Author: Lorraine Leete

Legal Centre Lesvos calls for urgent action on Greek island hotspots

We join 19 organisations working in Greece in demanding immediate action to address the shameful reception conditions on the Greek islands:

Over 17,000 people remain crammed in Greek island reception centers with a total capacity for only 6,000, living in desperate conditions which do not meet humanitarian standards. This, despite public assurances from the Greek Minister of Migration Policy, Dimitris Vitsas, that the islands would be decongested by September and that thousands of new places would be created on the Greek mainland. As conditions continue to deteriorate, 19 civil society organisations once again urge authorities to engage in the creation of sustainable solutions for the decongestion of the islands and to immediately improve reception conditions for refugees. It is nothing short of shameful that people are expected to endure such horrific conditions on European soil.

Moria, the first reception centre on the Greek island of Lesvos, recently described in a BBC report as “the worst refugee camp in the world,” is currently hosting almost three times its capacity. The sewage system does not work and filthy toilet water reaches the tents and mattresses where children sleep. This, despite funds for sewage system improvement having been approved for some time. Reports of sexual violence and abuse are on the rise. The first reception centre on Samos is six times over its capacity.

In addition, chronic shortages in crucial staff are further exacerbated by the constant resignations of health professionals working in the island sites, who are resigning as a result of untenable working conditions. The Keelpno coordinator on Samos was recently quoted in the Greek press as saying that, despite Greece’s ongoing financial struggles, “medical staff prefer taking the road of unemployment, rather than having to work under such conditions”.  Earlier this week, staff at Moria staged a strike to protest conditions at the site. Also this week, the Prefecture of the Northern Aegean described Moria as “unsuitable and dangerous for public health and the environment,” and warned that the site would be closed in 30 days if sanitary conditions are not improved dramatically. In this environment, civil society organisations working on the islands also find it increasingly difficult to do their work.

There is no excuse for the shameful conditions in which thousands of people remain trapped in limbo while they wait out their asylum claims. The Greek authorities must take immediate and urgent action to ensure that refugees benefit from full access to their basic rights and that they are accommodated in dignified conditions, in accordance with national and international law. The relief measures promised by the Greek authorities to create thousands of additional safe and dignified accommodation spaces on the mainland and transfer people off the islands to the mainland must be implemented immediately as a matter of urgency. At the same time, EU leaders should urgently renew efforts to unblock discussions on the implementation of a fair and permanent mechanism of responsibility allocation within the European Union.

For interviews and information, directly contact:
Natasha Dailiani (Greek, English), +30 694 425 1704

The following organisations have signed the statement:

ActionAid

ASB

Caritas Hellas

CEAR

Danish Refugee Council

Diotima

Greek Helsinki Monitor

Hellenic League for Human Rights

HIAS

International Rescue Committee

JRS

Legal Centre Lesvos

MDM

Oxfam

Praksis

Solidarity Now

Terre des Hommes

Detention Monitoring Aegean and Legal Centre Lesbos Publish Joint Report

STOP DEPORTATIONS TO TURKEY

People trapped on the Greek Islands are deprived of basic rights

Κείμενο στα Ελληνικά

Since the EU-Turkey Statement, more and more people seeking protection in Europe are deported directly from the Greek Islands to Turkey. According to the European Commission, at least 2,224 people have been deported to Turkey since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal on 20th of March 2016. Under constant threat of being deported, many people have to stay in a state of limbo for more than a year. They have to wait in the dehumanising living conditions of the barbed wired European hotspot camps on the Greek Islands that are unable to meet their fundamental needs. The deadlock situation drives people to despair. Already in 2017, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounced a “mental health emergency” on the Greek islands. In winter 2016/17 at least six people died in Moria camp (Lesvos) alone because of the terrible living conditions. According to a more recent MSF report the situation has deteriorated even further. Many people trapped in camps experience strong violence by the authorities and peaceful resistance against the situation is strongly criminalized. The EU-Turkey Deal has transformed the Greek Islands with the European hotspot camps into open air prisons. In these desperate conditions, a rising number of people agree to “voluntary return” back to their home country. After signing the return agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the individuals are normally arrested and brought in handcuffs to a pre-removal centre where they have to wait for up to several months to be deported. Between June 2016 and April 2018 more than 10,000 persons have been returned from Greece to their place of origin (regardless of the safety of the country), through the voluntary return programme funded by the EU and Greece.

Detention based on nationality

Others are deported quicker under a so-called pilot-project that targets migrants from countries with low recognition rates for international protection. They are detained upon arrival in a prison (a so-called “pre-removal center”) and in most cases have to undergo their asylum procedure without any preparation and legal support. As a result, they get caught in the cycle of unjust detention and foreseeable deportation. Some people do not even get the chance to explain their need for protection before being deported as their asylum claims are categorized as “inadmissible” under the so-called fast-track border procedure implemented on the Greek Islands. After a 2017 ruling by the Council of State finding that Turkey was a safe country for two Syrians, Syrian nationals are under threat of being deported back to Turkey because their asylum claims are categorized as “inadmissible”.

If an asylum seeker’s claim is rejected or declared inadmissible, the person is given two choices: either to appeal the rejection or to “voluntarily return” to their country of origin with the IOM. Appealing the rejection has been reduced to a mere formal act: Since the appeal committees composition shifted under pressure of the European Commission, the acceptance rate of appeals that was by the end of November 2016 at 97.9%, dropped to close to 1%. Many people know that the chance of having their case fairly examined on appeal is limited, and feel forced to sign up for the so-called “voluntary return” as their only option to escape the deportation to Turkey.

While Greek law entitles asylum seekers to have the right to appeal a second time in administrative court, in reality this is practically impossible because of the lack of sufficient asylum lawyers in the hotspot camps and the costs of a second-instance appeal.

The asylum procedure on the Greek Islands fails core legal standards

The asylum procedure carried out by the Greek Asylum Service (GAS) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has been under the investigation of the Ombudsperson and was repeatedly criticized by observers. The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) concluded that “EASO fails core legal standards” and “EASO officers fail to respect core standards of fairness”. Whilst the Ombudsperson acknowledged serious concerns with EASO’s conduct, it was then concluded that no further action would be taken.

People deported from Europe face imprisonment and further deportation: Turkey is not a safe third country

The declaration of asylum claims as inadmissible and the rejection of asylum claims under the fast-track border procedure leading to deportations of asylum seekers to Turkey is based on the assumption that Turkey is considered a safe third country. However, the majority of deportees are in fact detained in removal prisons upon arrival where they are held in horrifying conditions for up to 12 months. Most of them are eventually deported to their home countries without having had the opportunity to apply for international protection. Turkey signed the 1951 Refugee convention, but maintains a geographical limitation meaning Turkey only guarantees ‘refugee status’ to citizens of member states of the Council of Europe. As for people coming from other countries, Turkey only recognizes a ‘temporary protection’. In theory only Syrians can get this temporary protection status, which provides very limited rights, while people with other national backgrounds can theoretically only get weak subsidiary protection status, while they wait for relocation as refugees in third countries.

According to the European Commission, since the EU-Turkey agreement came into force, only two out of all non-Syrian deportees have in fact been granted protection status in Turkey until September 2017. Many people fleeing war, persecution, and poverty do not get a fair hearing for their asylum claim in Europe or Turkey. Moreover, after a lengthy period of detention in Turkey or Europe, people are deported back to their country of origin. In several cases detainees are forced to sign return papers, or do so willingly in order to escape imprisonment. A person deported from Turkey to Nigeria reported that he had been gagged and threatened with a stun gun by Turkish police during his deportation flight.

