On 26 August 2020, about 60 mostly Arabic-speaking detainees in Moria pre-removal detention centre (PRO.KE.K.A) went on hunger strike. Since 5 March, Greece has been unable to carry out deportations to Turkey as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Detainees have been deprived of freedom for 174 days during which deportation – the only reason for their confinement – has been impossible. They are locked up without justification in conditions designed to drive them to despair.
From 5 to 8 April this year, detainees attempted to hunger strike. Their protest ended after a special police unit interrogated the strikers, beating a number of them. What happened during those days is still unclear; many could not speak openly of conditions during these days for fear that conditions would be made worse.
Many believe now that they have no chance of escape but that which they take for themselves. Suicide attempts are an almost weekly occurrence. On 6 January, a 31-year-old Iranian detainee took his own life after being held in isolation and denied access to psychosocial care. His death prompted a criminal investigation into staff and services at the facility.
Yet despite this, a structure and culture of impunity has allowed the cycle of violence to continue. Beatings – sometimes verging on torture – have become routine, and those who speak out are threatened with violent reprisal. The link between detainees and the outside world is tethered to services operating under a culture of camaraderie between prison officer and medic, lawyer, psychologist, creating a closed rank between detainees and the public prosecutor.
These abuses vanish under the code of silence that governs PRO.KE.K.A. The hunger strikers have chosen to break this silence.
Wut und Solidarität ohne Grenzen – Repression in Griechenland gegen die Proteste Geflüchteter im Lager Vial (Chios) und in den Abschiebegefängnissen Moria (Lesbos) und Paranesti in Zeiten von Corona
Griechenland. Dutzende Verletzte durch Polizeigewalt, neun Menschen in Untersuchungshaft. Das ist die Antwort des griechischen Staates auf wütende Proteste im Lager Vial auf Chios, nachdem Mitte April eine Campbewohnerin tot in Corona-Isolation in einem Container des Lagers aufgefunden wurde. Sie starb aufgrund fehlender, medizinischer Versorgung.
Die Wut der in Quarantäne eingesperrten Menschen hatte sich im Lager Vial in Protesten entladen, nachdem eine 47-jährige, aus dem Irak geflüchtete Frau am 18. April 2020 an einem Herzinfarkt gestorben war. Zwei Tage zuvor war sie mit Herzrhythmusstörungen ins Krankenhaus auf Chios gebracht, dort negativ auf Covid-19 getestet und rudimentär mit Medikamenten versorgt worden. Zurück im Camp wurde sie außerhalb des Camps in einem Container als präventive Isolation eingesperrt, wo sie eine Panikattacke erlitt und einen Tag später, kurz nachdem ein NGO Mitarbeiter sie noch besuchte, tot von ihrem Ehemann aufgefunden wurde.
Auf die Nachricht ihres Todes folgten spontan wütende Proteste hunderter Campbewohner*innen. Während der Proteste wurde Feuer gelegt, dabei wurden mehrere Polizeiautos, Zelte und Container des Identifikations- und Empfangszentrums zerstört. Als die Polizei eintraf, um die Proteste zu beenden, setzte sie Tränengas und Schlagstöcke ein. Berichten zufolge verteidigten sich einige Protestierenden durch das Werfen von Steinen. Hunderte Menschen versuchten vor den Polizeieinheiten und dem Feuer in die umliegenden Felder zu fliehen, wagten jedoch nicht das Lager zu weit zu verlassen, da die griechische Regierung seit der Corona-Pandemie eine Strafe von 150 Euro für Verstöße gegen die Ausgangsbeschränkungen eingeführt hat. Das kann für diejenigen, die strukturell bedingt kaum die Möglichkeit einer Bewerkstelligung solcher Strafkosten haben, oft auch eine polizeiliche Festnahme bedeuten.
Aufgrund der brutalen Niederschlagung der Proteste durch die Polizei gab es Dutzende Verletzte. Außerdem sitzen nun neun Geflüchtete in Untersuchungshaft und sind aktuell wegen Brandstiftung, Sachbeschädigung, Landfriedensbruch und Verstößen gegen das Waffengesetz angeklagt. Ein Minderjähriger, der ebenfalls angeklagt ist, wurde zwar zwischenzeitlich wieder entlassen, wird aber weiterhin polizeilich überwacht. Für weitere sechs Personen wurde eine Untersuchungshaft beantragt. Ihnen allen drohen nun mehrere Jahre Haft.
Was sich hier ereignet hat, ist die physische Manifestation all der Ungerechtigkeiten, die jeden Tag gegen die Menschen verübt werden, die in den Lagern leben müssen.
