Category: Latest News

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.

*****

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.

*****

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.

 *****
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.

***

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

*****
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

*******

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.

CROWDFUNDING: Help us defend 35 Refugees denied of their human rights

 

Legal Centre Lesbos is urgently raising funds to provide effective legal defence for Refugees facing criminal charges following a peaceful protest in Moria Detention camp in Greece.

Help us defend their human rights.

About the campaign

On 18 July 2017, police violently raided the overcrowded open-air Moria Detention camp on the island of Lesbos in Greece, arbitrarily arresting 35 individuals – the vast majority of African-origin or descent.  This, in response to a peaceful protest earlier that day by Refugees of all nationalities for freedom of movement and against inhumane camp conditions, which was also met by police brutality, outside the EU Asylum Office. Many of those arrested were not even present at the protest.

To highlight the seriousness of this case and the extent of police violence, Amnesty International have called on Greek authorities to immediately investigate excessive use of force amounting to possible torture.  An investigation has now been opened into dangerous bodily harm committed by unknown police officers.

The Moria 35 each face criminal charges which may lead to up to 10 years in prison, exclusion to the right to international protection and deportation to countries they fled.

Who are Legal Centre Lesbos and how can we all help?

Legal Centre Lesbos works on the expertise of a small International and Greek team of professionals and volunteer international lawyers and law students.  Hosted in the Mosaik Refugee Support centre in Lesbos, we provide free Refugee legal support.  We are not government funded and every resource goes towards those at the heart of our project.

Having represented 34 of the 35 defendants at their initial hearings, Legal Centre Lesbos led the creation of a criminal defence team of Greek lawyers, continues to represent six defendants, and is now helping to coordinate the work of the criminal defense team. The trial is expected for early 2018.  We are urgently raising funds to cover the costs of legal representation, associated administrative and court fees and a team of independent trial observers to ensure international oversight and accountability in this highly politicised trial.

With limited time remaining we must urgently raise £10,000 to help achieve justice for the Moria 35.

Please consider donating to help us achieve the target.
We also need you to share:  Be our voice!

OCTOBER REPORT ON RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND RESISTANCE IN LESVOS

  1. Moria Refugee Camp Unlivable and Containment Policy Unsustainable
  2. OPEN THE ISLANDS Campaigns initiated throughout Lesvos and Greece
  3. Sappho Square Sit-In
  4. Memorials Held for Refugees Killed at Sea and in Lesvos
  5. Legal Updates
    • Asylum Seekers Whose Right to Legal Aid Was Violated Forcibly Returned to Turkey
    • Detention Policy in Violation of International Law Extended to Syrian Men
    • Shifting Practices for Registration and Granting Permission to Leave the Island
  6. Legal Centre Lesbos Updates
    • Moria 35 Update
    • Legal Centre Lesbos Founder Receives Paris Pro Bono Award

1. Moria Refugee Camp Unlivable and Containment Policy Unsustainable

In October over 2260 individuals arrived in Lesvos from Turkey. During the same period, only 1189 asylum seekers were allowed to leave Lesvos and provided with accommodation on the mainland. This brings the total population of refugees and asylum seekers in Lesvos to approximately 8000, with an estimated 6000 staying in or around Moria Refugee Camp. Last month we reported on the inhumane conditions in Moria, and this month these problems have only compounded, putting asylum seekers lives in acute danger. Now, over 1000 children are living in Moria, unaccompanied minor children are living together with adults, and 3000 individuals are living in summer camping tents without heating. Reception conditions do not come close to “ensur[ing] . . . a dignified standard of living,” as required by EU Regulations (Recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU).

Tragedy has already befallen asylum seekers in Lesvos. Two residents of Moria died in October – a five year old Syrian girl, and a 43 year old Iraqi man. While both reportedly suffered from prior medical conditions, the access to health care for asylum seekers remains appallingly inadequate.

The Greek State has received 700 million Euros to manage the arrival of refugees, and it is the obligation of the Greek State to ensure adequate standards of living and health care. However, solidarity and volunteer groups continue to be the key actors working daily directly with refugees and asylum seekers. Boat Refugee Foundation (BRF) and Emergency Response Centre International (ECRI) are the main providers of health care in the camp, and both are volunteer based organizations. Volunteer and donation based organizations such as Attika warehouse have also provided many of the tents in Moria and winter products distributed among the refugees.

