Europe Newsletter June 2022

20th to 26th of June is dedicated to the Refugee Week, a week to celebrate the contributions Refugees make to enrich our communities and keep vital services like the NHS and social care functioning.

  • The first vaccine against coronavirus was developed by a refugee in Germany. Refugee Week should also remind us that seeking asylum from persecution is a Human Right. But this right is under constant attack.
  • In Italy Human Rights defenders from several NGO’s including ‘’Save the Children’’ , ‘’Jugend Rettet’’and ‘’Médecins sans Frontieres’’ are on a trial for saving lives in the Mediterranean sea. Italy and Frontex, the EU border agency are collaborating with the Libyan coastguard to intercept refugees at sea and return them to torture and abuse in the notorious Libyan detention camps.
  • The war in Ukraine forced millions to flee and for once, the response from neighbouring countries and the EU was generous, compassionate and non-bureaucratic. Poland registered over a million refugees from Ukraine. But at the other border to Belarus there are still refugees fleeing war and violence from Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan trapped in the forests without support or locked into overcrowded detention centres in some cases 20 -24 people had to share a room of 8 square metre.
  • Denmark forces Syrian refugees to return to Syria despite the detailed Amnesty report: You are going to your death!
  • According to Amnesty International’s research carried out between June 2018 and January 2019, migrants and refugees have been subject to systemic and deliberate pushbacks and collective expulsions by the Croatian border police.
  • Find out more about Refugee week actions later in this newsletter

Italy, Iuventa case

On 21st of May the preliminary hearing in the case against 21 human rights defenders accused of facilitating irregular migration for saving refugees and migrants at sea started at the court of Trapani, Sicily. The accused are 4 Iuventa crew members and 17 people involved in the rescue operations of Medicines sans Frontiers and Save the Children.

Amnesty applied to observe the hearing, together with other lawyers’ organisations (ECCHR, EDHL and Giuristi Democratici), we are hopeful we might be admitted to observe at future sessions of the preliminary hearing before the summer break. The preliminary hearing is expected to last for several months.

Amnesty and many other activists, went to Trapani to support the 4 Iuventa crew and the other defenders. The show of support and solidarity was much appreciated by the Iuventa crew, who said the collective participation to the day and the mobilisation outside the court, online and in other cities were just what they had hoped for.

Please join us online (20th of June) on Instagram, facebook and twitter in raising the level of attention to the case.

Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders already tweeted that she is monitoring the case.


Poland, Refugees still trapped at border

On 11th of April, Amnesty published a briefing on the disparate treatment of refugees arriving to Poland via Belarus border, “Cruelty Not Compassion, at Europe’s Other Borders”. See also press release, Poland/Belarus: New evidence of abuses highlights ‘hypocrisy’ of unequal treatment of asylum-seekers.


Please write to the Ambassador of Poland to the UK

Sample letter:

To Mr Arkady Rzegocki,

Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the United Kingdom

Embassy of the Republic of Poland 47 Portland Place London W1B1JH

Dear Excellency,

We are commending Poland and the Polish people in particular for the generosity and solidarity shown to people fleeing the war in Ukraine. This generosity and solidarity is an inspiration to us, which we are asking our own government to match.

All those fleeing war and persecution should be given sanctuary and access to fair asylum procedures if they wish to apply.

But at the same time there are still refugees fleeing war and horrendous human rights abuses trapped between the borders of Belarus and Poland; without shelter, food and medical assistance. Only volunteers from local charities like Grupo Granica and local women are bringing food and assistance to suffering refugees in the forest and we received a disturbing report from the Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations about the harassment of these human rights defenders. We are also very concerned about asylum-seekers being detained in overcrowded inhumane conditions.

The Polish people have a proud history of generosity and hospitality and are again proving the spirit of compassion and solidarity in these terrible times of war.

I want to urge you to please pass on our message to the Polish Government to extend the Polish spirit of generosity to all refugees.

Yours sincerely

Denmark forces Syrian refugees to return to Syria

Denmark has forced Syrian refugees to return to Syria despite the detailed Amnesty report: You are going to your death!!!

Refugees who voluntarily returned to Syria have been subjected to rape, detention, disappearance and horrific torture. Despite Amnesty’s evidence Denmark is continuing to force Syrian refugees to return. Last year we demonstrated outside the Embassy of Denmark.

