Category: Latest News

HEARING TOMORROW AT MYTILENE COURT FOR #MORIA35

PRESS RELEASE

35 individuals were arrested on Tuesday 18th July 2017 in Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece, after clashes with riot police using teargas and violence, which followed the peaceful protest refugees held in the morning. The 35 refugees who were arrested in Moria Camp on Tuesday have preliminary hearings tomorrow and Saturday, the 21st and 22nd of July. Many of those arrested were not even part of the morning’s peaceful protest or clashes between a handful of protesters and riot police, leading observers to conclude that they were arrested simply due to their race and location in the camp when raids and arrests took place. Many of the 35 were brutally beaten by the police; some still have visible injuries, many require medical attention, and one remains hospitalized. Their access to food, water and medical care has been restricted, and many remain without shoes. All 35 face exaggerated criminal charges including arson, attempted assault, resisting arrest, rioting and disturbing the public peace. These charges carry disproportionately heavy sentences if convicted, and could result in exclusion from the right to international protection and deportation to the countries they have fled because of dangers to their life and/or liberty. There is mounting evidence of excessive use of force by the police on Tuesday, and reports of ongoing police violence against the 35 currently in custody. However, given the extremely limited number of lawyers on the island, and the 48-hour timeline, the Moria 35 face serious criminal charges without access to meaningful due process. Legal Centre Lesbos strongly condemns these arrests and the violence that preceded them. Although the hearings are not open to the public, we call on all concerned individuals in and near Mytilene to show solidarity with the accused by being a peaceful presence outside the courthouse tomorrow and Saturday from 9am. Follow @lesboslegal on twitter for updates.

Για τα γεγονότα στις 18-07 στο Kέντρο Kράτησης της Μόριας Λέσβου

July Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos

  1. Arbitrary Detention Sparks Protests in Moria and Mytilene
  2. Lack of free legal representation on appeal violates refugees´ right to due process
  3. Concerns about rise in hate crimes and discrimination in Mytilene
  4. LCL developments: LCL welcomes new Greek lawyer to team
  1. Arbitrary Detention Sparks Protests in Moria and Mytilene

The Greek government continues to indiscriminately detain all asylum seekers after their cases have been rejected on appeal. As denounced by the Legal Centre Lesbos, this practice is in violation of Greek, EU and international law. Applicants for international protection can only be lawfully detained 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. In the past week, the practice of administrative detention in Lesvos has led to two separate protests.

Today, 13 July 2017, several detained asylum seekers, and the brother of one of those detained, enter the 16th and 15th day of their hunger strike demanding the release of everyone incarcerated in Moria Camp. Arash Hampay, the brother of one of the asylum seekers on hunger strike in prison, is a human rights activist from Iran. He joined the hunger strike in Mytilene’s public square a day after his imprisoned brother, and reports regularly on the situation of refugees in Lesvos and failure of the Greek State and UNHCR to protect those seeking refuge in Europe.

 

Arash Hampay, on Day 12 of hunger strike.

Among the practices denounced by Arash Hampay is the new practice of limiting refugee detainees’ access to their phones to one hour per day, and restricting access to medical care. These practices put the hunger strikers´ lives in danger and violate their right to protest. During the past two weeks of their hunger strike, the detained hunger strikers have not been visited by authorities to discuss their demands. The Mytilene police have approached Arash Hampay only to threaten him with arrest and insult him. On Saturday 8 July 2017 approximately 50 refugees marched from Moria Refugee Camp to Mytilene in solidarity with the hunger strikers, and in protest of the detention of asylum seekers. The march ended with a rally in Sappho square, the site of Arash Hampay’s hunger strike, where he made a speech denouncing the inhumane practices of the Greek and EU authorities which was translated into four different languages for the crowd that had gathered.

On 10 July 2017, a protest erupted in Moria Refugee Camp, the main refugee camp in Lesvos, where more than 3,000 refugees live in overcrowded, inhumane conditions for prolonged periods of time. 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 caught fire and were destroyed; including the container of EuroRelief, the religious organization responsible under UN auspices for providing basic services in the Camp. Several refugees have denounced EuroRelief for collusion with the police, discrimination against and failure to protect LGBTQ+ refugees, and for prosthelatysing vulnerable inhabitants of Moria Camp. Fire trucks and fire fighters entered Moria Refugee Camp to combat the fire only after the fire had died down.

