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PIKPA REFUGEE SHELTER CLOSED DOWN

PIKPA refugee shelter closed down

Refugee camp
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Urgent Action outcome: PIKPA refugee shelter closed down

The eviction of the PIKPA refugee shelter in Lesvos was carried out in the morning of 30 October.

1st update on UA 152/20

Greece: Golden Dawn verdicts send 'clear message' on racism and hate speech

Golden Dawn's aggressive anti-immigrant stance has involved neo-fascist street violence and killings © Getty Images

Convictions for leaders and former MPs from anti-immigrant party welcomed Tear gas used indiscriminately against crowds outside Athens court this morning ‘Today’s landmark ruling is a recognition of the systemic threat posed to our societies by a violent, racist group’ - Nils Muižnieks Responding to a court in Athens convicting seven leaders of the Golden Dawn party of directing a criminal organisation - while convicting 11 other former Golden Dawn MPs of participating in a criminal organisation - Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, said: “This verdict sends a clear

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PIKPA REFUGEE SHELTER FACES IMMINENT CLOSURE

PIKPA refugee shelter faces imminent closure

Trip to Lesvos Jan 2016
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Since 2012, the open and self-organised shelter PIKPA, run by the NGO Lesvos Solidarity, has been offering accommodation and other services to over 30,000 refugees and asylum-seekers on the island of Lesvos, especially among particularly vulnerable groups, such as families, victims of torture and LGBTI people. The efforts and contribution made by the shelter have been recognised by many, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which awarded the founder of PIKPA with the Nansen award in 2016. Amnesty International has a long history of cooperation with PIKPA and Lesvos Solidarity. In 2018, former Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo met with various representatives of Lesvos-based NGOs, including Lesvos Solidarity, and visited PIKPA, as part of his mission to Greece.

PIKPA and other facilities, such as the Kara Tepe camp, run by Lesvos municipality, have stood in contrast to the “Moria model”, symbolising an alternative approach to the reception of asylum-seekers and refugees, based on a sense of community and solidarity, offering safe and humane conditions to their residents. Together with PIKPA, Kara Tepe is also at risk of closure (see: https://www.lesvossolidarity.org/en/blog/news/save-dignity-save-pikpa-a…).

Over the years, PIKPA has been threatened with closure on other occasions, including in 2018. PIKPA/Lesvos Solidarity staff have also been the target of various attacks by local groups and individuals (for more details see also Amnesty International report of April 2020: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur01/2077/2020/en/). 

The announcement regarding PIKPA and Kara Tepe imminent closure come at a time when NGOs working on migration and asylum in Greece are facing an increased vilification, as evidence in an Amnesty international report from March 2020 (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur01/1828/2020/en/). In addition to attempts to criminally prosecute human rights defenders supporting refugees and migrants, as evidenced by the case of Sarah Mardini and Sean Binder, in April 2020 the Government introduced new, tougher rules regulating the conduct and registration of NGOs, which greatly restricted their freedom of association and ability to operate (see here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur25/2821/2020/en/). Equally, authorities have also adopted an openly hostile rhetoric towards NGOs, with Deputy Minister for Immigration and asylum Giorgos Koumoutsakos comparing them to leeches (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur25/2821/2020/en/).

Greece is one of the main host countries of refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe and one of the countries where the EU experimented its ‘hotspot approach’, establishing large reception and identification centres (RICs) on the five Aegean islands. Since the ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015 and following the 2016 EU-Turkey deal that resulted in the confinement of those arriving on the Greek islands, these centres, and particularly Moria camp on Lesvos, have been consistently overcrowded and in deeply substandard living conditions. As a result of these EU policies, today over 22,000 people live in deplorable conditions on the islands’ RICs, which are designed to host just over 6,000. 

From 8 September 2020, consecutive fires destroyed Moria camp, leaving the nearly 13,000 residents without a shelter. Since mid-September Moria residents have been transferred to a temporary RIC that was hastily established in the Kara Tepe area. Unaccompanied minors previously hosted in Moria have been moved to mainland Greece. Living conditions in the new temporary RIC are substandard and there are no adequate safeguards for those in vulnerable situations. 