2. OPEN THE ISLANDS Campaigns INitiated throughout Lesvos and Greece

As a result of the abysmal conditions refugees face in Lesvos and other Greek Islands, October saw the convergence of many different actors in the Greek islands and throughout Europe joining forces to call on the Greek government to open the islands and allow asylum seekers to travel to mainland EU. On 12 October, the Legal Centre Lesbos joined a collective of what has now grown to over 100 solidarity groups and grassroots organizations from the Greek islands, mainland Greece, and abroad, calling for urgent action from Greek government to address the untenable situation for refugees on the Greek islands. We demand that the EU government protect the rights of asylum seekers and immediately cancel the inhumane EU-Turkey deal, and allow refugees free movement rights.

On 23 October, the call to open the islands was echoed by larger NGOs and human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who the Legal Centre Lesbos joined in issuing an additional statement recommending that the Greek state allow asylum seekers free movement throughout Greece.

Lesvos LGBTIQ+ Refguee Solidarity also published a damning report on the complete lack of protection for LGBTIQ+ refugees and asylum seekers in Lesvos. Many face continued persecution and revictimization within Moria, on the streets of Lesvos, and from Greek authorities. They also demand that the islands be opened to allow LGBTQI+ refugees to reach safety on mainland Europe.

 

3. Sappho Square Sit-In

On the 20 October, due to the insecure, inhumane conditions, many families – the majority from Afghanistan – fled Moria Refugee Camp with all of their belongings. That night they slept in the street, rather than return to Moria Camp. The next day, despite attempts by the police to block their passage, they walked to Mitilini and occupied Sapfous square in central Mitilini. The occupation of Sapfous Square appears to have happened organically without prior organization or planning, in reaction to insecure conditions that refugees face when they arrive in Lesvos and are forced to stay in Moria Refugee Camp. Since 21 October, Afghan families and Kurdish and Iranian refugees have staged a sit-in in Sappho Square. Their central demand is to be allowed free movement rights to travel throughout Greece. The demands of those occupying Sapfous Square are in line both with international law and the Greek constitution which recognize free movement rights.

Throughout the past twenty days of protest, the police continue to have an intimidating presence in and around the Square. They routinely stop Europeans who are present in Sapfous Square, asking for IDs, threatening arrest, and demanding information about what individuals are doing in Greece. The attempt to intimidate Europeans from speaking with the protesting refugees and documenting their testimonies plays into a practice throughout Europe of keeping refugees out of the public eye, in refugee camps far from urban centres, where systematic violations of refugee rights can take place with impunity.

Despite the attempts by the police to silence the protesters and solidarity groups, Greek activists and solidarity groups including from Musafarat collective against detention centers, Κατάληψη στο Μπίνειο (Binio Squat), Εργατική Λέσχη Λέσβου (Workers Union Lesvos) and No Borders Kitchen Lesvos have led solidarity actions and provided support to the protesting refugees throughout the past twenty days.

In addition to organizing to put pressure on Greek and European authorities to open the islands, the Legal Centre Lesbos will continue to monitor the police’s response to the occupation of Sapfous Square so that the right to protest is respected, and that any violation of this right is documented.

4. Memorials Held for Refugees Killed at Sea and in Lesvos

Welcome to Europe held a memorial in Thermi, Lesvos on 25 October in remembrance of the victims of Fortress Europe, who died at sea attempting to reach the safety of Europe, or who died while trapped on Lesvos.

A second memorial was held in Eftalou organized by Phillipa and Eric Kempson of the Hope Project, to mark two years since the preventable tragedy in 2015 when dozens were lost at sea attempting to reach Europe.

The Legal Centre Lesbos condemns the EU policies of exclusion which continue to arm the repressive Turkish regime, and fail to provide safe passage to individuals fleeing war, persecution and imperialist policies of economic and environmental exploitation.