Das immer wiederkehrende Muster gewaltvoller Niederschlagungen von (berechtigten) Protesten Geflüchteter in den griechischen Lagern, sowie deren anschließende oft willkürliche Inhaftierung und Kriminalisierung ist fester, struktureller Bestandteil der menschenverachtenden Migrationspolitik der EU entlang der Grenze zwischen Griechenland und der Türkei. Bereits frühere Repressionsfällen gegen Protestierende zeigten, dass einzelne Personen beispielhaft verhaftet und angeklagt werden, oft vollkommen unabhängig von einer tatsächlichen Beteiligung bei den Protesten. um jeglichen Protest in den Lagern gegen die katastrophale Situation zu verhindern. So wurden im September 2015 die Röszke 11 nach Protesten gegen die Grenzschließung zwischen Serbien und Ungarn u.a. wegen Terrorismus mehrere Jahre in Ungarn inhaftiert. Gleichzeitig wurden über die letzten Jahre mehrfach Proteste von Bewohner*innen des Lagers Moria auf Lesbos gewaltsam niedergeschlagen und Beteiligte wie im Falle der Moria35 monatelang inhaftiert und angeklagt.
Nachdem der türkische Präsident Erdogan Ende Februar 2020 aus machtpolitischen Gründen den EU-Türkei-Deal platzen und Fliehende nicht mehr vom Grenzübertritt in die EU zurückhalten ließ, eskalierte eine Welle von Gewalt und Rassismus gegen Geflüchtete in Griechenland und der EU. Hierbei fielen tödliche Schüsse durch EU-Grenzbeamt*innen an der Evros-Grenze und es fand eine massenhafte Inhaftierung Schutzsuchender statt. Nun schürt die Regierung eine ablehnende Stimmung in der Bevölkerung mit Ängsten und begründet ihre migrationsfeindliche Politik mit Präventivmaßnahmen gegen die Corona-Pandemie. Mittlerweile werden Menschen aufgrund von Covid-19-Bestimmungen dort wo sie auf den Inseln ankommen am Strand in Quarantäne gesteckt, teilweise unter Planen, eingekesselt von Polizeiautos, oder auf Supermarktparkplätzen, fast ohne Versorgung oder der Möglichkeit einen Asylantrag zu stellen. Anschließend werden sie in geschlossene Camps auf dem Festland transferiert. In den letzten Wochen wurde zudem vermehrt von Pushbacks auf dem Weg zu den griechischen Inseln berichtet.
Anfang April wurden Hungerstreiks inhaftierter Geflüchteter gegen die Bedingungen im Abschiebegefängnis im Lager Moria auf Lesbos, sowie im Abschiebegefängnis Paranesti in Nordgriechenland durch Polizeigewalt beendet. Hierbei gab es mehrere Verletzte. Durch den Streik versuchten Häftlinge ihren Forderungen nach Freiheit und menschenwürdiger Unterbringung Gehör zu verschaffen. In den Abschiebegefängnissen der Lager werden Menschen auf Grundlage ihrer jeweiligen Nationalität inhaftiert. Ohne ein Verbrechen begangen zu haben werden sie wie Kriminelle in Gefängnisse gesperrt, sind Polizeigewalt ausgesetzt und dürfen lediglich einmal am Tag auf den Hof. Auch sonst wird die Kommunikation unter den Häftlingen, als auch nach außen, durch die Beschlagnahmung von Handys unterbunden. Obwohl Abschiebungen aus Griechenland durch die COVID-19 Beschränkungen auf unbestimmte Zeit ausgesetzt sind, werden die Menschen nicht aus der Abschiebehaft entlassen
Auch Solidarische Strukturen und Unterstützer*innen in Griechenland werden momentan durch die Behörden, sowie durch Covid-19-Beschränkungen und hohe Strafen bei dem Brechen von Quarantäneauflagen an ihrer Arbeit und an solidarischen Protesten gehindert. Die Antwort der Kampagne „You can`t evict Solidarity“ hierauf ist der Aufbau einer europaweiten Solidaritäts-Kampagne um Öffentlichkeit für die Situation vor Ort zu schaffen und Spenden für die Gerichtsprozesse der Inhaftierten zu sammeln.
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Verwendungszweck: Cant evict Solidarity
Das Lager Vial: Das Lager Vial auf der Insel Chios ist als einer der sogenannten „Hotspots“ in der Ägäis eines der größten Lager in Griechenland. Aktuell leben über 6000 Menschen in dem für 1000 Personen ausgelegten Lager. Die sowieso schon mangelhafte Versorgung mit Medikamenten und Lebensmitteln hat durch die Covid-19-Quarantäne ein unmenschliches Minimum erreicht. In den vergangenen Wochen haben Menschen Löcher im Wald geschaufelt um Wasser zu finden. Nazis und Anwohner*innen haben in den letzten Monaten die Straße zum Lager blockiert um Neuankünfte zu verhindern und vor einigen Monaten wurde das soziale Zentrum mehrerer NGOs niedergebrannt. Gleichzeitig gab es große gemeinsame Proteste solidarischer Anwohner*innen mit Geflüchteten.
