναυαγούς από liferaft σε ακτογραμμή μήκους 170 ν.μ. Και συγκεκριμένα από το Δικελί ανατολικά της Λέσβου έως και την πόλη Ντάτσα (Datça) βόρεια της Σύμης, εκεί όπου τα περιστατικά διάσωσης προσφύγων σε liferaft είναι πυκνά. Το πρώτο καταγράφηκε στις 23 Μαρτίου, όταν η τουρκική ακτοφυλακή στις 5.25 μ.μ. μάζεψε από liferaft συνολικά 31 άτομα, που δήλωσαν ότι το πρωί της ίδιας ημέρας είχαν αποβιβαστεί στη Σύμη. Το δεύτερο στη Σύμη και τρίτο χρονικά σημειώθηκε στις 27/3, σχεδόν μία ώρα μετά τα μεσάνυχτα, με τον ίδιο τρόπο, με 10 διασωθέντες.

    Επαναλήφθηκε τέταρτη φορά στις 29/3 και ώρα 23.40 πάλι στην Datça με 18 άτομα. Το πέμπτο καταγεγραμμένο περιστατικό σημειώθηκε στην πόλη Didim της δυτικής Τουρκίας απέναντι από το Φαρμακονήσι, με την τουρκική ακτοφυλακή να διασώζει από liferaft εννέα πρόσφυγες.

    Το έκτο και το έβδομο περιστατικό σημειώθηκαν έξω από το Δικελί, απέναντι από τη Λέσβο, στις 31 Μαρτίου όπου μέσα σε λίγα λεπτά στις 01.21 και 01.38 περισυνελέγησαν συνολικά 39 άνθρωποι. Το όγδοο ήταν αυτό της Σάμου την 1η Απριλίου, όπου οι πρόσφυγες μεταφέρθηκαν στο Αϊδίνι της Τουρκίας, ενώ το ένατο και πιο πρόσφατο σημειώθηκε στις 4 Απριλίου με τον εντοπισμό ενός liferaft με 15 άτομα έξω από το Αϊβαλί. Τα στοιχεία για τους αριθμούς των διασωθέντων, για την τοποθεσία και την ώρα προέρχονται από τη ΜΚΟ Aegean Boat Report, ενώ οι φωτογραφίες από το τουρκικό λιμενικό.

    https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/238226_epanaproothoyn-prosfyges-sta-nisia-me-eidikes-thalassies-skines

    –------

    –-> Commentaire de Vicky Skoumbi, reçu via mail, le 08.04.2020 :

    Absolument terrifiant : une nouvelle méthode de refoulement maritime extrêmement dangereuse est pratiquée au moins depuis le 23 mars par les garde-côtes grecs

    Plusieurs cas de refoulement maritime de réfugiés par une méthode extrêmement dangereuse : ils sont renvoyés vers la Turquie sur des canots de sauvetage gonflables dits #liferaft.

    Le Journal de Rédacteurs révèle des refoulements maritimes illégaux de réfugiés vers la Turquie par les garde-côtes, avec une procédure spéciale : une fois repérés à l’endroit où ils ont débarqués, les réfugiés sont placés sur des radeaux de survie qui ressemblent à des tentes flottantes et sont laissés à la dérive dans les eaux turques afin de le courant les emporte vers la côte turque.

    Cette méthode employée déjà pour repousser des dizaines de personnes est non seulement illégal mais extrêmement dangereuse : dans la mesure où ces radeaux de sauvetage n’ont ni machine ni gouvernail ils dérivent hors contrôle et mettent en danger la vie de ceux qui s’y trouvent.

    Le reportage photographique de Efimerida tôn Syntaktôn permet identifier des visages spécifiques des réfugiés en train de débarquer ; les mêmes visages se retrouvent sur les radeaux de sauvetage spéciaux, qui ressemblent à des tentes, ces liferafts à la dérive.

    Il s’avère que les autorités, et en particulier les garde-côtes, après avoir localisé les réfugiés sur terre, soit sur une ligne côtière escarpée soit au milieu de la mer, les obligent de monter à bord de ces radeaux de sauvetage, ces soi-disant radeaux de sauvetage, puis les laissent dans les eaux territoriales turques, afin qu’ils soient emportés par les vagues jusqu’à ce que les navires des garde-côtes turcs les repèrent.

    Les mêmes personnes, avec des vêtements et des objets caractéristiques, apparaissent sur des photos prises le 1er avril à Samos et le lendemain sur un bateau de la garde côte turque.

    Au total, neuf cas de sauvetage de réfugiés sur des liferafts ont été rendus publics par les garde-côtes turques, les réfugiés naviguant sans aucune possibilité de contrôler leur trajectoire, car ces radeaux gonflables ne sont dotés ni de machine, ni d’autre moyen de propulsion, ni de gouvernail.

    Les données sur le nombre de personnes secourues, l’emplacement et l’heure proviennent de l’ONG Aegean Boat Report, tandis que les photos de garde-côtes turcs. Pour voir le reportage photo Efimerida tôn Syntaktôn (https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/238226_epanaproothoyn-prosfyges-sta-nisia-me-eidikes-thalassies-skines)

    Voir aussi la page FB de Aegean Boat Report :
    https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/805700453286394?__tn__=-R

    #migrations #asile #réfugiés #refoulement #push-back #refoulements #push-backs #Mer_Egée #Grèce #Turquie #frontières #life_raft #liferafts #life_rafts #orange

    ping @luciebacon @isskein @karine4

    • More images published by @ABoatReport
      this morning: a floating deportation camp.

      https://twitter.com/itamann/status/1265202422177320960?s=03

      –---

      Tents at Sea: How Greek Officials Use Rescue Equipment for Illegal Deportations

      Back in 2013, Australia introduced strange new machinery in its campaign against unauthorized migration: a dozen bright-orange and windowless life vessels, shaped like missiles. These were equipped with navigational systems, air conditioning, and an engine. Each vessel, asylum seekers said, was given “just enough fuel” to reach Indonesia. When they washed ashore in February 2014, Indonesian locals were initially unsure what they were looking at. It was a piece of new deportation infrastructure, designed to launch migrants intercepted at sea back to where they had come from.

      In the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, Greek authorities have put in place comparable deportation machinery. In at least 11 incidents since March 23, migrants have been found drifting in orange, tent-like inflatable life rafts without motors or propellants and that cannot be steered. Members of the Turkish Coast Guard reported these apparitions, but Greek authorities neither explained nor documented them. Images of these life rafts, fluorescent triangular structures afloat between black sea and dark sky, looked strange enough to seem superimposed. Relying on testimony and footage we obtained from multiple sources, including asylum seekers in the area, our investigation verifies this latest show of violence at the Greek-Turkish maritime border.

      Far from Australia’s flashier orange vessels from five years back, these are more modest structures. Importantly, the Greek life rafts have appeared in a very different maritime environment: compared to the oceans surrounding Australia, the Aegean Sea is a relatively placid and narrow body of water. Yet like the Australian vessels, these too have been put in place by State authorities, in an organized way, violating fundamental rules of international law. The two sets of deportation craft share visible similarities and are each used in dangerous ways, shedding light on the legal and moral risks that states are now willing to take, just to keep out unwanted populations.

      Maximum Deterrence

      On Nov. 27, Greek Member of Parliament Kyriakos Velopoulos, leader of the right-wing Greek Solution party, appeared on a popular TV talk show on ERT, a Greek state-owned public broadcaster. He advanced a policy first adopted by the United States in Guantanamo Bay, where Haitian asylum-seekers were detained long before 9/11, and later expanded upon by Australia: open-air detention of asylum seekers on “uninhabited” islands. For those whose applications are rejected, Velopoulos suggested unilateral pushbacks to Turkey: Greek authorities should simply remove arriving migrants from the country and send them back to where they came from. Holding photos of the oblong orange vessels Australia had used, he explained: “This here … is a raft made by the Australian government … with food, actual food, and it never sinks.” An interviewer gasped: “There’s a humanitarian aspect to it!”

      The relevant background to Velopoulos’s suggestions goes back to 1990, when the Dublin Convention introduced a system whereby asylum seekers must remain in the first European Union member State they access and have their requests processed there. This created an enormous and unjust burden on states at the “external borders” of the EU, such as Greece.

      The latest version of this arrangement, the Dublin III Regulation, was adopted in 2013. In June 2015, the EU further exacerbated the disproportionate role given to Greece in “migration management”: with the announcement of the “hotspot” approach, several Aegean islands became locations for asylum-seeker screening, with departures to the mainland prohibited. By August, the flow of refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, particularly the Syrian civil war, began to surge, generating a crisis within the EU as Member States argued over how to handle the arrivals.

      The influx of migrants generated a legal challenge to the Dublin rules, but the Court of Justice of the European Union upheld them in a 2017 ruling. In the meantime, in 2016, the EU and Turkey issued a joint statement saying Turkey would prevent unauthorized migrants from leaving its territory, in return for as much as 6 billion euros from the EU. Refugees and migrants thus became a bargaining chip that Ankara continuously used in its diplomatic wrangles with Brussels.

      Earlier this year, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed for Western approval of his military operation against Syrian and Russian forces in northern Syria, he intensified his exploitative bargaining. On Feb. 29, he declared that the country would no longer prevent migrants from reaching Europe.

