Lesvos and Chios: volunteers helping refugees arrested by police and Frontex, involvement of the International Rescue Committee

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Mark.
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Feb 12 2016 11:47
Damomac wrote:
Safe corridors through the Nato patrols which the Syriza/Anel government has approved? https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos/status/698078237575028736
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MariennaPW
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Feb 12 2016 12:14

Mark, thank you so much for your diligent posting on this thread. Really excellent and vital work. I have poured through every single entry and am half way through writing an article on the subject, while liasing with volunteers on the ground. Will post here once it's published, and would welcome any more info/comment from you or anyone else in the meantime. You can check out some of my work from Greece here:
http://mariennapw.com/category/articles/refugee-crisis/

Mark.
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Feb 13 2016 11:47

Thanks Mya, I've sent you a pm. I'll look forward to reading your article. As I'm only following events from the UK I probably don't have so much to add to what's already on the thread. One thing I haven't mentioned though is the Golden Dawn mobilisation against the building of the hotspot in Kos, and against the planned camps in Athens and Thessaloniki. On Kos this also reflects the anti-refugee attitudes of the mayor, who is reportedly planning to hold a local referendum on the issue. One difference between Kos and the other islands (Rhodes is the only other one) is that it still has a Muslim minority that escaped the 1923 population exchange because of the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese. I've wondered if there's a link here between local issues and anti-refugee feeling. I'm not sure about this though and I could be on the wrong track. In any case the possibility of an ugly racist response is always there. If, as seems likely, hundreds of thousands of refugees are left stranded in Greece as the borders close then this could become a real issue.

Edit: Statement on the situation in Kos from Kos Solidarity (in Greek)

Mark.
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Feb 12 2016 17:53

It's off topic but farmers are protesting against changes to the pension system today with a camp in Syntagma and clashes with the MAT. Here's a picture of a tractor outside the Vouli with flags of Marinos Antypas.

Mark.
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Feb 12 2016 18:09

Seizure of refugees' documents by Macedonian authorities

Mark.
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Feb 12 2016 18:17

New Greek law to include detention regime in ‘hotspots’

Mark.
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Feb 12 2016 19:25

Zoe Gardner - Stepping in to plug the gaps: the role of volunteers in the European humanitarian crisis

Mark.
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Feb 12 2016 19:35

‘We know what it means to be a refugee,’ say Lesvos grandmothers

Mark.
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Feb 12 2016 23:00

hands on: volunteering with the refugee crisis - blog from a volunteer at Moria

Mark.
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Feb 14 2016 10:01
Quote:
NATO has launched naval patrols in the Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece ... The war ships will be backed by planes monitoring the flow of people trying to reach Greece by crossing the Aegean sea. According to NATO statements, the operation involves the systematic deportation of refugees found at sea back to Turkey. British defense minister Michael Fallon confirmed: “They will not be taken back to Greece. The aim of the group is to have them taken back to Turkey. That is the crucial difference,” Fallon said. “This is the first time we have seen a group tasked with returning migrants. That has not happened before. So that is quite an important development.”

source

Mark.
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Feb 15 2016 00:32

Mouzalas posing for photos on Lesvos in a life jacket.

Anthony Verias wrote:
"We live in an age where citizens find solutions while politicians make symbolic protests"
https://twitter.com/mpaountolino/status/698952303756361733
Mark.
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Feb 15 2016 01:38

8 σημεία για τη Λέσβο ...και το προσφυγικό ζήτημα

Mark.
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Feb 15 2016 11:02

Alarm Phone - Open Letter: Against sensationalist and undignified practices by volunteers and journalists

Mark.
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Feb 16 2016 11:16
No Borders wrote:

#Leros Pikpa shelter for #refugeesGr in danger to close so hotspot opens. The most interesting story for a journalist to search

Though solidarity invested huge amounts (90.000) on creating a shelter at #Leros & give it to state as registration center...

... state prefers to turn into a hot spot an area with black history; A psychiatric asylum known for human rights violations...

