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Greece: Deaths and Push-backs Continue, Racist Attack on Hosting Centre for Unaccompanied Children, Camp Conditions Deteriorating

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Violent pushbacks continue with another incident in the Evros region on 29 December. Yet another life lost at the Aegean where a 26-year old woman drowned on 4 January. Four children were injured on 26 December when 12 armed people attacked an accommodation centre for unaccompanied refugee children in Northern Greece. Conditions in ‘Moria 2.0’ on Lesvos and the EU funded ‘new Malakasa’ construction outside of Athens are increasingly dire.

The NGO hotline Alarm Phone has reported the violent pushback of 70 people who were beaten by Greek border guards and forced across the Evros river to Turkey. The evidence of systematic pushbacks by Greek authorities is mounting and according to the Aegean Boat report arrivals have decreased more than 84 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 partly as a result of illegal pushbacks. The organisation reports 324 pushback cases in the Aegean Sea in 2020 involving 9,741 men, women and children, 3,067 of which were picked up by Greek authorities after arriving to the Greek islands. Mare Liberum, monitoring the human rights situation in the Aegean Sea is mourning the death of the 26-year old woman Kathun Seido. She drowned as she was crossing the Aegean Sea with her two siblings, traveling to reunite with their family in Germany.

The Supreme Court deputy prosecutor calls for a thorough investigation into a racist attack targeting children between the age of 12 to 15 living in the Oreokastro accommodation centre near Thessaloniki, run by the Church of Greece. The attack involved 12 people armed with knives, crowbars and wooden sticks, who broke the fence of the structure and entered the building with children reportedly “running in fear”. Four children were injured during the attack and one of them was taken to hospital with severe respiratory problems after being beaten on the chest.

4 months after it was established, the well documented catastrophic conditions in the temporary facility in Kara Tepe also referred to as Moria 2.0 continues to deteriorate. The risk of lead poisoning, power cuts, insufficient sanitation facilities, tented living under harsh weather conditions and lack of protection in the camps creates a traumatic setting not least for children: “We see children, 2 – 3 year-old, who become so restless and so scared that they start banging their heads against the wall until they bleed,” Psychologist Katrin Glatz-Bubak is quoted by the Dunya Collective. The situation is equally dire at the so-called “new Malakasa” camp outside of Athens supported with €4.9 million in EU funding. The camp initially set up in March 2020 as a detention centre for new arrivals along with Kleidi Serres, is now incorporated into the state reception system as Temporary Reception Facility and hosts nearly 1,000 people. Conditions are described as deplorable with no running water, frequent power cuts, the majority of the population living in tents not designed for winter and in fear of violence and sexual harassment. Further, Refugee Support Aegean reports that none of the 283 children in the camp are attending school. The closure of the notorious Vathi camp on Samos has been postponed until June 2021 as the new Reception and Identification Centre in Zervos is still under construction. The municipality of Leros has appealed to the Council of State for the suspension and annulment of the construction of a reception and identification centre for 2,000 people at the Lakki Bay site of Leros on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and illegal.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2,050 people have been accepted by member states in 2020 under the Commission scheme to prepare and relocate 1,600 unaccompanied children and families to European member states. The member states include Finland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Luxemburg, France, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.