Europe

Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: Treasure in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island

Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account.  Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets.  We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account. 

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.)  That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe.  In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable. 

EUROPE: The Wealth Gap and its consequences on asylum seekers’ fates

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 Refugees forced to sleep in the port of 
Mytilene on Lesvos, Greece

The consequences of the wealth gap in the world of the migrant is most stark when we hear the news of those migrants who have drowned in the sea, stifled to death in the container lorries, or who are raped while trekking through remote areas, tortured in the desert or even killed by the smugglers.

To avoid the above options, migrants who have the money can pay for much safer ways of entering countries illegally, or depositing an incredible amount of money to apply for legal immigration.  However, some asylum seekers must cross borders illegally at least once.

Some asylum seekers who receive asylum in a neighboring country after lodging an application have to wait a few years to be transferred to the third safe country.  People from this group may get stuck in the neighboring country like Turkey until they can pay off high resident fees.

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 6, 2014

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Prayers for Peacemakers, November 6, 2014 

Give thanks for the work of CPT Mediterranean, which recently completed its summer presence on the Greek Island of Lesvos.  Participants in the Mediterranean project made migrants and refugees feel welcome and advocated for more humane European Union immigration policies.

               Epixel* for Sunday November 9, 2014
                                          Party to celebrate time in Lesvos
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness
like an everflowing stream.  Amos 5:24
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from
the upcoming Sunday's 
 
Revised  Common Lectionary  readings.

EUROPE: Migrants on their journey--dilemmas and possible solutions

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On a daily basis, hundreds of migrants try to get into Europe through different routes-- mainly via smugglers.  Most of the migrants are struggling to find either a safe life without persecution or have better standards of life to support their families at home.  The routes and the facilitators of the journey that they choose are the least safe options ever to exist.

Often the suggested solution focuses on ways to block the smugglers’ routes.  European authorities should identify and crack down on smugglers’ networks.  However, the story is not going to end as long as migrants face onerous restrictions for getting into Europe.

People are trying the illegal routes because they mostly have no legal way to get in.  As a result, the migrants become victims of crimes like torture and raping meted out by smugglers and tragedies like drowning in the sea on the way. 

The migrant population is divided into two different main groups: economic migrants and asylum seekers.  Economic migrants leave their home countries to work and support their families at home like many Greeks in the other European countries at the moment.  The asylum seekers are the ones who are running away from wars, conflict zones, persecution, torture, and other serious threats forcing them to seek a safer life, usually in the West.

Obviously, the asylum seekers are supposed to get benefits that economic migrants do not.  However, it is not easy to differentiate between asylum seekers and economic migrants because almost everybody who gets into Europe lodges an asylum application, because it is the only chance to get a legal status.  On the other hand, it has become much more difficult for the real asylum seekers to prove their stories.

All over the world, we find westerners working or living in another country merely because of their curiosity to explore the world.  The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasizes that everyone has the right to move freely, leave any country and return.  So far, it has been enforced for the citizens of western countries and the eastern families with money, not equally for everyone. 

MEDITERRANEAN: Waiting for justice

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Rabi’e, handcuffed on the wheelchair-stretcher
 next to the ambulance.
  

 Photo: © 2014 Ramyar Hassani, CPT Mediterranean 

Standing in solidarity with refugees is often fulfilling.  Here on the Greek island of Lesbos these people, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, have escaped the threat of bombs, abduction, and hunger.  Usually, it feels really good accompanying them.  Usually.

But Monday was different.  We observed the trial of the Syrian boy, Rabi’e, who turned eighteen while in prison.  The coast guard arrested him, claiming that he was responsible for smuggling twenty-two people in a boat into Greek waters and for attempting to sink that same boat so that they would be rescued. 

The case was delayed from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the translator did not show up, and another (poor) translator was appointed.

Because the trial took place in juvenile court, we were not permitted to attend the proceedings.  We waited with others in front of the glass doorsand watched the goings-on inside.  We learned later that the coast guard identified Rabi’e as the one who tore up a piece of paper in the boat with instructions on what to do in Europe and threw it in the water.  Six months after the fact, in the middle of night and at sea, they said could accurately identify him.  They said they retrieved the paper from the water and read it.  But the couldn’t produce this evidence in court, because seawater had damaged it irretrievably.  

MEDITERRANEAN ANALYSIS: A look at jurisdiction on "smuggling" and the broader context

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On Monday, 22 September, CPT Mediterranean observed several trials against Turkish men accused of human smuggling and the case of a Syrian refugee we had visited in prison the week before.  

The Turkish men all got the maximum sentence of twenty-five years, and Mohammad got ten years in prison with a possible reduction of the sentence to two years if he works in prison.  The court authorized this reduction because of his refugee status.  It also  acknowledged he had acted in an emergency because he had been forced to drive the boat when the smugglers left it. 

As we sat in the court, with a Greek partner translating for us, it became clearer that neither the public attorney nor the judge have a comprehensive understanding of why the people in the boats are migrating.
  For example, they asked questions like, “But why did you not stay in Syria?”  
 

MEDITERRANEAN: Writings on the wall

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In one of the events that I participated in on the Greek island of Lesvos, I had the chance to see many writings migrants made to hang on the walls of the welcome center in Pipka. A piece of paper on the wall may not be a detailed story but what I saw delivered their pain. Here are some written by migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Sudan and other war-torn countries:

A handmade poster by a Syrian refugee

Prayers for Peacemakers September 25, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers September 25, 2014

Pray for the refugees and migrants caught up in the Greek court system, where they do not receive even the semblance of a fair hearing.

Epixel* for Sunday, September 28, 2014
Court in Mytilene, Lesvos
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any 
sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,  
make my joy complete: be of 
the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 
Philippians 1:1-2
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

MEDITERRANEAN: Mytilene Mayor reneges on promise to support Pipka welcome center for refugees; orders closure

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 Meeting with Mayor Galenos

On 16 September, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Mediterranean’s partner, the civil society initiative, The Village of All Together, met with Spyros Galenos, the mayor of Mytilene, on the Island of Lesvos, Greece.  They wanted to enlist the support of the mayor and to address the repeated failures of the police, coastguard, and other authorities at the Moria Reception Center to register and release migrants efficiently and to provide for their basic needs.

In the week before, the police had not processed many people, but continued to bring migrants to Pikpa without providing sleeping materials, clothes, or medical care for them.  On Monday night, around 600 people were staying in Pikpa—a place intended for 80-100.  Many slept on the grass with no protection whatsoever.

CPT Mediterranean accompanied the members of Village of All Together to the meeting in the mayor’s office.

MEDITERRANEAN: How First Reception Centres treat migrants arriving in Greece

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 I spent a lot of time over several weeks talking with different groups of migrants who had spent at least a couple of nights at Moria, the first reception center located in Mytilene, Lesbos.  The conditions they described were not what I was expected from a first reception center, which is supposed to be a shelter for human beings running from wars, conflicts and persecutions.

“There is no shower.  They are broken and we could not use any of them,” one of the migrants said before leaving for Athens.

 “The toilets are not working and we had to bring bucket water to flush manually after using them,” Masoumeh an Afghan woman said.  She had spent two nights in Moria with her family before traveling to Athens.

 “The sewage is coming into the hallways and sometimes even into the rooms.  The beds were very dirty and so smelly,” Ali, an Afghan man who was in Moria for two nights with his family, said.

Moria First Reception Centre