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Home World At the EU-Turkey Border, Human Rights Violations are No Longer Clandestine Operations

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

This is an advance excerpt from Dignity in Movement: Borders, Bodies and Rights, edited by Jasmin Lilian Diab (E-International Relations, forthcoming 2021).

The quaint and weathered island of Lesvos (often known as Lesbos), situated in the far east of the Aegean Sea, is the third-largest of all the Greek islands. Lesvos is now residence to 11 million olive timber, 86,000 Greeks, and over 14,700 asylum-seekers (Aegean Boat Report Data Studio 2020b; El-Rashidi 2019). Due to 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 at last, the Greeks. An often-overlooked reality is that a lot of the present native inhabitants descends from refugees themselves, whose grandparents and nice grandparents had been forcibly displaced from Turkey in the aftermath of World War I.

Since 2014, greater than 1.2 million migrants fleeing warfare, violence, and persecution have risked their lives crossing the northeast Mediterranean Sea en path to Europe, the majority of whom initially land on Lesvos (UNHCR 2020). They cross the deep and slim strait on flimsy rubber dinghies – typically 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.

Although the channel is slim, its waves are unforgiving. Over 1,674 individuals have drowned in the Eastern Mediterranean (IOM 2020) in the previous decade,a substantial amount of whom fell mercy to the sea’s wrath when the humanitarian disaster first started over 5 years in the past. Over current years, the tides have turned for the worse as these in energy have grow to be as cruel as the sea. Since the signing of the European Uunion (EU)-Turkey Deal, tons of of lives have been senselessly misplaced, and tons of extra have gone lacking attributable to the regular amplification of draconian, anti-migrant immigration insurance policies. Civil society organizations, together with Mare Liberum, have been documenting and advocating in opposition to the politicization of human lives for years, no matter the political local weather, however as the state of affairs worsens, we’d like extra assist. We are dismayed to report that 2020 has been notably worrisome – although not for the causes one may assume – and we urge that it’s crucial that the worldwide group take a stronger stance in opposition to the unveiled violations of human rights happening at 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 robust supporter of our objectives, Sea-Watch e.V. donated what’s now our ship at the starting of 2018, and we’ve been crusing the coast of Lesvos ever since. We primarily function an unbiased observer and deterrent for violations of human rights by state authorities. Mare Liberum conducts analysis to doc the present state of affairs at 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. While locals, particularly fishermen, have been rescuers and harborers of the weary travellers in the previous, over current years, some locals have grown extremely illiberal of the state of affairs.[1] Considering the financial results of decreased tourism, excessive unemployment charges, and a rise in the charge of aged poor, some are extra susceptible to absorbing the hate speech and false claims propagated by right-wing leaders equivalent to Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who make statements like, ‘Afghans are not refugees’ and ‘93 percent are illegal immigrants’. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the overwhelming majority of sea arrivals to Greece in 2019 – over 90 p.c – had been from battle zones (Keep Talking Greece, 2019), and the UNHCR Representative in Greece, Philippe Leclerc, has needed to attraction politicians to chorus from such speech, predicting that it could set off hate in opposition to refugees and volunteers (Leclerc 2019). Since 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 want our island back’. In February, native vigilantes started attacking the vehicles and houses of migrant support employees and volunteers. In early March, the donation-based refugee college One Happy Family was burnt to the floor (Ng 2020). Right-wing teams started exhibiting 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 any cash, we don’t need you’. The Pikpa camp, which hosts the most susceptible teams, together with households, victims of torture, and lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, started receiving threats. Two German photojournalists had been crushed for documenting violence between locals and refugee rights activists. Cameras and telephones of non-governmental group (NGO) staff had 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 results of the pandemic took maintain of the island in direction of the finish 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 mind’ ways to take away refugees from their visual view – organising distant, closed-off detention facilities, orchestrating clandestine pushbacks at sea, and executing mass-deportations. COVID-19 has closed borders throughout the globe, enormously fuelling nationalist agendas and furthering their respective ‘national security’ initiatives underneath the guise of reacting to a public well being emergency. Lesvos, nevertheless, reached its tipping level earlier than confinement measures had been enacted. As a consequence, COVID-19 measures are getting used as a rationalization for plans that had 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 now 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 state of affairs 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 brazenly violating worldwide regulation.

What is Happening at Sea?