Serious lack of transparency by the authorities

In several cases, the deportation procedures are carried out in secrecy. It is almost impossible for human rights organizations and independent actors to monitor the deportation procedure and to provide support to those being deported to Turkey. While the UNHCR is informed about the number and nationality of the deportees, in most cases neither the Hellenic Asylum Service, the Hellenic Police, the EU, nor FRONTEX are willing to share information regarding the deportees prior to their deportation, except with their attorney – if they are lucky enough to have one. Vital information is made inaccessible. Throughout the deportation, the view of the deportees is obstructed and in many cases no contact to the public is allowed. Independent volunteers who are monitoring these activities are frequently checked for documentation, detained on short terms, and intimidated by police.

Inhumane deportation practices: even sick people and people who are still in the asylum procedure are deported

People have been deported despite serious health conditions such as chronic disease, disability, and life-threatening illness. Several cases have been reported by migrants who stated that they had been woken up by the police in the early hours of the morning, given fifteen minutes to pack their belongings, brought to the police station, and were then deported. People are often prohibited to communicate with their lawyers or friends. As a result no one can provide support or legal intervention as they do not know about their situation. In other cases, deportees have been falsely told that they would be transferred to the Greek mainland and have ended up in prison in Turkey. In a few cases where the names of deportees were known, it was found that they had been deported without getting the chance to apply for asylum or were still in an ongoing asylum procedure. Directly after the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement, Human Rights Watch and Pro Asyl highlighted that asylum claims had not been considered and no legally binding deportation notices had been issued to people seeking protection prior to their deportation. In addition, lawyers have reported administrative mistakes such as mixing up case numbers. On rare occasions deportations could be stopped last minute when their lawyer insisted that their client was still in an ongoing appeal against their second rejection and only if the lawyer had arrived on time at the police station to stop the deportation.

These current practices of deporting and detaining people seeking protection violates basic human rights. We the undersigned strongly oppose these dehumanizing and oppressive actions.

We demand the European Union and the Greek State to:

• Provide transparency and information about deportationsStop deportations to Turkey - It is not a safe countryStop inhumane “voluntary” return practicesStop the EU-Turkey Deal and allow migrants to leave the Greek IslandsStop the detention of migrants 

Deportation Monitoring Aegean                                 Legal Centre Lesbos

                  September 2018

Stop Deportation To Turkey

ΣΤΑΜΑΤΗΣΤΕ ΑΠΕΛΑΣΕΙΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΤΟΥΡΚΙΑ

Police coerce community leaders to turn over individuals responsible for violence in Moria Camp

Expanse of makeshift tents in the “olive grove” outside Moria Camp

With over 8000 individuals living in Moria Camp, in Lesvos, it is at the highest population since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. Despite media fatigue, the resultant inhuman conditions have gained renewed international attention due to the extremity and desperation of the current situation. Tensions are high, and it is no surprise that this has led to increased flights and clashes in Moria. Rather than look to the root causes of these tensions, following clashes and fights in Moria, police are demanding from leaders in Moria Camp that they turn over to authorities individuals for criminal prosecution. Community leaders have been held by police during recent fights, throughout the night, and threatened that they will themselves face criminal prosecution if they refuse to give over names to the police.

This is not the first time the police have targeted community leaders. Following riots in Moria Camp in July 2017, one individual from Mali who was actively organizing to defend migrant rights was arrested and charged with arson, and was prevented from leaving the island of Lesvos until he was acquitted of all charges in his May 2018 trial. Eight individuals who were arrested in March 2018 will face trial for clashes with the police in Moria Camp in a few months. At least two of these individuals have alibi witnesses who confirm they were actually helping people who were injured in the clashes and by police use of tear gas, rather than taking part themselves, and sources have confirmed that the eight were arrested after being identified by the then Iraqi community leader.

The role of community leaders in Moria Camp, which involves appointment using various methods across different nationalities – and approval of the individual by authorities – is itself unorganized and leads to many different personalities filling this often thankless and exhausting position. The targeting of community leaders by police is dangerous both for the leaders, and migrant communities themselves, who are represented by individuals who have been forced into the contradictory role of both advocating for the rights of those forced to live in Moria Camp, and collaborating with the authorities who have created and administer the Camp. If the authorities truly want to hold individuals responsible for predictable tensions that lead to frequent fights and clashes in Moria Camp, they should not contribute to tensions within Moria Camp by using leaders against each other and against members of their communities. If anyone is responsible for the violence in the Camp, it is the Greek government’s violent policies of repression against those who stand up for their rights, and the hostile EU policies of containment and exclusion, which prevent people from leaving Lesvos and continuing their journey to the European continent.

Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

In the months since our last update on rights violations and resistance in Lesvos, our advocacy and campaigning resources were almost exclusively focused on the two trials for the Moria 35 and Moria 10 that took place in Chios in late April and early May 2018.

The situation has predictably worsened in Lesvos. On the 17 April 2018, the Greek Council of State (the highest administrative court in Greece) ruled that geographic restrictions imposed by the Asylum Service for asylum seekers arriving to the Greek islands was illegal. However, within a week, new legislation was proposed, which further limits the rights of asylum seekers and continues the practice of containing asylum seekers to the Greek islands. Moria Camp is now at three times its capacity, holding approximately 7000 individuals. Between 500 and 1000 Kurdish asylum seekers are still living outside Moria in temporary shelter provided by Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa, and Humans 4 Humanity, as they fear for their safety in Moria. Procedures are now so delayed that even individuals who are recognized as vulnerable, and whose cases should be prioritized under Article 51 of Greek Law 4375, are being scheduled for their interviews nearly a year after their arrival. This means that they are prohibited from leaving the island of Lesvos, and are denied freedom of movement during this entire time.

In one case we are following, an eleven year old child has a serious, undiagnosed digestive condition that causes her constant pain and seizures. Because they have been unable to diagnose her illness, the hospital in Mytilene has referred her for testing and treatment in Athens. Even the Mytilene police department has recommended that geographic restrictions be temporarily lifted so that she can travel to Athens for further tests and treatment, but the Regional Asylum Office has denied this request without an appointment in the Athens hospital. Her family is now in a constant state of fear that given her critical condition, their daughter will be unable to receive emergency medical care when needed, given the lack of testing and treatment for her on the island. Already once, when she had seizures and attempted to get treatment at the hospital in Lesvos, she was not admitted because they do not have means to treat her.

The Green Party published a report on 6 June 2018 exposing the inhumane conditions that systematically violate refugee rights in the Greek hotspots. On the 1 June 2018 the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) also published preliminary observations of its visit to detention facilities in Greece from 10 to 19 April 2018, with damning findings.

Treatment of Moria35 defendants highlights lack of procedural safeguards for detained asylum seekers in Lesvos

In the last month and a half since the conclusion of the Moria 35 trial, we have been closely following the administrative process related to the detention and processing of the asylum claims of these individuals. It has become a near full time job of our Greek attorney based in Mytilene to ensure that Greek authorities comply by their own laws and respect the rights of these asylum seekers. Despite the fact that the UNHCR, the Ombudsman’s Office, and the Legal Centre have been closely monitoring their cases, there have been rampant violation of their rights at every step of their procedures. Unfortunately despite this close monitoring, two individuals were deported to Turkey on the morning of 13 June 2018. The violations we have observed in the individual cases of these 35 men highlight the lack of procedural safeguards to protect the rights of asylum seekers, particularly those who are being detained.

