New Arrivals On Chios

A group of people who arrived in Karfas, Chios south east this morning, contacted Aegean Boat Report, asking for assistance. They where afraid that if police found them, they would send them back to Turkey.

In cooperation with the new arrivals, Aegean Boat Report managed to get documentation by video and pictures, that clearly stated that they where in fact on Chios, and also of the people involved. Information received was that there were 25 people in the group that arrived.

ABR also contacted the local newspaper Astraparis, and several people was sent to the area to try to locate the new arrivals, to document their arrival on the island, so that they didn’t end up in a life raft in the Aegean Sea. The new arrivals was not located, and it seemed that police had already picked them up.

Port police on Chios was not willing to give any information on this incident, but after the local newspaper had published the story, with pictures, there was an official statement from The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, confirming that 16 people had been found and taken to the quarantine site in Lefkonia. Where the remaining 9 people is is difficult to say, but perhaps information from the arrivals wasn’t accurate regarding the number.

If this statement from the minister had been given, if there was nothing published in the media, is difficult to say, but very questionable. In previous cases where people have arrived on the islands, with no press coverage to make local awareness, arrivals seems to have magically disappeared, only to find themselves floating in the Aegean Sea.

A previous incident of arrivals on Chios was only two days ago, when 10 people arrived in the evening in Agia Ermioni. There are several local witnesses, but port police say there was no arrivals, and basically saying that the locals are lying. On Thursday morning 06.00 Turkish coast guard picked up 10 people outside Cèsme, Turkey, that claimed to have been on Chios, only to be forced back in the sea by the Greek Coast Guard. But perhaps all this is only a coincidence…

Aegean Boat Report believe that without witnesses and documentation, people arriving on the Greek Aegean islands, will become victims of illegal immediate deportation, without being able to apply for asylum, and that this common practice is implemented after a direct order from the Greek right wing government.

Aegean Boat Report will, when information is available on new arrivals, try to involve press and locals, to make awareness. And by doing so, try to force local authorities to stop putting people’s life at risk. It will be difficult to commit a crime, while people are watching, taking pictures, and denying it afterwards.

We must find a way to stop this illegal inhuman practices, once and for all!!!

Pictures of the boat at the shore is by Astraparis.

Moria “The Sequel”

This new “temporary” camp that is sat up in Kara Tepe for the refugees after the fire in Moria, might look clean and good from a distance, but when you get a closer look, everything isn’t as it seems, in many aspects.

After the fire in Moria there has been a desperate need of housing for the thousands of people left homeless, families living in the streets, car parks and in the hills in the surrounding areas. To call the shacks that they lived in in the jungle in Moria for a home, is by any standard outrageous, but it was all they had. Question is, is this new camp an “upgrade” from what they had, or is this a new “hell” in the making, where limitation of movement is the main purpose.

Greek authorities has been wanting to make closed camps for a long time, prisons, where they can lock up everyone, also families and children, control their movements, limit their access to basic needs, advocacy, health care, journalists, in the pretext of “protecting” them, and only thinking of their best interests. It remains to be seen if people can move freely in and out of this new camp, go for a walk, go shopping, whenever they feel like it, like you and me, without being stopped by a fence with barbed wire, I highly doubt it.

Many people didn’t want to go in to this new camp, they where afraid for what this camp represents, and how it would affect their lives. Greek government first tried the friendly approach, asking people to “move in” to their new “homes”, that their everyday needs would be cared for and it would be a safe and good place to live. When that didn’t work they started handing out flyers, and sending out text messages to people in the area, saying that they where the only one they could trust, an outrageous statement, basically saying organizations, NGOs, volunteers, journalists etc is just using you.

“Dear asylum seeker, if you are in Lesvos, the only safe place for you and your family is in the new camp. There, the Greek State guarantees your safety and provides you with electricity, water, medical care, wifi etc. Inform only from the official authorities. Do not trust anyone else, they are using you.”

