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Sunday, June 20, 2021

On the EU-Turkey Border, Human Rights Violations are No Longer Clandestine Operations

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That is an advance excerpt from Dignity in Motion: Borders, Our bodies and Rights, edited by Jasmin Lilian Diab (E-Worldwide Relations, forthcoming 2021).

The quaint and weathered island of Lesvos (also called Lesbos), situated within the far east of the Aegean Sea, is the third-largest of all of the Greek islands. Lesvos is now dwelling to 11 million olive bushes, 86,000 Greeks, and over 14,700 asylum-seekers (Aegean Boat Report Knowledge Studio 2020b; El-Rashidi 2019). On account of its bodily proximity to Turkey, the island has a protracted historical past of transferred possession – first the Anatolians, then the Byzantines, the Genoese, the Ottomans, and eventually, the Greeks. An often-overlooked truth is that a lot of the present native inhabitants descends from refugees themselves, whose grandparents and nice grandparents have been forcibly displaced from Turkey within the aftermath of World Struggle I.

Since 2014, greater than 1.2 million migrants fleeing conflict, violence, and persecution have risked their lives crossing the northeast Mediterranean Sea en path to Europe, the vast majority of whom initially land on Lesvos (UNHCR 2020). They cross the deep and slender strait on flimsy rubber dinghies – generally with duct-tape patchwork masking knife holes from earlier crossings – usually carrying their lives on their backs, their youngsters and infants, and a heavy-heart of examined religion, in utter distinction to their buoyant expectations.

Though the channel is slender, its waves are unforgiving. Over 1,674 individuals have drowned within the Jap Mediterranean (IOM 2020) previously decade,an excessive amount of whom fell mercy to the ocean’s wrath when the humanitarian disaster first started over 5 years in the past. Over current years, the tides have turned for the more serious as these in energy have turn into as cruel as the ocean. Because the signing of the European Uunion (EU)-Turkey Deal, tons of of lives have been senselessly misplaced, and tons of extra have gone lacking as a result of regular amplification of draconian, anti-migrant immigration insurance policies. Civil society organizations, together with Mare Liberum, have been documenting and advocating towards the politicization of human lives for years, whatever the political local weather, however because the scenario worsens, we want extra assist. We’re dismayed to report that 2020 has been notably worrisome – although not for the explanations one may assume – and we urge that it’s crucial that the worldwide neighborhood take a stronger stance towards the unveiled violations of human rights going down on the EU border.

Mare Liberum is a non-profit human rights group that displays the Aegean Sea by boat alongside the EU-Turkey border. As a powerful supporter of our objectives, Sea-Watch e.V. donated what’s now our ship in the beginning of 2018, and we now have been crusing the coast of Lesvos ever since. We primarily function an impartial observer and deterrent for violations of human rights by state authorities. Mare Liberum conducts analysis to doc the present scenario on the European border and to attract public consideration again to this forgotten web site of tragedies.

Greece acts as a migratory buffer-zone for the remainder of the continent and has been largely deserted by the EU. Whereas locals, particularly fishermen, have been rescuers and harborers of the weary travellers previously, over current years, some locals have grown extremely illiberal of the scenario.[1] Contemplating the financial results of decreased tourism, excessive unemployment charges, and a rise within the fee of aged poor, some are extra weak to absorbing the hate speech and false claims propagated by right-wing leaders reminiscent of Improvement Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who make statements like, ‘Afghans will not be refugees’ and ‘93 p.c are unlawful immigrants’. In accordance with the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the overwhelming majority of sea arrivals to Greece in 2019 – over 90 p.c – have been from battle zones (Maintain Speaking Greece, 2019), and the UNHCR Consultant in Greece, Philippe Leclerc, has needed to enchantment politicians to chorus from such speech, predicting that it will set off hate towards refugees and volunteers (Leclerc 2019). Because the begin of 2020, these emotions of anguish and intolerance started to manifest into outright acts of violence.