Below we outline some of the observed violations of Moria 35 defendants’ rights as asylum seekers:

  • Two individuals whose cases were rejected were denied the representation of a lawyer on appeal. The appeal of a rejected asylum claim is the one stage in the asylum procedure where asylum seekers have the right to a lawyer, under Article 44(3) of Law 4375. Although both requested the representation of a lawyer, the examination of their case on appeal occurred without them having been assigned an attorney.

  • Another individual signed for voluntary departure, but then changed his mind and decided to continue his claim for international protection. He requested that his case be reopened. While that request was being processed, he was placed by police on the list to be deported on the 1 June 2018. It was only after advocacy from the Legal Centre that he was removed from the deportation list. He remains in detention, despite the lack of legal grounds to hold him there.

  • Another individual was held for over a month in detention, after transfer to Lesvos following the trial in Chios. There was no recommendation for his continued detention either from the Regional Asylum Office, as required by Article 46(3) of Law 4375. After daily follow up from the Legal Centre, eventually the police admitted that they were holding him by mistake and he was released.

  • Two additional individuals had their asylum cases rejected, but were unable to appeal because they were detained. With advocacy from UNHCR and Legal Centre lawyers, one of the individuals was able to lodge his appeal. However, he remains in detention, and it is not clear if the Appeals Committee will review his case on the merits or deny the appeal as untimely filed.

  • The second individual was deported on the morning of 13 June 2018. This was despite the fact that for days he had been expressing to the police his desire to appeal the rejection of his asylum claim. Lawyers from HIAS and the Legal Centre also spoke with the Mytilene police department the day before he was deported and informed the police that they would be filing an appeal on his behalf. On the morning of 13 June 2018, he was deported to Turkey. This individual, a Guinean national, claims that he was a victim of torture, and will be subject to persecution if returned to his country. Regardless of whether his claim is credible, he has the right to appeal the rejection of his claim. Even though untimely, it is not the police who have the authority to accept or reject his appeal, but the Asylum Service. His right to appeal was clearly denied, and his deportation was illegal as police were aware that he would be appealing the denial of his claim and they proceeded with the deportation in any case.

  • A second Moria 35 defendant was also deported on the 13 June 2018. His case had been rejected in the second instance. In 2017 this Ghanean national had been rejected and scheduled for deportation, but he lodged a subsequent application. It was the denial of this subsequent application that led to his deportation. While the Regional Asylum Service again scheduled for him to file a subsequent application on 14 June 2018, on 11 June 2018, we were informed that they would not accept a second subsequent application, since he had already submitted a subsequent application in 2017. However, he still had the option of appealing the denial of his claim in administrative court. Less than two days after being informed that he could not file a subsequent application, he was deported to Turkey. This individual has recently received original documents from Ghana that were not previously submitted to the Asylum Office. These documents corroborate his claim that he will be imprisoned 10-15 years if returned to Ghana. Prison conditions in Ghana according to human rights reports are “generally harsh and sometimes life threatening due to physical abuse, food shortages, overcrowding, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care” meaning he should be eligible for subsidiary protection, if not refugee status. Both individuals that were deported on the 13 June 2018 are also eligible for humanitarian protection as important witnesses to a serious crime that is still being investigated in Greece (the brutal police attack against the 35 arrestees on 18 July 2017). The swift move of the police to deport these individuals show that while procedures to grant protection and ensure that refugee rights are respected are constantly delayed, the State is able to mobilize and act swiftly to deny these same rights.

The trampling of the rights of these individuals by the police has followed their brutally violent arrest, their unjust prosecution, and lengthy imprisonment in the case of the Moria 35. It is not clear if the police have targeted these individuals precisely because they were part of the Moria35 case, or if the violation of detained asylum seekers rights is systematic. What is clear is that there is a lack of sufficient transparency, oversight, and monitoring of detention and deportation practices.

Legal Centre Successes

Despite this hostile environment, we continue providing legal aid and individual consultation to all foreign nationals who seek our counsel. We conduct approximately 10 individual consultations daily, and through the assistance of our volunteer lawyers and interpreters, hundreds of individuals have been granted international protection in Greece, or have successfully had geographic restrictions lifted so they can legally travel to mainland Europe.

We also continue to have success in assisting individuals in reuniting with family members in second European States under the Dublin III Regulation. In one case, a single young man from Haiti who is seriously ill was approved to be reunited with his family in France. While in Haiti, he had attempted to apply for a visa to join his parents and younger siblings in France, but was denied because he was over 18. France finally admitted, through our advocacy, that he was dependent on the care of his family, and that he should be able to join them in France. The fact that this individual was forced to take a lengthy, expensive, and dangerous journey to Europe through Turkey and the use of smugglers, only to be later admitted as an asylum seeker in France, shows that European immigration policies are broken.

We will continue our work to assist and help navigate individuals through this broken system, and to monitor and expose the violations of these individuals’ rights when they occur.

 

Community Leader Targeted in Chios Trial Acquitted on all Charges

Moria10 Defendants Acquited on All Charges!

16 May 2018

In a case that never should have gone to trial, the #Moria10 trial ended with a verdict of not guilty! The verdict was unanimously reached by the Mixed Jury Court in Chios after even the prosecution’s witnesses testified that one defendant was a community leader who tried to peacefully solve problems in Moria Camp. The prosecutor also recommended acquittal after none of the State’s witnesses could credibly identify the three defendants who were on trial.  Only three of the ten accused were tried today, as the other seven were never arrested. Two were present for the trial, the third was tried in absentia.

This decision comes after one defendant, a community leader from Mali, was prevented from leaving Lesvos during the ten months while awaiting trial. The other was imprisoned for seven months awaiting trial. Both have been granted international protection in Greece – but their freedom has been limited while they awaited the outcome of this unjust prosecution.

The acquittal is a welcome verdict, and we hope will deter prosecutors and judges from continuing to prosecute and imprison migrants and refugees with baseless accusations and limited evidence. This decision comes just a few weeks after the unjust conviction in the #Moria35 case, in which 32 were found guilty in a case where State witnesses were similarly unable to identify any defendants as having taken part in any of the crimes they were accused of. We will continue monitoring the criminalization of migrants and refugees in Lesvos, as unfortunately these two prosecutions were not isolated incidents.

Trial in Chios Targets Community Leader

10 May 2018

Tomorrow, 11 May 2018, the trial will be held for ten asylum seekers who have been charged with arson and other lesser crimes, related to riots that took place in Moria Camp on 10 July 2017 in Lesvos.

Similar to the case of the Moria 35, we believe this prosecution is part of an ongoing policy to criminalize and silence those who question their hostile containment in Moria and on Lesvos island.

The Legal Centre has been closely following this case, as we witnessed the events on 10 July, and worked together with one of the defendants to advocate for the rights of asylum seekers in Lesvos in the months prior to his arrest. We will be monitoring the trial, in addition to appearing as a witness for the defense. Further information, from the Solidarity Assembly for the Moria 35 is copied below.

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Αύριο, 11 ΜαΪου 2018, μια ακόμα δίκη θα λάβει χώρα στη Χίο με κατηγορούμενους αιτούντες άσυλο που έχουν χρεωθεί με κατηγορίες για «εμπρησμό» και άλλες μικρότερα αδικήματα, σχετικά με τα επεισόδια της 10ης Ιουλίου του 2017 στη Λέσβο

Όπως και στην περίπτωση των 35 της Μόριας, πιστεύουμε πως αυτή η δίωξη είναι μέρος της συνεχιζόμενης πολιτικής να ποινικοποιούνται και να φιμώνονται εκείνοι που αμφισβητούν τον περιορισμό τους στη Μόρια και στο νησί της Λέσβου.