When this also failed they used something they called “friendly force”, it’s a contradiction in terms, it’s actually not possible to be considered friendly and use force at the same time. They made corridors in the streets where people lived, blocking off the street with police buses in both ends, and moved in a massive police force to “persuade” people to move. Riot police with shields, batons and guns, they didn’t stand a chance, they had no option, they had to obey. To make it difficult to document everything, they restricted journalists from entering the area, there was no “freedom of the press”, I wonder what they were afraid of..

To put the last “nail in the coffin”, they pointed out that only people that was living inside the new camp would be able to get their asylum cases processed, and if that wasn’t enough, they prohibited all organizations to give out food outside the camp, I think everyone gets the picture.

In only five days, the Greek government, in cooperation with UNHCR, managed to find thousands of tents, toilets, and beds, funds to make this massive camp, it’s seems like a “miracle”. For the last five years, they haven’t been able to give proper housing, in Moria, inn the jungle, people had to make shacks out of tarpaulin and garbage, and all of a sudden they magically comes up with this, how could that possibly be? They obviously had these tents stored somewhere, why didn’t they give them to people who desperately needed them before, why let people suffer unnecessary for five years, when this was possible in only five days.

As I said previously, this camp looks ok from a distance, but after getting down to the ground, the reality is quite a different story. First this camp is built at the sea front, when winter is coming they will literally freeze to death, and if the cold doesn’t kill them, they will probably drown in mud, or from the polluted ground these tents are built on. The area is known to be flooded when the rain starts, and there isn’t put in sufficient drainage to handle the water that will poor down in the coming months. Most of the tents are put directly on the ground, without gravel or pallets, many without any flooring at all. The camp is built on an old military shooting range, the ground is literally packed with bullets, grenade fragments and god knows what else the military have used in the area over the years. Military personnel have walked around with metal detectors, picking up whatever they could find, but that the ground is polluted, there is no question about. And in this area you would let your kids live and play, I highly doubt it, but for these children, it’s probably ok right..

In the pictures we can see some huge tents in a row, the inside they didn’t show off.. These huge tents is the housing for single men, around 200 men in bunk beds in each tent, literally sleeping and living on top of each other. They say that the tents will be locked up at night, if this is correct, well, I got the feeling of a barrack from a consecration camp when I saw the pictures, it’s just devastating.

The head of UNHCR on Lesvos, Astrid Castelein, said when asked about the relocation of people in to this new camp, “As long as it’s peaceful, we believe it’s a good move, her on the street it’s a risk for security, for public health, and there is no dignity which we need for everyone”. I wonder what side the UNHCR is really on, when talking about security and dignity, she definitely can’t be referring to the people inside the camp, behind fences and barbed wire, living in the mud on polluted grounds, so who are they really protecting?

It didn’t take UNHRC long to go out on social media and ask for more money to fund their “efforts” on Lesvos, Philippe Leclerc, the Greek representative of the UNHCR didn’t waist any time when the opportunity arose to get his hands on more money, but didn’t lift a finger when 20.000 people was freezing in Moria last winter, that’s plain and simple hypocritical. We have to be honest, most of the support towards refugees over the last five years in Greece has been from independent organizations and NGOs, and NOT from UNHCR, so to have the nerve to go out and ask people to give them more money, is just despicable!

The area this camp is built on is as I said military grounds, and most military areas has a photo prohibition, also this area. So that means, that journalists and people in general will have restricted access to the area, and documenting by video and pictures the situation inside the camp, even from the outside, can be regarded as criminal, awfully convenient…

What will happen with the people in this camp is difficult to predict, but the fact that they will be behind double fencing and barbed wire, locked behind a gate with access control and video surveillance, guarded by a massive police force, smells more of a prison than a refugee camp. They say this camp is a “temporary”, but when they have signed a lease for the next five years, to the astronomic price of 2.9 million Euros, enough to by the area there times over, it’s perhaps more permanent than they make it out to be.

Is this an “upgrade” from Moria, I would say quite the opposite, it’s a yet another attempt to treat people seeking protection and refuge in Europe inn the most despicable way, without any concern of their best interest, it’s “Moria the sequel”, a hell in the making, and we just let it happen, again..

A Disaster In The Making..

The new “temporary” camp in Kara Tepe, Lesvos, is massive. The scale of this camp is like nothing we have ever seen before in Europe. When finished, it will have a capacity of 12.000 people, according to the Greek government.