This year please write to the Ambassador of Denmark demanding that there must be no forced or coerced returns to Syria:

His Excellency Lars Thuesen

Ambassador of Denmark to the UK

Embassy of Denmark

55 Sloane Square

London SW1X9SR

Zero asylum seekers: Denmark forces refugees to return to Syria:

UK Deporting Refugees to Rwanda

The UK Government is planning to start deporting refugees thousands of miles to Rwanda, a country with its own human rights violations.

On 14 April UK signed a £120 million deal with the Rwandan government that allows transfers of asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, via charter flights or to detention in the UK pending the acceptance or refusal of the transfer by Rwanda. Following the transfer, Rwanda decides whether to grant protection under Rwandan law or impose relocation to another ‘safe country’ or country of origin.

“Banishing people to Rwanda, which has an appalling human rights record, is the same as the UK tearing up its commitment to give people who need asylum sanctuary’’. Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director

Care for Calais, Detention Action and the public and Commercial Servicers Union (PCS) are challenging the home Secretary’s plan to remove asylum-seekers to Rwanda in the High Court.

A deportation flight is scheduled for Tuesday 14th June. We urgently need to stop this brutal policy that will harm many innocent people. Contact your MP. For further ideas on how to help go to:

More information : /

Malta: El Hiblu


Credit: Amnesty International/Joanna Demarco

It has been 3 years since the El Hiblu 3 were rescued and disembarked in Malta, which is where they now face very serious, life-changing charges. The El Hiblu 3 are now in court and need our support. They feel demoralised, abandoned and forgotten.

Help us continue the fight to get the Maltese Attorney general to drop all the charges against them.

The El Hiblu 3 along with over 100 others, boarded a dinghy bound for Europe in order to escape the violence, arbitrary detention and exploitation in Libya. When their dinghy ran into trouble, they were rescued by an oil transporter and the crew on board attempted to return the migrants back to Libya, which would have been in breach of international law. The El Hiblu 3 acted as interpreters and peace makers when they helped to calm the situation on the oil transporter after people protested against being disembarked in Libya for fear of facing torture and violence again. Now the boys face charges that could put them in prison for life, all because they simply tried to defend their safety and protect those that were rescued with them.


Help us continue supporting the El Hiblu 3 by taking action!

Take action for the El Hiblu 3: Demand justice for the El Hiblu 3 – Amnesty International.

Read the Freedom Commission’s online brochure: FreeEH3_book.pdf (


Croatia: Police Border Violence Against Migrants and Refugees

According to Amnesty International’s research carried out between June 2018 and January 2019, migrants and refugees have been subject to systemic and deliberate pushbacks and collective expulsions by the Croatian border police. These pushbacks and expulsions have often been accompanied by threats, violence and intimidation at the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many have also been held in police stations in the Croatian territory, issued fines and have been denied their rights to due process and access to asylum procedures. Many describe having their documents torn, phones destroyed and being stripped, beaten with batons and sprayed with pepper spray. Others detail horrific acts of Croatian police confiscating their shoes, clothes and sleeping bags and forcing these people to trek through freezing rivers and streams barefoot for kilometres towards Bosnia. These pushbacks and forcible returns which often occur at night have led to refugees and migrants seeking dangerous travels routes through mountains and forests where wild animals and dangerous terrain can be a risk to these people.

The Croatian authorities seem to purposely turn their backs on these serious allegations, claiming that narratives of police violence against refugees and migrants is a false story created to gather sympathy. The authorities also are a huge detriment to the Croatian Ombudsperson by denying them access to migrant-related information and to NGOs who have been the target of criminal proceedings and false allegations made by the Croatian authorities.


Write to the Croatian ambassador and urge them to investigate the police border violence against migrants and refugees: Embassy of Croatia in London, United Kingdom (

Greece: Violence and pushbacks

In the ‘Greece: Violence, Lies and Pushbacks’ report, Amnesty recorded 21 new violent, illegal pushback incidents occurring between June and December 2020 in the Evros region. The report highlights Greece’s continuous use of brutal tactics to intercept, apprehend and return migrants and refugees to Greece. In a majority of cases, victims describe experiencing and witnessing violence at the hands of those conducting the pushbacks.

