Human Rights Watch released a report today in relation to the deportations that have taken place from Greece to Turkey, as part of the EU/Turkey deal – of which Ireland has contributed €22million.
The report paid particular attention to Chios island where the UN claimed 13 people – 11 people from Afghanistan, and two people from the Democratic Republic of Congo – were wrongly deported on April 4.
The report states:
In visits to the VIAL detention center on Chios on April 7 and 8, Human Rights Watch spoke with 12 friends and one relative of 19 Afghans who were deported from Chios on April 4.
Based on those interviews and text messages exchanged between those interviewed and the deportees, Human Rights Watch documented an array of irregularities and violations.
The authorities did not inform people that they were going to be deported, did not tell them where they were being taken, and did not allow some of them to take their personal possessions.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, thirteen of those deported from Chios had expressed a desire to seek asylum in Greece, and that number could be higher,
The Greek authorities appear to have hurried the forced returns from Chios, and the 136 other deportations that day from the nearby island of Lesbos, to meet a publicized deadline for the start of returns under the ill-conceived EU-Turkey deal that went into effect on March 20, 2016.
That deal allows the return of asylum seekers to Turkey on the presumption that Turkey is safe for asylum seekers and refugees.
…The deportations from Chios began around midday on April 3, when Greek police at the VIAL detention facility took dozens of people to the main building [Tabakika] where police and Frontex register new arrivals, and where the Greek asylum service is located.
The authorities separated the 66 people they had identified for return, witnesses said. The 12 friends and one relative of the 19 deportees, who did not want their names published, told Human Rights Watch that the police had called people on the false pretext that they were to be registered, including for asylum.
“Salim,” a 24-year-old man from Afghanistan, said the police took three of his Afghan friends, Ilias Haqjo, Mohammad, and Reza (full names unknown), all between 20 and 25 years old, without their possessions.
“They came here and told them they have to go to register,” he said. “They left happy and when they came out the police were waiting for them…. If the guys knew they were going to be deported, they would have taken their bags, their papers, their money.”
…On the other side, in Dikili, Turkey, the authorities hung blue tarps on the fence around the registration tents to block journalists and human rights monitors from contacting the deportees. The police commander at the area denied a Human Rights Watch request to access the site.
The deportees were then loaded onto buses and driven away. Police at the site told Human Rights Watch that they were headed to Kirklareli, near Edirne, and the media subsequently reported that the people deported from Greece were being held at the Pehlivankoy removal center in that town.
The deportees on the buses in Turkey, however, seemed not to know where exactly they were going. “Now we’re in the bus, they’re taking us to a camp,” Mohsen Ahmadi wrote his friend “Amir” around 3 p.m. “Why there?” “Amir” asked. “I don’t know, the camp is near Istanbul,” Ahmadi replied.
“When you arrive, let us know,” “Amir” wrote. “OK,” Ahmadi wrote back at 8:28 p.m., but that was the last message that “Amir” received.
…Human Rights Watch collected the phone numbers of four of the people who were deported from Chios on April 4. As of April 18, none of them had replied to messages on Viber, the application they had been using. When called, three of the phones appeared to be shut off and one of the numbers was not working.
The legal basis of confiscating phones from people being deported, if any, remains unclear. Given that asylum seekers and migrants rely on their phones to stay informed and to keep in touch with family, such measures appear unnecessary and cruel, as well as a violation of the individuals’ personal property rights, Human Rights Watch said.
The amount of powdered baby milk each infant in Vial allegedly gets every day
Further to the picture (above) circulating on social media last Thursday…
Patrick Kingsley, of The Guardian, reports:
Babies detained in Greece under the terms of the EU-Turkey migration deal are being denied access to adequate supplies of milk formula, refugees and aid workers have alleged.
Approximately 25 babies under the age of six months, whose mothers are unable to breastfeed, are being given roughly 100ml of milk formula just once a day on the island of Chios, according to photographs sent by detained refugees and testimonies provided by phone.
… A 35-year-old Afghan construction manager, detained in a detention centre on Chios since 21 March, said he had been forced to mix water with bread to stop his five-month-old daughter going hungry.
The man, who said he worked as a contractor for the British army in Afghanistan but asked not to named for fear of victimisation, said: “They are only giving us half a cup of milk for all 24 hours – but that’s not enough. There’s no more milk for lunch or dinner or during the night. This is a big problem. There are maybe 24 or 25 babies under six months.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council, which maintains a presence on Chios, confirmed the claim and said the number of infant children may even be higher. “It’s clear that baby milk [formula] is not being routinely distributed,” said Dan Tyler, the NRC’s protection and advocacy officer on Chios. “I did a series of meetings with refugees last week, and mothers brought up [the issue of] baby milk all the time.
You’ll recall how a working group set up by the Department of Justice last August to look at reforming the direct provision system – and from which the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council Sue Conlan resigned in March – is due to deliver its report at the end of this month.
This morning, Kitty Holland, in the Irish Times, reports:
“The report will recommend these [asylees’ welfare payments] be increased to €38.74 per week for adults and €29.80 for children. This would bring the rates into line with supplementary welfare allowance rates when the fact asylum seekers in direct provision are provided with food and accommodation is taken into account.”
