Newly-arrived refugees in Eftalou beach, Lesvos (photography-Nicolas Georgiou)
Humanitarian organizations across Greece ranging from legal experts to volunteers in matters of immigration have co-signed the following letter which details how the failure of the state to deal with the flow of migration creates a necessity for volunteers and how unlawful is the prosecution of citizens willing to help out, according to the provisions of international treaties.
June 11th 2015
During the last few months the islands of the eastern Aegean have had to deal with an emergency. In Mytilene over 500 refugees arrive daily. Because of insufficient reception facilities and the increasing flow of migration, the authorities are in no position to ensure that the newly arrived at different sports on the island would be collected and transferred in safety to the centres of competent services of arrest and record which are exclusively located in Mytilene.
Hundreds of newly arrived migrants, among which plenty of minors and vulnerable people such as pregrant women and elderly are often abandoned at the place of arrival for 2-3 days and are forced to walk sometimes up to 60 km in order to reach the police or the port authority. The authorities are not capable to respond to the requests made by citizens regarding the tranfer of disabled persons or young babies.
The particular routes of Molyvos-Mantamados-Mytilene and Molyvos-Kalloni-Mytilene are very dangerous and we are truly lucky not to have had any victims yet, as the drivers’ visibility is compromised from the steep curves and the narrow roads.
Volunteers in solidarity are trying to deal with the inadequacies of whatever facilities exist at these arrival points and these citizens are only trying to offer the minimum food requirements to people who have not been transferred and are left there to spend the night on the side of the road.
Hundreds of citizens show their solidarity in practice by transferring worn-out dehydrated refugees to the city of Mytilene. These people desperately ask for help, as they are not allowed to use any other means of transportaton and suffer from exhaustion from the long distance hike.
A week ago, a citizen of Lesvos brought a seven-month pregnant Syrian woman to the hospital as he came across her on his way. The hematocrit levels of the woman were below what’s considered healthy and she was given a transfusion which was life-saving.
Nevertheless even this spontaneous act of humanity and solidarity is faced with the threat of prosecution, despite it being necessary as the there’s an overall insuffiency in how the authorities respond to the situation. In the last few days, the police have proceeded to stricter inspections of private cars, while a citizen transferring a semi-collapsed woman and her family was recently arrested and interrogated.
The Greek legislation provides for criminal handling and sanctions for the crimes of transferring citizens of non-E.U. countries who have not been given permit to enter Greece and facilitating their transfer within the country while the use of public and private means of transport is prohibited for these migrants.
This very legislation does not include the transfer of people in need of international protection, according to the mandates of international law (article 30 section 4 of the act 4251/2014), while it includes specific decrees for the penal responsibility of those who neglect to save one from danger (article 307 of the Penal Code- failure to provide assistance in situations of life-threatening danger).
Besides the specific obligations of the Greek establisment to offer protection to the refugees, obligations which stem from international treaties whοse decrees are precedent over national law, the dictates of the Greek constitution are more than clear:
”All those in Greek territory enjoy the absolute protection of life, honour and freedom without discrimination against nationality, race, language, political and religious beliefs (article five, section 2)
The authorities are dealing with an emergency and are incapable not only to provide decent living conditions to the newly arrived refugees, at least temporarily, but can’t even ensure their safe transporation in order to begin the legal processes provided by law.
We demand an end to the penalization of practical solidarity expressed by the people of Lesvos island and the effective discontinuance of the unacceptable prosecutions against those who exercise their humanitarian duties.
Groups co-signing the letter
Movement for Human Rights -Solidarity to the refugees in Samos
Lathra – Solidarity Committee to the Refugees in Chios
Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants (Athens)
Group of Counsels for the advocacy of the rights of refugees and migrants (Thessaloniki)
‘All together”’ village, Lesvos
Souce: Ομάδα Δικηγόρων