Archive for the 'Detention' Category

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A Dublin II Deportation Diary


Why did you want me back in Greece?, ask the refugees being returned due to the Dublin II regulation from different other European countries. The deportation diary carrying the same name evolved out of a short visit in Athens, where activists from the newly founded infomobile project conducted interviews with refugees affected by this European regulation.

The findings, based on interviews with the people affected, are shocking and deeply disturbing. For although every story of flight to and within Europe is different, if we were to summarise, there are two main conclusions that need to be drawn.

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Samos

Samos is one of the Greek island off the Turkish coast. At the closest point, you have the feeling you can easily touch the other side if you stretch your arm a little. Not surprisingly, many refugees and migrants attempt to cross the border to the European Union here with small boats.

In 2007, a new detention centre was opened on the hills above the island’s capitol Vathy. Before, migrants were detained right in the city centre, behind the main church and the city hall, in the first floor of an old, run-down building. All those that passed this jail said that the conditions were unimaginable and made many people sick. With funding from the European Union, the new detention centre is nothing like that. It consists of 14 buildings made from metal, most of them are used for the detainees while some are administrative buildings. The whole camp is surrounded by a double barb-wired fence, CCTV cameras as well as loudspeakers are everywhere: bidirectional communication to the advantage of the guards. The camp even has a children’s playground as well as a basketball court. Too bad that there are no basketballs available, so the court is mainly used in summer, when the capacity of the camp does not suffice and newly detained migrants have to sleep there, on the bare ground (like in 2009).

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Screening, Detention, Centres

In October 2009, the Initial Reception Centre in Pagani on the island of Lesvos was officially closed, after a wave of revolts of the detained migrants and a worldwide scandalisation of the conditions inside the jail. Despite announcements of the government to build a new detention centre in Lesvos, Pagani is still the only detention infrastructure on the island. The former goods warehouse is used for the interim detention of newly arrived refugees and migrants. Unlike before, when hundreds of migrants where kept for months in closed cells, fewer people stay there for some days only until they are transferred to the reception centre on the closely located island Chios. However, since the closure of Pagani it has become clear that the old system of detention under horrible conditions cannot be continued and will be replaced by a more human rights compatible system of detention in line with the existing models in the European detention landscape.

Indicative of this change in policy, which also stems from the change of the Greek government in October 2009, is the statement of the then newly instated Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Spyros Vougias during his visit of Pagani in October 2009, shortly before the actual closing of the detention centre by his ministery. He promised “to upgrade infrastructure and curb bureaucracy so that the migrants are detained for shorter periods of time and with more dignity”.

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Another hunger strike in Samos

Our friends from clandestina alert us to the news that

[a]ccording to ANA-MPA, 170 migrants detained in the Samos detention camp started a collective hunger strike. trying to stop their deportation.
They demand an end to the transfers to detention centres close to the greek-bulgarian land border in the north. Such transfers happen between two and three times a month in Samos, the last one happened last week, when 50 migrants were taken.

Check also here.

That would the the second confirmed hunger strike in Samos. We already reported about the one in April (statement | video).

It is no surprise that all this happens in Samos, since there, the Greek state as well as the European Union through its border agency Frontex are experimenting with new ways of intercepting and deporting migrants.

Pagani – Villa Azadi – Dikili

As you can see, this our blog is picking up speed again, and we intend to maintain that speed: A lot of things are happening, and of course we will make a lot of things happen this year again, too. But one after the other. We receive a lot of questions concerning various developments, so we try to follow up. We start with these sites.

Pagani, detention centre/prison
Is Pagani closed or not? This is the question most often asked, and subject of heated debate. We have always stated that Pagani is closed (as not-functioning as a detention centre) and open (as in rather open reception centre). This is not entirely true anymore.

To be very clear: The situation in Pagani is far from what it was last year, and this is still a major success. To date, not more than 30 refugees are detained in Pagani, but at most for a couple of days, until they are being transferred to Xios or Athens. We still need to verify what is happening to them there (white paper? detention? deportation?), so bear with us for the time being. The cells however are never closed, a lot of people sleep in the yard, which however is locked and guarded by the local police. The visible difference is that Frontex has become active in the camp, interrogating detainees (like what is happening in Samos).

What to make of this news? The Greek state clearly has not managed to reverse the situation that was created during and after noborder last year. There are no real detention capacities, a new, human-rights-compatible detention centre has not been built (also due to local popular resistance), it is only the european side of things that is moving forward, intervening, forging ahead.

Villa Azadi, open reception centre for under-age refugees
Some of you might be familiar with Villa Azadi, the open reception centre for under-age refugees near the village Agiassos on Lesvos. It was one of the few efforts on behalf of the greek state to house migrants in need of protection in a good and safe environment.

Villa Azadi is not functioning anymore as of this month. There is no more money, hence no paid staff.

Dikili, Turkish port opposite Lesvos, to become deportation port
The newspaper Ethnos reported on the 5th of July that

[d]uring last week’s meeting of Greek and Turkish officials on irregular migration in Athens, the Turkish side agreed to set out the port of Dikili, about 15 miles off Lesvos island, to serve the readmission of irregular migrants in Turkey. Turkish authorities estimate that the port will start operating within the present month of July.

In May, during a joint cabinet session of the Greek and Turkish governments, an agreement was reached to reinforce the Greek-Turkish Readmission Protocol. Apart from agreeing to process 1.000 readmission requests per year, the Turkish side also agreed to open a port for direct deportations. So far, deportations from Greece to Turkey had to pass the land border at the river Evros/Meriç. So in the case of the islands, all intercepted and to-be-deported migrants had to be transferred to Athens, then on to Thrace, and over the land border. This might change now.