Το Legal Center Lesbos παρακολουθεί από κοντά την υπόθεση από τις 10 Ιουλίου, καθώς τα μέλη του είδαν όσα συνέβησαν εκείνη τη μέρα, και συνεργαζόταν με έναν από τους κατηγορούμενους, για την παροχή νομικών συμβουλών στους αιτούντες άσυλο, μήνες πριν από τη σύλληψή του.

Το Legal Center Lesbos θα παρακολουθήσει τη δίκη, ενώ μέλος του θα παραστεί ως μάρτυρας υπεράσπισης.

Παρακαλούμε διαδώστε, για να φτάσει παντού το μήνυμα ότι στα σύνορα της Ευρώπης, άνθρωποι φορτώνονται άδικα με κατηγορίες!

Originally published by the Solidarity Assembly for the Moria 35

The industry of criminalization of immigrant lives continues as just a few weeks after the trial of the #freethemoria35 another trial takes place in Chios. This time 10 people are accused for events that took place on the 10 of July of 2017, just a week before the riots that lead to the prosecution of the #Moria35.

The events that have put this “industry” in action were part of a series of protests by immigrants demanding freedom of movement from Lesvos to mainland Greece, and against the conditions in Moria camp and unfair asylum procedure. On 10 July 2017, a protest erupted in Moria Camp. The demonstration was a response to the rejection of asylum claims and systematic detention of asylum seekers in Lesvos. The police in Moria responded by attacking the crowd with tear gas. There were no serious injuries, but the containers of several NGOs were targeted, including Euro Relief, a religious Christian organization responsible for providing basic services in the Camp. EuroRelief has been denounced for collusion with the police, discrimination against and failure to protect LGBTQ+ immigrants, and for prosthelatysing inhabitants of Moria Camp.

It is this resistance to the repression against immigrant lives that triggered the prosecutions in this case.

The arrests in the case took place weeks after the events, and were not random as in the case of the #moria35. Among the prosecuted is a well known immigrant who has been organizing and assisting people to claim their rights for over a year. Mohamadou, who has received asylum, did not remain a passive observer of the situation and the treatment which he and other people were receiving.  Instead he tried to change things and empower his fellow immigrants. As one of the representatives for the Mali community, he attended meetings, discussed with people in the camp responsible for conditions and the asylum procedure, and organized along with other actors. It seems like that he is being punished for this role in organizing the migrants community and raising awareness of the dehumanizing treatment immigrants receive when they reach Lesvos.

The message behind this specific prosecution is that all the parts of the machine of Moria are essential for its function and continuity, and that none shall be contested  (resistance will be tolerated). Nor the place of the immigrants which is to passively accept what has been planned for them nor the role of the NGO’s which is encircled inside this detention – centered system.  And in order to ensure that, the responsible of the camp, the police, the prosecutors, try to make sure that every effort of the immigrants to organize and protest against any part of this machine, will be crushed. 

We have witness this kind of counterinsurgency politics before, as state repression has been a tool against our struggles in everyday life. Confronting these series of prosecutions we are going to stand in solidarity with the people that face the encriminilization of their lives and make sure that they don’t stand alone against this machine that is called European migration Policy.

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Η βιομηχανία εγκληματοποιησης των ζωών των μεταναστών/ριών συνεχίζεται, καθώς μερικές μόλις βδομάδες μετά τη δίκη των #freethemoria35 άλλη μια δίκη διαδραματίζεται στη Χίο. Αυτή τη φορά, 10 άνθρωποι κατηγορούνται για τα γεγονότα που συνέβησαν στις 10 Ιούλη του 2017, μόλις μια βδομάδα πριν από την εξέγερση που οδήγησε στη δίωξη των #Moria35.

Τα γεγονότα που έθεσαν σε κίνηση αυτή τη “βιομηχανία” αποτέλεσαν μέρος μιας σειράς διαμαρτυριών μεταναστών/ριών με αίτημα την ελεύθερη μετακίνηση από τη Λέσβο στην ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα, και ενάντια στις συνθήκες στο κέντρο κράτησης της Μόριας και τις άδικες διαδικασίες ασύλου. Στις 10 Ιούλη 2017, μια διαμαρτυρία ξέσπασε στο κέντρο της Μόριας. Η διαμαρτυρία ήρθε ως απάντηση στην αρνητική απάντηση στα αιτήματα ασύλου και στη συστηματική κράτηση αυτών που αιτούνται άσυλο στη Λέσβο. Η αστυνομία στη Μόρια απάντησε επιτιθέμενη στο πλήθος με δακρυγόνα. Δεν υπήρξαν σοβαροί τραυματισμοί, αλλά τα λυόμενα διαφόρων ΜΚΟ στοχοποιήθηκαν, μεταξύ των οποίων και της EuroRelief, μια θρησκευτική χριστιανική οργάνωση υπεύθυνη για την παροχή βασικών υπηρεσιών στο κέντρο κράτησης. Η EuroRelief έχει καταγγελθεί για συνεννόηση με την αστυνομία, διακρίσεις ενάντια σε ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ μετανάστες/ριες, οι οποίοι/ες δε λαμβάνουν καμία προστασία από την οργάνωση, και για προσυλητισμό αυτών που διαμένουν στο κέντρο κράτησης της Μόριας.

Αυτή η αντίσταση στην καταπίεση κατά των ζωών των μεταναστών/ριών είναι αυτό που οδήγησε στις διώξεις στην προκειμένη περίπτωση.

​Οι συλλήψεις σε αυτή την περίπτωση συνέβησαν εβδομάδες μετά τα γεγονότα, και δεν ήταν τυχαίες, όπως στην περίπτωση των #moria35. Μεταξύ των διωκόμενων είναι ένας γνωστός μετανάστης που οργανώνει και βοηθάει ανθρώπους να διεκδικήσουν τα δικαιώματά τους για πάνω από έναν χρόνο. Ο Mohamadou, που έχει πάρει άσυλο, δεν παρέμεινε ένας παθητικός παρατηρητής της κατάστασης και της μεταχείρισης που δεχόταν εκείνος και άλλοι. Αντίθετα, προσπάθησε να αλλάξει τα πράγματα και να ενδυναμώσει τους υπόλοιπους μετανάστες/ριες. Ως ένας από τους εκπροσώπους της κοινότητας του Μάλι, πήγαινε σε συναντήσεις, συζητούσε με ανθρώπους στο κέντρο κράτησης που ήταν υπεύθυνοι για τις συνθήκες και τη διαδικασία ασύλου, και οργάνωνε μαζί με άλλους. Φαίνεται πως τιμωρείται για το ρόλο του στην οργάνωση της κοινότητας των μεταναστών/ριών και επειδή ευαισθητοποιούσε τον κόσμο σχετικά με την απάνθρωπη μεταχείριση που δέχονται οι μετανάστες και μετανάστριες όταν φτάνουν στη Λέσβο.