      As thousands of migrants gathered at the Turkish-Greek border, seeking to enter, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned in a tweet, “Once more, do not attempt to enter Greece illegally – you will be turned back.” On March 1, the Greek government issued an emergency decree suspending asylum applications. According to Human Rights Watch, the Greek National Security Council announced that unauthorized migrants would be immediately returned, without registration, “where possible, to their countries of origin or transit,” such as Turkey. As in other countries in the Mediterranean basin, which also resorted to emergency measures, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has provided a convenient pretext for cracking down on migrants.

      Adrift on the Aegean

      According to a report from the Turkish Coast Guard, the first of at least 11 alleged pushback incidents involving life rafts occurred on March 23. One of the Turkish Coast Guard’s March 23 reports on “irregular migration” stated that the Guard had rescued 31 Syrian asylum seekers found floating in a life raft off the coast of Muğla’s Datça district in the Aegean Sea. The raft in question can clearly be seen in a press release photograph published by the Coast Guard about the incident.

      The refugees contacted the Consolidated Rescue Group, a grassroots organization run by Arabic-speaking volunteers who operate an emergency hotline for migrants in distress. In a statement obtained by the group and forwarded to us, the asylum seekers rescued on March 23 said they landed on the Greek island of Symi on March 22, at approximately 6 am. At certain points, the island is less than 8 km (or 5 miles) from the Turkish shore. The next day, the Greek authorities forced them onto “a small raft that looked like a tent and was orange in color” and left them to drift.

      “Up until then, we had no idea that this was what they are going to do,” one of those on board, a construction worker (name withheld for security reasons) from the southeastern outskirts of Damascus, told us in a follow-up interview over WhatsApp.

      The Greek Coast Guard had brought them to the main port of Symi and boarded them onto a ship: “They told us they would take us for a Corona test, and then we would be given our belongings back and transferred to Athens,” he said. Instead, after two hours onboard the Greek Coast Guard vessel, the authorities forced them down into a small raft: “They put everyone in … children, women, elderly, and young people. They didn’t leave anyone in the ship,” he said, telling us that they were left to drift “for over three hours,” until they were eventually rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

      He provided us with video footage that he recorded of the group’s arrival on the island of Symi, as well as footage recorded from inside the raft, while awaiting rescue (see below).

      The Greek government’s daily public statistics of arrivals contains no record of their arrival on the Greek island or their deportation to Turkey.

      A series of similar incidents were reported by the Turkish Coast Guard in the following days. On March 27, the Coast Guard reported rescuing 10 migrants (eight Palestinian, two Egyptian, consisting of 3 men, 2 women and 5 children) in a “life raft” off the coast of Muğla’s Datça district (the Turkish version is written as “Can Salı”). Again, photographs accompanying the Coast Guard’s official press release show people being rescued from a tent-like raft. According to the Turkish Coast Guard’s statements, the migrants had been “pushed back towards Turkish territorial waters by Greek Coast Guard.”

      The next day, on March 28, nine Syrians (4 men, 2 women and 3 children) rescued were reported found in a “life boat” off the coast of Aydın’s Didim district, again with clear photographs of the distinctive tent-like raft accompanying the Guard’s report.

      We interviewed a Kurdish couple from Hasaka, Syria, who were among the group. According to the couple, on the morning of March 27, “around 7 or 8 a.m.,” they arrived on the Greek island of Farmakonisi. Unlike the larger Aegean islands of Chios, Lesvos, Samos, and Kos, where refugees most commonly arrive, Farmakonisi is an uninhabited island and a military base. There are no camps or reception facilities for asylum seekers.

      The couple told us they were held by the army in terrible conditions. They described being “treated like animals, … [t]he army took our phones, money, clothes, and documents then threw them into the sea. Around 3 a.m., they took us toward the sea border. Then they made us take a boat shaped like a square tent, 2 meters wide. Then we were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.”

      Again, on March 29, the Turkish Coast Guard reported rescuing 18 migrants (7 men, 4 women and 7 children) at 11:40 p.m. The Coast Guard issued a press release, complete with clear photos of the migrants being rescued from a life raft.

      This is consistent with statements from migrants claiming to have been among those rescued. We interviewed a Syrian man who provided us with photographs of his arrival on Rhodes on March 27. The man told us he arrived with a group of 18 people: seven Palestinians, six Syrians and five Iranians, including children and a pregnant woman. After arriving on Rhodes, the man and the rest of the group were held by the Greek police on the roadside from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.

      “The weather was really cold and they did not let us light a fire to warm the women and children who were with us,” he said. The group was then transferred to the port by bus: “They gave us two tents, without anything in them. We were under full surveillance,” he added.

      “They [Greek authorities] were suspicious that we had corona, so we wrote a sign that none of us has corona so that we could reassure them, hoping they would treat us in a humane way,” he said. “But this changed nothing.”

      The group stayed in the makeshift camp for 2 1/2 days, until the night of March 29. He said that was when “a military van with army officers transferred us to the port and handed us over to the Greek Coast Guard.”

      They were on board the Greek Coast Guard boat for about one hour: “Then they switched off the engine of the boat and made us go down, in the middle of the sea, in a rubber boat shaped like a tent.” They were left to drift for what he describes as approximately two hours, when they were intercepted by the Turkish Coast Guard:

      When the Turkish Coast Guard found us and took us to the Turkish land, they registered our information and transferred us to the police station. They split us in half. One half was Syrians and Palestinians and the other half is the other nationalities. For us, we were detained for like 15 days and after that we were released without any rights as refugees, such as having a Kimlik [Temporary Protection Identification Document].

      Without the proper registration, he explains, he is now hiding from the Turkish authorities as he fears being forcibly returned to Syria, where he fled.

      Contravening International Rules

      “Shaped like a tent,” as migrants repeatedly describe them, the life rafts the Greek Coast Guard appears to be employing to expel migrants are, in fact, designed for emergency evacuation in the case of shipwreck. They are manufactured not for transportation, but for rescue in case of a boat or ship sinking, to keep survivors afloat and alive until assistance arrives. They are not equipped with an engine or other propellant, cannot be steered, and provide minimal protection from the elements.

      As Paul Crowley, a former captain for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Ireland, explained to us, such life rafts are never to be deployed “for any other reason other than to preserve life if no other option is available. It would contravene any internationally recognized standard to take people from a non-life-threatening location, either land or vessel, and place them in a raft.”

      As far as the law goes, these returns risk violating the international standard of non-refoulement. This principle is at the centerpiece of international refugee protection, and prohibits returns of asylum seekers to any place where they may suffer persecution, torture, or inhuman and degrading treatment. The returns also violate Greece’s obligations under human rights law, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to life (see Articles 3 and 2, respectively, of the European Convention on Human Rights). Inasmuch as these violations constitute a “widespread or systematic attack” directed against a “civilian population,” they may raise concerns under international criminal law. Evidence continues to surface that these days, when it comes to the treatment of migrants, the Greek authorities violate fundamental edicts of international law unabated.

      While the use of rescue equipment for deportations appears to be a new development, pushbacks on the Aegean are not. On March 23, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales stated that he is “very concerned about the reported pushbacks of asylum seekers and migrants” by Greek authorities at both land and maritime borders. He also referenced recent violence committed by Greek authorities against those seeking to aid migrants in the Aegean Sea area. The Germany-based human-rights monitoring organization Mare Liberum (“The Free Sea”) told us that a more common tactic of the Greek Coast Guard is to remove the engines of migrants’ boats and leave them to drift. Likewise, reports of the Turkish Coast Guard resorting to violence have arisen since Turkey’s implementation of the 2016 deal with the EU. Examples reported to the authors by migrants and NGO workers include driving rings around boats and throwing stones to stop boats from leaving Turkish waters.

      Clearly both countries have geostrategic motives for their treatment of migrants related to their fraught relationships with the EU – including aid money and various benefits for their own citizens. Often, it seems like the two countries are playing a violent game of ping-pong across the Aegean with migrant bodies.

      An Iraqi refugee whom we interviewed over WhatsApp — we will refer to as “Hatim” for safety reasons — told us that he has been pushed back to Turkey by Greek authorities on three occasions since July 2019. Hatim and his family fled to Turkey in 2014, when ISIS took over their home city of Mosul. They were selected for resettlement in the United States, and had just finished their first interview when Trump’s January 2017 Executive Order interrupted the program. On the night of April 1, 2020, he and his family made four separate attempts to reach the Greek island of Chios. On the last attempt, their rubber dinghy, carrying approximately 40 people, entered Greek territorial waters and was intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard. The Coast Guard confiscated the fuel from their boat and returned them to Turkish waters, leaving them to drift.

      The systemic nature of such violations by the Greek authorities was recently highlighted by whistleblowers working under Frontex, the European border enforcement agency. In early March, the crew of a Danish patrol boat participating in “Operation Poseidon,” an EU maritime border patrol mission coordinated by Frontex, revealed that the Hellenic Coast Guard has explicit orders to stop migrant boats from crossing the sea border between Turkey to Greece. The Danish unit had refused to obey a pushback order from Operation Poseidon headquarters. Since then, NGOs Alarmphone and Mare Liberum have documented a series of pushbacks by Greek authorities along the Greece-Turkey border, including in the Aegean, that have become increasingly visible and severe.

      Most notably, Greek newspaper EFSYN reported an incident involving 26 migrants whose arrival on Mourtia Beach on the Greek island of Samos April 1 was documented by a resident. The arrival was not reported by the Greek authorities. In fact, government statistics recorded no new arrivals to Samos on that date.

