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Statewatch Observatory
The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency

This Observatory covers the arrival of refugees and migrants, the reactions and failures within the EU (both governmental and within communities). Edited by Tony Bunyan. See: "We are ashamed": Statement on Mediterranean: "The EU is behaving shamefully"

March 2016
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (31.3.16)
Turkey shoots dead Syrian refugees crossing the border as they flee civil war (Mirror, link): "Border forces in Turkey are shooting refugees dead as they cross over into the country fleeing civil war in Syria, it has been reported.

Guards have killed sixteen refugees including three children as they crossed into Turkey, the Times reports.

Monitoring organisation the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims border forces have shot dead the sixteen refugees over the past four months.

An officer in the British-backed Free Syrian Police and a Syrian smuggler, living in Turkey, claimed that the true number was higher.

The newspaper reports on February 6 a man and his child were killed in Ras alAin on the eastern stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.

Two refugees were shot dead at Guvveci on March 5 on the western border.

The Syrian smuggler told the newspaper that refugees still cross the border but will 'either be killed or captured'."

 Even humane Sweden is getting tough on refugees (IRIN, link): "Back in November, it was like the end of innocence. Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson famously broke down in tears as Sweden, the European country that has accepted the most asylum seekers per capita in recent years, announced it was ending its open-door policy.

After being overwhelmed by the daily arrival of up to 10,000 asylum seekers, this was the first indication that the political sands had shifted. Shortly afterwards, temporary border checks were introduced on the Øresund Bridge, linking Copenhagen and Sweden’s third city, Malmo. The border controls extended into Denmark and the police later significantly reinforced border guard deployments in the south of the country.

The measures have significantly dented the number of new arrivals but the government is still preparing to pass a series of major amendments to Sweden’s Aliens Act that will reduce prospective asylum seekers’ access to full refugee status, permanent residency and family reunification.

While all these measures are being called ‘temporary’, they are Europe’s new normal and Sweden’s reputation as one of the few welcoming nations to refugees has taken a hit."

And see: profile: Sweden Immigration Detention (Global Detention Project, link)

 EU: European Parliament civil liberties committee report on migration and the situation in the Mediterranean

The report makes recommendations under a vast number of headings headings, including: solidarity, search and rescue, tackling human trafficking and crimina smuggling, relocation and resettlement, humanitarian admission and humanitarian visas, the Common European Asylm System (CEAS), the revision of the Dublin III Regulation, the Temporary Protection Directive, family unity and children, returns, a common EU list of "safe countries of origin", the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Frontex and its proposed replacement - the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Schengen and external borders, hotspots, criminal law and migration, cooperation with third countries, funding to third countries, the involvement of civil society, demographic trends, legal labour migration and the Blue Card Directive.

See: REPORT on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration (23.3.16, pdf). A plenary vote on the report is due to take place on 13 April.

Under the heading of civil society, the report "affirms that volunteer and civil-society initiatives dedicated to providing assistance to migrants should be promoted and, where appropriate, funded by the Commission and the Member States." However it makes no mention of recent moves in Greece to place NGOs and volunteer organisations under more stringent supervision. See: Registering of NGOs, details of their workers/volunteers and independent volunteers begins (Statewatch News Online, 2.3.16)

 EU: Black people in Europe report widespread racism in anti-immigration context (ENAR, link): "Racist political discourse is predominantly framed in the context of anti-immigration and targets migrants that are both Black and Muslims. As a result Black migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and Black Europeans are reportedly suffering an increase in violent hatred and discrimination across all areas of life.

Discrimination in employment is prevalent and barriers are erected at every stage to prevent black people from gaining employment that matches their skills and experience. In the United Kingdom, applicants with an African sounding surname need to send twice as many job applications as those with a White British sounding name to get an interview. Statistics across EU Member States show that people with an African origin have systematically higher unemployment rates than the national average, which is due in part to racial discrimination. In Finland, unemployment rates are more than three times higher for people of African origin (41.2%) compared to the national average (8.7%).

Black people are particularly exposed to police violence as well as racist violence and abuse from other members of the public. In Sweden, 17% of hate crimes targeted Black people in 2014 (1,075 in total). There is a lack of trust between Black communities and the police which arises from various methods used by the police such as racial profiling and lack of full investigation of racially motivated crimes. Some law enforcement personnel display clearly racist behaviours and the police forces in some Member States are described as institutionally racist."

See: Key findings (pdf) and the full report: Afrophobia in Europe: ENAR Shadow Report 2014-2015 (pdf)

 Photo gallery: Inside Bulgaria's 'Anti-Refugee' Villages (Balkan Insight, link): "A new book examines why the Bulgarian villages of Rozovo, Kalishte and Telish became notorious for refusing to accept refugees, with local residents accused of being xenophobes.

The new book The Strange Other, launched by the Fotofabrika foundation in Sofia on Sunday, asks villagers in Rozovo, Kalishte and Telish what provoked their anti-immigrant attitudes. The villagers respond that they protested against the refugees’ arrival because the Bulgarian authorities never informed them about the plans to send foreigners into their small, closed communities in 2013 and 2014. Fotofabrika says the book is intended to promote dialogue between Bulgarians and the newcomers."

 Refugee protection is politics (Open Democracy, link): "Proposals to improve the management of refugee protection often occur in a vacuum, removed from the political constraints that affect state behaviour in the international system. Elsewhere in this series, Bill Frelick describes how this political reality limits options. Proposals emphasizing state obligations to the international community or the ceding of authority to a global body are unlikely to be followed, as many theorists of international relations will tell you. States act out of self-interest and accepting high numbers of refugees is unlikely to serve that interest. As Angela Merkel’s recent offer to host hundreds of thousands of refugees illustrates, even when countries need foreign labour and resources, accepting refugees is often a hard political sell. Those serious about advancing refugee protection must not just see these debates as distractions. Protection is political and we have no choice but to engage."

 The role of the private sector in alleviating the refugee crisis (Devex, link): "The scale of the current Syrian refugee crisis has generated significant involvement from private actors, including corporations and individuals. With governments overwhelmed and unable to adequately address the situation, the private sector has a critical role to play in providing for immediate humanitarian needs, as well as supporting refugee resettlement and integration. Private sector involvement in economic development and job creation is also a key component of the long-term solution, which goes beyond this current crisis."

 Reviving the Mediterranean’s Lost Cosmopolitanism (Refugees Deeply, link): "Eastern Mediterranean cities that view migration as a threat today thrived on the ubiquitous presence of multicultural societies a century ago. Iason Athanasiadis opens our Reviving Cities series by explaining that the roots of today’s slow-motion refugee ‘disaster’ can be found in the region’s trend towards introversion"

 News (31.3.16)

Dutch may set up separate refugee centre for troublemakers (Dutch News, link): "Ministers and the refugee settlement agency COA are working on setting up a separate asylum seekers centre for those ‘who don’t behave’, the Telegraaf says on Thursday.

Sources in The Hague have confirmed the existence of the plans which are in a briefing junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff is due to send parliament this week, the paper says."

EU: Refugee crisis: Arrivals rocket in Italy amid warnings Turkey deal could force migrants on more dangerous routes (The Independent, link): "The number of refugees arriving in Italy is rising sharply amid fears that a controversial deal struck with Turkey could force asylum seekers to take longer and more dangerous routes to Europe.

The Italian interior ministry has documented 16,075 migrants crossing to its shores so far this year, compared to just over 10,000 during the same period in 2015.

Most were rescued from smugglers’ boats off the Libyan coast and brought ashore in Sicily by the coast guard."

Few new pledges at U.N. talks to resettle Syrian refugees (Reuters, link): "U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on countries on Wednesday to re-settle nearly half a million Syrian refugees in the next three years, but only Italy, Sweden and the United States immediately announced plans to play a part.

The United Nations refugee agency aims to re-settle some 480,000, about 10 percent of those now in neighbouring countries, by the end of 2018, but concedes it is battling to overcome widespread fear and political wrangling."

UN Secretary General says more help needed for Syrian refugees (UNHCR, link): "Addressing a one-day, high-level conference in Geneva on refugees from Syria, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said more needs to be done to provide resettlement and other answers for their plight.

"We are here to address the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time … This demands an exponential increase in global solidarity," he told the gathering at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, attended by the representatives of 92 countries together with governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

Some 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to flee across borders by five years of war, while another 6.6 million are internally displaced. While talks are underway to find lasting peace, the UN chief said more countries need to step up and provide solutions for Syrian refugees.

"The best way to offer hope to Syrians is by ending the conflict," the Secretary General said. "But until such talks bear fruit, the Syrian people and the region still face a desperate situation. The world must step up, with concrete actions and pledges. All countries can do more.""


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.3.16)
European policy is driving refugees to more dangerous routes across the Med (The Conversation, link): "It is estimated that in 2015, more than a million people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in search of safety and a better life. 3,770 are known to have died trying to make this journey during the same period. This so-called “migration crisis” is the largest humanitarian disaster to face Europe since the end of World War II.

That’s why we’ve been working to examine the conditions underpinning this recent migration across, and loss of life in, the Mediterranean.

Our first research brief , based on interviews with 600 people, including 500 refugees, shines a light on the reasons why so many risk everything on the dangerous sea crossing. It also offers an insight into why the EU response has been so ineffective."

This article is based on research undertaken as part of project Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis (MEDMIG) (link). More extensive findings are documented in the project's first report: Research Brief No. 1 March 2016 (pdf)

 Greece: Number of migrants reaching Greece surges again (ekathimerini.com, link): "Hundreds of migrants and refugees have arrived on Greek islands after days of low numbers, despite a European Union-Turkey agreement under which new arrivals will be sent back to Turkey.

Figures released by the Greek government Wednesday showed 766 people reached the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios and Kos in the 24 hours until Wednesday morning. The number is a roughly a three-fold jump compared with arrivals in previous days, when weather conditions had been poorer."

The increase in numbers comes less than a day after the authorities were apparently "encouraged" by the reduced numbers of arrivals: Authorities ‘encouraged’ by decreased refugee flow (ekatherimini, link).

And see: Flows from Turkey to Greece on sharp decline, while logistic assistance from member states continues (New Europe, link): "Just 11 days after the EU – Turkey agreement, progress on returns of irregular migrants to Turkey has been made, as Turkey sent back 76 irregular migrants on Thursday and 71 on Friday, 25-26 March 2016 in respect, as the European Commission spokesperson for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Natasha Bertaud announced in Brussels. In terms of arrivals, “the numbers are encouraging”, as “less than 1,000 people arrived last week. In detail, numbers of the arrivals are: 20 March: 1,667, 21 March: 600, 22 March: 260, 23 March: 0, 24 March: 161, 25 March: 78, 26 March: 73, 27 March: 232 and 28 March: 192."

 News (30.3.16)

Greece: stranded refugees and migrants clash with police in Idomeni (euronews, link): "Protesting refugees and migrants on Tuesday clashed with Greek police in the border town of Idomeni, next to the closed crossing between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Tension flared as police officers tried to move people away from the railway tracks, where there have been daily protests calling for the Macedonian government to reopen the border crossing."

Minister: Greece will process asylum claims in two weeks (EurActiv, link): "Greece will be able to process asylum claims within two weeks, including appeals, once a migration deal between the EU and Turkey takes full effect, a senior Greek official said on Tuesday (29 March).

Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas, who is in charge of coordinating Greece’s management of the refugee flow, said that all procedures pertaining to asylum requests would be sped up and examined within the space of a fortnight.

“Asylum requests will have to be examined within a week – and there is international help for this purpose– and administrative appeals will be examined within another week,” Vitsas told a late-night political talk show on Star TV.

The fast-tracked procedure will be formalised as part of a refugee bill to be submitted to parliament on Wednesday (30 March), he said."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.3.16)

Statewatch Analysis: Policing the internet: from terrorism and extremism to “content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees (pdf) by Chris Jones:

The EU’s deal with Turkey on refugees and migrants has been presented by its proponents as a quick and effective way to deal with the ongoing arrival of people in Europe. Its opponents maintain it is morally bankrupt and contrary to international law. Yet the EU’s approach to migrants and refugees is not solely concerned with such high-profile actions, and a whole host of new projects have been launched or given a new lease of life in recent months.

One of these projects is a new unit set up within Europol, the Internet Referral Unit (IRU). Originally set up to remove “terrorist and violent extremist” material from the internet, it will now also deal with “content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees”. The legal basis for the unit was established in secret “trilogue” meetings with the Parliament and the Commission, during negotiations on the new Europol Regulation

Greece eyes two-week turnaround for asylum claims, minister says (.ekathimerini.com, link)

"Greece will be able to process asylum claims within two weeks once a migration deal between the EU and Turkey takes full effect, a senior Greek official said Tuesday...

He said all those who entered Greece after a new EU migration deal with Turkey began to take effect on March 20, and whose asylum applications are not accepted, will be returned to Turkey on six ships chartered by EU border agency Frontex."

Greece-Macedonia border: Macedonia extends Border Emergency until end of year (MINA, link):

" The Macedonian Parliament on Monday voted to extend the state of emergency enforced in the areas on the southern and northern borders until 31 December 2016 as a result of the migrant crisis.

Speaking in Parliament, Defense Minister Zoran Jolevski said the motion on amending the decision approving an extension of the state of emergency came as a result of the growing number of migrants entering and passing through Macedonia.

The objective is to secure continuity of the execution of tasks by the army and security forces of the Interior Ministry in an attempt to guard and protect the state border."

UNHCR (29.3.16): 164,664 arrivals in 2016 in EU: 149,534 to Greece, 14,492 to Italy. 528 dead/missing in 2016.

Arrivals (UNHCR):

Wednesday, 23 March:  269
Thursday, 24 March:        83
Friday, 25 March:            149
Saturday, 26 March:           8
Sunday 27 March              17
Monday 28 March             57

It is reported that there was bad weather on these days - it is expected to improve early next week.

And: "Approximately 5,330 people are currently residing at Pireaus Port, where sanitary conditions are very basic. Transfers from Piraeus Port to other sites are limited as authorities face challenges in identifying new sites due to the lack of a comprehensive shelter allocation system for the sites/camps. In addition, whilst the demand for information on access to relocation, family relocation and asylum in Greece remains high, the Greek Asylum Service’s limited capacity is causing significant delays for first time appointments, with none available prior to May 2016."

Are you Syrious reports that on Monday:

"One boat with 35 people landed in the north coast of Lesvos... . Chios volunteers report that one boat with 49 refugees arrived...

Official Greek Government figures show that there is a total number of 50.146 refugees in Greece today. 4.289 on the islands, 14.430 in Attica, 2.879 in central Greece and 28.548 in the northern Greece. Number of arrivals in 24h period until 07:30AM was: 90 on Lesvos, 64 on Samos and 78 on Chios."

And: "WEATHER REPORT Monday night +24h: WARNING: Waves up to 1.5 meters high expected of the coast of Kastelorizo and Leros, 1 meter high for south east Samos and even 2 meters in north east Kos. ATTENTION:: 0.5 meters high waves of the coast of Lesvos and Chios."

Italy reports upsurge in migrants crossing from Libya (euobserver, link):

"The Italian coastguard reported on Monday (28 March) it had rescued 1,482 migrants off the Libyan coast in two days, a new indication that the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy is on the rise.

Some analysts had feared that the EU's focus on shutting down the so-called Balkan route would force migrants to aim for other ways of getting into Europe.

Last week, the United Nations refugee agency said in 2016 almost 14,500 people had arrived in Italy via Libya, which was 42.5 percent more than in the same period last year."

5 deadlines to watch on the EU-Turkey migration deal - New threats emerge to the agreement to control migrant flows (Politico, link)::

"Making the controversial EU-Turkey migration deal work was always going to be a huge logistical challenge. Now that the terror attacks in Brussels have stirred up fresh opposition, it’s a political one too....

If Greece does not change its laws and Turkey is still foot-dragging on granting full protection for non-Syrians, experts say, it will be another sign the deal is in trouble. EU officials say they hope that the message that migrants will be jailed and returned would be enough to significantly discourage new arrivals by the end of April." [emphasis added]

News (29.3.16)

Is Italy ready for the next wave of migrants? (The Local.it, link): "The "crossing season" for migrant boats from Libya to Italy has not yet begun, yet arrivals are already up on last year's count, raising questions about where the new wave of tens of thousands will be housed... Amid unseasonably fine weather and calm seas, warnings have been sounded in recent days over the number of migrants in Libya ready to attempt the perilous Mediterranean crossing - 500,000 according to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, while French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian puts it closer to 800,000."

Germany’s FM praises EU-Turkey refugee deal, critical of Balkan border closures (New Europe, link): "The closure of the Balkan route used by refugees caused a “humanitarian crisis” for Greece, according to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In an interview with Funke media group newspapers on March 28, the minister said: “Fewer refugees are coming to central Europe because they are stranded in Greece. A humanitarian crisis has arisen there. Getting rid of your own problems by putting European partners in distress – this isn’t how we should treat one another.”"

Poland says No to migrants after Brussels attack (euobserver, link): "Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo has said the Brussels attacks mean that Poland cannot take part in the EU’s migrant relocation scheme. "Twenty eight EU countries agreed to solve the issue through relocation. But I will say it very clearly: I do not see it possible to allow migrants in Poland at the moment," Szydlo told the Superstacja TV broadcaster on Wednesday (23 March)."

Chios, Greece: Police Neglect the Camp and Criminalise Activists Who Distribute Food (Moving Europe, link): "Yesterday, March 23 2016, an activist on Chios reported about police repression towards activists and moreover about the police neglecting the camp in Vial."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26-8.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal
Lesvos, Greece: Eric Kempson (22.3.16, link):

Faith in humanity restored!!!!! (YouTube, link)

"You have to watch this video of these amazing people who came to the aid of the refugee's facing a death march to Mytilene.
These are local people and tourists many of whom rented cars so that they could help.

Without this help the refugee's faced a death march with days of walking to Mytilene in the hot sun with children and infants
Brought tears to my eyes...Amazing!!!!"

Are You Syrious - posted 27.3.16:

"Last night Lesvos saw 73 arrivals until 7:30AM according to official reports, while volunteers report arrival of 3 boats with around 80 people on Samos and two boats with at least 80 people on Chios raising the number of people currently at Vial to 1346, with 140+ above the maximum limit. " and

"Human rights activist and a lawyer Electra Leda Koutra from Athens reported on one of the many cases where Greek institutions have proven to be insufficient to support most vulnerable refugees. This is what she has witnessed in Athens today: "Unaccompanied minor, detained "protectively" in a police station cell with other minors, all "in lack of a bed in a facility for minors", suffered a panick attack today. He started screaming and bumping his body and head all around the police cell walls. The other children got afraid, not knowing "what happened to him". The authorities' esponse: he was taken to the local medical service, where his temperature was taken and he was sent back to his cell, because "he is not sick".

When I insisted on him being examined by a child psychologist and psychiatrist, the police said that "we dont have that in the wider area" and suggested that I should call another police station "from tomorrow morning"." Electra points out: "It MUST be made clear that, in absense of a substantive guardianship, protection and reception system, these multi-traumatized children a) MUST remain in EU jurisdiction b) CANNOT remain in Greek jurisdiction without having their fundamental rights breached.""

EU Charter: thanks to Electra, FB link)

Article 41 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Right to good administration) provides that

“1. Every person (EVEN UNREGISTERED ASYLUM SEEKERS) has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union.

2. This right includes: (a) the right of every person to be HEARD, before any individual measure which would affect him or her adversely is taken; (c) the obligation of the administration to give reasons for its decisions.

3. Every person has the right to have the Union make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties, in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States.

4. Every person may write to the institutions of the Union in one of the languages of the Treaties and must have an answer in the same language”

The EU ‘Procedures Directive’ imposes on the Member States the obligation to provide to persons wishing to apply for asylum an effective opportunity to lodge their application within a reasonable time."

And "CHAPTER VI: JUSTICE

Article 47

Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial

Everyone whose rights and freedoms guaranteed by the law of the Union ar violated has the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal in compliance with the conditions laid down in this Article.

Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law. Everyone shall have the possibility of being advised, defended and epresented.

Legal aid shall be made available to those who lack sufficient resources in so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice."

Are you Syrious reports:

"Authorities advise refugees have three options: apply for asylum in Greece, apply for family reunification, apply for the relocation programme. The only way to apply for any of the options is with the Greek home office via Skype appointment between 10 and 11 am, but, according to many reports, it is almost impossible to have anyone to answer the Skype call due to so many refugees trying to get an appointment. Additionally, not many refugees do have access to Skype. !

Austria: "Pushbacks challenged: Report by Are You Syrious (link)

"Administrative Court of Austria has currently dealing with a lawsuit refugees filed against the state for their pushbacks. Right before the Balkan route was closed, hundreds of Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees were pushed back from Austria to Slovenia. These refugees who were pushed back claim in their lawsuit that they were held at the border zone without toilets or any supplies in horrendous conditions, as well as that there were no reasons given to them in regards to why they were pushed back to Slovenia. According to Leschanz, the refugees prime point in the lawsuit asks why they were treated differently than other refugees that passed through, even if they fled the same reasons as the other refugees who were allowed to cross on the 6th March. Indeed, when the West Balkan route's closure was announced, thousands could pass, some hundreds were pushed back by a seemingly random choice." [emphasis added]

Online info of the Greek asylum service. (thanks to Electra, link)

" you will have to present to you in person to the regional offices of asylum of our service in order to place your request. The Regional offices are located in Athens, Thessaloniki, orestiada and v.c.."

Comment: Neither the law nor practice directions of the asylum office mentions skype or call as a means of "approaching" the asylum service.

" however, you can introduce you to our service accompanied by a lawyer whose remuneration will be exclusively at your expense. An interpreter will be held at your disposal for you To help introduce your request.'

Comment: Not all days translators for each language are available. Legal aid should be considered a given.

General comment. The Asylum Office currently has limited capacities, compared to the vast needs. This, in practice, means it cannot be able to face massive asylum claim requests. It must declare so openly and search for solutions, instead of becoming an accomplice, by act and ommission, to returns that breach the right to human life and dignity, thus the crimes of exposure, torture and homicide."

News (26-28.3.16)

Greece considers to offer refugees & migrants “residence permit” for €250K real estate investment (Keep Talking Greece, link): "Theoretically,, this is possible. Practically, Mardas’ revelations are totally inopportune for the time being with 50,000 refugees and migrants spending their days and nights at open camping areas, often in appalling living conditions."

Tens of drowned bodies found off Libyan shores (Libya Observer, link): "Libyan Coast Guard found Friday tens of drowned bodies of migrants, who are likely to be from Eritrea and Niger, off Al-Garaboulli shores, 75 km eastern Tripoli.The Head of Coast Guard in Al-Garaboulli, Abdullatif Al-Munser, said the decomposed bodies that came ashore Al-Garaboulli suggest that the boat, which those migrants were on, drowned days ago."

EU Law on International Protection in a Nutshell (User-Friendly) (The Press Project): "Overall, although the agreement provides a number of safeguards in accordance with EU and international law, it seems questionable whether these safeguards will be established and implemented."

Greece starts evacuating Idomeni border camp as new arrivals slow (ekathimerini.com, link) "Greece has begun evacuating migrants from the main Idomeni camp on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) border, while the flow of refugees arriving on Aegean islands has slowed to a trickle, officials said Saturday.... Greek authorities have used the relative calm to put in place logistics to send people back, including the deployment of 4,000 security personnel and asylum experts. All new arrivals in Greece are being taken to registration centres set up on five Aegean islands."

Albania arresting refugees at its borders (The Press Project, link): "Albanian police arrested seven Syrian refugees Saturday morning, near the border outpost of Kakavijë on the grounds that they entered the country illegally, according to an official statement"

Refugees pay to go to prison (Refugee trail, link): "Since Sunday, refugees who arrive on the Greek islands are by and large brought into prisons with the aim of deporting them. The places are officially called “hotspots”, but both police, visitors and inmates call them prisons. The prisoners have a legal right to apply for asylum, but have so far had great difficulty in lodging their requests. They have to pay to go to prison and they are fed through a fence."

Pope Francis slams Europe's 'anaesthetized conscience' over refugees (dailysabah.com, link): "Pope Francis decried what he called Europe's "indifferent and anaesthetized conscience" over migrants, during Good Friday prayers in Rome during which he also slammed paedophile priests, arms dealers and fundamentalists.... "O Cross of Christ, today we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas which have become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anaesthetized conscience," the 79-year old pontiff said, referring to the thousands who set off in unseaworthy boats to reach Greece and the rest of Europe. Francis has long called for the global community to open its doors to refugees and fight xenophobia."

and Pope slams 'rejection' of migrants, refugees in Easter message (Yahoo Nrews. link): The Easter message of the risen Christ... invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees... fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. "All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.""

Austria Ready to Help Prevent Opening of New Migrant Route, Bulgaria Says (novinite.com, link): "Austria is ready to support Bulgaria’sefforts to improve border security in view of potential increase in migration pressure, including by secondment of police officers, a senior Austrian official has said. The assurance of support has come from Austria's Director General for Public Security, "

Locals Throw Pigs’ Heads at Migrant Camp Gate in Greece (Greek Reporter, link): "Locals threw pigs’ heads at the gates of a new migrant camp near Veria in northern Greece, protesting the arrival of six buses full of refugees. On Saturday night, the first six buses carrying refugees and migrants arrived at the army camp Armatolos Kokkinos near the Aghia Varvara village. The camp is to serve as a hospitality center for migrants and refugees. The refugees were transferred from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia-Greece border in Idomeni."

EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Is Vulnerable to Legal Challenge (Chatham House, link): "The vast majority of refugees are hosted by countries in developing regions, with many refugees finding themselves in situations of protracted displacement. Reliance by the EU on a scheme that emphasises removal of refugees to a country already struggling with a sizeable refugee population may have unforeseen implications for the principle of international solidarity in responding to refugee emergencies and access to asylum."

Bulgaria says ready to erect fence on border with Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Bulgaria is ready to build a fence on its border with Greece to keep out migrants amid fears they could head its way after the Western Balkan route was closed, Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said on Friday."

