Today’s Irish Times
Bewildered Student writes:
Advertising for people to carry out deportations?
— Fred Abrahams (@fredabrahams) April 19, 2016
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.
Previously: Meanwhile, On Chios
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.
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
— Vasilis Dalianis (@VasilisDalianis) April 5, 2016
— Julián Miglierini (@julianmig) April 5, 2016
Listen back to Drivetime interview in full here
Pic: Andrew Connolly
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
— Patrick Kingsley (@PatrickKingsley) April 4, 2016
— Stelios Bouras (@SteliosBouras1) April 4, 2016
Previously: Return To Sender
Passport Control at Dublin Airport
Last month, on December 15, the Minister for Justice Francis Fitzgerald told the Dáil the following number of people, of certain nationalities, were refused permission to enter Ireland last year – and subsequently deported: Syrian 59; Afghan 139; Eritrean 11; and Iranian 44.
In addition, Ms Fitzgerald stated:
“I would advise the Deputy [Padraig Mac Lochlainn] that persons refused leave to land and who are subsequently removed from the State are returned to their point of embarkation, which in most cases is within the EU. I would point out in relation to the countries concerned that no commercial direct flights to Ireland are available from these countries.”
Further to this, the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council Sue Conlan has released a statement this evening, saying:
“It is unfortunate that the State refuses leave to land to nationals of these countries during the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, 75% of Syrians and Eritreans require international protection, which suggests that the State potentially turned away some 50 refugees from its borders last year. Nationals of Afghanistan and Iran are also likely to be fleeing persecution. We regret that they were refused leave to land and not admitted to the State to have their protection needs assessed.”
“People are refused leave to land in closed rooms in airports. They are refused leave to land in circumstances where they have no access to lawyers or legal information, no clarity around their rights. An estimated 3,000 people [in total] were refused leave to land in Ireland last year, about the same number who applied for asylum. The Irish Refugee Council spoke with a very small number of those. What we heard concerns us. We call on the Minister to release the full details of refusals of leave to land not only of these nationalities but of all nationalities and to provide greater clarity around the process.”
Previously: Pawns In The Game
A young boy at an anti-deportation protest in Dublin in 2011
In a further instalment of her series on deportation in the Irish Times, journalist Lorna Siggins this morning writes about a charter flight which flew out of Dublin Airport on December 15, 2010, with 14 Nigerian men, eight Nigerian women, 12 Nigerian children and one child who was born in Ireland.
After leaving Dublin, the plane stopped in Athens where it was to collect 24 deportees from Greece and Austria before continuing to Lagos. However, 14 hours after it landed in Athens, it returned to Dublin with the deportees.
Ms Siggins reports that, after collecting testimonies from some of the asylum seekers who were on that flight, the Irish Refugee Council found officers of the Garda National Immigration Bureau had “conducted themselves in a manner which led to the inhumane and degrading treatment of some of those on the flight, contrary to article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.
From Ms Siggins’ report:
“A woman who was believed to have resisted her removal was handcuffed and appeared to the other deportees to be in a sedated state before being taken on the flight with her four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. She was still in her night clothes, and one of her children was in pyjamas, with no jacket, say witnesses.”
“They described how four officers lifted the woman into the plane, accompanied by her bewildered and distressed small children. They described how she was placed in a seat, still handcuffed, and how restraints were secured around her chest and legs.”
“The other passengers on the Boeing 767-300, including a man on crutches, were told they could not move from their seats without the permission of a GNIB officer. When using the toilet, they were told they could not close the door. One officer, visibly holding handcuffs according to several of the deportees, walked up and down the plane.”
“…For two hours, the plane sat on the runway [in Athens], and the passengers, including the children, were prevented from using toilets. One five-year-old boy among the group of Irish deportees wet himself. Two older boys, aged 11 and 13, were told to urinate into water bottles while GNIB officers looked on, according to the IRC testimonies. “
Previously: Banishing Point