      However, photographs taken by the Samos resident (and reproduced in EFSYN’s reporting) show the deflated dinghy and newly arrived migrants heading away from the shore. One member of the group is distinguished by bright red trousers while another carries a red duffle bag. EFSYN published photographs obtained from the Turkish Coast Guard of the same group who had arrived on Mourtia Beach aboard a Turkish Coast Guard boat after their rescue later that day, noting the marked similarities in the appearance, clothing and baggage of the migrants in the two sets of photographs. On the same day, the Turkish Coast Guard reported rescuing 26 migrants (found with a life raft) on the shore near Kuşadası national park, in a location that cannot be reached by land. According to the Turkish Coast Guard, the migrants said they had landed on Samos, were rounded up by the Greek Coast Guard and left to drift in the raft.

      On May 12, EFSYN published a video of a life raft like the ones pictured above (but without the cover) being dragged by a Greek Coast Guard boat off the southeast coast of Samos. The video was originally published by the Turkish Coast Guard on April 29, at which time it announced rescuing 22 people found drifting off the coast of Aydin province, bordering the Greek island of Samos. According to Bellingcat’s recent investigation into the incident, the group of 22 migrants rescued on April 29 (pictured in the video) had, in fact, arrived on Samos the previous day, on April 28.

      Most recently, a video surfaced on YouTube appearing to show the Turkish Coast Guard rescuing a group of 30 migrants aboard two life rafts. According to Turkish records and reports, including photographs, the Coast Guard rescued 30 migrants in two life rafts on May 13, consisting of 13 Congolese, eight Syrians, five Bangladeshis and three Palestinian nationals, along with a Lebanese national. The rescue occurred off the coast of the district of Menderes in Turkey’s İzmir province.

      On May 15, yet another group of migrants were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard after being found in these distinctive life rafts. This group of 25 migrants also reported having been repelled by Greek authorities, again with photographic evidence.

      The Tent and the Missile

      Australians eventually replaced their orange lifeboats with fishing boats, although the intention was the same – pushing migrants away from Australian shores. But there was something chillingly memorable about that episode. It embodied the often-hypocritical moral stance of liberal democracies regarding strangers in need: a willingness to engage in extreme measures, even violence, to enforce borders, coupled with an emphasis on efficiency and a pretense of safety.

      While the Australian deportation vessels appear to have been custom-made and reportedly were purchased for $40,000 AUD each (about $25,000 USD), the Greek life raft “tents” are considerably more modest. They are the kind of equipment a yacht owner might purchase online for around $2,000. Under the 1974 Safety of Life as Sea Convention, maritime vessels are required to have such protective gear available. The Hellenic Coast Guard has now repurposed them for the opposite ends – putting people in danger.

      The Greek orange rafts seen in pictures appear to be a model manufactured by a Greek company called LALIZAS, which specialize in rescue equipment. A November 2019 LALIZAS newsletter includes an article entitled “24 hours in a LALIZAS Liferaft: Mission accomplished!” It describes a training in which members of Greece’s Hellenic Rescue Team and Hellenic Air Force carried out a simulated “‘actual’ case of emergency” by relying on a LALIZAS life raft and its food and survival equipment for a full 24 hours (see the story on the LALIZAS website here, and official video of the simulation, here). The life raft in question, code named “MEDUSSA” for the simulation, appears identical to those in many of the images of the tent-like rafts migrants have been rescued from while adrift in the Aegean.

      According to the Greek government’s procurement records available online, it purchased the life rafts for the Greek Navy in 2017. Several government ministries appear to have contracts with this company.

      The Australian life raft most closely resembles a missile. Its very image conveys the omnipotence of a regional superpower. By using such a machine, Australia effectively said to those attempting unauthorized maritime entry, “We will shoot you away.” To be sure, this missile is not fired at the migrants. It’s as if they become part of its ammunition; shot back at Indonesia’s shores, they are expected to crawl out of the shell once the missile crashes on one of the country’s countless atolls.

      Compared to the grandeur of the Australian missile-like object, and its mechanical cruelty, the Greek tent-like raft is a poignant symbol of inhumanity. Set adrift on the Aegean, its disquieting quality emerges from the fact that it becomes a kind of metaphor for the refugee’s condition. Asylum seekers describing it had often used the Arabic word ḵēma (خيمة), which is the tent one would use in a camp (and typically not a home, even if that too is a tent). It echoes the word mūẖym, which means refugee camp. No fuel is rationed to reach a destination, and the expectation appears to be that the life raft will simply drift across the relatively narrow waterway.

      The act of putting migrants to sea in inflatable tents is in line with the broader EU contemporary response to the “refugee crisis” – rejection and abandonment. This is, at least, how asylum seekers protesting at Moria camp, on the Greek island of Lesvos, see it: “We have been abandoned here,” said one asylum seeker on April 22.

      Like the Australian example, the tent too is an instrument of deterrence: “We will shoot you away” is replaced with a threat of an even more perilous exile on water. This aspect, however, does not make the Greek use of the life rafts any better than the Australian display of technological might. Both are utilized to perform what is almost an act of murder, but ultimately not quite there.

      https://www.justsecurity.org/70309/tents-at-sea-how-greek-officials-use-rescue-equipment-for-illegal-depo

      –-> #camps_flottants #camp_flottant

    • A terrifying video of a push-back in the Aegean sea; men, women –two of them pregnant- and children abandoned at sea on a liferaft by the greek coast-guards

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKsEHZKGsSE&feature=emb_title

      –—

      Le reportage complet du quotidien grec Efimerida tôn Syntaktôn:

      Επαναπροώθηση με ελληνική σφραγίδα

      Ένα ακόμα περιστατικό παράνομης επαναπροώθησης που σημειώθηκε στις 25 Μαΐου στο Αιγαίο, στη θαλάσσια περιοχή ανοιχτά της Λέσβου, έρχεται στη δημοσιότητα για να επιβεβαιώσει την σύνδεση της χρήσης σχεδιών τύπου liferafts, με τις ελληνικές λιμενικές αρχές.

      Όπως είχε αποκαλύψει πρόσφατη έρευνα που δημοσιεύτηκε στον ιστότοπο justsecurity.org από τους δρ. Itamar Mann και Niamh Keady Tabal, και παραθέτει στοιχεία και για παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις, το Ελληνικό Δημόσιο συνεργάζεται στενά με την ελληνική εταιρεία LALIZAS, σωστικές συσκευές της οποίας προμηθεύτηκε και το Πολεμικό Ναυτικό, σύμφωνα με αρχεία αναρτημένα στη Διαύγεια, το 2017.

      Η έρευνα συζητήθηκε διεθνώς και ανάγκασε τον επικεφαλής της Frontex Φαμπρίς Λεγκέρι να παραδεχτεί τις ελληνικές παράνομες επιχειρήσεις επαναπροώθησης.

      Το βίντεο που δημοσιοποιεί σήμερα η « Εφ.Συν. » εξετάστηκε από την ερευνητική ομάδα Disinfaux, η οποία συμμετείχε στην έρευνα του justsecurity.org. Στο βίντεο διακρίνεται καθαρά πάνω στη σχεδία η επιγραφή LALIZAS ISO-RAFT. Διακρίνεται επίσης ο σειριακός αριθμός και η ημερομηνία κατασκευής της σχεδίας, βάσει της διαθέσιμης ανάλυσης (ISO 96-50-1, LALIZAS ISO-RAFT, Date of Manufacture 10/2016 Serial Number 161012174). Το προϊόν με αυτά τα χαρακτηριστικά διαφημίζεται στην ιστοσελίδα της εταιρείας.

      Σε άλλο απόσπασμα του βίντεο φαίνονται σε κοντινή απόσταση οι άλλες 3 παρόμοιες πλωτές σχεδίες, γεγονός που συνάδει με τα διαθέσιμα στοιχεία για το περιστατικό της 25ης Μαΐου, όπως είχε δημοσιευτεί το ίδιο πρωί, από τη Τουρκική Ακτοφυλακή.

      Ελληνικές σχεδίες

      Ανήκε η συγκεκριμένη σχεδία στον επίσημο εξοπλισμό του Πολεμικού Ναυτικού ή άλλων ελληνικών δυνάμεων ; Πώς βρέθηκε καταμεσής του Αιγαίου ως μέσο επαναπροώθησης προς την Τουρκία προσφύγων που είχαν βρεθεί σε κίνδυνο ; Τι αναφέρουν τα πρωτόκολλα διάσωσης για όσους βρίσκονται σε κίνδυνο στη θάλασσα ;

      Τα βίντεο τραβήχτηκαν από πρόσφυγα πάνω στη σχεδία την ώρα της επαναπροώθησης. Σε ανάρτησή του στα μέσα κοινωνικής δικτύωσης περιγράφει τις δραματικές στιγμές που έζησε αυτός και άλλοι περίπου 70 πρόσφυγες στις 25 Μαΐου, από τη στιγμή που έπεσαν στα χέρια του Λιμενικού μέχρι που τους εγκατέλειψε, και βρέθηκαν να πλέουν αβοήθητοι πάνω σε τέσσερις σχεδίες στη μέση του Αιγαίου. Παρέμειναν εκεί, ανάμεσά τους πέντε παιδιά και δύο έγκυες. Ένας τους είχε καταφέρει να κρύψει το κινητό του τηλέφωνο και κατάφεραν να καλέσουν το τουρκικό Λιμενικό, το οποίο τους εντόπισε.