International volunteers recycle clothes for refugees on Lesbos (DW, link): "As Athens scrambles to implement a deal between the EU and Turkey, for those helping refugees on the ground very little has changed. Gemima Harvey reports on a special group of volunteers on Lesbos."

UN Rights Chief Expresses Serious Concerns Over EU-Turkey Agreement (Greek Reporter, link)

Greece: PM Tsipras chairs meeting on refugee issue (ANAmpa, link)

Migrants protest to be let through Greek-Macedonian border (Reuters, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal
Greece: ECHR complaint on Afghan minors in Greece communicated to Greek government: See: Electra (link)

I have just been informed that the European Court Of Human Rights (ECHR) decided to communicate the Afghan unaccompanied minors' application to the Greek Government and to officially grant them anonymity throughout the procedure.

As for the interim measures' request, the Court decided to count on the assurances of the Greek Government that once these applicants approach the national Asylum Service, they will IMMEDIATELY receive the apropriate protection, including guardianship and representation, access to the asylum procedure and care on reunification with family members abroad, the satisfaction of the children's needs concerning "accomodation with adult relatives. a foster family, accomodations with special infrastructures suitable for minors, protection against the danger of trafficking or abuse. The greek authorities also committed to the Court that "they will try to locate, as soon as possible, the members of the minors family, taking other protective measures (long list) and generally complying with the obligatins towards them, "according to the best inerest of the child".

The Court underlined that "if the assurances given are not complied with, besides the cooperation of the applicant minors, they can ask the Court for interim protection".
The communication of an application usually takes years. This one was communicated about 10 days after it was lodged.

It is now open for third party interventions
. Those NGOs wishing to intervene and provide amicus curiae, are invited to do so. There already has been expressed an interest for intervention by the French Union of Immigration Lawyers."

European Commission "state of play" report: 22.3.16 (previous report 1.2.16)

After a gap of almost two months the European Commission has just published the latest state of play statistics (dated 21 and 22 March 2016). However, the Press release is dated: 29 January 2016 (which means it is listed on p10 of the Commission Press release site) making it very difficult for journalists and civil society to find - are they try to hide "bad news"?

European Commission: State of Play: Measures to Address the Refugee Crisis (dated 29 January 2016, pdf but containing statistics dated 22 March)

Overall: very little change except Hotspots.

Relocation: Member States' Support to Emergency Relocation Mechanism (pdf)

Greece up from 202 to 569 relocated. Italy: up from 240 to 384. Was 17 Member States offering only 4,237 places now up slightly with 22 Member States’ offering 7,015 places out of a total of 160,000 places they are supposed to have made available. Pitifully slow progress.

Also includes the responses of just 9 Member States (although all have been notified) responses to calls for: 374 EASO experts - 201 forthcoming; Poseidon Rapid Intervention 759 towards 1,112; response to Frontex call for ongoing Joint Operations for 1,412 border guards only 356 forthcoming.

Hotspots: State of Play of Hotspot capacity (dated 21 March 2016, pdf)

Greece: Lesvos had a "reception" capacity of 2,709 (1.2.16) now 1,500. Number of Frontex officers was 184, now 303. Chios: had 2,250 "reception" places, now 1,000 - was 99 Frontex officers, now 105. Samos had "reception" capacity of 650, now 850 with 69 Frontex official up from 53. Leros had a "reception" capacity of 330, now 1,000 with 37 Frontex officials up from 31. Kos had a "reception" capacity of 290 now 1,000 with 45 Frontex officials down from 54.

Figures for Italy unchanged except for Frontex officials up slightly in Lampedusa and Pozzallo.

Returns: Returns since September 2015 (pdf)

The number of "returns" from Italy since September last year was 153, now 175. For Greece was nil, still nil.

The total number of "Joint Frontex Return Flights" was 683 since September last year and is now 824.

Financial pledges: Member States' financial pledges since 23 September 2015 (pdf)

The shortfall for the Africa Trust was 1,718.59 (million euro) and is now the same. The shortfall for the Syria Trust Fund was 447.94 (million euro) and is now 439.95 (million euro).

Unlike the 1.2.16 pledges statistics the ones for 21 March do not mention pledged humanitarian aid (inc to UNHCR).

Aid: Member States' Support to Civil Protection Mechanism - no data provided.

European Commission "State of Play" reports since September 2015 now here

Samos Island Greece: March 21: Day 2 of the EU/Turkey Pact: Glimpsing the Nightmares to Come (link):

"Then a man stood up holding a child and a fuel can and began to throw the contents over himself and the people around him. Then with a cigarette lighter in his hand shouted that if the rescue boat came any nearer he would use the lighter. The German boat backed off with the crew trying to re-assure the refugees that they were there to help them and not to return them to Turkey. Then the patrol boat lowered a very small inflatable with 2 policemen and they slowly approached the refugee boat and eventually passed a rope. With this the inflatable towed the refugees to the shore. There were 52 Syrian refugees in the boat of whom about a third were young children...."

Chios, Greece: You are not supposed to be here (refugeetrail, link):

"Last night, two groups of independent activists got apprehended and interrogated for hours by police for standing on a public street outside the Vial hotspot in Chios. They have been visiting the hotspot to keep an independent eye on what is happening there. Inmates told us the food and water there were insufficient, so we have tried bringing them some.

While the activists enjoyed their five-hour police station hangout, the cops pleaded with them to just register, go by protocol, and work under the camp command. They refused.

Refusing to work in a refugee prison under the command of the prison guards is a principled and practical decision. It’s the official line of Doctors without borders, it’s the line the UN refugee agency is taking in the Greek hotspots. “We refuse to facilitate this cruelty,” MSF said. It’s a way to prevent your work being perverted. It’s also a way to put pressure on the authorities to stop mass incarceration...."

Greece: Government to submit bill for implementation of the EU-Turkey deal next Wed (ANAmna, link):

"The government will table in parliament on March 30 a draft bill that will address issues relating the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, the head of Greece’s coordinating body for the management of the refugee crisis said on Thursday. ...

Responding to a question whether any EU officials have arrived to staff asylum services, Kyritsis said they are expected to arrive by March 28, but that nobody has arrived yet.

Asked to whether Greece plans to adopt any legislative directives proclaiming Turkey as a safe third country, he referred to a comment by government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili who had said that “the Greek side doesn’t find it necessary to legislate on this.”

Kyritsis also announced that the government is preparing 30,000 more spots in the next six months, adding that the locations are “more or less delimited”, but noted that any announcements cannot be made by him because the issue is still being discussed with local authorities.

Responding to a critical comment on the hotspots being turned into detention centers, Kyritsis said they are not detention centers but “closed centers, in the sense that refugees must be under some restrictions and be available to Greek authorities.” [emphasis added]

Lesvos, Greece: The Hope Centre, Elpis (link)

"Hi All,

...as you will all be aware/have read or heard via the many Facebook posts and the news in general, the whole situation has changed dramatically on Lesvos over the past week and is increasingly becoming worse all over, especially on the Greek mainland and on the borders. The situation is just heartbreaking and horrendous with so many people having to endure the most horrific conditions, as well as complete violation of their human rights, and with no one really knowing what is going to happen next.

What we do know is that people are still needing much support, and will be needing a lot more support, especially in the way of safe accommodation. And what we also believe is that this barbaric EU/Turkey agreement is not going to stop people attempting to reach Lesvos/Europe, but will just increase the danger risk to them. So as far as The Hope Centre goes, we are very much continuing to work hard and going ahead with developing the centre into an open hearted, safe and warm welcoming space to support those who will maybe be seeking asylum in Greece, or those who continue to arrive and are in need of support, in any way we are able to provide it. We are still very much needing more volunteers to work at The Hope Centre and the tasks are many and varied. The work is mainly repairs/renovation work, skilled and unskilled (though we prefer to call that 'creative') such as painting, plastering, building, carpentry, electrical, fencing, welding, and much garden landscape work/permaculture. If you are able to help in any way or know others who would be interested, that would be just wonderful....just turn up and you will be warmly welcomed with much gratitude

Thank you again so much for all your love and support

Much love and many Hugs to all, Cookie xxx - on behalf of The Hope Centre Elpis"

The Paradox of the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal (MPI, link):

"UNHCR, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Save the Children, among others, have all withdrawn services out of concern for the conditions and rights violations that will ensue. Without their support, the process loses both legitimacy and resources.

This, in turn, raises a more significant question about the evident ad hoc implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. Much of the process is being worked out on the ground by officials who are still unclear about the legal ramifications of their decisions. This may be deliberate: to increase the numbers returned, policymakers may have to feign a reality that does not currently exist, not just with regard to conditions in Turkey, but also with respect to offering arrivals a real and informed opportunity to make an asylum claim.

In doing so EU leaders would be making a calculated risk. It will take time for a case to reach either the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) or the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to find the processes unlawful. The scheme has already been declared "extraordinary" and "temporary," and individuals summarily returned are unlikely to have legal recourse."
[emphasis added]

Greece: Q&A: Relocation Program To EU Countries (News that moves, link): "Some people currently in Greece can apply for the EU Relocation Program (EASO). The program allows asylum seekers to be legally relocated from Greece and Italy to another EU country, without cost, where the asylum application will be considered." and What Is The Situation With Camps in Northern Greece? (link): "Where are the camps?"

News (25.3.16)

Greece pledges to provide shelters for 50,000 refugees within 20 days (ekathimerini.com, link): "Kyritsis also announced the creation of a monitoring mechanism under the general secretary of the Defense Ministry, Yiannis Tafyllis.."

Greece: Humanitarian crisis growing in Athens port, charity warns - Border closures have led to about 5,000 refugees trapped in Piraeus amid ‘appalling conditions’, says Human Rights Watch (Guardian, link)

EU readies for massive migration flows from Libya (euractiv, link): "EU leaders will discuss the critical situation in Libya and potential waves of immigrants trying to reach Europe on 18 April, EurActiv Greece has been informed."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal
Greek govt’ spokeswoman: We will not legislate for “Turkey as Safe Third Country” (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"While Greece’s European partners awaiting for Greece to pass legislation to accept Turkey as “safe 3rd country” in order to accelerate sending back refugees and migrants arriving after March 20th, Athens does not seem willing to do so.

Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said so during a press briefing on Wednesday.:

“There is no need for such legislation. We will not legislate for Turkey as a safe third country. There is not in this context, as you can see, and because the refugees will be considered individually and not collectively. According to each case, it will be examined also if it is safe that this specific person to return, to be returned to another country. Do not forget that countries other than Turkey, could not be a safe destination for a refugee. This will depend on the individual cases and specifically to what it will be applied for each one of the refugees."

Report from Greece: "Lesvos - Turkey returns started. Refugees will be returned (2 return officers for each returnee, so 50 Dutch officers landed on the island) BY PLANE. It seems the newcomers were unable to stay for even a week. We demand from the Greek authorities, since UNHCR is not IN (but only around) Moria, to let the public know the way in which it ensured that the newcomers had a practicl and effective chance to seek asylum and obtain legal aid, as well as concerning the procedural safeguards applying for an effective exercise of the right to appeal.

We also would like to know the way in which UNHCR, representing the refugees in absence of specific legal representation, and being present on the island with potent personnel, welcoming and informing refugees at the shore, ensures that noone leaves the island without having effectively exercised the above"

Germany: neo-Nazis and the market in asylum reception (IRR, link): "The German government’s use of the largely unregulated private security sector in the reception and care of asylum seekers has led to neo-Nazis having unrestricted access to the very people they want to harm."

Oxfam suspends aid operations in Moria camp in protest to the suspension of migrants’ rights by the EU and Turkey (link):

"Oxfam has today suspended all of its operations in the Moria camp, on the Greek island of Lesvos, in response to the deteriorating treatment of migrants due to the recent deal struck between the EU and Turkey.

Over the last few days, there has been a jump in the number of people on the move arriving to Moria. In response, the Greek authorities are transforming reception facilities into detention centers, where people will be held pending their mass return to Turkey, following the deal last week. People’s freedom of movement in Moria has been severely restricted and the camp has been placed under the authority of the Interior Ministry.

Oxfam is committed to providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, but it is against Oxfam principles to work in closed centers, where the respect of fundamental rights cannot be guaranteed. Humanitarian aid should be delivered in a neutral environment, where refugees have freedom of movement." [emphasis added]

UN rights chief fears "collective expulsions" under EU-Turkey deal (TRF, link):

"The top United Nations human rights official voiced concern on Thursday that a deal to manage migrant flows struck by the European Union and Turkey could lead to "collective expulsions" of refugees in violation of international law " [emphasis added]

Blind and wheelchair-bound migrants stand trial in Orban’s Hungary (FT, link):

"Hungarian authorities, Fattom Hassun and Ghazy Faisa Hamad are security threats. They were arrested under a law passed in September — in the heat of Europe’s migrant crisis — that makes it a criminal offence to interfere with the country’s border fence...

In the last seven months, Hungary’s courts have held 2,189 trials for border crimes. Prosecutions have been swift and efficient — 2,162 defendants, or 99 per cent, were convicted. In practice, judges have chosen expulsions and entry bans over prison sentences, meaning refugees found guilty can be banned from entering Schengen countries for several years."

What Are My Rights If I Get International Protection in Greece? What Is The Difference Between Asylum And Subsidiary Protection? (News That Moves, link)

UNHCR Daily Report (24.3.16):

"Condition of People: In Greece, frustration and tension amongst refugees and migrants are on the rise on the islands and the mainland. In Eidomeni, two people attempted to immolate themselves as a sign of protest and were transferred to the hospital for appropriate care." and

"In light of current developments, UNHCR redefined its role in Greece. The UN Agency for Refugees has until now been supporting the authorities in the so-called "hotspots" on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the new provisions, these sites have now become detention facilities. Accordingly, and in line with UNHCR’s policy on opposing mandatory detention, UNHCR has suspended some activities at all closed centres on the islands. This includes provision of transport to and from these sites. However, UNHCR will maintain a presence to carry out protection monitoring to ensure that refugee and human rights standards are upheld, and to provide information on the rights and procedures to seek asylum. UNHCR staff will also continue to be present at the shoreline and sea port to provide life-saving assistance (including transport to hospitals where needed). UNHCR is counselling new arrivals on asylum in Greece, including on family reunification and on access to services as well as identifying people with specific needs." and

"MSF Sea also denounced any participation in the transportation of refugees and migrants from the island of Lesvos into detention centres. According to their Twitter posts, “continuing to work inside #Moria would make [them] complicit in a system [they] consider to be both unfair and inhumane”. However, sea rescue activities in north Lesvos will continue."

Greece: Refugee sets himself alight as EU's grand plan to staunch exodus of asylum seekers unravels - The UN's refugee agency suspends cooperation with EU detention and deportation plan on Greek islands (Daily Telegraph, link)

Greece: MSF, Oxfam pull out of Lesbos hotspot in yet another blow to EU (euractiv, link):

"International aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said yesterday (23 March) it had suspended activities at a refugee centre on the Greek island of Lesbos to avoid being complicit in an “unfair and inhumane” EU deal to send newcomers back to Turkey. Oxfam did the same hours later.

The move came a day after the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it had suspended some activities in Greece, saying reception centres had become “detention facilities”."

and: Aid agencies suspending operations in Greece (euobserver, link) and Human Rights Watch: Greece: Humanitarian Crisis at Athens Port - EU, Greek Authorities Should Urgently Address Needs (link): "Thousands of asylum seekers and migrants at the Athens port of Piraeus face appalling conditions as the crisis for people trapped in Greece due to border closures intensifies, Human Rights Watch said today. The lack of government involvement, poor organization, and scarce resources, as well as lack of information, anxiety, and fear about the new European Union-Turkey deal, are contributing to insecurity and suffering."

Greece: Lesbos Mayor Attacks EU as Refugees Continue to Arrive (m.voanews.com,link): "Under the new agreement, they should be sent back to Turkey. However, there is no indication of when or how that will happen. Lesbos Mayor Spyros Gallinos told VOA he has had no clarity from Athens or Brussels. The new deal has been forced on Lesbos, Gallinos says, adding that EU policymakers dragged their feet for a year and a half in finding any kind of solution for the migration issue, and then overnight came up with a decision that they want to enforce immediately."

News (24.3.16)

Greece: Humanitarian crisis growing in Athens port, charity warns - Border closures have led to about 5,000 refugees trapped in Piraeus amid ‘appalling conditions’, says Human Rights Watch (Guardian, link): "“The suffering in Piraeus is a direct consequence of Europe’s failure to respond in a legal and compassionate way to the crisis on its shores..”About 5,000 men, women and children were dependent entirely on volunteers in the absence of any visible government support, the watchdog said. Fights had erupted as tensions escalated, with aid workers often forced to intervene."

Refugee crisis: key aid agencies refuse any role in 'mass expulsion' - UNHCR and Médecins Sans Frontières say they will not be involved with EU-Turkey deal to send people back from Greece (Guardian, link): "The UN refugee agency said it was suspending most of its activities in refugee centres on the Greek islands because they were now being used as detention facilities for people due to be sent back to Turkey. UNHCR was later joined by Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children. All five said they did not want to be involved in the blanket expulsion of refugees because it contravened international law.".

EU border agency has under a third of requested police (ekathimerini.com., link): "Frontex, which coordinates border patrols and collects intelligence about the bloc's frontiers, had called on European countries Friday to provide 1,500 police and 50 readmission experts "to support Greece in returning migrants to Turkey." Only 396 police officers and 47 readmission experts have been offered, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Warsaw-based agency... Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri said. Leggeri had earlier said: "It is important to stress that Frontex can only return people once the Greek authorities have thoroughly analyzed each individual case and issued a final return decision."."UPDATE: What is Happening in Moria Camp in Lesvos? (newsthatmoves.org, link): : "On Saturday March 19 the municipality confirmed to the humanitarian community in Lesvos that Moria registration site would become a closed centre as a direct result of the EU Turkey deal announced on Friday March 18. Since Monday March 21, Moria has been operating as a closed centre for registration of ‘irregular migration’. People coming into the centre will not be allowed to leave. Their movements within the site itself, which has a capacity of around 2500, are also restricted."

Greece deploys riot police squads near Idomeni refugees camp (.keeptalkinggreece.com, link): "The tension among the refugees and migrants stuck in Idomeni camp is growing higher and higher. It looks as if they are divided in two groups: those who insist on protesting and even go so far to enforce a hunger strike among the people, hoping that the borders will be open, and those more moderate, mostly families with children to feed. It is quite possible that those leading the protests also hinder the moderate ones to move into accommodation camps across set up Greece."

What a silly headline: NGOs abandon Greece, oppose EU-Turkey refugee plan (eurativ, link): "NGOs helping the Greek government cope with the refugee crisis have decided to cease operations for practical reasons, as well as in opposition to the “inhumane” EU-Turkey deal.." and: UNHCR refuses to play ball with EU, as ‘hotspots’ become prisons (euractiv, link): "The United Nations refugee agency has refused to get involved in the refugee returns organised by the EU under its recent deal with Turkey, claiming that the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants are received, assisted, and registered, have become prisons."

Greece: Armed forces running out of shelter for migrants (ekathimerini.com., link) "The Greek armed forces are beginning to run out of places to host refugees as new arrivals continue to reach the country, which prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to call NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday to express concern about the limited impact of naval patrols in the Aegean.": "


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal
Turkey ‘safe country’ sham revealed as dozens of Afghans forcibly returned hours after EU refugee deal (AI, link):

"Turkey’s forcible return of around 30 Afghan asylum seekers just hours after the European Union (EU)-Turkey refugee deal came into force shows that implementing the deal would risk refugees’ lives from the word go, Amnesty International said.

The organization has received credible information indicating that Turkey violated European and international law by forcibly returning the asylum-seekers, who fear attacks by the Taliban, to Kabul without granting them access to an asylum procedure.

H.R. said that he had been part of a group trying to reach Greece by boat. They were apprehended by the Turkish coastguard and then detained in the western coastal city of Izmir.

After five days in detention, he said he was physically forced to put his thumbprint on a document “agreeing” to a voluntary return to Afghanistan. He was not given a copy of the document. H.R. told Amnesty International by phone:

“We don’t want to go back because we are in danger in Afghanistan. If we go back, we will be killed by the Taliban.”"

Your Human Rights Being Destroyed! (Eric Kempson, Lesvos, video link): All corncerned about human rights and the rights of refugees should watch.

Turkey will not give in to EU on refugee laws (euobserver, link):

"Greece this week is signing off legislation to designate Turkey a “safe third country” to allow Greek authorities to return nationalities like Afghans and Iraqis back to Turkey. Turkey does not apply the Refugee Convention to non-Europeans, so EU officials want Ankara to enact legislation or other rules to make sure it applies an “equivalent” protection level."

Chios, Greece: On the Refugee Trail: “This is not a camp, it’s a prison!” (link):

"Since yesterday, refugees arriving on the Greek islands have been detained to have them ready for deportation. They don’t know what’s happening to them, volunteers are mostly banned from assisting and the police doesn’t have instructions on how to register and manage the new arrivals. Now they must wait behind barbed wire fences, because Europe was in a hurry to stop them coming. The police doesn’t know how to take their asylum requests, which breaches the refugee convention, and the UNHCR has told the EU that the authorities have crossed a red line; it won’t deliver refugees to them anymore.!" and

Refugees in the detention camp for refugees (FB link) "after their arrival in Chios island of Greece. Borders are closed and after the new deal of Europe with Greece and Turkey they fear deportation. "Distributing sanitary products and biscuits in the Chios hotspot, where refugees who just arrived are waiting to be deported. "We get food three times a day. But sometimes we are hungry, especially the children."" also

Yesterday we went to the Vial hotspot in Chios. [with video] Refugees are imprisoned there, waiting to be deported. They don't have enough water, food or blankets. They don't have electricity or SIM cards and only limited internet. Many can't get in touch with their families. The police told us not to talk with them through the fence. People who want to apply for asylum can't, because the police has no idea what the new procedures are supposed to be. This is in breach of the refugee convention, the international regulation of refugees' rights. As I walked away, having been told off by police, a refugee called out: 'Tell people about this!' [emphasis added]

Greece PRESS RELEASE: LESVOS SOLIDARITY: PIPKA

"PIKPA is an open, self-organised refugee camp in Mytilene, Lesvos. We distribute food & clothes to the port, Kara Tepe, Moria & to other refugee groups"

A few hours after the EU agreed on the barbaric measures of the EU/Turkey deal, a massive movement of refugees from the island of Lesvos towards the mainland started. The refugees received no clear information about where they were heading or about their rights. It was apparent that the government did not and does not have a plan on how shelter and health care services can be provided in the new destinations.

At the same time, the mayor of Mytilene announced to a group of representatives of Lesvos Solidarity that the space of PIKPA has to be evacuated. This means that the vulnerable cases that the camp is giving shelter to (people with long term health conditions, disabilities, single parent families, elderly etc) will have to leave immediately so that the mayor can transform the space into a children'’s camp and a sports center. After the new measures he said, there will be no need for
solidarity shelter camps....

Pikpa Solidarity camp, which has been accused by the municipality for “illegal and irregular actions”, has been for three and a half years been a strong solidarity hub, known all around the world. We will not allow our solidarity struggle to get destroyed due to the horrific and inhumane measures that the EU has decided to apply."

And: PIPKA: "We have created information sheets in Arabic and Farsi: It states that if you are in need of international protection and would be at risk on return in your home country, that you should apply for asylum. It also says family reunification (all) and relocation (Arabic only) are options. It stresses the right to claim asylum and that we advise people to do so. Please share. Thanks" Link to Information Sheets

EU-Turkey Deal: Can It Be Legally Implemented? (News that moves, link)

Press Release on Chios, Greece (link);

"Ever since the new deal between the EU and Turkey was implemented on Sunday, all refugees arriving on Greek islands are being held in detention. Here, on Chios, all people are being brought to this very place, because it is the only facility that has proper prison-like equipment to keep refugees inside and helpers and goods outside.... Most importantly, refugees do not get access to the Greek Asylum Service here. There is no official representative here, no way to claim Asylum.

Helpers are not allowed to access. Food and Supplies have been thrown over the fence or handed through under it.

There is no press there."

Why the EU-Turkey Migrant Deal Is a Moral Disaster (link): by Bridget Anderson:

"It proposes a collective expulsion that debases the value of respect for human rights that Western Europe has prided itself on since the end of World War II, and that the narrative of the EU has been constructed around. This is compounded by swapping desperate human beings one for one, treating people as if they are commensurable and tradable, which is morally bankrupt. Each of those people on boats has their own history. It is desperation—not ignorance or foolhardiness—that pushes them to risk their lives. People who have no hope of getting resettled because they are the wrong nationality will continue to risk their lives because they have no alternatives....

Legally, Turkey cannot be considered a safe haven in the same way that European states are. Turkey has ratified the U.N. Convention on the Status of Refugees, which recognizes and defines the status of “refugee” and also sets out the responsibilities of states when people make such claims. However, Turkey stipulated a “geographical limitation,” claiming only those fleeing “events in Europe” can get full refugee status....

this new agreement between Turkey and the EU goes further than just undermining law. It undermines the very idea of safe haven that goes back centuries. This agreement involves rejecting people without listening to their asylum claims, including people coming from states that we know are riven with poverty and conflict, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Europe is deeply implicated in the violence that has produced the conditions people are now fleeing.".

NGOs take step back as return of refugees by Greece approaches (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Staff from nongovernmental organizations were being withdrawn from the Idomeni refugee camp in northern Greece on Tuesday as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also said it would be taking a less active role in providing assistance on the Greek islands in the wake of the European Union’s agreement with Turkey....

“Under the new provisions, these so-called hot spots have now become detention centers,” said UNHCR spokewoman Melissa Fleming.