At least 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 appearing as a way of self-hindrance for persevering with alongside migration routes. As eyewitnesses on the floor, we’ve little question that that is additionally a results of the more and more aggressive pushbacks[2] by the Greek authorities (Amnesty International 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 may now not assist the estimated 4 million migrants that are at the moment residing inside its borders (Stevis-Gridneff and Kingsley 2020). In response, on 1 March 2020 Greece suspended all asylum software procedures for arrivals coming from Turkey (HRW 2020a) and commenced additional militarizing the Aegean Sea. According to studies by native media shops, ‘more than 50 Hellenic Coast Guard vessels’ had been deployed ‘in the eastern Aegean, along with 10 Navy vessels and 24 land, air, and sea craft provided by the European Union’s border monitoring company Frontex’ (Souliotis and Georgiopoulou 2020). Our crew has seen 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). While there have been many testimonials of clandestine pushbacks in the previous – even in 2013, pre-dating the media-acclaimed ‘refugee crisis’ (Pro Asyl 2013) – these unlawful operations have now extra brazenly grow to be normal process, with out regard to their illegality in the eyes of customary worldwide human rights regulation.

As defined by one in every of the 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. Before, migrants had been afraid of the sea itself, however now, they are afraid of the violent human behaviour at sea.

Coast Guard practices of cruelty, violence, and humiliation

The function of any coast guard throughout peacetime is to hold out the enforcement of maritime regulation and the safety of life and property at sea. Under maritime regulation, it’s the duty of the closest in a position vessel to ‘render assistance and rescue those in distress at sea without any regard to their nationality, status, or the circumstances in which they are found’ (IMO, ICS, and UNHCR 2020), which additionally applies to coast guard ships. Yet, up to now, migrants regularly testify to the violence they endure from the authorities that are tasked with saving them. They face an ideal danger 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 grow to be much more virulent since dwell movies have been posted on social networks showcasing these aggressions. Testimonials from current arrivals have instructed 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 

Fear of migrants bringing COVID-19 to the island has enormously facilitated the acceptance of speedy expulsion methods. The Greek authorities has touted an strategy of ‘aggressive surveillance and deterrence’ of migration with out absolutely specifying what these strategies will entail (The National Herald 2020). According to a number of studies from asylum-seekers over the previous few years, the coast guard has been utilizing unsafe pushback methods, equivalent to 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, nevertheless, had been all the time carried out in secret. The coast guard brokers tried to destroy proof by tossing migrants’ cell telephones into the sea, they usually 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. But 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 compelled 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 unfastened and depart them adrift at sea.

One of the best-documented life raft pushbacks occurred on 28 April 2020. That day, individuals (together with three youngsters, 4 ladies, and 15 males) arrived on the Greek island of Samos, which is about 130 kilometers south of Lesvos. Instead of being delivered to one in every of the refugee camps on the island, they had been compelled 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 in the life raft the subsequent morning (Aegean Boat Report 2020b). Since March 2020, a minimum of 1,336 individuals have been compelled into life rafts by the Greek coast guard and left helplessly at sea (ABR 2020d; Kingsley and Shoumali 2020).[3] These are not remoted incidents. The Greek authorities denies that they are doing something unlawful (Hellenic Republic Ministry of Migration and Asylum 2020). In reality, 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, ladies, and kids at sea (ABR 2020d).

Once migrants are introduced again or float again to Turkey, they are then prone to be despatched to unsanitary, overcrowded Turkish prisons that are mal-equipped for combating the COVID-19 outbreak. Crossing the sea has by no means been riskier.

Frontex and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are current and watching these pushbacks. They neither rescue individuals from these floating tents nor actively push them again, however somewhat stand apart and observe silently. When asylum seekers are straight pushed again, they are not capable of train their proper to use for asylum. Greece shouldn’t be solely in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental 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 United States, the United Kingdom, and different NATO member nations are appearing as bystanders, and even accomplices attributable to the indisputable fact that they are actively not taking part in human rights investigations. As governments work to additional forestall 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 happening 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 Relief, that are alert and prepared to answer 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. In the previous, it was extra probably that the Hellenic Coast Guard would safely take the migrants to shore, particularly whereas underneath the watchful eye of civil society. However, it’s now extra probably that they’ll 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.