      Η « Εφ.Συν. » επικοινώνησε με τον πρόσφυγα που ανάρτησε το βίντεο. Όπως αναφέρει, σκάφος της ελληνικής ακτοφυλακής έκανε μανούβρες γύρω από τη βάρκα στην οποία αρχικά επέβαιναν οι πρόσφυγες. « Όλοι οι φίλοι μου έκλαιγαν, ούρλιαζαν, ζητούσαν βοήθεια από το λιμενικό. Άντρες που φορούσαν στρατιωτικές στολές, και είχαν όπλα, πήραν τη μηχανή της βάρκας και μας είπαν : "Είμαστε εδώ για να σας βοηθήσουμε, θέλουμε να σας μεταφέρουμε στο καμπ της Μόριας" », λέει χαρακτηριστικά.

      Τους επιβίβασαν στο σκάφος του λιμενικού και αφού έλεγξαν τη θερμοκρασία τους με θερμόμετρα, τους χτύπησαν και τους αφαίρεσαν τα προσωπικά τους αντικείμενα. « Μας πήραν τα πάντα : χρήματα, τσάντες, τηλέφωνα », λέει. Αφαίρεσαν από το σκάφος του λιμενικού την ελληνική σημαία, τους οδήγησαν μεσοπέλαγα και τους επιβίβασαν σε τέσσερα liferaft. Τους ανάγκασαν να ανέβουν είκοσι άτομα σε κάθε σχεδία, ενώ η -βάσει προδιαγραφών- χωρητικότητά της είναι για 12 άτομα. Η εταιρεία LALIZAS δεν έχει στον κατάλογο της παρόμοιου τύπου liferaft με χωρητικότητα άνω των 12 ατόμων. Επισημαίνει επίσης πως οι τέσσερις τσάντες από τις οποίες έβγαλαν τα πλωτά ήταν χρώματος πορτοκαλί, όπως διαφημίζεται και το προϊόν στο site της LALIZAS.

      « Δεν έδωσαν σωσίβια στους ανθρώπους που δεν είχαν, και όταν εγώ ζήτησα από έναν λιμενικό να μου δώσει το τηλέφωνό μου για να επικοινωνήσω τουλάχιστον με την τουρκική ακτοφυλακή μου απάντησε "έλα και πάρ’ το", δείχνοντάς μου τα γεννητικά του όργανα », αναφέρει ο πρόσφυγας, ο οποίος θέλει να κρατήσει την ανωνυμία του.

      Τους περικύκλωσαν για 15 περίπου λεπτά και μετά τους εγκατέλειψαν. Ένας από τους επιβαίνοντες κατάφερε να κρύψει το κινητό του τηλέφωνο και έτσι κατάφεραν να καλέσουν την τουρκική ακτοφυλακή η οποία τους μετέφερε σώους στην Φότσα της Σμύρνης.

      « Δημοσιοποιώ αυτό το βίντεο για να δείξω στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, την Ύπατη Αρμοστεία και το Ευρωκοινοβούλιο, τα αποτελέσματα των αποφάσεων τους για το προσφυγικό », καταλήγει στην ανάρτησή του. Την ίδια στιγμή, ο Διεθνής Οργανισμός Μετανάστευσης (ΔΟΜ), η Ύπατη Αρμοστεία, και αρκετοί φορείς ζητούν απαντήσεις και τη διεξαγωγή έρευνας για τις καταγγελλόμενες επαναπροωθήσεις και μαζικές απελάσεις προσφύγων και μεταναστών στην Τουρκία.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/dikaiomata/247726_epanaproothisi-me-elliniki-sfragida

      #Norvège

    • Greece Suspected of Abandoning Refugees at Sea

      An investigation by DER SPIEGEL and partners has revealed that the Greek Coast Guard intercepts refugee boats, puts the migrants in life rafts, tows them toward Turkey and then abandons them to their fate. What do German troops in the area know about the practice?

      Europe is just a few kilometers away, recalls Amjad Naim, when the men in masks show up. It’s the morning of May 13 and the Palestinian is sitting in an inflatable boat, having paid migrant smugglers in Turkey for the trip. Naim can already see the Greek coast, and with every second, he is getting closer and closer.

      Naim wasn’t alone in the boat. They were a group of at least 26 people and they had almost reached the island of Samos. Naim remembers hearing a helicopter, and then all hell broke loose. For the next several hours, those on board would be afraid for their lives.

      The men in the masks approached in a large vessel, says Naim, adding that he remembers seeing the Greek flag and several dinghies. And then, he says, the masked men went on the attack.

      They fired shots into the water, he says, snagged the migrants’ inflatable raft with a grappling hook and destroyed the motor, thus stopping the boat. The men then took the migrants on board their vessel, Naim says, adding that he started crying and hid his mobile phone in his underwear.

      There are videos that prove that Naim really was on his way to Samos. The images show a young man with closely cropped hair and a smooth-shaven face. The motor of the small inflatable boat hums in the background as Naim smiles into the camera. He is originally from the Gaza Strip in the Palestinian Territories, where he studied law and got married. His wife is waiting for him in the Netherlands. Naim blows a kiss into the camera.

      The next images of Naim are shaky — a 55-second clip made by Naim that clearly documents a crime. The footage shows him and the other refugees on two inflatable life rafts. The Greek Coast Guard had put them off of the ship and onto the rafts. The square-shaped platforms are little more than wobbly rubber rafts.

      In the video, a Greek Coast Guard ship, 18 meters (59 feet) long, is dragging the rafts back toward Turkey. An additional ship stands by. Water can be seen pouring into Naim’s raft.

      Then, as can be seen in the video, the Greek Coast Guard unties the tow rope, leaving the refugees to their fate in the middle of the sea. Sitting in a rubber raft that has no ability to maneuver on its own.

      It is possible that Naim’s experience could be an isolated incident. It is conceivable that the Greek sailors simply lost their patience or that that particular ship was crewed by an especially nasty group. But that is not the case. Naim is apparently just one victim among many. There is a system behind the tactics he was exposed to. In a joint investigation with Lighthouse Reports and Report Mainz, DER SPIEGEL has forensically analyzed dozens of videos and compared them with geodata in addition to speaking with numerous eyewitnesses.

      https://cdnstatic.secure.spiegel.de/SP/2020/26/OPQWeKYm-32438806.mp4

      The material shows beyond doubt: In the eastern Aegean, European values are being sacrificed in the name of protecting its external borders.

      Masked men, almost certainly Greek border control officials, regularly attack refugee boats in the area. In one case on June 4, the inflatable boat belonging to the masked men can be clearly identified as a Greek patrol boat. It belongs to Greek Coast Guard ship ΛΣ-080.

      After the refugee boats are intercepted, the Greeks, apparently, frequently put the migrants in inflatable life rafts, tow them toward Turkey and then leave them to their fates. In most cases, they are dragged ashore after several hours by the Turkish Coast Guard.

      The actions taken by the Greeks are a clear breach. It has long been known that Greek Coast Guard personnel delay rescue attempts and perform aggressive maneuvers. Now, though, they are actively putting the lives of migrants at risk and they are using life-saving equipment to put people in danger.

      Images of migrants on orange life rafts have been appearing for weeks on Facebook and Instagram. NGOs like Aegean Boat Report, Josoor and Alarm Phone have also spoken with refugees and reported their experiences - and since March 23, activists have documented a number of incidents. The Turkish Coast Guard has also published images of the orange life rafts. But Naim’s video is the first to document beyond doubt a Greek Coast Guard vessel towing life rafts toward Turkey and then abandoning the refugees on the open sea.

      These so-called pushbacks represent both a violation of international law and of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. Asylum seekers have a right to have their cases heard on an individual basis and countries are not permitted to bring them back against their will to a place where their safety is not guaranteed.

      Itamar Mann, a lawyer at the University of Haifa and member of the Global Legal Action Network, believes pushbacks could also have criminal consequences. From a legal perspective, such operations, he says, are a kind of torture, with refugees experiencing inhumane treatment and humiliation.

      When contacted, the Greek Coast Guard denied the accusations and claimed that its personnel does not wear masks. They also said they obey all applicable laws. Delays in rescuing the refugees, they said, were due to the Turkish Coast Guard because they only accompany refugee boats if they are traveling in the direction of Greece. The Greek officials, they said, only locate the refugee boats and then inform the Turkish Coast Guard as quickly as possible.

      They claimed that they cooperated with the Turkish Coast Guard in the May 13 incident. In their statement, the Greek Coast Guard did not specifically address the video showing the pushback.
      Caught in the Middle

      Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been in office since last July, and since then, he has taken several steps to ensure that fewer refugees arrive in Greece. He had temporarily suspended the right to asylum and shortened the deadline for appeal in asylum cases. Furthermore, during his tenure, border guards on the Maritsa River between Turkey and Greece have apparently used live ammunition against refugees, likely killing at least one. His government has considered blocking refugee boats with barriers at sea.

      His government refers to the practices as “active surveillance.” In fact, though, they are abandoning refugees on the high seas.

      There is a reason for this new degree of brutality: Since the end of February, Turkish border guards are no longer stopping refugees on their way to Europe. Indeed, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has even arranged for refugees to be bused to the Greek border, where they were pushed back by Greek border guards. Erdogan’s intention is to ratchet up the pressure on the European Union, with Brussels and Ankara currently trying to hammer out a new refugee deal.

      The cynical game seen on the banks of the Maritsa River is now being repeated in the Aegean. The Turkish and Greek Coast Guards are pushing refugee boats into the territorial waters of the other, with the migrants themselves getting caught in the middle. In such a situation, those wanting to cross the Aegean need quite a bit of luck.

