Equal Rights Beyond Borders
By Louisa Jakobsson
The German-Greek Human Rights Organization Equal Rights Beyond Borders was founded shortly after the creation of the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016. This past March the EU-Turkey statement/deal turned 5 years old, and the work of Equal Rights Beyond Borders has become more relevant than ever. This is why they are our Hero of the Month.
One consequence of the EU-Turkey deal was the creation of the so-called EU hotspot approach, forcing individuals and families to live in camps at the external borders of the European Union. Against this backdrop Equal Rights Beyond Borders works by providing legal assistance to asylum seekers and pursuing strategic litigation in Germany and at the European Court of Human Rights.
Equal Rights Beyond Borders currently operates in three locations in Greece; Chios, Kos and Athens, as well in Berlin, Germany. Their team assist refugees by providing legal assistance to persons seeking protection in refugee camps, along the borders, and in the countries where refugees settle.
The 5th anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal has come with its own specific set of challenges, such as COVID-19 and the documented increase of pushbacks to Turkey, highlighting the importance of the work of Equal Rights Beyond Borders in the EU Hotspots.
Since the Moria Camp on Lesvos burned down last September, Kos is the only remaining island in the Greek Aegean with a pre-removal detention center. It is common practice on the island to detain persons for several different reasons, and for some time now the practice on Kos has been to detain everyone from the moment they arrive on the island. At the same time, Greece has not deported a single person to Turkey for more than a year now, leaving people that are detained on pre-removal grounds in limbo as they are held without access to any services. One thing that the Equal Rights Beyond Borders team on Kos is currently working on is successfully filing objections to individuals being detained, however hundreds of people remain incarcerated.
In Chios the limbo also exists, however in a slightly different form. From the beginning of the pandemic, until the end of last year people that received second rejections to their asylum claims were not detained, however they were also not allowed to leave the island nor did they have access to any services. At the same time, the coronavirus has deepened the vulnerability of the persons seeking protection who were already living in poor conditions in the Chios Vial Camp. For example, in the beginning of the pandemic residents were not allowed to leave the camp, leaving them at a high risk of infection due to non-tested workers coming into the camp . Currently leaving the facility is still difficult, and it only happens with permission. Every movement outside of the camp carries a high risk of being fined for non-compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.
As the situation on the Greek islands does not seem to be ending anytime soon, the work of organizations such as Equal Rights Beyond Borders remains vital. This is why NMM has decided to name Equal Rights their Hero of the Month.
If you want to donate towards their work, you can do it here.
This creates a disincentive to move out of the camp even though, in theory, it would now be more possible than before. In response to this, Equal Rights Beyond Borders have successfully filed applications to lift geographical restrictions, as well as applying for interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights and interventions from the Greek Ombudsman.