Until Sunday, refugees arriving on Lesvos had been free to leave the Moria hot spot and continue their journeys but under the terms of the agreement with Turkey, Greek authorities now have to hold them there or at one of four other centers set up on the Aegean islands of Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos, pending the outcome of their asylum applications." and

More aid agencies pull out of Greek camps, spurning EU deal (ekathimerini.com, link): "Aid agencies said cooperating with the Greeks at detention centers would make them complicit to a practice which was “unfair and inhumane.”:

PRELIMINARY REPORT ON REFUGEE CAMPS - "PLEIADES" HELLENIC ACTION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (link): "Refugee Camps in Northern Greece
A Brief Report on Living Conditions - Based on information available on March 21, 2016 "

News (23.3.16)

Brussels Attacks Fuel Debate Over Migrants in a Fractured Europe (INYT, link) "It did not take long. Almost as soon as the bombs went off in Brussels on Tuesday morning, the new act of terrorism in the heart of Europe was employed in the bitter debate about the influx of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal
EU fishing boats to work for the state by reporting refugee boats: Refugee crisis: EU Fisheries Control Agency to help detect migrant boats (pdf):

"The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) which centralises and coordinates EU member states’ fisheries inspections, will be empowered to use the data provided by its ship reporting systems to detect vessels carrying migrants under updated rules approved by Parliament's Fisheries Committee on Tuesday. It will also be able to and conduct new types of operations to disrupt people smuggling routes....

providing surveillance and communication services that use state-of-the-art technology, including space-based and ground infrastructure and sensors mounted on any kind of platform, such as drones."

UNHCR: Daily report (21.3.16)

"UNHCR is concerned that the EU-Turkey deal is being prematurely implemented without required safeguards in place in Greece. At present, Greece does not have the systems on any of the islands for assessing asylum claims. Greece also does not have yet the proper conditions in place for people to decently and safely accommodate people pending their decision....

UNHCR will not participate in any way in procedures or processes of returning persons in need of international protection to Turkey

As a result of the 18 March agreement between the EU Council and Turkey, the Greek authorities began implementing new procedures. Over the weekend, for people registered prior to 20 March, Greek authorities provided additional ferry transport from the islands of Lesvos and Chios to the mainland. Refugees and migrants arriving to the Greek islands and registered as of 20 March are brought from the shores to the hotspots (on the islands where hotspots are established). Authorities in Athens confirmed hotspots are being converted into closed facilities and will be managed by the Hellenic Police.."

UNHCR redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect (UNHCR, (pdf)::

"UNHCR has till now been supporting the authorities in the so-called "hotspots" on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the new provisions, these sites have now become detention facilities. Accordingly, and in line with our policy on opposing mandatory detention, we have suspended some of our activities at all closed centres on the islands. This includes provision of transport to and from these sites."

UN slams migrant 'detention facilities' in Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "The UN refugee agency on Tuesday harshly criticized an EU-Turkey deal on curbing the influx of migrants to Greece, saying reception centers had become “detention facilities,” and suspended some activities in the country."

Secret EU plan to deport 80,000 Afghans: Revealed: Confidential EU discussion document proposes using aid summit as 'leverage' for removal of migrants to Afghanistan, as Brussels relies on chequebook diplomacy to curtail the crisis (Daily Telegraph, link):

"More than 80,000 Afghans will need to be deported from Europe “in the near future” under a secret EU plan, amid warnings of a new influx as parts of the country fall back under Taliban control.

The European Commission should threaten to reduce aid that provides 40 per cent of Afghanistan's GDP unless the "difficult" Kabul government agrees to the mass removal of tens of thousands of failed asylum migrants, a leaked document suggests. It admits the threat, if carried through, could result in the collapse of the fragile state....The EU has publicly embraced a strategy of chequebook diplomacy as it struggles to contain the biggest migrant crisis since 1945. "

See also: Afghanistan: EU shuts the door despite asylum recognition rates rising from 43% to 60%

And: Joint Commission-EEAS non-paper on enhancing cooperation on migration, mobility and readmission with Afghanistan - Country Fiche proposing possible leverages across Commission-EEAS policy areas to enhance returns and effectively implement readmission commitments (Doc no: 6738-16, 3 March 2016, pdf)

EU-Greece: Refugee deal between Turkey and EU sparks chaos on Greek islands - 'We are quite frankly alarmed at the speed at which this deal has been put into effect',(Independent, link):

"Confusion reigned on the Greek islands on 20 March as a controversial deal between the European Union and Turkey to deport refugees came into effect.

Aid organisations and volunteers on the islands on the frontline of the crisis said that there was no sign of the hundreds of extra police, migration officers and translators needed to enforce the arrangement. They warned that they had received no information from the Greek authorities and remained deeply concerned about the protections that would be granted under the new arrangement to those fleeing persecution and war." and

EU to start sending refugees back to Turkey within days after controversial deal 'approved' in Brussels Humanitarian organisations day the proposals violate international law (Independent, link):

"Human Rights Watch condemned the situation as a “new low” and said the proposed conditions put the “very principle of international protection for those fleeing war and persecution at stake”.

The plan has also been heavily criticised for singling out Syrian refugees, who make up roughly 40 per cent of arrivals in Europe, over Iraqis, Afghans and other groups needing protection."

Report from Are You Syrious (20.3.16)

"Refugees are rejecting the possibility of being sent back to Turkey, or to their countries of origin. Worrying information is coming from different camps about volunteers and small NGOs being asked to leave.... olunteers warn that military camps are not the solution."

Safeguards needed for EU-Turkey migration deal (euractiv, lnk):

"The EU, Greece and Turkey have to ensure that additional principles guide the implementation of the EU-Turkey migration deal reached at the 17-18 March summit, writes Nils Muižnieks...

Now that the EU-Turkey deal has been reached, the utmost care should be given to its implementation in order to dispel a number of serious concerns that the deal elicits from a human rights perspective. in order for the deal to effectively comply with human rights law, the EU, Greece and Turkey have to ensure that additional principles guide its implementation.

First of all, the deal and its legal safeguards should apply not only to Syrians, but to all people reaching Greece or any other EU country..."

News (22.3.16)

EU commission suffers from selective amnesia (euobserver, link): "Earlier this week, a commission official told reporters that people in Turkey seeking asylum can present their claim on the land border with Greece. There is no need to use smugglers and take the sea route to reach Greece, she said. If it were only so simple. It is worth recalling that the EU-executive helped seal the Greek-Turkey land border after 55,000 people crossed in 2011. Many of which also relied on smugglers...

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday has made that clear. In a speech delivered in Ankara, he blasted people who voiced objections of Turkey's reversal on "democracy, freedom and rule of law”. "For us, these phrases have absolutely no value any longer," he said in the lead up to a EU-Turkey deal on stopping migration flows to the Greece."

Police Scotland break up peaceful protest with dogs to enable deportation of mother and son (link): "Superglued protestors pulled apart and pregnant woman says she was pushed repeatedly at Brand Street blockade POLICE DOGS and around 30 officers were used to break up a blockade in Glasgow last night, to enable the removal from Scotland of an LGBT asylum seeker and her young son. Dogs were deployed against a peaceful protest in Glasgow as officers from Police Scotland broke up the blockade of 30 protestors with around 30 officers, in an move which the protestors described as "extremely violent" and "unprecedented"."

Turkey: Investigating the Fatal Sinking of a Refugee Boat and the Brutal Treatment of Those Who Survived (VICE NEWS, link)

EU staff in Greece by March 28th, Readmissions to Turkey as of 4. April (Keep Talking Greece, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal
Contents

Relocation out, "one-for-one" in; Frontex calls for 1,500 more police officers in Greece

EC press release: Commission makes immediate proposal to implement EU-Turkey agreement: 54,000 places allocated for resettlement of Syrians from Turkey (pdf)

The title of the Commission's press release should say 54,000 places reallocated, as: "54,000 places which were foreseen for relocations will now be available for the purpose of resettling Syrians from Turkey to the EU," under the "one-for-one" scheme.

In September 2015 Member States agreed to relocate 160,000 people in need of international protection from Greece and Italy to other Member States, based on two Council Decisions, one for 40,000 people and one for 120,000 people (EUR-Lex, links).

Under that scheme as of 18 March, 97,725 "places" had been formally made available. 937 people had been relocated (368 from Italy and 569 from Greece). See the statistics: European Commission, Member States' Support to Emergency Relocation Mechanism (pdf)

Under a Commission proposal published today, 54,000 of the "places" that were promised and never materialised will now be transferred to the "one-for-one" scheme. See the: Proposal for a COUNCIL DECISION amending Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece (COM(2016) 171 final, pdf)

This makes up a significant proportion of the 72,000 total supposed to be given entry to the EU under the heavily-criticised scheme:

"Syrians waiting in Turkey will be resettled in the EU every time someone is sent back from Greece, with priority given to children and people who have not already tried to make the journey on their own. The EU will take up to 72,000 people on this basis. But if irregular migration to Greece continues, there will be a review, and the swap will be ended once returns reach 72,000.

This part of the deal has been particularly controversial, since it appears to create a form of trade in human suffering. Resettlement of refugees is not controversial in itself but it is usually carried out on a humanitarian basis, not according to some sort of quid pro quo." (A law professor assesses the EU plan to send asylum seekers back to Turkey, The Conversation, link)

Whether the EU Member States will make any more effort with this scheme than with relocation remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, efforts to implement the EU-Turkey deal in Greece are ongoing. The Commission has appointed an official to oversee "operational implementation" (pdf) and the coordination of the "case workers, interpreters, judges return officers and security officers" that will be required.

Today it was reported that 20 Member States will apparently send "asylum experts, return and readmission experts and police officers" to Greece (EUobserver, link), and EU border agency Frontex is looking to do its part:

"Frontex has asked EU Member States and Schengen Associated Countries to provide 1 500 police officers and 50 return and readmission experts to support Greece in returning migrants to Turkey. Several Member States have already committed to providing additional officers."

The ongoing Frontex operation in Greece, "Poseidon Rapid Intervention" has been extended until 31 May 2016:

"Frontex currently deploys 734 personnel as part of the operation, which was launched on 28 December 2015. This includes the crews of 13 vessels and two helicopters supporting Greece in patrolling its five most affected islands." (Frontex seeks 1 500 police officers, 50 readmission officers for Greece, Frontex, link)

Arson attack on French lawyers in Calais (Free Movement, link): "Today, March 17th 2016, just prior to 6 p.m., an arson attack was committed against the wooden cabin occupied by the Calais Appeal Legal Centre. This wooden cabin, built by Carpenters Without Borders through crowd funding, was entirely burnt down.

We, the Calais’ Appeal Legal Centre, express our indignation towards this attack against the only legal one stop shop available to migrants within the Calais Jungle. After the burning down of their homes, the dismantlement of the theatre and the forced relocation of the Women and Children’s Centre, today our Legal Centre, resisting dismantlement up to now, is burning as well. The team, however, is determined to pursue its mission within the Jungle, with or without a cabin. Consisting in European Lawyers and Jurists, this centre represents a formidable call for unity in defending the migrants access to their fundamental rights within the Calais Jungle."

SPAIN: EU-Turkey deal: opposition party to file criminal charges against government

Opposition party Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left) have announced are to next week present to the Spanish supreme court a criminal complaint against prime minister Mariano Rajoy and his cabinet, after Rajoy's Popular Party caretaker government signed Friday's agreement between the EU and Turkey. The complaint argues that the EU-Turkey pact contains elements "constitutive of crime".

Gonzalo Boye, a lawyer who presented the complaint along with IU's parliamentary spokesperson Alberto Garzón and MEP Mariana Albiol, said that the agreement between the EU and Turkey means recourse to deportations and the forced return of people that merit "special protection" for fleeing from armed conflict, in violation of the Spanish penal code and international law.

The majority of deputies in the Spanish congress were opposed to the deal (El País, link) and the government's own foreign minister said on 14 March that a draft of the deal was "unacceptable and contrary to international law," saying that

"Spain will only accept … an agreement that is coherent, compatible to the international law, and that is extraordinarily respectful towards the human rights of the persons that need to flee from their home country." (Spain slams ‘unacceptable’ EU-Turkey deal, Politico, link)

A spokesperson for the Popular Party said in a televison interview for the channel La Sexta that the IU was playing politics at a time when Spanish political parties are negotiating to form a new government, which must be done before 2 May or new elections will take place.

Sources: IU presentará una querella contra Rajoy en el Supremo por el acuerdo sobre los refugiados (El Mundo) and IU presentará una querella contra Rajoy por el acuerdo de la UE y Turquía sobre los refugiados (El Diario, link)

GREECE: UNHCR halts transportation of people to Moria hotspot, now being transformed into a "closed facility"

From the UNHCR in Greece: "Dear colleagues, please be informed that as of 20 March, UNHCR has discontinued its transport of refugees and migrants from the shores and ports to the Moria detention facility. The government's decision to transform the Moria hotspot that allowed for freedom of movement into a closed facility has led UNHCR to take this principled decision. The authorities are aware of UNHCR's decision and are responsible for the transport of people arriving on their territory. UNHCR will, however, together with partners and volunteers (& the ambulance service) transport individuals in need of urgent medical attention to the hospital. We will also continue to work alongside NGOs and volunteers on providing life-saving assistance on the shores and in the ports. Thank you for your continued support and cooperation in this difficult and rapidly-changing situation."

Austria to cut state aid to charities based on public donations for refugees: the government has sent letters to 12 charities demanding that they declare how much money they have received from the public for helping refugees. The government will subtract then amount from public funding provided to the groups.

See: Flüchtlingshilfe: Bund will Spenden abkassieren [Refugee aid: government wants to cash in donations] (Der Standard, link)

Greece struggling to implement EU-Turkey deal

Greece Under Strain As Migrant Deal Takes Effect (Yahoo! News, link): "Authorities in Greece are struggling to put in place infrastructure to implement the deal signed by EU leaders and Turkey in Brussels to stem the flow of migrants.

From today, all "irregular migrants" who arrive in Greece will be sent back to Turkey.

However the process of the 'turn-backs', as they are known, will not actually begin for several weeks at least.

Speaking to Sky News, an official from the Greek government's crisis management office said the challenges were huge.

"If we had to do it today, we wouldn't be able to do it. There are things that have to be done before we are ready to implement a deal like this," Giorgos Kyritsis said.

"We are talking days in terms of the legal procedures. We have to make many legislation arrangements and then we have to make the infrastructure and that is a matter of weeks, not months.""

More: Greece struggles to launch EU-Turkey plan (EUobserver, link): "Would-be asylum seekers have continued to arrive on the Greek islands from Turkey as the EU promises to support Greece in its efforts to send them back.

About 875 of mostly Syrians and Iraqis arrived on four Greek Aegean islands over the weekend with Turkey stopping another 3,000." And see: EU-Turkey deal fails to stem refugee flight to Greece (Reuters, link) and Greece Struggles to Enforce Migrant Accord on First Day (The New York Times, link)

More detail on the situation in Greece as it was in December 2015 can be found in a recent European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) report on Greece (link). The EESC undertook fact-finding missions to see how civil society and other organisations were responding to the situation of refugees and migrants in various locations in Greece, concluding with the following points:

The deal with Turkey (pdf), of course, is supposed to significantly diminish the number of people arriving in Greece. Apart from this, it is not clear how, if at all, the actions outlined in the EU-Turkey plan will contribute to alleviating the problems outlined in the EESC report.

Registering Humanity: The EU’s Plan to Halt Citizen-led Response to the Migration Crisis (University of Oxford Faculty of Law, link): "Civil society has always been the first responder to humanitarian emergencies. For decades, fishermen, lawyers, and people living in the southern European coast have been rescuing and supporting migrants, replacing the often non-existing government structure.

While those in the frontline of the refugee crisis on the Greek island of Lesvos are being honored with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, the EU and its member states are moving in the opposite direction, placing a strain on civil society. The Draft Council Conclusions of 26 January 2016, drawing on the policy guidelines of the EU Agenda on Migration, place the emphasis on migrant smuggling and call for higher penalties and the intensification of law enforcement, close surveillance of social media, and the participation of NGOs in investigations into migrant smuggling."

New EU task force to impose common asylum standards (Free Movement, link): "An interesting set of draft Council conclusions on convergence in asylum decision practices obtained by Statewatch sets out a roadmap towards greater consistency in asylum decision making. There is a lot of work to do on this front, as shown by IRIN in their excellent and infographic heavy piece Playing the EU asylum lottery...

The senior level policy network will interpret these reports and deliver guidance notes to Member States for making “case-by-case assessments of applications for international protection.” The network will also propose “modifications to the terms of reference for future COI reports on countries of origin.” Afghanistan has been selected to pilot this new approach."

See the document in question: Draft Council conclusions on convergence in asylum decision practices - Adoption (LIMITE doc no: 7255-16, pdf)

Reforming the "Facilitation Directive": Consultation on "Tackling migrant smuggling: is the EU legislation fit for purpose?" (European Commission, link): "The aim of this consultation is to collect opinions to underpin the on-going evaluation and impact assessment of the EU legislation on migrant smuggling, and to gather views on what improvements could be made to this legislation."

Deadline for responses: 4 April 2016.

Joint press release: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Attacks against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are unacceptable, say heads of European human rights institutions (pdf)

From the EU Agency for Fundmental Rights (FRA), the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights:

"Vienna/Strasbourg/Warsaw, 21 March 2016 – On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the heads of Europe’s main intergovernmental human rights institutions call for a strong response to xenophobic attacks against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and call on governments and state authorities to uphold their international obligations in this regard.

With the drownings in the Mediterranean persisting as refugees, asylum seekers and migrants continue to risk their lives to reach safety, this is the time to strengthen our commitment to the right to life and to dignity, said Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and Christian Ahlund, Chair of the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)."

And see: Migration and refugees – a moment of truth for community relations in Europe (humanrightseurope on YouTube, link): "In this video, Eva Smith Rasmussen, the former chair of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), discusses the impact of the refugee and migration crisis on community relations in Europe."

News (21.3.16)

Austrian MP compares refugees to Neanderthals (New Europe, link): "Austrian lawmaker Robert Lugar compared refugees to “Neanderthals who trample underfoot the rights of women” during a speech in parliament last week. The country’s Green Party responded, calling for his resignation.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Lugar also said most refugees and migrants arriving in Austria were “uneducated, religiously blinded, fanatical [and] impossible to integrate”."

EU-AFRICA: "The migratory pressure from Africa to Europe won’t stop anytime soon", says expert (RFI, link): "Since January, more than 12,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to reach Europe, which is 2,000 more than this time last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

While the European Union is holding meetings today with Turkey aimed at stopping the thousands of people crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece, experts say that the flow of people attempting to cross from Libya has far from dried up.

The Italian coastguard reported Wednesday that more than 2,400 people have been rescued from smugglers’ boats since Tuesday. This represents a pickup in the number of people hoping to reach Italy via Libya, after a lull during the winter months."

Germany has taken a u-turn in refugee crisis, says Merkel ally (New Europe, link): "Germany has rolled up the welcome mat for refugees. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has reportedly done an about-turn on its refugee policy and has gradually shifted away from its welcoming culture, the leader of her Bavarian allies told a newspaper.

“The federal government has completely changed its refugee policy, even if it does not admit that,” Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told Bild am Sonntag."

HUNGARY: Democratic Coalition calls on Orbán to drop migration quota referendum (Politics.hu, link): "The Democratic Coalition (DK) partyhas called on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to drop plans of holding a referendum aimed against the European Union’s mandatory migrant quotas. DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány said in a statement that Friday’s European Union – Turkey agreement removed any basis for the “treacherous” initiative, leaving “nothing for Orbán to incite hatred against”.The EU has made a good decision, the statement said, adding that “Orbán’s policy promoting individual solutions by member states” has failed. In future the prime minister will not be in a position to cover up the failure of his government, the collapse of health care and education, through creating hysterics around migrants, it said."

Italy rescues hundreds of migrants at sea, recovers body (Reuters, link): "Italian ships picked up some 600 migrants and recovered one body on Friday, as European leaders met in Brussels to try to stem the flow of migrants to the continent.

Italy's coastguard and navy tweeted that they had picked up the migrants from several different vessels. Rescue operations were continuing and the number was likely to rise, a coastguard spokesman said.

"Despite some bad weather and choppy sea conditions, the boats are coming," the coastguard spokesman said."

Lebanon: We need more EU funds to host migrants (Vieuws, link): "Lebanon’s Ambassador to the EU, Rami Mortada, tells viEUws the refugee crisis is placing a “huge burden” on his country. Holding the record for housing the highest number of refugees per capita and per square kilometre, Lebanon is struggling to build enough housing, schools and roads for an estimated 1.5 million people fleeing war in Syria. Mortada calls on the international community to provide more direct funding to Lebanon’s economy so that the country can improve its infrastructure. Currently, the majority of funds are channeled through refugee agencies and spent on emergency provision, rather than longer-term projects."

More than one million refugees travel to Greece since 2015 (UNHCR, link): "The UN Refugee Agency said today that more than one million people, mostly refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have now crossed into Greece since the start of 2015.

UNHCR called the milestone an urgent reminder of the need for a more coordinated approach to managing the influx and protecting people who are fleeing war and persecution.

The agency has repeatedly appealed to European governments, and the European Union, for strong leadership and a vision to address what Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said was "as much a crisis of European solidarity as it is a refugee crisis."

UNHCR said latest figures showed that up to March 14 more than 143,634 people had travelled to Greece from Turkey this year, taking the total of land and sea arrivals into Greece since January 1, 2015 to 1,000,357."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19-20.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal

Greece: Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Interior: Refugees: Rights and obligations (link)

"Rights of applicants for international protection

As an applicant for international protection in Greece:

Your deportation is prohibited until the examination of your application is completed.

You may move freely throughout the country, unless specific areas of the country where you may move freely are determined on the card that you are provided with ..."

See also: Who can apply for asylum (link)

EU-Turkey deal fails to stem refugee flight to Greece (.ekathimerini.com, link):

"They waved, cheered and smiled, elated to have made it to Europe at dawn on Sunday in a packed blue rubber motor boat.... Twelve boats had arrived on the shoreline near the airport by 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), a police official said....

The returns to Turkey are due to begin on April 4, as would resettlement of Syrian refugees in Europe. Doubts remain about whether the deal is legal or workable. It was not clear what would happen to the tens of thousands of migrants and refugees already in Greece.

Authorities in Lesbos began removing refugees and migrants from the island on Saturday to make space for new arrivals. The island has a capacity to host 3,500 people at a place set up to register arrivals."

and: Refugee crisis: Boats arrive in Greece despite EU deal (aljazeera.com, link): "Five boats carrying Syrians arrive from Turkey hours after deal aiming to cut off refugee route to EU comes into force."

and Thousands protest in European capitals to support migrants (Yahoo News, link): " Protestors voicing their support for migrants took to the streets of European capitals Saturday, the day after the EU and Turkey sealed a deal designed to tackle the continent's biggest migration crisis since World War II. Thousands of people marched in London, Athens, Barcelona, Vienna, Amsterdam and several Swiss cities as Greece rushed to put in place the measures needed to enforce the deal sealed at a Brussels summit Friday." also: Thousands protest against refugee policies in Vienna (The Local.at, link): "Vienna's inner city ring was blocked for hours as thousands of demonstrators came out to protest against Austria's new asylum seekers policy on Saturday."

also: Swedish lawyers condemn EU-Turkey migrants deal (The Local.se, link); "Swedish group Lawyers Without Borders has expressed concern over the legailty of the deal reached between the EU and Turkey designed to curb migration to the 28-member bloc... Louise Gunvén, lawyer and board member of Lawyers Without Borders told Swedish news agency, TT. Asylum law prohibits return to a country that is unsafe, where people risk being subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment or torture. "Our extensive experience of Turkey is that people risk being exposed to such treatment. Considerable failings exist in the Turkish legal system, as well as the risk of not getting a fair trial," Gunvén said.""

EU: Council of the European Union: Draft Council conclusions on convergence in asylum decision practices - Adoption (LIMITE doc no: 7255-16, pdf)

It is obvious that the EU is moving toward standard 'country of origin' reports that will be used in more Member States in order to ensure consistent decision-making. The important point is that the information should be transparent and accurate. It is worrying that there is no specific mention of making reports public, or of taking into account evidence supplied by human rights NGOs when drawing up the reports.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION TAKES CHARGE OF THE REFUGEE OPERATION IN GREECE: President Juncker appoints EU Coordinator to organise operational implementation in Greece (Press release, pdf):

"President Juncker has today appointed Maarten Verwey to act as the EU Coordinator to implement the EU-Turkey statement....

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "We agreed today that the Commission will appoint an EU Coordinator on the ground to make the plan operational. I have decided that this will be Maarten Verwey, the Director General of the Structural Reforms Support Service who already is in Greece helping on a daily basis with the management of the refugee crisis. He will organise the work and coordinate the dispatching of the 4,000 staff that will be needed from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX. We need case workers, interpreters, judges, return officers and security officers.""

Comment: Like in the euro crisis the EU takes over control of the Greece-Turkey operation.

Everyone who cares should watch this video: Another tragic day in Eftalou, Greece (Eric Kempson):

"This is an emotional account of what happens here on our beach almost every day, please share and let the world know the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding at the gates of Europe, these people need help and support. Just imagine if you faced this every day in your back yard!! We help where we can but it feels inadequate, more needs to be done for these people, there is only so much local volunteers can help. These people need shelter and help."

Report from Lesvos, Greece (Saturday):

"The new EU agreement is taking effect in a major way currently on Lesvos. At this moment and for the past hours all camps have started to be emptied by the bus loads. Evacuations will continue all night. Refugees are being made to buy a ticket and have been on this boat since 11 am. Cash is needed at the port to buy tickets for families now standing outside since this morning. No agencies handling this and they cannot enter the "mandatory boat " without paying. Go figure that. Some with no money for food once on the boat. It seems the plan is to have all camps emptied by tomorrow.

All Greek island camps are being evicted. Volunteers are bearing witness in the port, distributing quick lunch packs and warm clothes before the refugees board and keeping an eye on the situation. We are all in a state of deep shock at the immediacy and severity of the implementation. All we can do is stand by and watch. Keep them in your thoughts tonight, there is a hopelessness and fear settling in that I have not seen here before."

and from Pikpa centre, Lesvos (link)

"As a result of the EU-Turkey agreement, the evacuation of the two camps on Lesvos at Moria and Kara Tepe began today. Refugees are being transported to the port and removed from the island on a special ferry service to Kavala. The current situation is that as of tomorrow night (20/3); the entire population of refugees on the island will be expelled to mainland Greece. There is currently a lack of organisation and no clear information about their destination, future accommodation and the procedures to be followed in relation to applications for asylum, family reunification and relocation.