...where 200 patients are still detained. So that #refugeesGr arriving, are away from solidarity or sight. Behind fences. All for profits.

Case of #Leros is no1 example of militarization of #RefugeeCrisis . + solidarity faced as problem 4those who make profits out of #refugeesGr

More about Pikpa here

The hot spots are supposed to up and running this week

The situation on Samos

Mark.
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Feb 16 2016 12:08

Criminalising solidarity: when helping refugees becomes a risk

Quote:

The influx of refugees to the shores of Greek islands has generally been met with overwhelming support from locals, eager to provide much needed aid to the refugees. However, on the island of Lesbos, volunteers have seen their compassion met with resistance, even to the point of seeing their efforts criminalised in a bid to deter them.

In Greece in 2015, and especially in the North Aegean, we saw an amazing wave of solidarity among Greeks and foreigners working together to help to manage the huge wave of refugees arriving on the shores. In recent days in the Greek islands we are seeing things change as paranoia emerges along with cries to “control” the volunteers and the NGOs. This common sentiment, which is echoed throughout the European Union, is expressed in headlines reading: “Our Islands Are an Unfenced Vineyard” and “Volunteers and NGOs Roaming Free.”

In Molivos-Petra, the touristic heart of the island and also the place where the majority of the refugees are arriving, groups of business people and other individuals have demanded that the Municipal Council of the island forbid any activities to help the refugees “within the settled areas” of the island. The problem is that boats will continue to arrive in these areas. These groups also asked the Municipal Council to forbid all but a few of the major volunteer groups from working in the island because, they said, the presence of many volunteers creates a bad impression for tourism.

Cracking down on aid

There is no doubt that the refugee crisis has affected tourism on the island. Nor is there any doubt that groups of volunteers working to save lives have had little extra time to meet to co-ordinate their efforts. At the same time, to diminish the numbers of volunteers will most likely result in death and could return the island to the situation of chaos it experienced last summer when refugees were camping on street corners and walking along the side of the roads to reach the capital city. Instead of blaming the volunteers, efforts should be made to help them to coordinate their efforts so that they can do an even better job.

Instead, the Greek government authorities with the support of Frontex have begun to assert legal control over the volunteers. Last week the Building Department sent inspectors to visit the emergency camps set up along the north coast of Lesbos to provide medical assistance, dry clothing, food, and temporary shelter to refugees arriving along the shoreline. The inspectors indicated that they would be issuing fines for any structures built without permission from their offices. In the same days, the Coast Guard with the aid of Frontex arrested seven foreign volunteer lifeguards patrolling the sea in order to save refugees when their boats capsize or their boat’s motor fails. They were charged with aiding the illegal immigrants to enter Greece. Following a twelve hour preliminary hearing, they were released on bail and ordered to return for a trial that could lead to fines or imprisonment. At the same time, three volunteers were apprehended by the police for removing abandoned life jackets from the town dump in order to use them to make mattresses for the refugee camps. Though charges were not pressed, the volunteers were informed that everything in the town dump belongs to the Municipality.

This process, if continued, will only demonstrate the inability of the Greek government and the European Union to manage the refugee crisis in appropriate ways. If the letter rather than the spirit of the law is followed, all of the volunteer efforts and all of the volunteer groups can be declared illegal. Given the archaic nature of the legal system of Greece, it is likely that ways can be found to block every effort to aid the refugees.

Criminalising the provision of basic human rights

Fishermen who rescue refugees from the sea can be charged with aiding illegal immigration. Volunteers who cook in public spaces can be charged for not having secured public health permits. Volunteer doctors can be charged with working in Greece without having their licenses to be reviewed and approved by the national government. Volunteers who pitch tents in public spaces can be charged with violating laws forbidding camping in public spaces. Volunteers who help to change the wet clothes of shivering children might be charged with molesting them. Photographers could be charged with violating military space on the coastlines. Those who donate food, clothing, and other supplies could be charged for not providing receipts. And finally, volunteers choosing to work in small groups without large donor bases, high overhead, bank accounts, and tax numbers can be prohibited from offering to help.