  1. Lack of free legal representation on appeal

Greek Law provides that “in procedures before the Appeals Authority, applicants shall be provided with free legal assistance.” Greek Law 4375, Article 44; which transposes Articles 19-23 of the EU Procedures Directive, which requires the same. As of the the last week of June 2017, however, the Greek NGO, Metadrasi, that had been providing this mandatory free legal assistance on appeal has stopped accepting new cases. Metadrasi’s contract to provide legal assistance on appeal ended at the end of June 2017, and no other legal aid provider has been contracted to fill the gap left by the departure of Metadrasi. As a result, all those whose applications for international protection have been rejected in the past two weeks are being told by Greek authorities and UNHCR that there is no lawyer available to assist with their appeal.

Under accelerated border procedures in place in Lesvos, appeals are usually examined only 10 days after an initial rejection. This leaves asylum seekers with little time to secure effective legal aid even when a free lawyer is provided, as required by Greek law. This problem has been aggravated over the past few weeks with asylum seekers unable to secure any legal assistance before their appeals are examined. This process violates asylum seekers’ right to due process, and could lead to the rejection and deportation of asylum seekers who will face persecution in their home countries or Turkey: in violation of the principle of non-refoulement and the non-derogable provisions of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

  1. Concerns about rise in hate crimes and discrimination

In the past week, the Legal Centre has been informed of at least three attacks by Greek nationals and the Greek police against refugees. The Legal Centre helped one refugee file a complaint with the police department after he was beaten by three Greek individuals who stopped him on the street and insulted him for being an “African bastard.” Another individual from Iran was also beaten by three Greek individuals. When he began to defend himself, the police arrived and arrested the Iranian refugee but not the Greek individuals. The Iranian national was taken to the Mytilene police station where he was beaten by the police, and charged with having assaulted the Greek nationals. In the past few weeks we have also been informed of an increase in discrimination against refugees by both Greek civilians and police officers, particularly racism against black individuals. In one reported incident, employees of Tsamakia beach, the main beach in Mytilene, refused entry to a group of black refugees, who were preparing to pay. The individuals were given no explanation for the refused entry, and believe the refusal was racially motivated. It should go without saying that discrimination based on race or national origin violates basic rights guaranteed by Greek, EU and international law.

 

Tsamakia beach, Lesvos

  4. LCL developments: Legal Centre welcomes new Greek lawyer to team

The Legal Centre is happy to welcome Greek lawyer Stefanos Mitropanos to our team. He joins the Legal Centre after several years working as an attorney in Athens and Thessaloniki, defending the rights of refugees and criminal defendants in Greek courts and in the European Court of Human Rights.

Strasbourg Court halts return of rejected asylum seeker to Turkey

As reported here by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles

——

Strasbourg Court halts return of rejected asylum seeker to Turkey – 30th June 2017

Last week the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) granted interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court to prevent the return of a rejected asylum seeker to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal.

The applicant, a national of Pakistan and member of the Ahmadi minority, has had his asylum application rejected as unfounded at both first and second instance and is currently on the island of Lesvos. An application for interim measures has been filed before the Administrative Court of Mytilene against his readmission to Turkey, although such measures have no suspensive effect under national law. The ECtHR requested the Greek authorities to suspend the return of the individual to Turkey until the Administrative Court of Mytilene issues its decision. The Strasbourg Court also ordered the case to be prioritised.

Since the adoption of the EU-Turkey deal on 18 March 2016, more than 1,200 people have been returned from Greece to Turkey. The majority of those returned are nationals of Pakistan.

For further information:

•Greek Council for Refugees,Δελτίο Τύπου του ΕΣΠ για ασφαλιστικά μέτρα από ΕΔΔΑ, 23 June 2017

•AIDA,Country Report Greece, 2016 Update, March 2017

Arbitrary Detention in Lesbos – Refugees Driven to Hunger Strike to Protest Inhumane Conditions

The Legal Centre Lesbos condemns the unlawful practice of indiscriminately detaining people who are in the process of applying for international protection. The Greek Asylum Service is currently automatically detaining applicants whose initial appeals have been rejected, and arbitrarily detaining people of certain nationalities for the entire duration of their applications.