In January 2020, we witnessed hundreds of anti-migrant islanders pouring into the downtown streets of Mytilene in protest, demanding, ‘We wish our island again’. In February, native vigilantes started attacking the automobiles and houses of migrant assist employees and volunteers. In early March, the donation-based refugee college One Completely happy Household was burnt to the bottom (Ng 2020). Proper-wing teams started displaying up at seashores alongside the east coast to threaten and insult migrants as they arrived on Lesvos’ shores. Locals started distributing flyers directed at refugees that say, ‘Don’t come to our nation, there isn’t a cash, we don’t need you’. The Pikpa camp, which hosts essentially the most weak teams, together with households, victims of torture, and lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, started receiving threats. Two German photojournalists have been crushed for documenting violence between locals and refugee rights activists. Cameras and telephones of non-governmental group (NGO) workers have been taken and thrown to sea. The Mare Liberum ship was doused with kerosene and was practically set ablaze with the crew nonetheless on board. The match was lit, however the crew was capable of set sail and draw back from the port simply in time.

The consequences of the pandemic took maintain of the island in the direction of the top of March 2020, however a plague of anti-migrant sentiments had already been festering for years. Even earlier than the virus outbreak, the Greek authorities had carried out ‘out of sight out of thoughts’ ways to take away refugees from their field of regard – establishing distant, closed-off detention facilities, orchestrating clandestine pushbacks at sea, and executing mass-deportations. COVID-19 has closed borders throughout the globe, significantly fuelling nationalist agendas and furthering their respective ‘nationwide safety’ tasks beneath the guise of reacting to a public well being emergency. Lesvos, nonetheless, reached its tipping level earlier than confinement measures have been enacted. Consequently, COVID-19 measures are getting used as a rationalization for plans that have been already in place. When the world’s consideration had been diverted elsewhere, the far-right Greek authorities was much less afraid to take bolder actions.

Since migratory flows have slowed, authorities are actually chipping away at civil society’s capability to observe human rights violations, advocate for equality and justice, and even save human lives when coast guard ships act negligently. The scenario has been dire for years, however the pandemic has been used as a flimsy justification for limiting civil society group (CSO) oversight, segregating communities, and extra overtly violating worldwide regulation.

What’s Taking place at Sea?

No less than 8,697 asylum seekers have arrived on Greek shores as of 16 August 2020, which is a 66 p.c lower in comparison with 2019. This lower can largely be attributed to migrants having been caught at border closures alongside their journey; and worry of contracting COVID-19 could also be performing as a way of self-hindrance for persevering with alongside migration routes. As eyewitnesses on the bottom, we now have little doubt that that is additionally a results of the more and more aggressive pushbacks[2] by the Greek authorities (Amnesty Worldwide 2020).

In February 2020, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declared that he had opened his nation’s borders for all migrants to cross into Europe. Erdoğan introduced that Turkey might now not help the estimated 4 million migrants which might be at the moment residing inside its borders (Stevis-Gridneff and Kingsley 2020). In response, on 1 March 2020 Greece suspended all asylum utility procedures for arrivals coming from Turkey (HRW 2020a) and started additional militarizing the Aegean Sea. In accordance with stories by native media shops, ‘greater than 50 Hellenic Coast Guard vessels’ have been deployed ‘within the jap Aegean, together with 10 Navy vessels and 24 land, air, and sea craft supplied by the European Union’s border monitoring company Frontex’ (Souliotis and Georgiopoulou 2020). Our crew has observed a rise in drone and helicopter presence. Many human rights organizations have been reporting a spike in violent pushbacks of migrants arriving in Greece by way of each land and sea (Bathke 2020; Cullum 2020; Deeb 2020; HRW 2020b). Whereas there have been many testimonials of clandestine pushbacks previously – even in 2013, pre-dating the media-acclaimed ‘refugee disaster’ (Professional Asyl 2013) – these unlawful operations have now extra overtly turn into commonplace process, with out regard to their illegality within the eyes of customary worldwide human rights regulation.

As defined by one of many human rights activists at the moment aboard the Mare Liberum ship,

the worry of perishing at sea and the worry of being violated at sea elevated tenfold in 2020. Earlier than, migrants have been afraid of the ocean itself, however now, they’re afraid of the violent human behaviour at sea.