Die Kampagne: “You can`t evict Solidarity” ist eine Anti-Repressions-Kampagne, mit der viele verschiedene Repressions-Betroffene aus antirassistischen, migrantischen Kämpfen an den EU-(Außen)Grenzen mit Spenden und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit unterstützt werden.
Just one month has passed in the new year and it already casts a grim shadow over the months yet to come. Blow after blow, new atrocities occur, and the government issues one fascist decision after another. Public outcry is absent.
Still, almost every day people set out on the dangerous journey across the straits between Turkey and Europe. Forced by a system that criminalizes and negatively stigmatizes migration, people unsafely have to board boats and leave everything behind, in the hope of a better, normal life – and for the EU (and within it the Greek government) no effort seems too big or too expensive to crush said people, no matter the cost.
The numerous shipwrecks in this month alone shows yet again how dangerous the crossing is. The Turkish coast guard rammed a rubber dinghy, 4 people drowned, one person went missing – and the excuse of missing safety precautions on board is accepted without comment. A fiber boat broke, 11 people died, of whom 8 were children – but the outcry is absent.
Driven in desperation by a dehumanizing and exclusionary system, a man finds himself during the first days of January in prison. He is locked away in solitary confinement, out of sight. He is a man with known psychological problems and he is left alone. Nobody will take responsibility for him. Death appears to him as the only way out of this hell.
In response to this, approximately 150 people took to the streets to protest against Moria Camp and the conditions in its prison. In a public statement (in several languages), the violent methods, which are de facto torture, were criticized, and the release of all prisoners demanded, as well as the closure of Moria camp and freedom of movement for all.
Towards the end of the month around 300 women protested in the streets of Mytilene with slogans such as “we want to be free, we want to be human”. They criticized the horrible living conditions in Moria camp and the ongoing violence. Meanwhile, another hundred women were prevented from participating in the protest and were blocked at the streets entering Mytilene. More than ten non-refugee women that attended the demonstration were removed and taken to the police station. The police were of the opinion that it was they who organized the rally, based on no evidence and only prejudice, the racial prejudice that the refugee community were unable to organise the demonstration themselves, and that it must have been done for them.
Women have to live under constant fear of assaults and rape. Medical help for pregnant women is barely existent. General medical support is scarce. Children grow up in a hostile environment. They are denied their childhood. But the outcry is absent.
Over 20,000 people are currently stuck in and around Moria camp, having to call it their home. Basic needs are not even close to being met. The ideal environment for violence has resulted in several attacks. Already more than 10 people have been injured and hospitalized since the start of the year. Among those, two men were killed. Some no longer dare to stay in the camp and see themselves forced to endure the cold winter nights in public places. But the outcry is absent.
On January 22nd, with the slogan: “we want our islands back!”, thousands of Greek civilians went on strike and protested the government’s refugee policy. The general strike was supported by the broad public, and a poster with their inflammatory demands could be seen in countless shops and stores of Mytilene, resulting in the largest protest in the history of Lesvos. Thus, domestic politics evaporates, and the belief that those who have newly arrived are to blame for the old, structural problems of the country spreads.
This is a perfect example of the recently formed government confirming its desire to show hardness and “strength” by implementing xenophobic policy. Championing the ideal of “out of sight, out of mind”, the first closed camp is already being built on the island of Samos, afar from any civilization. Men, women and children are to be imprisoned there on a general basis, their only “crime”: they came to Europe. They shall be imprisoned for 25 days. Within this time, it is supposed to be decided who is allowed to stay and who will be deported. The new law, however, provides for numerous possibilities to extend detention – up to 18 months if the asylum application is rejected. In addition to this, the time limits for appeals has been shortened, and any appeal must be submitted by a lawyer. This gives rise to the fear that under these circumstances many will not find a representative in time to appeal against a negative verdict.
But the government cannot wait for the completion of the closed camps to achieve their goal. Thus, on the last weekend of January, 55 people, most of them families, were locked up in a wing of the prison on Kos island. EU law ubiquitously requires a case-by-case assessment of whether there is a reason for imprisonment, and the Greek government flagrantly shows a clear disregard for such legal principle. If even legal principles are so publicly ignored, how are we to believe that any moral or ethical principles, such as a basic human right such as migration, will ever be followed?
Help and support will never be close at hand. The dehumanization continues. Imprisonment of the innocent, even children, is legitimized by our xenophobic system. But the outcry is absent.
The closed camps are intended to accelerate and intensify deportations. By the end of 2020, the government wants to deport 10,000 refugees to Turkey – five times greater than the total number of deportations since the EU-Turkey deal was made. So far, in accordance with former practice, many deportations have been prevented (or at least delayed) with the argument that the horrific conditions in Turkey classify a return as unsafe. However, the Greek government has installed a new judiciary for decisions in regards to deportation, and hopes they will decide differently. But the outcry is absent.