International law forbids discrimination on the basis of nationality, and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. It also provides that detainees have the right to meaningfully challenge any deprivation of their liberty. All these rights are being systematically violated in Lesvos. Indiscriminate administrative detention also violates the 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.

On Wednesday, 28 July 2017, four individuals imprisoned in Moria started a hunger strike protesting their arbitrary imprisonment, and demanding freedom for all those detained on the island. Arash Hampay, whose brother is one of those on hunger strike in Moria, has joined their hunger strike from Sappho Square on 29 July 2017, and shared the following statement:

I call for the immediate release from detention of my brother, and the three others who are on hunger strike inside the prison in Moria. We demand the Greek Asylum Service and the United Nations hear our voices, which have fallen on deaf ears for too long.

How dare you speak in the beautiful slogans of human rights? How dare you talk about humanity and law and democracy? How dare you condemn human rights abuses in other countries when you are committing human rights abuses here, yourselves?

We came to Europe for protection. We came because we were hurt, because we were tortured, because our lives were in danger. But instead of showing us mercy, you are treating us like criminals. Barbed wire and prison cells are not the right place for refugees.

From the day we fled the hell we were enduring in our home countries and became refugees in pretentious Europe, we have suffered the worst kinds of psychological torture. We have been humiliated and beaten by the police. We have been denied the right to work and if we do work, we are exploited. We have had our human dignity stripped from us. In the winter in Moria people have died from cold and hunger at night, freezing in thin tents for months on end. We saw our families dying beside us and you did nothing.

The imprisonment of my brother Amir Hampay is a violation of his basic human rights. He has been in prison for 2 months. For what crime? On what legal or ethical basis can you justify arresting and detaining us in this way?

My brother Amir and I are from Iran. Bahroz Aresh and Kozhen Hussain are from Iraq. Tariq Ibrahim is from Syria. They are all on hunger strike from yesterday, and today the 28 June 2017 I have joined them. We will remain on hunger strike until you meet our demand.

Our demand is simple. It is a demand for basic human dignity. We demand you release all the refugees in prison in Lesvos who have not been accused or convicted of any crime. We demand Europe stop keeping refugees in detention.

The detainees on hunger strike in Moria camp, Lesvos, have not been accused or convicted of any crime. They have done nothing more than apply for asylum. Arbitrarily depriving applicants for international protection of their liberty is a systematic violation of fundamental human rights. The Legal Centre Lesvos is concerned about the physical and mental health of the hunger strikers, especially given extreme summer heat. We stand in solidarity with them in their call for an end to the unlawful and inhumane practice of arbitrary detention.

Refugee “Voluntarily” Returned from Greece Severely Tortured Upon Arrival in Ethiopia

European policies of exclusion and xenophobia were in the media’s spotlight last year with the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, leaving families trapped at borders and in inhumane living conditions in border regions. With payments of handsome sums to Turkey to guard its borders and stop sea crossings, we no longer see the dramatic footage of thousands of people arriving on Europe’s shores and crossing borders in search of safety. Media fatigue has meant that most international press has left Lesvos and other hotspots, where inhumane living conditions persist. Europe has ‘succeeded’ in preventing most of those fleeing war, persecution, and extreme poverty from ever reaching Europe, and likewise has succeeded in keeping Europe’s disgraceful treatment of refugees and migrants (many of them fleeing NATO and the US’s imperialist policies in their home counties) far from scrutiny.

Even those who now arrive in Europe are being kept out of sight, housed in camps far away from urban centres. In a vigorous attempt to keep refugees and migrants out of Europe at any cost, policies are made to encourage the “voluntary return” of individuals kept waiting months for results in their applications for international protection. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) is involved in encouraging the ‘voluntary’ return of asylum seekers to their home countries “at the earliest possible stage” after arrival in the Greek islands1 and new policies further coerce asylum seekers to give up their right to appeal in exchange for assisted voluntary return with IOM.  Between January and March of 2017, 212 people on the Greek islands opted to withdraw their applications for international protection and return to their home countries.2

Mytiline, 3 April 2017, Protest of IOM policies of assisted voluntary return, limiting right to appeal

The results of these polices are tragic. One asylum seeker, Bilisumma*, was living in Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos for six months, and was still waiting to submit his application for international protection.