Coast Guard practices of cruelty, violence, and humiliation

The aim of any coast guard throughout peacetime is to hold out the enforcement of maritime regulation and the safety of life and property at sea. Beneath maritime regulation, it’s the accountability of the closest ready vessel to ‘render help and rescue these in misery at sea with none regard to their nationality, standing, or the circumstances during which they’re discovered’ (IMO, ICS, and UNHCR 2020), which additionally applies to coast guard ships. But, thus far, migrants regularly testify to the violence they endure from the authorities which might be tasked with saving them. They face an important threat of getting their private belongings thrown into the water by the coast guard, being bodily injured by beatings, and being deliberately humiliated. The coast guard has turn into much more virulent since dwell movies have been posted on social networks showcasing these aggressions. Testimonials from current arrivals have advised our crew about how migrants have been stripped bare for physique searches and despatched again to sea of their underwear with no technique of communication to name for assist.

New pushback strategies and public acceptance of refoulement 

Worry of migrants bringing COVID-19 to the island has significantly facilitated the acceptance of speedy expulsion methods. The Greek authorities has touted an method of ‘aggressive surveillance and deterrence’ of migration with out totally specifying what these strategies will entail (The Nationwide Herald 2020). In accordance with a number of stories from asylum-seekers over the previous few years, the coast guard has been utilizing unsafe pushback methods, reminiscent of creating waves to additional misery a migrant vessel, destroying or eradicating the dinghy engine to depart it floating at sea, firing bullets to deflate the dinghy itself, and even towing boats again throughout the unmarked ‘border’ line to be picked up by the Turkish Coast Guard and introduced again to Turkey.

These operations, nonetheless, have been all the time carried out in secret. The coast guard brokers tried to destroy proof by tossing migrants’ cell telephones into the ocean, and so they wore put on black ski masks and orchestrated the pushbacks by night time. In some circumstances, it has been reported that the authorities confiscated all telephones from the migrants. However now, it appears the virus is sufficient of an excuse to flagrantly train pushbacks utilizing the boldest of colours. There have been quite a few incidents the place the Hellenic Coast Guard has pressured refugees to board unsafe, orange tent-like life rafts at sea, and even after migrants have already arrived on the Greek islands, to then set them free and go away them adrift at sea.

Top-of-the-line-documented life raft pushbacks occurred on 28 April 2020. That day, individuals (together with three youngsters, 4 girls, and 15 males) arrived on the Greek island of Samos, which is about 130 kilometers south of Lesvos. As an alternative of being dropped at one of many refugee camps on the island, they have been pressured to board the Hellenic Coast Guard vessel, solely to be taken again out to sea and stranded amongst the waves. A Turkish Coast Guard vessel was current as properly, however solely rescued the individuals within the life raft the following morning (Aegean Boat Report 2020b). Since March 2020, a minimum of 1,336 individuals have been pressured into life rafts by the Greek coast guard and left helplessly at sea (ABR 2020d; Kingsley and Shoumali 2020).[3] These will not be remoted incidents. The Greek authorities denies that they’re doing something unlawful (Hellenic Republic Ministry of Migration and Asylum 2020). The truth is, the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, has boasted about how few arrivals have arrived on Lesvos just lately with out mentioning their ways of abandoning males, girls, and youngsters at sea (ABR 2020d).

As soon as migrants are introduced again or float again to Turkey, they’re then more likely to be despatched to unsanitary, overcrowded Turkish prisons which might be mal-equipped for combating the COVID-19 outbreak. Crossing the ocean has by no means been riskier.

Frontex and the North Atlantic Treaty Group (NATO) are current and watching these pushbacks. They neither rescue individuals from these floating tents nor actively push them again, however moderately stand apart and observe silently. When asylum seekers are immediately pushed again, they don’t seem to be capable of train their proper to use for asylum. Greece will not be solely in violation of the European Conference of Human Rights and the Constitution of Elementary Rights of the European Union, but in addition the worldwide settlement on non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective deportations. Greece is actively placing refugees in perilous and inhumane conditions, and the EU, in addition to the USA, the UK, and different NATO member nations are performing as bystanders, and even accomplices as a result of the truth that they’re actively not collaborating in human rights investigations. As governments work to additional stop human rights monitoring and watchdog NGOs, who will spearhead the investigations on the migrants’ behalf?

