GREECE: LETTER TO THE FRIENDS OF PIKPA

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For the second time, exiles passed by Greece and who  now have a residence somewhere in Europe returned to the island of Lesbos. After ten days there, they address to Greek volunteers of PIKPA, the Village of All Together, a letter full of emotion and depth (see also http://lesvos.w2eu.net/).

 

”  Letter to the friends from The village of All Together
Dear friends from the village of All Together,

first of all we would like to thank you many times for having started this wonderful idea of a solidarity welcome center! You run Pikpa now since 2012 already – which is an incredible long time, especially if we see what your challenges are every day! We came already in October last year and now once again in August with even more people to this island, one of the gates for refugees to Europe. Many of us came via Greece to Europe years ago and know by their own experience what the newcomers had to overcome and survive until they arrive here. We cannot express with words what it means to us that you try to create a welcoming space for them. When we came some of us had the good luck to be welcomed by the nobordercamp in 2009 but most of us have been only “welcomed” in Europe with police and prisons. Also later on, after our release nobody has been there to assist us to find our way to Athens, the next “station” of this journey and further on. It touches our hearts that you created a space of welcoming and hospitality – it is needed and the only possible option to overcome these inhuman borders.

We came back here to Mitilini to encourage and welcome the newcomers and to assist them on their further way. The last days have been a great experience for us. It was possible for us to meet and talk with hundreds of newly arriving refugees and to provide them with information, contacts in various European countries and to give them hope. This was possible ecause there was the space for them and us to meet in Pikpa before they have been brought to be registered by the police even. We had the chance to spread as many information as possible even before. We gathered useful information in a guide (see: http://w2eu.info/pritings.en.html). We distributed them in English, Farsi and Arabic. And we would like to offer you to leave copies here and could promise to update it every year. We have been especially impressed by the incredible work the translators did every day in Pikpa. As many of us have experience in translating we have to say that this is very exhausting in a situation like I We also said farewell to many of the newcomers in the harbour of Mitilini – and they have been more than happy to be surrounded by you and us.

Nevertheless there have been also sad moments for us. We would like to share some thoughts about it with you as long as some of us are still on the island. We know very well that for most of us it is only a short period of time to be here, but some of us are anyway part of your structures and we would like to contribute to your great effort to support refugees on this gate to Europe. The sad moments are related to the situation that people will not only face a situation like in Pikpa, but they will be also confronted with coast guards, police and Frontex.

The coast guard entered daily Pikpa with the buses to take the people to the prison in Moria to register them, and in the same moment also to do a so called screening to sort out all those people they want to keep longer time in prison. Many of us know the Greek prisons. Some of us have been only recently freed from prisons on the Greek mainland after having spent many months there – without any other reason than being a refugee. We came here with one main aim: to overcome this system of prisons. We are more than sad to see that nothing has been learnt from the past and that after the closure of Pagani we see on this island a new prison for refugees.

Like many of you we are especially worried about the situation of having Pikpa used by the Coast Guard as a space to “store” newly arriving refugees there before they are brought into prison for registration – without medical treatment and for an unknown timeperiod, some already stayed for nearly one week here until the coast guard came to pick them. Like you we still say: Pikpa is an open and self organised welcome center and not a space for the police. Our impression was that the people understand very well what makes the difference.

We demand to do the registration without detention. The example of Pikpa shows that this is possible. We have seen the so called “Reception Centre” in Moria with our own eyes and we all know that it had nothing to do with reception but with imprisoning, degrading and selecting human beings. It would be only logical to just let the people freely go to any office for a simple registration to let them continue their journey to Athens as soon as possible. The few people who wish to apply for asylum already here on this island could be hosted much more easily and with fewer expenses. The new Pagani of the Troika has cost more than 3 Million of Euros and it obviously cannot be used because it was just forgotten that hundreds of people should be able to go to the toilet or take a shower while they are kept there. The place for registration cannot be in Moria. And it cannot be in Pikpa, because this is not the space of the Coast Guard the police or Frontex. The people would go out of their own interest to do the registration to board finally the ferries to Athens after a few hours of rest.