Instead of looking for ways to deter the volunteers, the Greek and European Union authorities ought to consider the illegality of their own activities. They are required by European law to offer asylum to refugees of war. Is it ethical to close the Schengen borders? Should they be harassing and arresting volunteers, whose work is necessary to save the lives and dignity of refugees protected by European law?

It is short-sighted to blame the refugee crisis on the volunteers or to imagine that the refugees will stop coming if there are no volunteers to meet them. The refugees are leaving their homes because their homelands have been made unsafe by war. It is time for all of us, Greeks and other citizens of Europe, to stop complaining about what the refugees are taking from us and to join together with others to help them. Then, when this crisis is over, even if we are still poor as when it began, we will be able to say that in the time of a great humanitarian crisis, we did what we could to aid those who were suffering.

Mark.
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Feb 16 2016 17:27
Zoe Mavroudi wrote:

4 refugee "hotspots" complete, ordered by the EU under threat of Schengen expulsion. Syriza once again an enabler. Next up:mass deportations

The EU "hotspot" is, essentially, the place where authorities will decide whether to send people back to death or abject poverty.

Refugees 2b sorted out inside new Greek "hotspots". No clear EU policy of who or when will receive the "good" ones. As for the "bad",oh well

Mark.
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Feb 17 2016 15:21

The new hotspot on Chios ----- drone video ----- report in Greek

Mark.
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Feb 18 2016 23:14
Platanos Refugee Solidarity wrote:

The refugees that arrived yesterday at Platanos Camp, were soaking wet and in shock, because as they explained to us, the Turkish coastguard tried to force them to return to the Turkish coast with the use of threats, by creating artificial waves and by the extensive use of water cannons. Two of the boats returned to the Turkish coast with all the passengers in shock. The remaining two boats managed to break through and reached Skala Sykamias, Lesvos.

Today at 3 o'clock in the morning, the Greek Coastguard attempts to stop a new boat from reaching the coast at Skala Sykamia resulted in a havoc and the boat almost crashed on sharp rocks. The accident was prevented at the last moment by the intervention of the rescue boat belonging to the team 'Sea Rescue'.

This morning: Turkish coastguard was sighted from the 'Korakas' Observation Post to repeat its deliberate attacks to boats in the middle of the sea, again by the use of water cannons.

The use of water cannons in winter temperatures is extremely dangerous. Hypothermia is a risk in any case with overcrowded dinghies taking on water on night crossings. This led to the death of a five year old boy from Afghanistan on a boat to Chios on Tuesday. This isn't the only case of children dying of hypothermia on boats that made it across without sinking.

Mark.
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Feb 19 2016 11:01

In Greek - 'Solidarity vs Intolerance'

Αλληλεγγύη vs Μισαλλοδοξία

Mark.
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Feb 19 2016 22:58

Posted on facebook a couple of hours ago

Platanos Refugee Solidarity wrote:
Urgent- Spread out!
Greek police gave a deadline of 1 hour to No Border kitchen camp in Lesvos to leave, otherwise they will remove them by force. People needed in Tsamakia Mytilene now

Edit: some updates

The Hope Centre, Elpis wrote:
We stand in solidarity and support with our friends No Borders Kitchen in Mytilene who have been given one hours notice by police to shut down. They are human rights defenders providing food to the hungry. International law supports what they do, humanity supports what they do, we support what they do. We must all be strong together for refugees. If you are in Mytilene, or can get there, please go and show support
Doc Provocateur wrote:
People in solidarity w @noborderkitchen gathered @ Tsamakia beach after eviction threats by cops
#refugeesgr https://twitter.com/redswallow23/status/700729746443776000
NoBorderKitchen wrote:
#NoBorderKitchen was threatened with eviction tonight. Many people r wih us, we re discussing the situation. More soon.
Thomas Mavrofides wrote:

@blacktom1961 any news about the eviction threats?

@refugee_supp no news yet, the cops seem to reconsider their stance, although nothing is certain. No cops on site at the time though.