We are greatly concerned that all individuals will not have access to the right to claim asylum and that those who will claim asylum, as a result of the severe lack of legal advice and the speed with which claims will be decided, will not have their claims properly assessed. Decisions will be taken en masse, resulting in mass expulsions. The sudden movement of people means the organisational structures are not set up for such an influx of refugees, the inevitability of which can only be subhuman living conditions, as we have seen in Idomeni.

The aim is to convert Moria into a closed detention centre run by the army; where we have grave concerns about the conditions refugees will be held in. As a result the structures of solidarity are going to be excluded from helping refugees, monitoring abuses and advising people of their rights.

EU-Turkey deal: An “army” of EU staff to move to Greece (details) (Keep talking Greece, link)::

"Staff, staff and more staff is needed for the operational implementation of the EU-Turkey deal with regards to sending back refugees and migrants to Turkey. Below is an exerpt from the European Commission/Council Questions and Answers on the issue – which, of course, leaves many answers open – with the first of them: How is it possible that foreign judges will operate in Greece!"

See: European Commission: Factsheet on the EU-Turkey Agreement (dated today, 19 March, pdf):

"When will the new agreement take effect?

The agreement will take effect from 20 March 2016. What this means in practice is that anyone arriving in the Greek islands from this date will be returned directly to Turkey if they have no right to international protection or do not claim asylum. Those who claim asylum will have their application processed, in an expedited fashion, with a view to their immediate return to Turkey if the claim is declared inadmissible.

"What operational support will Greece need in order to implement the scheme?

The implementation of the agreement will require huge operational efforts from all involved, and most of all from Greece. EU Member States agreed to provide Greece at short notice with the necessary means, including border guards, asylum experts and interpreters.

The Commission estimates that Greece will need:

Around 4,000 staff from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX
For the asylum process: 200 Greek asylum service case workers, 400 asylum experts from other Member States deployed by EASO and 400 interpreters
-
For the appeals process: 10 Appeals Committees made up of 30 members from Greece as well as 30 judges with expertise in asylum law from other Member States and 30 interpreters
-
For the return process: 25 Greek readmission officers, 250 Greek police officers as well as 50 return experts deployed by Frontex. 1,500 police officers seconded on the basis of bilateral police cooperation arrangements (costs covered by FRONTEX)
-
- Security: 1,000 security staff/army

Material assistance:

Transport: return from the islands: 8 FRONTEX vessels with a capacity of 300-400 passengers per vessel) and 28 buses
-
- Accommodation: 20,000 short-term capacity on the Greek islands (of which 6,000 already exist)
- Administration: 190 containers, including 130 for EASO case workers"

EU-Turkey deal: Greece empties islands from refugees & migrants, “hot spots” turn into “detention centers” (Keep talking Greece, link):

"Thousands of refugees and migrants are to be transported from the Greek islands ot mainland in new camps as the EU-Turkey deal goes in effect on midnight tomorrow, Sunday, March 20th 2016. The hot spots on the islands Lesvos, Chios, Samors, Leros and Kos in the eastern Aegean Sea will have to be empty so that they can be turned into “detention centers” for the new arrivals of refugees and migrants as of 21. March 2016, at oo:o1 o’ clock. the new arrivals will be not allowed to travel to the mainland, but stay in the camps until they will be returned to Turkey – or not....

According to media, travel agencies on these islands have been informed to issue no more ship tickets for refugees with Piraeus as destination. The hot spot in Moria, Lesvos, will operate as detention center and not more as center were refugees can stay"

See Statewatch coverage this week: Next operational steps in EU-Turkey cooperation in the field of migration (COM 166-16, pdf): "The return of all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey"

HOTSPOTS TO BE "ADAPTED" to "implement returns to Turkey" and to exclude "relocation" to EU states of those in need of international proteaction: Hotspots to be turned from registration and refferal for trhose in need of international protection and: "adapted – with the current focus on registration and screening before swift transfer to the mainland replaced by the objective of implementing returns to Turkey. For instance, the infrastructure in the hotspots would need to be reconfigured to accommodate the readmission and asylum offices."

And: the building of secure detention centres on the Greek islands: "Another important element would be a substantial increase in reception capacity in the islands. This could include separate facilities for irregular migrants and those undergoing the longer procedure of an asylum request, and would require sufficient detention capacity to be put in place for individuals who present a risk of absconding."

UN Special Rapporteur "concerned" about the readmission protocol between Greece and Turkey signed in 2002 - is Turkey a "safe" country?

The EU intends to use this agreement/protocol to return refugees to Turkey considered not to be in need of international protection who arrive in Greece on and after Sunday 20 March 2016.

European Commission: Factsheet on the EU-Turkey Agreement (pdf) includes:

"On what legal basis will irregular migrants be returned from the Greek islands to Turkey?

People who do not have a right to international protection will be immediately returned to Turkey. The legal framework for these returns is the bilateral readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey. From 1 June 2016, this will be succeeded by the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, following the entry into force of the provisions on readmission of third country nationals of this agreement."
[emphasis added]

This "agreement" was considered by the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau (dated, 17 April 2013, pdf) who observed:

"Greece-Turkey and EU-Turkey readmission agreements

1.          A readmission protocol between Greece and Turkey was signed in 2002. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that this agreement focuses almost exclusively on combatting "illegal" migration. While it "does not affect the rights and obligations arising from other international agreements binding upon the Parties", it does not provide any specific guarantees for respecting the human rights of migrants, such as non-refoulement or the principle of the best interests of the child. Given the obstacles to access asylum procedures and to identify other vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children, victims of trafficking and victims of torture in Greece, there is a serious risk that persons returned under the readmission agreement with Turkey might indeed be in need of protection.

2. The Special Rapporteur notes that the number of migrants returned to Turkey under the bilateral agreement is low, and that Greece expects that it will be able to readmit more migrants once the EU-Turkey readmission agreement enters into force.

3. The Special Rapporteur strongly urges Greece to fully respect its human rights obligations in relation to all its readmission agreements, including the Greece-Italy, Greece-Turkey and EU-Turkey agreements. The non-refoulement principle must always be respected for all migrants proposed for readmission."
[emphasis added]

Is this what the EU-Turkey deal means: Friday 18 March 2016, the same day that the "deal" by the EU was done with Turkey, Channel Four carried this shocking video of a Turkish coastguard boat - openly - trying to sink a refugee motorised ribber dinghy: Shocking video appears to show the Turkish coastguard striking an inflatable dinghy carrying refugees and migrants in deep and dangerous waters (Facebook lvideo link) Shocking video appears to show the Turkish coastguard striking an inflatable dinghy carrying refugees and migrants in deep and dangerous waters. The officers are under instructions to get the boats to turn back.

"Migrant Report states that a Turkish coastguard crew has been caught on camera attacking a rubber boat with about 40 asylum seekers on board, including five women and 15 children. The incident happened at about 8 AM off the Greek island of Agathonisi. A Turkish Coast Guard Cutter started chasing the dinghy, which at this point was moving fast out of Turkish waters. Eventually the coast guard deployed their own RHIB with three men on board. The raft started zigzagging to avoid being intercepted. At this point, the coast guard officials started hitting the migrant boat apparently aiming to disable the engine. While this was taking place, the larger coastguard vessel started making a circle around the migrants’ boat creating a dangerous wave that is intended to flood the engine but could have also capsized the vessel. The chase, which lasted about 40 minutes, continued well into Greek waters with the Turkish coastguard pulling back when they were about half a nautical mile away from the shore of Agathonisi."

European Commission: President Juncker appoints EU Coordinator to organise operational implementation in Greece (Press release, pdf):

"European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "We agreed today that the Commission will appoint an EU Coordinator on the ground to make the plan operational. I have decided that this will be Maarten Verwey, the Director General of the Structural Reforms Support Service who already is in Greece helping on a daily basis with the management of the refugee crisis. He will organise the work and coordinate the dispatching of the 4,000 staff that will be needed from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX. We need case workers, interpreters, judges, return officers and security officers." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"The hypocrisy of the EU knows no limits. This is the first official mention of the need for "judges" to ensure that asylum application appeals can be heard. It is not mentioned in any of the Commsion Communications or its reports on Greece and Italy over the past six months - it is not on any list of "needs". It is only officially recognised now - more than a year into the refugee crisis - alongside creting "returns officers" as well.

And there is still no mention of the crying need for the provision of lawyers and legal advice for refugees in Greece and Italy."

Migration: Why the EU’s deal with Turkey is no solution to the “crisis” affecting Europe - Interview with Aurélie Ponthieu, MSF Humanitarian Adviser on Displacement, Brussels (MSF, link):

"The proposed deal with Turkey shows once again how European leaders have completely lost track of reality. If this cynical agreement is implemented, for each Syrian that risks his life at sea another Syrian will have the chance to reach Europe from Turkey. This crude calculation reduces people to mere numbers, denying them humane treatment and discarding their right to seek protection in Europe. These people are not numbers, but men, women, children and families. Around 88% of those using this route are coming from refugee producing countries, and more than half of them are women and children. They should be treated humanely and in full respect of their rights and dignity....

The EU-Turkey deal and the deployment of EU humanitarian aid to Greece will be no quick fix to the need people have to find safety and protection in Europe. It is time European governments start facing reality and provide a responsible, common, humane and dignified response to people’s unstoppable search for protection and a better life for themselves and for their children, by providing a safe passage for those in need in dignity"

UNHCR on EU-Turkey deal: Asylum safeguards must prevail in implementation (link):

"Today's agreement clarifies a number of elements. Importantly, it is explicit that any modalities of implementation of the agreement will respect international and European law. In UNHCR's understanding, in light of relevant jurisprudence, this means that people seeking international protection will have an individual interview on whether their claim can be assessed in Greece, and the right to appeal before any readmission to Turkey. This would also entail that once returned, people in need of international protection will be given the chance to seek and effectively access protection in Turkey. We now need to see how this will be worked out in practice, in keeping with the safeguards set out in the agreement – many of which at present are not in place.

How this plan is to be implemented is thus going to be crucial. Ultimately, the response must be about addressing the compelling needs of individuals fleeing war and persecution. Refugees need protection, not rejection....

people being returned to Turkey and needing international protection must have a fair and proper determination of their claims, and within a reasonable time. Assurances against refoulement, or forced return, must be in place. Reception and other arrangements need to be readied in Turkey before anyone is returned from Greece. People determined to be needing international protection need to be able to enjoy asylum, without discrimination, in accordance with accepted international standards, including effective access to work, health care, education for children, and, as necessary, social assistance." [emphasis aded]

Statewatch Analyses

- Italy: Mass discrimination based on nationality and human rights violations – Nigerian refugees and trafficking victims deported from Rome (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

Europe’s answer to the refugee crisis has so far been to intensify existing policies and practices, conveniently overlooking their role in the genesis of the problem and in demeaning the rule of law in its member states.

- EU/Italy Commission requires large scale abuse of migrants for relocation to proceed (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

On 15 December 2015, the Commission’s “Progress report on the implementation of hotspots in Italy” was sent to the European Parliament and the Council, calling for further progress to be made in the fields of hotspots, relocation, returns, border management and reception capacity. Lamenting the slow progress in implementing “European Union Law” to build a “Common European Asylum System” in mid-October, the Commission called on Italy to “operationalise all hotspots”, make “full use of the existing detention capacity” while reforming norms on detention and ensuring “swift” transfers to either “second-line reception facilities” or “detention centres”.

- Reinforcing the Fortress Commission’s priority actions for the refugee situation (pdf) by Zak Suffee:

The EU’s response to the refugee situation has included the deployment of warships, plans for mass refoulement and the possible introduction of “one-for-one” schemes, none of which were mentioned in the priority actions proposed by the European Commission in February 2016.

The priority actions, entitled the ‘State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration’ [1] aims to address the refugee situation by way of a number of priority actions which can be summarised under the following headings: 1) the future of Greece; 2) securing the EU; 3) hotspot management; 4) returns and readmissions; and 5) Management of financial resources in and outside the European Union.

- The final EU/Turkey refugee deal: a legal assessment (pdf) by Professor Steve Peers (University of Essex):

The EU and Turkey have now reached an agreement on refugee issues, which has aroused considerable legal and political controversy. To examine the arguments about the deal, I present here the main text with my legal assessment of each point annotated. This builds upon my comments (together with Emanuela Roman) first of all in general on the relevant points last month, and then secondly on the leaked draft text of the final deal earlier this week (I have reused here some of the latter analysis where relevant). The agreement should be read alongside the EU summit conclusions, as well as the Commission communication on the deal. It incorporates the March 7 EU/Turkey statement which addressed the same issues in less detail.

News (19-20.3.16)

Opinion: Raise the drawbridge! EU refugee policy (DW, link): "Refugees from Syria will soon no longer be able to reach the European Union. An inhumane success for the bloc, writes Bernd Riegert."

Rising migrant tension prompts more security (ekathimerini.com, link): "Growing unrest among thousands of stranded migrants and refugees across Greece over the last few days has prompted authorities to increase security at camps and shelters.":

Migration deal: Quick start, tough implementation ((ekathimerini.com, link): "Yiannis Balafas, the deputy interior minister, said swift screening procedures in the Greek islands would require additional staff promised by the European Union. “(Migrants) will be returned after they have been swiftly processed. That is why we need the technical assistance,” Balafas told private Mega television. Greece is expecting some 2,300 European experts, including migration officers and translators, to help implement the deal....

Migrants on Lesvos and other islands in the east Aegean Sea were being taken by ferry to the mainland ports of Piraeus and Kavala where they will be placed in shelters and eligible for an EU-wide relocation program. Those who arrive on the islands from Sunday onward will be screened and their identity recorded and then sent back to Turkey."

Comment: Refugees who arrive from Sunday will have the right to claim asylym and have to be properly considered under EU asylum law - they canont be just sent back. to Turkey.

British warships to intercept migrants off Libyan shore (Daily Telegraph, link): "David Cameron urges action to destroy boats close to the Libyan shore, ahead of gruelling night of talks over Turkey's 'blackmail' deal "

Greek PM: Success of EU-Turkey deal will depend on low migration flows (ANAmpa, link): "He warned, however, that it was a "difficult agreement" to implement and that a condition for its success will be a reduction in refugee flows, as seen in recent days."

Migrant crisis: There's a deal, but implementing it won't be easy (BBC News, link):

"For starters, to be able to send tens of thousands of migrants out of Greece and back to Turkey, Athens has to change its asylum laws to recognise Turkey as a so-called safe country. To really be one, Turkey needs to change its laws to fully respect the Geneva Human Rights Convention. Something it refuses point blank to do.... Currently, Turkey only recognises European refugees. Syrians have "special status" in the country because of their brutal civil war, but Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers - who make up 40% of migrant boat arrivals in the EU - are not recognised in Turkey."

Tsipras lauds EU-Turkey deal, which requires immediate action in Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he was walking away satisfied on Friday from the summit between the European Union and Turkey, where all sides agreed on a plan that will see refugees sent back from Greece and resettled directly from its neighbor. “We have put into action what we have been trying to achieve for the last three months,” he said after yesterday’s agreement. “In other words, agreeing a common approach to the refugee crisis.”" [emphasis added]

Please note that refugees granted international protetion will be relocated in the EU, those who are not given this status will be returned to Turkey.

Migrant returns start Sunday, after EU and Turkey strike refugee swap deal (euractiv, link): "All migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from this Sunday (20 March) will be returned to Turkey, under a controversial agreement hammered out over two days between the EU and Ankara at a summit in Brussels." [emphasis added]

Please note that the statement in bold is incorrect: refugees granted international protetion will be relocated in the EU, those who are not given this status will be returned to Turkey.

Refugees will be sent back across Aegean in EU-Turkey deal (Guardian, link):

"Aid agencies criticise ‘inhumane’ Brussels deal as Saturday midnight deadline may see desperate last-minute rush to Greece... Anyone arriving after Saturday midnight can expect to be returned to Turkey in the coming weeks. The UN’s refugee agency said big questions remained about how the deal would work in practice and called for urgent improvements to Greece’s system for assessing refugees.

Aid agencies accused the EU of failing to respect the spirit of EU and international laws. “This is a dark day for the refugee convention, a dark day for Europe and a dark day for humanity,” said Kate Allen of Amnesty International. Action Aid’s Mike Noyes claimed the deal would “effectively turn the Greek islands ... into prison camps where terrified people are held against their will before being deported back to Turkey”." [emphasis added]

Please note all refugees will not be returned. Refugees who apply for asylum and are granted international protetion will be relocated in the EU, those who are not given this status will be returned to Turkey.

President Erdogan says freedom and democracy have 'no value' in Turkey amid arrests and military crackdown - Dozens of activists, politicians and academics have been detained in Turkey as discussions continue over the refugee crisis (The Independent, link): "On Monday, the President had vowed to extend the legal definition of “terrorists” to include MPs, activists and journalists."


The EU's "day of shame": Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.3.16)


EU-Turkey Summit: EU-Turkey statement, 18 March 2016 (pdf):

As from tomorrow, 20 March 2016 all refugees and migrant not lodging an asylum application successfuly will be returned to Turkey - but how will the EU ensure that Turkey does not carry out collective expulsion (refoulement) and how can it operate before Grece has agreed that Turkey is a safe country (which it is not) to return people to? There are special provisions for Syrians but refugees from other states will returned to the very countires they fled from.

"All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey. This will take place in full accordance with EU and international law, thus excluding any kind of collective expulsion. All migrants will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement. It will be a temporary and extraordinary measure which is necessary to end the human suffering and restore public order. Migrants arriving in the Greek islands will be duly registered and any application for asylum will be processed individually by the Greek authorities in accordance with the Asylum Procedures Directive, in cooperation with UNHCR. Migrants not applying for asylum or whose application has been found unfounded or inadmissible in accordance with the said directive will be returned to Turkey."

See: Critics brand EU deal with Turkey on migrants 'a dark day for humanity' (AOL News, link): "But the deal was described as "a dark day for humanity" by human rights group Amnesty International, whose UK director Kate Allen said: "It's absolutely shameful to see leaders seeking to abandon their legal obligations. Forcing refugees back into the hands of the very smugglers they just came from so they can have another go at exploiting them is obviously a madness. There's no way anyone should herald this as a solution."

The final EU/Turkey refugee deal: a legal assessment (EU Law Analysis, link) by Steve Peers, Professor of Law:

"It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the EU did not try to ensure beyond doubt that the deal was legal, by putting in place some sort of effective monitoring of Turkish commitments as regards the treatment of refugees and migrants, in particular asking Turkey to fully apply the Geneva Convention to all refugees as a condition of the deal. After all, the EU will now be meeting a significant proportion of the costs of housing refugees in that country. It is even more disturbing that some Member States want to arrange for expedited returns to Libya. Surely before too long, the CJEU will asked to interpret the definition of 'safe third country' in EU asylum law. That finding will be crucial in determining whether it really is legal to return people to Serbia, Turkey, Libya and possibly other countries besides. " [emphasis added]

and the following has been deleted from a leaked draft: ". Migrants having been returned to Turkey will be protected in accordance with the international standards concerning the treatment of refugees and respecting the principle of non-refoulement."

European Council 17-18 March 2016: Conclusions (pdf): This is not the text of the EU-Turkey deal, which is supposed to take the form of a "statement". However, much of the text concerns the issue of migration and cooperation with Turkey, and also hints at the possibility of military or other action within Libyan territory:

"In this context, the fight against smugglers everywhere and by all appropriate means remains key. The EU stands ready to support the Government of National Accord, as the sole legitimate government of Libya, including, at its request, to restore stability, fight terrorism and manage migration in the central Mediterranean."

UNHCR statistics (17.3.16): 156,256 arrivals in the EU: 143,886 to Greece, 11,912 to Italy, 464 dead/missing

EU, Turkey reach deal to return asylum seekers: Sources (Middle East Eye, link): "EU and Turkish officials have agreed a deal that will see hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers returned to Turkey in exchange for accelerated accession to the EU after hours of crunch talks in Brussels on Friday.

Asylum seekers will begin being forcibly returned from Europe to Turkey from 20 March if EU member states agree to the terms of the deal, a spokesperson for European Council chief Donald Tusk told Sky News.

The deal has so far only been agreed by Tusk and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, an EU source told Danish journalist Per Thiemann, and must now be put to the union's 28 member states.

The precise terms of the deal have not yet been made public."

And: EU strikes deal with Turkey to send back refugees (The Guardian, link): "The EU has struck a deal with Turkey that would mean all refugees and migrants arriving in Europe from Sunday being sent back across the Aegean Sea.

The European council president, Donald Tusk, cleared key sticking points with the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, during talks on Friday morning. “The Turkey agreement has been approved,” Finland’s prime minister, Juha Sipila, said on Twitter."

EU-TURKEY DEAL: "On the edge of international law" - or against it?

As the EU and Turkey come closer to an agreement that aims to keep refugees and migrants out of Europe, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite has said that a proposed deal, on which EU heads of state and government agreed yesterday (Thursday 17 March), "is on the edge of international law.” Civil society organisations, meanwhile, say that the proposals under discussions, if agreed, would be illegal.

In late-night talks on Thursday:

"EU leaders agreed... a 'common position' to put to Turkey... but with enough disagreement among the 28 leaders to prevent publication of an agreed text." (EU agrees ‘joint position’ to put to Turkey on Friday, EurActiv, link)

On Wednesday 16 March, Statewatch published a leaked draft of the proposed agreement (pdf), put together before Thursday's meeting. EurActiv is posting live updates on today's meeting between the EU and Turkey: Live: #EUCO Spring Summit... on refugee crisis, again (link)

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, highlighting the possibility of fast-track returns of asylum-seekers to Turkey, the situation within the country for refugees, and Turkey's dismal human rights record in general, has said:

"Let’s not confuse desperation for legality when it comes to Europe’s proposed refugee deal with Turkey. No one should be under any illusion - the very principle of international protection for those fleeing war and persecution is at stake.

Every government in Europe will have to declare its hand this week: does it uphold the right to seek asylum, or does it subordinate that right to horse trading with a country that has an inadequate record of respecting it." (Say No To A Bad Deal With Turkey, link)

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network has also issued a statement: EU-Turkey: Say No to this Pact of Shame! (link) and Access Info Europe has filed access to documents requests (link) to the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European Parliament to ask "whether they sought legal advice on or properly evaluated the human rights impacts of the deal." 21 NGOs working with people on the ground have signed a letter to the European Council (pdf) saying:

"A response to the humanitarian crisis in Europe must build on the work of last year and squarely address the current, clear gaps in policy, whilst fully respecting the law and spirit of the EU’s own legislation and the 1951 Refugee Convention."

And, last month Statewatch published a detailed anaylsis setting out why Turkey could not be considered a "safe third country" (pdf).

According to the Financial Times, issues to be discussed today include:

"Turkey’s refusal to apply full international standards on refugees, a Cypriot veto on opening parts of Ankara’s EU-membership talks, and Greece’s demands for thousands more staff to implement the plan.

Differences also remain on the EU side over promises to accept Syrian migrants directly from Turkey to compensate for those turned back from Greek islands. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the final round of negotiations “will be anything but easy”. François Hollande, the French president, added: “I can’t guarantee you a happy conclusion.” (EU and Turkey harden positions over latest migration plan, Financial Times, link)

European Parliament president Martin Schulz has said (pdf) that the the EU "cannot and should not 'outsource' our problems to Turkey," although he does not appear to have gone so far as to denounce the proposed deal.

In any case, the European Parliament will not have a say on every aspect of the deal under question, which is due to take the form of a "statement" rather than any form of binding international agreement.

However, various aspects of the proposed deal (or at least that which has been made public), such as "new Greek, Turkish and EU laws (or their implementation), and the further implementation of the EU/Turkey readmission agreement - will have to be approved at the relevant level". On this issue, see: The draft EU/Turkey deal on migration and refugees: is it legal? (EU Law Analysis, link)

How exactly Greece would be able to implement the proposals remains open to question: "If approved, the deal will entail a huge amount of legal and technical work for Greek authorities in the next few days."

This includes changing Greek law to recognise Turkey as a "safe third country" to which asylum seekers can be returned; applications for asylum would have to be processed in days rather than months; around 8,000 people would have to be moved from Greek islands to the mainland; and a system would need to be set up on the islands "to register and process any new arrivals... and examine their asylum applications." This would need "hundreds of public servants and other personnel" - judges, asylum officials, border guards translators and others - to be stationed on the islands. See: Greece has much legal, technical work to do if EU reaches refugee deal with Turkey (Ekathimerini, link)

Meanwhile, British prime minister David Cameron used the summit to call for greater efforts to implement a policy of push-backs to Libya:

"Cameron said the EU rescue mission in the central Mediterranean needs to be expanded so that the international operation’s boats work with the Libyan coastguards to send boats back to Libya." (David Cameron: send more patrol ships to turn refugee boats back to Libya, The Guardian, link)

More on the proposed EU-Turkey deal

Joint Migreurop/AEDH statement: The Turkey/European Union agreement : Externalising borders to end the right to asylum (link): "At a further summit meeting in Brussels on the 17 and 18 March, the EU and Turkey will adopt an agreement intended to resolve what is wrongly described as the ‘migrant crisis’. This is a plan above all that will allow the European Union to push refugees back beyond EU borders, and to subcontract its obligations to Turkey. Thus will members states flee their responsibilities in defiance of the right to asylum. Migreurop, a European and African network that unites some 50 organisations which defend the rights of migrants, and the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) strongly oppose this agreement and demand that the Union respects its international obligations."

What the people-smugglers of Istanbul make of the EU’s deal with Turkey (The Spectator, link): "There are no police to be seen in Aksaray. Abu Omar, a smuggler loitering in the square, laughs off Turkey’s deal as little more than hot air. ‘The Turkish coastguards aren’t doing anything,’ he assures Abdurrahman, who is posing as a potential client. ‘It’s a question of luck whether you’ll make it or not.’ The new Brussels agreement won’t save the unlucky.