5. Legal Updates

  • Asylum Seekers Whose Right to Legal Aid Was Violated Forcibly Returned to Turkey

In July and August we reported on the lack of legal aid available for asylum seekers on appeal, in direct violation of their right to legal aid on appeal under Greek Law 4375, Article 46. Two months later, the individuals who appealed the rejection of their cases without a lawyer are now being rejected on appeal and deported to Turkey. This includes one individual who was politically involved in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and faces persecution if returned there. As is the case for many sub-Saharan Africans, his claim was rejected on credibility after being interviewed by a European Aslum Support Office (EASO) “expert”. In theory, EASO does not make decisions, but issues an opinion after the interview(s) which, along with the interview transcript, forms the basis of the Greek Asylum Service decision. This is particularly concerning when it comes to determinations of credibility. Often, minor inconsistencies and a detached manner of recalling events are used to find individuals non-credible – when these are the very symptoms that a survivor of trauma might express.

The involvement of EASO experts in the Greek asylum procedure was challenged and upheld in the recent Council of State decision that found Turkey to be a Safe Third Country. However, we continue to condemn the lack of clarity regarding the extent of EASO’s mandate, particularly given ongoing concerns over the training and quality control of EASO “experts.”

As just one example of the callous institutional attitude of EASO, and the prioritisation of securitisation over upholding international human rights and refugee law, one EASO officer was overheard in a Mitilini cafe this month stating that “All Africans are lying”, and the primary role for EASO in Greece is to protect Europe from Isis.

“All Africans are lying,” - EASO Officer, Lesvos, October 2017.

Unfortunately, rejection on appeal is not limited to individuals without a lawyer and the Appeals Committee have served mainly to rubber stamp the initial decision made by the Greek Asylum Service. The recent European Commission report on implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement shows that ONLY 1 % OF DENIALS OF INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION WERE REVERSED ON APPEAL in cases made by non-Syrians from the Greek islands. This lack of effective remedy is a clear violation of asylum seekers right to access justice.

Given the large number of inconsistencies reported regarding interviews conducted and decisions made in Lesvos, these statistics are alarming and have tragic consequences for the individuals who have risked everything to reach the safety of Europe, only to be returned (via Turkey) to the countries where their lives may be at risk. Prohibitively expensive court fees and lack of sufficient legal aid actors on Lesvos has meant that asylum seekers are unable to challenge these routine violations in court and there has been no effective remedy or redress for violation of their rights.

  • Continued Detention in Violation of International Law Extended to Syrian men

The illegal practice of detention based on nationality for the duration of examination of applications for international protection continues, and has been extended to single Syrian men. This apparently is following the Council of State decision from last month which found that Turkey was a Safe Third Country for Syrians. HIAS successfully challenged the detention of three Syrian men, however, the three were released based on individual circumstances, and the general practice of detaining single Syrian men upon arrival continues.

Lawyers working with detained individuals have reported that detainees lack basic information about their rights – such as the right to appeal, and to information about their application in a language they understand. Lawyers have also reported that detained individuals do not have access to effective legal aid as police limit the amount of time detained individuals have to consult lawyers and often interrupt confidential consultations. The practice of keeping individuals in detention throughout the processing of their applications for international protection have horrifying consequences for the individuals detained, and due to limited access it is difficult to monitor the extent of violations taking place. There have been several reports of self harm and suicide attempts by individuals detained in Moria Camp. The Legal Centre has long denounced the illegal practice of detention based on nationality without individualized assessment, as this practice violates asylum seekers right to effective legal aid, and be free from arbitrary detention, and to be free from discrimination based on nationality.

  • Shifting Practices for Registration and Granting Permission to Leave the Island

During October 2017, the Greek Asylum Service changed its containment policies for asylum seekers who arrive to Lesvos. In the past several months individuals were made to wait until at least after their first interview with EASO or the Greek Asylum Service in order for their request to have geographic restrictions lifted considered. Thousands of asylum seekers are contained for months, some for over a year, on Lesvos awaiting the decision on their applications for international protection. For several weeks in October this practice shifted and individuals who were able to establish that they are vulnerable (a legal term under Greek law) at the full registration of their application for international protection were allowed to travel throughout Greece. Many of these individuals were transferred to the mainland and had their cases transferred for processing by the Greek Asylum Service in Athens and Thessaloniki.

As of the end of October, this policy has been rescinded, and once again individuals must appear for their first interview regarding their application for international protection in Lesvos before the Greek Asylum Service will consider lifting geographic restrictions.