@refugee_supp it seems that there's a pressure put onto the cops, by the local municipality that supports the NGOs (and their subsidies...)

Mark.
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Feb 19 2016 20:47

The hotspot on Chios - for now only being used for refugee registration as food provision for refugees depends on volunteers who are refusing to be registered and so aren't allowed in. That hotspots are in place doesn't mean they are workable or that they can cope with the numbers of refugees. An obvious problem is what happens to people detained for deportation if Turkey drags its feet on accepting them. When this happens it won't take long for camps to fill up.

Theurgia Goetia wrote:

Οι πρόσφυγες πάνε στο Hot Spot μόνο για καταγραφή.
Δεν έχει λυθεί το θέμα της σίτισης.
*Χωρίς αλληλέγγυους δουλειά δε γίνεται..

So,#refugeesgr can't live into #Chios HotSpot 'cause nobody distribute food there.The social kitchen of the ppl in solidarity is NOT allowed

>b/c the locals don't accept to be registered (they are not an NGO).

The #refugeesGr in #Chios are still living into the old camp at Souda (near the port).

Mark.
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Feb 20 2016 11:55

Chios hotspot protest

Mark.
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Feb 20 2016 22:21

Reports of Afghans no longer being allowed to cross into Macedonia

Mark.
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Feb 21 2016 22:49
Live Ticker Eidomeni wrote:

21.02.16

On the 20th of February the police authorities of the states making up the ‘humanitarian corridor’ introduced a single biometric registration document for refugees wanting to enter the corridor. This document is now being issued at one single point on the whole route – the Greek-Macedonian/FYROM border – restricting and controlling the access to the corridor even further. Additionally, it is only being given to the people who can present a valid passport or ID.

As a result of this new policy, chaos has unfolded at numerous border crossings where people have become stuck in an administrative no man’s land. 617 Afghans remain stuck in Tabanovce, Macedonia at the time of writing. Whilst in Dimitrovgrad, on the night of the 20th of February a group of 40 people were denied registration papers by the Serbian authorities. They took a bus to Presevo were they were again refused. They then travelled to Sid, with no papers or passports: it is unclear how these cases are going to be dealt with now on the route. The new measures are certainly designed to criminalise and banish access to the corridor to those arriving from any other point than Idomeni.

At the Greek-Macedonian/FYROM border police have started narrowing down even further the nationalities who are able to enter the corridor as Afghanis have been removed from the nationalities allowed to travel onwards. Now, only Syrians and Iraqis are being issued the new travel document. In the joint statement released after the press conference of the police chiefs of Austria and the Balkan countries, only Syria and Iraq are mentioned as examples of provenance countries for refugees deemed worthy of international protection. This points towards an explanation to the new racist and illegal segregation which is being implemented at the entry to the corridor.

It remains to be seen now, how such implementations can effectively be held out in the next few days. With new arrivals at the islands higher than they have been in the past days and Afghanis constituting a large number of these, it can be predicted that large amounts of people – including many families with young children – will become stuck at the northern border of Greece. We expect the struggle against these racist and illegal measures to start very soon.

Edit: Serbia 'denying entry' to Afghan refugees

Mark.
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Feb 21 2016 22:01
Platanos Refugee Solidarity wrote:
Update from the "No Border Kitchen" camp in Mytilene. Everything is all right at the moment. The police didn't show up. The mayor is denying his involvement to evacuate the camp. People from the "Self-organized camp of Platanos" and from the "Solidarity initiative of Lesvos" gathered for 2 days at the camp to stand in solidarity with those who have repeatedly been intimidated by the authorities for the "crime" of offering food and support to immigrants.
Mark.
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Feb 22 2016 11:28

Statewatch: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control

Quote:
....
Now the Greek state at the behest of the EU is seeking to get all volunteers to "register" with the police and hand over lots of personal data including previous "activities" - they are being asked to spy on themselves. And NGOs are being asked register their organisations and hand over personal details of all their volunteers/members to the police.
....
Mark.
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Feb 22 2016 16:24

Joint statement from heads of police in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia

Reports that Turkey won't accept return of refugees picked up by NATO ships

Thousands of Afghans stranded in Greece as Macedonia shuts border

Mark.
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Feb 23 2016 19:24

Idomeni today - Afghans forcibly removed and put on buses back to Thessaloniki and Athens. This looks like the start of a new phase in the crisis with arrivals increasing on the islands while only Syrians and Iraqis with the correct documents are allowed to travel on, leaving other nationalities stranded in Greece.