      Omar, a young man from Afghanistan, had lost almost all hope for such luck on the morning of June 4, floating in a boat between the Greek island of Lesbos and the Turkish coast. Omar, whose name has been changed for this story, wasn’t alone: A total of 31 men, women and children were on board.

      Turkish and Greek vessels had repeatedly pushed the migrants back. In one video, a dinghy can be seen that doubtlessly belongs to the Greek Coast Guard. Masked men, says Omar, had pushed their motor into the water, which is why to refugees were hanging off the back of the refugee boat and kicking, doing all they can to propel the boat to European soil. The scene was captured on video.

      Omar is desperate. He makes a final video, posting it to a refugee group on Facebook. In the video, he speaks into the camera for a good six minutes. “Please help us,” he pleads. “We have a right to live.”

      Perhaps it was this video that saved Omar’s life. Activists shared it on Facebook and just a short time later, a Turkish liaison officer on the supply ship Berlin told German soldiers of the vessel in distress. The ship is part of a NATO mission and was located off Lesbos. Using a tender, the Germans took the refugees ashore.

      A subsequent press release from the Bundeswehr, as the German military is called, noted that the refugees’ lives had been in danger, which is why the commander intervened. A small boat unable to maneuver on its own: It must have seemed rather strange to the soldiers. The press release made no mention of an attack on the refugee boat.
      German Officials Pulled Into the Chaos

      The episode shows, though, just how deeply German officials have been pulled into the chaos on the Aegean. It also raises the question as to whether the Germans know of the assaults and of the lifeboats - and whether they tolerate the pushbacks or are perhaps even involved.

      Around 600 border guards are helping the Greeks monitor activity on the Aegean, all part of the Frontex operation Poseidon. And the mission hasn’t always been free of conflict. In March, a Danish Frontex crew refused to carry out an illegal pushback.

      Behind closed doors, Frontex may already have admitted that it is aware of the brutal tactics involving the lifeboats. European Parliamentarian Dietmar Köster, a member of European Parliament from the German Social Democrats (SPD), says that Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri confirmed the incidents in a meeting with him. Though Köster is certain of his understanding of that meeting, Frontex says there was a misunderstanding, adding that Frontex headquarters has received no reports about pushbacks.

      Luise Amtsberg, a Green Party spokesperson on migration policy, doesn’t believe it. The waters around Samos are not endless, she told Report Mainz and DER SPIEGEL. “Pushbacks cannot take place completely without the knowledge of the other units in the area.”

      And there are indications that German officials might know of the pushbacks. In the port of Samos, the German Coast Guard ship Uckermark is anchored. On May 13, on the day that Amjad Naim was on his way to Samos, the Germans identified a refugee boat on their radar, according to information provided by the German Federal Police when contacted.

      In all probability, it was Naim’s boat. There is no evidence that there were any other refugee boats heading for Samos on that day. The Greek Coast Guard also confirmed that a ship and a helicopter belonging to the Germans had spotted a boat that day. They say it was in Turkish waters when first seen.

      The Germans alerted the Greek Coast Guard by radio, and the Greeks then took charge of the situation, according to a written statement. The statement notes that the Germans were “not involved” in any other measures related to the incident and insists that the Germans have no knowledge of the lifeboat episode.

      The German Coast Guard has provided no comment as to why no refugees arrived on Samos that day or what happened to the refugee boat that was spotted. And they apparently aren’t particularly interested, either.

      Even if Frontex was not actively involved in the operation, they bear some of the responsibility, says the lawyer Itamar Mann. Frontex, he believes, must draw a line and even withdraw from the mission if need be.

      After the Germans apparently saw his boat and after the Greeks abandoned him to his fate on the high seas on May 13, Amjad Naim floated around for several hours. The sky was almost cloudless, and the sun was beating down, as can be seen in the videos. The refugees had nothing to eat or drink.

      The lifeboat soon began to spin in circles, Naim says, with some of the passengers becoming nauseous and others fainting. Turkish and Greek ships, he says, simply ignored them. “It was awful,” Naim says.

      It was only after several hours that a Turkish Coast Guard vessel arrived to collect them. Men in white protective equipment helped the refugees off the lifeboat and took their temperatures. Naim then had to remain in quarantine for more than two weeks - in a nasty camp full of filth and mosquitoes, he says.

      Naim is now allowed to move freely in Turkey, but still feels trapped. He says: “I can’t go forward and I can’t go back.”

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/videos-and-eyewitness-accounts-greece-apparently-abandoning-refugees-at-sea-

  • Privatized Pushbacks: How Merchant Ships Guard Europe

    To hinder migrants crossing the Mediterranean, European navies stopped rescuing them. Now commercial ships are tasked with saving lives — and returning migrants to war-torn Libya.

    The #Panther, a German-owned merchant ship, is not in the business of sea rescues. But one day a few months ago the Libyan Coast Guard ordered it to divert course, rescue 68 migrants in distress in the Mediterranean and return them to Libya, which is embroiled in civil war.

    The request, which the Panther was required to honor, was at least the third time that day, Jan. 11, that the Libyans had called on a merchant ship to assist migrants.

    The Libyans could easily have alerted a nearby rescue ship run by a Spanish charity. The reason they did not goes to the core of how the European authorities have found a new way to thwart desperate African migrants trying to reach their shores from across the Mediterranean.

    And some maritime lawyers think the new tactic is unlawful.

    Commercial ships like the Panther must follow instructions from official forces, like the Libyan Coast Guard, which works in close cooperation with its Italian counterpart.

    Humanitarian rescue ships, on the other hand, take the migrants to Europe, citing international refugee law, which forbids returning refugees to danger.

    After the Panther arrived in Tripoli, Libyan soldiers boarded, forced the migrants ashore at gunpoint, and drove them to a detention camp in the besieged Libyan capital.

    “We call them privatized pushbacks,” said Charles Heller, the director of Forensic Oceanography, a research group that investigates migrant rights abuses in the Mediterranean. “They occur when merchant ships are used to rescue and bring back migrants to a country in which their lives are at risk — such as Libya.”

    The coronavirus crisis has made arguments about Mediterranean migration policy seem peripheral to the European moment, as governments focus on restricting not just external migration, but also the internal movement of their own citizens.

    But long before the pandemic hit, European leaders were mainly consumed by preventing Mediterranean migration, hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis. And that approach remains topical, with hundreds of migrants crossing the Mediterranean already this week, either oblivious to or unconcerned by the coronavirus outbreak.

    Since the 2015 crisis, European governments have frequently stopped the nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the southern Mediterranean — like the Spanish ship, Open Arms — from taking rescued migrants to European ports.

    European navies and coast guards have also largely withdrawn from the area, placing the Libyan Coast Guard in charge of search-and-rescue.

    Now Europe has a new proxy: privately-owned commercial ships. And their deployment is contested by migrant rights watchdogs.

    Although a 1979 international convention on search and rescue requires merchant ships to obey orders from a country’s Coast Guard forces, the agreement also does not permit those forces to pick and choose who helps during emergencies, as Libya’s did.

    “That’s a blatantly illegal policy,” said Dr. Itamar Mann, an expert on maritime law at the University of Haifa in Israel.

    But commercial shipowners say that after saving migrants from drowning, their legal duty is to do as they are told by the Libyan Coast Guard, as decreed by a separate convention on search-and-rescue signed in 1979.

    “This is in accordance with international law,” said John Stawpert, a representative for the International Chamber of Shipping, a global shipowners’ association.

    Between 2011 and 2018, only one commercial ship returned migrants to Libya, according to research by Forensic Oceanography.

    Since 2018 there have been about 30 such returns, involving roughly 1,800 migrants, in which merchant ships have either returned migrants to Libyan ports or transferred them to Libyan Coast Guard vessels, according to data collated by The New York Times and Forensic Oceanography.

    The real number is likely to be higher.

    During the height of the crisis, ships like the Panther would have transferred rescued migrants to the Italian Coast Guard or humanitarian organizations.

    But in 2017, Italy gradually relinquished responsibility for search-and-rescue coordination in the southern Mediterranean to the Libyan Coast Guard, neatly absolving Italy of the legal obligation to rescue and admit every migrant entering international waters north of Libya.

    The next year, merchant ship crews began to return migrants to the Libyan authorities, which had been persuaded to take on the role by the promise of more equipment and international legitimacy.

    The Panther ordinarily supplies a cluster of oil rigs roughly 50 miles north of Libya. On Jan. 11, the Libyan Coast Guard engaged the Panther instead of the Open Arms because only the Panther’s owner had agreed to abide by a restrictive set of regulations drawn up by the Libyan Coast Guard.

    “All the ships who work in search-and-rescue have to follow this code of conduct,” Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad, the Libyan Coast Guard commander, said by telephone.

    Consequently, only the Panther was considered an “acceptable” rescue vessel on Jan. 11, he added.

    The pattern of using commercial ships has increased in recent months, said Anabel Montes Mier, the head of mission aboard the Open Arms that day.

    “These commercial ships follow the orders,” Ms. Montes Mier said. “We refuse to return people to places that are unsafe.”

    Rights groups fear Libya’s refusal to work with humanitarian rescuers has put more migrant lives in danger at sea.

    The number of people reaching Italy has dropped by more than 90 percent since 2017, while the death-toll in the southern Mediterranean has roughly halved in the same period.

    But the number of people drowning, as a proportion of those trying to cross, has sharply risen — from roughly 1 in 50 in 2017, to 1 in 20 in 2019, according to data compiled by the International Organization for Migration.