The constantly changing policies and inconsistent and arbitrary treatment of asylum seekers has led to increased tensions within the refugee population in Lesvos as new arrivals have been allowed to leave the island and have been provided with housing on the mainland while many others face a second winter in Moria. “Vulnerability” under Greek law has been used as a criteria to lift geographic restrictions. But, as we have seen in many cases, non-visible vulnerabilities such as psychological problems and trauma frequently go unrecognised, despite being indicators of vulnerability under Greek Law 4375, Article 14(8). Moreover, while vulnerable asylum seekers are guaranteed certain safeguards and protections under Greek law, those found not-vulnerable also possess a significant bundle of legal rights which are currently being violated. All asylum seekers have the right to adequate reception conditions, to access a fair process, and to freedom of movement – all of which is being routinely violated in Lesvos, and in particular for those living in Moria Refugee Camp.

6. Legal Centre Lesbos Updates

  • Moria 35 Update

Three months after the July 18 arrests, the preliminary hearing procedure in the case of the Moria 35 has closed. A trial date has not yet been set. The three Bambara speaking defendants provided their own interpreter and agreed to be interrogated. With representation by HIAS and Legal Centre Lesbos, the three were ordered released with restrictive measures awaiting trial. With the conclusion of interrogation of all 35 defendants, the preliminary procedure now has closed and we await a trial date to be set.

While five of the 35 defendants are free in Lesvos awaiting trial, 30 have now been detained for three months, awaiting trial, despite lack of credible evidence against them.

Meanwhile, investigation of excessive use of force by the police against the 35 is ongoing. Several individuals who had filed complaints against the police for excessive use of force were visited by police while in detention, as part of the police department’s own internal investigation.

  • Legal Centre Lesbos Founder Receives Pro Bono Award

Each year since 2012, the Paris Bar organises a Pro Bono Award Competition which rewards solidarity actions led by Parisian lawyers. This year, among the thirty candidates who presented their projects, Norma Jullien, one of the co-founders of the Legal Centre Lesbos, was nominated.

On Tuesday 10th of October, the Pro Bono Award Ceremony took place in Paris and gathered nearly 400 lawyers and many representatives of the associative world. On this occasion the Henri Leclerc Prize dedicated to trainee and young lawyers has been awarded to Norma Jullien for her action in favor of the refugees of Lesbos and her work with the Legal Centre Lesbos.

After having dedicated her award to the entire team, Norma Jullien recalled the degrading and inhumane conditions in which the Moria camp population is staying, the systematic breaches of human rights they are subjected to and the crucial role of the international community of lawyers to fight these abuses.

Currently training at the Paris Bar School, Norma Jullien will be fully qualified to practice as a French lawyer next autumn 2018. Meanwhille she remains involved with the Legal Centre Lesbos from abroad as a volunteer coordinator.

September Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

  1. Inhumane and dangerous conditions in Moria camp
  2. Afghan community protest
  3. Anti-fascist demonstration in Mytilene
  4. EU Co-ordinator of the EU-Turkey Statement meets with resistance on his visit to Lesvos
  5. Legal Centre Lesbos Legal Updates

    • Family Reunification
    • Moria 35
  6. General Legal Updates
    • Decision of Greek Council of State sets dangerous precedent for forcible returns to Turkey under EU-Turkey Deal
    • Returns to Greece begin from Germany and other European States
    • Detention of 28 nationalities in accelerated procedure

  1. Inhumane and dangerous conditions in Moria camp

Living conditions in Moria camp have become unbearable over the past month as a dramatic increase in arrivals coincides with a deterioration in the weather and inadequate provision of food, shelter, healthcare and hygiene. Between the 1st and 26th of September 2017, 2,238 people risked their lives crossing the Mytilene Strait from Turkey to Lesvos, while during September 2016, 1068 people made this journey. Authorities have given estimates that the number of new registrations is over 200 people per day, which is the highest since March 2016. Moria camp is now at over double its capacity: at least 4,831 people are living in a camp equipped to accommodate no more than 1,800. In recent days, tents – which are fundamentally unfit for winter weather or long term accommodation – have been flooded from the rain.

Clients visiting the Legal Centre report that summer camping tents are crammed into every available space in Moria to accommodate new arrivals, that there are up to 20 people housed in containers meant for 5, that access to water gets cut off for days at a time, that there is no access to healthcare, that there are particularly vulnerable individuals – heavily pregnant women, people in wheelchairs, survivors of sexual, psychological, physical violence and torture, unaccompanied minors and pregnant minors – among those living in conditions unfit for human habitation; that there is widespread despair and mounting unrest.

