Archive for the 'Frontex' Category

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Patras & Frontex

Just to keep you updated on the activities of Frontex in the Aegean, we dug out this recent article from a local newspaper, reporting about Frontex in Patras. Is the advertisement next to it not great? Yes, the Mediterranean used to be an area of travel, exchange and commerce, why did we turn it into a mass grave?

Our friendly translator says:

4 coastguards of Patras Central Post Authority are following a special training program and will be the Frontex “branch” in Patras. They will report on the current situation for the implementation of the appropriate interventions.
[…]
Training consists of 3 levels and we completed two of them. Seminars are taking place in several countries. Me, for example, I have been trained in Spain and Italy. We will try to help the Frontex specialists group which will visit us, by providing crucial information, Evangelos Agelis, vice-president of Patras coastguards and one of the 4 coastguards in special training program, said.
[…]
In Patras port 2 german and 1 italian policemen are taking part in passport controls in order to reduce illegall migration.

This year, the Schengen Agreements turn 25 years, supposedly providing for passport-check-free travel in Schengenland. So how are those three border guards mentioned in the last paragraph controlling?

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).

Continue reading ‘Samos’

Frontex in the Aegean

In 2009, 150.000 irregular migrants were intercepted in Greece, which amounts for 75% of all interceptions in the EU. Even though in 2010, this number is likely to drop again, it is clear that the closure of other routes to Europe (West Africa to Spain, Libya to Italy/Malta) has made Greece the presently last remaining gateway to the EU, turning it into a embattled ground where the EU is intervening decisively.

There are three tested responses to irregular migration, and the operations of Frontex in Greece and the Aegean have elements of all of them. The first would be to integrate Turkey into the border regime (similar to the case of Libya). On an institutional level, Frontex is trying to connect with the Turkish coast guard and to involve them in joint maneuvers and also seeks a working agreement with the Turkish border authority. But also Greece and the EU are trying to improve their cooperation with Turkey on migration matters: While Greece and Turkey have a readmission agreement (which Greece would like to extend, since practically, its functioning is questionable), the EU has been negotiating such an agreement for many years with Turkey, albeit without success so far. Functional readmission agreements would force Turkey to readmit not only nationals, but all irregular migrants who can be proved to have entered Greece and the EU via Turkey. This would shift the responsibility for securing borders and inhibiting the movements of migration to Turkey.

Continue reading ‘Frontex in the Aegean’

Frontex frames innocent youth in Samos

M., a 17-year-old Palestinian youth was accused of “trafficking” in Samos. Four months ago, M. was arrested by the police, when he arrived in a boat together with another 55 people. The police claimed to have him identified as the driver of the boat. The accusation was based on a photo made from a helicopter that was stationed in Samos as part of the Frontex operation Poseidon. Despite being a minor, he was imprisoned, awaiting his trial. The Samos solidarity group heard about his case and organised a lawyer. He was in front of a court, but finally acquitted and set free.

Welcome To Europe made an interview with M. in June 2010, after the trial was over. His friend A. acted as a translator.

w2eu: Please tell us what happened.

M.: The police works in the sea, looking for people coming and they look with goggles. I was afraid because i was the youngest person in the boat, so I stayed near the engine. But I didn’t drive, because the big one drives, because he knows Samos, he knows the sea, he knows everything. In my country there is no sea. So I am absolutely no driver. The helicopter is coming with a big light and after that the police take me. I asked them why me? They say because the police saw me in the boat near the engine. But the photo is not very good because you can’t see in the sea if you drive or not, because the driver is clever, he stays behind and he puts his hand in the engine and he drives from far away.

Continue reading ‘Frontex frames innocent youth in Samos’

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)

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.

Continue reading ‘Mitilini, June 2010’

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

Hunger strike in Samos detention centre

On April 12, 2010, 126 migrants detained in the samos detention camp started a collective hunger strike. Their demands are

  • Freedom, immediate release with the “white paper” (allowing them to travel within Greece for thirty days)
  • An end to the transfers to detention centres close to the greek-turkish land border in the north, where numerous illegal deportation to Turkey are taking place. Such transfers happen between two and three times a month in Samos, the last one happened on April 9, when 40 migrants were taken.
  • Transparency about the work of so-called translators in the camp. As it turns out, these often are officiers employed by Frontex, who offer their translation services, but abuse the trust of the refugees and use the access to the refugees to determine their identity and prepare their deportation. There is a particular problem with the Frontex officers who in the process of identification often change the country of origin of the migrants on paper.

In the last days, as many as 14 Frontex officers were in the detention centre. There is also talk about migrants being beaten up, some cell phones were taken, while the phones in the camp also don’t work, making it hard to communicate with the hunger strikers. No laywers seem to be present at the time.

Daily arrivals in Mytilini: Dantes Inferno has open doors!

Daily arrivals in Mytilini: Dantes Inferno has open doors! While everybody is waiting for the new asylum law announced to be passed around May 2010, the new season has begun! Almost every day refugees arrive on the island: 11 today (within them a pregnant woman/ 9th month!), 14 yesterday, 30 the day before, depending always on the weather conditions. The new screening center in Outza is under construction despite protests by neighbouring businesses. New arriving refugees are currently being brought to Pagani for one or two days, issued a white paper and released to go to Athens. Probably some are still transferred to Chios island. The doors of Pagani are widely open. No police presence, only food is being brought there. The facilities of the detention center have not changed at all. There is no stuff working there. The facilities of the detention center have not changed at all.
At the same time Frontex is preparing the official opening of their operational office in Piraeus. Officers are already working in the detention centers of Samos and Chios, with additional presence on other islands such as Kos and Rhodes. Within the next two months German officers are expected to arrive in Greece with two helicopters strengthening the Frontex force. Also the Greek coast guard of Mytilini expects enforcement and additional stuff for the coming summer.

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)

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