In the eastern Mediterranean, crises and hate speech force refugees onto deadly migratory routes

29/09/2022

 

In the last weeks, a series of tragic incidents in the Eastern Mediterranean shed light on lesser-known migratory routes. In the most recent case, following a shipwreck off Syria of a boat that had departed from Lebanon heading to Italy, at least 94 people died.

In another recent case, 250 people who had departed from Lebanon for Italy were left at sea for about a week without food and water before being rescued by an NGO. In another incident, a four-year-old girl named Loujin died of thirst on board of a vessel with 60 people who had departed from Lebanon to reach Italy and was left at sea for 10 days, and were rescued by a merchant vessel. Finally, six people, including three children and one mother, died while attempting to reach Italy from Turkey. On 20 September 2022, Alarm Phone reported about 53 people in distress in the Greek SAR zone, including 5 children, who had departed from Lebanon and had been at sea for 4 days. They were eventually pushed back to Turkey.

These incidents take place as people are forced to embark on increasingly dangerous migration journeys due to the systemic violence, pushbacks and dangers encountered on other routes and the lack of legal channels for migration. Greece is on the frontline of this border violence, with countless evidence of Greek authorities beating, detaining, and abandoning people at sea while clinging to life rafts, while Cyprus has, on multiple occasions, pushed back boats arriving from Lebanon. At the same time, these tragic incidents are a direct result of unlawful and repeated policies of non-assistance at sea by Malta, Greece, Cyprus and Italy.

GCR statement in the aftermath of recent announcements on the case of the 38 refugees

23/09/2022

The Greek Council for Refugees is following with concern the ongoing toxic debate surrounding the issue of the 38 refugees, from which the real stakes have been “forgotten”:  that is to say, the practices that are in violation of the law and are dismantling human rights, the respect of which is non-negotiable.

Recent developments, which have "hurt" Civil Society, oblige GCR to reiterate that its mission and role is to assist and represent people at risk, who seek safety and asylum in Greece.

GCR’s statutory purpose is to support and be an advocate for vulnerable people, refugees, and it will not stop doing so. Their instrumentalisation is unthinkable in a state governed by the rule of law.

We will continue to fulfil our mission conscientiously and with respect for international, EU and national law and with commitment to the humanitarian values they express.

In doing so we will continue to rely on partnerships and collaborations with fellow travellers from across civil society, and we hope that any differentiations or retreats will not hurt this common struggle.

One year since Greece opened new “prison-like” refugee camps, 22 NGOs call for a more humane approach

20/09/2022

Exactly one year ago, the first EU-funded Closed Controlled Access Centre (CCAC) for asylum seekers in Greece was inaugurated on the island of Samos. Concerns were  from the outset, that residents would be subjected to disproportionate restrictions on their movement and to surveillance measures more associated with prison-type controls than with reception facilities hosting and supporting people seeking international protection. A year later, with two similar CCACs now operational on the Greek islands of Leros and Kos, and another two additional facilities being built on Lesvos and Chios, NGOs who have witnessed the impact are calling for the approach to be urgently revised. 

 

The combined expected cost of building all five CCACs is 260 million euros. Meanwhile, the average distance from the closest towns is 14 kilometers, with no access to regular, adequate and affordable transport services. These EU funds could be used instead to host people in suitable conditions that respect their dignity, and ensure access to healthcare, employment opportunities and promote people’s ability to become part of the society in Greece.  There is also a real danger that this model will be replicated along the border with Turkey and elsewhere in Europe. It is time to reverse this harmful trend, and instead build functioning Greek and EU asylum systems that recognise the humanity of all who are forced to flee. 

Read the full statement here

At the end of the school year for refugee children in Greece, the government “gets grades”

14/09/2022

Despite positive efforts by the government in the last year, one-quarter of refugee children did not attend school according to a new report published today by three organizations in Greece.

Athens, July 18, 2022 – The government of Greece is still not meeting its obligations to ensure all children are enrolled and attending school, according to a new report published today by the Greek Council for Refugees, Terre des hommes Hellas, and Save the Children.

The report analyses six key indicators – a) enrolment, b) attendance, c) access to inclusive education, d) transportation to schools, e) adequate staffing and timely scheduling, and f) action to end community hostility and xenophobia - that had previously been identified as key barriers. For each of these, the government has been assigned a grade ranging from fully meeting its obligations (A) to deterioration of the situation from last year (Fail).

The report shows that the government has made improvements or significant improvements in some areas, compared to the 2020-2021 school year. However, government policies such as limiting access to asylum, stopping social support for asylum seekers, and refusing to provide food support to recognized refugees, rejected asylum seekers, and those who are not registered in the Reception and Identification System, have seriously worsened the living conditions of the families, because of which children's access to and attendance at school is also affected.

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