Abu Omar is one of many Syrian brokers in Aksaray who connect migrants to smugglers and hope eventually to save up enough money to make the crossing to Europe themselves. It’s the Turks who control the business. ‘Turks are at the heart of the smuggling operations,’ explains Ahmad, a Syrian who now lives in the UK — having spent two months being smuggled in from Syria last year. ‘They organise everything, including co-ordinating with the police and coastguards.’"

EESC report reveals true extent of migrant crisis (European Economic and Social Committee, link): "Persecution, conflict and poverty drove more than one million people to seek safety in Europe last year. Significant numbers went missing or died (most drowned) making the arduous journey. The majority who reached Europe made their way across the Mediterranean, arriving mainly in Greece and Italy. For those who survived, arrival in Europe has rarely meant the end of suffering and harsh conditions.

As part of its reflections on EU migration strategy, the EESC published a report based on fact-finding country visits and meetings with more than 180 stakeholders, mainly from civil society organisations actively working with refugees and migrants. The report was presented during the EESC’s March Plenary session, in the context of debates on the EU’s external policy and migration with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

In order to identify the problems and needs and share the best practices of various actors in the current refugee crisis, EESC delegations visited 11 EU Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden) in December 2015 and January 2016."

The full report: EESC fact-finding missions on the situation of refugees, as seen by civil society organisations (pdf). "Key messages":

Reports for each of the countries visited by the EESC (pdfs)

The reports are also available in French and German on the EESC website (link).

MEPs want EU embassies and consulates to grant asylum seekers humanitarian visas (EP press release, pdf): "To dissuade refugees from putting their lives at risk by entrusting them to people smugglers, EU consulates and embassies should be allowed to issue humanitarian visas to persons seeking international protection, said Civil Liberties Committee MEPs voting on an update of the EU Visa Code on Wednesday. These visas would enable holders to enter the country issuing the visa in order to apply for asylum."

And see a study from September 2014: Humanitarian Visas: Option or Obligation? (pdf)

CEPS briefing: Migration and Asylum Data for Policy-making in the European Union The problem with numbers (pdf) by Ann Singleton: "The migration, humanitarian and policy crises in the European Union during 2015 and early 2016 have highlighted, among all the other problems, a pressing need for reliable, timely and comparable statistical data on migration and asylum, as well as on arrivals at national borders. The problematic use of asylum data in policy has been discussed in an earlier paper in this series (Mouzourakis, 2014). Such data are needed to develop appropriate policies to deal with the crises, but also to monitor the effectiveness of the EU and national free movement and labour migration policies, and to monitor the extent to which authorities meet the Treaty and secondary legislative obligations in this field. The data are crucial not only to the implementation of national and EU-wide policy, but also as monitoring tools, and to inform public discussion. In this highly politicised field, analysing and understanding data is as much an art as a science."

Leaders of European think tanks call for action in the refugee crisis (Bertelsmann Stiftung, link): "European leaders need to implement common European solutions to the refugee crisis. Only joint solutions can credibly and effectively reduce the growing human suffering and social and political turmoil. Leaders of seven European think tanks and foundations have signed an open letter to European politicians spotlighting five urgent measures for addressing the crisis."

The letter: Open Letter by the conveners of the Vision Europe Summit regarding the refugee crisis in Europe and the necessity to act now: The refugee crisis: A European call for action (pdf)

News (18.3.16)

Two migrants dead as Italy rescues 2,000 off Libya (The Local, link): " Nearly 2,000 migrants and two corpses have been recovered from people smugglers' boats off Libya since Tuesday, Italy's coastguard said on Wednesday.

Further rescue operations were ongoing, a spokesman told AFP.

The figures represent a pick-up in the flow of migrants attempting to reach Italy via Libya, a route through which around 330,000 people have made it to Europe since the start of 2014."

Refugee summit: David Cameron to send Royal Navy warships to Libya 'to deter migrants' (The Independent, link): "David Cameron wants to deploy Royal Navy vessels close to the coast of Libya to deter thousands of migrants from embarking on the perilous sea journey to Europe this summer.

The Prime Minister told European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels that he is extending the deployment of HMS Enterprise on anti-trafficking operations in the central Mediterranean at least until the summer, and wants to see the mission expanded into Libyan territorial waters to enhance its deterrent effect."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.3.16)
EU-TURKEY: Welcome to the new Fortress Europe: Draft Summit Statement:
EU-Turkey Statement 18/3/2016: Draft 16/03/16 (pdf)

"Turkey furthermore agreed to accept the rapid return of all migrants not in need of international protection crossing from Turkey into Greece and to take back
all irregular migrants intercepted in Turkish waters... All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands will be returned to Turkey...

Comment: The EU to end so-called "irregular migration" (by refugees and migrants) and deny sanctuary to those fleeing from war, persecution and poverty.

Migrants arriving in the Greek islands will be duly registered and any application for asylum will be processed by the Greek authorities in accordance with the Asylum
Procedures Directive. Migrants not applying for asylum or whose application has been found unfounded or inadmissible in accordance with the said directive will be returned to Turkey.... The costs will be covered by the EU....

The Members of the European Council welcome the Commission's intention to propose an amendment to the relocation decision of 22 September 2015 to allow for any resettlement commitment undertaken in the framework of this arrangement to be offset from non-allocated places under the decision. Should the number of returned exceed the numbers provided for by these arrangements, this mechanism will be subject to review."

Comment: The scheme for "relocation" in the EU has abjectly failed - to the shame of nearly all EU Member States..

The Members of the European Council welcome Turkey's commitment that migrants returned to Turkey will be protected in accordance with the international Standards concerning the treatment of refugees and respecting the principle of non-refoulement."
[emphasis added]

Comment: How is this going to be monitored and enforced?

European Parliament: MEPs propose a centralised EU system for asylum claims with national quotas (Press release, pdf):

"The failure to date of the EU asylum system to cope with ever-rising numbers of migrant arrivals calls for a radical overhaul of the so-called Dublin rules, said Civil Liberties Committee MEPs on Wednesday. They propose establishing a central system for collecting and allocating asylum applications. The scheme, which could include a quota for each EU member state, would work on the basis of “hotspots” from which refugees would be distributed."

Draft report: On the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration (pdf)

Statewatch comment: Before adopting the "hotspots" approach the EP might be wise find out how they work, are refugees rights respected (ie: do they have the autimatic right to legal advice?), what is the effect of "natilonality screenng" and "profiling" for a start?

Council of Europe: Factsheet: Collective expulsions of aliens (pdf): "Article 4 (prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens) of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights: “Collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited”. “Collective expulsion” = any measure compelling aliens, as a group, to leave a country, except where such a measure is taken on the basis of a reasonable and objective examination of the particular case of each individual alien of the group."

EU: Council President Tusk: Tripartite Social Summit - Wednesday 16 March 2016 (Press release, pdf)

"In his opening statement, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, stressed the need to agree on well-adjusted measures and emphasised that : "I have no doubt that the successful integration of refugees into our labour markets is in our best interest. It is the only way to enable the newcomers to stand on their own feet. And it is the only way to turn the current wave of migration into an economic opportunity. But the integration of refugees must not be done on the back of the most vulnerable individuals of our own societies: the poor, the unemployed, the disadvantaged. Questions like "why do refugees get so much support from the government, while it seems to have given up on me?" are legitimate. We must not provide any breeding ground for such questions to arise. And this is where I very much count on the social partners. Their role in maintaining social cohesion in Europe is key".

German migration expert lambasts Europe for 'war against refugees' (DW, link):

"Europe is at "war" against refugees and Chancellor Angela Merkel is using "double-faced" rhetoric of welcome and repulsion, said German migration expert Klaus Bade. He called the EU's overtures to Turkey "scandalous....

In an exasperated commentary in "MiGAZIN," an online portal specializing in migration, Bade has accused Berlin of placating the public with security policy instead of working harder through "massive investments" to tackle the world's root causes of refugee flight, which have been evident for decades.

The so-called Balkan route, closed with "razor-sharp" wire across southern Europe, has become the EU's new "red line." A process that began in 2006, when Spain ran Operation Seahorse to stop migrants from Senegal, Mauritania and Cape Verde from reaching its Canary Islands, had only become more "gruesome," he said."

Returning migrants to Turkey poses huge administrative test (FT Blog, link):

"Europe’s return plan violates Greek law. To address this, Greece must overhaul its asylum laws in a matter of days to enshrine Turkey as a “safe third country” to receive asylum seekers.

The next step is harder: clearing the backlog. There are around 8,000 migrants on Greek islands, such as Lesbos and Chios. Officials say they ideally need to be moved before the so-called “X Day” — as early as Friday — when the returns policy officially begins.

Yet Greek facilities are strained. Shelter is lacking on the mainland, where almost 40,000 migrants are already stranded. Mixing the groups — those who are trapped in Greece, awaiting relocation to Europe, and those who will be sent straight back to Turkey — could get ugly. "

Auditors slam EU migration response as ‘incoherent’ (euractiv, link): "The European Court of Auditors has published a damning report on the EU’s migration policy, condemning it as incoherent and lacking in strategy, just as Union leaders prepare to agree on a controversial deal with Turkey on Friday"

See: Special Report No 9/2016 (pdf): "We conclude our report by recommending that the Commission develop clear and measurable objectives to be implemented by a coherent set of EU funding instruments supported by effective monitoring and evaluation, and by an appropriate information system. Governance arrangements must be simpler and better coordinated."

HUNGARY: Draft amendments to asylum law in Hungary will drive refugees to Western Europe (migszol, link):

"On Monday 7th March 2016 the Interior Ministry proposed amendments to the migration- and asylum law in Hungary. The legislation is available in Hungarian here; unfortunately no official English translation has been issued yet.

The amendments address various migration-related questions. This not only covers asylum legislation, but also residence permits and 3rd country nationals who come to Hungary to work for companies identified by the Hungarian government as “strategic economic partners” such as IBM, Tata, GE and Huawei. This move suggests that the Fidesz government does not actually have a problem with migrants, but rather only with a specific type of migrants: those who are fleeing persecution, conflicts and poverty fuelled by European policies. With these changes, the Hungarian government legalizes the discrimination of vulnerable groups and the favouritism of the rich groups institutionalizing inequalities within the population."

ECJ: The Dublin III Regulation allows Member States to send an applicant for international protection to a safe third country, irrespective of whether it is the Member State responsible for processing the application or another Member State (ECJ press release, pdf)

News (17.3.16)

GREECE-MACEDONIA: Some facts to get the events of Monday the 14th of March straight, when around 2000 refugees marched to Macedonia/FYROM from Idomeni camp, Greece (Live Ticker Idomeni, link): "We denounce the media’s total lack of consideration for the chronology of the events as well as their erroneous reporting. Furthermore, we condemn the allegedly distributed flyer for being fear-mongering and misleading."

NETHERLANDS: Rising Islamophobia reported in the Netherlands (New Europe, link): "A third of the mosques in the Netherlands have experienced at least one incident of vandalism, threatening letters, attempted arson, the placement of a pig’s head, or other aggressive actions in the past 10 years, according to research by Ineke van der Valk, an author and researcher at the University of Amsterdam."

Turkey catches 54 migrants heading for Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Turkey's coast guard says 54 Afghan migrants were intercepted in the Aegean Sea as their dinghy sped toward the Greek island of Lesvos, and were returned to Turkey"

Tusk cautious on chances of Turkey migration deal (ekathimerini.com, link):"The European Union's summit chairman said on Thursday he was “more cautious than optimistic” about the chances of reaching a deal with Turkey this week to halt an influx of migrants that has caused a divisive backlash in Europe."

Leaders make second attempt to hammer out Turkey refugee deal (euractiv, link): "European Union leaders begin a difficult summit today (17 March) to push for a crucial agreement with Turkey to curb the continent’s massive migration crisis despite threats by Cyprus to sink the deal."

Leaders make second attempt to hammer out Turkey refugee deal (eurctiv, link): European Union leaders begin a difficult summit today (17 March) to push for a crucial agreement with Turkey to curb the continent’s massive migration crisis despite threats by Cyprus to sink the deal." and Timmermans: Failure on EU-Turkey deal will turn Greece into refugee camp (euractiv, link): Comment: Talk about scare-mongering - this is happening because the rest of the EU have created this siutation.

Turkey makes a mockery of Europes claim to uphold democratic values (EPC, link)



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.3.16)
European Commission: New reports 16 March 2016 prior to the EU-Turkey Summit on 18-19 March:

Health warning the titles of the reports are quite misleading: eg: Annex 3: "First report on relocation and resettlement" is in fact a State of Play report on Greece. Helpful titles given below:

- Six Principles for further developing EU-Turkey Cooperation in tackling the Migration Crisis - Brussels, 16 March 2016 (Press release, pdf)

- First report on relocation and resettlement (COM 165-16, pdf): Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "It is obvious from the Commision's lengthy, but barren, report on "relocation" that the idea has abjeclty failed."

- Next operational steps in EU-Turkey cooperation in the field of migration (COM 166-16, pdf): "The return of all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey"

HOTSPOTS TO BE "ADAPTED" to "implement returns to Turkey" and to exclude "relocation" to EU states of those in need of international proteaction: Hotspots to be turned from registration and refferal for trhose in need of international protection and: "adapted – with the current focus on registration and screening before swift transfer to the mainland replaced by the objective of implementing returns to Turkey. For instance, the infrastructure in the hotspots would need to be reconfigured to accommodate the readmission and asylum offices."

And: the building of secure detention centres on the Greek islands: "Another important element would be a substantial increase in reception capacity in the islands. This could include separate facilities for irregular migrants and those undergoing the longer procedure of an asylum request, and would require sufficient detention capacity to be put in place for individuals who present a risk of absconding."

Finally the legality of the mass return of refugees and migrants from Greece to Turkey (p3-4) is uttelry dependent on the Commission's assertoin that legality is ensured: "Provided these safeguards are respected by Greece and Turkey, this scheme will be in accordance with European and international law" (see for example: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (pdf)

- Annex 1: Relocations from Greece (pdf) Out of the planned commitments for 63,302 relocation places in Member States only 2,250 have been offered and only 569 refugees relocated.

- Annex 2: Relocations from Italy (pdf) Out of the planned commitements of 34 953 places in Member Statews only 1,473 have been offered and only 368 refugees have been relocated.

- Annex 3: Greece – State of Play Report (pdf) includes:p3; Tranportation directly to: "detention facilities needs to be established", p9: Forced return programme to be implemented by the Hellenic police and p11 "timely pre-removal detention".Still no mention of the need to provide access to legal advice.

- Annex 4: Italy – State of Play (pdf)

- Annex 5: Chart on relocation process (pdf)

- Annex 6: Resettlement State of Play (pdf)

- Annex 7: Plans for Resettlement after 15 March 2016 (pdf)

- Relocations from Greece and Italy (pdf)

NB: "Relocation" means within EU of refugees in need of international protection

"Resettlement" means of refugees from Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and other states to EU Member States.

EU-TURKEY SUMMIT: Council President Tusk: EU-Turkey 18/3/16 - NON-Paper (pdf)

The "agreement will be in the form of an EU-Turkey statement"

- "returns will be temporary... restore public order"
- refugees not applying for asylum or whose application is found to be unfounded or "inadmissible" will be "returned to Turkey"
- "Migrants having beenreturned to Turkey will be protected"against refoulement" Comment: How will tjhis be guarranteed?

EU-TURKEY: The draft EU/Turkey deal on migration and refugees: is it legal? (EU Law Analysis, link) by Steve Peers

" The key legal question will therefore be how these commitments are implemented in practice.

The main legal route to challenging what happens should be by asylum-seekers through the Greek courts. Those courts could refer questions to the CJEU about EU asylum law (the CJEU could fast-track its replies). Alternatively if the asylum-seekers have gone through the entire Greek court system, they could complain to the European Court of Human Rights.

What about the ‘deal’ itself? As I said at the outset, it is not binding so cannot be challenged as such. Its individual elements are binding and so their legality (or the implementation of them) can be challenged separately. On this point, it would be possible for the European Parliament or a Member State to challenge in the CJEU one particular legally binding element: the decision on the EU’s position on the EU/Turkey readmission treaty. That won’t directly affect the Greece/Turkey readmission deal, which is the key element in returns to Turkey in practice; but any ruling the CJEU might make would obviously be relevant to that latter deal by analogy."

REFUGEES: PETITION: Sign up: STOP EU-TURKEY DEAL - SAFE PASSAGE NOW (European march for Refugee Rights, link): 52,444 already signed:

"Heads of EU Member States
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

On 27 February 2016, citizens in 32 countries and over 120 cities from Europe and the rest of the world raised their voices for refugee rights under the slogan #safepassage. We demanded legal and safe routes and high standards of reception and asylum. On 7 March 2016, EU leaders met with Turkey and designed a plan that should be agreed upon at the next European council meeting on 17-18 March. We call on European leaders ahead of this summit to live up to the European values of human dignity and human rights, to respect international law and above all, to bring us humane policies for a humane Europe."

GREECE: Rule of law in Greece buckles under institutionalised ill-treatment by law enforcement agents (verfassungsblog.de, link):

"The latest report on Greece by the Council of Europe anti-torture Committee (CPT), issued on 1 March, rang, once again, the alarm concerning decades-old, institutionalised, unlawful violence by law enforcement agents. In its press release CPT highlighted the need for Greece to fully acknowledge the phenomenon of police ill-treatment and to adopt a “comprehensive strategy and determined action” to address it.

The issue is compounded by the fact that this deeply ingrained violence is combined with institutionalised racism inside parts of the Greek law enforcement forces, thus targeting in particular migrants. In its 2015 report the Greek Racist Violence Recording Network noted that in 21 out of the 81 racist incidents that were recorded in 2014 the perpetrators were either only law enforcement officials or law enforcement officials along with other perpetrators. Out of these, 13 took place in public places, six in police stations or detention centres, and two in an abandoned private place."

News (16.3.16)

EU-Turkey deal: 6 countries that could derail the EU-Turkey migration deal (politico, link): "The list of complaints is long — and growing."

Macedonia forcibly returns thousands of refugees to Greece (Guardian, link): "Desperate scenes on border as authorities send exhausted men, women and children back to Greek camps they fled a day earlier"

EU leaders push migrant plan ahead of Turkey summit (ekathimerini.com, link): "there has been a growing pushback against the deal, with both France and the Czech Republic warning against attempts by Turkey to “blackmail” Europe. Cyprus has expressed reservations, not least because longtime adversary Turkey expects the accord to further its EU membership bid and ease visa requirements in the passport-free Schengen area. Top United Nations officials on refugees and human rights have also questioned whether the plan would be legal.//"

Greece: Tsipras to meet Kammenos over Mouzalas issue (ekathimerini.com, link): "Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was expected to meet Defense Minister and junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos on Thursday, after the latter demanded the resignation of Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas late Tuesday, sources indicated on Wednesday. The demand came after Mouzalas referred to Greece’s neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), simply as “Macedonia” in an interview with Skai TV."

MEPs insist Turkish accession process should be decoupled from refugee deal (euractiv, link): "EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should be decoupled from the EU accession negotiating process, say Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in a report voted on Wednesday."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15.3.16)
Stop Your Backsliding, Europe (INYT, link) by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Refugees: Nils Muižnieks:

"Some union officials are portraying this deal as a good solution to the crisis. In reality, the automatic forced return that the deal allows is illegal and will be ineffective.

It is illegal because forced returns run contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the collective expulsions of aliens. They also violate the right to seek asylum that was established in 1948 by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and contravene guarantees established by the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which recognizes that seeking asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules..."

EU-TURKEY SUMMIT: European Council (17-18 March 2016) - Draft conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5862-16, pdf)

"Following the decisions of the Heads of State or Government of 7 March, and in the context of the Joint Action Plan with Turkey and its possible expansion...

the use of all means to support the capacity of Greece for the return of irregular migrants to Turkey...

speeding up relocation from Greece, which includes conducting the necessary security checks; the number of applications now being larger than the number of offers, [as shown in the Commission report of 16 March], Member States should swiftly offer more places..."

Greece: Macedonia-Greece: March of Hope - the aftermath

"Last night, a pregnant 27-year-old Afghan woman, her 17-year-old sister and their cousin drowned while attempting to cross the river between Greece and Macedonia near Idomen camp, where up to 12,000 refugees are staying in inhumane conditions, sleeping in flooded tents, hoping the border would miraculously reopen. Today, a big group of around 3,000 refugees from the camp attempted to make a collective crossing on the same spot where drownings took place. They have started marching from Idomeni camp to Suha Reka river in the morning, with many volunteers and journalists following them on what they called The March of Hope."

EU: Turkey Mass-Return Deal Threatens Rights - Would Harm Refugees, Undermine EU’s Principles (HRW, link)

"The European Union’s proposed deal with Turkey, announced on March 8, 2016, represents “a disturbing disregard for international law covering the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants,” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said in a letter to EU heads of state. Roth urged European leaders to reject the new elements of the EU’s Joint Action Plan with Turkey at the European Council on March 17-18....

The breach of the right to seek asylum is not mitigated by the fiction that Turkey is a “safe” country for all refugees. Turkey has granted “temporary protection” to more than two million Syrians but it refuses full refugee status for any non-Europeans. That selective reading of its refugee obligations partly explains why Turkey has repeatedly pushed Syrians back into the war zone and closed borders to others seeking to flee.

And the Syrians are the lucky ones: Afghans, Iraqis, and other refugees are not even given temporary protection by the Turkish government. Meanwhile, all refugees in Turkey are struggling to find work, educate their children, and build dignified lives—essential elements of a “safe” refuge. ""

EU wrestles with rights, Cyprus to seal Turkey migrant deal (ekathimerini.com, link):

"EU officials are racing to overcome legal concerns on human rights and tensions between Turkey and Cyprus in order to complete a deal they hope can stem the migrant crisis when leaders meet later this week....Following criticism from the United Nations and other human rights bodies, as well as many European politicians, EU lawyers are working to ensure the plan can be presented as conforming to international law, diplomats and officials said on Monday.

Negotiators are seeking legal moves from Turkey to ensure that EU states can consider its treatment of asylum seekers as being in line with international standards, officials said.

From Greece, Brussels is seeking assurances that it will provide facilities on its islands off the Turkish coast to ensure that every person arriving can have a hearing, including an individual judicial appeal, against deportation to Turkey. On Monday, the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe echoed a senior U.N. official in warning of illegal mass expulsions. He urged the EU to scrap the proposals with Turkey."

See: Statewatch Analysis: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (pdf)

EU-Turkey migration deal on life support - Countries have attacked nearly every aspect of the agreement leaders hope to finalize at this week’s summit. (politico, link): " first they will have to address the concerns of several countries that have raised red flags, including: Cyprus, which opposes any deal to move forward on EU membership for Turkey until Ankara fully respects all the commitments made with Nicosia; Bulgaria, which wants the agreement to also focus on the migration route on its border with Turkey; and France and Spain, which have raised humanitarian concerns. Spain was the most recent country to signal its opposition to Turkey’s demands. The country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, called the proposed agreement with Ankara “unacceptable” in remarks to reporters Monday."

Greece: Refugees on Lesbos offered sanctuary thanks to Brit couple (Mirror, link):

"Rather than welcoming British tourists, Eric and Philippa Kempson have opened a hotel of hope to the hundreds of fleeing refugees... ...

Now, as Turkey and the EU agree their “one in, one out” policy in response to the migrant crisis, Philippa says: “I’m absolutely speechless about these latest measures – they’re farcical. Labels like ‘irregular migration’ are meaningless. "We need to remember these are human beings fleeing horrific circumstances.”

Hotel Elpis, on tranquil Eftalou Beach, gives desperate refugees shelter, somewhere to wash and a meal when they land on Lesbos. The 20-room hotel welcomed its first 110 residents two weeks ago."

UNHCR: Reports that this year there have been 153,158 arrivals in the EU: 143,205 in Greece and 9,495 in Italy. 448 dead/missing

And: "The Greek Ministry of Migration Policy announced on 13 March that 44,035 refugees were in Greece with 8,904 located on the islands and 35,131 people on the mainland. Of those, an approximate 12,000 people were located at Eidomeni, near the border crossing between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." (Daily Report, 15.3.16)

German NGO slams Turkey’s ‘illegal’ refugee proposal (euractiv, link):

"As EU leaders struggle to agree on a final action plan with Turkey, Germany’s largest immigration NGO has published a legal opinion today (15 March) questioning the legality of the proposals...

PRO ASYL, a German organisation that champions the rights of immigrants, has published a legal opinion that claims the plan is illegal, as it is based on the claim that Turkey is a “safe third country”. The NGO’s chief, Günter Burkhardt, is in no doubt that, “Turkey is not a ‘safe third country’ within the definitions of EU and international refugee law.” ...

“If the EU makes this deal, then it will be violating its own laws and international laws,” Karl Kopp, speaker from Pro Asyl on European issues and on the board of the European Refugee Council (ECRE), told EurActiv.de. “That would be a disastrous signal to send.”"

News (15.3.16)

Greece: Refugees say they were beaten in FYROM (ekathimerini.com, link): "Refugees who bypassed a border fence to enter Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) say FYROM forces beat and gave them electric shocks before driving them back to Greece."

EU Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos during his visit to Idomeni, Greece - Brussels, 15 March 2016 (pdf)

Danes raise €20,000 to pay smuggling fines (euobserver, link): "Danes have crowdfunded some €20,000 to pay fines handed out to people caught helping refugees, reports The Copenhagen Post. The fundraisers want to award people fined "for acting decently and with humanity”. However, the Danish Fundraising Board has said the campaign is illegal because organisers did not give proper notification."

UK press is the most aggressive in reporting on Europe’s ‘migrant’ crisis (The Conversation, link)

Brussels: S&D Group in European Parliament to demonstrate against ‘walls in Europe’ (New Europe, link): "Under the slogan of “No more walls in Europe – #EUWakeUp”, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament is organising a demonstration in Brussels on March 16. The gathering will coincide with a European Council meeting."

Tusk goes to Turkey and Cyprus to finalise migrant deal (euractiv, link): "Council President Donald Tusk headed for talks today (15 March) in both Nicosia and Ankara, as part of a bid to finalise terms of an EU deal with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants to Europe, EU sources said."