Readers may recall in September 2014, the RTÉ Radio One journalist, Brian O’Connell, did a series of interviews with female asylum seekers – some teenagers – who talked about engaging in prostitution in order to supplement their weekly stipend of €19.10/€9.60 a week.
After the interviews Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she’d be seeking a report on this specific matter stating: ‘I will certainly be asking for a report and I would ask that anyone with information to make it available to the Gardaí.’
Was that specific report ever carried out? Or was it subsumed into this working group report?”
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has released a report into her investigation of a complaint made by a female asylum seeking mother in relation to the non-payment of supplementary welfare allowance by the HSE.
The story goes back to 2007 when Ms Kileni (not her real name) came to Ireland with her two daughters as asylum seekers, after her husband was murdered in South Africa.
They were placed in Direct Provision accommodation in Mayo. Their Direct Provision accommodation was a four-bedroomed house.
Ms Kileni and her daughters shared one bedroom while three other families shared the three other bedrooms.
In August 2008, they left the accommodation to live with a friend in Dublin because the medical services she needed for her daughter, whose mental health was deteriorating, were only available in Dublin.
The 15-year-old girl had attempted suicide at the centre and was subsequently hospitalised. After she was discharged, she was placed in foster care on a voluntary basis.
In November 2008, Ms Kileni applied for Supplementary Welfare Allowance but her application was refused. (SWA consists of a basic payment and/or a supplement to cover certain expenses a person may not be able to meet. The main purpose of the allowance is to guarantee a standard basic minimum income).
Ms Kileni appealed the decision to the HSE, but was again refused.
She then appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, which prompted an oral hearing in June 2009.
In December 2009, the Appeals Officer allowed Ms Kileni’s appeal and the officer issued a statement on her decision which gave details of the exceptional medical and social circumstances of the case.
But, the relevant Superintendent Community Welfare Officer (who would have paid out the supplementary welfare allowance) queried the outcome.
Despite the responses from the Appeals Officer confirming her decision, and despite the fact Ms Kileni was not living in Direct Provision accommodation, the welfare officer would only pay Ms Kileni the rate of €19.10 per week for herself and €9.60 per week for the daughter then living with her – rates payable to asylum seekers living in Direct Provision.
Ms Kileni, tried to resolve the matter with the HSE before taking her complaint to the Ombudsman but was unsuccessful.
Ms O’Reilly added:
“An obvious consequence was extreme impoverishment for both Ms Kileni and her eldest daughter (a Leaving Certificate student at the time). Another, far-reaching consequence was that the failure to provide the family with an income meant it was not possible for Ms. Kileni’s daughter, who was in foster care, to be re-united with her family.
This was an outcome which the HSE social workers involved in the girl’s care had anticipated as a result of the Appeals Officer’s decision to award the full-rate SWA to Ms Kileni. The failure to implement the Appeals Officer’s decision, and the emotional and financial instability for the family which resulted from that failure, upset these plans.”
The HSE accepted Ms O’Reilly’s findings and agreed to pay the woman arrears of €11,882, and a “time and trouble” payment of €3,000.
These arrears were paid to Ms Kileni in January 2011
– 26 months after her SWA application,
– 13 months after the success of her appeal, and
– nine months after she had complained to the Ombudsman.
On May 5, the Sunday Independent reported how the original allegations made by the penalty points’ whistleblowers included details that some motorists, who were involved in fatal accidents, had penalty points quashed both before and after the fatal accidents.
However, today’s report into the allegations have found that this was not the case.
“The garda report into the quashing of penalty points has found that a number of officers did not follow proper procedures and guidelines.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has confirmed that penalty points were not cancelled for motorists who had previously been involved in fatal road traffic incidents.”
“The report is due to be published by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter this afternoon.”
“Those who had penalty points cancelled, and the gardaí involved, will not be identified.”
“The report also found no evidence of garda corruption or widespread abuse of garda discretion and concluded that no gardaí gained financially or otherwise because of their actions.”
“Disciplinary proceedings are being taken against a small number of superintendents and inspectors.”
The husband of Savita Halappanavar is not satisfied with the conclusions of the final draft HSE report into her death, his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell has said.
The final draft report of the investigation team chaired by Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George’s Hospital, University of London, was given to Praveen Halappanavar on Friday.
Mr O’Donnell said his client had instructed him to seek a meeting with Prof Arulkumaran later this week to outline his concerns.
“It’s a report trying to establish what happened without naming anybody. So from Praveen’s point of view he wants to find out why this happened, why she was not treated, why she did not get treated.”
“The report was given to Gerard O’Donnell this morning by Tony Canavan, the chief operating officer of the HSE’s Galway-Roscommon Hospital Group. Praveen Halappanavar was not present as he has declined the HSE’s request to receive the report personally from the executive’s representative. Mr Halappanavar and his solicitor will review the report and decide if they wish to make any observations on it to the HSE review ream, before the final report is published.”