Το μήνυμα πίσω από αυτή τη συγκεκριμένη δίωξη είναι ότι κάθε κομμάτι της μηχανής της Μόριας είναι ουσιώδες για τη λειτουργία και τη συνέχειά της, και οπότε κανένα κομμάτι της δεν θα αμφισβητείται (καμία αντίσταση δε θα γίνει ανεκτή). Ούτε η θέση των μεταναστών/ριών, η οποία είναι να δέχονται παθητικά αυτό που έχει προσχεδιαστεί για εκείνους/ες, ούτε ο ρόλος των ΜΚΟ που είναι εγγεγραμένος (εγκλωβισμένος) μέσα σε αυτό το σύστημα που επικεντρώνεται στην κράτηση. Και για να σιγουρέψουν αυτή την κατάσταση, οι υπεύθυνοι του κέντρου, η αστυνομία και οι εισαγγελείς προσπαθούν να καταστήσουν βέβαια ότι κάθε προσπάθεια των μεταναστών/ριών για οργάνωση και διαμαρτυρία ενάντια σε οποιοδήποτε κομμάτι αυτής της μηχανής θα καταστέλλεται.

Έχουμε γίνει μάρτυρες αυτού του είδους αντιεξεγερτικής πολιτικής και πρωτύτερα, καθώς η κρατική καταστολή έχει χρησιμοποιηθεί ως εργαλείο ενάντια στους αγώνες στην καθημερινή μας ζωή. Αντιμετωπίζοντας αυτή τη σειρά διώξεων, θα σταθούμε σε αλληλεγγύη με τους ανθρώπους που βιώνουν την εγκληματοποίηση των ζωών τους, και δε θα τους αφήσουμε να σταθούν μόνοι και μόνες απέναντι στη μηχανή που ονομάζεται ευρωπαϊκή μεταναστευτική πολιτική.

MORIA35 UPDATES

DEportation of 7 Cancelled, 2 Detainees released

10 May 2018

The scheduled deportation of 7 of the Moria 35 has been cancelled to allow consideration of their subsequent application for international protection. This comes as a result of a coordinated effort by Legal Centre Lesbos, Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa, and HIAS lawyers, the rapid mobilization of the #freethemoria35 campaign, and intervention by both UNHCR and the Ombudsman’s office. In another small victory in our fight to free the Moria 35, two additional detainees were released yesterday. This means that 24 of the 35 remain imprisoned, despite the lack of legal grounds to detain them. Our work to free the 35 continues.

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URGENT ACTION NEEDED – 7 face imminent deportation

7 May 2018

Seven of the #Moria35 face deportation on Thursday 10 May 2018. In a process fraught with procedural violations, they have had their applications for asylum rejected. After over a year of dehumanizing treatment, from Moria Camp, to the viscous attack by the police, followed by nine months of unjust imprisonment, they now face being sent to Turkish prison, and likely deportation to the countries they fled. Furthermore, all are eligible for humanitarian protection in Greece as victims or witnesses of a serious crime. Three have themselves filed complaints against the police for the attack against them, and there is an open ongoing investigation initiated by the public prosecutor against the police, for which all seven are important witnesses. Their deportation will not only violate their rights to due process, but will ensure the continued impunity of the police in their policies of violent repression in the Greek hotspots. To stop the deportation contact the Lesvos Police at +30 22510 37721, 58800, 58803 and the Regional Asylum Office at +30 2251032323 or pga.lesvou@asylo.gov.gr.

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Την Πέμπτη οι 7 από τους #Moria35 είναι για απέλαση ενώ οι αιτήσεις τους για άσυλο έχουν απορριφθεί. Ένα χρόνο απάνθρωπης αντιμετώπισης στον καταυλισμό της Μόριας, τη βίαιη αστυνομική επίθεση και την απαράδεκτη 9-μηνη φυλάκισή τους, τώρα θα σταλούν σε τουρκική φυλακή και ενδεχόμενη απέλαση πίσω στις χώρες απ’όπου το έσκασαν. Όλοι τους έχουν το δικαίωμα ανθρωπιστικής προστασίας στην Ελλάδα ως θύματα ή μάρτυρες σοβαρών εγκλημάτων. Οι τρεις έχουν καταγγείλει την αστυνομία για τις επιθέσεις εναντίον τους και ο Εισαγγελέας κάνει έρευνες κατά της αστυνομίας στις οποίες και οι εφτά είναι μάρτυρες. Οι απελάσεις τους όχι μόνο παραβιάζουν το δικαίωμα δίκαιων διαδικασιών αλλά έτσι διασφαλίζεται και η συνέχιση της αστυνομικής αυθαιρεσίας και της πολιτικής βίαιης καταπίεσης στους ελληνικούς προσφυγικούς καταυλισμούς. Για να σταματήσουν οι απελάσεις επικοινωνούμε με την Αστυνομία Λέσβου 22510 37721, 58800, 58803 και την Περιφερειακή Υπηρεσία Ασύλου 2251032323 ή pga.lesvou@asylo.gov.gr #freethemoria35 #lesvos #refugeesgr

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Continue reading “MORIA35 UPDATES”

Moria 35 Trial Ends in Conviction of 32 – But After 9 Months of Unjust Detention, the 35 will Finally be Free!

PRESS RELEASE

While all 35 defendants should soon be released from detention, a gross miscarriage of justice took place today at the Mixed Jury Court in Chios, Greece where a ruling of guilty was declared against 32 of the 35 defendants. The 35 were arbitrarily and violently arrested in Moria camp in Lesvos on 18 July 2017 following what started as a peaceful protest outside of an EASO office. This inherently unsafe verdict, reached despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, follows a week long trial which continuously violated fundamental principles of a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and brings into serious question the impartiality of both the Judges and Prosecutor in the case.

Ελληνική έκδοση παρακάτω

32 of the 35 defendants were found guilty of injury to public officials, but acquitted on all other charges. The three individuals detained by a firefighter outside Moria Camp were found innocent of all charges; the testimony against them discredited as inconsistent and lacking credibility as the firefighter misidentified the defendants in court.

While the evidence against the remaining 32 defendants was similarly inconsistent, the three judges and four jurors unanimously found the 32 guilty. This ruling was reached without the prosecutor proving the necessary elements of the crime: there was only evidence of superficial injuries to one police officer, and there was no credible evidence identifying any of the 32 as having assaulted any police officer. Police witnesses testified that all 32 defendants arrested inside Moria Camp were guilty simply because they were present in the African section of the camp after clashes between some migrants and riot police had ended. Confirmation by the court that guilt can be implied by race and location near to where alleged crimes took place sets an extremely dangerous precedent for arrests following riots and protests.

The defense witnesses included residents from Mytilene and Moria Camp, who  confirmed that Moria Camp was never evacuated, that people freely entered and exited the camp throughout the afternoon through back entrances and that the camp was calm for roughly an hour before the arrests took place. Many defendants testified about their participation in the protest calling for freedom of movement from Lesvos to mainland Greece, an end to unjust asylum procedures on the island, and against deplorable conditions in Moria. They explained that police responded violently, dispersing the protestors with excessive use of tear gas. Others testified that they entered Moria camp after it was calm, only to find themselves violently arrested during the police raid. The excessive police violence was confirmed in the trial through medical documentation of injuries to defendants, video evidence of the arrests, and the testimony of several witnesses and defendants. The public prosecutor in Mytilene has already opened an investigation against unknown police officers for causing serious bodily harm to 12 of the 35 defendants.

The trial in Chios was fraught with serious procedural problems, including an absence of interpretation for the majority of the trial and the severely limited time the defendants and defence witnesses were given to present their side of the story.  An International delegation of legal observers were present throughout the trial and will be publishing a report regarding their assessment regarding its fairness in due course.  

It defies all logic, despite shocking video footage of police attacks against the defendants; and police witnesses unable to positively identify any of the 35 in court, that 32 were found guilty.