This camp might look ok from the air, but the tents is mostly put directly on the ground, without any palettes underneath, and when it starts to rain, water and mud will be a huge problem. First test will be this weekend when wether forecast is predicting heavy rain and wind.

Since this morning people have been ordered to go in to the new camps from the surrounding areas by a massive police force, press has been denied access to the area.

They Need Your Support Now!

There is a desperate need of support on Lesvos after the fire in Moria, and many have asked who they should support. It’s actually a very difficult question, there are many organizations and NGOs doing a tremendous job on the ground.

Picture ©Giorgos Moutafis

When that is said, unfortunately, there are also organizations that are taking advantage of this disaster, to benefit on others misery, only to build up their bank accounts, so that they can give themselves even higher salaries. I have seen organizations that hardly have any volunteers on the ground, doing basically nothing to support, take inn hundreds of thousands of euros, this is a concern. When asked what they are doing to support, they answer that they need to assess the situation, evaluate what help is needed.. Its obvious that people needs help NOW, families with children are living in the streets and needs immediate support, not after long evaluations and fancy board meetings.

So please, when you support a organization, and you definitely should, make sure this organization/NGO actually are doing something on the ground, that they are helping NOW, because the money is needed NOW, and shouldn’t go to support a General secretary’s fat salary!

Aegean Boat Report has put together a list of Organizations/NGOs that really can use your support. This is done because there has been many questions, especially on where to send donations, so that the people can get the help they desperately needs NOW. This list contains only 20 organizations/NGOs, and it’s not made to offend anyone, yes, there are probably many more who are doing great work on the ground, and perhaps should have been on a list, but when you ask, these are 20 recommendations from Aegean Boat Report.

Attika Human Supporthttps://www.attikahumansupport.org/

Because We Carryhttps://www.becausewecarry.org/en/

Donate4Refugeeshttps://www.donate4refugees.org/

EuroReliefhttps://www.eurorelief.net/

Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aidhttps://www.fenixaid.org/

Healthbridge Medical Organizationhttps://www.healthbridgemedical.org/

Home for Allhttps://homeforall.eu/

Humanity Crewhttps://humanitycrew.org/

Kitrinos Healthcarehttps://www.kitrinoshealthcare.org/

Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpahttps://www.lesvossolidarity.org/en/

Medical Volunteers Internationalhttps://medical-volunteers.org/

Moria Corona Awareness Teamhttps://www.facebook.comMoriaCoronaAwarenessTeam/

MSF – Greecehttps://www.msf.org/greece

No Border Kitchen Lesvoshttps://noborderkitchenlesvos.noblogs.org/

Refugee 4 Refugeeshttps://refugee4refugees.gr/

Team Humanityhttps://teamhumanity.info/

The Hope projecthttps://www.hopeprojectgreece.org/

Together for Better Dayshttps://www.betterdays.ngo/

Watershed Foundationhttps://watershed-foundation.de/en/home

Feel free to recommend other organizations in the comment section, but the list above will not be edited. In the end, anyone who wants to support a organization, should take the time to look into what the organization are actually doing, and if the money donated is being received on the ground where it’s needed. Any slandering remarks and down talk about organizations, is NOT wanted on this post, and will be removed immediately!

Moria #2

The new temporary camp on Lesvos north of Kara Tepe, on the old shooting range,is starting to take shape. The Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi was on site today and gave a short statement to the press.

Picture by Giorgos Moutafis

By the end of the day, he said, there will be 5000 beds ready, and eventually everyone will be placed in this new temporary camp. First priority will be families and vulnerable people.

As we can see from the picture, there are atm 200 tents in the camp, and if they haven’t additional areas available around this shooting range, there isn’t really room for more tents. These tents are made to house 6 people, and as far as I understand they will put 10 people in each tent. The math is quite simple, even for the Minister, this camp, as is, can only house 2000 people.

To be able to have 5000 beds ready by the end of the day, they would need 500 tents, and to house everyone in need off housing from Moria, 12.000 people, they would need 1200 tents. It seems, once again, that the minister has lost touch with reality, what he claims isn’t possible.