The Greek Minister of Immigration and Asylum is the central authority competent for all aspects of migration and asylum policy, including RICs and relations with NGOs and third parties working in these areas. Since late 2019, the Minister has been a strong proponent of centralising the management of the reception system in Greece, also through the creation of ‘closed-controlled’ centres and through the gradual closure of alternative accommodation systems, such as those provided in hotels on mainland Greece. The temporary RIC set up in Lesvos can be considered a first example of the implementation of this model, but more facilities are being established on other Aegean islands with a view to wholly replace open camps. 
 

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Greece: COVID-19 exposes urgent need to rescue the country's austerity-ravaged health system

Thousands protested against austerity measures in the country when they were implemented (protest in Athens shown) © Getty

Greek government introduced austerity measures in 2010, slashing public spending by 32 percent and public health expenditure by nearly 43 percent New report outlines how the Government desperately needs to invest in health and social care to rebuild the crumbling system now faced with a pandemic ‘Greece’s painful experience of the last decade must not be repeated or replicated and there should be no return to the harmful strategy of austerity’ - Kondylia Gogou The COVID-19 pandemic in Greece has laid bare how years of recession and austerity measures have left the country’s health system on

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EU credibility at risk as Brussels holds crisis talks over Greece-Turkey border

Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting later today ‘What we are witnessing at the Greece-Turkey border is a crisis of humanity of Europe’s making’ - Eve Geddie Ahead of an extraordinary EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting later today, Amnesty International is calling on EU member states to step in and address the crisis situation unfolding at the Greece-Turkey border. Eve Geddie, Amnesty International’s European Institutions Director, said: “What we are witnessing at the Greece-Turkey border is a crisis of humanity of Europe’s making. The protection of refugees is not something that

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Greece: inhumane asylum measures will put lives at risk

© AFP via Getty Images

‘People seeking asylum are once again being used as bargaining chips in a callous political game’ - Eve Geddie The Greek authorities are taking inhumane measures to prevent people from entering the country, putting the lives of people fleeing violence at risk, Amnesty International said today. Yesterday, the Greek authorities announced they would temporarily suspend the registration of asylum claims from people who enter the country irregularly. This measure will be coupled with the immediate return without registration of new arrivals, if the return to their country of origin is deemed

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Greece: Proposed 'floating wall' will put refugee lives at risk

Refugees arriving by boat to Lesvos from Turkey, pictured in January 2016. © Amnesty International

Responding to a proposal by the Greek government to install a 1.7 mile-long system of floating dams off the coast of Lesvos to deter new arrivals of people seeking asylum from Turkey, Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Europe, said: “This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum-seekers and refugees to arrive on its shores, and will lead to more danger for those desperately seeking safety. “The plan raises serious issues about rescuers’ ability to continue providing life-saving

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Migrant children and asylum seekers still denied healthcare

Migrant children and asylum seekers still denied healthcare

Kumi Naidoo - report launch in Athens
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On 31 January the Greek government issued a new decision granting a ‘provisional social security and health care number’ to asylum seekers in Greece. This provisional health care number provides asylum seekers access to free public health care and to seek work while they wait for a decision on their claim. For those granted international protection, this temporary protection will become permanent while, in certain cases, those whose applications are rejected will have their access cut-off.

However, the system already presents challenges, in that it fails to address the situation of children of irregular migrants and excludes asylum-seekers who have not completed the registration of their asylum claims. Those who may have expressed the need for international protection, but have not completed a formal application, often as a result of delays, are left without access to health care or potential employment. Pending its implementation, the effectiveness and feasibility of the system also remains to be seen.

Even though this decision is a positive step, we would like to maintain the pressure and ensure it’s being implemented, while we continue direct advocacy for the remaining calls.