This ruling comes only four days after the 23 April 2018 arrests and criminal charges brought against 122 individuals – mostly Afghan – who had been peacefully protesting in Mytilene and were viciously attacked by fascist militant thugs before being arrested by the police. We are extremely concerned that the decision of the Chios Court will further encourage the State to continue criminalizing those who resist the State’s hostile policies against them.

The guilty verdict has been appealed by the 32, who were given a 26 month suspended prison sentence. This sentence itself is unreasonable as it is 19 months longer than the recommended 7 months proposed by the prosecutor at the conclusion of the proceedings.

As the 32 found guilty are eligible for a suspended prison sentence, the good news is that after nine months of unjust detention awaiting trial, the 35 will finally be freed.

Legal Centre Lesbos – a team of International and Greek Lawyers, Interpreters and Volunteers.  For more info contact info@legalcentrelesbos.org or +30 695 507 4724

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Αν και οι 35 κατηγορούμενοι θα αφεθούν ελεύθεροι σύντομα, έλαβε χώρα σήμερα μια κραυγαλέα κακοδικία στο Μικτό Ορκωτό Δικαστήριο της Χίου, όπου οι 32 από τους 35 κατηγορούμενους βρέθηκαν ένοχοι. Οι 35 είχαν συλληφθεί βίαια και αυθαίρετα στο κέντρο της Μόριας στην Λέσβο στις 18 Ιουλίου 2017 στο πλαίσιο επεισοδίων που ξεκίνησαν ως μια ειρηνική διαμαρτυρία έξω από τα γραφεία της Ευρωπαϊκής Υπηρεσίας Υποστήριξης για το Άσυλο (EASO). Αυτή η εγγενώς επισφαλής απόφαση, η οποία λήφθηκε παρά την συντριπτική έλλειψη αποδεικτικών στοιχείων, υπήρξε το αποτέλεσμα μιας δίκης που διήρκεσε μια εβδομάδα και στο πλαίσιο της οποίας σημειώθηκαν συνεχείς παραβιάσεις θεμελιωδών αρχών δίκαιης δίκης, όπως αυτή προβλέπεται στο άρθρο 6 της Ευρωπαϊκής Σύμβασης για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου και θετεί σημαντικά ερωτήματα για την αμεροληψία. τόσο των δικαστών όσο και της εισαγγελέως της έδρας.

32 από τους 35 κατηγορούμενους κρίθηκαν ένοχοι για τετελεσμένη σωματική βλάβη εναντίον αστυνομικών αλλά απαλλάχθηκαν από κάθε άλλη κατηγορία. Οι 3 εξ αυτών που πιάστηκαν από πυροσβέστη εκτός του κέντρου της Μόριας κρίθηκαν αθώοι για όλες τις αξιόποινες πράξεις για τις οποίες κατηγορούνταν. Η μαρτυρία που δόθηκε εναντίον τους δεν θεωρήθηκε αξιόπιστη καθώς ο πυροσβέστης προέβη σε εσφαλμένη αναγνώριση προσώπων κατά την ακροαματική διαδικασία.

Αν και τα αποδεικτικά στοιχεία εναντίον των υπολοίπων 32 κατηγορουμένων εμφάνιζαν παρόμοιες ασυνέχειες, οι 3 δικαστές και οι 4 ένορκοι έκριναν ομόφωνα ότι και οι 32 είναι ένοχοι. Αυτή η απόφαση ελήφθη χωρίς να έχει αποδείξει η εισαγγελέας ότι πληρώθηκαν τα απαραίτητα στοιχεία του εγκλήματος: υπήρχαν μόνο στοιχεία που καταδείκνυαν ότι υπέστη ελαφρά σωματική βλάβη ένας από τους αστυνομικούς και δεν υπήρχαν πειστικά στοιχεία από τα οποία να προκύπτει ότι οι συγκεκριμένοι 32 κατηγορούμενοι επιτέθηκαν σε αστυνομικό. Οι αστυνομικοί που κατέθεσαν ως μάρτυρες κατηγορίας, δήλωσαν πως οι 32 που συλλήφθησαν εντός του κέντρου της Μόριας ήταν ένοχοι απλώς επειδή ήταν παρόντες στο Αφρικανικό τμήμα του κέντρου αφού είχαν λήξει τα επεισόδια μεταξύ κάποιων μεταναστών και της διμοιρίας των ΜΑΤ. Το γεγονός ότι το δικαστήριο επικύρωσε με την απόφαση του το σκεπτικό ότι η ενοχή μπορεί να συναχθεί λόγω φυλής και τοποθεσίας κοντινής σε αυτήν όπου έλαβαν μέρος τα φερόμενα εγκλήματα θέτει ένα εξαιρετικά επικίνδυνο προηγούμενο για την σύλληψη στο πλαίσιο επεισοδιών και διαδηλώσεων.

Στους μάρτυρες υπεράσπισης περιλαμβάνονταν κάτοικοι από την Μυτιλήνη και το κέντρο της Μόριας, οι οποίοι επιβεβαίωσαν ότι το κέντρο δεν εκκενώθηκε ποτέ, ότι οι άνθρωποι εισέρχονταν και εξέρχονταν του κέντρου ελεύθερα καθ ΄όλη την διάρκεια εκείνου του απογέυματος μέσω των εισόδων στο πίσω μέρος του κέντρου και ότι στο κέντρο επικρατούσε ησυχία για σχεδόν μια ώρα πριν ξεκινήσουν οι συλλήψεις. Πολλοι κατηγορούμενοι κατέθεσαν ότι συμμετείχαν στην ειρηνική διαδήλωση, διεκδικώντας ελευθερία κινήσεως από την Λέσβο προς την ελληνική ενδοχώρα, να λάβει τέλος η άδικη διαδικασία ασύλου στο νησί και βελτίωση των συνθηκών στην Μόρια. Όπως εξήγησαν, οι αστυνομικοί ανταποκρίθηκαν βίαια, διασκορπώντας τους διαδηλωτές με υπέρμετρη χρήση δακρυγόνων. Άλλοι κατέθεσαν ότι εισήλθαν στην Μόρια όταν επικρατούσε ήδη ηρεμία, για να βρεθούν βιαία συλληφθέντες κατά την επιδρομή της αστυνομίας. Η υπερβολική χρήση βίας από τους αστυνομικούς επιβεβαιώθηκε κατά την διάρκεια της δίκης μέσω ιατρικών βεβαιώσεων των τραυμάτων που υπέστησαν οι κατηγορούμενοι, βιντεοληπτικό υλικό των συλλήψεων και την κατάθεση πολλών μαρτύρων και κατηγορουμένων. Η εισαγγελία της Μυτιλήνης έχει ήδη κινήσει την διαδικασία έρευνας κατά αγνώστων αστυνομικών για την πρόκληση σοβαρών σωματικών βλαβών σε 12 από τους 35 κατηγορουμένους.

Η δίκη στην Χίο έβριθε διαδικαστικών προβλημάτων, συμπεριλαμβανομένης της απουσίας διερμηνείας για το μεγαλύτερο κομματί της δικής καθώς και του ιδιαίτέρως περιορισμένου χρόνου που δόθηκε στους κατηγορούμενους και τους μάρτυρες υπεράσπισης να παρουσίασουν την δική τους σκοπιά των γεγονότων. Μια διεθνή αποστολή νομικών παρατηρητών ήταν παρούσα κατά την διάρκεια της δίκης, η οποία έχει ανάλαβει την εκπόνηση εντός του προσεχούς μέλλοντος μια αναφοράς σχετικά με το αν τηρήθηκαν κατά την ακροαματική διαδικασία τα εχέγγυα δίκαιης δίκης.