In the winter of 2016-2017, in similarly crowded and inhumane conditions at least five people died in the cold in Moria Camp. When questioned about plans for ‘winterization’ of the camp for the approaching winter, a UNHCR representative responded that one solution would be increased returns to Turkey. Return to Turkey of asylum seekers violates the basic tenets of rights guaranteed to refugees and is clearly not a solution to the inhumane treatment that asylum seekers currently face in Lesvos.

The current reception conditions in Lesvos are in abject violation of the provisions of the Recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU, Recital 11 of which demands “Standards for the reception of applicants that will suffice to ensure them a dignified standard of living”, and Article 17(2) of which mandates:

“Member States shall ensure that material reception conditions provide an adequate standard of living for applicants, which guarantees their subsistence and protects their physical and mental health. Member States shall ensure that that standard of living is met in the specific situation of vulnerable persons, in accordance with Article 21, as well as in relation to the situation of persons who are in detention.”

In the face of the deplorable violation of these requirements that current conditions constitute, removing geographical restrictions amounts to a binding legal obligation under Article 7(1) of the Reception Conditions Directive since the assigned area of Lesvos does not allow sufficient scope for guaranteeing access to all benefits under the Directive:

“Applicants may move freely within the territory of the host Member State or within an area assigned to them by that Member State. The assigned area shall not affect the unalienable sphere of private life and shall allow sufficient scope for guaranteeing access to all benefits under this Directive.”

Legal Centre Lesvos therefore calls on Greek and EU authorities to immediately remove geographical restrictions placed on applicants for international protection and permit free movement to mainland Greece, where other European states must respect relocation programs so that the minimum reception conditions required to safeguard human dignity can be met. The current situation in Moria only compounds the already well-documented fact that reception conditions under the Common European Asylum Procedure are being systematically violated in Lesvos.

                                                   

Photo credit: Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa Facebook

  1. Afghan Community protest

On Monday 28th August, the Afghan refugee community in Lesvos marched from Moria to Sappho’s Square Mytilene, protesting their confinement to the island for what in many cases has been over a year. Protesters wore T-shirts with their asylum status – “no decision” – and their dates of arrival in Greece marked in red pen – like the red stamp on International Protection Applicant documents that signifies geographical restriction to Lesvos. The protest echoed the demands of both the Afghan community protests in Athens the prior week, and the collective protests in Moria held on 17th and 18th of July. The Afghans participating in the protest issued the following statement:

“Today Afghan refugees are protesting our imprisonment on Lesvos. Many of us have been here for over a year trapped on this island, and we are still waiting for decisions. We join the struggle of protests held on 17 and 18 of July, and demand that the right to freedom of movement be granted for asylum seekers who have been here since 2016. We also join the call of Afghan refugees who protested last week in Athens, and call on Greece to halt all deportations of Afghans. From the recent massacres of unarmed civilians in Mirzaolang in northern Afghanistan, in which children, women, and elderly were ruthlessly killed, to the daily suicide bombings across the country, to the reckless US drone strikes in Nangarhar, Afghan Asylum Seekers in Greece say — Afghanistan is not a safe country, and all deportation should stop.”

The protesters camped in Sappho Square, waiting for the Greek Authorities respond to their demands. After police threats, harassment and detention of community leaders, two days after their protest began a representative of the European Asylum Support Office in Lesvos and the Commander of Lesvos Police met with the protesters. The representative of EASO reportedly promised them that the following Tuesday decisions would be issued for Afghans who had been waiting in Lesvos since 2016, so they decided to end their sit-in. The following Tuesday 5th September, representatives of the Afghan community were again told by EASO officials that they must wait for decisions.  The community attempted to meet with the Greek Minister of Immigration Policy – Ioannis Mouzalas – when he visited Moria Camp on 6 September, but he refused to meet with any refugees. They also submitted a letter to the Regional Greek Asylum Office, EASO, and the Greek Ministry of Migration on 7 September 2017, with two simple demands – first, the issuance of decisions and granting freedom of movement throughout Greece for all asylum seekers who arrived in Lesvos in 2016; and second, an end to all deportations to Afghanistan and Turkey. To date this letter remains unanswered and Afghan asylum seekers remain in limbo on Lesvos.