Inhibiting and suspending NGO operations

NGOs are more and more much less capable of intervene and forestall these human rights violations from going down as a result of their bodily entry to the areas the place incidents are occurring has been restricted. There are a choose variety of organizations, together with Mare Liberum, Refugee Rescue, and Lighthouse Aid, which might be alert and prepared to reply to the sighting of an incoming migrant boat, working to guarantee everybody’s security. All organizations are required to report any first sightings to the Hellenic Coast Guard, which is charged with oversight of the Greek sea. Previously, it was extra seemingly that the Hellenic Coast Guard would safely take the migrants to shore, particularly whereas beneath the watchful eye of civil society. Nevertheless, it’s now extra seemingly that they are going to carry out a pushback, regardless of who’s watching. The Hellenic Coast Guard continues to violate human rights with unbridled confidence and impunity; they haven’t been given any incentives to abide by the regulation.

In the meantime, human rights NGOs are being strong-armed into halting and even suspending their operations. On 19 August 2020, Mare Liberum (2020) acquired yet one more detention order to forestall the crew from finishing up its human rights mandate, which is the third authorized battle introduced towards us – even after profitable the previous two in court docket. ‘We’re livid and received’t settle for the blockade of our mission for solidarity and human rights’, says Hanno Bruchmann, board member of Mare Liberum. These lawsuits are supposed to drain small, donation-based non-profits like Mare Liberum of their monetary capability to fulfil their missions, in addition to additional criminalize people who purpose to guard solidarity and human dignity.

On 29 August 2020, Refugee Rescue (2020) introduced that it has additionally been pressured to droop its operations after 5 years of offering lifesaving search and rescue operations for individuals crossing the Aegean Sea to the northern shore of Lesvos. The NGO’s press launch cites criminalization as the primary set off for the necessity to stop its assist work: ‘Unacceptably, the rising criminalization of humanitarian organizations in Lesvos and rising hostilities now pose an irrefutable risk to our workers, property, and work – and we can not in good conscience proceed to function if we can not assure the protection of our staff. Moreover, the unchecked impunity with which authorities now work has created a scenario the place we now not belief that they are going to permit us to launch our impartial rescue boat, Mo Chara. Make no mistake: our resolution to droop operations for the foreseeable future doesn’t in any method imply that search and rescue will not be nonetheless imminently wanted off the North Shore of Lesvos. The truth is, human rights violations on the Aegean have solely intensified previously few months – from authorities leaving individuals stranded at sea for hours, to unlawful pushbacks on Greek waters – which have all made the journey from Turkey to Greece extra perilous than ever for these in search of refuge’ (Refugee Rescue 2020).

If the Hellenic Coast Guard is actively placing lives in peril, if NATO and Frontex proceed to stay silent, and if human rights NGOs are unable to function, what’s stopping the Aegean Sea from turning into a extra populous graveyard? And much more urgent of a query, how flawed is European home and international coverage that humanitarian and human rights organizations are so desperately wanted within the Aegean Sea? Why are resource-strapped non-profits filling the footwear of governments in defending essentially the most weak with a view to permit for a extra affluent society for all? All of us have to be demanding extra of our leaders. In a democracy, we now have the ability to place an finish to government-funded xenophobia. 

What’s Taking place on Land?

Inhumane exercise is being reported at sea, and sadly the identical will be stated for the administration of asylum-seekers on land. If and when asylum-seekers do make it to Lesvos’ shores, processing procedures have been significantly altered as a result of pandemic. Whereas the low variety of COVID-19 circumstances so far on the island have been attributed to Greece’s containment makes an attempt, it’s crucial to notice that not all lives are being held at equal worth when quarantine measures are carried out. A spokesperson for the European Fee has famous, ‘Quarantine and isolation measures should be utilized in an inexpensive, proportionate, and non-discriminatory method. Now we have supplied vital monetary and operational help to member states, together with Greece, to combat the coronavirus, and stand prepared to supply additional help if wanted’, however it’s finally on the discretion of the Greek authorities to observe via with a human rights centric emergency response plan (Macej Kaczyński 2020). Quite than defending the well being of everybody, the Greek authorities is performing with distinction for a way migrant lives and Greek lives are prioritized via its COVID-19 containment measures.