Before he fled Ethiopia in 2016, Bilisumma was an active leader in the Oromo community. He was one of the founding members of GDSAO (an organization that promotes Oromo culture) in his high school, and he was active in the Oromo Liberation Front, fighting for Oromo rights and against exploitation of Oromo land and people by the Ethiopian government and multinational corporations. Bilisumma was arrested and tortured many times for his activism, and Bilisumma’s father, cousin, and countless friends were killed by the Ethiopian regime.

Because Bilisumma feared for his own life he fled to Europe in 2016. However, Europe did not provide Bilisumma the refuge that he should have been guaranteed by law. During the six months he was waiting to register his application for international protection, he did not have the right to work in Greece, the right to leave the island or to rent housing in Lesvos. Essentially he was detained in Moria Refugee Camp in a state of limbo. Undiscouraged by this uncertainty, he applied and was accepted to university in the United States, but because he was prohibited from leaving the island of Lesvos he was unable to access the U.S. Consulate to secure a visa. Without any guarantee of when his application for refugee status would be processed, Bilisumma made the difficult decision to return to Ethiopia through IOM’s voluntary return program, and attempt to get a visa from there, stating,

I’ve decided to go back to Ethiopia. I know I could be put in prison and be tortured, but I’m in a prison here and people are dying in this prison too.”

In February of 2017, six hours after he arrived in Ethiopia, Bilisumma was arrested while reuniting with his mother and family in Addis Ababa. He was taken to an Intelligence Agency black site where he was held and tortured for over two weeks. He was regularly beaten and insulted, and was denied all food except for a small amount of bread and water each day. The Ethiopian government accessed all of his accounts, contacts, and files from his cell phone, and when he was finally released he was under house arrest and was warned that if he contacted the press or anyone outside Ethiopia he would be killed. When he was able to make contact outside of Ethiopia using secure communication systems, he sent the following final plea:

“i understand that they will kill me after they will finish all their investigation . . . Am on the verge of death now,no one can help me now!! I will give the phone number of someone who can tell you when i will be killed! Am counting down days to die! I cant fled anymore! Am frustrated,i gave up! I understand that my journey of life is finished!!”

Four months later, Bilisumma has managed to escape, and is now in a secure location outside Ethiopia. Many other Oromo activists have not been so lucky. But this tragedy could have been avoided if Europe had not failed in its duty to provide protection to people like Bilisumma who are fleeing persecution.

Europe continues to fail asylum seekers

Just this week, on 13 June 2017, Sher Agha*, signed with IOM to voluntarily return to Iran. It is not the first time he is withdrawing an application for international protection. In 2009, he had applied for protection in the UK, but when his mother fell gravely ill he decided to return to Iran in order to see her. The reunion with his mother was delayed, as he was arrested in the Tehran airport immediately upon arrival. He was held for over four years in Evin prison, where he was brutally tortured and held in solitary confinement, accused of being a spy. While Sher Agha knows that he will likely be arrested when he returns to Iran again now, he believes that this fate in Iran is better than the life he has been living for nearly a year in Greece.


Evin Prison in Iran, where Sher Agha was held over four years

Reza has severe mental health problems that have been aggravated by the torture he suffered in Iran. He is unable stay in a crowded camp environment like Moria Refugee Camp without inducing anxiety attacks. Just speaking about life in Moria causes Sher Agha to break out in a sweat, and after most meetings discussing the trauma he has undergone he “just needs to find a quiet place.”

Finding this quiet place has proved impossible in the overcrowded Moria Refugee Camp, and difficult in Lesvos. Sher Agha has been racially profiled, arrested, and beaten by Mitilini police on several occasions.

I thought police in Europe would be different than in Iran,”

he stated after one such beating that left a welt on his head and a large purple bruise on his leg. In March of 2017, the Greek Asylum Office designated Sher Agha as vulnerable as a victim of torture, and because of his documented severe mental health problems.