                

Photo credits: Joan Mas

  1. Anti-fascist demonstration in Mytilene

On Monday 18th September, Αντιφασιστικός Συντονισμός Λέσβου (Lesvos Antifa) organised a march through Mytilene to: “make it clear once again that any right-wing fascist logic has no place on the island of Lesvos”. The demonstration formed part of co-ordinated anti-fascist actions across Greece, commemorating four years since the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas (Killah P) was murdered on 18 September 2013 by fascist George Roupakia, who worked for and publically supported Golden Dawn – the fascist party that currently holds 17 seats in Greek parliament. At the time, Fyssas’ murder sparked a wave of anti-fascist resistance across Greece and Europe. It is now central to ‘the biggest trial of fascist criminality since Nuremberg’, in which members of the Golden Dawn party leadership stand accused of directing criminal violence including Fyssas’ murder and other violent street attacks perpetrated by fascists against migrants and leftists, including against a group of Egyptian migrants and members of a communist-affiliated trade union. Proceedings in this politically charged trial began again at the beginning of September. While a ruling on the Golden Dawn party that casts it as institutionally criminal would be significant, in a post about resistance on September 18th, Αντιφασιστικός Συντονισμός Λέσβου (Lesvos Antifa) was careful to highlight the limitations of this form of justice in the struggle against fascism; by tracing the connections between fascist ideology, the state and the violent logic of borders:

Fascism has historically never been institutionally fought by state mechanisms, as it is the most violent and oppressive form of capitalism. And that is because it is the state that builds fences and minefields at the border, evacuates the occupations of migrants, creates concentration camps, attacks those who organise resistance “from the bottom”, i.e the same subjects that are the target of the fascists.”

“In contrast to this, our world is that of equality and solidarity, and we are willing and prepared to do everything we can to defend it.”

                                             

Photo credit: Αντιφασιστικός Συντονισμός Λέσβου Facebook

  1. EU Co-ordinator of the EU-Turkey Statement meets with resistance on his visit to Lesvos

On Thursday 21st September, Mr. Maarten Verwey, EU coordinator for implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, traveled to Lesvos and met with authorities in Moria Camp, Karatepe Camp, and the Mytilene mayor’s office. He did not, however, meet with any of the individuals best placed to brief him on the impact of the EU-Turkey Statement: the refugees and asylum seekers who know all too well how refugees are treated in Turkey, and as a consequence of the ‘deal’, have been trapped on Lesvos for months and years living in inhumane and degrading conditions in perpetual fear of deportation.

Mr. Verwey visited Lesvos just a few weeks after the European Commission issued its Seventh Report on the Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement. As in previous reports, the European Commission recommends increased returns to Turkey, and notably omits information on conditions for non-Syrian refugees who are deported to Turkey under the “readmission” scheme despite clear evidence that Turkey systematically violates the rights of refugees returned from Greece.

The report also echoes previous recommendations by the European Commission to increase security, decrease risk of absconding, and recommends that Greece consider returning to Turkey vulnerable individuals and individuals applying for family reunification within European States under the Dublin III Regulation. It also recommends keeping vulnerable individuals restricted to the Greek islands throughout the asylum process. Until now, the Greek State has not returned to Turkey any individuals whose Dublin applications for transfer to a second European State have been accepted, and the Greek Asylum Service has granted freedom of movement throughout Greece to individuals who they find to be vulnerable. The European Commission putting continued pressure on Greece to refuse entry to even the most vulnerable refugees exposes their intention to prioritise maintaining Fortress Europe above respect for international human rights protections and basic humanity.

                                                                        

Local actors and refugees will continue to denounce, organize and protest against the EU-Turkey Statement and its devastating impact on the lives of individuals and families seeking protection in Europe.

 

  1. Legal Centre LesBos Legal Updates

  • Family reunification

The Legal Centre has had good news in the case of a client we have been representing for nearly a year. After rejecting the application twice, Germany has finally accepted an application for family reunification under the discretionary and dependency provisions of Articles 16 and 17 of the Dublin III Regulation 604/2013 thanks to the coordinated efforts of the Legal Centre team. The chances of success in such cases are vanishingly slim, particularly in light of Germany’s recent suspension of family reunification procedures. As such, we are very happy to announce that the client will soon travel to be reunited with her daughter and grandchildren in Germany. The case serves as an example of why it is always worth fighting to do everything possible de jure, irrespective of the de facto collapse of some parts of the applicable European legal framework.