Afghan refugees turned away at Europe's doorstep

AJE video

'There was lots of crying as Afghan families were separated and put on buses'

Mark.
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Feb 24 2016 19:11

Declaration from today's Austria and Balkan states meeting

Meet the heroic Greeks rescuing the refugees the EU has abandoned

Kia Mistilis wrote:

....
But just as the volunteer and NGO efforts on Lesbos grew stronger and better coordinated, the EU-Greek crackdown on humanitarian volunteers began. On January 14, the Greek Coast Guard arrested three Spanish and two Danish nationals from Proem-Aid and Team Humanity on suspicion of human smuggling, as they were approaching a sinking boat that authorities claim was in international waters. They were released without charge after 36 hours and posting €30,000 in bail, but the case remains open pending investigation. In the same week, three British and two American volunteers were arrested for theft as they collected life vests from the municipal dump to use for making mattresses for the refugees. Greek volunteer groups report being threatened with eviction from their aid-distribution points, and they are increasingly angry that after a year of ignoring its responsibilities, the EU is now, as they put it, “criminalizing solidarity.”

The crackdown is intensifying as the European Union centralizes border security. EU border agency Frontex has deployed Rapid Border Intervention Teams, a land- and sea-border patrol with unprecedented independent powers, to work alongside Greek authorities. And on February 11, NATO—with the full support of the United States—deployed a naval force under German command to combat people-smuggling in the eastern Aegean and to reduce the number of migrants entering Europe via Turkey. Asylum seekers “saved” from boats intercepted in the Aegean can be returned to Turkey, which Greece has now formally declared a “safe third country.”

The deployment of NATO warships to stop the exodus from Turkey came just as some 70,000 refugees were amassing on the Turkish-Syrian border and 300,000 Aleppo civilians prepared to flee in the wake of a massive assault by the Assad regime, aided by heavy Russian bombing.

Last November, the European Union started classifying asylum seekers by nationality. Those not from Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan are deemed economic migrants and cannot register to have their claims heard. The EU now wants to reintroduce the Dublin regulation, which mandates the return of asylum seekers to the first EU country they entered. These policies, alongside five new “hot spot” detention centers on the Greek islands and two refugee camps near Athens (due to open by the end of February, just as Macedonia prepares to permanently close its southern border) will trap thousands of people and ring-fence Greece, transforming it into a holding bay and deportation point—a permanent buffer zone against refugees trying to reach northern Europe.
....

Manos Moschopoulos wrote:
16-22 Feb: 21593 #refugeesGr arrived at Greek islands, only 4598 allowed to cross to #Macedonia. #Refugees are now stranded all over Greece.
Sarianna Nikkola wrote:
Military camp Anagnostopoulos turned into a "hotspot" for #refugeesGR opened this morning in #Diavata North Greece. https://twitter.com/seleogr/status/702456092698148864
Teacher Dude wrote:

100s of #refugees being sent to Diavata, Thessaloniki. Volunteer groups struggling to provide aid

Just dropped off supplies at Diavata camp. Thessaloniki. 1000s of #refugees from Iraq, Syria, there. Strong police presence

Video: refugees arriving at Diavata camp

Video: refugees in Plateia Victorias, Athens

Photo: refugees in the rain, Plateia Victorias

Mark.
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Feb 25 2016 23:09

Λαμία: Οι ντόπιοι βγαίνουν από τα σπίτια τους και βοηθούν τους πρόσφυγες

Ανταπόκριση φαντάρων από την 34η ταξιαρχία στην Άσσυρο για την κατάσταση των εγκαταστάσεων στο hotspot στα Διαβατά