    The forcible return of the migrants, a practice known as refoulement, has also put many of them in lethal danger on land, because of Libya’s civil war.

    In February, an airstrike hit the dock used by the Panther to disembark migrants in Tripoli. Once ashore, migrants are imprisoned in detention camps run by an assortment of militias. Often, these lie in areas under attack. Last July, one camp was bombed, killing 53 prisoners.

    In a lawless land that provides few rights to foreign laborers, migrants are often tortured, raped, held for ransom, or treated as modern-day slaves.

    Steven, a 20-year-old from South Sudan, described being shot and beaten by Libyan officials after he was returned to Libya by a commercial ship in November 2018.

    “Why did they rescue us and take us back to Libya?” said Steven, who asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of legal repercussions. “It was better to die in the ship.”

    The question of culpability is complex.

    Since 1951, international refugee law has stipulated that migrants should not be returned without due process to the countries they fled. But in cases involving merchant ships, migrants are often rescued in international waters, before reaching Europe’s maritime borders.

    The authorities in Italy and European Union say they should therefore be returned to Libya, since Libya coordinates search-and-rescue operations in these international waters.

    Critics argue that Italy and its European allies still bear responsibility. In the view of humanitarian monitoring groups, the Europeans never relinquished their role in orchestrating search-and-rescue missions — undermining the rationale for surrendering control to Libya.

    During at least part of 2019, Italian navy officers aboard an Italian vessel docked in Tripoli’s harbor oversaw rescues on behalf of the Libyans, according to documents published during a court case in Sicily last March.

    “They coordinated the rescue activities,” Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister at the time, said in an interview with the Times.

    In one instance in November 2018, logbooks show how Italian Coast Guard officers contacted a cargo ship, the Nivin, “on behalf of” their Libyan counterparts. But the logs also reveal that the Nivin’s captain could only reach the Libyan authorities by contacting the Italian Coast Guard.

    And though European navies have withdrawn from the area, their planes still direct the Libyan Coast Guard to migrant vessels, recordings published by The Guardian show.

    In March last year, one such military plane ordered a merchant vessel to return a boatload of rescued migrants to Tripoli, without any intervention from the Libyan Coast Guard, according to recordings reported in The Atavist, a digital magazine.

    In one of several recent phone interviews, Commodore Abdal Samad of the Libyan Coast Guard said an Italian ship docked in Tripoli, once used as a search-and-rescue control center, no longer directs Libyan Coast Guard activity.

    But Libyan Coast Guard crews still sometimes use the Italian ship’s equipment to communicate with merchant vessels, Commodore Abdal Samad conceded, particularly when their radios break down.

    One of the most recent instances, he said, was the weekend in January when the Panther rescued 68 migrants from the southern Mediterranean.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/world/europe/mediterranean-libya-migrants-europe.html

    #push-backs #refoulement #refoulements #bateaux_marchands #privatisation #externalisation #Méditerranée #Libye #Mer_Méditerranée #refoulements_privatisés #sauvetage #privatized_pushbacks #gardes-côtes_libyens

    ping @reka

  • Hidden infrastructures of the European border regime : the #Poros detention facility in Evros, Greece

    This blog post and the research it draws on date before the onset of the current border spectacle in Evros of February/March 2020. Obviously, the situation in Evros region has changed dramatically. Our research however underlines that the Greek state has always resorted to extra-legal methods of border and migration control in the Evros region. Particularly the violent and illegal pushback practices which have persisted for decades in Evros region have now been elevated to official government policy.

    The region of Evros at the Greek-Turkish border was the scene of many changes in the European and Greek border regimes since 2010. The most well-known was the deployment of the Frontex RABIT force in October of that year; while it concluded in 2011, Frontex has had a permanent presence in Evros ever since. In 2011, the then government introduced the ‘Integrated Program for Border Management and Combating Illegal Immigration’ (European Migration Network, 2012), which reflected EU and domestic processes of the Europeanisation of border controls (European Migration Network, 2012; Ilias et al., 2019). The program stipulated a number of measures which impacted the border regime in Evros: the construction of a 12.5km fence along the section of the Greek Turkish border which did not coincide with the Evros river (after which the region takes its name); the expansion of border surveillance technologies and capacities in the area; and the establishment of reception centres where screening procedures would be undertaken (European Migration Network, 2012; Ilias et al., 2019). In this context, one of the measures taken was the establishment of a screening centre in South Evros, near the village of Poros, 46km away from the city of Alexandroupoli – the main urban centre in the area.

    The operation of the Centre for the First Management of Illegal Immigration is documented in Greek (Ministry for Public Order and Citizen Protection, 2013a) and EU official documents (European Parliament, 2012; European Migration Network, 2013), reports by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (2011), NGOs (Pro Asyl, 2012) and activists (CloseTheCamps, 2012), media articles (To Vima, 2012) and research (Düvell, 2012; Schaub, 2013) between 2011 and 2015.

    Yet, during our fieldwork in the area in 2018, none of our respondents mentioned it. Nor could we find any recent research, reports or official documents after 2015 referring to it. It was only a tip from someone we collaborate with that reminded us of the existence of the Poros facility. We found its ‘disappearance’ from public view intriguing. Through fieldwork, document analysis and queries to the Greek authorities, we constructed a genealogy of the Poros centre, from its inception in 2011 to its ambivalent present. Our findings not only highlight the shifting nature of local assemblages of the European border regime, but also raise questions on such ‘hidden’ infrastructures, and the implications of their use for the rights of the people who cross the border.

    A genealogy of Poros

    The Poros centre was originally a military facility, used for border surveillance. In 2012, it was transferred to the Hellenic Police, the civilian authority responsible for migration control and border management, and was formally designated a Centre for the First Management of Illegal Immigration, similar to the more well-known First Reception Centre in Fylakio, in North Evros. The refurbishment and expansion of the old facilities and purchase of necessary equipment were financed through the External borders fund of the European Union (Alexandroupoli Police Directorate, 2011). Visits by the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström (To Vima, 2012), the then executive director of Frontex, Ilkka Laitinen (Ministry for Public Order and Citizen Protection, 2013b), and a delegation of the LIBE committee of the European Parliament (2012) illustrated the embeddedness of the centre in the European border regime. The Commission’s report on the implementation of the Greek National Action Plan on Migration Management and Asylum Reform specifically refers the Poros centre as a facility that could be used for screening procedures and vulnerability assessments (European Commission, 2012).

    The Poros facility was indeed used as a screening and identification centre, activities that fell under both border management and the Greek framework for reception procedures introduced in 2011. While official documents of the Greek Government suggest that the centre started operating in 2012 (Council of Europe, 2012), a media article (Alexandroupoli Online, 2011) and a report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (2011) provide evidence that it was already operational the year before, as an informal reception centre. When the centre became the main screening facility for South Evros in 2012 (European Parliament, 2012), screening, identification and debriefing procedures at the time were carried out both by Hellenic Police personnel and Frontex officers deployed in the area (Council of Europe, 2012).

    One of the very few research sources referring to Poros, a PhD thesis by Laurence Pillant (2017) provides a detailed description of the space and the activities carried out in the old wooden building and the white containers (image 3), visible in the stills from the video we took in December 2020 (image 4). A mission of Medecins sans frontiers, indicated in Pillant’s diagram, provided health screening in 2012 (European Migration Network, 2013).

    The organisation and function of the centre at the time is also documented in a number of mundane administrative acts which we located through diavgeia.gov.gr, a website storing Greek public administration decisions. Containers were bought to create space for the screening and identification procedures (Regional Police Directorate of Macedonia and Thrace, 2012). A local company was awarded contracts for the cleaning of the facilities (Regional Police Directorate of Macedonia and Thrace, 2013). The last administrative documents we were able to locate concerned the establishment of a committee of local police officers to procure services for emptying the cesspit of the centre (Regional Police Directorate of Macedonia and Thrace, 2015) – not all buildings in the area are linked to the local sewage system. This is the point when the administrative trail for Poros goes cold. No documents were found in diavgeia.gov.gr after January 2015.

    So what happened to the Poros Centre?

    After 2015, we found a mere five online references to the centre, despite extensive searches of sources such as official documents, research or reports by human rights bodies and NGOs. A 2016 newspaper article mentioned that arrested migrants were led there for screening (Ta Nea, 2016). A 2018 article in a local online news outlet mentioned a case of malaria in the village of Poros (Evros News, 2018a), while in another article (Evros News, 2018b), the president of the village council blamed a case of malaria in the village on the lack of health screening in the centre. An account of activities of the municipal council of Alexandroupoli referred to fixing an electrical fault in the centre in May 2019 (Municipality of Alexandroupoli, 2019). Τhe Global Detention Project (2019) also refers to Poros as a likely detention place.

    These sources suggested that the centre might be operational in some capacity, yet they raised more questions than they answered. If the centre has been in operation since 2015, why is there such an absence of official sources referring to it? Equally surprising was the absence of administrative acts related to the Poros centre in diavgeia.gov.gr, in contrast to all other facilities in the area where migrants are detained, such as the Fylakio Reception and Identification Centre and the pre-removal centres and police stations. It was conceivable, of course, that the centre fell into disuse. Since the deployment of Frontex and the border control measures taken under the Integrated Plan, entries through the Greek-Turkish land border decreased significantly – from 54,974 in 2011 to 3,784 in 2016 (Hellenic Police, 2020), and screening procedures were transferred to Fylakio, fully operational since 2013 (Reception and Identification Service, 2020).