We hope that you will have the energy to enforce that Pikpa remains and will be established as a space of welcome – and to stop the police from taking over the space.

Pikpa is an important symbol of solidarity – and in the last ten days we have seen hundreds of newly arriving refugees who made an experience of being welcomed. We wish you and us together all strength and a long breath! You can always count on our support.

Welcome to Europe and Youth without Borders

August 2014

NT: Pagani is the name of the former detention center on the island of Lesbos, one of the most unworthy of Greece, closed in 2009 after multiple protests. The Troika is the association of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which imposes drastic austerity policies in Greece, and at the same time finance the confinement of exiles. Thus, the new detention center on the island of Lesbos, in Moria, is called Pagani Troika.

 

GREECE: INHUMANE TREATMENTS ON THE ISLAND OF LESVOS

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Witness of the inhumane treatments inflicted to exiles on the island of Lesbos, Youth without borders, Welcome to Europe and Christian peaemaker teams / Mediterranean Project adress an open letter to the authorities (see also http://lesvos.w2eu.net/).

You can dowload the letter here and read it bellow :

 

” Youth without Borders/Jugendliche ohne Grenzen Welcome to Europe w2eu
Christian Peacemaker Teams/Mediterranean Project

Letter of Protest against inhumane treatment of refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos

This letter goes at the same time to:

• the head of the Coast Guard on the island of Lesbos , Manolis MARGOMENOS

• den Polizeichef der Insel Lesbos, Taxiarxos Konstantinos LAGOS

• the mayor of the island of Lesbos, Dimitris VOUNATSOS

• Amnesty International

• Human Rights Watch

• Elena VALENCIANO (S & D, ES), chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament

• various media in Germany and Greece

Berlin/Hamburg/Mitilini in august 2014

Dear Madams and Sirs,

we witnessed recently how refugees were exposed after their arrival on the island of Lesbos by an inhumane treatment by the Greek coast guard.

With this letter we are protesting against this approach.

On Wednesday, 06th of August 2014, we planned, as part of our summer camp on the island of Lesbos from Youth Without Borders and Welcome-to-Europe (two anti-racist solidarity networks), to celebrate a party with and for refugees and migrants. We chose as the place for our party the PikPa, an empty children’s camp, which had been converted by activists from Lesbos with the consent of the mayor to a welcome-center for providing the newly arrived refugees a roof over their head, the first legal informations and food. As well on this wednesday refugees from Turkey had arrived and spent the time waiting to be registered by the Greek authorities, in Pikpa. Finally, a Coast Guard bus arrived and about 35 of the refugees should be picked up.

These people, who had crossed the night before the sea between Turkey and the island of Lesvos, – risking their lives in small crowded boat – deserve humane treatment – like anyone else. They are not guilty of any crime. The only “crime that they have committed” is to have fled from their countries by war, violence and hunger. The inhumane nature, in which the Greek coastguard treated the refugees, is the occasion of this letter.

One official of the Greek coastguard, who we know by name, had a handwritten list of names. He roared each of these names in a brusquely and military tone. Expecting that the people screamed at, immediately understand him and put their hands up, he directly became aggressive when this did

not happen. When they reacted to his screaming, they were commanded harshly to enter immediately to the waiting bus. There were 35 degree heat, the bus was designed for 10 people, the windows of the bus were closed. The procedure lasted for more than 30 minutes, during this time the people, who had already got in, had to stay in the unbearable heat in the bus. After almost everyone had entered, he urged them to back off the bus and stand outside. About the background of this approach he let everyone around in the dark. The same procedure was repeated twice: everyone was called, aggressively yelled to immediately enter the bus to wait there, sat in the unbearable heat, was asked to leave the bus, was called back, yelled aggressively etc …. Overall, this procedure lasted more than 2.5 hours. In the bus it was so unbearably hot, that some almost lost consciousness during repeated entry and exit.