The European Union continues to fully support and implement the entire system. They don’t only demand more “effective (frequent)” deportation but also demand the doubling of EASO (European Asylum Support Office) staff officials to carry out the heinous act. It is not the only staff increase. The cruel, so-called “defenses” continue. The government announced to have 1200 more border police officers in the coming months. Already 400 jobs are advertised for the borders at the river Evros, and 800 are to be added on the Aegean islands.
Now they also want to install a floating dam system on the water. How exactly this is supposed to keep boats away is unclear to everyone. Considering that Lesvos is roughly 70km long, the 2.7km long barrier with blinking lights does not invoke an effective approach to the “issue”. The half a million-Euro project seems even more senseless when one takes in to account that people who are stopped by the barrier have already reached Greek territorial waters, and would therefore have to be rescued and taken to Greek soil under maritime law. But the outcry is absent.
As well as this, Stage 2 was closed on the 31st January. Stage 2 was the short-term transit camp to ensure people who land on the northern coast can access safety and receive medical aid and shelter. Over half of the total arrivals on Lesvos are on the northern shore. With closing Stage 2, people arriving will be left waiting for hours on beaches, by the side of the road, or in remote rocky areas, with no access to immediate shelter, protection or medical aid; some may even attempt to walk for hours to the south. But the outcry is absent.
Irony screams out, with all of the events aforementioned taking place in the same month in which the liberation of Auschwitz was remembered during the 75th anniversary of it’s closure, with politicians from left to right wing parties proclaiming: “never forgive, never forget!”. But they do forget. They forget all people who are not wanted in Europe because of their country of origin. They forget the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives because of the current EU policy. They forget the children who have experienced nothing else in their whole life than war, conflict zones and flight, and now are forced to live in hostile environments which provoke child suicide attempts. They forget all the young people who are condemned to do nothing, full of potential – potential Europe desperately needs, but apparently would be provided by the “wrong” people. They forget humanity in view of their own political and economic interests. They forget that fascism is in our midst and again the majority is not only watching but willfully ignoring. Thus, new atrocities take place over and over– but, once again, the outcry is absent. Deafeningly, forever absent.
United we stay- divided we fall.
Solidarity will win
The following report is cross posted from the blog: Bordermonitoring; you find the link here: https://dm-aegean.bordermonitoring.eu/2020/01/23/three-arrested-after-protest-against-deadly-violence/
The situation in Moria Camp is escalating. The size of the hotspot has grown drastically so that the barbed wired camp is surrounded by a slum-like city of tents. More than 19 000 people are currently trapped there. Many have already built small huts, knowing that they will be trapped there for months. Among them live about 1000 unaccompanied minors and many of them do not get any support because safe zones for minors are overcrowded and about half of them are forced to struggle on their own to find a space in a tent in the olive grove surrounding Moria Camp.
In these circumstances, where people are forced to live in a place without any protection, violence and exploitation escalate, establishing the ground for criminal structures – groups that are able to enter the camp from the outside. Exploitation ranges from forcing people to pay in order to be able to enter the asylum office to forced prostitution.
Stabbed to death in the EU’s migration camp
There have been three deaths within one month. On 1st January, a 20-year-old man from Congo was stabbed with a knife when he refused to give his mobile phone to a gang trying to rob him. His two friends were injured, while he died in hospital two weeks later. On 6th January, an Iranian asylum seeker was found dead, hung, in a cell of the pre-removal detention centre in Moria camp. On 16th January, a Somali-Yemeni 20-year-old man was violently stabbed to death. According to witnesses, again a group of perpetrators wanted to rob him. On 20th January, an 18-year-old woman was stabbed with a knife and is still in a critical condition in hospital.
Fighting injustice – Self-organized protests
The deaths sparked a number of demonstrations. On 16th January, a big demonstration of people of many nationalities took place in the town of Mytilene, where migrants from all nationalities, Greeks and people from other European countries marched under the motto “Prisons kill: another state sponsored murder”, demanding the abolition of Moria prison in which a person was found dead.
The next day, members from the African community in Moria – who are increasingly affected by violence – also demonstrated in front of Moria camp, making speeches explaining that they do not feel safe. Among them there were many women. They carried signs like “No More Killing” and “Moria is not Safe”, and blocked the road.
Arrest and detention of protestors
While the few riot policemen present during the Moria demonstration stood back at the beginning watching the protest, they eventually built a barrier and shot teargas at the protestors. Then, they picked out three men who were among the protestors and arrested them. The three men were all from Somalia and were brought to court the next day for a hearing, where they were accused of disturbing public order, threatening the police and resistance against the police. They will have a trial on 27th February in Mytilene Court. Although the accusations are not felonies and the judge did not order pre-trial detention, the three men will be held in Moria pre-removal centre until the date of their trial.