Discriminatory and unsafe quarantine practices

Starting in late March 2020, the UNHCR and Greek police started establishing casual ‘wild’ seaside camps on the touchdown websites the place migrants would contact shore. These camps don’t have any infrastructure, no entry to operating water, no bathrooms, and no showers. Since Might 2020, individuals who have arrived within the north of Lesvos have been dropped at ‘Megala Therma’, a brief quarantine camp within the north, and people who arrive within the east and southeast are dropped at the quarantine space of Kara Tepe. Each of those extra ‘formal’ quarantine stations lack operating water, sanitary amenities, medication, and electrical energy. The free coverage has been that new-arrivals quarantine for 2 weeks earlier than being transferred to Moria, nonetheless, some individuals have asserted, notably from Megala Therma, that they’re confined in these circumstances for over a month.

Whereas the UNHCR and Greek authorities could argue that they’re working with restricted assets to fight what could possibly be an extremely lethal scenario, there isn’t a justification for the reckless, indiscriminate mixing of doubtless COVID-19-positive and tested-negative asylum-seekers. There’s little or no separation between those that examined unfavourable however stay in quarantine and the brand new arrivals that could be carrying the virus, which unnecessarily places extra lives at excessive threat contemplating the quarantine camp’s sordid circumstances. The UNHCR safety unit added a line within the lodging referral type for brand new arrivals to self-report any circumstances that coincide with COVID-vulnerability, however there are not any indications that this knowledge assortment is getting used to enhance preventative well being safety for new-arrivals in apply. In accordance with a contact we now have from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the hospitals on Lesvos are outfitted with a complete of 11 ventilators, none of that are provisioned for the camps. Would the hospitals be ready to look after 60–100 circumstances from quarantined new-arrivals at any given time?

The double commonplace for implementing an efficient quarantine response is duly famous by Lesvos’ therapy of these arriving by dinghy versus these arriving by airplane. Throughout the strictest part of the COVID-19 lockdown, everybody who entered Greece via the airport have been instantly examined and acquired free lodging and meals till the check outcomes arrived (Greek Metropolis Occasions 2020).

Proscribing migrants’ motion: Locking down Moria

Contemplating that the island’s largest refugee camp, Moria, was constructed to carry 3,000 individuals, over 13,000 migrants have been pressured to arrange their tents within the peripheral space (known as the Olive Grove) with a view to entry what little items and companies are supplied by shortlisted and government-approved NGOs. Sure journey and motion restrictions have been solely carried out for migrants, to the extent that these residing in or across the camps have been rounded-up and herded nearer collectively into an enclosed Moria. A staff of volunteer legal professionals from the group Authorized Centre Lesvos (2020a) famous that since 19 March 2020, migrants should acquire written permission from police or a safety authority with a view to go away the Moria or Kara Tepe refugee camps. On 30 March 2020, they posted on social media the next:

Throughout Greece, these leaving their place of residence should carry a paper or ship an SMS that signifies – from a set of causes, together with private train, visiting the financial institution or going to the grocery store – why they’re outdoors the home. But causes which might be legitimate throughout the nation are, unsurprisingly, deserted in favour of far stricter guidelines for migrants…Just one member of every household can go away the camps per week, a measure that’s strictly enforced – although no such restriction exists for individuals residing in cities and cities throughout Greece. These with out written permission might be blocked from leaving by police – both on the camps’ exits, or at checkpoints on the roads that result in the town of Mytiline – and will be unable to board public buses. An elevated variety of police models have been deployed across the camps to implement these restrictions.