On Monday, 11th of August 2014, another group of refugees in a rubber boat was picked up at 6 o’clock in the morning off the island of Lesbos by the Greek coast guard. One of the refugees aboard was seriously injured on his hand by a knife. Another refugee aboard the boat had tried – in panic facing a possible push-back by the Greek Coast Guard – to stab holes in the boat with a knife, hoping it might become unusable and the Coast Guard could only save the people and not pull them with their own boat back into Turkish waters – these push-back take place regularly. The now severely injured young man had intervened because he feared for his life and that of other passengers. He lost a lot of blood and asked in the coming hours again and again for help. He remained like the whole group throughout the day under the control of the Coast Guard, bleeding but without medical care. We found the injured at 9 o’clock at night, 15 hours had passed since the attack. He had a dirty shirt tied around his hand. The blood was dried and the shirt was sticking to the wounds. In the hospital, it was abnalysed that the tendons were cut at several fingers. Due to the complex injury of the young man could not be adequately treated in Mytileni. He was sent to a special clinic in Athens where he had to undergo a two-hour-microsurgical Operation. He was told he would never again be able to move his little finger completely.

The two situations described, the degrading treatment on the one occasion and the non-treatment of serious injuries are obviously no exception. Refugees tell us again and again of such and partly even worse experiences. Especially from the new EU-funded “Reception Center”, a prison near the village of Moria, nearly all released, who we met, reported from everyday degrading treatment by the Greek police. The members of the Greek Coast Guard have acted in both cases under the eyes of many witnesses. When nobody’s looking, the extent of racist violence, exposed to the refugees, is even greater.

With this letter we call to your humanity. The refugees have been on a long dangerous road and have a long journey also in front of them. They are human beings and must be treated like human beings. We appeal to you to respect human rights – especially for refugees.

The systematic violation of human rights must be stopped immediately. Refugees need protection and respect.

Nevroz Duman – Youth without Borders/ Jugendliche ohne Grenzen
Margret Geitner – Welcome to Europe
Sara Ballardini, Ramyar Hassani – Christian Peacemaker Teams/Mediterranean Project

JOG – http://www.jogspace.net; Welcome to Europe – http://www.w2eu.net; Christian Peacemaker Teams/Mediterranean Project – http://www.cpt.org

 

GREECE: UNACCOMPANIED MINORS TREATED AS CRIMINELS

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The Greek authorities mistreat daily exiles minors as adults. A Welcome to Europe and Youth without borders press release (see http://lesvos.w2eu.net/):

” Press Release: “What if it was your child?”

LESVOS: Unaccompanied minors kept in detention for days and transferred to detention in Amigdaleza with plastic handcuffs

On Tuesday 19th of August 2014 we became witnesses when the police transferred 36 unaccompanied minors from Moria “first reception” detention centre in Mytilene, Lesvos Island to the port and on the ferry heading to Athens as some of us were travelling the same day. The children and teenagers – some of which are merely older than 13 years – were handcuffed (with plastic wire straps) and guarded by dozens of uniformed officers and civil police. On the first sight we thought that we would be travelling with penal detainees being transferred to Chios prison. Only on the second sight we recognized minors we had met a few days ago in PIKPA and then again in Moria during our days of action on the island. They were not even allowed to take of the handcuffs when going to the toilette!

Unaccompanied children upon arrival to Greece are afraid to say the truth about their age. They are so afraid to suffer more days in detention that they often declare themselves as adults neglecting all the possible negative consequences this decision might have in long term. The boys who were transferred to Athens on the 18th said the truth about their young age. It seems like they are being punished for that. And even more, it seems that the newly arriving are deterred from registering as minors when observing what happens to the others or listening to their stories.

These days hundreds of refugees have arrived on Lesvos island. Moria detention centre has been filled – also with unaccompanied minors. Due to high numbers in arrivals adult refugees are being released within a few days, while the few unaccompanied minors who register as such have to stay behind the barbed wire and wait for a place in a specialised open reception centre.

