Graphics from the UNHCR showing the capacity and occupancy rates at sites for refugees across Greece (top) and the number of people known to have died or gone missing this year, as of August 31, in comparison to 2015
According to the latest figures from the UNHCR, there are now59,569 refugees and migrants on Greek territory.
The figures also show the following numbers of people on the islands versus the capacity of the facilities available.
Lesbos: 5,388 people versus facilities with a capacity for 3,500.
Chios: 3,316 people versus facilities with a capacity for 1,100.
Samos: 1,351 people versus facilities with a capacity for 850.
Ekathimerini, a daily Greek newspaper which is sold with the International Herald Tribune, in Greece reports:
A year after the European Union launched its refugee sharing plan so member countries could help overwhelmed Greece and Italy less than five percent of the migrants have been relocated.
European Commission figures show that only 4,473 asylum seekers were relocated as of September 1.
The plan is a cornerstone of the EU’s strategy to deal with more than one million people who entered Europe last year in search of sanctuary or jobs. It commits countries to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece, Italy or any other member state deemed unable to cope by September 2017.
EU Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Monday that, despite the slow pace, “what we are doing is not insignificant.”
BBC News producer Will Vernon tweets from Lesbos island, Greece where 4,345 people are currently being detained.
Last night at the detention centre in Moria, on Lesbos Island:
Andrew Connolly, for Raw News, reported:
A mass riot has broken out between refugees and police inside the Moria detention centre on the Greek island of Lesbos during the night of April 26.
On Tuesday afternoon, thick, black plumes of smoke could been seen floating above the facility and Raw News witnessed numerous refugees being carried out injured and suffering from tear gas inhalation.
NGO sources inside confirmed that [the] riot started in the wing which detains unaccompanied children, which then intensified after police beat a child, and subsequently used tear gas.
You may recall a previous post in which Dublin-based filmmakers Conor Maguire and Paul Webster appealed for support as they prepared to travel to Greece and create a documentary.
Further to this…
Last month Paul Webster and I spent two weeks speaking with residents, volunteers and refugees on the island of Lesvos, Greece. We wanted to understand what was happening on the island and any preconceived notions we had of the crisis were quickly challenged by what we saw and heard. In this trailer you will hear local resident Eric Kempson quantify the death toll in the Aegean Sea and describe the international response as we travel along the road leading to the ‘life-jacket mountain’ near the northern town of Molyvos.
Outside Camp Moria on Lesbos island, Greece where around 3,500 people are currently being detained – ahead of Pope Francis’ visit on Saturday.
Meanwhile, at the weekend, The Observer reported:
The purpose of the pontiff’s visit to the Aegean [on Saturday, April 16] is to see the migrant emergency up close, and the authorities are keen that no blinkers are involved. This time, the island on the frontline of the biggest movement of people in modern times intends to show it as it is.
“We won’t be changing anything,” says mayor Spyros Galinos when asked if municipal workers will at least be cleaning up the graffiti on the camp’s walls. “His visit has huge symbolism. It is what we have wanted, what we have seen in our sleep, what we have dreamed of for years.”
Moria detention centre on Lesbos island this morning
You may recall yesterday’s deportation of 202 migrants from Lesbos and Chios islands in Greece to Turkey, with the assistance of 180 Frontex officers.
The deportations are a part of the €3billion EU/Turkey deal, of which Ireland is contributing €22million.
Last week the Department of Justice announced it will send three case workers from the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), and two members of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal to the Greek islands.
The department said it is also considering a request from Frontex for border guards to assist them with the deportations – even though Ireland is not a member of Frontex.
Last night on RTÉ One’s Drivetime, Lesbos-based journalist Andrew Connolly spoke with Mary Wilson.
Mr Connolly said:
“I’ve just been at the Moria detention centre talking to Pakistanis… based on my conversations with some of them, it’s very, I find it difficult to believe that some of the deportees this morning might have even understood the concept of asylum.
Again it’s being claimed by the Greek authorities and the European Asylum Office and also the UNHCR they seem to be satisfied that everyone was told their rights but they didn’t claim asylum in Greece.”
Further to this, Patrick Kingsley, in The Guardian reports this afternoon that the UN has told how 13 of the 202 deported yesterday may not have been given the opportunity to seek asylum before they were deported – as police officers “forgot”.
Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to seek asylum. Mr Kingsley reports:
Some of the first people to be deported from Greece under the terms of the EU-Turkey migration deal may not have been given the chance to claim for asylum, the UN refugee agency has said.
Police “forgot” to process the asylum claims of 13 of the 202 asylum seekers sent back to Turkey on Monday, the first day the deal was put into practice, according to Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR’s Europe bureau.
… Cochetel said on Tuesday that 13 Afghans and Congolese asylum seekers – who reached the Greek island of Chios after 20 March, and who were deported back to Turkey on Monday – were not allowed to formally register their asylum claims, due to administrative chaos on the island.
… Cochetel told the Guardian: “For four days after the 20th, the Greek police did not register any intention to seek asylum as they were no prepared [or] equipped for this, so we started providing forms to people who had declared their intention to seek asylum.”
“The police received most of the people with these forms and … forgot some apparently. It is more a mistake than anything else, we hope.”
…On Monday, more asylum seekers landed in Greece from Turkey (228) than were deported in the opposite direction (202).