Locking down the camp has been posed as a crucial technique of containing virus transmission charges, out of worry that new arrivals will carry COVID-19 with them, however in full disregard for the social distancing wants of the camp’s inhabitants. Most sadly, inside the camp, not a lot has modified with reference to quotidian well being and security requirements. Relying on the a part of Moria during which one lives, refugees should share a rest room with 50–500 individuals. Social distancing is inconceivable when residing in a tent with as much as 12 different individuals, and when it’s obligatory to go outdoors and wait in lengthy traces with a view to bathe or obtain day by day meals. Making an attempt to fill the void of a correctly carried out response, a bunch of refugees self-organized to create the ‘Corona Consciousness Group’ to unfold details about the virus and distribute masks.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the World Well being Group and United States Facilities for Illness Management (2020) have made it clear that top concentrations of individuals inside confined residing areas will increase the probability of the virus spreading. In accordance with an evaluation by the Worldwide Rescue Committee (2020), the residing circumstances in camps reminiscent of Moria will show to be extra disastrous than the notorious Diamond Princess cruise ship case, the place the transmission fee of the virus was 4 instances sooner than in Wuhan on the peak of the outbreak. Not solely is the Moria camp over eight instances extra densely populated than the Diamond Princess, however there may be little entry to wash water, showers, bathrooms, and total poor hygiene circumstances and entry to high quality healthcare in displacement camps.

As many have feared, the primary COVID-19 case from inside Moria camp was simply detected on 2 September 2020, and your complete camp might be beneath full lockdown for the approaching 14 days, that means entry and exit might be prohibited (Panoutsopoulou 2020). This information comes roughly one month after MSF (2020) was pressured to shut their COVID-19 containment heart inside Moria. Native authorities imposed fines with potential felony expenses, citing city planning laws inside an overpopulated Greek-run refugee camp that has had barely any planning in its growth and upkeep. On 3 September 2020, the Greek Ministry of Immigration and Asylum introduced that it’s going to construct a fence round Moria, costing €854,000, which might be instantly commissioned and accomplished inside two months (ABR 2020c). COVID-19 has lastly given Greece’s far-right administration the excuse it must create the closed, highly-surveilled detention heart for which it has been pushing for the reason that elections.

Worry-mongering towards the migrant populations

The Greek authorities has cited COVID-19 as a rationale for additional investing in closed detention facilities as a substitute of migrant camps on the islands of Lesvos and Chios, feeding the vilified narrative that asylum-seekers are spreading the virus to native communities, although these claims lack proof (Trilling 2020). Sure nationalist politicians have by no means been shy about demonizing asylum-seekers, calling them ‘cockroaches’, for instance, and now their stigmatization is being pegged to the unfold of the virus (Sunderland and Williamson 2013). The general public worry of an infection is bringing out the racist undertones inside native communities which will have all the time been cautious about Lesvos’ transition to turning into a transitory hotspot. Residents of Moria have reported to us that they’re experiencing microaggressions and racism extra regularly. For instance, even after being granted permission to go to the grocery store, a storeowner will stop them from coming into the shop.

‘They’re seen and handled as pariahs who can carry the virus to the island’, stories an activist from Mare Liberum. The Worldwide Group for Migration has warned that rising discrimination towards migrants solely impedes efforts to sort out the pandemic, as exclusion of any group from receiving the required items and companies will solely lengthen the virus’ lifespan (UN Division of World Communications 2020). Essentially, lots of the circumstances that arrived in Lesvos have been introduced by Europeans coming from mainland Greece (Macej Kaczyński 2020). It was not till mid-August 2020 that the primary migrant boat containing passengers with optimistic circumstances arrived in Lesvos.

Brief and Lengthy Time period Implications

The measures being enforced on land and sea will not be meant to guard essentially the most weak teams and save migrant lives. Quite, Greece is extra targeted on opening as much as Europeans and re-starting the financial system as rapidly as potential. Restrictions on migrants’ freedom of motion, the repression of solidarity NGOs, and the quelling of social actions might be tough to undo. Migrants proceed to be constricted and confined inside the camp with solely 70 permissions to depart the world being granted every day for a migrant inhabitants of over 13,000 (Authorized Centre Lesvos 2020b). In the meantime, vacationer journey to the island started once more on 1 July 2020, and and not using a vaccine, the chance of somebody from Moria contracting the virus stays excessive (GTP 2020).[4] NGOs, notably people who conduct human rights monitoring and migrant rescue operations, have been pressured to fully shut down their operations and cease any new volunteers from arriving to the island. Solidarity organizations are shrinking in dimension and capabilities, leaving asylum-seekers much more uncovered whereas assist establishments are operating at less-than-full capability as a result of pandemic.