As a vulnerable individual, by law, Sher Agha’s case should be prioritized, but his interview on his claim for international protection is not until November of 2017 – more than fifteen months after his arrival in Greece. Also, by law Sher Agha should be provided with adequate accommodation while his application for refugee status is pending; instead Sher Agha has been left to fend for himself. While months ago UNHCR received documentation of Sher Agha’s health problems and inability to live in Moria, he has not been provided housing outside Moria Camp and is living on the street in Lesvos. The legal process to challenge Sher Agha’s treatment by the Greek government and agencies is not quick enough to account for Sher Agha’s desperation. Instead of waiting for his rights to be realized, he has been forced to give up his rightful claim to protection, and return to Iran where he faces almost certain imprisonment. Sher Agha hopes that his documented mental health condition will be enough to keep him out of prison, but he acknowledges that this was not enough eight years ago when he returned from the UK.

I asked Sher Agha how he feels after he came to inform our office about his decision to return to Iran. “I’m tired,” he states as he scrolls through pictures on his phone of Rikers Island and Guantanamo.

********************************************

* Names changed to protect identity

1. “IOM with EU support to intensify campaigns promoting AVRR among migrants at the earliest possible stage.” Fourth Report on the Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, Annex I, European Commission, Brussels, 8.12.2916 COM (2016) 792 final, https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2016/EN/COM-2016-792-F1-EN-ANNEX-1-PART-1.PDF

2. Fifth Report on the Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, Annex I, European Commission, Brussels, 8.12.2916 COM (2016) 792 final, https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2017/EN/COM-2017-204-F1-EN-ANNEX-1-PART-1.PDF

Amnesty International Chair Arrested in Turkey: How long will EU falsely claim that Turkey is safe for refugees?

On 6 June 2017, the Chair of Amnesty International, Taner Kiliç, was arrested by Turkish authorities.

Unfortunately, this arrest is not an isolated event. Since a State of Emergency was declared throughout Turkey after the failed coup attempt in July 2016, new procedures have severely restricted the rights of associations, lawyers and activists to operate. Hundreds of associations have been declared terrorist organizations and thousands of public employees have been fired. Under new State of Emergency rules, Turkish police were also given the power to arrest lawyers without waiting for a prosecutor signed arrest warrant, as was required previously. In this context, hundreds of lawyers are currently detained in Turkey and over a thousand lawyers have been prosecuted.

As Amnesty International has stated, Taner Kiliç has a long and distinguished record of defending exactly the kind of freedoms that the Turkish authorities are now intent on trampling. Additionally, he has investigated and reported on the violation of refugee rights in Turkey, condemning Turkey for failing to meet international obligations to refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

We have long condemned the EU for returning refugees and migrants to Turkey. However, FRONTEX continues to quietly return to Turkey individuals whose applications for international protection are rejected in Greece, and individuals who have “voluntarily” withdrawn their application after months of uncertainty, detention on the Greek islands, and inhumane living conditions. The future that awaits them in Turkey is dire, where non-Syrians are routinely held in detention without access to legal assistance or basic services, and Syrians’ rights to mobility, health care, and protection from defaulment are breached.

These violations of refugee rights exposed by Mr. Taner Kiliç and his colleagues have been ignored by the EU, and now Mr. Kiliç has found himself victim of the Turkish regime’s repressive policies. We call on Turkey to immediately release Mr. Kiliç and for the EU to cease all returns of refugees and migrants to Turkey.

Please sign, calling for Taner Kiliç’s immediate release: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/free-taner/

Legal Centre Lesbos joins NGOs in Decrying New Policy Limiting Asylum Seekers in Exercising their Right to Appeal

Mytiline, Greece – 15 NGOs urge the Greek Government to immediately reverse the recent policy excluding asylum-seekers on the Greek islands who appeal negative asylum decisions from the possibility of participating later on in the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme and forcing those who wish to participate to forego their right to appeal. The decision follows the direction set by the recommendations in the European Commission’s and Greek Government’s Joint Action Plan on the European Union (EU) – Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016, which aims to limit the steps in the appeals process and remove so called “administrative obstacles to swift voluntary return”.

