(Athens) – The first round of European Union-sanctioned deportations of 66 people from the Greek island of Chios to Turkey on April 4, 2016 was rushed, chaotic, and violated the rights of those deported, Human Rights Watch said today. In Turkey, the detained deportees lost contact with family and friends held in Greece, and Turkish authorities have not allowed visits by rights groups or the United Nations.
“In the mad dash to start the deportations deal with Turkey, the European Union and Greece tossed rights to the wind, including for people who wanted to seek asylum,” said Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch associate director for program. “The abusive deportations expose the fundamental flaws in the EU’s expedited mass returns to a country that cannot be considered safe.”
~ UNHCR said on Wednesday that as many as 500 people may have died when a large ship sank in the Mediterranean Sea somewhere between Libya and Italy. If confirmed, the tragedy would be worst involving refugees and migrants bound for Europe in the last 12 months.
On Tuesday, a UNHCR team interviewed survivors of what could be one of the worst tragedies involving refugees and migrants in the last 12 months. If confirmed, as many as 500 people may have lost their lives when a large ship went down in the Mediterranean Sea at an unknown location between Libya and Italy. The 41 survivors (37 men, three women and a three-year-old child) were rescued by a merchant ship and taken to Kalamata, in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece on 16 April. Those rescued include 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, 6 Egyptians and a Sudanese.
The survivors told us that they had been part of a group of between 100 and 200 people who departed last week from a locality near Tobruk in Libya on a 30-metre-long boat.
After sailing for several hours, the smugglers on charge of the boat attempted to transfer the passengers to a larger ship carrying hundreds of people in terribly overcrowded conditions. At one point during the transfer, the larger boat capsized and sank.
The 41 survivors include people who had not yet boarded the larger vessel, as well as some who managed to swim back to the smaller boat. They drifted at sea possibly for three days before being spotted and rescued on 16 April.
UNHCR visited the survivors at the local stadium of Kalamata where they have been temporarily housed by the local authorities while they undergo police procedures.
UNHCR continues to call for increased regular pathways for the admission of refugees and asylum-seekers to Europe, including resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, family reunification, private sponsorship and student and work visas for refugees. These will all serve to reduce the demand for people smuggling and dangerous irregular sea journeys.