Tag Archives: lesbos

Trinity College Dublin graduate Sean Binder; Hundreds of thousands of lifejackets in a makeshift dump outside Eftalou, northern Lesbos in December 2015

Further to the arrest and detention of Sean Binder, 24, from Togher in Cork – who was working as a volunteer with asylum seekers on the island of Lesbos in Greece – last August…

The Guardian reports:

“After 107 days of incarceration, Sarah Mardini – the Syrian human rights worker who saved 18 refugees in 2015 by swimming their waterlogged dinghy to the shores of Lesbos with her Olympian sister – has been freed from Greece’s toughest jail.

The 23-year-old was released late on Wednesday from the high-security Koryallos prison in Athens, where she was being held in pre-trial detention on charges of people-smuggling.

She was allowed to walk free after her lawyers posted €5,000 (£4,450) in bail.

Sean Binder, a 24-year-old volunteer born in Germany and resident in Ireland, was also freed from custody in Chios [a separate island] along with two others from the NGO for which both had worked.

Mardini and Binder had faced prison sentences of up to 25 years after being accused of facilitating people-smuggling through membership of a criminal organisation. Charges of espionage and money laundering were also levelled at the activists.

Both had been volunteering in search and rescue operations with the now-defunct Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI), an NGO based on Lesbos.

…But [Zaccharias Kesses, the lawyer heading the aid workers’ legal team in Athens] said a trial was still likely to take place. “The charges may be amended but I think it very unlikely that the trial will be dropped. There is vast pressure in local society against NGOs, who are perceived to be pull factors for refugees at a time when few want them.”

Syrian aid worker who swam refugees to safety freed from Greek jail (The Guardian)

Related: Sean Binder’s Arrest Represents the Criminalisation of Compassion (University Times)

Pic: University Times

The Guardian writes:

Rania Mustafa Ali, 20, filmed her journey [in 2016] from the ruins of Kobane in Syria to Austria. She is cheated by smugglers, teargassed and beaten at the Macedonian border. She risks drowning in the Mediterranean, travelling in a boat meant to hold 15 people but stuffed with 52. Her footage shows what many refugees face on their perilous journey to Europe.

Escape From Syria was produced and directed by Anders Hammer

Escape From Syria (The Guardian)

Previously: When People Are No Longer Considered People

Meanwhile At The Greece/FYROM Border

UPDATE:

RTE reports:

The Department of Justice has said a further 440 refugees have been cleared to travel from Greece to Ireland, bringing the total to 900.

The Government pledged to take in a total of 4,000 refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

However, just half of that number will have arrived by the end of the year.

Ireland has taken in 1,244 refugees to date from countries such as Syria since the programme was announced in 2015.

There are two separate schemes under which refugees come to Ireland.

Under what is known as the resettlement programme, the Government has committed to taking in 1,040 people from Lebanon.

In total, 785 people have arrived so far and the Government says the remaining 255 will arrive by the end of the year.

440 refugees cleared to travel to Ireland from Greece (RTE)

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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 now 59,569 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.”

Small percentage of Europe’s migrants relocated (Ekathimerini)

BBC News producer Will Vernon tweets from Lesbos island, Greece where 4,345 people are currently being detained.

Meanwhile…

Last night at the detention centre in Moria, on Lesbos Island:

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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.

Riots break out at Moria refugee camp in Lesvos Island (Raw News, includes video)

Previously: ‘A Beautiful Thing To Do’

Pic: Emma Hett

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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…

Conor writes:

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.

Borderland: A Short Documentary (Facebook)

Previously: Documenting Lesbos

 

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Earlier today.

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.”

Lesbos hopes pope’s visit will shine light on island’s refugee role (Helena Smith, The Observer)

Pic: Lars Scholtyssyk

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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).

Meanwhile…

UPATE:

Listen back to Drivetime interview in full here

Greece may have deported asylum seekers by mistake, says UN (Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian)

Pic: Andrew Connolly

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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…

UPDATE:

First boats returning migrants and refugees from Greece arrive in Turkey (The Guardian)

Previously: Return To Sender

Pic: AA

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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.”

VIDEO: Refugees detained on Lesbos say they will jump in sea if deported (Oscar Webb, Middle East Eye)

Refugee crisis: key aid agencies refuse any role in ‘mass expulsion’ (Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian)

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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.”

Caoimhe Butterly

Previously: Giving Berth