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

On 29 August 2020, Refugee Rescue (2020) introduced that it has additionally been compelled 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 fundamental set off for the must stop its support work: ‘Unacceptably, the rising criminalization of humanitarian organizations in Lesvos and growing hostilities now pose an irrefutable threat to our staff, assets, and work – and we cannot in good conscience continue to operate if we cannot guarantee the safety of our team. Additionally, the unchecked impunity with which authorities now work has created a situation where we no longer trust that they will allow us to launch our independent rescue boat, Mo Chara. Make no mistake: our decision to suspend operations for the foreseeable future does not in any way mean that search and rescue is not still imminently needed off the North Shore of Lesvos. In fact, human rights violations on the Aegean have only intensified in the past few months – from authorities leaving people stranded at sea for hours, to illegal pushbacks on Greek waters – which have all made the journey from Turkey to Greece more perilous than ever for those seeking refuge’ (Refugee Rescue 2020).

If the Hellenic Coast Guard is actively placing lives at risk, if NATO and Frontex proceed to stay silent, and if human rights NGOs are unable to function, what’s stopping the Aegean Sea from changing 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 in the Aegean Sea? Why are resource-strapped non-profits filling the footwear of governments in defending the most susceptible with the intention to enable for a extra affluent society for all? We all must be demanding extra of our leaders. In a democracy, we’ve the energy to place an finish to government-funded xenophobia. 

What is Happening on Land?

Inhumane exercise is being reported at sea, and sadly the identical might be mentioned for the administration of asylum-seekers on land. If and when asylum-seekers do make it to Lesvos’ shores, processing procedures have been enormously altered attributable to the pandemic. While the low variety of COVID-19 circumstances so far on the island have been attributed to Greece’s containment makes an attempt, it’s essential to notice that not all lives are being held at equal worth when quarantine measures are carried out. A spokesperson for the European Commission has famous, ‘Quarantine and isolation measures must be applied in a reasonable, proportionate, and non-discriminatory manner. We have provided significant financial and operational support to member states, including Greece, to fight the coronavirus, and stand ready to provide further support if needed’, however it’s finally at the discretion of the Greek authorities to observe by way of with a human rights centric emergency response plan (Macej Kaczyński 2020). Rather than defending the well being of everybody, the Greek authorities is appearing with distinction for a way migrant lives and Greek lives are prioritized by way of its COVID-19 containment measures.

Discriminatory and unsafe quarantine practices

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

While the UNHCR and Greek authorities could argue that they are working with restricted sources to fight what could possibly be an extremely lethal state of affairs, there isn’t any justification for the reckless, indiscriminate mixing of probably COVID-19-positive and tested-negative asylum-seekers. There is little or no separation between those that examined detrimental however stay in quarantine and the new arrivals which may be carrying the virus, which unnecessarily places further lives at excessive danger contemplating the quarantine camp’s sordid circumstances. The UNHCR safety unit added a line in the lodging referral kind for brand new arrivals to self-report any circumstances that coincide with COVID-vulnerability, however there are no indications that this information assortment is getting used to enhance preventative well being safety for new-arrivals in apply. According to a contact we’ve from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the hospitals on Lesvos are outfitted with a complete of 11 ventilators, none of which 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 normal for implementing an efficient quarantine response is duly famous by Lesvos’ therapy of these arriving by dinghy versus these arriving by aircraft. During the strictest part of the COVID-19 lockdown, everybody who entered Greece by way of the airport had been instantly examined and obtained free lodging and meals till the check outcomes arrived (Greek City Times 2020).

Restricting migrants’ motion: Locking down Moria

Considering that the island’s largest refugee camp, Moria, was constructed to carry 3,000 individuals, over 13,000 migrants have been compelled to arrange their tents in the peripheral space (known as the Olive Grove) with the intention to entry what little items and providers are supplied by shortlisted and government-approved NGOs. Certain journey and motion restrictions have been solely carried out for migrants, to the extent that these dwelling in or round the camps have been rounded-up and herded nearer collectively into an enclosed Moria. A crew of volunteer attorneys from the group Legal Centre Lesvos (2020a) famous that since 19 March 2020, migrants should acquire written permission from police or a safety authority with the intention to depart the Moria or Kara Tepe refugee camps. On 30 March 2020, they posted on social media the following:

Across 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 are exterior the home. Yet causes that are legitimate throughout the nation are, unsurprisingly, deserted in favour of far stricter guidelines for migrants…Only one member of every household can depart the camps per week, a measure that’s strictly enforced – regardless of the indisputable fact that no such restriction exists for individuals dwelling in cities and cities throughout Greece. Those with out written permission might be blocked from leaving by police – both at the camps’ exits, or at checkpoints on the roads that result in the metropolis of Mytiline – and will be unable to board public buses. An elevated variety of police items have been deployed round 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 deliver 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 regard to quotidian well being and security requirements. Depending on the a part of Moria wherein one lives, refugees should share a rest room with 50–500 individuals. Social distancing is inconceivable when dwelling in a tent with as much as 12 different individuals, and when it’s necessary to go exterior and wait in lengthy traces with the intention to bathe or obtain day by day meals. Attempting to fill the void of a correctly carried out response, a gaggle of refugees self-organized to create the ‘Corona Awareness Team’ to unfold details about the virus and distribute masks.

From the begin of the pandemic, the World Health Organization and United States Centers for Disease Control (2020) have made it clear that prime concentrations of individuals inside confined dwelling areas will increase the chance of the virus spreading. According to an evaluation by the International Rescue Committee (2020), the dwelling circumstances in camps equivalent to Moria will show to be extra disastrous than the notorious Diamond Princess cruise ship case, the place the transmission charge of the virus was 4 instances sooner than in Wuhan at the peak of the outbreak. Not solely is the Moria camp over eight instances extra densely populated than the Diamond Princess, however there’s little entry to scrub water, showers, bathrooms, and total poor hygiene circumstances and entry to high quality healthcare in displacement camps.

As many have feared, the first COVID-19 case from inside Moria camp was simply detected on 2 September 2020, and the complete camp might be underneath full lockdown for the coming 14 days, which means entry and exit might be prohibited (Panoutsopoulou 2020). This news comes roughly one month after MSF (2020) was compelled to shut their COVID-19 containment middle inside Moria. Local authorities imposed fines with potential legal prices, citing city planning laws inside an overpopulated Greek-run refugee camp that has had barely any planning in its improvement and upkeep. On 3 September 2020, the Greek Ministry of Immigration and Asylum introduced that it’ll 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 middle for which it has been pushing since the elections.

Fear-mongering in opposition to 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, though these claims lack proof (Trilling 2020). Certain 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 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 changing into a transitory hotspot. Residents of Moria have reported to us that they are experiencing microaggressions and racism extra incessantly. For instance, even after being granted permission to go to the grocery store, a storeowner will forestall them from coming into the retailer.

‘They are seen and treated as pariahs who can bring the virus to the island’, studies an activist from Mare Liberum. The International Organization for Migration has warned that rising discrimination in opposition to migrants solely impedes efforts to sort out the pandemic, as exclusion of any group from receiving the crucial items and providers will solely extend the virus’ lifespan (UN Department of Global Communications 2020). In actuality, a lot of the circumstances that arrived in Lesvos had been introduced by Europeans coming from mainland Greece (Macej Kaczyński 2020). It was not till mid-August 2020 that the first migrant boat containing passengers with constructive circumstances arrived in Lesvos.

Short and Long Term Implications

The measures being enforced on land and sea are not meant to guard the most susceptible teams and save migrant lives. Rather, Greece is extra centered on opening as much as Europeans and re-starting the economic system as rapidly as doable. 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 space being granted every day for a migrant inhabitants of over 13,000 (Legal Centre Lesvos 2020b). Meanwhile, vacationer journey to the island started once more on 1 July 2020, and with no vaccine, the danger of somebody from Moria contracting the virus stays excessive (GTP 2020).[4] NGOs, notably those 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 measurement and capabilities, leaving asylum-seekers much more uncovered whereas support establishments are working at less-than-full capability attributable to the pandemic.

The short-term impacts have confirmed to be swift and harsh, evidenced by the violent pushbacks happening at sea. We are already seeing a hardening public discourse in opposition to migrants, which is having a tangible influence 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 changing into harder (SchengenVisaInfo 2020). There are greater than 40,700 individuals making use of for refugee standing on the assortment of Aegean islands, and so far the European Commission has introduced that 10 member states have agreed to just accept the relocation of 1,600 youngsters and youngsters from Greece (EU Commission Spokesperson’s Service 2020). Greece has relocated about 13,657 individuals to camps on mainland Greece (Aegean Boat Report Data Studio 2020a), which supplies little solace when coupled with the announcement that it plans to expel 11,000 refugees from authorities housing (Cossé 2020).