Αψηφά την λογική το γεγονός ότι παρά την ύπαρξη βιντεοληπτικού υλικού στο οποίο φαίνονται επιθέσεις αστυνομικών κατά των κατηγορουμένων και παρά την αδυναμία των αστυνομικών που κατέθεσαν ως μάρτυρες να αναγνωρίσουν οποιονδήποτε από τους 35 κατηγορούμενους στο δικαστήριο, οι 32 βρέθηκαν ένοχοι.

Αυτή η απόφαση ελήφθη 4 ημέρες μετά τις συλλήψεις της 23ης Απριλίου 2018 και τις συνακόλουθες προσαγωγές 122 ατόμων – κυρίως Αφγανικής καταγωγής – οι οποίοι διαδήλωναν ειρηνικά στην Μυτιλήνη και δέχθηκαν βίαιες επιθέσεις από ένοπλους φασίστες κακοποιούς προτού συλληφθούν από την αστυνομία. Ανησυχούμε ιδιαίτερα ότι η απόφαση του δικαστηρίου της Χίου μπορεί να αποτελέσει πάτημα για το κράτος να συνεχίσει να ποινικοποιεί τις διαδηλώσεις ανθρώπων που αντιστέκονται στις εχθρικές πολιτικές που υιοθετεί το κράτος εναντίον τους.

Οι 32 κατηγορούμενοι στους οποίες επιβλήθηκε ποινή φυλάκισης 26 μηνών έχουν ασκήσει έφεση κατά της απόφασης. Η ίδια η ποινή είναι παράλογη καθώς υπερβαίνει κατά 19 μηνές τους 7 μήνες που πρότεινε ως ποινή η εισαγγελέας κατά το πέρας της διαδικασίας.

Καθώς η ποινή των 32 υπόκειται σε αναστολή, το θετικό νέο είναι ότι μετά από εννέα μήνες άδικης προφυλάκισης ενώ περίμεναν να εκδικαστεί η υπόθεση, οι 35 θα αφεθούν επιτέλους ελεύθεροι.

Legal Centre Lesbos –  Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες επικοινωνήστε με το info@legalcentrelesbos.org ή το τηλέφωνο +30 695 507 4724

Release of Documentary: MORIA 35

Ahead of the 20 April 2018 trial of the Moria 35, we premiered the documentary Moria 35, at Refugees Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza in Athens this Saturday 14 April.

The film chronicles the months of organized resistence by migrants in Moria Detention Centre prior to the 18 July 2017 violent police crack-down and arrest of the 35 now facing trial. On trial this week are not only the unjust arrest and prosecution of the 35, but also the State policies of violence and the marginalization of migrants in hotspots like Moria at Europe’s borders.

In City Plaza on Saturday the screening of Moria 35 was part of an open discussion about persecuted and imprisoned migrants of the Moria 35, and Petrou Ralli 8.  Joining the discussion were filmmaker Fridoon Joinda, as well as Nasim Lomani from City Plaza, Lorraine Leete from the Legal Centre, and Moria 35 defence attorney Giorgia Palaiologou.

Demonstration Against Two Years of EU’s Dirty Deal with Turkey

PRESS RELEASE: Two years after the EU-Turkey deal came into force, on Saturday 17th March the Legal Centre will join a demonstration, in a show of solidarity with the thousands of migrants who are forced to live in inhumane conditions in Moria Detention Centre and in the open air prison of Lesvos. Due to recent police raids and increased tensions and fear of police repression, the demonstration will not be held as originally planned outside Moria Detention Centre, but will be moved to the centre of Mytilene in Sappfous Square. Now, more than ever, solidarity is needed to defend migrants’ rights against the EU’s dirty anti-migration deals, which have led to preventable deaths at Europe’s borders and continued marginalization and criminalization of migrants’ lives.

As a legal organization, we work to defend migrants and refugees’ right to residency in Greece and across Europe. However, we are conscious that we are working in a political and legal context where these rights are being systematically denied. Nearly one hundred people are currently detained inside Moria, prohibited from leaving the Camp since arrival, with the intention that these individuals will have their cases processed and they will be deported to Turkey without ever freely setting foot in Europe.  Police carry out discriminatory raids and controls against migrants, the most recent early this morning in Moria Camp. Trumped-up criminal charges are also regularly brought against migrants, including in the case of the Moria 35, which will go to trial next month. Access to justice is denied to asylum seekers through a meaningless review of rejected claims by Appeals Committees that reject 99% of cases, and a prohibitively expensive appeals procedure in court. And millions of people are prevented by EU-supported Turkish authorities from leaving unsafe countries such as Turkey and reaching Greece.

It is essential that as lawyers we work not only to advocate for individual refugees’ rights to protection in Europe, but to work towards accountability for the ongoing assault on migrants’ lives. As lawyers we must also work to defend the right to organise and demonstrate against these anti-migration policies without fear.

For these reasons we join Saturday’s demonstration, with the Coordination for Refugee and Immigrant Support Movement of Lesvos, together with actions held throughout Europe on this International Day of Action against Racism and Fascism.

For further information please use the links below or contact us via:
info@legalcentrelesbos.org or call Lorraine Leete on +30 695 507 4724

January 2018 Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

Violations of Rights Exposed at Europe’s Borders

At the close of 2017 in the period since our last report, the inhumane treatment of migrants in Lesvos continues to be widely reported on and denounced by refugees and migrants, solidarity activists, the media, and human rights organizations. In response to this pressure, in November and December roughly 3000 asylum seekers were transferred from Lesvos to mainland Greece and Crete. However during the same time period approximately the same number of individuals arrived to Lesvos from Turkey.

Whilst the number of arrivals decreased somewhat in January, as a result of rainy, windy, and cold weather, an estimated 7000 migrants are still living in Lesvos. As recently reported by Amnesty International, for those trapped on the island, conditions remain unbearable; in violation of the right to adequate housing, health care, and freedom of movement. The European Union continues to blame Greece for the conditions in the hotspots. However, inhumane and crowded conditions are ensured so long as movement from the Greek islands to mainland Europe is prohibited for the majority of asylum seekers – something that has been enforced since the EU-Turkey Statement in March 2016.

Europe continues to measure success of the EU-Turkey deal in terms of curbing the total number of arrivals to Europe, but in effect this means that more individuals are stuck in unsafe and inhumane situations on the frontier of Europe – in Lesvos, but in even greater numbers in countries at Europe’s borders such as Turkey and Libya. As has been shown throughout history, halting migration is impossible, as borders will inevitably be crossed and individuals will continue to migrate in search of refuge.

Thirty-Year-Old Man Drowns Attempting to BOARD FERRY to ATHENS

The tragic consequences for individuals denied safe passage were seen this month in Lesvos as on 1 February 2018, an unidentified man’s body was found in the port of Mytilini. It was presumed that he drowned, having died 10 days earlier. The body was identified by authorities as that of a Moroccan man who had registered for international protection in Lesvos in July 2017.

Whilst he is yet to be formally identified, given that his friends have not been permitted to see his body, they believe that the man found was actually Saihi, a 30 year old Algerian, who ten days earlier had attempted to swim to climb aboard a ferry bound for Athens. His friends believe he registered his nationality as Moroccan because he feared that the authorities would discriminate against Algerians. However, even though registered as a Moroccan he found no protection in Greece. Even in death, his family is being denied the right to bury him and mourn appropriately; his body still lays in the Mytilini morgue due to their inability to pay the fees to expatriate his body to Algeria.