The repressive arrests of the protesters, who mobilized to draw attention to the unbearable situation of their friends and relatives, killed in front of their own eyes, shows the inability of the Greek state and the European Union to deal with the political situation that they have created. Their confinement policies are creating spaces where people can be killed without any accountability. It is not enough to arrest migrants who the police consider as perpetrators of the killings. The line of deaths in Moria camp is not a coincidence. Guilty are those who set up the Greek hotspot camps and keep them running, no matter the human costs. Again, the arrests do not solve the problem. Instead, people who are already marginalized and affected by violence have to pay for it with imprisonment while the situation in Moria camp only gets worse.
This was not an accident!
They died because of Europe’s cruel deterrence and detention regime!
Yesterday, on Sunday 29 September 2019, a fire broke out in the so-called hotspot of Moria on Lesvos Island in Greece. A woman and probably also a child lost their lives in the fire and it remains unclear how many others were injured. Many people lost all their small belongings, including identity documents, in the fire. The people imprisoned on Lesvos have fled wars and conflicts and now experience violence within Europe. Many were re-traumatised by these tragic events and some escaped and spent the night in the forest, scared to death.
Over the past weeks, we had to witness two more deaths in the hotspot of Moria: In August a 15-year-old Afghan minor was killed during a violent fight among minors inside the so-called “safe space” of the camp. On September 24, a 5-year-old boy lost his life when he was run-over by a truck in front of the gate.
The fire yesterday was no surprise and no accident. It is not the first, and it will not be the last. The hotspot burned already several times, most tragically in November 2016 when large parts burned down. Europe’s cruel regime of deterrence and detention has now killed again.
In the meantime, in the media, a story was immediately invented, saying that the refugees themselves set the camp on fire. It was also stated that they blocked the fire brigade from entering. We have spoken to many people who witnessed the events directly. They tell us a very different story: In fact, the fire broke out most probably due to an electricity short circuit. The fire brigade arrived very late, which is no surprise given the overcrowdedness of this monstrous hotspot. Despite its official capacity for 3,000 people, it now detains at least 12,500 people who suffer there in horrible living conditions. On mobile phone videos taken by the prisoners of the camp, one can see how in this chaos, inhabitants and the fire brigade tried their best together to at least prevent an even bigger catastrophe.
There simply cannot be a functioning emergency plan in a camp that has exceeded its capacity four times. When several containers burned in a huge fire that generated a lot of smoke, the imprisoned who were locked in the closed sector of the camp started in panic to try to break the doors. The only response the authorities had, was to immediately bring police to shoot tear-gas at them, which created an even more toxic smoke.
Anger and grief about all these senseless deaths and injuries added to the already explosive atmosphere in Moria where thousands have suffered while waiting too long for any change in their lives. Those who criminalise and condemn this outcry in form of a riot of the people of Moria cannot even imagine the sheer inhumanity they experience daily. The real violence is the camp itself, conditions that are the result of the EU border regime’s desire for deterrence.
We raise our voices in solidarity with the people of Moria and demand once again: The only possibility to end this suffering and dying is to open the islands and to have freedom of movement for everybody. Those who arrive on the islands have to continue their journeys to hopefully find a place of safety and dignity elsewhere. We demand ferries to transfer the exhausted and re-traumatised people immediately to the Greek mainland. We need ferries not Frontex. We need open borders, so that everyone can continue to move on, even beyond Greece. Those who escape the islands should not be imprisoned once more in camps in mainland Greece, with conditions that are the same as the ones here on the islands.
Close down Moria! Open the islands! Freedom of Movement for everyone!
The source of the following article is the petition in change.org: (https://www.change.org/p/european-court-of-human-rights-free-nour-al-sameh) as well as the picture which is taken from this petition too.
Cases of state repression against refugees arriving with boats on greek islands by criminalizing their act of eventually conducting a boat as human trafficking as written below, are no single cases. It is a systematicly policy of deterrence and arbitrariness. We want to make these cases visible. Nour is an exemplary case for this:
Free Nour Al-sameh!
Nour Al-Sameh is 29 years old ٍSyrian who is unjustly imprisoned in Greece for 4 years now because he flee to Europe for refuge. Just like the Captain of the Sea-Watch Carola Rackete, he acted to save the lives of people on a boat in the Aegean Sea who would otherwise have drowned in the water.
Nour studied Business Management in Syria, he fled his country due to persecution and war that burst in. He stayed in Turkey in an unbearable situation without shelter or job until he managed to leave Turkey, in July 29th 2015. The only possibility for him to seek refuge in Europe was crossing the Aegean Sea in small sailing boat. He was the only person on the boat who could speak English, when the boat was about to sink he called for help using the walky-talky on the boat.
People on the boat were taken by The Greek coast guards accompanied by military forces (according to Nour,this forces were in military uniform, and he thinks that they were speaking in German)
The boat was taken to the harbor of Perya Island in Greece, he was handed to the Greek coast guards. Being blindfolded and handcuffed, Nour was beaten, insulted and humiliated by the Greek police.
