free your soul
Chios is a greek island very close to Turkey. It may not have attracted the spotlight to the degree that Lesvos island has, but it too has been hugely affected by the mass migration of people fleeing wars in the Middle East and beyond. So far, 2015 has seen 113,000 refugees arrive on Chios, with an average of about 700 a day in December.
The local authorities on Chios have gone quietly about the business of receiving refugees in an orderly and planned manner welcomed by UNHCR.
UNHCR, in cooperation with the municipality and others, has set up 34 Refugee Housing Units (RHU) and two tent-like communal halls with heating, providing accommodation for up to 1,000 people.
But the last 18 of March EU-Turkey Refugee Deal was implemented: it aims to address the overwhelming flow of smuggled migrants and asylum seekers traveling across the Aegean from Turkey to the Greek islands by allowing Greece to return to Turkey “all new irregular migrants” arriving after March 20.
In exchange, EU Member States will increase resettlement of Syrian refugees residing in Turkey, accelerate visa liberalization for Turkish nationals, and boost existing financial support for Turkey’s refugee population.
However, the deal has also unveiled a paradox for a European Union that has spent several decades preaching its own high asylum standards to neighboring countries. To achieve its self-imposed goal—a significant reduction in arrivals and an increase in returns to Turkey—policymakers will have to drastically cut legal corners, potentially violating EU law on issues such as detention and the right to appeal. But if governments execute the agreement in conformity with international and European legal frameworks, few arrivals are likely to be returned, and the agreement risks becoming the latest in a long series of undelivered promises to exasperated publics for whom the complex legal conundrums of implementation are both meaningless and irrelevant.While the former route is deeply tempting for policymakers, undermining Europe’s human-rights commitments in such a visible way may prove even more costly in the long-term than the current chaos in Greece. A strong backlash from refugee and other human-rights organizations confirmed this, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which highlighted long-standing international prohibitions on collective expulsion, or “blanket returns.”
In February 2016 alone, more than 57,000 migrants arrived on the Greek islands; 52% were Syrian nationals, while a further 41 percent were Afghan and Iraqi nationals (25 and 16 percent, respectively). All three populations include those with significant protection needs, but it remains unclear whether Turkey has sufficient safeguards in place (in principle and in practice) to meet these needs to EU standards. Ensuring all returns are legal according to EU law and the 1951 Refugee Convention would thus likely lead to very few being returned.
Even with the EU-Turkey deal in place, asylum claims made in Greece still have to be considered according to the existing Dublin Regulation, suggesting that those with valid and verified family connections would be transferred to the appropriate EU Member State to complete asylum procedures rather than be returned to Turkey. Add to this the challenges of returning any children—who comprised 40 percent of all arrivals to Greece in February. (http://www.migrationpolicy.org)
Last April violent clashes erupted nighttime, when an angry crowd of local Greeks confronted hundreds of refugees who have been living in the island’s port for a week. In chaotic scenes, the crowd, reportedly with members of fascist group Golden Dawn present, threw fireworks and bottles into the port at the refugees’ encampment. The day after Later in the evening, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a house where refugees and volunteers live in Chios town. http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Vial, one of 3 refugees camp in Chios, was supposed to be a processing centre for refugees, but has quickly turned into something more menacing – as the razor wire surrounding the hall and a group of huts that are home to about 1,000 people, including young children, babies and more than 20 pregnant women. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a number of non-governmental organisations withdrew their staff from Vial at the end of March, refusing to be complicit in the refugee’s detention. The Red Cross and American NGO Samaritan’s Purse have continued to provide limited medical support, blankets and some hygiene products since 20 March, but individual volunteers have been refused access. The situation is so bad that the local council in Chios is now threatening to sue the Greek government in Athens in a bid to force them to do something to improve the conditions.
Dimitris Karalis, deputy mayor for local development, said initially Vial had worked as a registration centre when refugees only stayed on the island for 24 hours. “If this process was fast, then difficulties in the centre were only minor problems. But now, we have people there for many days, and we need to provide different services – now, we cannot skip those things,” Mr Karalis said. (The Independent)
Hundreds of refugees returned or deported to Turkey are confined in Düziçi. Many of them didn’t make it to Greece. Some were arbitrarily arrested in Turkey, while others were detained for begging on the streets or selling tissues, reports the Turkish human rights organization Mülteci-Der. They are not permitted to leave the Düziçi camp to see a doctor or meet with an attorney. The Turkish authorities claim that the Syrians are released once security checks are complete. Human rights organizations have warned that the rights of migrants returning from Greece to Turkey are not guaranteed. The Pakistanis, Afghans and Algerians who were deported from the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios in early April were almost all sent to a deportation center in Kirklareli on the Turkish-Bulgarian border. The center is off-limits to journalists, aid organizations and attorneys. Cornelia Ernst, a member of the European Parliament from Germany’s Left Party, visited the facility in early May and said that conditions there were “shocking” and that detainees are often only permitted to leave their cells for a few minutes every day. According to Mülteci-Der, migrants at the camp are systematically hampered in their efforts to gain access to asylum procedures. The latest reports on the arrests of Syrians have even raised doubts among supporters of the deal. The internment of people entitled to protection calls a central premise of the treaty into question, says Gerald Knaus, chairman of the international think tank European Stability Initiative — namely that “refugees who are deported from Greece are safe in Turkey.” Knaus’ organization played an instrumental role in developing the deal with Turkey and advised EU countries. Brussels expected that Greece would use expedited procedures to send migrants back to Turkey within a few days. But nothing is happening quickly at the moment, primarily because Greek asylum officials and judges are having qualms about recognizing Turkey as a “safe third country,” as demanded by Brussels. They apparently share the concerns of human rights activists and legal experts, who have repeatedly pointed to the precarious living conditions among migrants in Turkey. According to Amnesty International, Turkish authorities have deported hundreds of refugees from Turkey back to Syria in recent months. In early May, Human Rights Watch documented the cases or five Syrian refugees who were shot dead while attempting to enter Turkey, allegedly by Turkish border troops. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 16 deaths at the Syrian-Turkish border between December 2015 and March 2016.