Conclusions
The developments in the Agean are severely lopsided. While Greece and Europe are strengthening their deportation capabilities (Frontex patrols, Frontex interrogators, deportations via sea, the continued use of Pagani), the reform (read: creation) of an asylum system vaguely reminiscent of protection is not moving forward at all, and the few gems like Villa Azadi are being shut down.

Samos: preparations for the deportation of 50 refugees

From Samos, the Movement for the Human Rights Solidarity to the Refugees sends a press release, denouncing the pending deportation of 50 refugees from the island. In a presse release, they write:

For one more time on thursday 1/7/2010 50 refugees where transported from the detention center of samos to be deported. They where transferred to the center of Aspropyrgos (detention centre near Athens) without having been informed that they will be transferred or the reasons without lawyers and without translators. For one more time the police, the coast guard and Frontex coordinate their actions and transferred illegaly also a minor of 15 years with health problems.

Who gives the permission to frontex to be inside the detention centers and to collect information from the refugees and decides about their nationalities and their deportation?

In the same way like the Greek Government accepts that the European Union and the International money fonds take decisions against the working greeks in the same way the greek Goverment has let the decisions about the future of the refugees to Frontex forgetting everything about constitution and conventions on human rights.

We are denouncing this practices and unite our voices with all humans beings who act against this violations of human rights.

We are in solidarity with this people who where forced to abandon their countries and flee because of wars, poverty and desertation that causes the imperialist atrocity.

Those who produce refugees, face the refugees as criminals, without rights, without voice, without future.
Solidarity is our weapon.

Movement for the Human Rights Solidarity to the Refugees – Samos (4th of June)

Video: Demonstration at Kumkapi Detention Centre, Istanbul

A video from the demonstration on Friday, 2. July. It was organised by the Migrants Solidarity Network and ESF’s migration network at Kumkapi Detention Center, right in the center of the City.

Mitilini, June 2010

+++ Frontex expands border patrol +++ Pagani still works as closed detention centre +++ Frontex-interviewers replaces Medicines Sans Frontiers +++ marks of Noborder are still to be found everywhere +++

When you walk along the port of Mitilini, the capital of Lesvos island, you can hardly oversee that you are moving in a militarized zone of migrant-hunters. The greek coast-guard and the European border agency Frontex are even more obviously present than last year. The ship of the Rumanian coast guard (a lot of people might know it from last years Noborder-activities) looks small and almost friendly besides the more than double-sized grey vessel, named “Arago” from France. The “Arago” participated already in September 2008 in the Frontex-Mission Nautilus between Lampedusa and Malta. Even too big to be placed in the closed part of the port, it has to be parked in front of the Blue Sea Hotel. Sometimes it is also “hiding” near Petra on Lesvos’ north coast, the main arrival coast of the last years. In the main port in Mitilini the coast-guard is again present and the small hunting-speed-boats that had shown their manoeuvring in the harbours action last August as well.

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Demonstration in solidarity with the hunger strikers in samos detention center

more infomation:

Announcement by the Samos Group

On Monday, 12 of April the refugees detained in Samos Detention Center came on a hunger strike in which participate the great majority (126 hunger strikers in 150 detainees). The reason was the two massive transportations happened in 21 of March and 9 of April (60 refugees transferred in the northern greek borders each time). They react because they are afraid that they will be the next that will be transferred in the northern greek borders in order to be deported, despite the fact that the massive deportations are illegal and consist clear violation of human rights.

The most of them are Palestinians and they gave us a text in which they announce that it’s better for them to commit suicide than to be deported. They insist on their right to be released with formal papers and tickets and not to go through any kind of violence. According to their denounce, they have been violated to sign papers in an unknown language without any translator. Also, no one has informed them about their rights. Furthermore, the police change their nationalities in order to deport them, and because they cannot proof their nationalities and their problems, so there is no any concrete asylum procedure because in reality.

They also denounce us that on Tuesday, 13 of April in the morning there happened a violent incident. The police-guards beat a refugee and then they send him in the Samos’ hospital.

The Group for the Human Rights – Solidarity to Refugees tried from the beginning to go near the refugees, to discuss their problems and to hear their demands. On Tuesday, 13 of April ten members of our group went in the detention center to have a contact with the refugees. Suddenly the police commander denied our entrance because “there is no need any more” according to their words. We stayed outside the camp trying to communicate with the refugees from outside the fence. The police terrorized us, trying to keep us away. The police accused us that the revolt is our blame and they asked our identities.

We are sure that both the increased deportations and the denial of the access to the group is the result of the tough migration policy and of the permanent and improved role of FRONTEX on the island. We know that FRONTEX works 24 hours per day in the airport.

Solidarity to the refugees’ struggle. We demand the acceptance of their demands. Deport FRONTEX!

14 April 2010
Group for the Human Rights-Solidarity to Refugees
Samos

About w2eu

This is the blog of the antiracist network Welcome to Europe. It was formerly known as lesvos09.antira.info.

 

The name Welcome to Europe expresses the discontent and anger we feel when looking at the fatal realities of the European external border: the long documented deaths and suffering have continued for years, and no end is in sight. We stand for a grassroots movement that embraces migration and wants to create a Europe of hospitality.

 

We maintain our focus on the European external border in Greece, but will not limit ourselves to that geographical area. The right of freely roaming the globe has to be fought for everywhere. Join us!

 

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Voices from the Inside of Pagani (2009)

Watch the video