By Sandy Cross - President & Legal Respresentative
CONTEXT : CURRENT SITUATION FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEES.
Legal Update: Three amendments to Greek asylum law were implemented between April and June 2021 (cf: Attachment "Main events April to June 2020"). Constant legal and regulatory changes in an unstable and unpredictable environment significantly impact those applying for international protection, refugees and the organisations providing services to them.
Changes in asylum seeker population on Chios island:
The island is emptying, as the transfers off the island outweigh the arrivals 99 to 1 (cf: Attachments: "Changes in asylum seeker population on Chios"). NGOs delivering material aid estimate that there are 550 people in Vial RIC and 650 people residing in apartments in and around Chios town at the end of June. If these numbers are correct, there have been significant numbers of people leaving of their own accord. According to UNHCR, from April to June 2021, 859 asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs) left Chios to the mainland. The number of spontaneous transfers is unknown. To our knowledge, there have been no arrests and no deportations to Turkey. There are currently no ferry services to Chios from Cesme.
Proposed new ‘closed’ Centre: The tender period for the new camp/RIC at Akra Pachy on Chios has been extended to 22 July 2021. It is reasonable to assume that the proposed new camp will not be completed before mid - to end - 2022. As far as we know, there was a fencing contract for Vial but so far construction has not commenced.
At a recent NGO Coordination Meeting, many representatives were expressing concern over the cessation of Cash Assistance to all self-accommodated asylum seekers and the cessation of the housing program in November 2021. No evictions from town accommodation have occurred as yet, although evictions have taken place on Samos. The most vulnerable tenants were transferred to the mainland, while the less vulnerable were forced to return to the camp.
COVID19 on Chios:
For the residents in Vial RIC, a vaccination program began in May 2021 and has since halted. It was anticipated that 70% of Chios' population would have had at least had their first vaccine by end-June. This has not been confirmed.
Most restrictions have been lifted: there is no curfew, music is permitted in restaurants, masks are still required indoors, a maximum of 4 persons are permitted in a car and social distancing is encouraged but not observed. Movement from the mainland to the Islands requires a PCR test or vaccination certificate. Negative self-tests are no longer accepted.
A.Ss.I.S.T.’s office remains semi-closed to the public. Team members continue to attend the office (a maximum of 8 people). Two team members must be present at the office at all times, as clients come to pick up and deliver documents from the lawyers. We can now invite clients in, however most prefer to do consultations via WhatsApp. Stringent COVID19 protocols remain in place. At the end of June, all A.Ss.I.S.T members were fully vaccinated including AGLs, with the exception of one volunteer interpreter.
CURRENT SITUATION FOR A.Ss.I.S.T. OUR SERVICES AND OPERATIONS
At the Annual General Meeting was held on 5 June 2021, elections for the Board were held, the Financial Statement (unaudited) 2020 and the forward budget July 2021- June 2022 were presented and approved (cf: Attachments: "Main events April to June 2020").
The newly elected Board met on 15 June 2021 (cf: Attachments: "Main events April to June 2020"). Ms Josephine Chan and Ms Sheila Cross were re-elected and welcomed a new Board member, Ms Zoe Anderson). It was agreed that the re-elected member would retain their positions as Treasurer and President respectively and Ms. Anderson replaces the previous Secretary, Ms. Mary Stratigou, who resigned due to ill health. Ms. Anderson is a long-term supporter of A.Ss.I.S.T., and was one of the two lawyers who implemented the pilot project in 2018, which was a precursor to the founding of A.Ss.I.S.T. Her bio and photo will soon be uploaded to A.Ss.I.S.T.’s website. The Board agreed to the forward strategy as outlined in the documents presented to the meeting, they requested more time to review all the policy related documents submitted before the meeting.
Networking and improving our administration processes:
Attended meetings with other stakeholders and networks (Legal network, Communicating with Communities, LGBTQIA+ Working Group, UNHCR Protection Working Group).
Made significant improvements to our client records: capturing more data and digitalising records. Since 15 June 2021, all clients are provided with a new feedback form post-consultation. FAQs are being collated as part of preparation for the script for future information sessions and information sheets.
Re-assessed the needs of asylum seekers and BIPs in Chios and undertook assessments of the situation in Athens.
Workshopped the logframe and other matrixes for the forward organisational plan for July 2021 - June 2022 and drafted several grant applications.
Updated website content; social media outlets were more active and on Refugee Day, launched our A.Ss.I.S.T. Instagram account.
Support to our clients:
Number of appeals submitted decreased, while interventions with different authorities increased both in number and time, as we sought to resolve a diverse range of client problems (cf: Attachments: "Statistics - 2nd Quarter").
Number of clients significantly increased: eight out of the ten arrivals in mid-May sought our services.
Support to BIPs, including providing information on the renewals of IDs and HELIOS program.
Planned renewal of support to deportees: The Legal Representative will visit Istanbul in early July 2021 to reconnect with NGOs and others who may be willing to recommence services to deportees from Greece or may be interested in cooperating with A.Ss.I.S.T. to support them.
The ASsIST Team:
Our interpreter team on Chios is reduced to two (Farsi and Arabic), but previous volunteer team members continue to work remotely from the mainland (Somali and French/Lingala) and the volunteer Office/Client Services Manager (OCSM) and Legal Representative are available for French-English interpretqtion. One Somali, one Arabic and one Farsi applicant have sat the language assessment test and their results are pending.
Throughout April to June 2021, 2 Volunteer Legal Advisors (VLAs); one based in Chios, the other continuing to work with the Team from her home in Marseilles worked together with our two Associate Greek Lawyer (AGLs) who are currently contracted to end-July 2021.
An additional VLA will join the Team from 1 July to replace the long-term Chios-based VLA who will take leave from 23 July to 9 August 2021. A volunteer OCSM arrives on 12 July 2021 to replace the long-term OCSM who will take leave from 20 July to mid-September 2021.
A workshop is proposed in August to update the team on the recent Ministerial Decision declaring that Turkey is a safe country for 5 nationalities (Afghan, Somali, Syrian, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and on the draft new law proposed to amend Law 4636/2019, which was published for public comment in mid-June 2021.
Your donations have been instrumental to the provision of all the above services to asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Greece: one of the most vulnerable populations in Europe.
Thank you for taking the time to read this Report.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
Get Reports via Email
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Give the gift of stability in a time of instability. Set up an automatic, monthly gift now and get matched at 100%—because the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt us all, and it will take all of us to overcome it. Terms and conditions apply.
Monthly giving is as easy, safe, and as inexpensive as a Netflix subscription. Start a monthly donation to A.Ss.I.S.T today and get matched at 100%. Terms and conditions apply.