    Trying to find answers to our questions, we contacted the Hellenic Police. An email we sent in January 2020 was never answered. In early February, following a series of phone calls, we obtained some answers to our questions. The police officer who answered the phone call did not seem to have heard of the centre and wanted to ask other departments for more information, as well as the First Reception and Identification Service, now responsible for screening procedures. The next day, he said it is occasionally used as a detention facility, when there is a high number of apprehended people that cannot be detained in police cells. According to the police officer, they are detained there for one or two days, until they can be transferred to the Reception and Identification Centre of Fylakio for reception procedures, or detention in the pre-removal detention centre adjacent to it. At the same time, he stated that he was told that Poros has been closed for a long time.

    This contradictory information could be down to the distance between the central police directorate in Athens and the area of Evros – it is not unlikely that local arrangements are not known in the central offices. Yet, it was also at odds both with the description of the use of the centre that our informant himself gave us – using the present tense in Greek –, with what the local media articles suggest, and with what we saw on site. Stills from the video taken during fieldwork in December 2020 suggest that the Poros centre is not disused, although no activity could be observed on the day. The cars and vans parked outside did not seem abandoned or rusting. The main building and the containers appeared to be in a good condition. A bright red cloth, maybe a canvas bag, was hanging outside one of them. The rubbish bins were full, but the black bags and other objects in them did not seem as they have been left in the open for a long time (image 4).

    The police officer also asked, however, how we had heard of Poros – a question that alerted us to both the obscure nature of the facility and the sensitivity of our query.
    A hidden infrastructure of pushbacks?

    The Poros centre, at one level, illustrates how the function of such border facilities can change over time, as the local border regime adapts and responds to migratory movements. Fylakio has become the main reception and detention centre in Evros, and between 2015 and 2017, the Aegean islands became the main point of entry into Greece and the European Union. Yet, our findings raised a lot of significant questions regarding the new function of Poros, given the increase in migratory movements in the area since 2018.

    While we obtained official confirmation that the Poros centre is now used for temporary detention and not screening, it remains the case that there are no official documents – including any administrative acts on diavgeia.gov.gr – that confirm its use as a temporary closed detention centre. Equally, we did not manage to obtain any information about how the facility is funded from the Hellenic Police. Our respondent did not know, and another departments we called did not want to share any information about the centre. It also became evident in the course of our research that most of our contacts in Greece – NGOS and journalists – had never heard of the facility or had no recent information about it. We found no evidence to suggest that Greek and European human rights bodies or NGOs which monitor detention facilities have visited the Poros centre after 2015. A mission of the Council of Europe (2019), for example, visited several detention facilities in Evros in April 2018 but the Poros centre was not listed among them. Similarly, the Fundamental Rights Officer of Frontex, in a partly joined mission with the Fundamental Rights Agency, visited detention facilities in South Evros in 2019, the operational area where the Poros centre is located. However, the centre is not mentioned in the report on that visit (Frontex, 2019).

    The dearth of information and absence of monitoring of the facility means that it is unclear whether the facility provides adequate conditions for detention. While our Hellenic police informant stated that detention there lasts for one or two days, there is no outside gate at the Poros centre, just a rather flimsy looking wire fence. Does this mean that detainees are kept inside the main building or containers the whole time they are detained there? We also do not know if detainees have access to phones, legal assistance or healthcare, which the articles in the local press suggest that is absent from the Poros centre. Equally, in the absence of inspections by human rights bodies, we are unaware of the standards of hygiene inside the facilities, or if there is sufficient food available. Administrative acts archived in diavgeia.gov.gr normally offer some answers to such questions but, as we mentioned above, we could find none. In short, it appears that Poros is used as an informal detention centre, hidden from public view.

    The obscurity surrounding the facility, in the context of the local border regime, is extremely worrying. Many NGOs and journalists have documented widespread pushback practices (Arsis et al., 2018; Greek Council for Refugees, 2018; Koçulu, 2019), evidenced through migrant testimonies (Mobile Info Team 2019) and, more recently, videos (Forensic Architecture, 2019a; 2019b). Despite denials by the Hellenic Police and the Greek government, European and international international human rights bodies (Council of Europe, 2019; Committee Against torture 2019) have accepted these testimonies as credible. We have no firm evidence that the Poros facility may be one of the many ‘informal’ detention places migrant testimonies implicated in pushbacks. Yet, the centre is located no further than two kilometres from the Greek-Turkish border, and the layout of the area is similar to the location of a pushback captured on camera and analysed by Forensic Architecture (2019a): near a dirt road with direct access to the Evros River. Black cars and white vans (images 5 and 6), without police insignia and some without number plates, such as those in the Poros centre, have been mentioned in testimonies of pushbacks (Arsis et al., 2018). Objects looking like inflatable boats are visible in our video stills. While there might be other explanations for their presence (used for patrolling the river or confiscated from migrants crossing the river) they are also used during pushbacks operations, and their presence in a detention centre seems odd.

    These uncertainties, and the tendency of security bodies to avoid revealing information on spaces of detention, are not unusual. However, the obscurity surrounding the Poros centre, located in an area of the European border where detention have long attracted criticism and there is considerable evidence of illegal and violent border control practices, should be a concern for all.

    https://www.respondmigration.com/blog-1/border-regime-poros-detention-facility-evros-greece
    #Evros #détention #rétention #détention_administrative #Grèce #refoulement #push-back #push-backs #invisibilité #invisibilisation #Centre_for_the_First_Management_of_Illegal_Immigration #Fylakio #Frontex

    Ce centre, selon ce que le chercheur·es écrivent, est ouvert depuis 2012... or... pas entendu parler de lui avec @albertocampiphoto quand on a été sur place... alors qu’on a vraiment sillonnée la (relativement petite) région pendant 1 mois !

    Donc pas mention de ce centre dans la #carte qu’on a publiée notamment sur @visionscarto :


    https://visionscarto.net/evros-mur-inutile

    ping @reka @karine4

    • En fait, en regardant mieux « notre » carte je me rends compte que peut-être le centre que nous avons identifié comme « #Feres » est en réalité le centre que les auteur·es appellent Poros... les deux localités sont à moins de 5 km l’une de l’autre.
      J’ai écrit aux auteur·es...

      Réponse de Bernd Kasparek, 12.03.2020 :

      Since we have been in front of Poros detention centre, we are certain that it is a distinct entity from the Feres police station, which, as you rightly observe, is also often implicated in reports about push-backs.

      Réponse de Lena Karamanidou le 13.03.2020 :

      Feres is located here: https://goo.gl/maps/gQn15Hdfwo4f3cno6​ , and it’s a much more modern facility (see photo, complete with ubiquitous military van!). However, ​I’m not entirely certain when the new Feres station was built - I think there was an older police station, but then both police and border guard functions were transfered to the new building. Something for me to check in obscure news items and databases!

    • ‘We Are Like Animals’ : Inside Greece’s Secret Site for Migrants

      The extrajudicial center is one of several tactics Greece is using to prevent a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis.


      The Greek government is detaining migrants incommunicado at a secret extrajudicial location before expelling them to Turkey without due process, one of several hard-line measures taken to seal the borders to Europe that experts say violate international law.

      Several migrants said in interviews that they had been captured, stripped of their belongings, beaten and expelled from Greece without being given a chance to claim asylum or speak to a lawyer, in an illegal process known as refoulement. Meanwhile, Turkish officials said that at least three migrants had been shot and killed while trying to enter Greece in the past two weeks.

      The Greek approach is the starkest example of European efforts to prevent a reprise of the 2015 migration crisis in which more than 850,000 undocumented people passed relatively easily through Greece to other parts of Europe, roiling the Continent’s politics and fueling the rise of the far right.

      If thousands more refugees reach Greece, Greek officials fear being left to care for them for years, with little support from other members in the European Union, exacerbating social tensions and further fraying a strained economy. Tens of thousands of migrants already live in squalor on several Greek islands, and many Greeks feel they have been left to shoulder a burden created by wider European indifference.

      The Greek government has defended its actions as a legitimate response to recent provocations by the Turkish authorities, who have transported thousands of migrants to the Greek-Turkish border since late February and have encouraged some to charge and dismantle a border fence.

      The Greek authorities have denied reports of deaths along the border. A spokesman for the Greek government, Stelios Petsas, did not comment on the existence of the site, but said that Greece detained and expelled migrants in accordance with local law. An act passed March 3, by presidential decree, suspended asylum applications for a month and allowed immediate deportations.

      But through a combination of on-the-ground reporting and forensic analysis of satellite imagery, The Times has confirmed the existence of the secret center in northeastern Greece.

      Presented with diagrams of the site and a description of its operations, François Crépeau, a former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said it was the equivalent of a domestic “black site,” since detainees are kept in secret and without access to legal recourse.

      Using footage supplied to several media outlets, The Times has also established that the Greek Coast Guard, nominally a lifesaving institution, fired shots in the direction of migrants onboard a dinghy that was trying to reach Greek shores early this month, beat them with sticks and sought to repel them by driving past them at high speed, risking tipping them into water.

      Forensic analysis of videos provided by witnesses also confirmed the death of at least one person — a Syrian factory worker — after he was shot on the Greek-Turkish border.
      A Secret Site

      When Turkish officials began to bus migrants to the Greek border on Feb. 28, a Syrian Kurd named Somar al-Hussein had a seat on one of the first coaches.