IOM’s AVRR programme provides migrants who cannot or no longer wish to remain in a host country with the support to return and reintegrate into their country of origin. According to IOM, “voluntariness remains a precondition for all its AVRR activities.”1

In direct contradiction to this precondition however, the recently announced policy restricts access to AVRR on the Greek islands as of early April, by dictating that, upon receipt of a negative first instance decision (i.e., inadmissible or rejection on merit), asylum seekers are provided with a choice: appeal this decision as per their right under Greek, EU, and International Human Rights law,2 or forego their right to appeal and benefit from the AVRR package (which includes €1,000). If they ultimately choose to exercise their right to appeal, they lose the opportunity for future AVRR, and if their appeal is negative, they face deportation to Turkey. This policy is not applicable for those on the Greek mainland who remain eligible for AVRR after having appealed their negative asylum decision. Under the new policy, individuals are meant to be given five days to decide. However, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have already received reports of people being pressured, without allowing time to consult with a lawyer, to make the decision on the spot.

We are concerned that the new policy has both a coercive effect on an asylum seeker’s decision to appeal a negative decision, thereby jeopardizing the right to a fair asylum process as provided by EU law, and also on their decision to return to their country of origin. In addition, this policy presents a high risk of refoulement, given that it can result in asylum seekers with strong asylum claims, who may nevertheless have received a negative first instance decision, to drop their right to appeal.

This new policy is the latest in a series of steps being taken to make access to asylum in Europe more difficult, as outlined in numerous NGO reports3. Europe has a long history of commitment to protecting and upholding human rights, and has the means to fulfill its responsibility to provide international protection for people seeking it through procedures that are not prejudiced, do not discriminate, and do not apply duress to influence the outcome. Instead, these measures would limit the number of people who appeal, pressuring people in need of international protection to give up their claim. Seeking to manage migration at the cost of undermining or compromising asylum norms, sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world to follow.

Everyone applying for asylum should be able to exercise their right to an appeal without foregoing the opportunity to seek AVRR at any point during and after the asylum process. Any person deciding to return home with the assistance of IOM should be able to do so free of duress and in full respect of their basic human rights. Any policy suggesting otherwise threatens to not only jeopardize the integrity of the AVRR programme, but also the asylum procedure in Greece and in turn, the right to asylum in Europe.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Any decision to exercise the right to appeal or to benefit from AVRR must be voluntary and non-coerced. IOM’s AVRR programme should be available to all migrants at any time to enable safe, dignified, and sustainable return, whether or not they have applied for asylum. As such:

  • The Greek Government should reverse the recent policy limiting a person’s eligibility for AVRR.

  • The Commission should urgently assess compatibility of this practice with EU asylum law and the right to an effective remedy.

  • IOM and UNHCR should work together and more vigorously with the Commission and Greek Government to assess the impact of the new policy on asylum seekers’ decision-making, to ensure that the AVRR programme and its implementation under this new policy does not jeopardize the right to claim asylum and protection.

  • The Commission and Greek Government should put in place monitoring and accountability mechanisms to monitor the asylum procedures on the Greek islands, including those that allow for migrant feedback directly to the Greek Ombudsman.

  • The Commission and Greek Government should meet regularly with UN agencies and NGOs to allow for feedback on how policies may impact people and their rights. Consultations should take place regularly before policies are enacted so as to ensure they will not be harmful.

Signed:

  1. ActionAid

  2. Advocates Abroad

  3. Amnesty International

  4. CARE

  5. Diotima

  6. Greek Council for Refugees

  7. Greek Forum of Migrants

  8. Human Rights Watch

  1. International Rescue Committee

  2. Jesuit Refugee Services

  3. Legal Centre Lesbos

  4. Norwegian Refugee Council

  5. Oxfam

  6. Save the Children

  7. Solidarity Now

2Greek Law 61 of 4375/2016; Article 46 of the EU Asylum Procedures Directive which follows the wording of Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The directive requires EU Member States to allow applicants to remain in their territory until the time limit to lodge an appeal has expired as well as pending the outcome of an appeal. The right to appeal within the ICCPR Article 2 Para 3.

Syrian Kurds on Hunger Strike in Moria Refugee Camp

Eleven Kurdish Syrians and one Arab Syrian have begun a hunger strike in Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, protesting the rejection of their applications on admissibility grounds. The EU and Greek government do not deny that these and other individuals are refugees, yet they claim that Turkey is a “safe third country”, and so reject their applications as “inadmissible”. These individuals now face deportation to Turkey, where Kurds are systematically persecuted and repressed by the Turkish regime, and refugee rights are denied.