He was accused with Human Trafficking and sentenced for 315 years and a fine of 3150000 Euros in June 2016. Similar cases have shown that the court counts prison year by the number of people on the boat. With the support of his friends he managed to get a lawyer and appeal against this decision in November 2017, the judge of Perya court dismissed the appeal. In another attempt for justice Nour’s lawyer brought the case to the highest court in Greece, the Supreme Court, to win the opportunity for an appeal and to explain his story properly. Since the hearing in the Supreme Court in February 2019 Nour is waiting for an answer on his claim.
Nour’s case is not an exception. Many refugees have been criminalized, arrested and are currently detained in Greek prisons simply because they were fleeing. The Legal Center Lesvos has documented https://legalcentrelesvos.org/category/news/).
“The individuals charged are denied the basic rights to a fair trial, guaranteed under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as they are routinely denied adequate interpretation, are denied a fair hearing, and convictions are based on the sole fact that the individual was driving the boats attempting to reach Europe from Turkey” In Nour’s case it was simply making a call to ask for help. The Christian Peacemaker Team also documented a trial against refugees concluding
“No one in the courtroom supported the business of human smuggling of refugees—making immense profits by charging huge prices for transporting refugees in very dangerous conditions, usually crowding too many people in unsafe boats, often not giving them life jackets that actually work, or not putting enough fuel in the motor to reach the shore of the Greek island. It’s a horrendous crime against these vulnerable and desperate people. But the people being tried in this courtroom were not the people running these illegal businesses and getting rich.”
Interview zur Situation der “smuggling cases” – zuerst veröffentlicht von dm aegean:
Not only European sea rescue organizations are criminalized. Hundreds of migrants seeking protection in Europe are immediately arrested after their arrival by boat on the Greek Islands. They are accused of human smuggling.
The police is looking for the people who were driving the boat. These people are either refugees who could not afford their journey in a rubber dinghy and accept to steer the boat or Turkish citizen not knowing the risk they occur.
One trial against a “smuggler” lasts less than half an hour. In nearly all cases, the accused migrants are found guilty. Their average sentence is about 44 years in prison that is to be served for about 19 years. The average fines imposed are over 370.000 Euros.
Artikel zuerst veröffentlicht von dm aegean und V.H.
The following short report is based on data collected by the organization Christian Peacemaker Teams Lesvos (CPT-Lesvos) who has been monitoring smuggling trials since 2014. All graphs have been made by CPT-Lesvos. An in-depth analysis of the data collected will be published in autumn 2019.
Criminalizing Migration and Escape Aid
Many people who reach the Greek islands in rubber dinghies have been travelling for months or years to find freedom and safety in the European Union. But surviving the crossing of the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece does not mean that they eventually reached safety.
On the Greek hotspot islands, some migrants are regularly arrested from their boats and directly detained and accused of human smuggling. The European Union claims:
“Fighting and preventing human smuggling and trafficking is one of the priorities of the European Union and crucial to address irregular migration in a comprehensive way.”
Jamil from Afghanistan (name changed) experienced what this means. He was sentenced to 90 years in prison of which he will have to serve 25 years and was also convicted to a 13,000 Euro penalty. Jamil was captured driving a refugee boat from Greece to Lesvos. He could not afford to pay for his wife’s and his own journey, so he accepted the offer from the smuggler who asked him to drive the boat and return to get a free ride with his wife. He did not know that driving a boat would be considered a crime. While his wife now lives in Germany, he is still imprisoned – he appealed the court decision but was again convicted.
His example shows that the maxim of fighting human smuggling is not only used to criminalize civilian sea rescue as in the cases of the recent accusations against the captain of the Sea Watch 3 and the crew of the rescue boat Iuventa. It however impacts people who do not hold European passports much more directly. Many of them come as refugees themselves, intending to seek asylum in Europe. While European sea rescuers have so far only been accused for crimes but not convicted, hundreds of migrants have been sentenced to decades in prison with excessive charges.
The organization Christian Peacemaker Teams Lesvos (CPT-Lesvos) has been monitoring the smuggling trials since 2014. They found that most of the people accused of smuggling are Turkish citizens and some of them migrants from other countries seeking protection in Europe. All people arrested are male. CPT-Lesvos member Rûnbîr Serkepkanî explains:
“What is common among most of them is that they are poor, they are students, they are migrants who couldn’t afford paying for the travel to the Aegean islands. (…) If you are a Turkish citizen – we have many migrants who are Turkish who have applied for asylum here in Greece – you are automatically accused of being the smuggler or the driver of the boat.”