      Turkey already hosts more refugees than any other country — over four million, mostly Syrians — and fears that it may be forced to admit another million because of a recent surge in fighting in northern Syria. To alleviate this pressure, and to force Europe to do more to help, it has weaponized refugees like Mr. al-Hussein by shunting them toward the Continent.

      Mr. al-Hussein, a trainee software engineer, spent that night in the rain on the bank of the Evros River, which divides western Turkey from eastern Greece. Early the next morning, he reached the Greek side in a rubber dinghy packed with other migrants.

      But his journey ended an hour later, he said in a recent interview. Captured by Greek border guards, he said, he and his group were taken to a detention site. Following the group’s journey on his mobile phone, he determined that the site was a few hundred yards east of the border village of Poros.

      The site consisted principally of three red-roofed warehouses set back from a farm road and arranged in a U-shape. Hundreds of other captured migrants waited outside. Mr. al-Hussein was taken indoors and crammed into a room with dozens of others.

      His phone was confiscated to prevent him from making calls, he said, and his requests to claim asylum and contact United Nations officials were ignored.

      “To them, we are like animals,” Mr. al-Hussein said of the Greek guards.

      After a night without food or drink, on March 1 Mr. al-Hussein and dozens of others were driven back to the Evros River, where Greek police officers ferried them back to the Turkish side in a small speedboat.

      Mr. al-Hussein was one of several migrants to provide similar accounts of extrajudicial detentions and expulsions, but his testimony was the most detailed.

      By cross-referencing drawings, descriptions and satellite coordinates that he provided, The Times was able to locate the detention center — in farmland between Poros and the river.

      A former Greek official familiar with police operations confirmed the existence of the site, which is not classified as a detention facility but is used informally during times of high migration flows.

      On Friday, three Times journalists were stopped at a roadblock near the site by uniformed police officers and masked special forces officers.

      The site’s existence was also later confirmed by Respond, a Sweden-based research group.

      Mr. Crépeau, now a professor of international law at McGill University, said the center represented a violation of the right to seek asylum and “the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and of European Union law.”
      Violence at Sea

      Hundreds of miles to the south, in the straits of the Aegean Sea between the Turkish mainland and an archipelago of Greek islands, the Greek Coast Guard is also using force.

      On March 2, a Coast Guard ship violently repelled an inflatable dinghy packed with migrants, in an incident that Turkish officials captured on video, which they then distributed to the press.

      The footage shows the Coast Guard vessel and an unmarked speedboat circling the dinghy. A gunman on one boat shot at least twice into waters by the dinghy, with what appeared to be a rifle, before men from both vessels shoved and struck the dinghy with long black batons.

      It is not clear from the footage whether the man was firing live or non-lethal rounds.

      Mr. Petsas, the government spokesman, did not deny the incident, but said the Coast Guard did not fire live rounds.

      The larger Greek boat also sought to tip the migrants into the water by driving past them at high speed.
      Forensic analysis by The Times shows that the incident took place near the island of Kos after the migrants had clearly entered Greek waters.

      “The action of Greek Coast Guard ships trying to destabilize the refugees’ fragile dinghies, thus putting at risk the life and security of their passengers, is also a violation,” said Mr. Crépeau, the former United Nations official.
      A Killing on Land

      The most contested incident concerns the lethal shooting of Mohammed Yaarub, a 22-year-old Syrian from Aleppo who tried to cross Greece’s northern land border with Turkey last week.

      The Greek government has dismissed his death as “fake news” and denied that anyone has died at the border during the past week.

      An analysis of videos, coupled with interviews with witnesses, confirmed that Mr. Yaarub was killed on the morning of March 2 on the western bank of the Evros River.

      Mr. Yaarub had lived in Turkey for five years, working at a shoe factory, according to Ali Kamal, a friend who was traveling with him. The two friends crossed the Evros on the night of March 1 and camped with a large group of migrants on the western bank of the river.

      By a cartographical quirk, they were still in Turkey: Although the river mostly serves as the border between the two countries, this small patch of land is one of the few parts of the western bank that belongs to Turkey rather than Greece.

      Mr. Kamal last saw his friend alive around 7:30 a.m. the next morning, when the group began walking to the border. The two men were separated, and soon Greek security forces blocked them, according to another Syrian man who filmed the aftermath of the incident and was later interviewed by The Times. He asked to remain anonymous because he feared retribution.

      During the confrontation, Mr. Yaarub began speaking to the men who were blocking their path and held up a white shirt, saying that he came in peace, the Syrian man said.

      Shortly afterward, Mr. Yaarub was shot.

      There is no known video of the moment of impact, but several videos captured his motionless body being carried away from the Greek border and toward the river.

      Several migrants who were with Mr. Yaarub at the time of his death said a Greek security officer had shot him.

      Using video metadata and analyzing the position of the sun, The Times confirmed that he was shot around 8:30 a.m., matching a conclusion reached by Forensic Architecture, an investigative research group.

      Video shows that it took other migrants about five minutes to ferry Mr. Yaarub’s body back across the river and to a car. He was then taken to an ambulance and later a Turkish hospital.

      An analysis of other footage shot elsewhere on the border showed that Greek security forces used lethal and non-lethal ammunition in other incidents that day, likely fired from a mix of semiautomatic and assault rifles.
      E.U. Support for Greece

      Mr. Petsas, the government spokesman, defended Greece’s tough actions as a reasonable response to “an asymmetrical and hybrid attack coming from a foreign country.”

      Besides ferrying migrants to the border, the Turkish police also fired tear-gas canisters in the direction of Greek security forces and stood by as migrants dismantled part of a border fence, footage filmed by a Times journalist showed.

      Before this evidence of violence and secrecy had surfaced, Greece won praise from leaders of the European Union, who visited the border on March 3.

      “We want to express our support for all you did with your security services for the last days,” said Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, the bloc’s top decision-making body.

      The European Commission, the bloc’s administrative branch, said that it was “not in a position to confirm or deny” The Times’s findings, and called on the Greek justice system to investigate.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/world/europe/greece-migrants-secret-site.html

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/world/europe/greece-migrants-secret-site.html

      #Mohammed_Yaarub #décès #mourir_aux_frontières

    • Grécia nega existência de centro de detenção “secreto” onde os migrantes são tratados “como animais”

      New York Times citou vários migrantes que dizem ter sido roubados e agredidos pelos guardas fronteiriços, antes de deportados para a Turquia. Erdogan compara gregos aos nazis.

      Primeiro recusou comentar, mas pouco mais de 24 horas depois o Governo da Grécia refutou totalmente a notícia do New York Times. Foi esta a sequência espaçada da reacção de Atenas ao artigo do jornal norte-americano, publicado na terça-feira, que deu conta da existência de um centro de detenção “secreto”, perto da localidade fronteiriça de Poros, onde muitos dos milhares de migrantes que vieram da Turquia, nos últimos dias, dizem ter sido roubados, despidos e agredidos, impedidos de requerer asilo ou de contactar um advogado, e deportados, logo de seguida, pelos guardas fronteiriços gregos.
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      “Para eles somos como animais”, acusou Somar al-Hussein, sírio, um dos migrantes entrevistados pelo diário nova-iorquino, que entrou na Grécia através do rio Evros e que diz ter sido alvo de tratamento abusivo no centro de detenção “secreto”.

      “Não há nenhum centro de detenção secreto na Grécia”, garantiu, no entanto, esta quarta-feira, Stelios Petsas, porta-voz do executivo grego. “Todas as questões relacionadas com a protecção e a segurança das fronteiras são transparentes. A Constituição está a ser aplicada e não há nada de secreto”, insistiu.

      Com jornalistas no terreno, impedidos de entrar no local por soldados gregos, o New York Times entrevistou diversos migrantes que dizem ter sido ali alvo de tratamento desumano, analisou imagens de satélite, informou-se junto de um centro de estudos sueco sobre migrações que opera na zona e falou com um antigo funcionário grego familiarizado com as operações policiais fronteiriças. Informação que diz ter-lhe permitido confirmar a existência do centro.

      https://www.publico.pt/2020/03/11/mundo/noticia/grecia-nega-existencia-centro-detencao-secreto-onde-migrantes-sao-tratados-a

      #paywall

    • Greece : Rights watchdogs report spike in violent push-backs on border with Turkey

      A Balkans-based network of human rights organizations says that the number of migrants pushed back from Greece into Turkey has spiked in recent weeks. The migrants allegedly reported beatings and violent collective expulsions from inland detention spaces to Turkey on boats across the Evros River.

      Greek officers “forcefully pushed [people] in the van while the policemen were kicking them with their legs and shouting at them.” Then, the migrants were detained, forced to sign untranslated documents and pushed back across the Evros River at night. Over the next few days, Turkish authorities returned them to Greece, but then they were pushed back again.

      This account from 50 Afghans, Pakistanis, Syrians and Algerians aged between 15 and 35 years near the town of Edirne at the Greek-Turkish border was one of at least seven accounts a network of Balkans-based human rights watchdogs says it received from refugees over the course of six weeks, between March and late April.

      The collection of reports (https://www.borderviolence.eu/press-release-documented-pushbacks-from-centres-on-the-greek-mainland), published last week by the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), with help from its members Mobile Info Team (MIT) and Wave Thessaloniki, consists of “first-hand testimonies and photographic evidence” which the network says shows “violent collective expulsions” of migrants and refugees. According to the network, the number of individuals who were pushed back in groups amount to 194 people.
      https://twitter.com/mobileinfoteam/status/1257632384348020737?ref_src=tw