  • Moria 35

The preliminary hearing procedure in the case of the Moria 35 has been ongoing for two months due to the Greek state’s failure to provide Bambara and Wolof language translators for four defendants. While this preliminary procedure is unconcluded, the 30 defendants interrogated by the judge in July and ordered detained awaiting trial, remain incarcerated in prisons in Chios and Athens despite a lack of credible evidence against them. However, the delay has contributed to a victory in the case of one of the four defendants. While it is the obligation of the State to provide interpreters, on 29th September 2017 the Wolof speaking defendant himself provided an interpreter and agreed to be interrogated. At conclusion of his interrogation and on application by the criminal defence team co-ordinated by the Legal Centre, the court ordered that he be released with restrictive measures awaiting trial. The defense team argued that because of his health conditions, his residence in Moria Camp, lack of any criminal history, and the fact that he has been duly reporting to authorities and showing up to court each week for two months, he should not be detained awaiting trial. Both the public prosecutor and judge agreed. The court still has not provided a Bambara translator for the remaining three defendants, which means the preliminary procedure remains unconcluded, and all 35 continue to wait for a trial date to be set.

  1. General Legal Updates

  • Decision of Greek Council of State sets dangerous precedent for forcible returns to Turkey under EU-Turkey deal

On 22nd of September, the Greek Council of State Plenary – Greece’s highest administrative court – ruled that Turkey is a safe country. By a vote of 13 to 12, the court decided not to refer the question as to whether Turkey can be considered a “safe third country” for determination by the European Court of Justice. If the ruling is enforced, the applicants in this case will be the first to be officially forcibly returned to Turkey on the basis that it is a safe third country since the EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016: setting an extremely dangerous precedent. The concept of a ‘safe third country’ for the purposes of the Common European Asylum System is set out in Article 38 of the Recast Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU, which lists five principles that competent authorities must be satisfied that applicants for international protection will be treated in accordance with:

(a) life and liberty are not threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;

(b) there is no risk of serious harm as defined in Directive 2011/95/EU

(c) the principle of non-refoulement in accordance with the Geneva Convention is respected;

(d) the prohibition of removal, in violation of the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as laid down in international law, is respected; and

(e) the possibility exists to request refugee status and, if found to be a refugee, to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention

The Legal Centre has consistently denounced the EU-Turkey deal for its hypocritical, politically expedient reliance on the notion that Turkey – not even a signatory of the 1968 protocol to the Refugee Convention – can be considered a ‘safe third country’, given overwhelming evidence that each of five principles listed above are systematically violated by Erdogan’s repressive authoritarian regime. Indeed, the Greek Council of State’s decision came just as Amnesty International released a report documenting the heightened risk of violations of the principle of non-refoulement for refugees in Turkey since the state of emergency was put in place. 

  • Returns to Greece begin from Germany and other European states

The Legal Centre is concerned at recent moves made by Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, and other European states to resume returning refugees to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, which provides that the first European member state an asylum seeker enters is responsible for the examination of her application for international protection. Transfers back to Greece have been suspended since 2011, when decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union found that returns to Greece would amount to violations of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3 ECHR, Article 4 European Charter) in combination with the right to an effective remedy (Article 13 ECHR, Article 47 EC), due to systematic deficiencies in asylum procedures and reception conditions. As systematic violations of these standards continue and conditions deteriorate, any European country returning refugees to Greece will risk acting in violation of non-derogable human rights.

  • Detention of 28 nationalities in accelerated procedure

The Legal Centre condemns the policy being used by Greek authorities that keeps applicants for international protection from countries with “low rates of recognition” detained for the duration of their asylum procedure, which is also accelerated. This policy is in violation of international human rights law: amounting to discrimination on the basis of nationality, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and precluding the right to effective access to procedures and effective remedy. The policy also violates procedural requirements of EU and Greek law, which explicitly prohibit holding people in detention for the sole reason that they have applied for international protection. Detention is only exceptionally permitted for limited time periods as a measure of last resort, under the specific circumstances set out in Article 46 of Greek Law 4375, which must be individually assessed in every case. The disturbing assumptions underlying this manifestly unlawful policy should be evident from the fact that a police circular describing the policy on 18th June 2016 termed people from “low rate of recognition” nationalities as “economic profile”, as opposed to “refugee profile” applicants.