The day before yesterday the 36 unaccompanied minors were brought like prisoners into the ferry. Yesterday they most probably arrived to Amigdaleza detention centre for minors in Athens. With the words “We don’t want food. We want freedom!” they had been peacefully protesting in Moria against detention. Some of them were locked up more than three weeks under miserable conditions. Now they are in a real prison for minors. Only one month ago (17.7.14) a 17-year-old Afghan out of despair self-injured himself in Moria detention centre. He was struggling for his freedom. Also elsewhere in Greece like in Samos island dozens of unaccompanied minors are held for weeks before they are send to open reception centres for children. Yet their voices are seldom heard as contact to the inside of the detention centres is not existent for the civil society.

· We demand the immediate release of all children and teenagers from Amigdaleza, Moria, Samos and any other detention centre! Freedom to all!

· We demand child appropriate treatment and protection instead of (re-)traumatising procedures! No police guards for children! No handcuffs on children! No children in prison!

· We demand for the opening of more specialised open camps for child refugees!

Welcome to Europe | Youth Without Borders

Email: contact@w2eu.info “

 

GREECE : JOURNEY BACK TO LESVOS

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Five years after the No Border Camp in Lesvos and the closing of the detention center at Pagani, a week of activities brought together activists and exiles who went through Greece from August 6 to 12 on the island. The highlight was a concert at the new detention center at Moria.

Read more on : http://lesvos.w2eu.net

https://goo.gl/maps/pJO4l

 

noborder.lesvos.09-pagani.detention.centre-20-08-2009-082009, Pagani detention center (photo : No Border camp 2009)

moria2013 : Moria detention center under construction with European Union funds (photo : Welcome 2 Europe)

GREECE: TWO YEARS OF “XENIOS ZEUS” OPERATION

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For two years, the police operation “Xenios Zeus” (meaning “Zeus hospital”) results in controls facies, arrests, investments in detention and various abuses in Athens.

On Okeanews website, an article (in French) reports on the operation and links provide further reading:

http://www.okeanews.fr/20140804-xenios-zeus-2-ans-ratissage-centre-dathenes

 

 

THE EUROPEAN UNION IN FRONT OF THE ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM THE BALKANS

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The number of people from the Western Balkans seeking asylum in countries of the European Union continues to increase, despite the concerted policies between the EU and the countries of departure, a sign that the situation is not improving there. Germany and France are leading this fight against “false asylum seekers“, “false” because politically we do not want them.

Articles (in French) on the blog Serbie Droits Humains :

http://serbie-droitshumains.blogspot.fr/2014/07/allemagne-et-france-renverront-les.html

and on the Courrier des Balkans website :

http://balkans.courriers.info/article25332.html

 

 

 

GREECE: DENIALS OF JUSTICE

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On April 18, 2013, a farmer from Nea Maolada and his guards shot with huntguns on Bangladeshis farm workers came to claim their unpaid wages, injuring twenty eight of them.

The tribunal innocent the farmer and one of the guards, while another security guard was convicted of “harming the physical integrity” and the third accomplice. This indulgence has led to strong protests in Greece.

January 20, 2014, featuring a Greek Coast Guard vessel push back to Turkey – which is illegal – a boat carrying twenty-seven exiles. Maneuvers of the vessel capsize the boat. Sixteen people manage to climb onto the ship, while three women and eight children drown without the coastguards give them assistance.

The case has been closed without further action by the Greek justice.

In French :

http://balkans.courriers.info/article25369.html

http://balkans.courriers.info/article25374.html

http://www.okeanews.fr/20140801-justice-aveugle-les-verdicts-racistes-en-grece

In English :

http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2014/08/01/greek-farmers-who-shot-28-workers-for-demanding-pay-walk-free-from-court-in-scandalous-racist-verdict/

http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2014/08/01/case-closed-in-greece-survivors-of-farmakonisi-shipwreck-decide-to-appeal-before-the-european-human-rights-court/

http://infomobile.w2eu.net/files/2014/08/Briefing-on-Farmakonisi_31-July.pdf

 

GREECE: A STATEWATCH REPORT ON LESVOS DETENTION CAMP

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May 11, 2014, a mission of Statewatch visit the detention center Moria, on the island of Lesbos, and reports on its observation. The center, still unfinished, has a capacity of 150 seats, but the parties to be built can raise its capacity of hundreds of places. It should function as a reception center before transfer after a few days people to Athens, but its foreseeable developments should allow retention over the long term. This are a way to welcome in Europe, according to European policies, people who seek protection.

