By Kristy Siegfried | 21 November, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Greece to replace island centres for asylum-seekers with larger, closed facilities. The Greek government on Wednesday announced plans to set up five closed pre-departure centres for asylum-seekers on the Aegean islands of Samos, Chios, Lesvos, Kos and Leros. According to a government spokesperson, the new centres would each host up to 5,000 people and replace the current reception centres on the islands, where living conditions have been decried as dire and repeatedly criticized by aid agencies and rights groups. The government has announced a raft of measures in recent weeks aimed at managing a recent increase in arrivals to the islands, which are now hosting more than 36,000 refugees and migrants. Asylum-seekers will have to remain in the new centres, which the government is aiming to have ready by July 2020, while their asylum claims are assessed. The government also announced that 20,000 asylum-seekers would be transferred to the mainland by the end of the year and said it plans to recruit an additional 500 people to speed up asylum processing.
Attack on Syrian camp for displaced people kills 16. At least 16 civilians were killed on Wednesday when missiles struck a camp for internally displaced people in the village of Qah in northern Idlib province, near the border with Turkey. Rescue workers with the White Helmets said the missiles set tents ablaze, causing “huge material damage”. Most of those killed or wounded were women and children. A nearby maternity hospital was also damaged in the attack and four humanitarian workers injured. Earlier on Wednesday, a series of air strikes on the north-western town of Maarat Al Nouman killed six civilians, including three children, according to the White Helmets.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
India to conduct nationwide citizen survey. India’s Home Minister Amit Shah announced in Parliament on Wednesday that the government will implement a nationwide count of citizens. He said people of all religions who can prove they are Indian citizens will be included in a National Register of Citizens. His announcement comes months after the north-eastern state of Assam published a citizenship register that excluded nearly 2 million residents, the majority of them Muslims. The Guardian reports on efforts by volunteer paralegals to help people appeal their exclusion by tracking down documents proving their citizenship.
Father and son make film in Hungarian transit zone. A film shot on a mobile phone by a father and son stuck in a transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border has premiered at human rights festivals in Europe. Iranian artist Abouzar Soltani and his 10-year-old son Armin entered Hungary legally in December 2018 after waiting for more than two years in Serbia. They have spent the last 11 months in one of two transit zones on the border where asylum-seekers must remain while their claims are processed. Their three-minute film, Fish, shared here by the BBC, shows Armin painting goldfish on the window of the shipping container where he and his father are being housed. “The film was made to keep my son’s dreams alive,” says Soltani.
Volunteer who aided migrants in Arizona acquitted. A federal jury on Wednesday found volunteer aid worker Scott Warren not guilty of harbouring two Central American migrants near the US-Mexico border. Warren, who volunteers with a faith-based group, called No More Deaths, that leaves water and food for migrants and asylum-seekers traversing the Arizona desert, was accused of hiding two men for several days on a property in Arizona. He faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Wednesday’s verdict ended his second trial in the case. In June, a mistrial was declared when jurors were unable to reach a verdict.
Saving lives in the Sahara Desert. InfoMigrants reports on the work of Alarm Phone Sahara, a hotline for refugees and migrants who become stranded in the Sahara Desert as they attempt to reach Libya from Niger. The initiative was started two years ago by a group of activists who wanted to address the high numbers of people disappearing on the desert route. IOM estimates that at least 30,000 people disappeared while crossing the Sahara between 2014 and 2018, although the actual number is likely far higher. When the hotline receives a call from stranded migrants, the APS network alerts people within reach of the place to launch a rescue. APS also provides people considering the journey with information about the risks.
Omar Zambrano, a Venezuelan pianist, was scraping by after arriving in Buenos Aires two years ago, until he realized that many other musicians busking around the city were also Venezuelans who had fled their country. Today, he’s the founder and director of Latin Vox Machine, an orchestra of 150 musicians, most of them Venezuelan. He told the Christian Science Monitor that through the orchestra “we are giving back our music and our talents as a way of showing our gratitude”.
DID YOU KNOW?
There are approximately 180 asylum-seeking children detained in two Hungarian transit zones. Since March 2017, more than 1,700 children have been detained in the zones, often for longer than a year.