FYROM returned about 600 migrants to Greece, says police (ekathimerini.com, link): "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has sent about 600 migrants who crossed the border on Monday back to Greece, a FYROM police official said on Tuesday."

and see: FYROM releases photojournalists, NGO workers (link): "Authorities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Tuesday released from custody 12 Greek photojournalists and NGO workers who had followed a group of hundreds of migrants and refugees on a crossing of Greece’s border with its northern neighbor on Monday".



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14.3.16)

GREECE-MACEDONIA: Hundreds of refugees hunt for new route into Europe as three drown on Greece-Macedonia border (The Independent, link): "Three refugees have drowned while attempting to cross a river from Greece into Macedonia, according to police, as refugees attempt to find a new route to cross into the country.

Macedonian police said the bodies of two men and a woman had been found in the Suva Reka river near the border town of Gevgelija on Monday morning, which had swelled due to heavy rain.

More than 1,000 refugees are reported to have left the Ideomeni camp in the north of Greece on Monday morning, walking for hours with their belongings in heavy rain before finally attempting to cross the fast-flowing water."

And see: Idomeni refugees push to cross into Macedonia despite border closure (Deutsche Welle, link): " Hours after setting out from the camp, several hundred refugees were able cross into Macedonia, where they were detained by border police and the army for illegally entering the country. Around 30 journalists following the refugees were also arrested.

Macedonian authorities said "several hundred" migrants would be sent back to Greece."

According to a Reuters report: "Greek authorities handed out leaflets in Idomeni on Saturday informing people that the main route to northern Europe was shut. The pamphlets urged them to move to buildings and hospitality centers across Greece that have been set aside for the purpose, according to a government official from the country's refugee crisis management coordination body." Clearly many of those in Idomeni have no wish to stay in Greece. See: Greece steps up efforts to move migrants to sheltered camps (Reuters, link) and further background on the situation in Idomeni: The dead end at Idomeni: thousands struggle in worsening conditions (euronews, link)

CALAIS: People protest, move on as situation worsens

Refugees target Cherbourg port as security tightens at Calais (The Telegraph, link): "Since the start of the year, there have been more than 400 attempts by migrants to sneak on to ships in Cherbourg bound for England or Ireland.

That is twice the number of attempts for the whole of 2015, according to the most senior state official in the region.

Many more may head there from Calais in the coming weeks as French authorities continue the demolition of half of the squalid Jungle, which is home to up to 7,000 migrants."

Refugees sew mouths shut in protest at Calais camp (NRT, link): "A number of refugees have sewn their lips shut in protest over the Calais “Jungle” camp’s closure, which began over a week ago in northern France.

NRT correspondent Halgurd Samad said French authorities are destroying the southern part of the camp where more than 1,500 refugees had settled.

The refugees taking part in a literal silent protest want to be resettled across the channel in England. They say they represent all of the refugees who were or are still living in the camp, and that they are waiting for a response from the British government. "

Far-right activists 'impersonated police to attack refugees for money and mobile phones' in Calais (The Independent, link): "A group of far-right activists have reportedly admitted impersonating as police officers to attack and rob refugees in a series of attacks in Calais.

The five local men, aged between 19 and 14, were arrested on Wednesday and include the founder of an anti-immigration movement and protest organisers."

UK 'to give France €20 million extra' to stop migrants and refugees reaching England from Calais (The Independent, link): "David Cameron is to agree to give an extra €20 million (£15.4 million) to France for policing and dispersing migrants attempting to reach the UK from Calais, a minister has said.

In a radio interview before a Franco-British summit at Amiens in the Somme, the French Europe minister, Harlem Desir, said the extra funding came on top of previous British spending of €60 million (£47 million)."

Greece in pictures: photos from Aegean islands and Idomeni

Photo gallery: Perilous hope for refugees heading to Greece (New Internationalist, link): "As Europe turns its back on refugees, Neal McQueen turns his camera on them, and those who are helping. He has been documenting the crisis since early October 2015 in his blog Periloushope.tumblr.com. The title refers to the boat journey from Turkey to Greece."

And: Greece: Thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers stranded at the mercy of European leaders (Amnesty International, link): "As European Union (EU) leaders are negotiating a proposed deal with Turkey to return refugees and migrants, the humanitarian crisis has worsened in places such as the northern Greek border crossing of Idomeni, where up to 13,000 people were stranded when an Amnesty International team visited this week.

Under pressure from the EU, neighbouring Macedonia has sealed off its border with Greece, fueling an increasingly desperate situation.

Here are some of the scenes of despair captured by Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe, and Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director for Amnesty International Greece."

EU: Report on the work of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) from February 2011 to June 2014

"In 2014, EY (ex-Ernst & Young) was mandated by EASO to conduct the independent external evaluation of EASO’s activities covering the period from February 2011 to June 2014. By decision of the Steering Group, the temporal scope was extended to cover the entire period since the Agency began operations. All activities implemented by EASO have been covered, across all the Member States of the European Union (MS).The evaluation was conducted between October 2014 and July 2015."

Some of the main conclusions:

Full report: European Asylum Support Office: Independent External Evaluation of EASO's activities covering the period from February 2011 to June 2014: Final report (pdf) and Annexes (pdf)

News (14.3.16)

German election results polarised, but most voters back pro-refugee parties (The Guardian, link): "Anti-refugee party Alternative für Deutschland entered state parliaments in the three regions that voted, winning 24% of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt and over 10% in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) lost support in Baden-Württemberg – a region dominated by the CDU since the end of the second world war – and Rhineland Palatinate, but remained the largest party in Saxony-Anhalt.

Although the AfD enjoyed considerable momentum, the majority of votes still went to parties who support Merkel’s pro-refugee stance. In all three states, incumbent premiers held on to their seat. In Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, the Green and Social Democratic (SPD) candidates managed to increase their vote after resolutely backing the chancellor’s open-border position."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12-13.3.16)
Statewatch Analysis: The EU Border Guard takes shape (52 pages, pdf) by Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex:

"Back in December 2015, the Commission proposed the text of a Regulation creating a new EU Border Guard, which would replace the current Frontex agency. EU leaders have already asked for this law to be agreed by June. Most of the text of this proposal has already been agreed by the Council, although after that it will still have to be agreed with the European Parliament.

To aid those who are concerned about or interested in the development of this Agency, I have consolidated all of the parts agreed to date by the Council on the basis of Council documents 6359/1/16, 6884/16 and 6652/16. The state of play is set out in doc 6744/16."

Greece: Under Greece-Turkey protocol "migrants" to be returned "within 48 hours"
- 15 days mnimum providing applicant has the means to prepare appeal and the process is subject to judicial review

Minister confirms Turkish observers will be assigned to Greek refugee centers (ekathimerini.com, lnk):

"Alternate Minister for Citizens’ Protection Nikos Toskas on Saturday confirmed that Turkish officials will be posted to the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean to act as observers and oversee the relocation of migrants who are not eligible for protection from Greece back to Turkey.

Speaking on Skai TV amid media reports that Turkish officials would be allowed into refugee documentation centers, Toskas said that this is part of a protocol he signed with his Turkish counterpart during a Greek government mission to Izmir earlier in the week in order to speed up relocations.

“In this framework, it will be possible for Turkish observers to be admitted at Greek islands to speed up procedures so that migrants who are not eligible for protection are returned [to Turkey] within 48 hours,” Toskas said.

For the time being, he said, one Turkish observer will be assigned to the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"This appears to confirm that within the new EU-NATO regime refugees will be brought ashore to "hotspot" centres in Greece. There they will subject to: "Identification, Registration, Profiling, and Referral" (pdf). "Referral" would mean "channeling" into those refugees who judged to be entitled to apply for "relocation" within the EU and those said not to be entitled to international protection. The process described does not seems to recognise that all refugees have the right to apply for asylum and that those judged not to be entitled to international protection have the right to legal representation and appeal against such a decision.

It is extremely difficult to see how peoples' rights can be respected in 48 hours. If refugees are to be "processed" in Greece then the full weight of EU law and rights apply. See CJEU judgment (pdf) which found that:

!As regards the fact that the time-limit for bringing an action is 15 days in the case of an accelerated procedure, whilst it is 1 month in the case of a decision adopted under the ordinary procedure, the important point, as the Advocate General has stated in point 63 of his Opinion, is that the period prescribed must be sufficient in practical terms to enable the applicant to prepare and bring an effective action....

"the reasons which led that authority to examine the merits of the application under such a procedure can in fact be subject to judicial review in the action which may be brought against the final decision rejecting the application – a matter which falls to be determined by the referring court.""

Refugee crisis: how Greeks opened their hearts to strangers (Guarian, link):

"Despite six years of economic hardship, ordinary people have shown astonishing generosity in helping the 42,000 migrants stranded in their country.

It’s a generosity of spirit that has not been lost on recipients. With Greece’s impoverished state structure stretched to breaking point, refugees have been dependent on the kindness of strangers. “The Greek police are terrible,” says Amar Souadi, an Iraqi, standing on the bluff where he has pitched his tent in the mud fields that are now home to the refugees in Idomeni. “But the Greek people are very good,” he exclaims, breaking into a smile.""

Greece: Push-Backs: Turkish coastguard with sticks against boat full with refugees (Keep Talking Greece, link): "This is how the famous push-backs in the Turkish territorial waters look like: a vessel of the Turkish coastguard approaches a boat full of refugees and using sticks the coastguard tries to push the boat back to the shore."

and: Migrant crisis: Turkish guards hit migrant boat with sticks (BBC News, link): "The BBC has been given a video showing Turkish coastguard using sticks against a boat full of migrants as they sail to Greece in the Aegean Sea. The incident is said to have happened in Turkish waters as the migrants were on their way to the island of Lesbos."

Majority of Spanish Congress against EU refugee deal signed by acting PM - This is the first time that the lower house has opposed a European agreement (El Pais, link):

"Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will go to the European Council on March 17 to defend a position that most of Spanish Congress radically rejects.

Except for his own Popular Party (PP), all other congressional groups – 227 deputies out of a total of 350 – feel that the European Union’s deal with Turkey to expel refugees is illegal....

This is the first time that a vast majority of Congress has rejected a deal subscribed to by the EU government. Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez said the European deal with Turkey was “immoral” and possibly even “illegal.”

“We have a week to change this agreement. The European Council of March 17 and 18 cannot approve this pact of shame,” he said."

UNHCR Daily Report, 11.3.16

"Arrivals and Departures: In Greece, people are growing increasingly desperate as the border crossing with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remained closed for the past three days. The number of people arriving to the Greek islands remains high (4,986 arrivals in total over the past three days). This adds to the 41,973 refugees and migrants present in Greece as estimated by the newly-established Greek Refugees Crisis Management Coordination body.

Condition of People: While authorities make efforts to establish new emergency shelter across Greece, existing facilities remain at full capacity. There are currently 8,279 people present on the islands, some taking shelter in public spaces as existing facilities are filled beyond capacity. In Piraeus, 2,050 people are present, including many women and children, some staying in tents. In Athens, people continue to remain in Victoria Square. Some 12,000 people are currently present in Eidomeni, where the cold weather conditions, as well as muddy fields have increased people’s plight. Lack of shelter, water and sanitary facilities continue to be of high concern. UNHCR and humanitarian partners struggle to provide basic assistance such as shelter, food, blankets, jackets and medical assistance to thousands of desperate people in need.

Along the Western Balkans route, 1,500 people are present in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, some 2,000 in Serbia, 319 in Croatia and 70 in Slovenia. Most remain in dire conditions awaiting a solution to be decided upon at political levels."

and

"Turkish Minister of EU Affairs, Volkan Bozkir, stated that the agreement, under which Turkish authorities are to readmit refugees and migrants from Greece does not apply to people who have already reached the Greek islands but to those who will arrive once the agreement begins to be implemented." [emphasis added]

Danish children’s rights activist fined for people trafficking (Guardian, link):

"Lisbeth Zornig says her fine for giving a lift to family of Syrians is ‘criminalising decency’ amid asylum clampdown in Denmark

A high-profile Danish campaigner for children’s rights was prosecuted on Friday under people trafficking laws, shining a spotlight once more on the country’s crackdown on asylum, as Scandinavian countries compete to make themselves unattractive destinations for refugees.

Lisbeth Zornig, the country’s former children’s ombudsman and a well-known author, was fined DKr22,500 (£2,328) – the maximum demanded by the prosecutor – by a court in Nykøbing Falster, southern Denmark, for allowing a family of Syrians to hitch a ride with her to Copenhagen.

Her husband was fined the same amount for taking the family into his home for coffee and biscuits, and then driving them to the railway station, where he bought them tickets to Sweden. “This was a political trail, using me and my husband to send a strong message: don’t try to help refugees,” Zornig said after the verdict. “I am very angry because the only thing we did was the decent thing, the same that hundreds of others did. They are criminalising decency.” Zornig has decided to appeal against the verdict."

EU: ECRE Memorandum to the European Council Meeting 17 – 18 March 2016: Time to Save the Right to Asylum (pdf):

"Ahead of the European Council Summit meeting of 17 and 18 March 2016, ECRE urges Heads of State or Government to assume political leadership and pave the way for a concerted EU response to what primarily continues to be a refugee crisis and not only a migratory phenomenon. Such a response must be based on the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility and respect for human rights. Current fragmented national approaches have added to the suffering of refugees and migrants."

And see: Letter sent to President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker and EU Heads of State or Government (link):

Legal Requirements for the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement: A Reply to J. Hathaway (link): "Steve Peers, Fr 11 Mrz 2016 / 16:03

The third point is an assertion, not an argument. Since the ban on collective expulsion applies on the high seas, why would it not apply at the borders? If the agreement ignores the requirements set out in the case law, why would it not infringe the Convention? In any event, it also ignores the wording of the EU asylum acquis, which states that any application for asylum at the borders or on the territory must be considered by a Member State.

Like the Commission, you only partly quote the procedures Directive. It says that a possibility must exist to ‚request refugee status‘ in accordance with the Geneva Convention. How can someone request Convention refugee status in a State which does not apply the Convention to the person concerned?

And the procedures Directive does not only say that: asylum applicants must be able to make a case that Turkey is not safe in their individual case; there must not be refoulement from Turkey; and there must be decent treatment in Turkey. Even if these criteria are satisfied in many cases it is clear from NGO reports that they are not satisfied in all; that is why individuals must be able to explain why they are not safe in their particular circumstances, which is consistent with the ECHR interpretation of the prohibition of collective expulsion."

See:Excellent article: The NATO pushbacks in the Aegean and international law (link) by Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law: "The most directly applicable case is the 2012 Hirsi Jamaa judgment, in which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights passed judgment on the Italian pushbacks, which consisted of transferring migrants from vessels onto Italian navy vessels and returning to Libya without any procedure. The Court held that a state exercises de jure jurisdiction over vessels flying its flag, and therefore the migrants were under Italian jurisdiction. It added that Italy could not evade the exercise of jurisdiction by arguing that its activities constitute a search and rescue action – just like NATO is doing at present....

The conclusion has to be that the NATO actions are in violation of international law; and that the relevant parts of international law are binding on NATO states because they exercise jurisdiction over migrants. Returning migrants to Turkey as envisioned violates the prohibition of refoulement, also when it happens in the form of search and rescue." [emphasis added]

Also: Statewatch Analysis: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (pdf) and: Executive Summary (pdf)

News (12-13.3.16)

Greece returns 90 migrants, Turkish authorities say (.ekathimerini.com, link): "Turkish officials say Greece has returned 90 migrants from Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey who had crossed into the country from Turkey."

Greece: Minister sees refugee crisis easing by week’s end (.ekathimerini.com, link): "“There is no plan for police to evacuate Idomeni. Fifty percent of the people there are children,” he said, adding that in the long run Greece will have 20,000 refugees. According to the latest figures, there are currently 42,253 refugees and migrants scattered around Greece. At the moment, Greece has a capacity to accommodate 30,000."

Slovenia says ready to comply with EU migrant quota scheme (euractiv, link): "Slovenia, which this week closed its borders to migrants, will begin accepting refugees shared out among the European Union in April, under its troubled quota scheme, the government said Thursday"

EU-Turkey: Hollande vows ‘no concessions’ to Turkey on rights, visas in migrant deal (ekathimerini.com, link): "French President Francois Hollande said Saturday that the EU must not grant Turkey any concessions on human rights or visas in exchange for guarantees to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. “There cannot be any concessions on the matter of human rights or the criteria for visa liberalization,” Hollande told reporters ahead of the resumption next week of tough negotiations between Turkey and the EU in Brussels."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.3.16): joint NGO statement against border closures; non-assistance to migrants in distress; interview with International Organisation for Migration director.
EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council: 10-11 March 2015: Final Press release, 10-11-3-16 (pdf)

Latest IOM figures: Arrivals by sea and deaths in the Mediterranean 2015/2016 (IOM, link)

UN human rights chief to discuss "very serious concerns" over proposed EU-Turkey deal during Brussels trip

From a statement by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein (pdf, emphasis added): "The EU's draft arrangement with Turkey earlier this week raises a number of very serious concerns. We do not yet have full details of this draft, and I plan to discuss my concerns in full during my visit to Brussels early next week, before the two-day EU Summit which begins on 17 March. Among my concerns is the potential for collective and arbitrary expulsions, which are illegal. Border restrictions which do not permit determination of the circumstances of each individual violate international and European law.

I must also reiterate my profound concern about restrictive measures such as erecting fences; denying people access to individualised procedures; and arbitrarily denying entry to people of specific nationalities. I am in addition concerned about measures to seize belongings from people who may have already suffered greatly, and to restrict them from bringing in family members."

And see: UN rights chief calls on EU to adopt more ‘humane’ measures on migration (UN Human Rights, link): "10 March 2016 – The United Nations human rights chief today reiterated his profound concern about the situation faced by refugees and migrants “in extreme vulnerability,” and urged the European Union to adopt a more humane set of measures on migration at a summit next week.

“In the first two months of this year, more than 400 people have died trying to reach Europe – due partly to the lack of viable avenues of entry,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“I acknowledge the generosity with which Germany welcomed around a million people last year, and the efforts of Greece, throughout 2015, to take a humane approach, avoiding detention and pushbacks at sea. But today, in violation of the fundamental principles of solidarity, human dignity, and human rights, the race to repel these people is picking up momentum,” he warned, as he presented his annual report.

(...) "International guarantees protecting human rights may not be side-stepped or diluted.”"

Full statement: Statement by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the Human Rights Council's 31st session (10 March 2016, pdf)

This follows from from: UNHCR's reaction to Statement of the EU Heads of State and Government of Turkey, 7 March (pdf)

Stop discriminatory and dangerous border closures: Joint statement by 26 organisations working with people on the move (3 March 2016, pdf)

"To European leaders:

As national and international organizations working along the Western Balkan migration route in Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia, we strongly condemn the latest discriminatory and dangerous measures adopted by European countries as part of a broader package of deterrence policies intended to stem the flow of vulnerable people seeking safety."

Ebbing and Flowing: The EU’s Shifting Practices of (Non-) Assistance and Bordering in a Time of Crisis (Near Futures Online, link): "our hypothesis, to state it at the outset, is the following: the practice of rescue has become more deadly as the result of a shift in smugglers’ practices combined with persistent policies of non-assistance on the part of states. In order to account for this new and disturbing reality, we need to follow carefully the successive shifts in the practices of (non-)assistance and bordering that have occurred at the EU’s external frontier in the last few years. In what follows, the sea – and in particular the central Mediterranean – is the centre of gravity of our analysis. We first summarise the pre-October 2013 conditions that led to structural cases of non-assistance. We then describe the break constituted by the large-scale military-humanitarian operation Mare Nostrum which was launched by the Italian government following two infamous shipwrecks in early October 2013 near the island of Lampedusa. Finally, we chart the rapidly evolving practices of rescue and bordering that unfolded after Mare Nostrum was phased out in November 2014. In particular, we elaborate, the partial privatisation of rescue that filled the gap in the state’s rescue capability, and then, in the wake of the twin shipwrecks of April 2015, the unprecedented involvement of non-governmental rescue vessels and the beginning of what is probably the largest maritime anti-trafficking military campaign since the deployment of a British Navy squadron off the coasts of West Africa in the 19th century, namely EUNAVFOR MED. In seeking to understand these successive shifts in practices of (non-)assistance and bordering at sea, we argue that it is essential to attend to the way they have been articulated with their corresponding practices on firm land within and outside the EU. Land and sea have been locked into a continuum by the Europeanization of migration policies that we describe below."

If Europe turns its backs on its refugees, where on Earth will they go next? (The Independent, link): Interview with International Organisation for Migration director for the EU and NATO, Eugenio Ambrosi. Amongst other things, he makes clear: "We cannot just leave it to the neighbouring countries, they are already overwhelmed. Lebanon alone has the same number of refugees as arrived in Europe in the whole of last year – among a population of just 4.5 million.

""It is becoming too big a challenge, and if the burden isn’t shared people are bound to move on. Just thinking that the rest of the world can deal with the problem does not work because sooner or later this huge movement of people will affect Europe in the end anyway."

News (11.3.16)

Albania won't become EU 'gateway,' Italian admiral says (EUobserver, link): "There is little risk that migrants will enter the EU en masse via Albania, Italy’s former defence chief has said, adding that a deal with Russia on Syria is the best way to restore “stability”.

“I don’t think it [Albania] will become the main gateway [for migrants]," admiral Luigi Binelli Mantelli told EUobserver from Italy in an interview on Thursday (10 March).

“Albania has very attentive border control and doesn’t suffer from illegal immigration,” he said"

EU to ease Greece migrant buildup, wrestles Turkey deal (Thomas Reuters Foundation, link): "The European Union aims to rehouse thousands of asylum-seekers from Greece in the coming months, officials said on Thursday as EU ministers wrestled with concerns about the legality of a new plan to force migrants back to Turkey.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the member of the executive European Commission who handles migration, told reporters at a meeting of national interior ministers that at least 6,000 people a month should be relocated to other member states under a scheme which has moved only about 900 hundred people so far."

EU: Geneva convention, Turkey visa demands trouble EU states (EUobserver, link): "EU states are pushing to designate Turkey as a safe country to return unwanted migrants from Europe despite Ankara's patchy application of the Geneva convention. Some countries also question allowing visa-free travel to 75 million Turks.

The safe-country move is being driven by a provisional deal between EU states and Turkey earlier this week as well as intense political pressure from Berlin.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (10 March), EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said it was the EU's "duty" to designate Turkey as a safe third country.

"It is a European position, but it has to be elaborated more in the days to come," he said."

Greece to Donald Tusk: ‘Don’t thank the Balkans’ (Politico, link): "Greece lashed out at Donald Tusk Thursday over comments the European Council president had made thanking Balkan countries for shutting down the migrant corridor along the Western Balkan route."

GREECE: 36,000 in Greece to rely solely on EU relocation mechanism and humanitarian aid (New Europe, link): "36,000 stranded migrants and refugees in Greece to depend solely on asylum application examination procedure and humanitarian aid, waiting for the next EU Summit and the implication of 7 March EU – Turkey Summit conclusions, the European Council source confirms.

According to the numbers provided by EU sources on Thursday, 7,000 migrants are in the Greek islands at the moment, while a total of 36,000 total remain in Greece, Wednesday afternoon’s data show as provided by the Hellenic Republic."

GREECE: Newborn takes first bath in the muddy fields of Idomeni (The Times of Change, link)

Slovenia says ready to comply with EU migrant quota scheme (EurActiv, link): "Slovenia, which this week closed its borders to migrants, will begin accepting refugees shared out among the European Union in April, under its troubled quota scheme, the government said Thursday (10 March).

“This year and next some 567 refugees will be relocated to Slovenia from Italy and Greece. A first group is to arrive in April,” interior ministry official Bostjan Sefic told a news conference on Thursday.

“Slovenia has expressed its wish that most of the relocated refugees are families but we cannot expect only families will arrive,” he said after a cabinet meeting."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.3.16)
Justice and Home Affairs Council adopts Conclusions on "migrant smuggling" and facilitating "illegal entry & transit"

- the "humanitarian exception" of helping refugees is seen as an "obstacle" to prosecutions - the term "refugee" is not mentioned once

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"Has the threat to criminalise NGOs, volunteers and local people disappeared? On the contrary, it has moved formally onto the agenda for Eurojust to conclude that the "humanitarian exception" of helping refugees in need is an "obstacle" to the investigation and prosecution of "migrant smugglers".

At the same time, here and now, in Greece NGOs and volunteers are being required to register with the state-police and account to them for all their actions."

See: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council: 10-11 March 2015: Press release, 10-3-16 (pdf) "B" Points Agenda (for discussion, pdf) and "A" Points Agenda (adopted without discussion, pdf) and Background Note (pdf)

See: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC - Provisions on return (LIMITE doc no:6884-16, pdf) and

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC)
No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC
(LIMITE doc no: 6652, pdf)

- Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC - State of play (LIMITE doc no: 6744-16, pdf)

EU-Funded migration management project launched in Belgrade (Frontex, link): " This regional support programme for the countries of the Western Balkans
and Turkey aims to establish a harmonized, effective and protection-sensitive migration management in line with EU standards"

European Parliament: MEPs demand details of the EU-Turkey deal and compliance with international law (Press release, pdf):

"MEPs demanded details on Wednesday of the deal struck by EU leaders with Turkey on the management of migrant and refugee flows, underlining that the international asylum rules must be respected. In a plenary debate with the Council and the Commission, most political group leaders insisted that EU accession negotiations with Turkey and talks on visa liberalisation for Turkish nationals travelling to the EU should not be linked to the refugee issue....

Note to editors: Visa exemption rule changes entail switching the country concerned from one annex to Regulation 539/01 to another (such changes are subject to co-decision by Parliament and the Council)."

Greece: Tsipras reacts to Tusk statement on closure of Balkan route for migrants (ekathimerini.com, link):

"“The Western Balkans route has come to an end due to unilateral actions by certain countries. EU has no future if it goes on like that,” Tsipras tweeted. “We expect D. Tusk, president of EU28 to focus efforts on implementing our common decisions and not encourage those who ignore them,” the Greek premier added.