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew will visit Greek island Lesbos next week #refugees
Deportations from Greece to Turkey by Frontex officials under way this morning
The deportations under the EU/Turkey deal in relation to refugees began this morning with boats leaving the island of Lesbos and Chios for Turkey.
The Guardian reports:
Two boats carrying the first migrants to be deported from Greece to Turkey under an EU deal with Ankara have arrived in the Turkish port of Dikili.
…Officials from the EU border agency Frontex said the boats, which departed from Lesbos, were carrying 131 deportees, mostly Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Moroccans who were already being deported to Turkey before the deal’s creation. This means Monday’s deportations are not a true test of whether the agreement can stop the flow of mainly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis to Greece.
…Eva Moncure, a Frontex spokeswoman, said there were no children on the first two boats. Two Syrians were onboard, including a woman who had volunteered to return.
The deportations on Lebsos were calmly carried out at dawn, several hours ahead of schedule… Disembarkation was delayed while officials erected a white tarpaulin on the boat to block the media’s view.
…A Turkish catamaran was also transporting refugees from Chios, a Greek island near Lesbos, on Monday morning. Local TV reported that 60 migrants and refugees were on board. Volunteers on the island alleged that they saw police beating deportees at the quay.
…Anas al-Bakhr, a Syrian engineer from Homs who is among those stuck on Chios, said police marked his arrival date as 20 March – when the deal came into force – even though he arrived the day before.
“They said the computers were broken that day,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Dikili, Turkey…
“EU started biggest official human trafficking in human history!” Turkish campaigners protest today’s deportations pic.twitter.com/KYURPo0ZAC
A video, by journalist Oscar Webb, shows how things have been unfolding at Camp Moria on Lesbos island since last Sunday.
Camp Moria, near Mytilene, was where refugees arriving on the island went to register before taking a ferry to Athens.
Now it is used as a detention centre, following the EU-Turkey deal last week. Any refugees who will arrive on the Greek islands, or who have arrived since Sunday, are supposed to be sent back to Turkey.
However, it’s still unclear how this will happen.
In addition, the MSF and the UNHCR have stopped its operations at the centres across the islands.
Patrick Kingsley, in The Guardian, writes:
A triple blow has been dealt to the integrity of the EU-Turkey migration deal after two leading aid groups refused to work with Brussels on its implementation, and a senior Greek official said nobody knew how the agreement was supposed to work.
The UN refugee agency said it was suspending most of its activities in refugee centres on the Greek islands because they were now being used as detention facilities for people due to be sent back to Turkey.
UNHCR was later joined by Médecins Sans Frontières, which said it did not want to be involved in the blanket expulsion of refugees because it contravened international law.
The UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said: “UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention. We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.”
In a separate and stronger statement, Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF’s head of mission in Greece, said: “We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalised for a mass expulsion operation and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”
…The deputy mayor of Lesbos, the island where most migrants land, said no Greek official knew exactly how the deportation process would work, nor what to do with the refugees while they waited.
When asked by the Guardian if he had received any concrete instructions about how refugees would be processed and returned to Turkey, Giorgos Kazanos said: “No, not yet.”
“Nobody knows. Every five minutes, the orders change. So who knows. Maybe God knows. If you have any communication with God, you can ask him.”
Last October Caoimhe Butterly reported on working with refugees in Greece, Serbia, Croatia and Calais and the work she planned to do – specifically bringing a medical team out to Lesbos to help the people arriving on the island from Turkey.
Further to this, Caoimhe writes:
“For the past weeks, I’ve been editing a film of sorts – or vignettes- of those seeking refuge and lives of less precariousness. While in Lesvos the last time, we (myself and the great compañero Marcelo Biglia) interviewed folks from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and some of those working in solidarity with them – lifeguards with Proactiva, self-organised camps and places of respite.
…Our emphasis was on not contributing any further to an often reductionist framing of those on the move – one that emphasises vulnerability but not strength, endurance, dignity and the fragile, precious hope of being able to re-build lives of safety and meaning.”
Boats of refugees approaching Lesbos island and filmmaker Conor Maguire
Conor Maguire and Paul Webster are two freelance filmmakers based in Dublin.
In 2015, over 500,000 refugees have made their way to Lesbos island from Turkey via overloaded inflatable rafts. This represents 59% of all refugees who made their way to Greece last year. Projections are that refugee numbers making the dangerous journey across the Aegean Sea could double this year.
Lesvos is a tiny community that has found itself at the centre of a vortex: the greatest migration of people since World War Two. We wish to travel to Lesvos in March as a two-person crew to document the situation.
Against the backdrop of international stalemate, clashing ideologies, technocratic power plays, economic ruin and a war that could spark something terrifyingly large, people are showing the best and worst of humanity on one small island.
We wish to speak with volunteer and professional aid workers, local residents, on-site journalists and, most importantly, refugees to document this critical juncture in European history.
We are launching this campaign to raise €3,000 to cover only the most basic aspects of our work: transport, accommodation, insurance and food. Everything else will be covered by us.
Our aim is to create a short documentary that is as shareable and mobile as possible. We think this is an important story to cover in an unfiltered way, without politics or ideology. We hope you think so too and help make this production viable.
Those who wish can donate to Conor and Paul’s fund here