Category: Moria 35 Updates

Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

Asylum Seekers leaving from Lesvos to Athens in early May 2018.

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.

 

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

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.
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