Saihi had recently celebrated his thirtieth birthday with friends and after over six months trapped in Lesvos he decided to take his chances to leave the island. Tragically, the dangerous journeys people make to reach Europe do not end when they reach Lesvos. Although they are in Europe, since the EU-Turkey deal, people who arrive to the Greek territories from Turkey are prohibited from leaving the islands until the lengthy asylum procedure has completed. If rejected, they face deportation to Turkey, where rights are systematically denied and where non-Syrians face certain imprisonment and likely deportation to their home countries.

Saihi was one of many people trapped on the island who risk their lives attempting to reach the European continent. As he did not have legal status in Greece, he was denied assistance by NGOs. He was left on his own in Lesvos; staying in an abandoned house in Mytilini, without electricity, water, or any aid apart from food assistance provided through No Borders Kitchen. He had left Moria Camp approximately four months earlier, to get away from the unsafe environment where police violence and daily fights are routine. Employment opportunities in Lesvos are limited even for Greeks, and it is even more difficult for foreigners to support themselves given language barriers and discrimination. Many individuals trapped in Lesvos living either in the inhumane conditions of Moria Camp or on the streets and abandoned houses of Mytilini self-medicate with horribly addictive prescription drugs, such as the insomnia medication Flunitrazepam (commonly known as “Bubli”). Prescriptions for these drugs are illegally sold in the open in Moria Camp and the parks of Mytilini under the eye of Greek police, who rarely intervene. Saihi was one individual who self medicated in order to build up the courage to face the swim to board the ferry to Athens.

Instead of investigating the rampant sale of drugs to desperate migrants and refugees who have few options for survival in Lesvos, the Greek police operate an unchecked campaign of discrimination and violence against such marginalized persons. Systematic racial profiling by the police who regularly ask individuals for proof of their legal status means a life of constant stress, in particular for individuals denied protection by the Greek government and assistance by NGOs.

In Lesvos, assistance provided by many humanitarian NGOs is linked to legal status, in direct contrast to established humanitarian principles, such as a commitment to provide assistance with impartiality,

which requires that it be provided solely on the basis of need and in proportion to need. This reflects the wider principle of non-discrimination that no one should be discriminated against on any grounds of status.

Mercy Corps International, for example provides cash assistance only to those who the Greek government has designated as asylum seekers or refugees. This means that humanitarian aid is provided only when the Greek government legitimizes an individual’s presence in Greece. Individuals whose applications have been rejected in the second instance and individuals who have not made an application to the Greek Asylum Service (often due to delays in the processing of applications) are unable to receive this aid, regardless of their need. Similar requirements for UNHCR coordinated housing and other services prevent many individuals in need from being provided housing outside Moria Camp, in shelters run by other NGOs.

Saihi’s death is a tragic consequence of Europe’s illegal policies of exclusion and containment. While they are not responsible for their creation, humanitarian NGOs must do more to distance themselves from such policies and instead adhere to the principles of impartiality and independence if they are truly nongovernmental and humanitarian.

Arbitrary Detention in Lesvos Continues

In January 2018, the so-called “pilot” program to detain throughout the asylum procedure individuals from low recognition rate countries officially ended. Since its initiation, The Legal Centre has denounced the practice of detention based on nationality as illegal. While we welcome the end of this policy, Greek Authorities continue to arbitrarily detain individuals on arrival.

The police enforcing the detention, justify such action based on the individual’s responses during their initial registration, citing that these individuals have applied for international protection “in order to delay or frustrate the enforcement of a return decision”. While this is one of the legal grounds for detention under Greek Law, this reasoning is being used to detain individuals immediately upon arrival in Greece, before they have even completed their initial registration.

While the stated reason for detention has changed, it seems that detention is still largely based on nationality, given that most of those detained upon arrival are from countries where the majority of citizens are denied international protection.

Further frustrating judicial review of these decisions, individuals are often detained without a written comprehensive order from the Police Director, stating “complete and comprehensive reasoning” for the detention, as required by Greek Law 4375, Article 46(3). The lack of such an order makes it difficult for individuals and lawyers alike to legally challenge the decision in court.

Additionally, Greece continues the practice of detaining individuals who have requested “voluntary” return to their home countries. Many individuals spend months in detention after they make the difficult decision to give up on their hope of receiving protection in Europe.

Under Greek and international law, asylum seekers cannot be detained simply because “he/she entered irregularly and/or stays in the country without a legal residence permit,” and detention should be enforced “exceptionally and if this is considered necessary after an individual assessment under the condition that no alternative measures” can be applied. [Greek Law 4375, Article 46]. While we condemn the containment policy as a violation of individuals’ right to freedom of movement, when most asylum seekers in Lesvos are in any case prohibited from leaving, there is no legal excuse for keeping individuals in detention upon arrival on the closed island of Lesvos, or when they are coerced into returning to their home countries.

Legal Centre Updates

Moria 35+2

Six months have passed since the police violently raided the African section of Moria Camp, and a trial date still has not been set for the Moria 35. On the 13 December 2017 the Municipal Court renewed for another six months the pretrial detention for the 30 defendants currently detained awaiting trial. This is despite petitions by the Legal Centre and Solidarity Now attorneys to release individuals with severe mental and physical health conditions. Since their arrest on 18 July 2017, these men have now been imprisoned for over six months, without any credible evidence against them.

Furthermore, it has been confirmed that two individuals arrested in Lesvos in the weeks following the 18 July raid of Moria Refugee Camp face identical criminal charges as the 35 originally arrested. These two men have been released with restrictive measures and continue to live in Lesvos. It is expected that they will be scheduled for trial together with the original 35.

While they are not in an official prison, the seven defendants who were released with restricted measures are still in an open air prison, restricted to Lesvos island and many still live in the militarized and inhumane Moria Refugee Camp; the same place where they were brutally attacked by the police on 18 July 2017. They are marginalized and have limited access to health care and humanitarian aid, making their life extremely difficult. Many still suffer health problems that were caused or aggravated by the police violence against them, and have ongoing health needs that they do not have funds to pay for. They are in a state of limbo, denied aid from organizations like Mercy Corps, because their asylum claims have been rejected in the second instance, yet they are prohibited from leaving the island (even if it were to return to their home country) due to the ongoing criminal case against them.

Despite the lack of justice found in the Greek court to date, there has been a growing solidarity movement to support these men and demand their freedom, as activists from around Europe have learned of their unjust arrest and continued detention.

At the Legal Centre, we have also launched a successful crowd funding campaign to both raise awareness and funds to ensure an effective legal defense.

Funding Updates

The Legal Centre continues to operate with the exclusive support of individual donations and entities that are not complicit in human rights or environmental abuses. Our ethical funding guidelines allow us not only to maintain our independence, but through our funders we have also begun to build relationships with solidarity organization outside Lesvos, in particular in Barcelona. We have renewed funding from both Fons Catalá and Fundación Heres for 2018, and received support from ASIC La Garriga‘s December fundraising campaign.

Thanks to this funding we are now are able to support a small team of two full time Greek attorneys, three part time interpreters, and a full time coordinator. Volunteer lawyers and legally trained individuals continue to serve as caseworkers in the Legal Centre and provide invaluable assistance to ensure that the Legal Centre can continue to have an open door policy and provide individualized consultation to any migrant in Lesvos who seeks our legal assistance. In 2017, through advocacy of our volunteers, interpreters, and lawyers, hundreds of Legal Centre clients were granted refugee status, subsidiary protection, and permission to leave Lesvos for the European continent.