Earlier, Tusk wrote on Twitter that “Irregular flows of migrants along Western Balkans route have come to an end. “Not a question of unilateral actions but common EU28 decision... I thank Western Balkan ountries for implementing part of EUs comprehensive strategy to deal with migration crisis,” Tusk added."

and: Tusk – Tsipras – Merkel: “War of Words” about the Closure of Balkan Route (Keep Talking Greece, link)

Comment: The EU Council President D Tusk seems to have forgotten that the draft Summit statement referred to closing the Balkan route but the final press statement did not. This is why it is right to speak of continuous unilateral action by European states.

and see: Austria wants Balkan route to stay closed (link): "Austria’s interior minister says the Balkan migrant route should remain closed permanently and that the “clock will not be turned back.”"

Philippe Lamberts: Europe’s governments have shown ‘unconscionable cowardice’ over migration crisis (euractiv, link):

"If the French government had supported its German partners on the issue of refugees, the European response to the crisis would not have been a failure, according to Philippe Lamberts....

The EU-Turkey migration summit led to a series of proposals that have been roundly criticised, notably within the European Parliament. How would you assess the attitude of the European governments during the negotiations?

First of all, the deal on the table is illegal. For Europe to say that for every refugee that is turned away from Greece, it will accept one refugee arriving through a legal channel, is both illegal and immoral. This means that as many refugees as possible should try to leave Turkey illegally, in order to open the door to the EU for the largest possible number of refugees."

Detention of asylum-seekers: the first CJEU judgment (EU Law Analysis, link):

One of the most controversial aspects of immigration and asylum law is the detention of migrants: people who have broken no criminal law (other than, possibly a criminal law about migration control) but who are detained during their asylum application, or pending their removal from the country. The EU has had rules on detention of irregular migrants for some time, in the Returns Directive (on the CJEU’s interpretation of those rules, see my journal article here). But it has only recently had rules on the detention of asylum-seekers, in the second-phase Directive on the reception conditions for asylum-seekers. (The UK and Ireland have opted out of both Directives).

Recently, in the JN judgment, the CJEU ruled for the first time on the interpretation of these new rules...

the EU’s refugee policies are obviously in a state of deep crisis. Rather than leave the issue entirely to populists at the EU or national level, it would be better for the EU ask a panel of respected international experts to recommend (quickly) how the EU, in the wider international context, should deal with the crisis. I would nominate (say) Mary Robinson, David Miliband, Madeline Albright and Carl Bildt for this task. In any event, we cannot go on as we are: the EU needs an asylum policy that is simultaneously fair, humane, realistic and coherent; but it is falling far short of that at the moment. "

News (10.3.16)

This Turkish deal is illegal and betrays Europe’s values by Guy Verhofstadt (Guardian, link): "The refugee crisis won’t be solved by the EU signing a pact with an increasingly authoritarian regime."

Hungary declares ‘state of crisis’, poised to build more fences (euactiv, link): "Following the Balkan states’ decisions to either close or partially shut down their borders, Hungary has decided to send more troops and police to guard its frontiers. Budapest announced it is prepared to build a wall on its border with Romania within ten days if necessary."

The Council adopts the new Emergency support in case of crisis inside the EU (EASFJ, link)

Migrant crisis: Merkel condemns closure of Balkan route (BBC News, link)

Britain to send Land Rovers to Bulgaria to help police borders (Guardian, link): "UK government’s decision angers human rights campaigners who accuse Bulgarian officials of abuses against migrants."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9.3.16)
UNHCR Daily Report (9.3.16):

"In Izmir, Turkey, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras chaired the fourth Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoðlu. Transport, trade, tourism and the refugee issue were exceptionally added to the agenda. Tsipras and Davutoðlu signed the previously announced readmission agreement, according to which people who do not qualify for international protection in Greece will be returned to Turkey."

Comment: This would appear to mean that refugees will have to be brought ashore in Greece and due process undertaken to determine whether or not a person qualifies for international protection.

Greece and Turkey intensify joint work on migrants (euobserver link): "Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras met his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Izmir on Tuesday and signed several agreements to pave the way for the EU-Turkey deal to work.

Tsipras told a joint news conference that the EU deal “sends a clear message to migrants coming from third countries, rather than countries at war ... that there is neither the political will nor the ability to cross to Europe”. [emphasis added]

Comment: This appears to mean that refugees from countries where there are ongoing conflicts - Syria, Irag and Afghanistan - will not be returend under these agreements.

And see: Merkel says history won't judge kindly if EU fails refugees (ekathimerini.com, link): "Five hundred million Europeans today probably haven’t taken in a million Syrians,” Merkel said on a panel late Tuesday in Stuttgart, Germany, adding that the EU can’t afford to isolate itself from the crisis. “I think that this won’t go well for us historically. I’m very sure of that.”"

Also: Europe finds no delight in Turkish deal - Planned deal with Turkey attacked from all sides (politico, link):

"German and EU leaders have portrayed the proposed arrangement as a major breakthrough; Europe’s best, possibly last, hope to bring the refugee crisis under control. But a broad spectrum of critics, from national and European MPs, to the UN’s refugee agency to Amnesty International, assailed the plan, arguing it would force the EU to abandon its core principles.

Clearly, Europe is willing to do anything, including compromising essential human rights and refugee law principles, to stem the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe,” Aurelie Ponthieu, a top official at Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement." [emphasis added]

EU-Turkey refugee deal – Q&A (Guardian, link): "European and Turkish leaders claim their ‘one in, one out’ deal will end the chaotic migration of refugees towards Europe. But key questions remain.

The EU now says that those who arrive in Greece by boat will be sent to the back of the queue for formal resettlement – so deterring people from making the journey in the first place. But it will be difficult to document refugees if they are returned straight to Turkey without being formally registered – as the current version of the plan suggests could happen in some cases." and

Parliament blasts EU promises to Turkey (Parliament magazine, link):

"Senior MEPs slam preliminary refugee crisis deal with Turkey, highlighting country's poor human rights record..

GUE/NGL group leader Gabi Zimmer pointed out that, "If the EU accepts the Turkish proposal, it will undermine refugees' individual rights to international protection and asylum. Only accepting Syrians directly from Turkey, while leaving other refugees to a miserable fate, violates international conventions."....

She blasted the EU for having, "made itself totally dependent on Turkey through its policy of ignorance. Instead of being proactive and acting in due time to support refugees, EU governments buried their heads in the sand until millions of people had arrived from across the Mediterranean.""

What On Earth Is Going On With The Refugee Crisis In Europe? (Buzzfeed,link): "A simple (but by no means exhaustive) explainer."

Opinion: Inching toward a Fortress Europe (DW, link): "Turkey is demanding an ever-higher price for its cooperation in fending off refugees. As long as they stop the influx, Europeans are prepared to accept any legal fig leaf held up by Ankara, says Barbara Wesel.

In Germany an asylum seeker has the right to an assessment of one's individual reasons for fleeing, and the EU is obliged to uphold the rules of the Geneva Convention. But none of that matters when the only goal is to bring the number of refugees down to zero. We are moving ever closer to the ideal of rightwing populists - a Fortress Europe.

Now that the EU has taken in a million refugees, it is willing to enter into an unsavory agreement with Turkey, putting its own future on the line, while raising the drawbridges at its borders. It is a pathetic spectacle in every respect."

Balkan Route ‘closed’ after cascade of border shutdowns (euractiv, link): "Slovenia and Serbia said on Tuesday (8 March) they would place new restrictions on the entry of migrants, putting extra obstacles in the way of those trying to reach the European Union via the Balkans."

Three legal requirements for the EU-Turkey deal: An interview with JAMES HATHAWAY (link): "My own view is that the jurisprudence to date did not consider systemic responsibility-sharing systems of the kind that meet the three criteria mentioned above, and might well have evolved differently had the cases involved a clearly protection-oriented scheme. But (perhaps regrettably) the language of the case law to date does indeed seem to require an individuated assessment before expulsion of aliens is lawful. In this sense, the ECHR seems to take away the flexibility that the Refugee Convention intended that states should enjoy in ensuring that all refugees get protection."

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 10-11 March 2016, Brussels: Background Note (pdf): Includes: "On Thursday, Home Affairs ministers will take note of a progress report on the proposal for a European border and coast guard and will also discuss the current situation concerning migration."

News (9.3.16)

U.N., rights groups say EU-Turkey migrant deal may be illegal (Reuters, link): "I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.... Rights group Amnesty International called the proposed mass return of migrants a "death blow to the right to seek asylum". Relief charity Doctors without Borders said it was cynical and inhumane."

If Europe turns its backs on its refugees, where on Earth will they go next? (Independent, link)

Europe's deal with Turkey fails to deter migrant attempts for now (ekathimerini.com, link): "Turkey's coastguard intercepted dozens of mostly Syrian migrants in coves along the Aegean coast on Wednesday as they continued to attempt perilous sea crossings to Greece despite Ankara's efforts to stem the flow under a deal with the European Union."



Refugee crisis: News: The UN, Council of Europe and UNHCR condemn EU leaders' plan for mass refoulement (8.3.16)
EU-Turkey deal could see Syrian refugees back in war zones, says UN (Guardian, link):

"Refugees chief questions legality of agreement to send people back to Turkey without guarantees for their protection. A senior UN official says he is very concerned that a hasty EU deal with Turkey could leave Syrian refugees unprotected and at risk of being sent back to a war zone.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees , questioned the legality of an outline deal struck by the EU and Turkey. “As a first reaction I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another, without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law,” he said on Tuesday....

Speaking to the European parliament in Strasbourg, Grandi said asylum seekers should only be returned to other states if there was a guarantee that that they would not then be sent back to the place they had fled."

UNHCR's reaction to Statement of the EU Heads of State and Government of Turkey, 7 March (lpdf):

"As for the statement released yesterday after the meeting between EU and Turkey, UNHCR is not a party to it nor privy to all the details and modalities of implementation.

On the face of what appears to have been agreed, we are, however, concerned about any arrangement that involves the blanket return of all individuals from one country to another without sufficiently spelt out refugee protection safeguards in keeping with international obligations.

An asylum-seeker should only be returned to a third state, if (a) responsibility for assessing the particular asylum application in substance is assumed by the third country; (b) the asylum-seeker will be protected from refoulement; (c) the individual will be able to seek and, if recognized, enjoy asylum in accordance with accepted international standards, and have full and effective access to education, work, health care and, as necessary, social assistance.

Legal safeguards would need to govern any mechanism under which responsibility would be transferred for assessing an asylum claim. Pre-departure screening would also need to be in place to identify heightened risk categories that may not be appropriate for return even if the above conditions are met.

Details of all these safeguards should be clarified before the next meeting of the EU Council on 17 March." [emphasis added]

UNHCR: 7.3.16: 141,930 arrivals in the EU: 132,177 in Greece, 9.295 in Italy. 410 dead/missing. 48% from Sytria, 25% from Afghanistan and 15% from Iraq - 88% of arrivals.

EU-TURKEY: Is the EU-Turkey deal even legal? Probably not, but who cares anymore!: Berlin/Ankara migration pact — wrecking ball or silver bullet? (FT blog, link):

"Big legal doubts hang over this scheme. Rules on asylum are quite clear: all applications have to be properly considered, and an asylum seeker cannot be returned to a country that does not offer proper protection.

Returns to a country that is not a full member of the Geneva Convention, such as Turkey, would likely be illegal argue refugee groups.

Only Syrians have the right to claim some form of international protection in Turkey — and even that does not equate to full refugee status. But others — even those fleeing desperate circumstances in Iraq, Afghanistan or Eritrea — have no such luck.

The EU will try to get around this obstacle by declaring that Turkey is a safe third country, which — given the state of its asylum system — is highly debatable, and appears to contradict the bloc’s own rules. Despite its legal fragility, this proposal would only give the EU a legal basis to return Syrians to Turkey: it would not cover non-Syrian asylum seekers." [emphasis added]

EU-TURKEY SUMMIT: Statement of the EU Heads of State or Government: 07/03/2016 (pdf):

"Turkey confirmed its commitment in implementing the bilateral Greek-Turkish readmission agreement to accept the rapid return of all migrants not in need of international protection crossing from Turkey into Greece and to take back all irregular migrants apprehended on Turkish waters."

assistance to Greece in managing the external borders, including those with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania, and ensuring the proper functioning of hotspots, with 100% identification, registration and security checks, and the provision of sufficient reception capacities..

assist Greece in ensuring comprehensive, large scale and fast-track returns to Turkey of all irregular migrants not in need of international protection, building on the Greece-Turkey readmission agreement and, from 1 June, the EU-Turkey readmission agreement;" [emphasis added]

Comment: The last two statements appear to mean that refugees will be brought ashore into Greece and not immediately returned without due process as some statements to the media have suggesred.

EU-TURKEY SUMMIT: Merkel-Davutoglu wheeling-dealing wrecks EU summit (euractiv, link):

"The EU summit which ended this morning (8 March) failed to reach a deal with Turkey to stem the unprecedented migrant crisis, as many heads of state and government opposed German Chancellor Merkel’s attempt to impose her own deal with Ankara... the EU ambassadors had drafted a declaration that was expected to be adopted at the summit on 7 March. European leaders were expected to declare on Monday that they will “close the Balkans route in the coming days,” ending the “wave-through approach” to refugees that has caused chaos and tension in Europe....

But the trilateral pre-summit meeting produced a completely different text, according to which Turkey would readmit all migrants crossing into the Greek islands from its territory. For every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states. This formula, called “one for one”, means that if NATO or another force intercepts a boat with, say, 50 people, among whom 10 are Syrian, all of them will be rescued and sent to Turkey. Then the EU will be obligated to take 10 Syrians (not the same people, though) from Turkey and send them by plane to EU countries."

And: Turkey and EU agree outline of 'one in, one out' deal over Syria refugee crisis (Guardian, link):

"Angela Merkel describes Turkish proposal as a ‘breakthrough’ but says time needed to agree final details....

Human rights groups say returning asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey would be illegal, but the EU is desperate to reduce the flow of migrants and refugees coming to Europe.... Speaking on Tuesday morning, the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the German-led operation would help migrant boats in distress and it would not turn back boats making the crossing to Europe.

Germany objected to an early draft of the summit communiqué that declared the closure of the western Balkan route used by ­refugees and migrants travelling from Greece to northern Europe. According to German media, Merkel thought it wrong to announce the closure of the route when Syrians and Iraqis were entitled to asylum under EU law."

Comment: Under internaional law all refugees have the right to claim asylum in the EU.

Also: Greece: Thousands left stranded in Greece as EU tries to seal deal with Turkey (ekathimerini.com, link): "About 13,000-14,000 people are stranded near the village of Idomeni, where many have been waiting for two weeks or more to be among the small numbers that have been allowed through each day. The mood Tuesday morning was visibly grim among those at the front of the queue waiting to cross."

CoE: Commissioner for Human Rights: Human rights of refugee and migrant women and girls need to be better protected (link):

"For the first time since the beginning of the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, women and children on the move outnumber adult men. While in 2015 about 70 % of the population on the move were men, women and children now make up nearly 60% of refugees and other migrants crossing into Europe. This also means that more women and children risk and lose their lives in the Mediterranean Sea and on the land routes to Europe. Of more than 360 persons who died in the Mediterranean in January 2016, one third were women and children."

News (8.3.16)

Greece: Urgency to set up refugee shelters heightens (ekathimerini.com, link): ":As the European Union and Turkey strived on Monday in Brussels to find common ground on how to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, in Greece pressure was mounting on the government and local authorities to provide shelter for the increasing number of stranded refugees, whose numbers, according to recent estimates, have now surpassed 37,000 throughout the country and are still growing, while daily arrivals are in the hundreds." and Health experts sent to Idomeni, as gov’t says it won’t evacuate camp (link): "Disease control experts have been sent to a refugee camp at the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), but Greece’s Health Ministry says the measure is largely precautionary. The government says two mobile units from the state-run Center for Disease Control and Prevention began operating Tuesday at the border camp in Idomeni, where some 14,000 people are camped out despite Balkan border closures."

Eurojust report raises doubts about EU-Turkey migration deal (politico,link): "Eurojust document says Turkey lacks political will and infrastructure to help stem flow of migrants into Europe.... “Contrary to EU opinion, migrants leaving Turkey is a dominant idea favored by the Turkish government and people — i.e., they support smugglers getting immigrants leaving Turkey,” the Eurojust report states." and Western Balkans route far from ‘closed': map (politico, limk) "Statistics show the main migrant route to Europe is closing, but far from shut."

NATO expands anti-trafficking mission into Turkish, Greek waters (DW, link): "NATO ships have moved into Turkish and Greek territorial waters as part of an operation to stem the tide of refugees and migrants. Germany is leading the operation. ... NATO has emphasized the mission is not meant to stop or push back migrants at sea. The goal is to provide information for Turkish, Greek and EU authorities, who will then respond to migrant boats. NATO is only authorized to intervene if a migrant boat is in distress. In such a case the boat's occupants will be taken back by Turkey." [emphasis added]

Greece: Official opening of NATO operation in the Aegean (New Europe, link):"NATO also announced on Sunday, that it has agreed with FRONTEX on arrangements at the operational and tactical level. According to the press release, NATO and FRONTEX will be able to exchange liaison officers and share information in real time, to enable FRONTEX, as well as Greece and Turkey, to take action against the human traffickers in real time".



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7.3.16)


Afghanistan: EU shuts the door despite asylum recognition rates rising from 43% to 60%

EU policy on which refugees should be given international protection and relocation within the EU has changed numerous times since last year. In autumn 2015, the agreed policy was to recognise people coming from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea - based, then, on a 75% recognition rate in Eurostat statistics. This changed in practice in January to offering relocation to refugees from Syrai, Iraq and Afghanistan - countries where there are ongoing conflicts. Then in February, under pressure from Germany and Austria, Macedonia and Serbia only accepted refugees from Syria and Iraq - turning back those from Afghanistan. Yet EU institutions and Member States "are aware of the worsening security situation and threats to which people are exposed," as a leaked document from the European Commission and European External Action Service (EEAS) reveals.

See: Joint Commission-EEAS non-paper on enhancing cooperation on migration, mobility and readmission with Afghanistan - Country Fiche proposing possible leverages across Commission-EEAS policy areas to enhance returns and effectively implement readmission commitments (Doc no: 6738-16, 3 March 2016, pdf)

EU-TURKEY: Meeting of the EU Heads of State or Government (Brussels, 7 March 2016) - Draft statement (6 March 2016, SN26/16, pdf): "Action is required along the following lines:

a) provide an immediate and effective response to the very difficult humanitarian situation which is rapidly developing on the ground...
b) provide further assistance to Greece in managing the external borders, including those with fYROM and Albania, and ensuring the proper functioning of hotspots, with 100% identification, registration and security checks, and the provision of sufficient reception capacities...
c) assist Greece in ensuring comprehensive, large scale and fast-track returns to Turkey of all irregular migrants not in need of international protection, building on the Greece-Turkey readmission agreement and, from 1 June, the EU-Turkey readmission agreement;
d) accelerate the implementation of relocation to alleviate the heavy burden that presently weighs
on Greece...
e) continue to cooperate closely with the non-EU countries of the Western Balkans and provide any necessary assistance...
f) implement the existing resettlement commitments and continue work on a credible voluntary humanitarian admission programme with Turkey...
g) take any necessary measures immediately in respect of any new routes opening up, and step up the fight against smugglers;
h) take forward, as a matter of priority, all the elements of the Commission roadmap on getting "back to Schengen", so as to end temporary internal border controls and re-establish the normal functioning of the Schengen area before the end of the year."

Guardian as it happens reporting on the EU-Turkey: Summit (link)

"As if by magic, Tusk and his allies seek to end the European refugee crisis in two clean movements.

First: by rubber-stamping the closure of the Macedonian-Greek border, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed in the past year in their march northwards towards northern Europe. Second: by strong-arming Turkey into readmitting most if not all of the asylum-seekers who continue to land on the Greek islands in their thousands every day.

Tusk’s logic is straightforward. If the Macedonian border can be shut, then the crisis can be contained in Greece. And if refugees can be returned to Turkey, then the damage wrought on cash-strapped Greece will in turn become manageable. Even if Tusk’s plan has obvious moral implications – it risks undermining the 1951 refugee convention, which was one of the seminal human achievements of the post-Holocaust era – one can understand its practical appeal for European politicians.

But as has become familiar throughout this migration crisis, the logic of Europe’s leadership does not acknowledge the reality on the ground.

and: "Germany is the other key wrinkle in the summit agreement.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is resisting a push to declare the refugee route across the Balkans “closed”, endorsing the policy of border closures by Austria and Greece’s Balkan neighbours.

“For all countries, including Greece, closing anything is not an option,” Merkel said as she arrived at the summit.

Summit chairman Donald Tusk had proposed an EU endorsement of border closures on the route north from Greece, with a draft EU statement saying: “Irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route are coming to an end; this route is now closed.”

EU: Refugee crisis: NATO Secretary General welcomes expansion of NATO deployment in the Aegean Sea (NATO, link): " NATO took swift decisions to deploy ships to the Aegean Sea to support our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the EU's border agency FRONTEX, in their efforts to tackle the migrant and refugee crisis. NATO ships are already collecting information and conducting monitoring in the Aegean Sea. Their activity will now be expanded to take place also in territorial waters."

Some critical comments: NATO Expands Aegean Sea Migrant Patrols Into Turkish and Greek Territorial Waters – Rescued Migrants to Be Automatically Returned to Turkey (Migrants at Sea, link)

News (7.3.16)

NATO says Aegean mission moving into Greek, Turkish waters (ekathimerini.com, link): "NATO is starting activities in territorial waters today," Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels, flanked by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu."

ECRE urges the EU and Member States not to resume Dublin transfers to Greece (ECRE, link): "As a response to the European Commission’s Recommendation on urgent measures to be taken by Greece to resume transfers of asylum seekers under the Dublin Regulation there, ECRE published comments expressing concerns about ongoing shortcomings in the Greek asylum system and urged Member States not to resume transfers to Greece.

Transfers to Greece under Dublin have been suspended since 2011, following judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union. ECRE states that ongoing problems with access to the asylum procedure, risk of detention and a lack of adequate reception mean that this suspension is still justified."

Migrants: la Bulgarie sécurise sa frontière avec la Grèce (Le Monde, link): Four hundred Bulgarian police officers, soldiers and gendarmerie officers are to be sent to the Bulgarian-Greek border: "Le premier ministre bulgare a annoncé samedi 5 mars le déploiement de plus de quatre cents hommes venant des rangs de l’armée, de la police et de la gendarmerie, à la frontière avec la Grèce. En sus, « quelque cinq cents hommes supplémentaires peuvent être mobilisés en quelques heures à la frontière, en cas de besoin », en cas de pression migratoire accrue, a-t-il ajouté."

Turkish guards 'attacking' Syrian refugees and 'pushing them into the arms of smugglers' (The Independent, link): "Families fleeing the carnage in Aleppo are being greeted at the border with bullets and beatings. Laura Pitel reports from Kilis on Ankara’s increasingly inhumane efforts to put up the barricades"

With Turkey Closing, Refugees Seek New Routes (Handelsblatt, link): "In the run-up to Monday's summit between the European Union and Turkey, Brussels is sending strong signals about the need to reduce the flow of Syrian refugees. Migrants faced with rising borders are seeking new ways into Europe."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (News and lots of key documents: 3-4.3.16)
EU: Macedonia: Leaked Skopje letter exposes ‘closed borders’ coalition (euractiv, link):

EXCLUSIVE / A list of requests to protect external borders recently sent to several member states by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has exposed the weaknesses of the group of countries blocking an EU-wide solution of the refugee crisis,,,,

The former Yugoslav republic sent a detailed 12-page letter to several member states describing its needs, in order to have its southern border under full control.

The document, seen by EurActiv, says that the country will need engineering machines to build fortifications on its southern border, and materials to construct a 300 kilometer security fence, as well as a camp for 400 persons." and see Request for equipment, crowd control, tear gas etc (pdf)

EU: European Commission reports prior to 7 March EU-Turkey Summit:

- Progress report on the implementation of the hotspot approach in Greece (COM 141-16, pdf)

- EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan - Third implementation report (pdf)

- Back to Schengen - A Roadmap (pdf) and Annexes (pdf)

- Second Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (pdf)

And see: Commission Timetable (pdf)

Also: RELOCATION (state of play as of 03 March 2016) (pdf)

Since September 2015 only 335 refugees from Italy have been relocated in the EU and only 322 from Greece. 160,000 relocation palces were asked for but only 17 Member States promised just 4,237 places to Greece and Italy.

It appears that the Commission is no longer presenting regular updates on its plans: see:State of Play: Measures to Address the Refugee Crisis (1.2.16, pdf).

Are there no limits to irresponsble EU statements? Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting in Ankara with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu (pdf):: EU Council President Donald Tusk:

"To many in Europe the most promising method seems to be a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants arriving in Greece" [emphasis added]

EU: Council of the European Union: Border checks, EU Border Agency and Vienna Declaration

- Checks at external borders: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders - General approach (6673-16, pdf):

"The changes vis-à-vis the Commission proposal are highlighted in underline."

- EU Border Guards: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC (LIMITE doc no: 6746-16, dated 3 March 2016, pdf): "It is noted that the new (vis-à-vis doc. 6483/16) proposed changes are highlighted in bold, underline and strikethrough."

- EU Border Guards: As above 6483-16 (LIMITE doc, pdf):

"The most recent compromise suggestions reflecting the discussions so far on these provisions and the relevant contributions by delegations are highlighted in bold/underline/strikethrough; the compromise suggestions which had been submitted by the Presidency in previous discussions are marked with underline."

- EU Border Guards: As above: 6359-REV-1-16 (pdf):

"the Presidency believes that the compromise text included in the Annex and in 6283/16 and 6330/16 has a sufficient degree of support by delegations. It invites the Committee to confirm this with a view to preparing the upcoming negotiations with the European Parliament on this file."