As well as this, violence and arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and possibly torture were methods adopted for refugees and migrants. The majority of people interviewed who had witnessed or directly experienced violence, reported abuse that included blows with sticks or truncheons, kicks, punches, slaps and pushes by officials described as “commandos” or “soldiers”. Those subject to this abuse even required immediate medical attention to treat injuries such as a broken spine, hands and extensive bruises. Victims also describe being subject to rough treatment during strip searches, men conducting body searches of women and women and children being present in strip searches of men. The severity of the treatment described by victims suggest that the intent was to harm and humiliate the refugees and migrants and that the treatment amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment, that could have, in some cases, amounted to torture.

You can read more about the  issue of pushbacks and other acts violating refugees and migrants human rights in Amnesty’s report here: Greece: Violence, lies, and pushbacks – Refugees and migrants still denied safety and asylum at Europe’s borders – Amnesty International.

You can help aid amnesty by calling on the Greek ambassador to the UK to meet amnesty’s calls in their report. Highlight to them the individual experiences of the refugees and migrants who have provided amnesty their testimonies and urge them to take the right action under Greek, EU and international law. You can find their contact details on their website here: Embassy of Greece in London – Hellenic Republic – Greece in the UK (

 Poland:- Trial begins for Polish abortion activist

In April Amnesty began campaigning on the case of human rights defender Justyna Wydrzyńska in Poland, who is facing three years in prison solely for supporting people in need of an abortion. Justyna is part of a group called Abortion Dream Team which defends the right to safe abortion.

Charges against her appear to be intended to punish her activism and efforts to ensure people’s rights to access safe and legal abortion in Poland.

The Polish authorities must drop all charges against Justyna, refrain from further reprisals against her or other activists campaigning for sexual and reproductive rights, and fully decriminalise access to abortion in Poland.
Amnesty published a beautifully written letter from Justyna on the first day of her trial. We also created an Instagram carousel featuring photos and video clips from Justyna and other members of Abortion Dream Team.

Please read the Press release from 7th April  Poland: Charges against activist accused of aiding an abortion must be dropped

Please continue writing to the Public Prosecutor General

Public Prosecutor General, Mr. Zbigniew Tadeusz Ziobro

  1. Postępu 02-676 Warszawa Poland


Read the Amnesty Press release : Poland: Charges against activist accused of aiding an abortion must be dropped 

Picnic for Justyna

Why are we doing the action

Charges against Justyna Wydrzyńska should be dropped immediately. The human rights defender faces up to three years in prison for supporting a pregnant woman who needed a safe abortion in Poland. The charges appear to be brought in reprisal for her activism and her legitimate efforts to defend access to safe and legal abortions in Poland.

Campaign Background

In 2020, Justyna supported a pregnant woman, who said she had been suffering from domestic violence, to access abortion pills. The case marks the first in Europe in which an activist is being prosecuted for aiding an abortion by providing abortion pills.

Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Abortion in Poland is only allowed when the health or the life of the pregnant person is at risk or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Persons who provide or help with an abortion are criminalized. These regulations put pregnant people’s health and lives at risk and violate Poland’s obligations under international human rights law and standards.

Contact person/ person responsible

Leila Ahmetagic –

Short description of the action

We ask you to organize local picnics in support of Justyna. Use postcards so that people can write personal messages to Justyna. You can use the postcards that we designed for the action (see below), postcards from your city or blank postcards. Also, this is a good opportunity to promote the Urgent Action on Justyna’s case and to inform people about restrictive abortion laws in Poland.

Also, with the consent of the participants, you can take photos of the picnic and the postcards. You can use them for social media and it would be great if you were also willing to share them with us (see attachment).

Suggested Location

In a public park or another green area.

Suggested time

Some sunny day between the 1st May and 8th June 2022.

Materials needed

Postcards with our design (see attachment)

Postcards from your city/region or blank postcards

Text of the urgent action (


Food and beverages

Social Media & Press

Please share any photos you take on twitter, facebook and Instagram using the hashtags  #abortionisahumanright, #mybodymychoice, #AmnestyWomen.

If you do not have a social media account yourself, please send your pictures to Leila (see contact person).

Czech Republic – Roma Lives Matter!

Justice for Stanislav Tomas!

Roma lives matter! 

Vigil Sunday 19th June 3pm outside the Embassy of Czech Republic

26-30 Kensington Palace Gardens London W84QY

Please attend if you can. For further information email  or phone 07984729321(evenings)

On 19th June 2021 a Roma man Stanislav Tomas died after a policeman kneeled on his neck, restricting his breathing, for a prolonged time.

