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Greece evicts vulnerable refugees, leaves them on the streets – MSF

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  • An increasing number of MSF patients with severe health and mental health conditions in Greece are being threatened with eviction or have been evicted from their accommodation.
  • The Greek government has been granted EU funds for enlarging the mainland’s accommodation scheme, yet to find a quick solution for the congested camps on the islands, the eviction of more than 11,000 recognised refugees has begun.
  • MSF is calling on the Greek government to stop the evictions of all vulnerable people (pregnant women, victims of sexual abuse, victims of torture, elderly, families with children) and identify alternative solutions.
  • Sending vulnerable people to the street, especially during a pandemic, is inhumane and non-sustainable.

ATHENS –  An increasing number of refugees in Greece with severe health and mental health conditions are being threatened with eviction from their accommodation, cut off from cash assistance and left in the streets without access to shelter, protection or proper healthcare.

Looking for a quick solution to decongest the overcrowded camps on the Greek islands, the Greek government has begun to evict more than 11,000 beneficiaries of international protection from their supported accommodation in Greece, many of whom are extremely vulnerable.

READ  Removing barriers for immigrant medical professionals is critical to help fight Coronavirus

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling on the Greek government to suspend evictions of vulnerable people, including survivors of sexual violence, torture and ill treatment, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases; to identify immediate accommodation solutions and to enlarge the existing accommodation programmes.

VIDEO

Greece evictions

Greece: vulnerable refugees evicted and left to sleep on the streets
In the midst of a global pandemic, governments should be protecting people at high risk of COVID-19, not throwing them out onto the streets.

“We have patients with serious medical conditions who are being abandoned, while women in an advanced stage of pregnancy are sleeping on Victoria Square in central Athens,” says Marine Berthet, MSF medical coordinator in Greece.

“In the middle of a global pandemic, governments should be protecting and shielding people at high risk of COVID-19, not throwing them out onto the streets and leaving them without protection, shelter or access to basic healthcare.”

In June, an extremely vulnerable MSF patient died from a cardiac arrest shortly after she was threatened with eviction and subsequently left her accommodation.

“Our patient who died was paraplegic and had multiple serious medical conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, yet she had been threatened with eviction on multiple occasions,” says Berthet.

“Under the fear of losing her home, her family moved her to Schisto camp, where her son was staying in a container with 12 other people; two days later she suffered a cardiac arrest and died.”

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At least 30 other MSF patients with serious medical conditions have either been evicted or notified of eviction, and now face the prospect of being homeless and cut off from cash assistance.

We have patients with cancer, survivors of torture, single mothers with chronic diseases and heavily pregnant women who are essentially being told to sleep rough, without any support.

“The case of the woman who died is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Berthet. “We have patients with cancer, survivors of torture, single mothers with chronic diseases and heavily pregnant women who are essentially being told to sleep rough, without any support.”

Many MSF patients with serious chronic diseases have had their possessions removed from their accommodation and been told they must leave, without any indication of where they should go.

Dozens of other patients have been notified that they must leave, while their cash assistance has been stopped, despite their extreme vulnerability. Meanwhile, the city squares are filling up with vulnerable refugees, including children, pregnant women, newborn babies, people with severe chronic conditions and survivors of torture and sexual violence.

In June this year, Greece’s Ministry of Migration and Asylum pledged to cut spending on the housing programme for asylum seekers by up to 30 per cent. Meanwhile, in February, the Greek government was awarded EU funds to enlarge the accommodation scheme on the mainland. However, so far, no extra accommodation has been made available.

READ  IOM, UNHCR welcome Colombia’s decision to regularize Venezuelan refugees and migrants

In response to the hundreds of refugees sleeping on the streets of Victoria Square in Athens, we are referring those most in need of medical care to our daycare centre in Athens. However, the refugees’ most basic needs are not being covered.

We urgently call on the Greek government, the EU and all organisations involved in providing shelter to find immediate accommodation solutions for all those refugees currently sleeping on the streets of Athens, and to halt evictions of refugees until all administrative barriers to integration and access to healthcare have been lifted.

 

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

READ  Nigerian migrants’ sojourn in Middle East ends in woes

“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

READ  Migrants' remittances drop by over  $100b - UN Chief 

“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  Amid protests, Greece suspends migrants detention plan

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  Removing barriers for immigrant medical professionals is critical to help fight Coronavirus

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

READ  Human traffickers in brutal exploits (1)

“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  Over 130 migrants killed after U.S. deports them to El Salvador, rights group says

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  COVID-19 Compounds Families’ Painful Search for Missing and Disappeared Migrants

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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