The tents seems to be placed very close to each-other, and that the safe distance between tents, normally 3 meters, to prevent a fire to spread, isn’t followed. Moria went up in flames in a matter of hours, because everything was built to tight, fire safety was ignored, haven’t they learned anything from their mistakes? To see that safety for vulnerable people once again are ignored is shocking, especially after what they just experienced.

This new temporary camp is already fenced in, and as I understand will be a closed camp run by the military. Where they will house everyone that lost their homes in the blaze in Moria remains to be seen, until then people will be scattered around in field’s, car parks and on the roads in the area, and will need support from organizations and NGOs.

The last days we have seen many organizations running fundraising on social media, to support people after the fire. Many of these organizations really needs your support, and are doing an amazing job on the ground. Unfortunately there are also organizations that are taking advantage of this disaster, to benefit on others misery, only to build up their bank accounts, so that they can give themselves even higher salaries. I have seen organizations that hardly have any volunteers on the ground, doing basically nothing to support, take inn hundreds of thousands of euros, this is a concern. When asked what they are doing to support, they answer that they need to assess the situation, evaluate what help is needed.. Its obvious that people needs help NOW, families with children are living in the streets and needs immediate support, not after long evaluations and fancy board meetings.

So please, when you support a organization, and you definitely should, make sure this organization/NGO actually are doing something on the ground, that they are helping NOW, because the money is needed NOW, and shouldn’t go to support a General secretary’s fat salary!

The End Of Moria..

Yesterday Moria burned, today we could see the devastating result, the camp that once housed almost 13.000 people was turned into twisted metal and ashes. It’s difficult to see how this camp can be used in the nearby future to house anyone.

Only a few sections remained fairly intact after yesterday’s fires, tonight these zones are also burning. Fires erupted in at least two different areas, Zone 9 and 10 has already been burned down tonight, one more will most likely not make it through tonight’s fire. That leaves only one zone in the entire camp habitable, zone 11, room for roughly 1500 people. Around 11.000 people will need to find new accommodations, if the remaining zone lives through the night.

All roads has been blocked by police in the area, no organization has been allowed to enter within a 6 km radius, NGOs are standing ready to help, but they are not allowed to enter. People are filling up the streets, and the surrounding woods, seeking shelter wherever they can.

Local fascists groups has started to patrol the streets in Mytilíni, there has also been reports on clashes between locals and refugees. The situation is chaotic and extremely tense, police are trying to keep people from entering Mytilíni. Refugees and MAT forces has already clashed in Panagiouda, Kara-Tepe area, people have just had enough.

Greek government has announced that they will bring in a ferry, and two military vessels, to house people temporarily, in addition to 3500 tents. The Blue Star ferry will arrive in Mytilíni tonight, the military vessel tomorrow. Temporary camps will be put up in Klic of Larsos, and in Lemonou, to house the homeless residents from Moria. A military plane are arriving tonight, bringing tents to be set up in these areas.

Mitarakis indicates that Moria camp, witch has been totally destroyed by the fire, will not be rebuilt but replaced with a closed facility, a prison. When this will happen, and who will fund it, remains to be seen, hopefully the EU will not fund prisons for families and children..

The deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Managment, Nikos Chardalias declared a state of emergency on Lesvos, for the next four months. Police presence on the island is expected to be substantially boosted.

Moria Burning!

Tonight several fires broke out in the notorious Moria refugee camp on Lesvos. It’s by far the worst fire Moria have ever seen, and it would take a miracle if anything remains standing in the morning.

It seems like every part of the camp and surrounding areas are engulfed in flames, the new hospital in Moria is gone, so are the quarantine area Mandala. People are fleeing, a mass amount of people are heading towards Mytilíni.

All assets on Lesvos is being used, fire department, police, riot police, to try to get things under control, but it seems hopeless, the fire is just to massive, growing bigger by the minute.

Moria was the biggest refugee camp in Europe, housing almost 13.000 people, most of them have now lost what little they had. Where all these people will stay in the coming days and weeks, will be a huge and almost impossible challenge.