One of the hunger strikers is a minor, from Kobani, who is in Greece alone. Under Greek Law, as an unaccompanied minor he should be exempt from border procedures and shouldn’t be subject to the admissibility procedures or deportation to Turkey. He has been trying to prove to the Greek Asylum Service that he is a minor, but doesn’t have a way to get his birth certificate as he fled war-torn Kobani.

The Legal Centre has consistently denounced the EU-Turkey deal, and the deportation of refugees to Turkey based on admissibility.

Below find a statement from the hunger strikers, on the first day of their protest:

We have been here sitting since the morning without food, without water, without anything. We are on an open hunger strike and we will not leave until we get our rights. Most of us have been waiting here for eight, nine months, and some even more than a year, and we have gotten nothing. We still have the red stamp [preventing us from leaving the island of Lesvos]. Some of us were rejected, and after appealing were rejected again, and we don’t know what to do. We are told we could be sent back to Turkey, but we are Kurdish, from Syria. It is impossible and unsafe for us to be returned. The rest of us expect the same result – rejection. This is something that we refuse. The main problem is that we keep hearing the same word from the Asylum Office, “wait,” nothing more. We cannot handle that any more. We can’t wait any more. That’s why we hope with this hunger strike that someone will listen to us and will give us our rights.

The Greek Asylum Office in Lesvos can be contacted at (0030) 22510 32323.  Please share and help spread the news.

UPDATE DAY TWO:

 

UPDATE DAY THREE:

All hunger strikers continue to refuse to drink water. One of the hunger strikers collapsed this afternoon from lack of water and food. He has been transferred to the hospital in critical condition, accompanied by a second hunger striker.

Premiere of ‘Inadmissible’ in Science Po Univeristy, Paris

On Friday 14 April members of Legal Centre Lesbos participated in a meeting at Science Po, which featured a documentary prepared by Thraedable, as part of a collaboration which looks to support the Legal Centre in its aim to defend the rights of refugees in Lesbos whilst also raising awareness of the situation on the Island.

The documentary featured interviews of refugees as well as volunteers of the legal centre.  Questions from the audience followed as well as the unveiling of Thraedable’s new T-Shirts, which will go on sale soon.  50% of the profits from the sale of these shirts will go towards funding the Legal Centre’s work.

Inadmissible can be viewed here.

Further showings are also planned to take place soon.  For more information about Thraedable and to order shirts when they become available, go to: https://thraedable.com/en/

Legal Centre Lesbos is seeking a Greek lawyer to assist in its work in solidarity with refugees

Since August of 2016 the legal centre has been operating on Lesvos island, providing legal assistance and representation to the refugees of Lesvos.  We also support refugee led advocacy, and are looking towards bringing strategic litigation cases against the various violations of refugee rights taking place in Lesvos.  We are a project which is partnering with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and endorsed by various other Lawyers Associations from across the world.

As an organisation with a human rights approach, we emphasise the need for solidarity, not charity, with refugees.  We aim not to simply provide humanitarian assistance but legal solutions which tackle the failure of the EU and its members states to uphold the rights of refugees.

Our Work Cannot be Successful Without the Assistance of Greek Civil Society 

It is clear that throughout this refugee ‘crisis’, the most successful responses have involved the genuine solidarity and participation of refugees and the local population.

The Legal Centre is currently searching for a committed Greek lawyer who is willing work full time in Lesvos.

Priority will be given to those who fulfil the following criteria:

* Have a working knowledge of Greek Asylum Law

* Have knowledge of the Common European Asylum System

* Can speak English, Arabic or Farsi

* Have experience of conducting civil litigation

* A demonstrated strong commitment to helping refugees

Our work is impossible without the participation and support of Greek lawyers to represent refugees regarding all aspects of their asylum procedures, and to litigate violations of refugee rights in Greek courts.

We are seeking to contract a Greek attorney for three months, with a potentially renewable contract.

For more information, please email us with your CV and any relevant information by 15 April 2017 to info@legalcentrelesbos.org.  Applications will be reviewed as they are received, as we seek to contract a qualified Greek attorney as soon as possible.