An speedy concern of Greece’s COVID-19 response, maybe the most ignored, is the immense psychological and bodily influence that these excessive circumstances of vulnerability and uncertainty have had on asylum-seekers. Mare Liberum has performed 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 now inaccessible. Any slight trace of normalcy amidst the distinctive lifetime of an asylum seeker has now dissipated. The street-taverna proper exterior the camp gates the place they may purchase a cup of tea is now closed. The barbershop at the NGO-run recreation middle is closed. It is harder to flee to immerse oneself in nature and breathe the recent air. Children who had been capable of safe a coveted seat in a classroom will now go one other yr with out schooling, seeing as most lecturers had been ex-patriate volunteers. The despair of additional extended asylum proceedings to find out one’s authorized standing can show dismal. They are caught inside the camp, and inside their very own minds, with out correct psychological well being care.

It can also be essential to recollect the under-reported, gendered impacts of confinement in a refugee camp. When tensions are excessive, ladies could discover themselves at larger danger of emotional, bodily, and sexual abuse; and as reported by UN Women, home violence helplines and shelters throughout the world are reporting rising requires assist throughout the pandemic (Mlambo-Ngcuka 2020). The present confinement measures are additional isolating migrant ladies from the individuals and sources that may greatest assist them, additional enclosing them in shut quarters with their assailants.

One of the long-term impacts could also be that extra individuals might be compelled to take harmful routes, equivalent to trying longer or extra treacherous passages throughout the Aegean Sea. Perhaps 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 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote at the begin of the pandemic, ‘When combined, the economic, inequality, political, and displacement-related implications [of COVID-19] will only increase desperation at a time when fewer migration pathways exist. In such a scenario, those feeling compelled to move will do so increasingly using smugglers, traffickers, and other illicit groups. Migration will be increasing in and among developing countries with weaker health systems and rule of law’.

In the aftermath of crises, governments can garner extra political will to train larger management for the function of defending nationwide safety, or on this case, public well being. Lesvos uniquely sits at the crossroads of a public well being disaster, a humanitarian disaster, and a extremely militarized border zone. Depending on how the EU and the remainder of the world reacts to Greece’s decisions on its emergency reduction 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 respectable operations for each humanitarian help and human rights monitoring efforts, a pointy decline in transparency and all of its compounding results will probably take a big toll on migrants and EU residents alike. Rule of regulation is already gravely struggling, which is heart-wrenching to see understanding that Europe has the most superior mechanisms and establishments for human rights wherever in the world up to now. What does this imply for accountability each in Europe and round the world? To quote Albert Einstein, ‘The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing’.

Conclusion

How Greece handles the first Moria COVID-19 case at the moment and the ongoing pandemic will decide the spirit and soul of the island for years to return. The authorities should act now, pooling sources, data, and help from the native, nationwide, regional, and worldwide group to guard the inhabitants of Lesvos it doesn’t matter what their pores and skin colour, background, or citizenship standing. If we’ve realized something from this pandemic, it’s that the virus doesn’t discriminate. People do. Politics does. And due to that, many extra harmless lives are needlessly misplaced.

We are calling on the group of Lesvos, the nation of Greece, the European Union, the United Nations, and the bigger worldwide group, to step-up and embody the values that we’ve 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, ‘Together for Europe’s restoration’, we are calling on the establishment to take their function severely and rectify the systemic points that are 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 only be strong if people have good prospects for the future, if they can see how important Europe is for them personally, and if they are committed to the European idea’. Now greater than ever, we have to actively work in direction of re-building a society wherein inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity, and non-discrimination prevail. We have a shared duty for a way these human lives are being handled. Let the EU know that we, as a worldwide group, won’t stand for the degradation of human dignity happening alongside its borders.


Figures

Figure 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 in the assurance of a protected touchdown or clean-up efforts as soon as the asylum seekers are transported away from the shoreline. Source: Mare Liberum (2020).

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 7: One of the ‘wild’ seashore camps set-up to quarantine new arrivals on Lesvos. Source: Mare Liberum (2020).

Notes

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

[2] According to the European Convention of Human Rights: ‘Push-backs are a set of state measures by which refugees and migrants are forced back over a border – generally immediately after they crossed it – without consideration of their individual circumstances and without any possibility to apply for asylum or to put forward arguments against the measures taken. Push-backs violate – among other laws – the prohibition of collective expulsions stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights.’ (ECCHR 2020).

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

[4] Based on European Union pointers, 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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Further Reading on E-International Relations

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