What caused these fires is to early to say, but riots is the most plausible explanation. The camp has been under lockdown for months, stem has been building up. Greek government has used the pandemic, as a pretext to keep camps closed all over Greece, people have just had enough, tonight it exploded.

The announcement that 35 COVID-19 cases had been confirmed in Moria, could have been the factor that made people snap, in the worst refugee camp in Europe. How Lesvos can handle this disaster is difficult to see.

Let’s just pray that no life has been lost in the flames..

Arrivals On Samos!

A rubber boat carrying 18 people, 12 adults and 6 children, arrived on Cape Praso, Samos north east this morning 06.00. The people fled to the woods after landing, scared to be returned to Turkey by Greek coast guard.

Aegean Boat Report has been in contact with the group, to document their arrival, to make sure that we can prove without a doubt, that they arrived on Samos, ABR has received pictures and videos. The main concern is that these people will find themselves floating in the Aegean Sea on a life raft later today, ABR will try to make sure this will not happen. Port police an Samos have been informed, given contact information, details and location.

Any questions regarding this incident can he address to the Port Police on Samos. This number is open 24/7.

Port police Samos: +30 22730 27318

By documenting arrivals, we can put pressure on port police, so that they find it difficult to illegally return them to Turkey, because they know we know.

40.000 Followers On Facebook

Yesterday Aegean Boat Report past another milestone, 40.000 followers on Facebook, and counting.

To run and manage every aspect of this organization, from a small town in northern Norway, alone, has never been easy. These last months has been especially challenging, travel restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing has made information so much more difficult to come by.

Information provided by Aegean Boat Report is used by organization, journalists, researchers and volunteers, to get a better understanding of the situation in the Aegean Sea. Documenting violations of international law and human rights, has lately been a priority.

It started out as a small community on Facebook, with one single purposes, to provide information. This community has grown beyond my wildest expectations. It has been a long journey from December 2017 until today, and I’m exited to see what the future will bring.

To everyone who has supported me on this journey, THANK YOU ❣️

Greek Minister Confirms Pushbacks!

For the last five months the Greek government has categorically denied any involvement in pushback’s or illegal activities in the Aegean Sea. And then the Greek shipping minister, Giannis Plakiotakis, blows the whistle, bragging about their achievement on a new conference.

“Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented,” Plakiotakis said during a news conference. In August alone, he said, “we had 68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.”

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was interviewed on CNN, where he was asked a direct question regarding reports on pushbacks from an article written by Patrick Kingsley in The New York Times. He denied involvement in any illegal activities, and referred to the article in NYT as Turkish propaganda.

The Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, has been interviewed several times by international press, last time was on Monday on BBC World news. He was also asked a direct question regarding pushbacks on a live interview from Samos by BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet, he also denied any involvement in pushbacks, they are both obviously lying.

Plakiotakis would not say anything about how the boats were stopped from entering Greek waters, which also is the southeastern border of the EU. But he stressed that the coast guard “operates based on international law and international legality, based on the rules of engagement at sea, and,.. with complete respect for human dignity and of course for human life.”

Question is, how can pushing back boats filled with asylum seekers be seen as legal, without allowing them to apply for asylum, and how can forcing people, children, women, into life rafts and leaving them drifting, be seen as dignifying , respectful of human lives?

The UN refugee agency said on Aug. 21 it was “deeply concerned by an increasing number of credible reports indicating that men, women and children may have been informally returned to Turkey immediately after reaching Greek soil or territorial waters in recent months.” The agency called on Greece to “seriously investigate” the reports.

Frontex involvement in these pushbacks has been questioned, although there has been a few officials reports from Frontex regarding illegal returns by the Hellenic coast guard, they are strangely quiet. With a massive presence in the Aegean Sea, 13 boats, four plains, a helicopter, 650 officers and 72 patrol cars, they seems to be unwilling to report on these illegal activities, they know what is going on, question is, how involved are they?

Aegean Boat Report has documented hundreds of illegal pushbacks since March. With the massive amount of evidence, there is no question if this is going on, and who is responsible. The questions that remains to be answered is, how far are Europe willing to go to protect its borders, and how long will the European Union turn a blind eye to member states who are deliberately breaking international law and violating human rights?