Rûnbîr Serkepkanî, CPT-Lesvos, March 2019
Dariusz Firla from CPT-Lesvos describes how people labelled as “smugglers” are often identified:
“When the Coast Guard or FRONTEX pick up refugees at sea, they usually ask directly: “Who drove the boat?”. Sometimes people even say, “That was me,” because they don’t know it’s a crime. In some cases, it is simply a matter of refugees who paid less and drive the boat for this, but often it is Turks from poor regions who, for example, had no work and were hired by the smugglers for some pocket money to go and return the boat. Sometimes they are beaten bloody after their arrest until they arrive at the port.”
Dariusz Firla, CPT Lesvos, June 2017
CPT-Lesvos interviewed Tarek (name changed) from Syria who has been detained in Chios prison for 14 months. He explained: “I was beaten from the moment I was arrested at sea until arriving at the police station. I was bleeding.”
After their arrest, people are held in pre-trial detention. CPT-Lesvos found that migrants are on average detained for 7 months before their first trial. There were also cases where the trial was postponed twice, leading to 29 months of pre-detention.
A farce of a court case
One of the major problems in court is a shocking lack of deep processing. CPT-Lesvos timed the duration of 28 trials and found that the average duration of an individual trial was only 28.5 minutes, while the average duration of a joint trial was 43 minutes. Obviously, this makes a thorough investigation of the question of guilt impossible. Furthermore, the translation within the trials is extremely poor.
In many cases, the defendants are sentenced even if there is hardly any evidence against them. Dariusz Firla explains:
“Sometimes there is only the Coast Guard as witness. For the judges, it can be sufficient if the witness identifies the defendant as the driver of the boat. In one case, the Coast Guard even stated that he had not been present at the rescue operation himself, but that his colleague had told him that the defendant was guilty.”
Dariusz Firla, CPT Lesvos, June 2017
On top of the lack of deep processing by the judges, the quality of the court-appointed lawyers poses a major problem, especially since most lawyers are only appointed at the day of the trial and have no means to do any investigation for the defence. Sometimes, state or private lawyers also do not appear before the court, as in the case of Tarek (name changed), who had spent 14 months in pre-trial detention. Tarek’s family sold whatever they could to pay for a Greek lawyer, but the lawyer failed to show up on the day of the trial and he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Life long sentences
In nearly all cases, the accused migrants are found guilty of human smuggling and in some cases also of entry to Greece without permission and disobedience. Rûnbîr Serkepkanî states:
“The punishment of people who are accused with or charged with smuggling is higher than murder in Greece. So it is more serious to drive a boat which carries migrants to the Greek islands than murdering people.”
Rûnbîr Serkepkanî, CPT-Lesvos, March 2019
The sentences are calculated adding factors such as the number of people transported, transport without life vests, and if their lives were put in danger (e.g. through capsizing of the boat), which is why the sentence can exceed 100 years. Since the maximum period of factual imprisonment in Greece is 25 years, the sentences is then reduced accordingly. In some cases, mitigating circumstances are taken into account, reducing the penalty to about ten years. Sometimes the deportation of the convicted person is ordered directly after the release. In fact, looking at 41 cases between 2016 and 2017, CPT-Lesvos found that the average sentence of the trials they monitored was about 44 years in prison with an expected actual duration in prison of about 19 years. In addition, there are huge fines imposed, on average more than 370.000 Euros.
Average Sentence (41 cases)
Average time the sentence is to be served(41 cases)
(1) human smuggling (illegal transportation in order to earn money)
(1) human smuggling (illegal transportation in order to earn money) (2) entry to Greece without permission
(1) human smuggling (illegal transportation in order to earn money) (2) entry to Greece without permission (3) disobedience
The European incarceration of the marginalized
The necessity to prevent human smuggling has been normalized in the European Union. Arrests are supported by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX and hardly any politician would question the necessity to prevent human smuggling at the EU external borders. The actions of the Greek state and courts are either tacitly supported or ignored.
The EU Commission, FRONTEX and interior ministries tend to mention the need to fight human smuggling in one breath with the necessity to save lives and ensure protection of humans. This was especially made possible through the convergence of discourses around human trafficking, human smuggling and escape aid. The EU claims:
“While trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling are two different crimes subject to different legal frameworks they are closely interlinked.”
Trafficking and smuggling may overlap in some cases, however, they are in fact two completely different issues. Trafficking is a forced transfer of people, connected to kidnapping, exploitation and modern slavery, while human smuggling is a response on the restrictive border policies preventing even refugees to be able to cross borders in a legal way.
For the majority of the worldwide population, there is no safe passage and no legal way to enter an EU country and seek asylum or receive a working visa. People are forced to embark on illegalized deadly routes and have no other option but to use the service of facilitators that are in many cases excessively overpriced and risky. The facilitation of people’s journeys is illegalized even if their right to stay is approved through an asylum decision afterwards. Destroying smuggling networks will not save lives – people rely on them to save their own lives.
