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Greek hotels to become shelters for asylum-seekers amid virus fears

In this file photo from October 22, 2019, refugees and migrants wait to be transferred to camps on the mainland at the port of Elefsina near Athens, Greece.
In this file photo from October 22, 2019, refugees and migrants wait to be transferred to camps on the mainland at the port of Elefsina near Athens, Greece. © Costas Baltas/FILE PHOTO/REUTERS

As Covid-19 claims more lives around the world, NGOs are sounding the alarm over the conditions inside overcrowded migrant camps on Greece’s islands. While the European Union is pledging more funding and the use of empty holiday accommodation to enforce “social distancing” for migrants, questions remain over whether enough is being done to keep both asylum-seekers and local populations safe.

Hotels and holiday apartments hired to temporarily house migrants; 1,600 unaccompanied child asylum-seekers being relocated around eight European Union member states and €350 million in extra funding. These were just some of the measures outlined by the European Commission on Thursday amid growing calls to improve conditions in Greece’s overcrowded migrant camps, and protect those being housed there from Covid-19.

READ  Gambian returnee migrants tackle COVID-19 head-on

Two Greek ministers, two European Commissioners and the director of the European border agency Frontex were among those who took part in a video meeting on April 2, organised by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee.

Deep alarm among refugees

Greece’s Minister for Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi told participants that his country had recorded 1,500 cases of Covid-19 to date, and that twenty-one of those who had tested positive were migrants at the Ritsona camp close to Athens.

The positive test results are cause for deep alarm among refugees, as well as aid groups working in and with the camps.

As European states enforce social distancing measures among their citizens with the aim of halting the spread of Covid-19, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is among those to have flagged up overcrowded conditions as the most pressing issue within migrant facilities.  The UNHCR says there is particular cause for concern on the Aegean islands, where Greek authorities acknowledge there are more than 35,000 people housed in sites intended for just 6,000.

READ  Refugees are 60 percent more likely to be financially Impacted by COVID-19, new research finds

Greek authorities urged to transfer more people away 

The UNHCR is urging Greek authorities to transfer more people away from island reception centres. But this idea was rejected Thursday by Mitarachi, who said that this would simply transfer people from areas currently unaffected by Covid-19, to places where infections were already recorded.

For Imogen Sudbery, Europe director of Policy and Advocacy for the International Rescue Committeed, this stance is “disappointing on several levels”.

“We have been flagging the lack of capacity on the mainland for at least three years,” she told FRANCE 24.

“The European Commission and many other organisations have found that it would be perfectly feasible to put in place the necessary health screening arrangements” for a transfer of asylum-seekers to the Greek mainland.

‘Unbearable’ conditions on Greek islands

One day before the meeting, the International Rescue Committee released a report showing that Lesbos’ Moria camp has a population density ten times greater than that of the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship which became a notorious coronavirus cluster in March, with 712 of the 3711 people on board falling sick.

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SOURCE:France24.com

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Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants

The Migration Normalization Plan will allow Venezuelans living irregularly in the Dominican Republic to work, move without risk of deportation, open bank accounts and join the country’s social security system.  Photo: IOM / Francesco Spotorno

 

 

Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.

Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000  Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.

“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018.  “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”

READ  Nearly 2,000 Rwandan refugees repatriated from DRC – official

Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.

With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000  registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.

“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.

READ  Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

READ  Lebanon explosions: UNHCR seeks assistance for thousands of displaced families

“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Greece evicts vulnerable refugees, leaves them on the streets - MSF

 

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