The short-term impacts have confirmed to be swift and harsh, evidenced by the violent pushbacks going down at sea. We’re already seeing a hardening public discourse towards migrants, which is having a tangible affect on the processing of identification paperwork and visas. Work visas for migrants have virtually come to a halt, and the resettlement of refugees and asylum-seekers in third nations is turning into harder (SchengenVisaInfo 2020). There are greater than 40,700 individuals making use of for refugee standing on the gathering of Aegean islands, and so far the European Fee has introduced that 10 member states have agreed to simply accept the relocation of 1,600 youngsters and youngsters from Greece (EU Fee Spokesperson’s Service 2020). Greece has relocated about 13,657 individuals to camps on mainland Greece (Aegean Boat Report Knowledge Studio 2020a), which offers little solace when coupled with the announcement that it plans to expel 11,000 refugees from authorities housing (Cossé 2020).

A right away concern of Greece’s COVID-19 response, maybe essentially the most neglected, is the immense psychological and bodily affect that these excessive circumstances of vulnerability and uncertainty have had on asylum-seekers. Mare Liberum has carried out quite a few interviews with each long-standing Moria residents, in addition to new arrivals to Lesvos, and all have skilled heightened stress, worry, and dejection. Social areas the place migrants can meet, socialize, and separate themselves from the horrors of the camp are actually inaccessible. Any slight trace of normalcy amidst the distinctive lifetime of an asylum seeker has now dissipated. The road-taverna proper outdoors the camp gates the place they might purchase a cup of tea is now closed. The barbershop on the NGO-run recreation heart is closed. It’s harder to flee to immerse oneself in nature and breathe the recent air. Youngsters who have been capable of safe a coveted seat in a classroom will now go one other yr with out schooling, seeing as most academics have been ex-patriate volunteers. The despair of additional extended asylum proceedings to find out one’s authorized standing can show dismal. They’re caught contained in the camp, and inside their very own minds, with out correct psychological well being care.

It is usually crucial to recollect the under-reported, gendered impacts of confinement in a refugee camp. When tensions are excessive, girls could discover themselves at better threat of emotional, bodily, and sexual abuse; and as reported by UN Ladies, home violence helplines and shelters internationally are reporting rising requires assist throughout the pandemic (Mlambo-Ngcuka 2020). The present confinement measures are additional isolating migrant girls from the individuals and assets that may greatest assist them, additional enclosing them in shut quarters with their assailants.

One of many long-term impacts could also be that extra individuals might be pressured to take harmful routes, reminiscent of making an attempt longer or extra treacherous passages throughout the Aegean Sea. Maybe COVID-19 will additional limit the formal means by which refugees can search safety and prosperity, and extra individuals might be pushed to impetuosity. As Erol Yayboke, deputy director on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research wrote firstly of the pandemic, ‘When mixed, the financial, inequality, political, and displacement-related implications [of COVID-19] will solely improve desperation at a time when fewer migration pathways exist. In such a situation, these feeling compelled to maneuver will accomplish that more and more utilizing smugglers, traffickers, and different illicit teams. Migration might be rising in and amongst growing nations with weaker well being programs and rule of regulation’.

Within the aftermath of crises, governments can garner extra political will to train better management for the aim of defending nationwide safety, or on this case, public well being. Lesvos uniquely sits on the crossroads of a public well being disaster, a humanitarian disaster, and a extremely militarized border zone. Relying on how the EU and the remainder of the world reacts to Greece’s selections on its emergency aid response, we worry the normalization of taxpayer spending on a completely hyper-militarized border patrol, the development of dehumanizing and degrading closed detention amenities, in addition to extended restrictions on entry to websites for watchdog organizations. 