As the example of Greece shows, the people who are arrested in the fight against human smuggling are exactly those already suffering most from the EU border policies. In many cases, they had no choice and are themselves seeking protection. The anti-smuggling policies at the external border of Greece only hit the smallest link in a chain. Since people often have neither information on the risks they undergo nor a choice, these policies do not even have a deterring effect and only follow a senseless ideology of punishment. Without any need, the lives of marginalized people are destroyed in devastating ways. It is migrants and refugees seeking protection – unheard and without any lobby – who have to pay with their lives and dreams for these misguided and inhumane European policies.
Viele Menschen, die nach Europa kommen, um Freiheit und Sicherheit zu suchen, befinden sich im Gefängnis. Während die EU-Politik Menschen gewaltsam in überfüllten und mit Stacheldraht versehenen Lagern auf den griechischen Inseln gefangen hält, setzt die griechische Polizei harte Repressionsstrategien ein, um Konflikte und Proteste aufgrund der unerträglichen Lebensbedingungen in den Lagern zu unterdrücken.
Migranten auf den griechischen Inseln befinden sich in einer Situation der Inhaftierung – unabhängig davon, ob sie eine Straftat begangen haben oder nicht, sie müssen nicht nur die ständige Unsicherheit des Lagers ertragen, sondern auch unter der ständigen Gefahr leben, verhaftet und festgehalten zu werden.
Im Folgenden geben wir den Bericht von Aftab Mohammadi (Name geändert), der im Juli 2018 im Lager Moria verhaftet wurde. Es ist eine von vielen Geschichten über eine grausame Inhaftierungspraxis.
Nachricht eines Gefangenen aus dem Knast in Chios: Vor neun Monaten war es eine Nacht wie andere Nächte. Es gab einen Kampf im Lager zwischen einigen wenigen Leuten, der mehr als zwei Stunden dauerte. Der Kampf begann zwischen zwei Leuten und nach einer Weile wurden andere im Lager involviert. Es begann alles mit den schlechten Bedingungen, die im Lager leben müssen. Einige haben mentale Probleme, weil sie unter diesen schrecklichen Bedingungen leben und keine mentale Unterstützung haben.
Die Polizei war anwesend und sie sahen, was passiert war. Ich fühlte mich in dieser Nacht schrecklich, besonders als ich sah, dass die Kinder ihre Mütter festhielten, sie hatten große Angst und weinten. Die Polizisten lachten über die Leute. Für sie war es wie ein Online-Film. Wir baten sie um Hilfe, aber sie lachten uns nur aus, machten Fotos und nahmen uns auf.
Wir veröffentlichen einen Bericht von Genoss*innen von Lesbos:
110 der Betroffenen des faschistischen Pogroms, das am 22. April 2018 auf dem zentralen Platz in Mytilini stattgefunden hat sind am 9ten Mai 2019 in allen Punkten freigesprochen worden.
Ihnen wurde Widerstand gegen die Staatsgewalt und illegale Besetzung oeffentlicher Raeume vorgeworfen. Der Ausgang dieses Prozesses ist sehr erfreulich- wenn auch der einzig logische, denn wie so viele Faelle von Kriminalisierung von Migrant*Innen haette er gar nicht erst vor Gericht gehen duerfen. *
Waehrend der Verhandlung wurde durch Aussagen von ZeugInnen und Angeklagten klar, dass von Seiten des Staates versucht wurde das Recht der MigrantInnen auf friedliche Versammlung zu kriminalisieren. Dies geschah unter anderem durch die Trennung der Besetzung des Platzes von den faschistischen Angriffen in jener Nacht. Gerade einmal 17 der 200-300 FaschistInnen sind nach den Geschehnissen auf dem Sapfos Square festgenommen worden, der Prozess gegen sie steht noch aus. Es wurde ausserdem offensichtlich, dass es keine Beweislage dafuer gibt dass von Seiten der BesetzerInnen Verbrechen begangen worden sind, so ist dieser Freispruch eine wichtige Anerkennung des Gerichts des Rechts auf friedliche Versammlung, das dem behaupteten Verbrechen – illegale Besetzung eines oeffentlichen Platzes- uebersteht.
* Am 22. April 2018 zogen ca. 180 MigrantInnen auf den Sappho Square, den zentralen Platz in Mytilini, um gegen die anhaltenden schlechten Zustände in Moria, unzureichende medizinische Versorgung, Inhaftierung auf der Insel und die langen Wartezeiten im Asylprozess (momentan gibt es Menschen auf der Insel, die ihren Termin zur Asylanhörung im Jahre 2023 haben). Konkreter Auslöser der Mobilisierung war der Tod eines Asylsuchenden mit schweren gesundheitlichen Problemen. Vor Ort wurden die Protestierenden über Stunden von Dutzenden Faschisten angegriffen, mit Pyro beschossen und mit Steinen beworfen ohne dass die Polizei einschritt. Es gab Dutzende Verletzte.