“All is well that ends well”? – The Island of Lesvos since the EU-Turkey Statement
Author: Valeria Hänsel
In the long summer of migration 2015, the Greek islands served as one of the main entry points into the European Union. Thousands of refugees arrived in rubber dinghies on the shorelines and were transferred to the so-called “hotspots” for registration – camps surrounded with barbed wire run by the Greek state, and supported by UNHCR also hosting European border control organizations such as Frontex and Europol. While people sometimes had to queue up in front of the hotspots for hours and days under terrible conditions, there was strong solidarity shown by locals and volunteers from all over Europe. After a few days, migrants could continue their journeys to the Greek mainland and beyond by ferry looking for safety and decent lives.
All of this suddenly changed after the EU-Turkey statement from March 18 2016 was made,
Sent to their deaths (Video)
(Video/ Director: Fridoon Joinda /Producer: Valeria Hänsel)
Intro to video:
Since the EU-Turkey Agreement came into force on March 20th 2017, a rising number of refugees with well-founded asylum claims has been arrested and detained in the camp Moria on Lesvos Island. More than 1800 migrants have been deported from the islands to Turkey so far where a great number of them is again detained and eventually deported back to their home countries.
No choice but fear: police violence and arbitrary arrests of refugees on Lesvos
A week of police violence, arbitrary arrests and abuse of the rule of law has shown that the thousands of refugees still trapped here on Lesvos face an impossible choice. Either attempt to resist the border regime and face an immediate, cruel crackdown – or keep quiet, keep your head down, and be deported anyway. Nonetheless, our refugee friends continue to self-organise, with the victory of a group of hunger-strikers this week setting a standard of compassion and solidarity which Volunteers for Lesvos can only hope to emulate in our own work across the island.
With around 700 arrivals to the island in the last fortnight alone, Moria prison camp is over-crowded and threatening to burst. After 12 months’ wait or more, many refugees have seen little or no progress on their cases. In recent weeks these frustrations have boiled over into protests in and around the camp. The vicious police response, which has to be seen to be believed, has been caught on camera by refugee activists within Moria.