If the Greek islands are closing down legit operations for each humanitarian help and human rights monitoring efforts, a pointy decline in transparency and all of its compounding results will seemingly take a big toll on migrants and EU residents alike. Rule of regulation is already gravely struggling, which is heart-wrenching to see figuring out that Europe has essentially the most superior mechanisms and establishments for human rights wherever on the earth thus far. What does this imply for accountability each in Europe and around the globe? To cite Albert Einstein, ‘The world is a harmful place, not due to those that do evil, however due to those that look on and do nothing’.


How Greece handles the primary Moria COVID-19 case in the present day and the continued pandemic will decide the spirit and soul of the island for years to come back. The federal government should act now, pooling assets, data, and help from the native, nationwide, regional, and worldwide neighborhood to guard the inhabitants of Lesvos it doesn’t matter what their pores and skin colour, background, or citizenship standing. If we now have discovered something from this pandemic, it’s that the virus doesn’t discriminate. Individuals do. Politics does. And due to that, many extra harmless lives are needlessly misplaced.

We’re calling on the neighborhood of Lesvos, the nation of Greece, the European Union, the United Nations, and the bigger worldwide neighborhood, to step-up and embody the values that we now have established in our founding paperwork, treaties, and charters. As Germany holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for 2020, and touts the motto, ‘Collectively for Europe’s restoration’, we’re calling on the establishment to take their position significantly and rectify the systemic points which might be stopping the EU from popping out of this pandemic as a extra affluent and equitable union. As Angela Merkel (2020) states, ‘This motto is directed at us all… For Europe can solely be robust if individuals have good prospects for the longer term, if they will see how necessary Europe is for them personally, and if they’re dedicated to the European concept’. Now greater than ever, we have to actively work in the direction of re-building a society during which inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity, and non-discrimination prevail. Now we have a shared accountability for a way these human lives are being handled. Let the EU know that we, as a worldwide neighborhood, won’t stand for the degradation of human dignity going down alongside its borders.


Determine 1: The scene after a ship of asylum seekers arrives on Lesvos throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Non-governmental organizations are now not capable of take part within the assurance of a protected touchdown or clean-up efforts as soon as the asylum seekers are transported away from the shoreline. Supply: Mare Liberum (2020).

Determine 2: Lesvos is an island situated within the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. There are solely about 10 kilometers between them at its closest level. Supply: Mare Liberum (2020).

Determine 3: A volunteer and activist from Mare Liberum watches the shoreline for asylum-seekers travelling to Lesvos in inflatable rafts (dinghies). Supply: Mare Liberum (2020).

Determine 4: The variety of asylum seeker arrivals from 1 January 2020 to 16 August 2020. Supply: UNHCR Statistics Portal (2020).

Determine 5: The variety of asylum seeker arrivals from 1 July 2019 to 16 August 2020. Supply: UNHCR Statistics Portal (2020).

Determine 6: Flyers on the significance of hygiene in combating COVID-19 at Moria camp. Supply: Mare Liberum (2020).

Determine 7: One of many ‘wild’ seaside camps set-up to quarantine new arrivals on Lesvos. Supply: Mare Liberum (2020).


[1] It is very important be aware that some locals additionally report being reported by the police for attempting to assist or rescue asylum seekers, with threats of smuggling expenses. There appears to be rising polarisation on the island.

[2] In accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights: ‘Push-backs are a set of state measures by which refugees and migrants are pressured again over a border – usually instantly after they crossed it – with out consideration of their particular person circumstances and with none chance to use for asylum or to place ahead arguments towards the measures taken. Push-backs violate – amongst different legal guidelines – the prohibition of collective expulsions stipulated within the European Conference on Human Rights.’ (ECCHR 2020).

[3] This quantity is in consideration of the New York Occasions’ report from 14 August, in addition to the stories from Aegean Boat Report from mid-August to September. What yr?

[4] Primarily based on European Union tips, Greece was allowed to open its borders once more for every type of air journey coming from EU states (GTP 2020).


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