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Legal Centre Lesvos Quarterly Newsletter: January – March 2021

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The full newsletter can be downloaded or viewed here.

(1) Conditions in the camp: Inhuman and degrading conditions

Mavrovouni / Karatepe ‘Temporary Reception and Identification Centre’ – more commonly known as ‘Moria 2.0’ – is unfit for human habitation. Nobody should be forced to live in the mud, in a tent, by the sea, exposed to all elements. Nobody should have to live in a shelter they are forced to rebuild multiple times a day because it repeatedly collapses or floods in the current conditions of strong wind, heavy rain, hail and snow. Nearly 7,000 people currently live in Moria 2.0. There is insufficient healthcare, privacy, food, electricity, running water, hot showers, operational toilets and other hygiene facilities. Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are inadequate and physical distancing is impossible, given camp residents have to queue to access all basic necessities.

  • 23 January: Greek state admits lead found on site of ‘Moria 2.0’
  • 9 February: LCL denounces in complaint to ombudsman ongoing failure of Greek authorities to transfer people to the mainland in accordance with their own laws, which amounts to attack on the right to life
  • 15 February: Ongoing discriminatory application of COVID-19 restrictions and enforcement
  • 4-9 March: Greek government instructed by European Court of Human Rights to guarantee rights of 3 LCL clients: an indictment of reception conditions in Lesvos

(2) Asylum Procedures

On 11 January the Regional Asylum Office (RAO) attempted to begin issuing first-instance negative asylum decisions and to open the appeals procedure after months of not accepting appeals. The legal aid working group (which LCL is part of) publicly denounced this development in a context where free, state-provided legal aid is not guaranteed as required by Article 20 of the EU Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU and Article 71(3) of Greek Law 4636/2019 Following this, authorities announced the issuance of negative decisions had been suspended. See further details in the full newsletter.

(3) Pushbacks

Systematic collective expulsions, or "pushbacks" continue in the Aegean, in which migrants are apprehended after reaching Greek territory, and then violently and forcibly returned towards Turkish territorial water, where they are then abandoned at sea. Beyond being egregious violations of international, European and national human rights law, the systematic, widespread and violent nature of the practice amounts to a crime against humanity.

  • 9 January: LCL files fourth application to the European Court of Human Rights regarding collective expulsion (‘pushback’) incidents in the Aegean
  • 1 February: LCL publishes report on collective expulsions as crimes against humanity in the Aegean
  • 15 February: Legal Centre Lesvos and Front-Lex formally call upon Frontex to suspend or terminate its activities in the Aegean Sea region

(4) Criminalisation

The Greek state’s broader practice of framing migrants as criminals and public security threats, has contributed to the criminalisation of migrants in the border region. LCL lawyers have defended migrants in these unjust procedures, including in the following cases:

  • 21 February: Legal Centre Lesvos and HIAS Greece defend woman facing severe criminal charges in response to her attempt to self-immolate
  • 25 February: Client facing smuggling charges avoids pre-trial detention disproportionately used against migrants
  • 9 March: Justice for the Moria 6

(5) Political updates and resistance in Lesvos

  • 8 January: Takeover of speaker system in Ermou
  • 14 January: Greece submits formal request to deport 1,450 people to Turkey
  • 3 February: Construction of new ‘controlled’ camp in Lesvos approved in controversial vote
  • 16 February: Fascist occupation of local Mytilene high school protesting attendance of migrant children; and anti-fascist resistance
  • 28 February: Anti-fascist resistance to far-right actions in Lesvos marking the anniversary of the ‘MAT-invasion’ and recall to Athens
  • 17-21 March: 5 years of violence and misery under the EU-Turkey Deal
  • 29 March: Spring is the best time to tour Europe’s prison islands for migrants in a helicopter: Yvla Johansson visits Lesvos.