Barriers in receiving treatment

In November 2019, a Pakistani man with cancer was unable to undergo a CT scan or begin chemotherapy in Athens, due to his inability to obtain a Social Security Number, otherwise known as an AMKA. He was eventually able to begin treatments thanks to an exception made by the hospital’s administration, which allowed him to receive treatments free of charge. Amnesty International has been made aware of several cases in Athens and on the Aegean Islands, where people are facing similar barriers.

In September 2019, Amnesty spoke to the doctors of two asylum-seekers living with HIV, currently being treated in a major hospital in Athens. If the doctors were to discharge these individuals, they would not have access to their antiretroviral medicines, because they have not been able to get an AMKA. One of the two patients, N*, an HIV positive asylum-seeker from a Central Africa country, has been treated in the hospital’s clinic since May 2019 for a complication from her illness. She is receiving antiretroviral therapy and other essential medication there.

N* has applied for asylum, but she has been refused an AMKA. Her doctors have tried to find her a place to live, without success, and are worried that when discharged N* will become homeless. They worry that once discharged, she will not have access to her antiretroviral or other medications, causing her condition to worsen.

Scope of the situation

Greece is one of the main recipients of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants coming to Europe. Since 2015 the Greek asylum and welfare systems have been under constant strain, as migratory flows have increased, alongside the lingering effects of the economic crisis. While Greece deserves to be praised for its efforts, we must recognise the EU’s policies’ failures in providing meaningful support; asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants currently in Greece live in often abysmal conditions and, in the long term, have little to no access to the social system or integration paths.

With the increase in arrivals by sea in mid-2019, the population on the Aegean Islands has reached record numbers. Despite the new government’s efforts to reduce arrivals and move people to the mainland, overcrowding and appalling conditions in the camps are still routine.

As far as access to healthcare is concerned, Greek law provides free access to medical and pharmaceutical services to members of “vulnerable social groups”, including refugees, asylum-seekers and minors, regardless of their legal status. According to the same law, these individuals must have an AMKA to access free public healthcare. As of 2016, asylum-seekers and other members of “vulnerable groups” that do not meet the requirements are entitled to a Foreigner’s Health Care Card (“K.Y.P.A”), granting access to free healthcare in the public system. However, the process to grant K.Y.P.A. has remained unused so far.

NGOs, like MSF, and doctors working within the public system have been doing their best to provide health care and to make up for the failures of the state, but they are not equipped to meet the scale of existing needs.

MSF has reported that the situations at their clinics in Lesvos, Samos and Athens have deteriorated. Between July and November 2019, their Day Care Centre in Athens experienced a ‘large increase in the number of patients seeking care without AMKA – from 18 percent of patients in January to 43 percent in November’. The organisation’s primary clinic is unable to provide long-term and specialised care.

Doctors, civil society, UNCHR and the Greek Ombudsperson have called on Greek authorities to address the situation on several occasions, with no real response. Recently, the EU Commissioner Vice-President for the ‘Promoting our European way of life’ also addressed the issue, expressing his support for finding a solution.

Positive Voice, Greek NGO focused on helping HIV patients, called on Greek authorities to grant access to antiretroviral medications to non-Greek individuals, noting that ‘in the first ten months of 2019, 43 percent of new HIV diagnoses in Greece concerned refugees and migrants (204 people)’ and that ‘Infections Units are unable to provide antiretroviral treatment to foreigners who do not have an AMKA, thus endangering their health and lives’.

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Greece: 'Preventable' fire in Moria camp highlights abject failure of governments and EU to protect refugees

View of Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece 2018
View of Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece 2018 © Giorgos Moutafis/Amnesty International

Responding to the tragic fire in which a woman died in Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos yesterday, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Europe Massimo Moratti said: “The fire in Moria refugee camp and the death and injuries it caused have highlighted the Greek government and EU’s abject failure to manage the deplorable situation for refugees in Greece. “With 12,503 people living in a camp designed for 3,000, and with fires previously breaking out in the camp, authorities cannot deny that this tragedy was preventable. Three people have died just this month. “The

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