According to the video-footage from the arrest, published by a news server, three police officers used force against a Roma man in Czech town of Teplice on 19 June 2021.[1] The video shows the man lying on the ground while the police restrain him. One of the police officers is kneeling on the man’s neck during the entire intervention, which lasted at least five minutes according to the footage. The policeman continues the knee restraint even after the man is handcuffed and does not show any resistance., 21 June 2021, “Romani man dies after Czech Police kneel on his neck, they say drugs caused his death. Romani activists see parallels to George Floyd”,

Amnesty International consider the police action, as captured on the video, abusive and unlawful. Restraint of a neck restricts breathing and presents a significant danger for human life, this is all the more serious if applied for a prolonged period of time.

The Czech Government has defended the police action and as far as we are aware no disciplinary action has been taken against the police officers involved. For further information please read:

Some good News!

After 9 years of campaigning finally justice for the 30 Roma men, women and children, some disabled who were indiscriminately beaten by the police. The Slovak government now agreed to pay damages to the Roma victims of the Moldava Nad Bodvu Police raid.

“We are glad that the applicants finally achieved justice and we welcome the approach taken by the Ministry of Justice. However, it sadly took nine whole years and several sets of proceedings before domestic authorities and courts for it to be served. In the meantime, the applicants suffered persecution by investigating authorities only because they dared to claim their rights and complain about police brutality.” said Michal Zálešák, the ERRC Legal Consultant who worked on the case during the proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights.


On 19th June 2013, 63 police officers entered a Romani neighbourhood in Moldava and Bodvou (Slovakia) to search for an individual suspect (whom they did not find). They carried out a brutally violent raid, indiscriminately injuring over 30 Romani people including children and people with disabilities.

Hungary:- People reject anti-LGBT referendum

Hungary Campaigning works!

In June 2021, Hungary’s government passed legislation banning children from accessing any content that “promotes” homosexuality, transgender identities, or gender reassignment. But in last month’s referendum on the issue, only 44% of total voters cast a valid vote and 20% (nearly 1.6 million people) invalidated their vote. It was a big win for the successful campaign run by Amnesty Hungary and Háttér Society (Hungary’s biggest and oldest LGBTI organisation) together with other NGOs.


Osman Kavala

 You will recall that in the last newsletter I reported that on 25 April Osman Kavala ( after 4 1/2 years in pre-trial detention and numerous judgements in his favour by the European Court of Human Rights) had been convicted for “attempting to overthrow the government” and sentenced to aggravated life in prison.

Since then his case has been reviewed by colleagues  and now has formally been brought into the AIUK Individuals at Risk portfolio. This will enable more resources to be released to work on this case once we have further guidance from the International Secretariat when they have published the  new Action Circular on the case.

Many thanks to the seven local groups who have said that they would like to commit to working on this case. If any other groups have not yet considered this it wouldn’t helpful if you could discuss and if you  would like to become involved please do contact me and I will add you to the list.

METU: Banning of annual; Pride march

You will have seen the  Very Urgent Action that I circulated on 9 June concerning the banning of the proposed Pride march due to take place at the METU campus, Ankara on Friday 10 June.

Hopefully you will also recall that Amnesty has been involved with the struggle of the LGBTI+ Solidarity Group at METU to exercise their rights to Freedom of Assembly for over three years. This group includes Melike Balkan and Özgür Gür, prominent members of the LGBTI+ Solidarity Group at METU, who were featured in the Write for Rights Campaign 2020.

In 8 October 2021, after over two years of anxiety at the prospect of being imprisoned for up to three years following the break up by police of the Pride sit-in at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in 2019 Özgür Gür, Melike Balkan and 17 other defendants were acquitted of all the major charges.

Latest news (10 June 10pm)

 Despite the Rector of METU banning the march it did proceed on 10 June and dozens of members of the LGBTI+ Solidarity Group attempted to take part in a peaceful and joyful event. Regrettably, soon after it commenced, the march was broken up by riot police and plain clothed officers. Several marchers and individuals attempting to record the events on mobile phones were attacked and it is reported that tear gas and pepper spray was also used.

It is reported that 16 individuals were arrested and 3 arrested and taken to hospital but it is too early for me to be able to confirm these figures.