The report (in English) can be downloaded here.

 

 

SERBIA: A REPORT ON ASYLUM

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Belgrade Center for Human Rights issued a report on asylum in Serbia, which detailes the different aspects of the question, from acces to the territory to the emplementation of the refugees rights, though legal frame, procedure and reception conditions : “Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia 2013″.

You can download the report (in English) here.

 

GREECE: A TEENAGER SELF-INJURES IN DETENTION

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On the island of Lesvos, the shelter for unaccompanied foreign minors closed for lack of funds. By cons, a detention center, including a part  for first reception and identification and a part for retention before the expulsion, was built and opened by European funding. Minors are locked until a place in a reception center for minors elsewhere in Greece is available. One of them, aged 17, self-injured in protest against his imprisonment.

http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2014/07/18/17-year-old-afghan-self-injured-himself-to-protest-detention-in-lesvos/

Here the press release of Welcome to Europe and the Village of all together (Lesvos):

http://lesvos.w2eu.net/2014/07/21/press-release-unaccompanied-minor-severely-self-injured-himself-in-moria-first-reception-detention-centre-in-lesvos/

Press Release: Unaccompanied minor severely self-injured himself in Moria “first reception” detention centre in Lesvos
PRESS RELEASE 21.07.14 Lesvos

On 17/7/2014 a 17-year-old Afghan who had been detained for many days in Moria awaiting his transfer to a special reception centre for minors cut his arms in an act of despair and protest as he could not stand anymore being closed up for many days and under such conditions. He was transferred to the psychiatry department of the local hospital.

In Greece there are 10 reception centres for unaccompanied minors with about 330 places in total that need to cover the needs of thousands. At the same time that a vast number of reception places are lacking many minors fear long detention upon arrival in Greece in so called First Reception Camps (detention centres) if they register with their real age and register themselves as adults. The background: Unaccompanied minors arriving in first reception centres have to undergo a number of medical examinations and then wait for a place in one of the overcrowded reception centres in order to be released. The detention duration varies and can reach one month or more months, while delays depend on the crowdedness in the reception facilities.

As a consequence hundreds of unaccompanied minors register as adults. They are being transferred to Pre-removal Detention Centres at the mainland, such as Amigdaleza, Corinth, Komotini, Xanthi, Fylakio or Drama / Parenesti where legal aid is not existing. When they realise that they end up facing 18 months detention or more due to their changed age all of them try to find ways to proof that they are minors.

Anyhow, if age-assesment has taken place already in First Reception Detention it is unlikely if not impossible (without the help of a
lawyer) the authorities will approve a second age-assesment later. Age-assesment procedures have been recently defined in a Ministerial
Decision for First Reception but not for Pre-Removal Detention Centres. As a result the procedures vary in the different places and more than that the ways and methods carried out are highly questionable. For this reason among others many unaccompanied minors end up in 18 month detention.

We demand for the immediate creation of sufficient special reception centres for unaccompanied minors. In this frame the Reception Centre for Unaccompanied Minors in Agiassos, Lesvos, which was closed earlier this year despite the huge need should be re-opened with the necessary funding to allow for its functioning.

And we demand for the immediate release of all unaccompanied minors in first reception detention centres, pre-removal centres or any other form of detention. As provided for in the Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in dealing with Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum from UNHCR (1997) “(T)he child should be given the benefit of the doubt if the exact age is uncertain” and “the main guiding principle in any child care and protection action is the principle of the ‘best interest of the child’”.

Village of all together
Welcome to Europe “

 

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