Despite not meeting requirements for registration, an unknown NGO has become a key partner for the Greek government, receiving millions of Euro of EU funds for housing refugees under the ESTIA II and ESTIA 2021 programmes. The Greek government admits lead contamination in Moria 2.0 but concludes no “special intervention” required. A higher German court rules against return of people with protection status in Greece.

An NGO under the name ‘Hopeland’ received 1.1 million Euro for housing 1,002 refugees and asylum seekers in Attica and Central Greece from mid-October 2020 until the end of the year, under the ESTIA II programme. Hopeland will also be heavily involved in the ESTIA 2021 housing programme and is expected to receive a total of more than 6.5 million Euro in EU funds under its contract with the Greek government. Reportedly, the unknown and recently founded organisation has no prior experience providing support for asylum seekers and refugees and became a key implementing partner for the Greek government without meeting registration requirements set by legal reforms amid the ongoing crackdown of other NGOs. Despite a series of successive parliamentary questions asked in October 2020, December 2020 and January 2021 on how Hopeland managed to pass the onerous registration requirements and on which grounds they were selected for ESTIA funding, the Greek government has provided little detail on the process.

In response to reports of lead contamination at the Moria 2.0 camp in Kara Tepe on Lesvos established on a former firing range, the Greek government agreed with the European Commission to conduct an investigation. In a statement released on 23 January the government admits that samples from the camp reveal lead contamination. The government notes that 11 of those taken within the residential area “had lead levels below the acceptable limits” and one taken in the administrative area exceeded the “acceptable limit” and concludes: “So far, we are confident that our detailed evaluation of lead presence in the camp has not revealed levels that require special intervention or the revision of the construction plan”. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) “There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects” and several organisations including ECRE member Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), the DunyaCollective, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) urge full transparency of the results and exact locations of the testing, further testing as well as potential evacuation of the camp. While the Greek government has not released the report leading to its conclusions, it has been leaked and is critically scrutinised.

Meanwhile, conditions in the camp continue to deteriorate. More than 7,000 people in the camp have little access to running water, experience frequent power-cuts are exposed to rain, storm and freezing temperatures as the weather worsens.

The Coordinating Committee of Loutropoli Thermis on Lesvos and the Coordinating Committee of Chios Residents have called for the dismantling of the camps stating that the islands should serve only the purpose of identifying and registering migrants. The situation on the Greek islands was among the topics on 27 January, when MEPs from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) hosted a debate with the European Parliament.

Two decisions of the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia, effectively prevent returns by German authorities of people with protection status in Greece. The court established that they would be at risk of serious danger of inhuman and degrading treatment and be in a situation of extreme material hardship in the country. While It is not possible to appeal the judgment itself, authorities have the option of filing an appeal to the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig.

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Photo: ECRE

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.