The EU has sent 390 migrants from Greece back to Turkey since early April, far fewer than planned. About 8,000 migrants, a third of them Syrians, remain in the Aegean islands. The European Commission now believes that Greek appellate judges may stop one in three deportations of Syrians. “This strikes at the core of the deal,” said a senior Brussels official. If it now emerges that the Greeks are not deporting migrants nearly as quickly as anticipated, many more refugees could risk the voyage across the sea again soon, predicts Metin Çorabatir, chairman of the Ankara-based Research Center on Asylum and Migration (IGAM).
But the camps on the Greek island are already overcrowded. Food is scarce and migrants have set garbage cans on fire to protest conditions in the camps. “We don’t know what we’ll do if even more people arrive,” says an official with the Greek Ministry of Migration. Political consultant Knaus calls it a “disaster in the making.” (http://www.spiegel.de/)
Already it was denounced that babies detained in Greece under the terms of the EU-Turkey migration deal are being denied access to adequate supplies of milk formula. Approximately 25 babies under the age of six months, whose mothers are unable to breastfeed, are being given roughly 100ml of milk formula just once a day on the island of Chios. Britain’s Royal College of Midwives said the situation, if confirmed, would contravene international protocol, and suggested that some refugee babies in Greece may be receiving just a quarter of their recommended daily intake. The situation is the result of the EU-Turkey migration deal, which has forced under-resourced officials on the Greek islands to detain all asylum-seekers landing on their shores from Turkey. In previous months, hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers were allowed to move onwards towards northern Europe.
Since the deal came into effect on 20 March more than 6,000 people have been held on Greek islands, shortly after their arrival, in conditions that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have described as appalling. Some 1,100 are trapped inside the Vial camp on Chios, roughly 40% of them children. European countries promised to provide hundreds of asylum officials to help Greece care for the detainees, but most of this support has yet to arrive.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, which maintains a presence on Chios, confirmed the claim and said the number of infant children may even be higher. “But it stems beyond baby milk: there is a lack of basic care for children. There is a hygiene crisis. Infant children are sleeping in highly inappropriate arrangements, on the floor … It’s absolutely a baby-unfriendly environment.” (The Guardian).
Obviously, all is scarce, now, starting from food and clothes, but there’s organisations of volunteers working there, trying to improve the situation: some of the locals have put everything on the line to help them and the facebook page Chios Refugee Support – International is a place for groups to share updates on what they are doing and ask for volunteer help, donations for projects and whatever news they wish to share to tell people what is happening on Chios.
Refugee Street Kitchen on Chios originally founded last year, and it is covering 1600 meals per day for refugees in Souda and Dipethe. Vial meals are provided by the army. To feed 1600 people costs around 800 euro per day and that is before rental of the kitchen building, transport costs to take the food to camp and before utility bills like water and electric etc.
Drops in The Ocean provide breakfast, the Basque kitchen provides for lunch and the Refugee Street Kitchen provides for soup and such for evening meal.
Refugee Street Kitchen also prepare salad three times a week for 1600 people to provide a varied diet that provides nutrition.
To help the Refugees Street Kitchen who cannot continue without help, and who are essentially filling a gap that governmental bodies/ UN should be filling to stop people starving, you can donate as follows:
YOU MUST SPECIFY REFERENCE: CHIOS KITCHEN WHEN YOU DONATE OR IT WILL GO TO OUR GENERAL REFUGEE FUND. You can donate to the new fundraising page they have set up: https://www.gofundme.com/chioskitchen
They welcome international volunteers. And I would like to go and help. Merchandise brought over from Turkey in order to be donated may be blocked by Customs Authorities.
I will take pictures of stuffs donated or money raised and given to the responsible of another organisation working there: Chios Eastern Shore Response Team – CESRT, which works on the following:
They asked me to bring some of the last things on the list, in my luggage, including … underwear for men, who are not economic on the island. Mission that I will create pure embarrassment, but also do it with dedication … going into a shop to ask Athenian “I would like underwears 100 for my husband and my children” ….
Now it is your turn to decide if help them, funding this crowdfunding project .