- Declaration agreed by Croatia, Slovenia and Austria: Conference "Managing Migration Together", Vienna, 24 February 2016 (6481-16, pdf)

Is the EU heading for a policy of mass refoulement?

EU closes on migrant deal with Turkey (FT,.link): "The EU is close to a breakthrough deal with Ankara that would see all non-Syrian migrants reaching Greek islands returned to Turkey, marking a crucial step in the bloc’s hardening stance against the flow of people pouring into its territories.

After weeks of diplomatic pressure from Berlin and Brussels, Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, privately signalled in negotiations on Thursday that Ankara will accept the systematic returns of non-Syrians and step up action against smugglers.....

Two diplomats familiar with the discussion on Thursday said Turkey also agreed to accept all migrants rescued in international waters by a Nato mission — a sensitive issue that had held-up progress on the operation. "

Or: Don’t expect big decisions from EU-Turkey summit, say diplomats (euractiv, link):

"EXCLUSIVE / No official decision is expected to be made during an EU-Turkey summit on Monday (7 March) dedicated to the refugee crisis, due to the upcoming German state elections, diplomats told...

Germany prefers that the EU-Turkey summit remains low-profile and that it doesn’t impact on the vote, EurActiv was told. Consequently the summit of EU leaders with Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoglu will be an informal meeting, where “no official decision is expected to be made” and no summit conclusions will be adopted."

Or: EU asking Turkey to take back migrants (euobserver, link): "In its effort to reduce the flow of migrants coming to Europe, the EU is now focusing on sending back economic migrants to Turkey.

"To many in Europe, the most promising method seems to be a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants arriving in Greece," European Council president Donald Tusk said on Thursday (3 March) in Ankara. "It would effectively break the busines model of the smugglers," he said"

Or: EU mulls 'large-scale' migrant deportation scheme (ekathimerini.com, link): ""We agree that the refugee flows still remain far too high," Tusk said after meeting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"To many in Europe, the most promising method seems to be a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants arriving in Greece. It would effectively break the business model of the smugglers."

Tusk was careful to single out illegal economic migrants for possible deportation, not asylum-seekers. And he wasn't clear who would actually carry out the expulsions: Greece itself, EU border agency Frontex or even other organizations like NATO."

UNHCR: 6 steps towards solving the refugee situation in Europe (link):

"Ahead of a meeting of heads of state or government of the European Union (EU) with Turkey on 7 March in Brussels, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has today issued recommendations aimed at helping States solve the refugee situation in Europe.

"We are running out of time, and strong leadership and vision are urgently needed from European leaders to deal with what is, in our view, a situation that can still be managed if properly addressed," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. "This is as much a crisis of European solidarity as it is a refugee crisis. The collective failure to implement the measures agreed by EU Member States in the past has led to the current escalation in the crisis," he added.

And see: UNHCR: Stabilizing the situation of refugees and migrants in Europe: Proposals to the Meeting of EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey on 7 March 2016 (pdf)

EU to give Greece May deadline to register migrants, says Avramopoulos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Europe will set Greece a deadline of May 12 to register all migrants in an orderly fashion or face more border controls, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a German newspaper on Friday....

"Greece will have until May to protect its external borders," Avramopoulos, a former Greek government minister, told Die Welt newspaper.

"We will take stock of the situation on May 12. Should we see no success by then we will not hesitate to create requirements so that border controls in Europe can be extended," he said"

Greece: Electra Leda Koutra (Facebook, link) writes:

"The Ministry of Migration confirms and provides clarifications for the banning of reporters in hotspots anounced by the Ministry of Interior's Press Release, providing us also with the reasoning of such a decision - the employees have (allegedly) asked for that, because they have too much work
.
They go further expanding the banning, by informing us through the press that not only reporters, but also NGO representatives and researchers from universities will no longer be admitted.

This is a breach of art.10 ECHR, against groups of people able to document atrocities =usually falling within the ambit of the term "human rights defenders". Restriction in the exercise of rights should be prescribed by law and be proportionate to the aim pursued.

But these are wild times, so we are currently attempting to "regulate social behavior" through... press releases. Besides the fact that a ministry poses restrictions that another ministry subsequently clarifies, it is a 3rd ministry, that of National Defense, that has been declared by Law, for a week now, as responsible for the direction and coordination of hotspots.

The above is indicative of chaos reigning, but also of "military aesthetics" around the "management" of the humanitarian crisis in Greece. I wouldn't be surprised if the Min.of Defence, in exercise of its new duties, among which "the direction and coordination of other national authorities and NGOs dealing with the assistance of refugees in hotspots", imposed the ban."

See Statewatch: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control

UNHCR Daily Report 3.3.16: 135,711 arrivals in the EU in 2016: 126,166 in Greece, 9,087 in Italy. 410 dead/missing.

"In Greece as people gather at the border crossing with former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (currently 17,500 refugees and migrants present in the North of the country) the authorities struggle to identify locations where temporary accommodation can be established. UNHCR stands ready to provide emergency required support."

"Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, stated in a media report, that the government will request all EU member states (at the
European Council meeting to be held on 7 March in Brussels) to revise the relocation distribution system as a compulsory mechanism rather than a voluntary one."

UK: Right To Remain's new Toolkit is on line: (link):

"The Right to Remain Toolkit is a unique guide to the UK immigration and asylum system, with actions you can take in support of your claim, or to help someone else.

The Toolkit is needed more than ever - the asylum and immigration system is increasingly complicated, and there are more legal and procedural barriers to establishing the legal right to remain and accessing justice than ever.

We have just launched the brand new edition of our Toolkit, made possible thanks to the amazing public support we received in our crowdfunding appeal: we raised more than £8000 in donations."

EU Council President: EU's Tusk defends use of barbed wire against refugees (worldbulletin.net, link):

"EU president Donald Tusk on Wednesday defended the use of barbed-wire fences against refugees, saying that securing the outer borders of Europe's passport-free Schengen area was a "pre-condition" to solving the refugee crisis.

"I'm convinced that... back to Schengen is a pre-condition for this European solution to the migration crisis," Tusk said in Slovenia as part of a multi-country tour ending in Turkey later this week.

Asked about barbed wire fences, Tusk said: "I'm afraid that sometimes you need tougher measures if you, we want really to apply Schengen. Sorry but this is the reality."

EU:Council Presidency: Rutte urges Ankara to cut migrant flows towards zero (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Turkey must ensure the number of refugees and migrants leaving its shores for Europe drops towards zero, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, the current holder of the European Union’s presidency, said on Thursday....

"And I hope we can come to an agreement on resettlement: that for a couple weeks we can asses that the numbers coming from Turkey to Greece are really coming down with the zero being visible, so that it is possible for the EU to start a more ambitious resettlement. So a minimum outcome and a preferred outcome.""

France struggling to find refugees to relocate as hotspots fail (euractiv, link): "France has only relocated 284 refugees from Greece and Italy, despite having housing for 5,200 people ready. It’s a paradox that epitomises the failure of the EU’s refugee hotspots."

EU: Commission’s roadmap to save Schengen - Targets set to save the passport-free zone from collapse (politico, link):

"One of the main priorities in a draft of the roadmap, to be published on Friday, is a call to speed up implementation of an EU border and coast guard service, a move proposed by the Commission in December.

“By November 2016 at the latest, the European Border and Coast Guard should be made fully operational,” states the document, which is called “Restoring the full functioning of the Schengen area.”

The roadmap also lists December 2016 as “the target date for bringing to an end the exceptional safeguard measures,” referring to internal border controls reintroduced by the likes of Germany and Austria.
Deadlines

March 12 Greece to come up with an action plan on implementing the 50 recommendations made by the Council to restore external border controls.

March 16 Commission to issue a proposal on reform of the Dublin agreement, the European law that forces refugees to seek asylum in the country through which they entered the EU...."

Greece: The hope of open borders is the last one to die at Idomeni (ANAmpa, link): "IDOMENI (ANA-MPA/George-Byron Davos) - The newcomers among the refugees in the camp of Idomeni, at the borders between Greece and FYROM,can be distinguished from the old ones. A mixture of hope, activity and eagerness is still visible in their eyes and gestures. An attitude that changes over the days. And also they still have to find their way around, discover where to find food, pampers for their babies, some sanitary goods"
.

News (3-4.3.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016 Near 135,000; Deaths Reach 418 (IOM, link)

Turkey agrees to take back people who don’t qualify for EU asylum (Guardian, link): "Diplomats claim breakthrough after Turkish PM pledges to readmit those not permitted to enter EU as asylum applicants hit record numbers" and EU refugee relocation scheme is inadequate and will continue to fail (Guardian, link): "Just 660 of 160,000 Europe agreed to share have been relocated as continent buckles under logistical and political weight of the crisis"

Migrant crisis: Have EU promises been kept? (BBC News, link): "Thousands of migrants and refugees continue to arrive at Europe's borders, but many are not going anywhere. New barriers are in place - and violence flared up this week at the Greece-Macedonia border. The EU is split over how to tackle the crisis, before even more migrants arrive as the weather improves. Syrians form the largest group by nationality - among the millions who have fled the country's civil war. Despite some progress, the European Commission said in a report in February that full implementation of the promised measures "has been lacking". So what promises have been kept or broken?"

'Significant shortcomings' in treatment of women refugees and migrants in Europe (DW, link): "With a dramatic increase in the number of female migrants making the dangerous journey to Europe, many have found the EU's asylum policies lacking when it comes to their treatment. Martin Kuebler reports from Brussels."
Austria's rapid reversal in refugee policy (DW, link): "It may well be that no other country in Europe has reversed its refugee policy as rapidly as Austria. Now Vienna sees itself in the vanguard of European refugee policy."

Children Tear-Gassed In 'Jungle' Demolition (Sky News, link): "The "inhumane treatment" of the migrants is lambasted by a Tory MP, who witnessed the mass evictions from the camp."

EU rejects call for security mission in the Balkans (politico, link): "Brussels and European capitals scramble for solutions ahead of the next emergency summit on migration.. The EU’s diplomatic arm rejected calls for a security mission in the Western Balkans to curb the flow of migrants into Europe, saying in a document obtained by POLITICO it would be inappropriate to intervene in countries “with strong institutions.” While the European External Action Service dismissed the idea of deploying EU troops and other security personnel to help control refugees, calling it unworkable, the fact that it was even being considered shows the lengths to which officials are willing to go to break Europe’s political deadlock on migration."

EU leaders continue war of words on refugees (euobserver, link): "In the build-up to the summits, public declarations show that an agreement on a "European solution" to the crisis is still far away, with leaders along the so-called Balkan route - which leads refugees from Greece, their entry point to Europe, to central and northern Europe - engaged in verbal confrontations. Here are the position of the different countries along the road - Greece, Croatia, Austria, and Germany - as they were expressed on Wednesday and Thursday..."

Tusk tells migrants not to come to EU (DW, link): "'Stay out,' was the clear message European Council President Tusk had for economic migrants trying to make their way into the EU. His remarks came during a visit to Greece, where thousand of refugees are stranded."

Dispatches: Denmark’s Deterrence Tactics on Refugees (HRW, link): "Alarmed by a significant rise in asylum applications from Eritreans in 2014 – an average of 250 a month, compared to a total of just 235 cases in the previous six years – Danish officials hastily visited Eritrea, a state with a dismal record of human rights abuse and repression. Based on the flimsiest of evidence, the Danish Immigration Service published a report in November 2014, instructing officials who review asylum claims to stop ruling that Eritrea’s policy of indefinite national service and punishment for leaving the country without permission “in itself” amounts to persecution."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2.3.16)
Greece: Lesvos: Registering of NGOs, personal details of their workers/volunteers and independent volunteers begins

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "We stand by our view that this practice has no place in a democracy worthy of the name"

See:
NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control
Only in the Soviet Union and under the STASI in East Germany were NGOs expected to hand over lists and personal details of all their members/volunteers
-
"In particular there should be no attempts by public authorities to make NGOs effectively agencies working under their control.."
(Council of Europe)
Lesvos General Coordination meeting (25.2.16): "Mr. Yiannis Yiannelis, the Secretary General for the Aegean and Island Policy answered the questions of the audience on the registration process and on the forms that are now available in both Greek and English for individual volunteers and NGOs.

He thanked the NGOs and volunteers for their efforts in assisting in the humanitarian response, while stressing the necessity to complete the registration procedure, so work and staff of NGOs or volunteers are known to the authorities."
[emphasis added]

See: Statement on the registering of NGOs and volunteers: Secretariat General for the Aegean and Island Policy Coordinating Committee (pdf)

"According to the Joint Decision of Minister of Interior Policy and Administrative Reconstruction and Minister of Marine and Island Policy (Government Gazette 114 / B/28-1-2016) a Coordination Committee has been established in order to register, coordinate and evaluate the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Voluntary Groups and independent volunteers who are active on Lesvos island.

The Committee has the following activities:

Registration, identification and accreditation of all NGOs and independent volunteers who are active on Lesvos Island in order to cope with the problems that have arisen by the refugee - migration flows.

Evaluation - accreditation of NGOs according to the submitted documents (legal documents, statutes e.t.c.).

Organization of NGOs /Volunteers’ work according to the demands of the refuge emigration flows. Only certified NGOs/Volunteers will be accepted to the Official List of Volunteers.

Classification of NGOs/Volunteers according to their type of actions, location of services provided.

Continual Coordination and inspection of NGOs and independent volunteers’ activities.

Provision of information to NGOs /Volunteers regarding their obligation to register and have their actions approved." [emphasis in original]

and the Registration forms: NGO: "Organisation Profile" form (pdf) and the volunteer "Personal Profile" form (pdf)

European Commission: Humanitarian Aid for Greece: Proposal for a Council Regulation on the provision of emergency support within the Union (COM 115-16, pdf) and Press release: Commission proposes new Emergency Assistance instrument for faster crisis response within the EU (pdf):

"As the refugee crisis continues to put pressure on many European Member States, the Commission proposes a faster way for support to be provided to tackle wide-ranging humanitarian crises within the EU.

Today the European Commission has proposed an Emergency Assistance instrument to be used within the European Union to provide a faster, more targeted response to major crises, including helping Member States cope with large numbers of refugees."

European Commission: Returns to Turkey by Greece: The Commission is today able to confirm that Greece is in the process of returning 308 irregular migrants to Turkey (Press release, pdf):

"The Commission is today able to confirm that Greece is in the process of returning 308 irregular migrants to Turkey. The European Union is stepping up its efforts to ensure those who do not qualify for international protection in Europe will be quickly and effectively returned to their countries of origin or transit,,,,, Yesterday and today, the return of 308 irregular migrants, mainly of Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian origin, is taking place from Greece to Turkey. This sends a clear signal that those who do not qualify for international protection will be returned.." [emphasis added]

UNHCR Daily Report (1.3.16): There have been 132,791 arrivals this year: 123,246 to Greece, 9,087 to Italy. 410 dead/missing.

"The President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, President Gjorge Ivanov, said in a press release that, when Austria reaches the set limit of 37,500 asylum applications this year, the Balkan refugee route will have to close."

"According to media sources, on 29 February and 1 March, Turkey is to readmit a total of 308 people from Greece. They will be transferred to the border crossing of Kipoi in Evros, where they will be handed to the Turkish authorities"

"In Greece, a new hotspot with a capacity for 800 refugees is under construction in Park Tritsis, in the suburb of Athens."

"On 27 and 28 February, fire broke out at two former military camps in Giannitsa, northern Greece. One of the sites was intended to become a refugee centre. According to media reports, there is strong opposition to the creation of a refugee centre in the area. Police are investigating whether the fires were intentionally started, and if they were connected."

Turkey Blocks NATO Ships from Tackling Refugee-Smuggler Boats in Territorial Waters (Greek Reporter, link):

"Turkey blocked NATO ships from patrolling its territorial waters in order to intercept people-smuggler boats carrying refugees to the Greek islands....

The first diplomatic source commented that this problem was known from “the beginning” and further revealed that Turkey wants the German commander, Rear Admiral Jörg Klein, to travel to Ankara and outline the area where the NATO vessels will be deployed.

Furthermore, the same source pointed out that despite the assurances of Greek and German officials, Turkey appears to have little to no interest in receiving refugees rescued by NATO during the operations." [emphasis added]

Council of Europe: "A Europe-wide policy of door-slamming is not a solution"

"Thorbjørn Jagland: Migration – “A Europe-wide policy of door-slamming is not a solution.” Governments are using Europe’s refugee crisis to retreat from key human rights principles, according to Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

Speaking at the 1 March, 31st session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Jagland said: “Right now, in Europe, the very idea of human rights is coming under attack.”

He warned that the current “picking-and-choosing mentality towards the rules governments do and do not like is dangerous – because it’s contagious."

Greece: EU to muster 700 mln for refugees as UNHCR warns of ‘humanitarian crisis’ (ekathimerini.com, link)

"The College of Commissioners is expected to approve the release of 700 million euros over the next three years. Sources told Kathimerini that these are funds that will be diverted to NGOs rather than Greece, or any other state. Although the package is meant to be for use across the EU, it is expected that the vast majority will be used to alleviate problems in Greece....

“Europe is on the cusp of a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis,” UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing. “The crowded conditions are leading to shortages of food, shelter, water and sanitation." and

EU to launch humanitarian aid plan within its own borders (euractiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission is set to adopt today (2 March) a new plan aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to refugees inside the European Union, according to a draft proposal seen by EurActiv Greece.

The Commission will propose a regulation on the provision of emergency aid within the EU’s borders, breaking with normal rules, which restrict humanitarian aid to overseas countries only."

see also: Refugee crisis: European leaders demand urgent support for Greece (Guardian, link): "Athens asks EU for €480m in emergency funds as Brussels prepares for two key summits and aid agencies condemn ‘unconscionable’ response to influx"

UN Chief: Border Limits Violate 'Human Decency' (INYT, link):

"U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says border restrictions being imposed in Europe to stem the flow of migrants "are not in line with international law or with common human decency."

Ban made the comments Tuesday in Madrid after Greek police said up to 10,000 mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees were stuck at the country's Idomeni border crossing in deteriorating conditions....

Ban says he's concerned about the restrictions along land migration routes, adding that "every asylum seeker has the right to his or her application to be considered individually." [emphasis added]

Bring refugees from Greece yourself, Austria tells Merkel (The Local.at, link):

"With large numbers of refugees building up in Greece after Austria and western Balkan nations closed their borders, Vienna has put the ball in Germany's court.

Germany "should set up a daily quota and then bring these refugees directly from Greece, Turkey or Jordan," Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann told the Kurier newspaper on Wednesday.

"Austria cannot and must not become a distribution hub [for refugees]. There must be an end to that," Faymann went on.

He could not accept "that several thousands of people are waved through every day, on the other hand Germany informs us that today it will only allow 1,000 or 2,000 into the country.""

News (2.3.16)

Turkey says proposing migrant return deals with 14 countries (ekathimerini.com, link): "Turkey on Wednesday said it had proposed signing agreements with 14 countries on the return of migrants from EU member states."

New Greek camps overburdened with refugees (DW, link): "As tensions at the Macedonian border reduce the refugee flow to a trickle, five camps in northern Greece are struggling to accommodate around 16,000 people. Diego Cupolo reports from Thessaloniki."

Hungary: Viktor Orbán huffs and puffs about migrants (Budapest Beacon, link): "Orbán never once used the word “refugees” during his speech. Nor did he make reference to the hundreds of protestors gathered outside."

UN refugee chief: Don’t turn Greece into a camp (politico, link): ‘"Relocations of refugees, not arbitrary border closures, are the way out of the crisis.’"

Greece: Idomeni refugees camp: Life in the waste land (ANAmpa, link): "At 6 o’clock in the morning, with the first light of the sun, the refugees camp at Idomeni, attached to the frontiers of Greece with FYROM, is already on stir. Everyone, weather grown-ups or kids are on their feet, if they have ever slept the night before, because of the cold, or the coughing and the crying of the babies."

EU's Schengen members urged to lift border checks to save passport-free zone (Guardian, link): "Exclusive: European commission says that while external borders need strengthening, collapse of free movement zone could damage business and deter tourists"



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1.3.16)
Greece: Athens: Demo against NATO’s Aegean patrols (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A demonstration against the presence of a NATO mission in the Aegean Sea will be held Wednesday in front of Athens University in the city center.

The rally is organized by left-wing groups and the Popular Unity party, against “imperialism, xenophobia and racism and to express solidarity with refugees.”

A German-led NATO mission is conducting operations in the Aegean in a bid to stem the flow of migrants into Greece from Turkey."

EU court backs refugees' free movement, in most cases (euobserver, link): "People granted international protection can freely live and move anywhere they want in a member state but may be ordered to reside at a specific address in limited cases. The European Court of Justice on Tuesday (3 March) ruled "a place-of-residence condition" can be imposed if the person is somehow unable to integrate. In practice, the restriction would apply in few cases. The residency restriction is narrow, can't be imposed on refugees, and can't be justified on the basis that the burden of social assistance should be distributed across the state."

See: CJEU: EU Court of Justice: The Court of Justice gives as a ruling on the relationship between the freedom of movement of beneficiaries of international protection and measures intended to facilitate their integration (Press release, pdf): "A place-of-residence condition may be imposed on beneficiaries of subsidiary protection if they face greater integration difficulties than other non-EU citizens who are legally resident in the Member State that has granted such protection,"

‘No asylum in Austria’ Facebook campaign tells Afghans to stay home (euractiv, link):

"Austria wants to deter Afghans from seeking asylum there by funding a campaign of advertisements on Kabul buses, on Facebook and on television telling them not to expect a warm welcome.

Austria, the last stop before Germany, the top destination for migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, has come under fire from the European Commission and human rights groups for capping its intake of refugees."

A Rough Welcome: Tour the Lesbos Refugee Camp with Open Migration (eu.liberties link, by Marìka Surace, Italian Coalition for Civil Rights and Freedoms): "The Moria Registration Camp, a former military base, has a 400-person capacity, but up to 2,000 refugees have been arriving there each day."

MEPs question EU border guard proposal (euobserver, link): "Liberal and Green MEPs have criticised proposals that would allow EU border guards greater powers to intervene in member states, arguing that it would not be clear who was responsible for protecting rights. German Green MEP Ska Keller told the parliamentary committee reviewing the proposal on Monday (29 February) that it would give EU border agency Frontex “unprecedented levels” of power to intervene, without the necessary safeguards or public oversight.

“Who is the one in charge, who is responsible for example for fundamental rights violations? It is a problem when the competences of Frontex are mixed up with those of member states, when equipment is co-owned,” she said. Under the European Commission proposal, a beefed-up Frontex would be able to intervene in a member state – even against that country’s will – if the passport-free Schengen area was deemed to be at risk."

and see: European Parliaent press release: Migration: debate on Coast guard and external border checks(pdf)

EU/Balkans/Greece: Border Curbs Threaten Rights - Discriminatory Actions Causing Chaos, Crisis (HRW, link):

"The chaos and violence unfolding on the Greece-Macedonia border are a direct result of discriminatory border closures and Austria’s unilateral cap on asylum seekers. Thousands of asylum seekers and migrants are effectively trapped in Greece as a result of the border closures, and they face an ever-deepening humanitarian crisis.

“Trapping asylum seekers in Greece is an unconscionable and short-sighted non-solution that is causing suffering and violence” said Eva Cossé, Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch. “It demonstrates once again the EU’s utter failure to respond collectively and compassionately to refugee flows.”"

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016 Near 130,000; Deaths Reach 418 (link): Arrivals in the EU: 129,455, in Greece: 120,369 and Italy: 9,086 (1.3.16)

Who Is Responsible for Harm in Immigration Detention? Models of Accountability for Private Corporations (Global Detention Project, link): "This paper argues that private corporations can and should be held responsible for structural injustices that take place in immigration detention regimes in which they operate. It draws on literature from business ethics to evaluate various ethical arguments for assessing corporate responsibility, emphasising models that may lead to the prevention of harm and suffering. In particular, the paper employs a social connection model of ethics as well as evidence of detention practices in Europe, the United States, and Australia to address a number of inter-related questions: How is immigration detention harmful? Who is responsible for this harm? How can responsible institutions reduce harm? The paper concludes by arguing that in addition to corporations and states, citizens and non-citizens have obligations to share in efforts to reduce the harm of immigration-related detention."

SWEDEN-UN: IMMIGRATION DETENTION: Submission to the Human Rights Committee: Sweden (Global Detention Project, link): A submission from the Global Detention Project to the UN Human Rights Committee for the seventh periodic report on Sweden's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The submission relates to Sweden's "practices concerning detention for immigration or asylum-related reasons."

See also: Sweden’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) - Joint NGO submission for the UN Human Rights Committee’s review of Sweden during its 116th session, 7-31 March 2016 (pdf)

News (1.3.16)

UNHCR: Daily report: 29.2.16: "Over the past days, widespread protests regarding refugee and migrant issues took place. In Slovenia, citizens demonstrated both in favour and against an increasing number of refugees and migrants transiting through the country. Meanwhile in Greece, people protested against the setting up of temporary accommodation facilities; while, in Greece and Serbia, refugees and migrants peacefully protested against the restrictions imposed at border crossings....

According to Turkish Coast Guard, almost 6,800 people, mostly of Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian nationality were found by the Turkish authorities in the first 24 days of February. This compares to around 600 people who were detained in February 2015 and constitutes a 1,000% increase".

Macedonia: Balkan route will shut down if Austria hits migrant cap (politico, link): "Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov warned on Monday that the Western Balkan corridor migrants have used to reach Europe could soon shut down as a result of Austria’s decision to cap the refugee influx. Austria recently announced it would only accept 80 asylum claims a day and cap the number of people seeking to transit the country to Germany and onward at 37,500 this year. Ivanov said Austria could reach that number soon, leaving thousands of migrants stranded in countries along the way. “We need a political decision now. Soon it will be too late. The Austrian ceiling of 37,000 will be reached,” Ivanov said in an interview with Der Spiegel."

Refugees face hardship in Turkey's farm camps (SW, link): "Beyond Izmir's city limits, thousands of Syrian refugees work in agriculture camps, where they live far from health services and are denied basic rights. Diego Cupolo reports from Torbali, Turkey."


The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency

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